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HomeContents > People > Photographers > Colombo Apothecaries & Co.

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Active:  Ceylon
Colombo Apothecaries Company was established by J. Smith Finlay and W.M. Smith in Colombo, Ceylon in 1883. From a small mercantile establishment the Company grew rapidly into a large general store selling most commodities. The name Colombo Apothecaries Company was established in 1892 and by this time already had a photographic department. As an expansion of this department the company acquired the negatives of Charles Scowen Company and moved their studio to Kandy where the climate was considered better for photographic work than Colombo. After the acquisition of the Scowen portfolio, the Colombo Apothecaries Company produced a fine catalogue and started selling their photographs worldwide. The Company continued a photographic department in Colombo where they had their darkrooms and production facilities.

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John Falconer, British Library 
A Biographical Dictionary of 19th Century Photographers in South and South-East Asia

Commercial, Sri Lanka
Mercantile concern established by W.M. Smith and and James Smith Finlay in the De Soysa Buildings, Slave Island, Colombo in 1883; moved into a small store at the junction of York and Prince’s streets in 1887; oilman’s store and wine and spirits department added in 1889, ‘and subsequently stationery, china, fancy goods, photography and photographic supplies [c. 1890?], electro-plated ware and boots and shoes. A further extension took in drapery, outfitting, hardware, toys, games, and athletic goods’ (Wright). Company took the present name in 1892. The company took a large series of photographs of the Ceylon Railway for display in the Ceylon Court of the World’s Columbian Exhibition at Chicago in 1893.[1]
In the early 1890s ‘the photographic studio was moved to more suitable quarters at Kandy, where climatic influences are more propitious for high-class photographic work than in Colombo. At this studio views are turned out by thousands and sent to all parts of the world. They include representations of the famous buried cities of Ceylon, concerning which the company published a very interesting catalogue; while at the Colombo store is a dark-room, where all conveniences are provided for the use of amateurs, passengers, and others, and a large stock of photographic materials is kept. A completely fitted job-printing department has also been added, having electricity for its motive power’ (Wright). 
The firm probably took over the stock of Charles T. Scowen and Co. in the early 1890s.
Advertising a large series of views of the ancient cities of Ceylon in 1899.
Arnold Wright, Twentieth century impressions of Ceylon (London, 1907). 

  1. Λ The Ceylon Government Railways. Notes on the views specially taken for exhibition in the Ceylon Courts of the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893 (Colombo, 1893). 
  2. Λ Advertisement in S.M. Burrows, The Buried Cities of Ceylon, (3rd edn., Colombo, 1899). 

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