History of The Art, Historical and Scientific Association of Vancouver

Museum Notes, Vol. 1, No. 2 June 1926

Issued by the Art, Historical and Scientific Association of Vancouver, BC
"In the Interests of the City Museum"

In 1886 the little logging town of Granville lay esconced among the giant cedars of Burrard Inlet, all unknowing of what Fate had in store for her. Close by was Hastings Mill (so named in honour of Admiral Hastings, who was in command at Esquimalt). A neighboring hostelry earned the sobriquet of Gastown, because of the loquacity of its proprietor, Jack Deighton.

Such was the embryonic city which, stirred into growth by the advent of the Canadian Pacific Railroad and its promised continuation from Port Moody to open water, was incorporated under the title of Vancouver, April 6th, 1886. A little more than two months later, a Sunday afternoon, fire obliterated the entire settlement. From the glowing ashes there arose a community which, in forty years, numbered 250,000.

In the year 1887, Mrs. S. G. Mellon, who had arrived in the city with her husband, just after the fire, received a letter from a distinguished cousin in England, Hyde Clarke, F.I.J., who advocated the preservation of such historical mementoes as could be procured from time to time and some local recognition of the explorers of this coast. This letter was published in the "Daily News-Advertiser" of Vancouver, September 22nd, 1887.

"Belonging to our later generation," he writes, "I have seen Cook's ship in which he explored your coast, and remember as a boy his sailors still remaining in Greenwich hospital. I also inherited some specimens of gold from California, brought back by an expedition of which there is no history, fitted out by the unfortunate Lord Camelford in 1806."

It would be well if, with the pride of a youthful and growing people, your citizens would look to their history and record many great names concerned in it." Mr. Carter-Cotton in an editorial of the same date, endorsed the appeal and suggested, "in connection with, or at least under the auspices of the Board of Trade about to be established here, it would be both interesting and beneficial to found an Historical Society which should gather and preserve all records and information connected with the history of British Columbia."

The outcome seems to have been the establishing of an "Art Association." Its career was checkered and its existence uncertain. The same persons seem to have been interested throughout the years, in spite of discouragements. An exhibition held in Lefevre Block, Hastings Street, October 6th to 11th, 1890, is the principal record of its activity. From time to time there were discussions as to the possibility of enlarging its scope to include Historical and Literary sections.

The "News-Advertiser," February 27th, 1892, reports a meeting held in the Art Association rooms, with Mayor Cope in the chair, for the purpose of changing the scope of the organization to include history and literature. Among others present were, Mrs. Mellon, Messrs. Hill-Tout, Gosnell and Odlum. Mr. Kitto, the Japanese consul, described the methods by which public museums were conducted in Japan. There was little enthusiasm, but finally there emerged the "Columbia Institute", for which charter members were enrolled in 1893 - an effort which proved futile.

On April 15th, 1894, the "News-Advertiser" stated that "it is proposed to revive the Art Association and to enlarge it by the addition of an historical and literary department." A meeting called the following Tuesday, April 17th, in the B.C. Land & Investment Block, saw the founding of the present society. The new association soon printed a Constitution, from which is taken the first list of officers, as follows:

Hon. President - His Honor the Lieutenant-Governor.
Hon. Vice-Presidents - Rt. Rev. Bishop Stilltoe, Rt. Rev. Bishop Perrin, Mrs. Dewdney, Lady Reid, Mrs. R.A. Anderson, Mrs. Abbott, Mrs. Cambie, Mrs. St. Geo. Hammersley, G.E. Corbould, Esq., M.P., F.C. Cotton, Esq., M.P.P., Mayor R.A. Anderson, Ex-Mayor Cope, Ex-Mayor Oppenheimer, H. Abbott, Esq., J. Browning, Esq., A.G Ferguson, Esq., Rev. E.D. McLaren, Rev. Rolph Duff, Rev. Father Eummelen, Rev. C. Watson, Rev. W.C. Webb, Rev. Dr. Philo.
President - Rev. Norman L. Tucker.
Vice-President - Mrs. S.G. Mellon.
Treasurer - Mr. Lee Rogers.
General Committee - Mrs. McLagan, Mrs. Cope, Mrs. Tunstaff, Mrs. McLachan, Miss Dafoe, Miss Robertson, Miss Fraser, Miss Walker, Miss Lewis, Miss Tierney, Mr. Skinner, Mr. Fripp, Mr. Rogers, Mr. Hardiman, Mr. Ferris.

The first meeting of the general committee was held in the ante-room of Christ Church, Tuesday, April 24th, 1894. A sub-committee was formed to select a suitable room for use of the association, a matter that has always been somewhat of a problem with the society. At the May meeting, Mr. Will Ferris, afterwards for so long Secretary and Curator of the Association, gave a paper on Art. At a later meeting Mr. A.F. Corbin was appointed to take charge of the Indian relics. From its inception the society has regarded the native Indian relics of the utmost importance, and has sought to disseminate these views.

About this time an exhibit was being collected by Mr. James Deans of Victoria for the World's Fair at Chicago, and Captain Mellon, with the help of Mr. R.E. Gosnell and others, collected funds for the purchase of duplicates for the Vancouver Museum. Part of this collection, notably the model Skidegate house, and the model of Chief Skidegate, still form part of the Museum collection. On November 1st a loan exhibition was opened by the Governor-General. This was a most ambitious undertaking for the young organization, and lasted a week. At that time Prof. Charles Hill-Tout had charge of the Archaeological section, and Mr. Will Ferris of the Arts.


Section ommitted. Discusses location of offices and collections 1894 - 1908.


Section ommitted. Discusses ownership of donated collections and other items.




REV. NORMAN L. TUCKER ... omitted

PROF. EDWARD ODLUM, F.R.G.S. ... omitted

    In May, 1908, a new member was introduced in the person of Mr. J. Francis Bursill, better known in this city as "Felix Penne," the columnist of the Vancouver "Daily Sun." In November of the same year, in conjunction with Mr. De Forest, he produced a "Guide and Handbook" to the Museum, for which his son, Mr. Noel Bursill, designed a cover. A reproduction of this was used in the "Museum Notes" for February. Copies of this guide are scarce to-day. The fate of many of the copies was tragic. Mr. Bursill relates how he brought 250 copies of the Guide to the Museum, only to find that the place was closed. Crossing the road to a baker's shop he asked the youth in charge if he could leave the heavy parcel there to be called for later. Permission was given and he returned early next morning to find the boy gone and the proprietor in charge. To the inquiry for the parcel, he returned the surly reply that he had just "chucked it in the furnace!"

MRS. McLAGAN ... omitted

    In 1905, Mr. Bernard McEvoy, the "Diogenes" of the "Daily Province", whose "Street Corners" are so eagerly looked for in the Sunday Edition, became a member of the society. Coming to Canada in 1888 from Birmingham, Eng., he was first on the "Toronto Mail and Empire". While in Ontario, he designed for the late Sir. Wm. MacKenzie, the church at Kirkfield, Ontario. As an author, he is better known than an artist, but, as he still wields a powerful pen, he still indulges in landscape painting. His lectures before the society have always been features of much interest.

F.C. WADE K.C. ... omitted

    For five years (1918 - 1922) Mr. R.P.S. Twizell, A.R.I.B.A., held office. A well-known architect, he is an Associate of the Royal Institute of British Architects, and was for five years lecturer on Architecture at the University of Durham, in the north of England. Several public building in B.C. are the result of his skill. He also contributes to the Journal of the Royal Institute of British Architects. Born on Newcastle-on-Tyne, almost in the shadow of the Roman wall, living amidst the magic of the grand old Norman pile of Durham, "half church of God, half castle against the Scot", as Sir Walter himself described it, he has been a capable leader of the association.

HIS HONOR JUDGE F.W. HOWAY, F.R.S.C. ... omitted


    Mr. H.J. DeForest, the first secretary, soon left the city, but only for a short time. Returning in 1889, he resumed the position, working for the love of the museum and a pittance of anything between $25 and $75 a month as funds permitted. In the year 1905 a serious robbery took place, and a large and valuable collection of coins was taken. The culprit was found and justice meted out, but the coins were not recovered. This happened on three occasions. Since then due precautions are taken. Gates, locks, and bars make the museum fairly safe from burglars. Out of this disaster, however, came some good, for the city granted a sum of money for the curator, and Mr. DeForest was appointed to the position, which he held until 1911, when Mr. Ferris shared the work, acting as secretary, while Mr. DeForest continued as Curator. After Mr. DeForest resigned in 1912, Mr. Ferris held both posts. Mr. DeForest was a clever artist, and his paintings were much in demand. Two of them hang on the wall of the stairway.
    Mr. DeForest passed away at Calgary in March, 1924, and is buried in Vancouver.

REV. A.G. MORICE, O.M.I. ... omitted


Editor's note:
Sections were omitted as noted when no art-related information was given.
The History was continued in later issues of Museum Notes.