Camera Workers, 1858-1950

The British Columbia, Alaska and Yukon Photographic Directory, 1858-1950

Bonine, Robert Kates[1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11]

Male 1861 - 1923  (61 years)

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  • Name Bonine, Robert Kates  [12
    Born 14 Sep 1861  Altoona, PA Find all individuals with events at this location  [13
    Gender Male 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) 1899-1900  Chilkoot Pass Trail (Alaska-Yukon) Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) 1899-1900  Dawson, YT Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Where Active (Non-Specific Address) 1899-1900  Yukon Territory Find all individuals with events at this location 
    Various gold mines 
    Died 11 Sep 1923  Honolulu, HI Find all individuals with events at this location  [14
    Cremated May 1924  Grandview Cemetery, Altoona, PA Find all individuals with events at this location  [14
    Association Crahan, Thomas (Relationship: Colleague) 
    Person ID I413  Camera Workers
    Last Modified 24 Feb 2017 

  • Notes 
    • STATUS: Cinematographer (visit).
    • SUMMARY: Robert K. Bonine was part of a Pennsylvania photographic family centered in the Tyrone/Philadelphia area and not of Canadian origin as Canadian film historian Peter Morris speculated in Embattled Shadows (reprint, 1992). Robert A. Bonine, his father, photographed the 1889 Johnstown Flood, while a brother, Elias A. Bonine (1843-1916), travelled around the Western US taking stereo photographs which his brother published.

      According to Morris, the Edison Manufacturing Company first distributed films in Oct 1897 that captured the excitement of preparing for the gold rush at a West Coast seaport. At least three films on this topic were shown: "Loading Baggage for Klondike, No. 6", "Horse Loading for Klondike, No. 9" and "S.S. 'Willamette' Leaving for Klondike". A fourth film, "Klondike Gold Rush Lures Thousands to Seek Fortunes", may also have been shot by Bonine and released by the Edison Manufacturing Company in 1898.

      The remaining titles, copyrighted in 1901 and possibly not distributed until then, all depict the rugged conditions facing the gold seeker. Known titles described by film historians Colin Browne and Dennis J. Duffy are "Burro Pack Train on the Chilcoot Pass", "Miles Cannon Tramway", "Packers on the Trail", "Panoramic View from the White Pass Railroad", "Rocking Gold in the Klondike" and "Washing Gold on 20 Above Hunker, Klondike". According to newspaper articles located by researcher Michael Cirelli, some of these moving pictures were shot in the summer 1899 by Bonine and Thomas Crahan for the 1900 Paris International Exposition.

      The White Pass & Yukon Railway film was a genre in itself known as "Phantom Rides" and shot from a platform at the front of a locomotive. The effect must have been thrilling to audiences a century ago as the train silently roared through a tunnel then skirted along a trestle clinging to the edge of a bottomless canyon. Morris speculates that Bonine may also have photographed similar rides through the Kicking Horse Canyon and other precipitous scenery along the CPR in Dec 1901 upon his return from Asia.

      Among the other Edison films shot by R.K. Bonine are the coronation of King Edward VII in 1901, the "Arrival of the Governor General, Lord Minto, at Quebec" in Feb 1902, and an earthquake-ravaged San Francisco in Apr 1906. He also took extensive footage for the Edison Manufacturing Company in the Hawaiian Islands between Jun and Aug 1906 (Bonine filming at Waikiki Beach, Oahu, 1906, R.J. Baker Collection, Bishop Museum, in Schmidt [1988]).

      Paradise of the Pacific magazine reported that he returned to his home in Orange, New Jersey, the company town founded by Edison. Bonine returned to Hawaii in 1908 and lived there until his death where he continued to photograph as well as operate a movie theatre named after himself.

  • Sources 
    1. [S147] COLLECTION: LOC.

    2. [S654] Klondike Nugget (Newspaper), (Dawson City, YT), 4, 22 Jul 1899.

    3. [S654] Klondike Nugget (Newspaper), (Dawson City, YT), 1, 02 Aug 1899.

    4. [S654] Klondike Nugget (Newspaper), (Dawson City, YT), 6, 23 Aug 1899.

    5. [S654] Klondike Nugget (Newspaper), (Dawson City, YT), 8, 06 Sep 1899.

    6. [S222] Browne (1979), Browne, Colin, (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1979).

    7. [S272] Duffy (1986), Dennis J. Duffy, (Victoria: Sound and Moving Image Division, Provincial Archives of British Columbia, 1986).

    8. [S690] Musser (1994 reprint), Musser, Charles, (Berkeley: University of California Press, c1990, reprint 1994 ).

    9. [S689] Musser (1991), Musser, Charles, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).

    10. [S687] Schmitt (1988), Scmitt, Robert C., (Honolulu: Hawaiian Historical Society, 1988).

    11. [S688] Morris (1992, reprint), Morris, Peter, (Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press, c1978, reprint 1992).

    12. [S689] Musser (1991), Musser, Charles, (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1991).
      Middle name given as Kates.

    13. [S667] (Web site), Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
      "United States Passport Applications, 1795-1925"; URL (accessed 24 Feb 2017):

    14. [S832] Find a Grave (Web site).
      URL (accessed 24 Feb 2017):