This photograph, in the collection of the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, was apparently taken of a lacrosse game in action, played in Montréal, Québec in August 1864 – and as you can read, the caption claims it was the “first instantaneous snapshot ever taken”.
It is unknown whether the description implies it was the first-ever snapshot in photographic history – or just the first-ever photograph of a lacrosse game. On the back of the photo is the signature of AE Macnaughton (d.1937), who seems to be describing and verifying the nature of the print and its date. The author of Old School Lacrosse has frequently come across Archie Macnaughton’s name in his research from the 1890s to 1920s, a well-known individual involved in the game – first as a player in the 1890s for the Victoria Lacrosse Club and then later as manager of the Vancouver Lacrosse Club, as well as a referee and an association executive.
It is suspected the print copy in the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame collection is a re-print that dates from before the 1930s and certainly not an original print from the 1860s.
However, based on what little the author knows of photography history, there are some serious doubts whether this photo actually does date from 1864.
The clearness and lack of blur of the players in motion in the image is unusual for photography of the era. The earliest snapshot cameras did not come along until 1888 with the introduction of the Kodak No.1 camera. The next latest occurrence of actions shots of lacrosse matches does not happen until the first five or so years of the 1900s.
Therefore, Old School Lacrosse suspects the photograph’s origins are likely three decades later, say 1880-1890s range. Perhaps 1864 is a typographical error for 1894?
Dave Stewart-Candy is a resident of East Vancouver, British Columbia. A member of the board of directors for the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame since July 2012 and responsible for acquisitions and archives, he has spent the past dozen years researching the statistical history of lacrosse with a focus on the previously-undocumented 1882-1931 period when field lacrosse was the primary and popular version of the game in British Columbia.