Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Mackenzie King: Against his Will”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, Mackenzie King: Against his Will.

Black-and-white image of William Lyon Mackenzie King sitting on his front porch.William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He is also increasingly viewed as one of the greatest. However, King’s accomplishments are not restricted to the realm of politics. He was also a prolific correspondent and kept an ongoing, almost daily diary from 1893, until a few days before his death in 1950. In it, King not only wrote down meticulous accounts of his life in politics, but also included fascinating details from his private life.

On today’s episode, we talk with professor and author Christopher Dummitt, whose latest book details the history behind the diaries and how they became available for the world to read.

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

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

Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life

By Annie Wolfe

Library and Archives Canada’s newspaper collection is full of stories, both large and small! These true stories make up Canada’s fabric, from politics to the economy, and from the arts to sports, not to mention the obituaries, known to be a gold mine for genealogists.

Local newspapers, in particular, are the voices of regions, cities, villages and neighbourhoods. The information they provide is especially important because it comes straight from those involved in building Canada’s communities. Local newspapers open a window on debates and events that directly affect citizens’ lives. Thanks to local newspapers, communities discover news that affects them directly. Local newspapers are outstanding sources of historical fact.

Here are two examples of local newspapers with valuable information for researchers or the merely curious.

Fort McMurray Today

The daily Fort McMurray Today, founded in 1974, covers the communities of Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo, in Alberta. In spring 2016, a huge wildfire raged, forcing the evacuation of the area. The damage was extensive, with devastating effects on the Canadian economy, including reduced oil production.

Fort McMurray Today won the Breaking News award, shared with the Edmonton Journal and the Edmonton Sun, in 2016 for coverage of the wildfire. (Source: http://nna-ccj.ca/award-archives/list-of-winners-since-1949/#2)

Microfilms of newspapers from 2015 to 2017 were acquired for the national collection to document the history of the community before, during and after the wildfire tragedy.

L’Écho de Frontenac

The weekly L’Écho de Frontenac, founded in 1929, covers the region of Lac-Mégantic, in Quebec. In summer 2013, a railway accident caused an explosion and fire that destroyed part of the town. This tragedy had significant economic, environmental and, particularly, human consequences for the community, which will take years to recover. Even today, in 2018, the courts are still trying to establish what exactly happened.

As a side note, the public library was rebuilt after the fire and renamed for Nelly Arcan, the famous Lac-Mégantic author.

Microfilms of newspapers from 2012 to 2016 were acquired for the national collection to document events related to the tragedy, but especially to show the community’s great resilience.

Local newspapers, being at the heart of Canadian life, are an extraordinary source of information on what is really happening in communities across Canada. They relate and confirm both tragic and happy events. Canada’s history is written in newspapers.

The two newspapers mentioned in this article, Fort McMurray Today and L’Écho de Frontenac, are just a few examples of the newspaper microfilm acquisitions in the national collection. These microfilms are available through interlibrary loan. For more information, please visit Library and Archives Canada’s Loans to Other Institutions page or your public library.

Black-and-white photo of a large church in a small village. Railway tracks can be seen in the foreground.

The Lac-Mégantic church before the railway accident that created a major explosion in the village in 2013. The photograph is dated 1925 (MIKAN 3323453)


Annie Wolfe is an acquisitions librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The beginning of the Conclusions: documenting the exercise of power

By Michael Dufresne

The recent addition of records to the Cabinet Conclusions database offers access to the attendance records, agenda and the minutes of Cabinet from 1977 to 1979. The minutes are not verbatim accounts of Cabinet meetings but provide excellent summaries of the discussions and various positions taken by Cabinet members. These newest records straddle both governments of Pierre Elliott Trudeau and the short-lived government of Joe Clark. They cap off the long preamble to the repatriation of the constitution and the advent of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. They are an important part of the corporate memory of the federal government and reveal a range of subjects, preoccupations, concerns and opportunities confronting the most powerful institutions in our parliamentary system.

A pen-and-brush drawing depicting a man standing in a circus ring holding a whip and reading a book while a lion sitting on a raised platform looks over his shoulder.

Editorial cartoon by John Collins depicts Joe Clark as a lion tamer reading the book “How to Control Gov’t Spending,” published in The Gazette, Montreal, 1979. Copyright held by Library and Archives Canada (MIKAN 2863264)

We might take it for granted that a democratic state provides some measure of transparency for those wishing to know why and how a decision is made. Our democratic sensibilities might be offended to know that, while we could probably trace our democratic heritage to well before the 1940s, it was not until then that Cabinet kept an agenda and minutes of its deliberations. The lack of records documenting Cabinet deliberations can encourage an exaggerated sense of the power of the Prime Minister. “The story went around,” writes historian Michael Bliss in his book, Right Honourable Men: The Descent of Canadian Politics from Macdonald to Mulroney, “that when Bennett was seen mumbling to himself, he was holding a Cabinet meeting.” When there are no official records to document Cabinet’s discussions, who is going to contradict the memory of the Prime Minister?

From 1867 to 1940, a succession of six men served as Clerk of the Privy Council; their duties reflected the comparatively modest role of the state in Canadian society before the Second World War. But with the appointment in 1940 of Arnold Danforth Patrick Heeney, things were clearly changing. Heeney became the seventh Clerk of the Privy Council since Confederation and the country’s first Secretary to the Cabinet.

Upon his arrival in Ottawa, he was surprised by the informal ways in which important business was conducted. “I found it shattering to discover,” Heeney writes in his autobiography, The Things that are Caesar’s, “that the highest committee in the land conducted its business in such a disorderly fashion that it employed no agenda and no minutes were taken. The more I learned about Cabinet practices, the more difficult it was for me to understand how such a regime could function at all.”

Changes to the Privy Council Office (PCO) were inspired by reforms to the United Kingdom’s Privy Council in 1916 by Sir Maurice Hankey. The changes were, in part, an acknowledgment of the growing demands on modern government. Possible changes had been discussed for several years, but nothing had been done. Why then did they occur in 1940? The challenges of governing while prosecuting the Second World War demanded changes to how government organized and documented its deliberations and actions. Order-in-Council PC 1121 of March 25, 1940 heralded the beginning of the modern PCO. It read, in part:

“The great increase in the work of the Cabinet … has rendered it necessary to make provision for the performance of additional duties of a secretarial nature relating principally to the collecting and putting into shape of agenda of Cabinet meetings, providing of information and material necessary for the deliberations of the Cabinet and the drawing up of records of the results, for communication to the departments concerned … ”

Order-in-Council PC 1940-1121 ushered in a significant change in the universe of government information, but it was not until 1944 that the formal Cabinet Conclusions were created and preserved. In the absence of these official records, researchers have to look to Prime Ministers’ personal papers to perhaps discover some form of documentation of Cabinet meetings.

The Cabinet Conclusions have practical value for the administration of the state and democratic significance for the insight and transparency they make possible. More than mere instruments of modern bureaucracy, they offer an inside look at the deliberations, discussions, debates and decision making of the federal government’s most powerful politicians and, to a degree, the high-ranking bureaucrats who serve them. Library and Archives Canada’s acquisition and preservation of these records along with the access it helps facilitate, provide a revealing window into the workings of our democratic state.

The latest additions to the database close out the 1970s, and will inspire new insights into the history of Canada, and about the federal government, particularly those entrusted with its leadership. Researchers can search the Cabinet Conclusions by keyword (one of their own choosing or one from a list of keywords capturing a handful of major issues confronting the government in each year), dates, agenda and records of attendance. The Conclusions offer more than documentary evidence of government deliberations and decision making; they are a means of discovering other Cabinet documents. In other words, the Conclusions can offer you the answers to complete your search, but they can also act as the beginning of your search for more and better answers. In addition, the Conclusions are a means of discovering related Cabinet documents, which may include backgrounders and Cabinet memoranda that informed discussions around the Cabinet table. Those records are not digitized and are not available in the database. However, researchers will find references to those Cabinet documents in the Conclusions—and once the number of a document is known, it can be searched using the year it was created and the finding aid 2-15 to locate it.

See the Cabinet Conclusions database for more detailed instructions on search options.

Related resources


Michael Dufresne is an archivist in the Government Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of February 2018

As of today, 555,443 of 640,000 files are available online in our Personnel Records of the First World War database. Please visit the Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Service Files page for more details on the digitization project.

Library and Archives Canada is digitizing the service files systematically, from box 1 to box 10686, which roughly corresponds to alphabetical order. Please note that over the years, the content of some boxes has had to be moved and, you might find that the file you want, with a surname that is supposed to have been digitized, is now located in another box that has not yet been digitized. So far, we have digitized the following files:

  • Latest box digitized: Box 9467 and last name Swindells.

Please check the database regularly for new additions and if you still have questions after checking the database, you may contact us directly at 1-866-578-7777 for more assistance.

Radio Technology

I heard it on my radio—

The technology behind the radio allows for mass communication without using wires. Nikolai Tesla lectured on wireless communication in 1893 in St. Louis, Missouri at the World’s Fair. His theories laid the scientific groundwork for the development of the radio as we know it today.

A black-and-white photograph of Guglielmo Marconi posing on the steps of a building with 12 members of the administration of Newfoundland, Signal Hill, St. John's.

Marconi (with light hat) and members of the administration of Newfoundland, Signal Hill, St. John’s (MIKAN 3380817)

Guglielmo Marconi is the person most associated with the radio and he has ties to Canada. He tested his transmission equipment on Signal Hill, St. John’s in Newfoundland, 1901. His early successes spurred the use of radio for long distance messaging using Morse code. The technology was not able to transmit speech at the time. However, advances during and after the First World War provided both the military and civilians with access to radios that sent transmissions as recognizable speech.

A black-and-white photograph of Donald Manson, an employee of the Marconi Company sitting at a table, wearing headphones and writing on paper while listening to a radio transmission.

Donald Manson, an employee of the Marconi Company (MIKAN 3193105)

A black-and-white photograph of two women and three men, members of the R. A. Radio Acting Group, reading from a script into a microphone.

Members of the R. A. Radio Acting Group (MIKAN 4297976)

Local stations and federal agencies were created such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and broke into the news, music, and entertainment realms from the 1920s to the 1940s. Mass media was here to stay. Radio gave way to television, and then to the internet. Despite these leaps and bounds of its technological siblings, radio technology is widely used today due to its easy access and reliability.

A black-and-white photograph of a two women listening to a radio. One woman sits in a chair, the second women stands and adjusts the station settings.

Female workers at the Dominion Arsenals plant relax and listen to a radio in their apartment, Québec, Quebec (MIKAN 3193885)

Visit the Flickr album now!

New additions to the Virtual Gramophone – band and instrumental music

By Margaret Ashburner

In addition to the many popular songs we have digitized, LAC is also fortunate to have a diverse collection of band and instrumental recordings in our 78-rpm collection. Some of the band music has military connections, such as the Band of First Regiment. However, we also have orchestra music, chamber music and folk music, such as the fiddle performances of Isodore Soucy.

A colour photograph of a record label with RCA Victor on it with the dog and gramophone logo.

The Maple Leaf Forever record label. RCA Victor (AMICUS 31386771)

Explore other recordings on the Virtual Gramophone!


Margaret Ashburner is the Special Collections Librarian of the retrospective music collection at Library and Archives Canada

John Armstrong Howard, Canada’s first Black Olympian

By Judith Enright-Smith

The 1912 summer Olympics held in Stockholm, Sweden, from May 5 to July 27 was a venue for many firsts. This fifth Olympiad, comprised of 2,408 athletes from 28 nations, was the first to showcase women’s swimming and diving events as well as the men’s pentathlon. It was the first Olympics to use electronic timing and the first occasion a team from Asia (Japan) competed at the games. For Canada, the 1912 summer Olympics meant another first—the first Canadian Black athlete to compete in the Olympic Games.

John Armstrong Howard was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on October 6, 1888. Howard was a qualified mechanic and played baseball for Winnipeg’s Crescent Creamery Baseball Club; at 6 foot 3 inches tall, he was also an exceptional sprinter. He handily qualified for the 1912 Olympics and was looked upon not only in sporting circles but also in the Canadian media as the nation’s best hope for bringing home a gold medal.

Walter Knox was coach of the 1912 Canadian Olympic Track and Field Team. During training, Knox and Howard had several disputes and confrontations. Knox described Howard as outspoken and disobedient and, at a time when discrimination against Black athletes was common, recommended he be fired from the team for “insubordination.” It was only through the intervention of the Amateur Athletic Union of Canada that Howard remained on the team.

While en route to Sweden, Howard faced discriminatory and prejudicial treatment, an affront endured by people of colour in that time. Before setting sail from Montreal, he was barred from the hotel where the other athletes were staying, and while on board, he had to eat his meals in a different dining area away from his teammates.

Once in Stockholm, the cumulative stress of his interactions with Knox manifested itself in the form of severe stomach complaints. At the games, Howard’s health issues seriously hindered his efforts and he was defeated in the semi-finals of the 100- and 200-metre sprint. However, once back home, Howard redeemed himself at the 1913 Canadian Outdoor Championships by winning every race he entered.

After the outbreak of the First World War, Howard went overseas in 1917 as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He worked in various English army hospitals carrying stretchers. His military records show that he suffered from chronic lung ailments. While overseas, Howard met Edith Lipscomb. Edith returned to Winnipeg with Howard in 1920 where they were married. They attempted to set up house in Ste. Rose du Lac, but experienced much hostility and prejudice as an interracial couple. Howard’s granddaughter, Valerie Jerome, tells of townspeople pelting the couple’s car with stones to drive them away. Eventually they settled near the Crane River Indian Reserve on the northwest shore of Lake Manitoba. The couple had three daughters, but the marriage did not last. Howard later died from pneumonia at the age of 48.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of runners at the starting line. One is wearing a white shirt with a maple leaf on the front.

John Armstrong Howard at the Inter-Allied Games in Pershing Stadium, Paris, July 1919 (MIKAN 3387544)

A black-and-white photograph of a man dressed in athletic wear, surrounded by other men in similar attire or in uniforms, receiving a medal from an older man in military dress.

John Armstrong Howard receiving his bronze medal for the 100-metre event from the King of Montenegro, at the Inter-Allied Games in Pershing Stadium, Paris, July 1919 (MIKAN 3385453)

John Armstrong Howard’s athletic legacy lives on. Two of Howard’s grandchildren are Canadian athletes. Valerie Jerome is a sprinter who competed in the 1960 summer Olympics. Her brother Harry Jerome competed in the 1960, 1964 and 1968 summer Olympics, winning a bronze medal in 1964 in the 100-metre dash.


Judith Enright-Smith is an archival assistant in the Aboriginal and Social Affairs Section of the Private Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Nancy Greene now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of Nancy Greene, winner of a gold medal in giant slalom.

Nancy Greene, winner of gold medal in giant slalom, Winter Olympics (MIKAN 5029732)

Ms. Greene Raine is an Officer of the Order of Canada and the Order of British Columbia and a member of both Sports Halls of Fame. She was named Canada’s female athlete of the 20th century by the Canadian Press and Broadcast News. She won gold and silver medals in alpine skiing at the 1968 Grenoble Olympics and overall World Cup titles in 1967 and 1968. Her total of 14 World Cup victories (including the Olympics) is still a Canadian record. During her nine-year career she won a total of 17 Canadian Championship titles.

A black-and-white photograph of a group shot of the Canadian ski team at the Winter Olympics.

Group shot of the Canadian ski team at the Winter Olympics (MIKAN 5029774)

A black-and-white photograph of Nancy Greene during her gold medal run in giant slalom.

Nancy Greene during her gold medal run in giant slalom at the 1968 Winter Olympics (MIKAN 5029785)

A black-and-white photograph of Nancy Greene during her silver medal run in slalom.

Nancy Greene during her silver medal run in slalom at the Winter Olympics (MIKAN 5029788)

See also:

Visit the Flickr album now!

New Princes’ Toronto Band

By Margaret Ashburner

1920s Toronto was a busy time and place for the working musician. Dance bands were performing regularly, and multi-instrumentalists would have been in high demand. One such musician was Hal Swain who started his own ensemble with a number of local musicians including Les Allen, who had equally diverse abilities. These ambitious musicians hoped to make a name for themselves; Allen described the group as “a combination of mostly youngsters, all as keen as mustard” (Litchfield, p. 513).

A black-and-white photograph of a young man smiling.

Les Allen, Roll Back the Years, p. 249.Les ù

A black-and-white photograph of a young man looking pensively to the side.

Hal Swain, Roll Back the Years, p. 249.

Spotted by a recruiter the two were singled out for their strong performing abilities and asked to form a group that would perform at the Rector’s Club in London, England. Of this time, Swain declared his intention “…to feature the fact that they were from the Dominion and discover if the dancers in the empire’s greatest city would evince the same interest in a jazz band from Toronto as they would in a New York importation” (Mark Miller, p. 112).

This group of proud Canadians sailed for England following the instructions of the London recruiter. However when they arrived, they found that the Rector’s Club had closed. The recruiter must have felt responsible for the fiasco and made alternate arrangements for the Canadians to audition at the New Princes’ restaurant. They were hired to play and remained for two years—taking the band name from the restaurant’s name.

A black-and-white photograph of men dressed in formal wear standing with their musical instruments.

Dave Caplan and his New Princes’ Toronto Band (Left to right: unknown, unknown, Lorne Cole, unknown, Laurie Day, Dave Caplan, Arthur Lousley, Arthur Calkin, Jack Collins (The British Dance Band Encyclopaedia)

The New Princes’ Toronto Band was composed of gigging musicians, and as a result, saw regular changes in personnel as opportunities arose. People came and left over the years and there were several iterations of the band’s name as band leaders changed or some of the musicians formed other groups. Musicologists generally consider these different iterations to be the same band. Some of the key Canadian musicians in this group were Hal Swain, Dave Caplan, Les Allen and Art Christmas.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is pleased to have digitized some recordings from a set of recently acquired discs. This sampling includes songs that were mainly recorded from September to November 1926 when the band was called Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band.

“Up and At ‘Em”

A colour photograph of a record label with the Deutschen Grammophon-Aktiengesellschaft logo of a dog peering into a record player horn.

“Up and At ‘Em” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168615)

[Listen to “Up and At ‘Em”] Recorded by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band in November 1926, this piece is a lively foxtrot, one of the most popular dance forms of the time. This performance, like most jazz recordings of the time, includes several solos, likely improvised, from each band member. The raunchy trombone and light pattering percussion solos are particularly enjoyable.

“I Never See Maggie Alone”

A colour photograph of a record label from Polydor.

”I Never See Maggie Alone” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168601)

[Listen to “I Never See Maggie Alone”] A comedic song about a young man lamenting the ever-looming presence of his girlfriend’s family. At first the family turns up on the couple’s dates, but as the song progresses they appear in increasingly improbable situations including being stowed away in the hood of the car, lurking in the lake where the couple is fishing and eerily appearing when the lights are turned off and then on. Really, it walks a fine line between horror and comedy! The vocals in this performance are likely Hal Swain or Les Allen and show some excellent comedic timing.

“While the Sahara Sleeps”

A colour photograph of a record label from Polydor.

“While the Sahara Sleeps” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168382)

[Listen to “While the Sahara Sleeps”] Fantastic brass playing with a great trumpet solo full of an idiomatic flutter tongue that is characteristic of jazz from this time.

“High Fever”

A colour photograph of a record label from Polydor.

“High Fever” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168455)

[Listen to “High Fever”] Another foxtrot from the Dave Caplan Toronto Band, this one a little more mellow than “Up and At ‘Em” but still a cheerful and upbeat foxtrot sound. Several jolly piano solos interject from the band’s pianist Laurie Day as well as some playful trombone solos towards the end.

“Say That You Love Me”

A colour photograph of a record label with the Deutschen Grammophon logo of a dog peering into a record player horn.

“Say That You Love Me” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168037)

[Listen to “Say That You Love Me” by Deutschen Grammophon or “Say That You Love Me” by Polydor] The only waltz among this set—as the title suggests, this tune is schmaltzy, romantic and like most of big band music, pleasingly over the top. Halfway through the recording, we hear Les Allen add some vocals ending with the lyrics, “Say that you love me—I love you!” The disc was distributed by Deutschen Grammophon-Aktiengesellschaft and a second recording (instrumental only) from Polydor has also been digitized.

The Polydor release of “Say That You Love Me” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168371)

The Polydor release of “Say That You Love Me” by Dave Caplan’s Toronto Band, 1926 (AMICUS 45168371)

Head on over to the Virtual Gramophone to peruse other music from the same era.

Sources


Margaret Ashburner is the Special Collections Librarian of the retrospective music collection at Library and Archives Canada.

Voilà – Canada’s new National Union Catalogue

Banner with the word Volià in large font.

Library and Archives Canada is proud to launch of Voilà, Canada’s new National Union Catalogue, hosted on the OCLC website.

We have been working with the non-profit cooperative OCLC, a leader in library services, to implement a leading-edge library management system to make the published heritage of our country more visible than ever before, and share Canada’s culture and knowledge with the world.

Starting today, we invites members of the Canadian library community to use Voilà.

Learn more about Voilà