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Anglo-Boer War Fakes - ebay Follies

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Antique Alert! Another questionable antique item brought to you by oddballron a motivated seller on ebay...
I have lived in St. Boniface for the last 30 years and I'm only a few blocks away from Louis Riel's burial plot, I purchased this photo believed to be Louis Riel and was told from the family indeed it is him.

Photo was handed down from there grandfather to the grandchildren and it's on copper as seen, Riel always parted his hair the same way and carried the full beard most of his life and his eyes are a dead give away in the photo.

The family had furnniture and other items that belonged to Riel family and I was able to get them because they weren't for sale, which now I could have kept the contact number of the family for more info.

Comparing this photo with others I've seen I'm almost certain this is him, you bidding on the Riel photo only and it's paper frame as seen, the other photo I'm still trying to figure who he is ? which was taken at the same time and also looks to be very interesting.

If your not certain it's Riel please do not bid, garanteed this photo is 100++ years old.

I'll welcome any feedback or comments you may have on this photo and appreciate and comments you may have, If for any reason's I'm mistaken the photo will be removed and the auction terminated.

Louis Riel: Louis Riel is a major Canadian folk hero, nowhere more so than among the Métis people of Canada, those people of mixed Indian and French heritage who peopled the western Canadian prairies during the 18th and 19th centuries.

French explorers and fur traders were the first white men to settle in the remote wilderness regions of Canada. Their union with Indian women gave birth to an entirely new group of western Canadian people, the Métis, a people who today regard themselves as having an identity and heritage separate from that of either Indians or white Canadians.

By the 1860s the Métis were a power on the western plains and were centered around Fort Garry - today's site of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba. Then this huge region was a remote wilderness and owned by the Hudson's Bay Company. Below Fort Garry in 1869. (Search engine - Stephenson)

All was well until the area was sold to the Dominion of Canada in 1969. As the Canadian government in Ottawa pushed its power west, the Métis objected to the high-handed way their rights and traditions were ignored or pushed aside.

In the clamour that resulted, the Métis picked Louis Riel to lead them in their protest. He and his Métis Council arrested a redneck from Ontario who loudly said he would not recognize their power over him and fomented disobedience and revolt locally among non-Métis people. The Ontarian was sentenced to death and executed.

Ottawa sent troops west and Riel and other leaders fled for safety to the United States. The area was made into the province of Manitoba in 1870. Louis Riel was elected the first MP but he was refused a seat in the House of Commons. The Métis drifted west towards Saskatchewan where freedom was still possible.

In 1885 even this was not far enough to escape the encroachment of Canada which had now pushed a railway west to get at these areas.

Once more the Métis made a stand, this time with guns. Louis Riel was invited back to head the protest movement. Another British army was sent west and after four important battles, the Métis protest was crushed and its leaders, like Riel were captured. He was executed. The others fled to the US for safety.

French-Canadians were outraged that a fellow Francophone was hanged by an Anglophone dominated government. It created a major split in Canadian domestic politics that would last for decades.

Louis Riel & the Boer War: Several top Boer War generals campaigned in Canada against Riel. Col. Wolseley, the Head of the British Army during the Boer War, led the first expedition to crush the Riel Rebellion of 1870. And General Buller, the first commander-in-chief in the South Africa War, served in the much more violent 1885 campaign against Riel.

Louis Riel became the elected Member of Parliament for Manitoba after it was joined to Canada as a province in 1870.
Louis, Is that you?

Louis Real or Louis Fake? On the left are three certified and traditionally accepted photos of Louis Riel. The "newly discovered" view, by someone who has slept only a stone's throw from Louis' grave for 30 years, is below. Though it is hard to overcome provenance that powerful, we will try.

Would you elect this man to Parliament?

It is quite possible that the man, above, has native ancestry. He may even be Métis. But there was more to Louis than that.

Louis was a Gentleman: At the very least, Louis saw himself as a gentleman, on those very rare occasions when he went to have his picture taken.

Every single time, Louis wore a white shirt and tie and a nicely fitted suit coat, befitting his position in the upper echelons of frontier society. Louis did not want to appear to be a casual, frumpy frontiersman...

The other man - probably a farmer - looks markedly different. He has no tie in evidence but presents, rather, the look of a rough-hewn settler come in to get his picture taken. His coat is thick and meant more for holding out the weather than making a show. His vest, too, is thick and warm, not a type favoured by an urban dandy. And with a button missing, or left open on purpose, it creates a slovenly look that Louis just would not have allowed. Clearly this was a man who came from a part of society which did not know the difference or did not care...

Hair Today - Gone Tomorrow: Louis is of two - or three - minds about his whiskers. Sometimes he has them neatly trimmed - either as "Burnsides" free of his chin, or in a decidedly well-trimmed full beard. Or shaved away to a moustache only. Louis clearly cared about his facial hair and how he presented himself; he just couldn't figure out which was the real Riel he wanted to project. So his whiskers, like the prairie grass of his homeland, seemed to flourish or change with the seasons, or his mercurial nature. So it is not true at all, as the huckster says, that Louis "carried a full beard most of his life." In fact there is no known photo of Riel sporting such a wildly luxuriant growth of beard, until his final days on the run from the British army in 1885. So the huckster's comments seem designed to promote his picture rather than describe the real Louis Riel.

The farmer has no ambivalence, at all, about his magnificent bush of whiskers. They have been growing for decades to a large and almost unkempt growth that few men sported, even in the 19th century. Who knows what wild and sundry creatures lurk therein. Clearly this man does not move in circles where a wild beard is an impediment to social advancement. Very much like a frontier farmer who rarely makes trips to civilization. Is this really a man ready to be the first Member of Parliament to represent the people of the Red River Colony in Ottawa as their spokesman in the newly named province of Manitoba?

... the photos I am selling are of a younger Riel

This creates problems because in Louis' earliest photos he sports only a moustache. His full beard sprouts late in life, when he is on the run, and far from a barber, a washstand, and commode.

City Slicker: Louis' hair has a fashionable and pronounced wave worked into the top of his forelock. Or maybe it's just genetic. It is also nicely pomaded with the reflected light suggesting he oiled it up nicely for the camera too.

Not the farmer who has dull hair and no endearing wave, just a quick straight back comb for the camera. And certainly no sign of pomading. No farmer would stand for the prettifying - let alone the accompanying smell of cologne - that city dandies like Riel took for granted to show off their station in life.

The Hair: A final look at the hair shows that Louis' locks were piled high and favoured his left side. The farmer's hair, if anything, favour his right side. This kind of a shift makes it hard to figure out between which two pictures above the new picture must be placed if it really is Riel.

The Eyes have it!

... his eyes are a dead give away in the photo

This argument, of all the ones oddballron makes, is extremely persuasive. Upon close examination it is indeed possible to make out two eyes, one on each side of the nose, in both pictures... Is this a coincidence or a confirmation that this indeed is Louis?

Do the eyes have it? Have a look; I think he's right. To us Louis always demonstrates a "squinty" look, effecting sort of a quizzical disposition, and resulting in shadowy corners, almost giving his eyes a deep set look. This squint, betraying the questioning mien of a man "looking for truth" or at least "questioning its possibility" bring his eyebrows down and flat. It gives Louis the air of a thinking and even a somewhat retiring human being.

On the other hand, the old farmer has highly arched eyebrows. He has the open face of a man who knows it all, and to whom there are not mysteries out there to explore or question. Sort of a "meat and potatoes" look. The photos seem to betray a clear class divide between the genuine Louis Riels on the left, and the pretender.

The Family Told Me So:

Photo was handed down from there grandfather to the grandchildren..

The huckster says he bought the picture from the family of Louis Riel and they certified it is him! What family would do such a thing!!

... was told from the family indeed it is him.

There is another problem; Louis Riel left no descendants. Not one. There were no grandsons or great-grandsons or grandfathers for that matter.

Both Louis' children were prematurely dead by 1907 and so his family tree died out. Only his in-laws carried on; so by that measure are not many Métis part of a huge extended family? Who among them would not love to profess kinship of one kind or another to Louis Riel, who is almost a patron saint among them.

"Here, I have a nice picture of Louis Riel for you, Cheap! And his children too... Interested?"

Corroborative Proof that it is Louis Riel

Jean-Louis and Marie-Angélique Riel, children of Louis Riel. To bolster his claim that the photo is of Riel, the ebay huckster is also selling a picture of two children which he labels as Riel's children!!!

Louis' Children: Marguerite Riel was Louis' wife, who bore him the two children, Jean-Louis, and Marie-Angélique, shown below left, in a certified picture of the Riel children. There is a decided resemblance between mother and children that few would deny. She died not long after he was hanged. Both children died before reaching middle age.

The ebay huckster says the picture below right is another picture of the Riel children that he has found.

Amazing Resemblance! Do these children resemble each other? When did they make the transition from pudgy faces with black hair (left) to long-faced blondes? And from traditionally costumed native kids (left) to middle class city slickers.

If Marguerite gave birth to the children on the left, which she decidedly did, could she also be the mother of the other two?

Could the dark complexioned farmer above be the father of the two on the left - which he is if he is Louis Riel - as well as the two on the right - which the ebay huckster says he fathered as well? It's not a case of either or...

If the picture above is Louis Riel, as the ebay huckster claims, then he is the father of both sets of kids, the ones on the left, because history says so - the ones on the right as well because the ebay huckster says so...

Comparing this photo with others I've seen I'm almost certain this is him - Not exactly words to inspire confidence in a buyer; when the motivated seller seems unsure of his research.

... garanteed this photo is 100++ years old - That's a safe bet, but it doesn't make it Riel, or even a relative, at all. There are millions of these photos cropping up at every auction in every town across North America. They all have something in common with these photos. None of them have anything to do with Riel. Too bad he doesn't garantee that it is Riel!!

If your not certain it's Riel please do not bid, - The ebay huckster suspects - actually knows - the truth. But somewhere someone will be snagged and will bid, and another myth is born. And another ebay antique huckster slinks back under his rock chuckling as he counts his filthy lucre...

The Ebay Huckster Replies: We brought our reservations to the ebay seller's attention, hoping he would withdraw the characterization of these items from ebay. He did not but sent us the following:

"If you go to they shares alot of information & pictures of Riel and his children and they are matching in many ways and they were slimer and more white - thanks"

You can judge his honesty - and his eyesight - by comparing the above...

Who was that man? These photos have the worst form of provenance possible, a motivated seller quoting idle gossip from a totally assailable source, the mythical descendant of Louis Riel. The photos lack visual similarity to known images and cannot be made to fit into a believable pattern of known photos, without the subjects - Louis and the children - having undergone major facelift operations.

At most he may be a Red River farmer from late 19th century western Canada or the US and very probably has native ancestry.

Or is it Russian? Come to think of it, could this be a long lost photo of Rasputin? The resemblance is uncanny ... Hmmmm..... I think I may just buy that photo after all.....

I can hear Boney M singing now. "HO, HO, Rasputeeen, Lover of the Russian Queen!"

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