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Great Canadian People

The Mystery King of Canada

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Found, at a recent downtown antique auction in Toronto, was the following original 19th century photo, in original frame & listed in the catalogue as Photo of Unidentified King.


The photo is, in fact, a very famous Canadian Governor-General, Sir John Campbell Hamilton Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen, who served in that post from 1893 to 1898. He witnessed tumultuous times in Canada: the completion of the Transcontinental Railway, the ending of separate French schools in Manitoba, and the Yukon Gold Rush. He served four Prime Ministers.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen were so smitten with Canada during a visit in 1890, that a year later they bought "Coldstream Ranch" in the Okanagan Valley. Their house there still stands. Two years later he was appointed Governor-General to Canada.

Lord Aberdeen (1847-1934)

The Aberdeens were from Scotland and especially enjoyed touring in the Maritime provinces where they could speak Gaelic to the Scottish inhabitants who had settled there. They also travelled extensively out west to try to meet and talk with as many Canadians from all walks of life that they could. Lord Aberdeen was made an honourary chief of the Blackfoot and the Six Nations.

Lady Aberdeen's most important contribution to Canada was establishing the Victorian Order of Nurses in 1898. The VON, which is dedicated to providing home care for sick people still plays a key role in Canadian health care. Lady Aberdeen was also the first president of the International Council of Women, a post she held till she died in 1939.

Lord and Lady Aberdeen helped immensely in making the Governor-General a symbol for the interests of ordinary Canadians, not just a distant aristocratic representative of the Crown in Canada.

The King is Not Alone - A very good lesson again about auction houses of all levels. They are mass merchandisers of many things. They have frequent staff turnovers, so accumulated knowledge is lost. Expertise in all things is limited and spotty, even among high end auction houses. Wrong labelling, is common. You might buy a Morrisseau when it's not. We have seen their glossy and expensive art catalogues, which their experts vet with eagle eyes, print modern art pictures upside down without correcting the printing... Many people have bought things which were not what they were claimed to be... We bought a King, and didn't get him...

Your own common sense, backed up by your own research, is your only protection.


Mystery King of Canada

Orig. photo - Image Size - 8 x 10"
Found - Toronto, ON
Photo of Lord Aberdeen by Topley, Ottawa c 1893,
Prov: The Estate of John Russell