George Washington Wilson



G W Wilson



Here are brief comments on some of the events in George Washington Wilson's life:

-  1853:  Exhibited  photographs in exhibition  (Exhibition not listed below.)

-  1854:  Appointed by Prince Albert to take photographs of the Royal Family at Balmoral, for which he was paid 3 Gns per day.

-  1855:  Began to produce annual photo-collages of many of the well known characters of Aberdeen.  This brought in business as more people competed to be included in the collages.

-  1873:  Appointed 'Photographer Royal' to Her Majesty Queen Victoria.

-  1880:  GWW  was selling his views in his Tours of Scotland albums.  The purchaser was allowed to choose which photos should be included in their album, from a selection of over 10,000 photos in the GWW Collection.

The GW Wilson business continued by his sons following the death of George in 1893.  Postcards were sold from 1902 onwards, but the business did not survive against the competition from Valentine & Sons and others.

Following the collapse of the company in 1908, Archie Strachan purchased 27,000 G W Wilson negatives and a number of albums, together weighing over five tons!  He, later, donated these to the Queen Mother University LIbrary, Aberdeen.

David Jamieson, Haywards Heath, West Sussex, England:  June 11, 2010


The notes above are based on an illustrated talk given by David Jamieson (a collector of GW Wilson postcards and photographs) to Lothian Postcard Club in Edinburgh on June 11, 2010.


1.  For a fuller account of the life and work of GW Wilson, I recommend the book:

George Washington Wilson - Artist and Photographer (1823-93) by Roger Taylor

2.  A brief note on GW Wilson's life as an artist then photographer can also be found on Dr Robert Leggat's History of Photography web site. 




George Washington Wilson exhibited his photos in these early exhibitions:

-  1855:  British Association, Glasgow

-  1856:  Edinburgh Photographic Society

-  1857:  Art Treasures, Manchester

-  1858:  Edinburgh Photographic Society

-  1859:  British Association, Glasgow

-  1859:  Glasgow Photographic Society

-  1861:  London Photographic Society

-  1862:  London International Exhibition

Source:  Photographs Exhibited in Britain 1839-65 (Roger Taylor)


GWW travelled widely throughout Scotland in search of photographs for his business, based in Aberdeen.

Wilson's company finally went into liquidation in 1908, though many of his glass plate negatives were purchased by a former employee, Fred Hardie, and used to make post cards until 1920.

The University of Aberdeen now holds a collection of 45,000 glass plate negatives that survived from the 1908 liquidation.  These have been the subject of research by Roger Taylor.

The University of Aberdeen has published a series of booklets featuring GW Wilson photographs in different areas of Scotland.


Photographic Society of Scotland

Princes Street

GW Wilson became a member of the Photographic Society of Scotland and exhibited photos in PSS Exhibitions.

Below are some examples of his photographs taken in Edinburgh and Newhaven. 


View to the East from Waverley 

Carte de Visite

Carte de Visite  -  Princes Street  -  Photographer: GW Wilson

  Reproduced by courtesy of National 
Galleries of Scotland.
 See Copyright Notice

Here is a carte de visite of Princes Street, taken in 1860 by George Washington Wilson.  This view of Princes Street is a cut-down version taken from a stereo pair.

GW Wilson was reported in the photographic press of 1859 to have taken the first "instantaneous view" from this position.

An instantaneous view was one taken with a short exposure and so showing individual figures in the scene, rather than the empty streets  captured by longer exposures where none of the subjects stays still for long enough to have their images captured on film.

GW Wilson was not satisfied with the image taken in 1859 so he returned to the same position in 1860 and took more photogrpahs, including the one above.



Newhaven Fishwives

Post card  -  Three generations of Newhaven Fishwives  -  George Washington Wilson

Most photographs of Newhaven Fishwives were taken beside the old housing or beside the harbour at Newhaven, about 3 miles to the north of Edinburgh, or else taken in Edinburgh and Portobello studios.  This photo is unusual in being taken on the beach, possibly at Newhaven.


GWW - 10,000 views

G W Wilson used a specially designed wide-angle lens for his views.  His catalogue in the 1880s listed more than 10,000 views of Scotland.

Source: Scraps & Stereos'  Roddy Simpson, published in The Scots Magazine (July 2003, pp.88-92)


GWW - More information

A brief note on GW Wilson's life as an artist then photographer can be found on Dr Robert Leggat's History of Photography web site. 


G W Wilson


GWW in Edinburgh

Photos and Albums

Post Cards

Photo: Burns Monument

Photo: Princes Street

Photo:  Dean Bridge

Lantern Slide

Stereo Views - List

Stereo Views - Thumbnails

GWW's Instantaneous Views:      Comparison of photos      Location

All Stereo Views:         Background        List of Publishers        Thumbnails