Trailblazers: a road trip in the summer of ’54

Four women, one Plymouth station wagon, five provinces, and four states in 38 days…

On July 31, 1954, freelance photographer Rosemary Gilliat and her girlfriends, Anna Brown, Audrey James and Helen Salkeld, left Ottawa, Ontario, for what would be an adventure of a lifetime—a road trip on the Trans-Canada Highway. Their final destination was Vancouver, British Columbia, and after a little more than a month of driving, the women covered over 12,000 kilometres before their return to Ottawa on September 6.

A black-and-white photograph of four women posing around a station wagon packed for a road trip.

Day One – July 31. Left to right: Helen Salkeld, Audrey James, Anna Brown and Rosemary Gilliat getting ready to leave Ottawa, Ontario, for their Trans-Canada Highway trip (MIKAN 4306200)

Until the mid-twentieth century, the only way to travel and really ‘see’ Canada was by train. Following the Second World War, thousands of new immigrants from across the globe immigrated to Canada. This increase in population was coupled by a huge growth in the automobile industry. During the post-war years, and with Parliament passing the Trans-Canada Highway Act in 1949, construction had begun to link Canada’s major cities with paved roads.

By the summer of 1954, work on the Trans-Canada Highway going west from Ottawa had started, but many stretches were still under construction, and in some areas work had not even begun. Rosemary described the road conditions near Cochrane, Ontario as “dirt and rutted and huge bumps which could easily break a spring.” At the border of Manitoba and Saskatchewan “the average road turned into a downright bad road, dried mud, stones lying on the road, dips & holes.” Further west, just past Kicking Horse Pass, British Columbia, the conditions became even more treacherous. Rosemary wrote:

“We soon came to bits of road under construction—engineers have been working at it already for two years. They have to blast out the side of the mountain—most of it above the C.P. Railway. We marvelled once more at the building of the railway through this impossible territory. The road was often just a rocky lane with towering rock walls above and jumbled masses of blasted rock below—other places were mud, with streams & pools of water on the road & one got the feeling that the whole lot might easily slip into the canyon hundreds of feet below.”

A black-and-white photograph of a public bus travelling on a gravel road and passing a construction crew working in the background. The area is mountainous.

Day 18 – August 17. The daily Calgary bus passes through a blasting area in Kicking Horse Canyon, British Columbia. Travel is between hours of 5 p.m. and 8 a.m. only on this stretch (MIKAN 4359684)

In spite of the many challenging stretches of highway, the windshield of Helen’s Plymouth only suffered a few cracks from flying rocks and remained intact until the women returned to Ottawa, when it was replaced.

Rosemary and her friends were not what you would call stereotypical women, or even conventional tourists, for their era. While there were some amenities available along the Trans-Canada Highway in 1954, such as motels and public camping grounds, the women preferred to have lunch and camp in wooded and secluded areas off the beaten path. As Rosemary put it, “one wonders at all the days of the year one spends in bed—when it is so perfect camping—every morning and every evening being a revelation.”

A black-and-white photograph of two women putting up two tents in a meadow with long grass surrounded by trees.

Day 4 – August 3. Anna Brown and Helen Salkeld pitching their tents, English River, Ontario (MIKAN 4306206)

Rosemary and her friends were seeking an “authentic” wilderness experience and were not discouraged by insects, rain or possible encounters with wildlife. Midway through their trip, Rosemary observed: “What always strikes me as odd is this business of people motoring 1000’s of miles into the wildest country in order to have all the luxuries they have at home in a different setting.”

A black-and-white photograph of three women in a wooded area preparing dinner in the rain.

Day 20 – August 19. Making dinner in the rain, near Yale, British Columbia (MIKAN 4306339)

Packed to the max, Helen’s station wagon was loaded with all of their camping supplies and utensils. Among their equipment was a Coleman stove and two water bottles, but no cooler or ice for perishable food. So part of their daily routine included picking up groceries and finding drinking water while getting gas for the car. This was not a luxury vacation!

A colour photograph of two women in a grassy area with mountains in the distance—one is reading reclined on a picnic blanket and the other is kneeling at a camp stove located behind a station wagon.

Day 20 – August 19. Helen Salkeld and Audrey James relaxing after lunch near Cache Creek, British Columbia (MIKAN 4323864)

Their travels took them through remote forests and small towns of north and northwestern Ontario, endless kilometres of the golden prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the foothills and Rocky Mountains of Alberta, and along the rushing glacial rivers of British Columbia to Canada’s beautiful pacific coast. Rosemary recorded their fantastic adventures, taking hundreds of photographs and keeping a detailed travel diary that describes the people they met and things they experienced along the way, including friendly farmers, charismatic cowboys, and murderous mosquitoes.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman in silhouette taking a photograph while standing on the hood of a station wagon parked on the side of the road in the prairies.

Day 9 – August 8. Audrey James standing on the hood of Helen Salkeld’s station wagon taking a photograph of the prairies, southern Saskatchewan (MIKAN 4814411)

On July 31, 2015, Library and Archives Canada launched Road trip—summer of ’54 on Facebook, which features a selection of Rosemary Gilliat’s photos and diary excerpts. Visit Facebook daily to see where she and her friends travelled and who they met along their journey. At the end of each week, these photographs will be added to Flickr.

Latest digitized microfilms on the Héritage Portal

Our project partner, Canadiana.org, recently added the following digitized microfilms to the Héritage website. Please note that the titles have been translated for convenience, but the records are still in the language of origin. Searching in the original language will improve search results.

Adjutant General’s Office, United Canada: Registers of officers
Canada East: Provincial Secretary letterbooks, Quebec, Lower Canada and Canada East
Canada West: Provincial Secretary letterbooks
Canadian Seamen’s Union newspapers and bulletins
Collection of the Commission overseeing colonial boundaries
Communist Party of Canada fonds
Department of Indian Affairs, Headquarters central registry system: engineering and construction files series
Department of Indian Affairs: Office of the Chief Superintendent in Upper Canada, 1831-1850
Department of Indian Affairs: Program Reference Centre and Treaties and Historical Research Centre
Department of Indian Affairs: Saddle Lake Agency
Department of Indian Affairs: Saugeen Agency
Department of Indian Affairs, Six Nations Superintendency: Grand River claims
Department of Justice, Central Registry: legal opinions and material of precedential value
Department of Labour, Deputy Minister’s Office: Lacelle files
Department of Marine: Reports to the Privy Council, letterbooks
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records: letterbooks
Department of Public Works, Board of Works records: reports, 1839-1863
Department of Public Works, docket registry system: registers and indexes
Department of Railways and Canals, Canal Branch: correspondence, registers and indexes, 1838-1936
Department of Railways and Canals, Legal records: Commissioners of the Transcontinental Railway
Department of the Interior, Dominion Lands Branch: Métis and original White settlers affidavits
Department of the Interior: Registers and indexes relating to Métis and Original White Settlers land records, 1877-1927
Egmont Bay Road Seed Club fonds
Eighteenth century selection of documents relating to Indian Affairs
Fonds du Service historique de la Marine à Rochefort
France, Arsenal Library, Bastille Archives
France. Arsenal Library Fonds
France. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Briefs and documents
France. Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Political correspondence
France. Naval Archives. Marine Fonds: B2 Series, Orders and dispatches
France. Naval Archives. Marine Fonds: B4 Series, Campaigns
France. Naval Archives. Marine Fonds: C1 Series, Military Officers
France. National Archives, ancient section, Special jurisdictions, French Admiralty: Sub-series Z1D
France. National Archives, ancient section, historical monuments: K Series
France. National Archives Fonds: AD Series. Printed Archives. Rondonneau Collection
France. National Archives Fonds: M Series. Mixed
France. National Archives Fonds: S Series. Confiscated property from religious establishments
France. National Archives Fonds: T Series. Private papers that are now in the public domain
France. National Archives Fonds: V6 Series. Privy Council
France. National Archives Fonds: X Series. Paris Parliament
France. National Archives Fonds: Y Series. Châtelet de Paris
France, War Ministry. Technical Committee on Engineering. Archives
Frank Hawkins Underhill: General correspondence
Frederick John Alexander fonds
General Post Office of Great Britain transcripts
General pre-Confederation Indian Department: Departmental organization and investigations
General registers of Chinese immigration
Great Britain. Admiralty: Admirals’ Journals (ADM 50)
Great Britain. Admiralty. Admiralty and Secretariat: out-letters (ADM 2)
Great Britain. Admiralty. Admiralty and Secretariat: papers (ADM 1)
Great Britain. Admiralty: Captains’ logs (ADM 51)
Great Britain. Admiralty: Masters logs (ADM 52)
Great Britain. Colonial Office: America and West Indies, original correspondence, etc. (CO 5)
Great Britain. Colonial Office: Colonies General, Entry Books, 1 Series (CO 324): Entry Books of Commissions
Great Britain. Colonial Office: New Brunswick, acts (CO 190)
Great Britain. Foreign Office fonds: records pertaining to British North America
Great Britain. War Office (WO 28): America
Great Britain. War Office. Commissariat Department: out-letters (WO 58)
Great Britain. War Office. Ordnance Office: in-letters (WO 44)
Guillaume Monforton, notary for Detroit, 1786-1792 Fonds
Halifax, North Sidney, Quebec City and Vancouver ship manifest
James G. Endicott and family fonds: [selections]
Japanese Canadian Citizens Association fonds
Journal of Esteban José Martinez
Lionel Massey
Montreal Immigration Agency
National Library of France. Manuscript Department: Mixed Colbert
North West Mounted Police: Letterbooks of the Acting Adjutant at Regina
Office of the Chief Electoral Officer: Notices of grants of poll
Office of the Chief Electoral Officer: Voters’ lists for General Elections
Office of the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs: correspondence, 1789-1830
Office of the Deputy Superintendent General of Indian Affairs: Reports and statements, 1862-1874
Pierre and Pierre-Ambroise Gamelin Fonds
Post Office Department, Administrative Branch: General correspondence
Post Office Department: Chief Post Office Inspector
Province of Quebec: Journals of the Legislative Council, 1775-1791
Public Service Commission: Commissioners meetings
Quebec Gazette
Railway Branch, Registers, Indexes and Journals
Recueil d’extraits de registres du Parlement de Normandie
Royal Architectural Institute of Canada: Minutes
Royal Canadian Mounted Police: D Division letterbooks
Royal Canadian Mounted Police: G Division Letterbooks from Fort Saskatchewan
Royal Canadian Mounted Police, Office of the Commissioner: official correspondence: indexes and registers, 1876-1920
Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada fonds
Secretary of Indian Affairs in Lower Canada
Secretary of Indian Affairs, Lower Canada and Canada East, and Resident Agent at Montreal
Society of Friends fonds: finding aid no. 20
State submissions to the Executive Council [Province of Canada], 1841-1867: indexes and registers
Tadeusz Romer fonds: diplomatic activities
Third Army Central Registry
Toronto Board of Trade: committee, section and branch minutes
Treasury Board (Committee of the Privy Council): indexes and registers
Vladimir Julian Kaye fonds
War Diaries of the First World War
War Ministry. Army historical service. Historical Archives: A1 Series. General correspondence
William Lyon Mackenzie collection
William Saint-Laurent Fonds
Zionist Organization of Canada: minute books

Propaganda: Second World War Approach

Wartime propaganda was not a 20th century invention. It has been around for many centuries in different formats. It was the advent of cheaper and quicker printing methods that made it possible to mass produce posters at the time of the Second World War. From recruitment, security and secrecy to patriotism, frugality and investments, there were posters created for every subject.

Recruitment posters, which until this point had been aimed solely at men, started to show signs of change as the war progressed. Although still often portrayed as fragile, women were becoming more and more important to the war effort. The pressure was on to enlist more men and women and the posters made it clear there was no excuse not to join.

A colour poster showing a lion and beaver wielding swords and advancing menacingly.

War propaganda campaign: the beaver and the lion united against the enemy (MIKAN 2834354)

Another new element to propaganda during the Second World War was the concern about security and secrecy. There were growing fears that spies were always listening to conversations and that a small detail could lead to a big disaster for the troops. The posters started off fairly simple but as time progressed, they became more dramatic, often portraying a sinister-looking man in the background with large ears and a group of civilians or army men in the forefront having what seems like an innocuous conversation. The colours and graphics for these particular posters were often quite bold.

A colour poster showing two photographs overlaid with text. The top photo shows a café with people talking and a bystander listening to their conversation. The photo below shows a boat sinking.

“She Sails at Midnight…” Careless talk costs lives: propaganda for the security of Canada’s army (MIKAN 2834362)

The next phase was to target the men and women who were not able to enlist, to have them play a part in the war in a different way. They were called upon to work harder and produce more for the war effort. And when that was no longer enough, they were strongly encouraged to buy Victory Bonds to help fund the war. The tone of these posters evolved from the earlier tone of fear to something more hopeful—that by purchasing Victory Bonds, Canadians were ensuring a safe and happy future for their country.

A colour poster with a black-and-white photograph of a woman holding a bomb in her hands with the caption: “I’m making bombs and buying bonds!” Underneath the photograph in white letters on a red banner: “Buy Victory Bonds.”

Victory loan drive: “I’m Making Bombs and Buying Bonds!” (MIKAN 2846935)

Although there is no sure way of gauging the effectiveness of any of these campaigns, they remain an important piece of our history and a socio-economic, political look into the past.

Related links:

Do you have Mennonite ancestors?

Do you want to know who your first Mennonite ancestor was and when he or she arrived in Canada? Are you curious about your Mennonite origins?

If so, our website is a great place to begin your research. Here you will find a page dedicated to genealogical research on the Mennonites. This page provides you with historical information, archival documents and published material from the Library and Archives Canada collection, as well as links to other websites and institutions.

If your ancestor came to Canada between 1865 and 1935, you might find his or her name on the passenger lists.

Nursing Sisters

The incredible contribution of Canadian nursing sisters in the First World War can be best appreciated by examining their experiences during service. Women left their families and homes to answer the call to duty and serve their country. Their dedication to their work, to Canada and, most importantly, to their patients, serves to measure the profound effect they had on the Canadian war effort.

A black-and-white photograph showing a woman in a nursing sister uniform sitting on the edge of a table. She is looking directly at the photographer and has a slight smile.

An unidentified nursing sister (MIKAN 3523169)

Library and Archives Canada holds a variety of materials on the history of military nurses, both published and archival. Below you will find a few examples:

A closer look at their daily lives

There are several recent publications that shed light on the varied experiences of nursing sisters during the Great War. Some focus on the individual accounts of nurses:

Pat Staton’s It Was Their War Too: Canadian Women and World War I offers a more general perspective of their contribution to the war effort.

A black-and-white photograph showing two nursing sisters standing by the bedsides of two wounded men.

Two nursing sisters with wounded soldiers in a ward room at the Queen’s Canadian Military Hospital in Shorncliffe, Kent, England, ca. 1916 (MIKAN 3604423)

In the archival collection, we are lucky to have the complete fonds for six of these nursing sisters, which allows us to delve deeper into what it was like for these women in the field. Learn more about Sophie Hoerner and Alice Isaacson who both served in France, or Dorothy Cotton who served in Russia. If that is not enough, you can learn about Anne E. Ross, Laura Gamble and Ruby Peterkin who all served in Greece.

Looking for a specific nursing sister?

If you are looking for information about a nursing sister who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, you will likely find it in the database Soldiers of the First World War. Generally, nursing sisters can easily be identified by their rank, usually indicated by “NS”. It is also important to note that that many women served with the British Forces through the Victorian Order of Nurses or St. John Ambulance.

Other resources:

James Naismith: his early formative years in Canada leading to the invention of basketball

The origins of popular sports such as baseball, football and hockey are often difficult to pinpoint; often a number of individuals and places claim to be the inventor or the birthplace of a sport. However, there is no dispute on who invented the sport of basketball: Canadian Dr. James Naismith. Born in the Ottawa valley town of Almonte, province of Canada on November 6, 1861, James Naismith was orphaned at a very young age and was raised along with his older sister Annie and younger brother Robbie by his uncle and aunt.

A popular childhood game in Naismith’s youth was “duck on the rock.” A stone called “the duck” was placed on a larger stone or a tree stump. The objective of the game was for players to knock the duck stone off its base, run to retrieve their own stone and return to the original throwing location. A participant would play the role of the “guard” whose role was to pick up the duck rock if it had been knocked off, place it back on its base, and race to tag one of the throwers before the latter returned to his starting point. While each player had his or her throwing technique, Naismith noticed that the most successful players lobbed their stone with aim and accuracy which would allow them more time to pick up their stone. The memory of this childhood game would influence his creation of the game of basketball.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men standing in a field watching a game of duck on the rock.

A game of duck on a rock, Alberta, September 1906 (MIKAN 3386054)

Naismith struggled with his studies and decided to quit during his second year at Almonte High School at the age of 15. He preferred to work on the family farm in the summer and the logging camps in the winter. The 1881 Canadian census lists his occupation at the age of 19 as a farmer.

Later that year, Naismith decided to go back to high school and graduated in 1883 at the age of 21. He moved to Montréal and pursued a Bachelor of Arts in Honours and Philosophy and Hebrew at McGill University. Late 19th-century Montréal was an important centre for the early development of organized sports in Canada and North America. The first official rules for popular sports such as lacrosse and hockey were elaborated during that period. Naismith—blessed with natural athletic abilities—was drawn to many sports played at the university including gymnastics, rugby football and lacrosse. He graduated from McGill with a Bachelor of Arts in Physical Education in 1888. These interests led him to be named the first director of physical training at McGill in the fall of 1889.

A black-and-white photograph of two rugby football players crouching, the man on the left is holding the ball, waiting to throw it to the other man behind him.

James Naismith (on the left) playing rugby football (MIKAN 3652828)

A black-and-white photograph of the McGill University rugby football team. They are wearing striped knee socks and white uniforms adorned with a crest.

James Naismith (far left, sitting down) part of the McGill rugby football team (MIKAN 3650079).

In September 1890, Naismith moved to Springfield, Massachusetts, U.S. to attend the International YMCA Training School. Tasked with creating a new indoor sport, he invented the game of basketball. The first game was played in the YMCA gymnasium in Springfield in December 1891. Basketball has since become of one of the most popular sports in the world.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men sitting on a staircase. On each side are the baskets that were first used in the sport.

The world’s first basketball team. Dr. James Naismith is on the right in the center row (MIKAN 3652826)

For more photos documenting Naismith’s professional and personal activities, consult the D. Hallie Lowry collection held by Library and Archives Canada.

The watercolour paintings of Edith Fanny Kirk

Since the 1970s, there has been a continuous effort to acknowledge women artists in history. As part of this effort, the Galt Museum and Archives in Lethbridge, Alberta has curated an exhibition on artist Edith Fanny Kirk. The exhibition entitled, A Legacy of Adventure & Art: Miss Edith Fanny Kirk, focuses on her sense of adventure and distinguishes her artistic achievements and legacy. The exhibition will include four watercolours from the Library and Archives (LAC) collection, and will be on display from June 6 until October 12, 2015.

Kirk was born in England in 1858 and immigrated to Canada in 1905. She eventually settled in Lethbridge, Alberta, where her artistic influence as an art teacher was fundamental to the community. She also presented papers on art at the Mathesis Club of Lethbridge and has been credited with the development of the Lethbridge Sketch Club in the 1930s (now the Lethbridge Artists Club).

A colour reproduction of a watercolour depicting a landscape dominated by a light smoky sky. There is a river in the foreground with a green shore marking the boundary between sky and water.

Prairie in Weather Made Smoky from Forest Fires, Lethbridge (MIKAN 2948200)

The four watercolour paintings from the LAC collection included in the exhibition demonstrate Kirk’s adherence to the medium of watercolour—as opposed to the more traditional oil paint. Watercolours are ideal for rendering delicate tones and soft colour transitions, and this technique is especially apparent with the hazy atmospheric sky in Prairie in Weather Made Smoky from Forest Fires, Lethbridge where birds fly through a subtle cloud of smoke.

A colour reproduction of a watercolour landscape showing snow-capped mountains and green forested meadows.

Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper Park, Alberta (MIKAN 4626658)

Watercolours would have been a preferred medium for working outdoors as they were readily available, portable and compact. Kirk hiked backcountry trails and national parks to paint as a member of the Alpine Club of Canada, which she joined at age 60! Kirk’s painting of the now iconic Mount Edith Cavell, Jasper Park, Alberta demonstrates the expansiveness of Jasper National Park. We can see how the peaking mountains continue off the page so as to appear as if they infinitely continue, and the depth of the trees is rendered in purples, greens, and blues.

Kirk painted at a time when it was challenging for women to support themselves as artists due to social pressures and economic disparity. A Legacy of Adventure & Art: Miss Edith Fanny Kirk is an opportunity to look closely at her life and artwork, and to enrich our understanding of Canadian art history.

Be sure to visit the Galt Museum and Archives exhibition on Edith Kirk. You can also read more about women artists’ self-portraits in the recent blog post, Self-portraits by women artists in Library and Archives Canada’s collection.

 

Open Data: Health and Welfare Canada Drug Studies

In the 1970s, Health and Welfare Canada sponsored several studies on the use of prescribed drugs, alcohol, and cannabis as well as drug-related deaths. Raw statistical data from four sets of surveys has recently been migrated into ASCII character-encoding scheme. Specialized software such as a spreadsheet or statistical tool is required to open, interpret and analyze the data. A codebook is provided that describes the file structure of the data and defines the variables contained in each field. If you are interested in any of the surveys listed below, they are now available on the Open Data portal.

Consumption of prescribed drugs in Canada 1977

In 1977, Health and Welfare Canada sponsored two studies relating to the use of prescribed drugs in Canada. Some of the main survey findings revealed:

  • Analgesics and antibiotics were found to be the most frequently used in the general population.
  • Anti-hypertensive and cardiac medications were used by elderly respondents.
  • Females were over-represented among users of sedatives and tranquilizers.

National surveys of alcohol consumption in Canada

The purpose of the Dialogue on Drinking Campaign was to increase public awareness of drinking behavior and encourage community involvement in programs directed toward alcohol-related problems. The campaign was carried out in phases using a variety of advertising mediums such as newspapers, magazines, radio and television broadcasts. This advertising was followed up by a series of surveys to investigate the public’s awareness of the Dialogue on Drinking Campaign itself and the drinking habits of Canadians. In 1976, one survey also collected data on the smoking habits of Canadians.

Use of cannabis by adult Canadians

In 1978, Health and Welfare Canada sponsored a survey of adults aged 18 and over. Respondents were interviewed on their use and frequency of use of marihuana and/or hashish. The study was undertaken to determine trends in cannabis use, identify populations at risk, assess social correlates of cannabis use, and formulate policy.

Drug related deaths in metropolitan Toronto

This data was collected in 1973 from the records of 18 full-time and part-time coroners from the Toronto area. The data was extracted from files which recorded alcohol- or drug-related deaths and includes the general drug category, specific drug, form of alcohol, name of solvents and poisons involved.