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Walter Edwin Frost (1898-1988)

     Walter Edwin Frost was born in Vancouver in 1898.  A machinist, he was an avid amateur photographer who lived his entire life in the Terminal City documenting city scenes; steam and diesel locomotives and other railway equipment; and ships docking at various piers and wharves. The eldest of five children, Walter grew up with his sister and brothers in Chinatown (263 Keefer) and then in Grandview-Woodland (1519 William).  After the family home was incorporated into the Britannia Community Centre’s grounds, he moved into a house built by the brothers (1985 East 6th). A decade later, the consummate bachelor moved into another house built by the brothers (2347 Wall), which overlooks the waterfront. Mechanically inclined, Walter successfully apprenticed as a machinist before moving on to work as a shipper, helper, carpenter and finally as a school engineer.


      Shortly after the First World War, Walter Frost bought a Kodak roll film camera and began to photograph his city and the ships and trains that carry its life-blood. Never one to have a driver’s license, he traveled around Vancouver by bicycle and streetcar with camera in hand. When Walter stopped taking photographs in 1976, he had amassed a collection of 13,369 negatives; developed at home and many stored in old tobacco tins. Fully 75% of his legacy consists of ship photographs documenting all types of maritime traffic in and out of Vancouver over 56 years. From elegant liners and spit-polished warships to rusted tramp steamers, the thousands of photographs - including 83 photos of Holland-America Line freighters and passenger ships - not only show the variety of port visitors, but also record how the nature of shipping and naval architecture have evolved.  

    In 1985, Walter Frost entrusted his extensive collection of prints and negatives to the City of Vancouver Archives. The City exhibited “Terminal City Photographs” in 1986 as a sneak preview to give Vancouverites a glimpse of the rich new collection. It was only fitting that the city should see this collection during Expo 86; Walter’s donation was a very special birthday present to his city in its 100th year. The following summer, the Maritime Museum of BC exhibited his work in Victoria. Walter died in Vancouver in 1988 at age 90.

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