William James Topley

Feb 13, 1845 - Nov 16, 1930

William James Topley was a Canadian photographer based in Ottawa, Ontario. Topley was noted for his portraiture of Canadian politicians, and was a business partner of William Notman, taking over Notman's Ottawa studio in 1872. A large number of photographs by Topley are now in the collection of Library and Archives Canada, including approximately 150,000 glass plates negatives and a set of 66 index albums covering the entire history of his Ottawa studios from 1868 until 1923.
William James Topley was born in 1845 in Montreal, and raised in Aylmer, a town just outside Ottawa in modern-day Quebec. His first exposure to photography was from his mother, who purchased a camera in Montreal in the late 1850s. In 1863, at the age of 18, Topley was listed as an itinerant photographer, but by 1864 he was working at apprentice wages for William Notman in Montreal. In 1867, the year of Canada's confederation, when Topley was only 22 years old, he was placed in charge of a new portrait studio opened by Notman on Wellington Street in Ottawa in a new purpose-built structure across from the new Parliament buildings.
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