Manitoba Photographers: Ryder Larsen (c1830-?)
Born in Christianstad Parish, Norway around 1830, he came to British North America as a carpenter for the Hudson’s Bay Company, being posted between 1858 and 1865 at various sites in northern Manitoba, including York Factory and Norway House. After spending several years as a freeman in Saskatchewan, he came to the Red River Settlement and worked as a photographer from January 1866 to around 1871. He had two studios, one in Winnipeg and another in nearby St. Andrew’s, but it is not known if they operated simultaneously or separately for periods of time.
Larsen was known to have defaulted on repayment of debts and to have had alcohol problems. In early 1870, counterfeit currency was circulating in the Settlement that was made by a photographic process that some attributed to Larsen. On Christmas Eve of 1869, Larsen was involved in a brawl among men “carousing at the house of Peter Pruden,” his father-in-law, at St. Andrew’s, that later resulted in him being charged with the murder of Thomas Johnstone. Larsen never came to trial. In mid-1871, under suspicion of horse theft, Larsen left the Red River Settlement and was not seen there again. An 1871 newspaper article in The Manitoban reported a claim from an anonymous source that Larsen had been arrested at Pembina, Dakota Territory [today, North Dakota] for crossing the border without paying customs duties.
In 1869 Larsen married Caroline Pruden (1852-1924), daughter of Peter Pruden. They had two daughters: Mary Rosalie Larsen (1870-?), born at the Red River Settlement, and Blanche Larsen Heap (1873-1950), born in the United States. By 1876, Caroline was remarried to Dr. Thomas Hanson and living in Manitoba. In 1879 the Hanson family moved to Rat Portage [today, Kenora], Ontario, where they remained.
Ryder Larsen was one of the earliest known photographers at the Red River Settlement. He photographed many of the well-known personalities in the Settlement during the 1866-1871 period and it is speculated that he took the famous photograph, circa 1869, of Louis Riel with his councillors. Some of his photographs are clearly identified with his name and logo stamped on their back sides, as shown by the samples below. Other photographs from the same time period but without stamps can be identified by comparison with the known Larsen studio settings shown below.
The following characteristics of Larsen carte-de-visite (CdV) photographs may provide a means to identify other unidentified photographs taken by him.
“Photographic views in Rupert’s Land,” The Nor’Wester, 24 August 1867, page 2.
“A shooting affray,” New Nation, 7 January 1870, page 2.
“Counterfeit notes,” New Nation, 10 May 1870, page 3.
“The crime of murder,” The Manitoban, 20 May 1871, page 2.
“Sharp practice,” The Manitoban, 1 July 1871, page 2.
“Pembina and the Pembinese,” The Weekly Manitoban, 16 December 1871, page 1.
Elizabeth Green Fonds, Archives of Manitoba.
Mrs. John Black Fonds, Archives of Manitoba.
Caroline Pruden Hanson, FInd-A-Grave.
Blanche Larsen Heap, Find-A-Grave.
We thank Judith Hudson Beattie Valenzuela for providing additional information used here.
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