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Italian immigrant a photographic pioneer

Re: “Remembering a gold rush pioneer, again,” July 13. The title of Richard Watts’ fine article about Peter Leech would apply equally well to the man who took two of the photographs illustrating the article.

Re: “Remembering a gold rush pioneer, again,” July 13.

The title of Richard Watts’ fine article about Peter Leech would apply equally well to the man who took two of the photographs illustrating the article.

The photographs were taken by Italian immigrant and entrepreneur Carlo Gentile, who arrived in Victoria in 1862 from San Francisco. He switched from operating a fancy goods store to being a photographer in 1863. He was among those who made the trek out to Sooke and the Leech River, likely because some of the miners there were fellow Italians.

Gentile was on the river in early August 1864 and had returned to Victoria on Aug. 14, 1864. Some of his photographs, including the miners and store at Kennedy Flats and the Mountain Rose claim reproduced in Watts’ article (BC Archives, Royal BC Museum, images A-04474 and A-04468), were described in the British Colonist on Sept. 2, 1864.

Gentile left Victoria for the United States in 1866, having also the previous year made the epic trek with his photographic equipment to the gold mines of the Barkerville area. Further details about Gentile’s unusual career path can be found in Cesare Marino’s 1998 book The Remarkable Carlo Gentile: Pioneer Italian Photographer of the American Frontier.

David Mattison

Victoria

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