Sir John A. Macdonald: Rare and intriguing treasures from the vaults of Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada holds Canada’s most comprehensive collection of material related to the life, times and continuing appeal of Sir John A. Macdonald (1815–1891)—charismatic firebrand, architect of Canadian Confederation and Canada’s first prime minister. The year 2015 will mark the bicentennial of Macdonald’s birth.

Take a look at our Flickr album to browse a selection of original documents, art and ephemera related to Macdonald, from historical and modern periods. Acquired over the years and from a variety of sources, these unique records document the public face, private life, and enduring power of one of Canada’s most iconic cultural figures.

This material represents only a small portion of Library and Archives Canada’s holdings related to significant Canadians and important events that will be showcased in the lead-up to the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation in 2017.

Journal recording the birth of Sir John A. Macdonald and preserving a lock of hair

By Hugh Macdonald, 1820. View of writing and human hair on the left side and marble endpaper on the right side of the journal. Library and Archives Canada, e008295645.

By Hugh Macdonald, 1820. View of writing and human hair on the left side and marble endpaper on the right side of the journal. Library and Archives Canada, e008295645.

This is one of several personal items, dating back to childhood that Macdonald kept with him all his life. The curious discrepancy in Macdonald’s birthdate remains a historical puzzle: January 11th in this journal, but January 10th on the official record.

Caricature portrait by Sir John A. Macdonald’s “favourite” critic

By J. W. Bengough for Grip, 1887. Colour lithograph on wove paper. Library and Archives Canada, e010930930.

By J. W. Bengough for Grip, 1887. Colour lithograph on wove paper. Library and Archives Canada, e010930930.

Sir John A. Macdonald is said to have remarked: “My friend, Bengough, possesses… perfect accuracy in portraying my countenance.” Library and Archives Canada holds hundreds of caricatures by John Wilson Bengough, a sharp critic of Macdonald and the founder of Grip, one of Canada’s earliest satiric magazines.

Label for “Canadian Tomato Chutnee” featuring Sir John A. Macdonald’s image and endorsement

By an unknown artist, late 19th century. Photomechanical print on wove paper. Library and Archives Canada, e008072633.

By an unknown artist, late 19th century. Photomechanical print on wove paper. Library and Archives Canada, e008072633.

Over the years, many companies have drawn upon Sir John A. Macdonald’s recognizable image and popularity to sell products. This is only one example of this type of advertisement that can be found in Library and Archives Canada’s collection.

Library and Archives Canada releases tenth podcast episode, “The Virtual Gramophone: Early Canadian Sound Recordings”

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, The Virtual Gramophone: Early Canadian Sound Recordings. LAC’s Virtual Gramophone is a multimedia website devoted to the early days of Canadian recorded sound, providing an overview of the 78-rpm era in Canada.

Gilles Leclerc, Archival Assistant, and Gilles St-Laurent, Head Audio Conservator from LAC join us to explore the Virtual Gramophone website and music collection. They discuss the different aspects of the collection and bring to light some incredible stories about maintaining the collection for future generations.

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

Sharpen Your Skates!

Below is a selection of children’s books inspired by Canada’s passion for its national winter pastime, hockey.

Le chandail de hockey, by Roch Carrier, is a Canadian children’s literature classic. Generations of children have read about the misadventures of the young narrator, who is forced to wear a Toronto Maple Leafs sweater instead of the Montreal Canadiens’ number 9 immortalized by Maurice Richard. Written in 1970 for radio, the story was translated by Sheila Fischman (AMICUS 20121258). The original French version, Les enfants du bonhomme dans la lune (AMICUS 877142), and the English translation, The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories (AMICUS 905257), were published in 1979. The story inspired Sheldon Cohen’s animated film, The Sweater / Le chandail, produced by the National Film Board. Sheldon Cohen then illustrated the 1984 storybook, published by Tundra Books (AMICUS 5003239).

Did you know that a copy of The Hockey Sweater travelled to the International Space Station in 2009, and that Abigail Richardson composed a symphony based on the story?

Other hockey-related books include the Hockeyeurs cybernétiques (AMICUS 3970428), which brings together the complete science fiction series by Denis Côté, published in 1983 and again in 1993 under the title, L’arrivée des inactifs (AMICUS 12293147). The new edition uses the original title. The hero of the story, Michel Lenoir, is a beloved hockey star who is used by a dictator to control an exploited population. The sport-recreation aspect of hockey is used as a backdrop to reveal an insensitive and programmed futuristic society.

In the 22 novels of The Screech Owls series (AMICUS 28705721), by sports journalist Roy MacGregor, readers follow a peewee hockey team on their adventures at tournaments. The Screech Owls travel throughout Canada, and even attend the Olympic Games in Nagano, Japan, and in Lake Placid in the United States.

The majority of hockey-themed children’s books have been aimed at boys. However, the international reputation of Canada’s women’s hockey team has also inspired female characters. La fabuleuse saison d’Abby Hoffman, by Alain M. Bergeron (AMICUS 40395119), tells the story of Abigail Hoffman, who as a little girl in Toronto in 1955, pretended to be a boy so she could register for Little League hockey. Later in her athletic career, she competed in the women’s 800 metres at the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, the 1968 Mexico City Games, the 1972 Munich Games, and the 1976 Montreal Games, at which she was Canada’s flag bearer.

Here are some other reading suggestions:

  • “Denis Côté : Le bon et le mauvais côté des choses,” appearing in Lurelu in 2013, by Marie Fradette (AMICUS 829835).
  • Mystery at Lake Placid, by Roy MacGregor (AMICUS 16776029).

Immigration and Citizenship records at LAC: Did your ancestor arrive in Canada before 1865?

This article, the first of a series depicting Immigration and Citizenship sources, offers insight into pre-Confederation arrivals in Canada. Very few records compiled before 1865 still exist. Most surviving records, which are from various sources, have been indexed by name in databases.

Here are the key resources*:

The Immigrants to Canada database was compiled from documents such as immigration and land records and some private fonds, namely the Peter Robinson Papers. It provides access to more than 28,000 references to records held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).

The Montreal Emigrant Society Passage Book (1832) database provides access to 1,945 references and digitized documents to people who received assistance from the Montreal Emigrant Society in 1832.

The Immigrants at Grosse-Île (1832-1937) database is the result of an agreement between Parks Canada and LAC. It contains more than 33,000 records spanning a 100-year time period. The references describe various events for immigrants arriving at the city of Québec and their time spent at the Grosse-Île Quarantine Station.

The Upper Canada and Canada West Naturalization Records (1828-1850) database gives references to the names of 2,967 persons naturalized in what is now the province of Ontario between 1828 and 1850. The 188 registers have been scanned and digitized images are accessible in this database.

The Citizenship Registration Records for the Montreal Circuit Court (1851-1945) database provides access to more than 8,000 references to the Citizenship Registration Records for the Montreal Circuit Court. The records have been digitized and linked to the database references.

If you think some of your “ancêtres” can be traced back to France, LAC holds a small number of lists from the French Regime (1717-1786).

Coming soon!

Stay tuned for the following related upcoming articles:

  • Validating your ancestor’s presence in Canada before 1865
  • Immigration sources from 1865 onwards (most of them in databases)
  • Border entries to Canada via the United States

*Note: Don’t forget that the Search Help page of a database is the best place to find out how the records are arranged.

Release of a new version of the Census of Canada, 1911 database

Library and Archives Canada is pleased to announce the release of a new version of the Census of Canada, 1911 database. This fifth general census covered the nine provinces and two territories that were then part of Confederation: British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Yukon and the Northwest Territories.

Previously, users could search only by geographical information, such as province, district and sub-district. Now, they can also search by nominal information, such as the name, given name(s) and age of an individual.