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aussi disponible en français
June 30, 2014
For immediate release

Twenty-one Top Hats

Lieutenant Governor's Office

PEI's Lieutenant Governor the Honourable Frank Lewis today issued an invitation for Islanders and visitors alike to consider a visit to Government House to capture their own piece of photographic history.

"I invite everyone, families, service groups, meeting and convention organizers or delegates and even wedding parties to contact Government House for an appointment to stage their own group photo in homage to the Fathers of Confederation," said His Honour. "This is a special year, and a picture in the exact place where the Fathers of Confederation were photographed is an ideal memento."

The Fathers had their only known group photo taken on the steps of the Governor's official residence on the morning of September 6, 1864.

To add to the photo, Government House has available a number of top hats that participants are welcome to use in their photo. Of the 25 Fathers of Confederation who posed for the photo, 21 can be seen either wearing or holding his top hat.

The then-fashionable top hat of silk or beaver fur was a seemingly ubiquitous men's clothing accessory that began its rise to widespread popularity approximately a decade earlier. Considered garish when first worn in the late 18th century, the top hat went from fashionable to highly respectable in 1850 when Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria, began to wear one.

Times for photograph appointments are available from Monday to Friday between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., excluding statutory holidays. The grounds of Government House, known as Fanningbank, are open to the public almost every day except on the occasion of a private function.

The steps of Government House have place markers to indicate where each of the Charlottetown Conference delegates stood or sat for the photo. Additionally, an enlargement of the 1864 photo will be outside on weekdays for visitors' information.

To contact Government House for such an appointment, you are asked to call (902)-368-5480 or email Advance notice is greatly appreciated and preferred, as Fanningbank is a popular location for special occasion photographs and appointments have always been recommended.


Tableau recalls historic 1864 photo

On their arrival in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island September 1, 1864, those who would later be universally known as the Fathers of Confederation called on the colonial governor, Honourable George Dundas. They returned again to Government House on September 6 to pose on the steps of the Governor's residence for the only known photo from their nation-making meetings.

Just a few months ahead of the exact date 150 years later, the scene was closely recreated in the very same place, as PEI Lieutenant Governor His Honour the Honourable Frank Lewis and Her Honour Dorothy Lewis hosted Canada's Vice-Regal Community, including Their Excellencies, the Right Honourable David Johnston and Sharon Johnston. This includes the lieutenant governors of all the provinces, except Ontario who were unable to attend, and the three territorial commissioners. Secretary to the Governor General, Stephen Wallace makes up the total of 25 people, the same number as in the 1864 photo.

The beautifully located and respectfully preserved Government House in Charlottetown has the same mix of grandeur and hospitality that it would have had in 1864 or even when it was built in 1834, making it one of the oldest vice-regal residences in Canada or the Commonwealth. Accounts from the week of meetings of the Fathers of Confederation point to a feeling of good will and optimism from the formal discussions and social event at the unrecorded Government House gathering. In letters to his wife, Anne Nelson Brown, George Brown wrote about Charlottetown that he and others were hosted for a dinner by Governor George Dundas on their first night in the city, Thursday, September 1 and a ball on the evening of September 6.

Corresponding with the release of this new photo, Lieutenant Governor Frank Lewis announced that members of the public are welcome and encouraged to visit Government House to pose for and record their own photo. For those who book a weekday time to pose for their own re-enactment, a number of top hats will be available on-site for their use if they so choose. Government House can be contacted through its webpage at

Media Contact: Cindy Cheverie
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