CollectionGB 0231 University of Aberdeen, Special Collections
Ref NoMS 3375
TitleGeorge Washington Wilson, photographer: family photographs
Extent1 folder: 0.06 linear metres
Creator NameWilson family, West Calder, Lothian
Administrative HistoryGeorge Washington Wilson (1823-1893), born in the North East of Scotland, went to Edinburgh and then London in the 1840s to train as a portrait miniaturist. He became established in Aberdeen in the 1850s as an artist and photographer, and quickly made a name for himself among the middle classes and landed gentry. His patronage by the Royal Family during their visits to the Balmoral Estates began in 1854 when he was invited to take photographs of the Royal family in the grounds of Balmoral. He received the official appointment of Photographer Royal for Scotland in 1860 and his relationship with the Royal family continued throughout his career. Wilson's success allowed him to employ staff photographers to carry out the routine portraiture business whilst he travelled the country indulging in his new interest in landscape photography.

Wilson won a number of prizes for his photographic works including winning medals at the Great London International Exhibition of 1862 for his experimentation for quick exposures.

George Washington Wilson and Co., captured images from all over Britain, recording everything from the natural grandeur of Fingal's Cave on the Isle of Staffa to the bustle of London's Oxford Street. Wilson had a staff of photographers including his son, Charles Wilson, who with senior staff photographer Fred Hardie, toured the colonial townships of South Africa. Dispatched to capture images of Australia in 1892, Hardie also travelled through Queensland, Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. These tours provide a vivid picture of gold miners and early settlers at work and play, and of the native or aboriginal way of life. The company invested in sourcing independent photographer to capture the western Mediterranean, where they took images of Gibraltar and the south of Spain, Morocco and Tangiers.

Throughout, Wilson demonstrated technical and commercial acumen, and, by the early 1880s, the company he founded had become the largest and best-known photographic and printing firm in Scotland. Wilson handed the business over to his sons, Charles, Louis and John Wilson in 1888. The company, however, only survived for a short time under the management of Wilson's sons, with much of the company being sold in 1905 and the company finally ceasing trading in 1908.

George Washington Wilson married Maria Ann Cassie and had 9 children; (he already had two illegitimate sons Alexander and Robert); John, Louis, Charles, William, George, Mary, Annie, Laura, Winnifred. Sons, John, Louis and Charles took over the business when George Washington Wilson died.

Alexander Johnstone Wilson (A.J. Wilson) married Margaret Chalmers and had 5 children - Alexander Johnstone, Edwin, Mary Isabella, Laura and Hew.

Edwin Wilson married Jean Robb and had one child Alec. Wilson.
SourceDeposited in 1992 by Mr Gordon Hughes of the Crieff Cinema Bookshop.
Description57 photographs, mostly studio style, of members of the Wilson family in West Calder, Lothian, with pencil annotations, 1860 - 1930. Photographs appear to have been collected and some annotated by Alec. Wilson (father was Edwin Wilson, grandfather was Alexander Johnstone Wilson and great-grandfather was photographer George Washington Wilson).

People in photographs include:
Alexander Johnstone Wilson (A.J. Wilson), Edwin Wilson, Alec. Wilson, Charles Albert Wilson and the Robb family.
ArrangementWilson family
Robb family
Unknowns and groups
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialThe George Washington Wilson and Co. photographic collection archive held at the University of Aberdeen's Special Libraries and Archives spans a number of independent collections. Information on the associated collections held within the archives are listed on the main archive record of MS 3792
Publication NoteDescendants of George Wilson & Elspet Herd of Banffshire, Scotland (Christine Little and Diane Wilson, privately printed, 1989). Copy held in Special Libraries & Archives Local Collection.
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