Collection MG 21.26 - Cyril J. McDonald Collection

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

Cyril J. McDonald Collection

General material designation

  • Graphic material

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Title statements of responsibility

Shedden Studio

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Reference code

MG 21.26

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1948-1968 (Creation)
    Shedden, Leslie
  • 1948-1968 (Creation)
    Shedden Studio

Physical description area

Physical description

1136 photographs : b&w cellulose acetate negatives ; 10 x 12.5 cm and 12.5 x 16 cm

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Archival description area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Leslie Shedden was born in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia in 1913 to Scottish immigrant parents. His father, David T. Shedden founded Shedden Studios in 1916. In 1939 he enrolled in the Winona Lake School of Photography in Winona, Indiana. Later the same year, he enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force, Photography section. He was stationed in Sydney, N.S. for most of his military career, before being stationed in Lunenburg, Germany in September, 1945. Shedden returned to Glace Bay after being honourably discharged from the military and resumed working with his father. He became the owner of Shedden Studio after his father’s death in 1948.

Shedden’s photography consisted primarily of portraits, as well as weddings, storefronts, and school yearbook photos. He also produced several hand-coloured landscape photos of Cape Breton Island. In 1948, he was contracted by the Dominion Steel and Coal Company (DOSCO) as company photographer. This would be the most significant contract of his career that would last over two decades. Shedden retired in 1977 and sold Shedden Studios to local Glace Bay photographer, Cyril J. McDonald. He died a decade later in 1987.

Name of creator


Administrative history

Shedden Studio was founded by David Thompson Shedden in 1916. Mr. Shedden continued to work part-time as a meat cutter until the business gained traction within the local community. In 1930 the eldest of David Shedden's children, Stanley, began working as a photographer for the Studio. He was responsible for taking the photograph of aviator Beryl Markham's plane crash in Baleine, Nova Scotia in 1936. This photograph ran in the New York Times and this negative along with a selection of others are still held by the Shedden family in a private collection. Tragically, Stanley succumbed to illness at the young age of 26. Prior to serving overseas during WWII, David’s other son Leslie, trained as a photographer. When he returned in 1945, he started working with his father at the studio and took over operations when David died in 1948.

Just before Stanley began working with his father, a fire in 1929 destroyed all earlier negatives of the commercial studio. Although there is speculation that Sheddon Studio was contracted by local coal company British Empire and Steel Corportation (BESCO), the negatives no longer exist. This loss was further compounded with the destruction of more negatives before the sale of the company to Cyril McDonald in 1977.
The remaining negatives document the commercial activity of the studio from 1948 to the mid-1970s. The collection consists of portraiture, wedding, anniversary, school groups and graduation photography. Religious ceremonies and social events located mainly in Glace Bay and surrounding areas are also included. A separate grouping of negatives documenting industrial contracts with the Dominion Steel and Coal Company (DOSCO) from 1948-1968 also survived.
McDonald continued to provide reproduction prints on request until 2006. At this time, he decided to donate the first grouping of Shedden negatives to the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University. McDonald donated the remaining Shedden Studio negatives to the archive in January, 2016 and no longer provides photography services.

Custodial history

Cyril J. McDonald acquired Shedden Studios from Leslie Shedden in 1977. McDonald continued to work as a photographer and operate the business under both the Shedden Studio and Cyril J. McDonald name. In 2006 McDonald donated a portion of portraiture, wedding, and school photographs to the Beaton Institute at Cape Breton University. Some of these images were taken by Leslie Sheddon and some by McDonald. McDonald also donated his personal photography collection over the span of two accruals with the latest arriving at the archive in 2014. This most recent accrual consists of the industrial images created through a contract between Leslie Shedden and the Dominion Steel and Coal Company. This donation came to the Beaton Institute in January 2016.

Scope and content

The collection consists of cellulose acetate film-based negatives originally belonging to Shedden Studio of Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. The collection consists of 1136 negatives in two sizes: 10 x 12.5 cm and 12.5 x 16 cm. The content of the images primarily documents coal mining activity between 1948-1968 connected with the operations of the Dominion Coal and Steel Company (DOSCO). In addition to company staff portraits and company events, the negatives mainly capture coal miners and equipment above and below the surface. The main work sites documented include Glace Bay-based collieries ( 1B, No. 18, No. 26, No. 20, No. 25, No. 25). The collection also contains what appear to be unrelated images of rural Cape Breton and a group of Images of Glace Bay and rural Cape Breton. As well, a grouping of unidentified and un-numbered negatives which may belong to an earlier accrual accompanied this donation.
The negatives have been arranged to a series level with five distinct series. A selection of negatives from each series has been digitized for access purposes. An item level listing corresponding to the scanned images is available but does not include all the negatives. Unfortunately, no original listing or indices for the negatives were included in the donation and are thought to be lost. The full item level inventory is in process and after the appraisal is complete, some of the negatives will be re-arranged with earlier accruals to re-create original order.

Notes area

Physical condition

Majority of negatives appear stable with no odour indicating ‘vinegar syndrome’. In Series B there does appear to be fading and overexposure of some of the images. Overall, the collection is in very good condition.

Immediate source of acquisition

Cyril J. McDonald


Arrangement follows both original order from Shedden Studio as well as the donor's organization of the negatives reflecting historical use of the negatives. Series A contains portraits of Dominion Coal and Steel Company officials. The majority of the portraits are identified with the subject’s name. Series B is numerically ordered according to original Shedden index numbers. There are gaps indicating missing negatives. Series C is organized by plate number as they appear in the publication Mining Photographs and Other Pictures: A Selection from the Negative Archives of Shedden Studio. It was decided to keep these separate, as there are some negatives with only plate numbers and others that appear to be connected with the portraiture / community collection (2006 donation). Series D contains a small number of scenic images including a few of the Margaree Valley in Cape Breton and what appears to be the Havenside Lighthouse in Louisbourg. The Presque Isle images are most likely from Quebec and not local. Series E contains unidentified or un-numbered negatives featuring some group events, individuals, sports and other local individuals and activities.

The full item level inventory is in process and after the appraisal is complete, some of the negatives from this accrual will be re-arranged with earlier donations to re-create original order as much as possible.

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      Finding aid is also available: Excel file [].

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