whitehorses town photographer

Ephrim J. Hamacher came to the Yukon to photograph the excitement and madness on the creeks during the Klondike Gold Rush, but he never made it to…

Ephrim J. Hamacher came to the Yukon to photograph the excitement and madness on the creeks during the Klondike Gold Rush, but he never made it to Dawson City in 1898.

Despite the fact that his journey was cut short, Hamacher’s story is not a tragic one.

Hamacher was born in Kitchener, Ontario, in 1857, and moved to Washington state as a young man. There, he learned the photographer’s trade.

He ended up settling in Bennett in 1898 where he took over the work of Eric Hegg, who carried on to the Klondike to become one of the most famous gold-rush photographers.

When Bennett became a ghost town two years later, Hamacher intended to move on to the Klondike but his equipment was delayed.

So he ended up settling in Whitehorse in 1900, and began building quite a name in the town of about 400.

He was well known to the residents; he even earned a mention in the diary of local businesswoman Anna Puckett.

“Today was Mr. Hamacher’s ‘Camera Picnic’ and it was a real success,” Puckett wrote on July 25, 1907. “All of us, clutching our cameras and our lunches, boarded the train and rode out to Miles Canyon.

“Once there we climbed and explored and took pictures and posed and ate lunch and finally, sunburnt and more than a little grubby, caught the afternoon train back.

“I imagine Mr. Hamacher will do very well out of it. He and Archie (Puckett’s son) are thick as thieves these days. I must say he — Hamacher — is a remarkably fine photographer and he’s teaching Archie a lot.”

Hamacher ran in many circles. In addition to being a photographer he also played the flute in the Whitehorse town band; he was a “crack shot” at duck hunting; he ran a general merchandise store and he mined a claim on Ruby and Sheep creeks with his associate, Jerry Doody (who was also a well-known photographer and artist of the time).

Hamacher’s photographic studio had a resident cat, which he used in advertisements that read: “Look pleasant when you go to Hamacher’s Picture Gallery.”

He was soon dubbed the “town photographer” and would have his name mentioned in local news briefs often. One such mention, on June 20, 1924 promised locals quite an adventure if they were interested in meeting at his store at midnight.

“E.J. Hamacker (sic) is arranging to take a photo of the town at midnight on Saturday,” reported the local newspaper. “The photo will be taken from across the river and any one wishing to go will be taken along if they are at Mr. Hamacker’s store promptly at midnight.”

Hamacher took photographs of landscapes and documented life in Whitehorse.

In 1906, when the SS Columbian was lost after a crewmember accidentally fired a gun into a load of explosives, Hamacher was there and he “obtained some excellent views of the wreck of the steamer.”

He lugged his camera and glass-plate negatives up and down the Yukon River.

Through his work he captured images of Yukon’s history, but he specialized in portraits.

He loved to shoot his subjects in fanciful costumes and, according to one source, would cut the price of shooting a portrait in half if his subject donned a costume.

“As a professional photographer, E.J. is known far and wide,” says the Anglican Church records. “A gentleman of the old school, E.J. was noted for his courteousness and affability in all circles.”

Hamacher died in Whitehorse in 1934, and was buried in the Pioneer graveyard.

This column is provided by the MacBride Museum of Yukon History. Each week it will explore a different morsel of Yukon’s modern history. For more information, or to comment on anything in this column e-mail lchalykoff@macbridemuseum.com.

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read