William James Topley’s Fancy Dress Ball Photographs

One of the most celebrated and well-known photographs by Ottawa photographer William James Topley (1845–1930) is his composite image of the first major Canadian fancy dress ball, hosted by the Earl of Dufferin and his wife on February 23, 1876. This composite, which was constructed in the months following the event by cutting out individual photographs and pasting them onto a painted backdrop of the Rideau Hall ballroom, recreates a moment from this prestigious social affair. Look closely and see if you can make out the different costumes…

Composite image of the Dufferin Grand Fancy Ball at Rideau Hall on February 23, 1876. The image was created in the months following the event, and was probably finished in May or June.

Composite image of the Dufferin Grand Fancy Ball at Rideau Hall on February 23, 1876. The image was created in the months following the event, and was probably finished in May or June. (Source: MIKAN 3260601)

The fancy dress ball was a private costumed event that grew in popularity over the course of the nineteenth century in Canada. Those who were invited to a fancy ball would often portray characters from history, literature, Shakespearean plays, mythology, legends, nursery rhymes, or fairy tales, or even ones from “exotic” lands. While guests at fancy balls were expected to conform to certain societal expectations, they could also exercise a few liberties.

For example, women were permitted to wear their hair loose and flowing at the ball (normally it would have been worn up). They could also dress in outfits that revealed more of their legs than a typical ball gown of the day. Miss Minnie Smart, who came dressed in uniform as a heroic “vivandière” for the Dufferin Grand Ball, is certainly revealing a fair amount of her stockings in this photographic portrait!

Miss Minnie Smart dressed as a “vivandière,” originally a type of female auxiliary in the French army who sold food and drink to the soldiers.

Miss Minnie Smart dressed as a “vivandière,” originally a type of female auxiliary in the French army who sold food and drink to the soldiers. (Source: MIKAN 3421162)

Many of the costumes that men wore required tight leggings. This undoubtedly resulted in a few of the guests feeling self-conscious about their bodies, which were normally hidden under conventional dark suits.

Mr. Newby dressed as a “Court Jester.” He wore this same costume again for a skating carnival that took place in 1881.

Mr. Newby dressed as a “Court Jester.” He wore this same costume again for a skating carnival that took place in 1881. (Source: MIKAN 3477362)

There were also those who dressed as characters from other lands. These individuals often acted out their roles in very stereotypical ways, and their costumes did not necessarily reflect the identity that they were appropriating. Mr. Waddell, who came dressed as a “Heathen Hindoo,” apparently had his face painted brown with iodine, leaving a stain that lasted for days after the event.

Mr. Waddell dressed as a “Heathen Hindoo.”

Mr. Waddell dressed as a “Heathen Hindoo.” (Source: MIKAN 3477518)

Not only do these photographs serve as entertaining records of the men and women who attended this exclusive event, but they are also important visual remnants of the past that reflect the social, political and economic contexts in which they were created.

For further research

 

Images of Fancy Dress Balls now on Flickr

Victorians from all walks of life loved to dress up in costume, or “fancy dress,” for parlour games, theatricals and balls. Assuming fantasy characters for an evening provided a form of escapism from their rigidly conventional lives. Canadians were no exception.

Characters for fancy dress were inspired by various facets of Victorian culture and different historical periods.

View the fancy dress ball images on Flickr.

July 15, 1870: Manitoba joins Confederation

Originally posted on Library and Archives Canada Blog:

Before becoming a province, Manitoba was the stage for many events and pivotal moments in Canada’s history. Pending the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada, the federal government sent survey crews led by Lieutenant Governor William McDougall to map the Red River area in 1869. The Métis became concerned about the redistribution of land to future settlers and the effect this would have on their own lands.

The Métis group’s leader, Louis Riel, declared that the survey was a menace and established a “National Committee” of which he became secretary and John Bruce president. On October 25, 1869, Louis Riel was ordered to appear in front of the Legislative Assembly of Assiniboia to explain himself. Riel indicated that the “National Committee” would prevent the entry of McDougall or any governors into Red River unless the union with Canada was based on negotiations with the local population.

In November, Riel…

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I say Bennett, vous dîtes Benoit. Soundex: How to find spelling variations of a surname

You are deep into your genealogy research and coming across documents that show a code like T650 instead of a surname? What does the code mean? Well, it’s a code from the Soundex phonetic system, used to index surnames.

Many American archival records have been indexed using this system. It’s a way to search surnames while ignoring minor differences in spelling. The code uses the first letter of the surname, followed by three numbers associated with the sound of the name. Letters of the alphabet are assigned a number (0 to 9). Vowels (A, E, I, O, U and Y) and the letters H and W are ignored. Also, if the same letter occurs twice in a row in the name, it is counted only once (e.g., Lloyd becomes Loyd). If there are fewer than 3 letters in the name, 0 is used for the last digit.

Letter

Code

B P F V 1
C S G J K Q X Z 2
D T> 3
L> 4
M N 5
R 6

Examples:

SMITH = S530
TREMBLAY/TROMBLEY/TRIMBLE/TRUMBLE = T651

To help you identify different spellings of surnames, we suggest that you use the following Soundex indexing site: Avotaynu Consolidated Jewish Surname Index. It can also be used for non-Jewish surnames. To help you identify the Soundex code, you can use the JOS Soundex calculator.

Library and Archives Canada releases twelfth podcast episode: Between the Sheets

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, Between the Sheets.

Archival assistant Gilles Leclerc joins us to talk about LAC’s sheet music collection. We explore what sheet music is, what’s included in LAC’s collection and how the collection came about. We also discuss the historical value of sheet music and why it’s still relevant today.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS or iTunes, or just tune in at: Podcast – Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at podcasts@bac-lac.gc.ca.

Newly Digitized Microfilms on the Héritage Portal

The following is a list of digitized microfilms that have been recently added to the Héritage website. Please note that the titles have been translated for convenience, the records are still in the language of origin. Searching in the original language will improve search results.

1946 Army Central Registry
Adolphe-Philippe Caron fonds
Arthur Meighen: Series 3, correspondence
Canadian Labour Congress: Financial records
Clifford Sifton fonds
Commission to Inquire into the Treadgold and other concessions in the Yukon Territory
Correspondence addressed to the Chief Postal Inspectors
Correspondence of the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the Canadian Militia and his predecessor, the Adjutant
Department of Agriculture: Docket and letterbook registry system, general correspondence
Department of Agriculture, Dominion Chemist: Letterbooks, 1889–1933
Department of Agriculture: Duplex numeric subject file classification system, 1918–1953
Department of Agriculture: Entomology and Botany Division
Department of Agriculture: Records relating to international exhibitions
Department of External Affairs: Office of the Under-Secretary of State for External Affairs
Department of Indian Affairs: General accounts, 1846–1979
Department of Indian Affairs: Port Arthur Agency
Department of Indian Affairs: Trust fund journals, 1875–1938
Department of Labour, Economics and Research Branch: Strikes and lockout files
Department of Militia and Defence: Registers and lists of officers
Department of National Defence, Directorate of History and Heritage: Kardex system
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records: Correspondence in subject files
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records, official correspondence: Registered correspondence, 1842–1860
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records: Registers and indexes
Department of Public Works, Chief Architect’s Office: Letterbooks, 1873–1909
Department of Public Works, Docket registry system: Registers of correspondence received
Department of Public Works: General indexes of the subject classification registry system, 1879–1901
Department of Public Works: Letterbooks of the subject classification registry system, 1879–1912 Department of Public Works: Registers of papers filed, 1879–1907
Department of Public Works: Subject registers
Department of Railways and Canals, Railway Branch: Office of the Chief Engineer
Department of Transport: Civil aircraft registration, inspection and operation files, 1920–1986
Deputy Postmaster General: Correspondence addressed to the Marine Mail Officers
Deputy Postmaster General: International correspondence sent
Deputy Postmaster General: Letterbooks related to personnel
Directorate of Movements
Edgar Dewdney fonds
Fisheries Branch Registry files
France. Colonial fonds: Series C11A. General correspondence
Frederick B. Taylor fonds
Letterbooks created and/or maintained by the Office of the Chief Engineer
Letterbooks of the Office of the Deputy Minister of Justice
Meteorological Service, 1874–1933
Montreal Amateur Athletic Association fonds
Newton Wesley Rowell fonds
Office of the Indian Reserve Commissioner for the Province of British Columbia
Operational records of the Penitentiary Branch, 1834–1962
Parish registers: New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Quebec
Records and correspondence sent from the Postmaster General
Registers to letters received by the Postmaster General’s office
Registry files related to the Railway Branch
Royal Canadian Air Force second central registry and file classification system
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Office of the Commissioner: General orders
Royal Canadian Navy: Convoy Reports of Proceedings, 1939–1945
Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism
Royal Commission to Investigate the Facts Relating to and the Circumstances Surrounding the Communication, by public officials and other persons…etc.
Secretary of State: Chief Press Censor
Secretary of State: Returns to addresses and orders of Parliament
Soldiers Settlement Board: The Platt Books
Walter Livingstone-Learmonth diaries
War Cabinet Committee, 1938–1945
War diaries
William Lyon Mackenzie King: Primary series correspondence (J1)
World War I: Veterans claim cards

Mary Riter Hamilton, Canada’s First Unofficial War Artist

It has been 90 years since Mary Riter Hamilton donated 180 of her oil paintings and dozens of her chalk, pastel and pencil drawings depicting the devastation in Europe after the First World War to the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada). These works by Riter Hamilton are not light-hearted. The subject matter deals almost exclusively with the destruction of war. They depict muddy trenches and blighted landscapes, graves and cemeteries, churches and towns ripped apart from shelling.

Memorial for the Second Canadian Division in a Mine Crater near Neuville St. Vaast.

Memorial for the Second Canadian Division in a Mine Crater near Neuville St. Vaast (MIKAN 2836007)

Mary Riter Hamilton was born in 1873 in Teeswater, Ontario and grew up in Clearwater, Manitoba where her family moved to farm. She married Charles W. Hamilton at the age of 18 and by the age of 23 was widowed. It was soon before the death of her husband that Mary began attending art classes in Toronto. Recognizing her talent, most of her European-trained teachers urged her to further her studies in Paris. Mary studied first in Germany then moved to Paris where she lived and studied for the next eight years. Mary returned to Manitoba for a year in 1906 then again for eight years in 1911. During these years, Mary’s work was exhibited in galleries in Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Winnipeg and Calgary.

The Sadness of the Somme

The Sadness of the Somme (MIKAN 2835991)

Always wanting to return to Europe, it was in 1919 while Mary was living and working on Canada’s west coast, that she was offered a commission by the Amputation Club of British Columbia to provide art work for The Gold Stripe, a veteran’s magazine. Mary left immediately, “ … to paint the scenes where so many of our gallant Canadians have fought and died.” For three years, Riter Hamilton worked tirelessly in post-war France and Belgium, painting battlefields including Vimy Ridge and the Somme, Ypres and Passchendaele. Conditions were harsh. She lived in make-shift shelters while enduring foul weather and meagre rations. She returned to Canada physically and emotionally spent. Refusing to sell her paintings, Riter Hamilton donated her work to the Public Archives of Canada. She died, poor and visually impaired, in 1954.

As the centenary of the First World War approaches, these works take on a renewed poignancy. Mary Riter Hamilton was never an official ‘war artist’ yet through her courage and talent and indomitable dedication, the sombre beauty and mournful tone of her collection serve as an enduring account of the ravages of war.

Trenches on the Somme

Trenches on the Somme (MIKAN 2894917)

To learn more about Mary Riter Hamilton, to view more of her work, or to see what materials are contained in the LAC collection, visit:

Looking for your Newfoundland Ancestors Who Served in the First World War?

Newfoundland was a Dominion of the British Empire when the First World War broke out. At the time, there was no formal military presence in Newfoundland, but the Government of Newfoundland went on a recruiting drive to provide a force for British service. Many Newfoundlanders also joined the war effort by joining the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in Canada.

After Newfoundland joined confederation in 1949, the personnel records for the Royal Newfoundland Regiment and the Newfoundland Forestry Corps were transferred to the Government of Canada as these individuals became eligible for veterans’ benefits. Later, the files were microfilmed by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and FamilySearch. The originals remain in LAC’s holdings.

Searching for Newfoundland service files

If you aren’t sure in which service your ancestor served or where he joined, you will need to look at both the CEF records using the Canadian soldiers of the First World War: 1914-1918 database for people from Newfoundland who enlisted in other parts of Canada and the general Archives Search for people who enlisted in Newfoundland regiments. For the latter group, enter the surname of the person, “Newfoundland” and RG38 in the keyword search. The results page will identify which microfilm reel you will need to order to consult the service record.

Meanwhile, the microfilms can be consulted onsite at LAC, through the Family History Centre or in the Newfoundland Provincial Archives at The Rooms in St. John’s. The latter has digitized some of the service files and these can be found in the Newfoundland Regiment and the Great War database.

LAC is presently digitizing all of the remaining 640,000 service files of the men and women who served in the First World War with the Canadian Expeditionary Force. The digitized service records will be made available on the website as they become available, but access restrictions may be in effect at times. Learn more about the digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces Service Files by consulting the Fact Sheet: Digitization of Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files.