Biography

Philip Timms

"Mr.Timms is a real Vancouver pioneer; handpicked, extra special, double refined and forty over proof." Major J.S. Matthews, City of Vancouver Archivist perhaps best described Philip Timms.

Born in Toronto in 1874, the son of pioneer music printers who emigrated from London, England, Philip Timms was an extraordinary man whose lifetime spanned the days of horses and buggies, the invention of the first automobile, radio, airplane and television, as well as the landing of the first man on the moon. He lived to one month short of his 99th birthday having lived a long life filled with many interests and considerable accomplishments.

Timms' interests varied from shopkeeper, to professional printer and commercial photographer, to amateur archaeologist, archivist and historian, to musician, vocalist, choir and band leader, to projectionist, lecturer and frustrated actor. He developed his own home museum, auditorium and theatre, was comfortable in churches of every denomination and was a deeply committed vegetarian and antivivisectionist.

Headquarters of the Anti-Vivi-Section SocietyTimms' greatest professional accomplishment was the photographic record that he created of Vancouver between 1900 and 1910. In capturing the so-called "golden years " of Vancouver's growth, when the Klondike goldstrike had thrust the city out of the depression of the1890s into a boom of land values, business and population growth, Timms intended that future generations would one day see Vancouver as he saw it.

Philip Timms was a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society; he was also the official photographer for the Vancouver Museum. Of his work, James B. Stanton, Curator of History at the Museum in the early 1970s wrote: "All of Timms' photographs have a certain recognizable quality about them; much of the kindness and gentleness of the man himself comes through. His shots are candid and uncluttered and capture dramatically the feeling and mood of the time."

Philip Timms in later yearsThe personality of the emerging city can be sensed from Timms' early photographs. With clarity and perception he captured: landmark buildings, such as the old City Hall and Carnegie Library; the historical line-up for land sales in Shaughnessy Heights; horse-drawn carriages in funeral processions; the damage following race riots in 1907; the serenity of trees in Stanley Park; the charm of children playing, and families enjoying care-free Sunday afternoon picnics. When he closed his shop on Commercial Drive in 1968 at the age of of 94, after 79 years as a printer and 70 years as a photographer, Philip Timms urged other photographers to continue similar documentation of British Columbia's history.

The photographs on this website are a tribute to Philip Timms. We owe him a debt of gratitude, as expressed in Maclean's Guide to Vancouver, "for this comprehensive documentation of our city's history, and the invaluable contribution to our cultural heritage."

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Navigation Bar: VPL 7178, P. Timms, 1906, Philip Timms inside his store at 944 Granville Street.
Top Right: Philip Timms. Photograph courtesy: Lois Peters, Philip Timms' granddaughter.
Middle Left: VPL 7291, P. Timms, 190-, Anti-Vivi-Section Society headquarters.
Bottom Right: Portrait of Philip Timms. Photograph courtesy: Maria Fasan, former neighbour of Philip Timms.

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This digital collection was produced with financial assistance from Canada's Digital Collections Initiative, Industry Canada.

The contributors to the projectFind out about the Philip Timms bookView some examples of Timms' workSearch the Timms databaseFind out about the collection being digitizedOverview of the project