Alexander Donald MacNeil, (1867-1892) was born in Orangedale, Cape Breton. He was the son of the late James & Julia (MaxQuarrie) MacNeill. He received his early education in a one-room Orangedale school, attended Sydney Academy where he received a medal for excellence in literature and began writing poetry. He attended Queens University in Kingston, Ont. His education was interrupted when his mother died (1884) and while returning home he and his brother were caught in a snowstorm. He subsequently got a cold and later contracted Tuberculosis and died at age 25.
The Abbass family emigrated from Lebanon to Cape Breton at the turn of the 20th century. With his wife, Lilly Khattar, Jobe Abbass built a home on Townsend Street in Sydney, N.S. and together raised twelve children. It is in this building that three of those children, George, John and Anthony started Abbass Studios in the summer of 1946.
While still in high school at Sydney Academy, George took a job as an apprentice at Meyer’s Photography, a national chain. In 1941, after graduating from high school, his brother John also secured a job with Meyers where they both learned the craft of photography. Eventually they began private work contracting jobs with the Post Record and Chronicle Herald newspapers. In January of 1943 four of the Abbass boys, George, John, Joe and Ferris, enlisted to serve during World War II. They left their younger brother Anthony (Tony), who was too young to enlist, in charge of their Post and Herald contracts. When the brothers returned from war, they received a stipend from the government to open their own business.
Abbass Studios opened its doors July 18, 1946 in the family home on Townsend Street in Sydney, N.S. . The studio offered photo finishing, portraits and commercial photography. By the mid-1960s Abbass Studio served all of the Maritime Provinces. The company built a photo finishing plant in Moncton, New Brunswick and purchased stores in New Castle, New Brunswick. The brothers eventually brought the Econo-Color Camera Stores and Studios franchise from Sherman Hines.
Abbass Studios captured and continues to document the diverse economic, political and cultural heritage of the area. The business is still in family hands and run by John’s sons Blaise and John. The Townsend Street building was demolished in 2014 and Blaise Abbass now operates Abbass Studios, Sydney from his home. John Abbass runs the store at Scotia Square Mall in Halifax.
John Jobe "Johnny" Abbass held the title of president of Abbass Studios. He went on to own and operate Econo Colour camera stores throughout the Maritimes. A prominent businessman and member of the local community, he served as vice president of the Professional Photographers Association of Canada and was involved with the Progressive Conservative Party and the Rotary Club of Sydney. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal in 2002 for outstanding contributions to his community. After his retirement from the business, his sons Blaise and John took over the Studios.