Louis Schibli

Smithers' Famous Photographer

Louis Schibli is probably the most well-known historical photographer of Smithers, with a collection of over 250 shots of the Bulkley Valley and its people in the 1950s and 60s.  

Swiss immigrants aboard the Ascania

Louis Schibli (fourth row, second from the left, in light grey suit) with other Swiss immigrants on board the Ascania. Click here for a full-sized version with more identifications. (P1274, Bulkley Valley Museum visual record collection).

Alois 'Louis' Schibli was born on December 23rd 1919 in the small hamlet of Busslingen, Switzerland. His interest in photography was sparked by the gift of a Kodak Box Brownie when he was a young boy. This lifelong passion would lead to him becoming one of the most well-represented photographers in the Museum's collection. 

The Schibli family was part of the first wave of Swiss immigrants to arrive in the Bulkley Valley. Seventeen-year-old Louis, along with his parents John and Anna and siblings John and Agnes, travelled to Canada in April 1937 on board the RMS Ascania. Families accompanying them included the Wafflers, Hugs, and Gygers. The Schiblis farmed in the Bulkley Valley until 1949, when they moved to Langley. There, Louis married Gertrud 'Trudi' Herzig, with whom he returned to Smithers in 1951. 

Louis Schibli with Elsie and Tatsuo Aida

Schibli (left) with his friend Tatsuo 'Tat' Aida (right) and Aida's wife Elsie (nee Anderson). (P2117, Bulkley Valley Museum visual record collection)

During his youth in the Bulkley Valley, Schibli and his friend Tat Aida had learned photography basics from a local man named Mr. Seeley. He had further honed his skills while working at a photography studio in Langley. Now, with the establishment of "Louis' Studio," Schibli went professional. In addition to his full-time maintenance job with School District 54, Schibli took numerous photography gigs, from weddings to school pictures. He also took many casual shots of the scenery and buildings of the Bulkley Valley. Schibli's line of work allowed him to become well-acquainted with many residents of Smithers and the surrounding communities. 

Schibli’s legacy extended beyond his own work. He cared for Gilbert Clarke Killam's glass plate negative collection after it was rediscovered in the basement of the old post office in 1954, and helped Lynn Shervill collect historic photographs for Smithers' 60th Anniversary Project, the 1981 book "From Swamp to Village." Louis and Trudi also raised seven children in Smithers: George, Margareth, Irene, Mary Jane, John, Andrew, and Robert.

The Bulkley Valley Museum's Louis Schibli fonds are comprised of several hundred photographs donated by Schibli and his family over the past few decades. The bulk of our Gilbert Clarke Killam collection was also donated by Schibli in the 1980s. Louis Schibli died in 2015 at the age of 95, but his contributions to Smithers' photographic history live on.