Guest curator: Jill Delaney

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.

Temples of Today by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934

Black-and-white photo of a grain elevator with tall, circular towers in front of a taller rectangular building.

“Temples of Today” by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934. (MIKAN 3784205)

Photographer John Vanderpant saw Canada’s grain elevators as temples. They were part of his utopian vision for the country, based on a faith in trade and industry. For him, industry would define the nation’s future.

Tell us about yourself

It is amazing to think that I have been working at LAC for almost two decades now. The work in the photography section is incredibly diverse as are the collections themselves, and my time here has gone by incredibly quickly.

I come from an art history background, but I have always been as interested in the context of the work, as in its aesthetic qualities. By exploring the social, cultural and historical context of a photograph, we can begin to understand why it exists in the first place. Why was it created, who asked for it to be created, where and how it was circulated—all of these questions fascinate me. I suppose this is how I ended up as an archivist, because context and provenance are the pillars of any archival collection. I enjoy both the detective aspect of working on the historical photographs in the collection, and working with current photographers, digging into the rationale behind the taking of a photograph. I’ve published and presented on a wide variety of LAC photographs and collections over the years, including photos by John Vanderpant and Yousuf Karsh that were taken on cross-Canada trips in 1930 and the early 1950s respectively. These cross-country trips really intrigue me. They seem like a Canadian rite of passage even today, but they also speak volumes to the ever-shifting notion of Canadian identity.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

The John Vanderpant fonds has become one of LAC’s most important photographic fonds, as his work has grown in stature through the research of a number of Canadian art historians over the last 30 or 40 years. The photograph was taken around 1934 in the Vancouver ports area. Vanderpant was one of Canada’s leading pictorialist and straight photographers, and his series of images of the grain silos in Vancouver is now considered iconic.

When Vanderpant arrived in Canada from Holland in 1911, he saw the nation as most other Europeans did—a vast and empty wilderness. By the time he took the photograph “Temples of Today” in 1934, he dreamed of a country with the immense potential and unexploited resources to become an industrial powerhouse of the future. Of course he was not alone in this sentiment, and the interwar years were a period of great urban and industrial development in Canada. This photograph in particular illustrates his turn away from the more painterly, “fuzzy” qualities of pictorialism toward straight photography. This style embraced a stripped down modernist aesthetic and, just as importantly, a subject matter that represented a strong belief in a future dominated by an urban and industrial life. “Temples of Today” purposely eschews beauty, focussing instead on the massiveness of the silos coming out of the shadows into full light, with the foregrounding of the hydro poles reinforcing the industrial message. The photograph perfectly illustrates the development of a popular philosophy about the natural progression of mankind through industrialization. Vanderpant strongly subscribed to this view and wrote articles and gave many public lectures on the topic. But along with this forward focus, Vanderpant, with so many other Canadians of the time, completely dismissed the Indigenous peoples of the country, seeing Canada as a kind of terra nullius or unoccupied land ready to be exploited and developed however the settler culture wanted. Vanderpant’s photographs are rightly lauded today as an exceptional representation of an aspect of Canadian life that was largely viewed as unpalatable up to that point, but they also concealed, by omission, the importance of the founding communities of the nation.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

It is interesting to compare Vanderpant’s ideas about Canada, as represented in “Temples of Today,” with those of the German photographer Felix Man who visited Canada at almost the same time this photograph was taken. Man, considered to be a pioneer of photojournalism and of the photo essay format, travelled across Canada for six months in 1933, commissioned by the German picture magazine Berliner Illustrirte to “visit Canada and photograph all the most important things.” LAC acquired about 200 of his images in 1985 in order to document how Canada was perceived by a European during the interwar period. Like Vanderpant, Man was overwhelmed and inspired by the vastness of the country he visited. He visited almost every region, but was particularly taken with the prairies and the northern regions—going as far as Churchill, Manitoba, and Great Bear Lake, Northwest Territories.

But in most other ways, Man’s view of Canada could not have been more different than Vanderpant’s. Both held what could be described as romantic views of Canada. Vanderpant romanticized a future, industrialized and urban Canada, while Man held a more typically European view of a Canada frozen in a romanticized past. He was heavily influenced by the stories of Indigenous heroes written by fellow German Karl May (who famously only visited North America after his books were published). His idealized fantasies of the “noble savage” remain popular in central and Eastern Europe to this day. Man’s photographs vividly depict this romantic image of Canada. While Vanderpant’s images focus on the development of Canada, Man, as photographic historian Joan Schwartz has noted, largely excluded urban Canada in his photographs. Instead, his camera captured such views as the unrelenting snow and ice around Churchill in winter, and the “Banff Indian Days,” a popular tourist attraction in which Indigenous peoples donned stereotypical costumes, erected wigwams, and put on displays of hunting and horsemanship for pay.

Woman on horseback holding a little girl to her side. The woman is wearing a plain dress with a patterned belt and a feathered headdress over her braided hair.

“Indian Woman with Child” by Felix Man, taken during “Banff Indian Days” in Banff, Alberta, 1933. (MIKAN 3333566)

His photograph of the Indigenous woman and child on horseback is an excellent example, with its grainy aesthetic, and the woman in an elaborate headdress (which in reality were only worn by women in exceptional circumstances) reaching back to embrace the small child. The “Madonna and child” symbolism presents all the qualities necessary to build a stereotypical and generalized narrative of 20th-century Indigenous peoples as still living their so-called traditional lives, and the images of the Banff “Indian Days” were very popular with the European press.

The exclusion of Indigenous peoples in John Vanderpant’s representations of an industrial and urban Canada, and the fixing of them into a mythical past by Felix Man, also tie into the works of urban Iroquoian photographer Jeff Thomas in this exhibition. Using toy figurines posed with the Parliament buildings in the first instance, and in front of a rail car emblazoned with the word “Canada” in the second, Thomas seeks to reinsert Indigenous peoples into both Canada’s history and present. Thomas’ photographs introduce critical concerns about the roles Indigenous people played in the building of the nation-state of Canada and in the building of the railroad. Using the figurines, he plays on the stereotypes which were perpetuated and disseminated by photographers like Man, but also with the omission of Indigenous peoples from the narrative of the past, present and future of Canada. Considering these two seemingly unconnected photographs from the 1930s together allows us to bring these two stereotypical views of Canada together, and to see how the knowledge of the immediate and broader contexts in which they were created can deepen our understanding of not only the photographs themselves, but of Canada’s past and present as well.

First Nations figure set in front of a train marked “Canada” with grain graffiti on its side.

Canada Day 2005, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada from The Delegate on Tour Series by Jeff Thomas, 2005 (MIKAN 3932014) ©Jeff Thomas

Indigenous figurine set across the river from Parliament Hill.

Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Canada, 2007 from The Delegates on Tour Series by Jeff Thomas. (MIKAN 3932081) ©Jeff Thomas


Jill Delaney is an archivist in the acquisition of photography of the Visual, Sound and Landscape section, Private Archives Branch. She holds a Master of Canadian Studies from Carleton University (1991) and a doctorate in Art and Architectural History and Theory from SUNY-Binghamton (1997). Jill joined LAC in 1998 as a photography archivist and has been working with the collections ever since, with the exception of an assignment in the architectural records section.

Images of snowshoes now on Flickr

Snowshoes distribute a person’s weight over snow, enabling one to walk without sinking too deeply.

A black-and-white photograph of an unidentified First Nations woman sitting on a chair and working on the webbing of a large round snowshoe.

Aboriginal woman making snowshoes, Pointe Bleue, Quebec (MIKAN 3367092)

Traditional snowshoes are made with wooden frames and leather strips for webbing and boot bindings. Modern equivalents use metal or synthetic materials, but follow similar design characteristics to their predecessors. Early snowshoe design in North America spans the continent where regular snowfall occurs. The shapes and sizes vary dependent on the location. Snowshoes are available in round, triangular, and oval shapes, or can be very long. Each design addresses different types of snow, whether powdery, wet or icy. First Nations and Inuit communities are known for their design and use of snowshoes.

A black-and-white photograph showing six kinds of long snowshoes made with various materials and styles of webbing.

Styles of snowshoes (MIKAN 3401671)

A black-and-white photograph showing six kinds of round or oval-shaped snowshoes made with various materials and styles of webbing.

Styles of snowshoes (MIKAN 3401670)

European settlers were quick to adopt snowshoes for travel, hunting, and even military purposes. Snowshoeing clubs in Canada were started the mid-1800s for sport and leisure activities—leading the way for these unique aboriginal inventions to become a fixture in Canadian society.

A black-and-white photograph of thirteen children and their teacher posing with their snowshoes at the entry deck of a Canadian National Railway school car.

Canadian National Railway School Car, Capreol, Ontario (MIKAN 3381288)

Visit the Flickr album now!

Lieutenant-Colonel Harcus Strachan, VC

By Emily Monks-Leeson
This week, Library and Archives Canada’s Discover Blog honours Lieutenant-Colonel Harcus Strachan, Canadian Victoria Cross recipient for his actions during the First World War Battle of Cambrai, which took place one hundred years ago today.

A black-and-white photograph of a seated officer wearing a cap and all the accoutrements of an officer.

Lieutenant Harcus Strachan, VC, undated (MIKAN 3221434)

Born in Borrowstounness, Scotland, in 1887, Strachan immigrated to Canada in 1908. He enlisted in The Fort Garry Horse regiment, based in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 1915. He was a commissioned lieutenant and, on November 20, 1917, took command of a mounted squadron of The Fort Garry Horse at Masnières, France. When the squadron leader was killed, Lieutenant Strachan led the squad through the German line of machine gun posts and charged the German battery, killing seven of the gunners in hand-to-hand fighting. He then cut telephone communications three kilometers behind the German lines, rallied his surviving men, and fought his way back through to his own lines with all unwounded men and fifteen German prisoners. His citation in the London Gazette asserts that this operation “was only rendered possible by the outstanding gallantry and fearless leading of this officer” (London Gazette, no. 30433, December 18, 1917).

A black-and-white photograph of a line of mounted soldiers riding through a village.

Lieutenant Strachan, VC, and a squadron of The Fort Garry Horse passing through a village on the Cambrai front, December 1917 (MIKAN 3405685)

A typewritten report of the events of the day.

The Fort Garry Horse war diary, dated November 20, 1917, Page 2 of Lieutenant Strachan’s report (MIKAN 2004724)

Lieutenant-Colonel Strachan was promoted to captain and received his Victoria Cross from King George V on January 6, 1918. It became a tradition for the “Garrys” to hold a parade every year on the anniversary of Strachan’s Victoria Cross. Strachan survived the war and later commanded the 1st Battalion of the Edmonton Fusiliers during the Second World War. He died in Vancouver on May 1, 1982. Strachan was recently honoured with an historical plaque on the shores of Harcus Strachan Lake, 250 kilometers east of Thompson, Manitoba.

Library and Archives Canada has the fully digitized service file for Lieutenant-Colonel Harcus Strachan in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Emily Monks-Leeson is an archivist in Digital Operations at Library and Archives Canada.

Victoria Cross Recipients: First World War now on Flickr

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest military decoration in the Commonwealth and takes precedence over all other medals, decorations and orders. A recognition of valour in the face of the enemy, the VC can be awarded to a person of any rank of military service and to civilians under military command. So far, 98 Canadians have been awarded the Victoria Cross, beginning with Alexander Roberts Dunn who in 1854 fought in the Battle of Balaclava in the Crimean War. The Victoria Crosses were awarded to 71 Canadian soldiers during the First World War, and 16 were awarded during the Second World War. The remaining VCs were awarded to Canadians for the Indian Rebellion of 1857 (in which William Hall of Nova Scotia became the first-ever black recipient of the VC) and the South African War (1899–1902).

In 1993, the Canadian Victoria Cross was adopted in place of the British VC. The medal is identical to the British VC but the inscription is in Latin—Pro Valore—a linguistic ancestor to both English and French. The Canadian Victoria Cross has yet to be awarded.

A black-and-white image of Lance-Corporal F. Fisher.

Lance-Corporal F. Fisher, April 23, 1915 (MIKAN 3215642)

A black-and-white photograph of Lieutenant George Burdon McKean.

Lieutenant George Burdon McKean, April 27-28, 1918 (MIKAN 3218939)

A black-and-white photograph of Sergeant Alexander Picton Brereton.

Sergeant Alexander Picton Brereton, August 9, 1918 (MIKAN 3213059)

A black-and-white photograph of Sergeant Hugh Cairns.

Sergeant Hugh Cairns, November 1, 1918 (MIKAN 3191892)

Visit the Flickr album now!

New additions to the Virtual Gramophone – Henry Burr

By Margaret Ashburner

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing in front of a car, holding a small dog and wearing a Bowler hat.

Henry Burr. Source: Library and Archives Canada music collection, Public Domain.

A prolific recording artist, Henry Burr is estimated to have performed in over 12,000 recordings over the course of his life. His given name was Harry McClaskey, but he recorded under a wide variety of pseudonyms, the most well known being Henry Burr. Burr regularly performed not only tenor solos, but also in duets, quartets and other ensembles. He often performed alongside Albert Campbell.

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

Digitization of the Canadian Expeditionary Force Personnel Service Files – Update of November 2017

As of today, 518,124 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 8803 and last name Sharp.

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.

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Former Enemies Are Now Friends”

Colour photograph of a sculpture of two enemy soldiers leaning over to shake hands over a rugby ball.For many descendants of First World War veterans, the act of researching the service files of their relatives opens up a world of new information regarding their families. In this episode, Former enemies are now friends, we speak with Tim Hack about the amazing journey he undertook to reconnect with his great-grandfathers, who fought on opposite sides of the First World War. Tim came across the Canadian Expeditionary Force files right after starting work at LAC. This discovery inspired him to retrace his great-grandfathers’ footsteps across northern Europe. He was gracious enough to share the audio diary of his trip with us. But before Tim embarked on his trip, we invited him into our studio to talk about where this journey began and what he was hoping to achieve by walking in his great-grandfathers’ footsteps one hundred years later.

To view images associated with this podcast, here’s a direct link to our Flickr album.

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

“Handle with Care, Fragile” now on Flickr

Circa 1981 –  Handle with Care, Fragile: A Guide to the Preservation of Archival Materials

“Improper handling is a major factor in the deterioration of archival documents. During the summer of 1976, the Archives Branch Conservation Committee attempted to illustrate techniques for the correct handling of archival materials through a photographic exhibition entitled HANDLE WITH CARE – FRAGILE – AVEC SOIN. The booklet resulting from that exhibition is intended to demonstrate, in a manner both pointed and humorous, these handling techniques. Only the most common archival media has been used as examples; similarly, only the most obvious causes of damage have been illustrated. We hope that this booklet will promote an appreciation of the fact that everyone who handles archival materials shares a responsibility towards our heritage.”

Wilfred I. Smith, Dominion Archivist

A black-and-white photograph displaying the improper and proper ways to remove archival material from a box. The improper manner shows a person dressed as a gorilla forcibly pulling the documents out. The proper manner depicts a female researcher carefully removing the documents.

Removal of Material from Boxes, Image 005 (AMICUS 23668326)

A black-and-white photograph displaying improper and proper research etiquette. The improper manner shows a person dressed as a gorilla eating a banana near the documents, with open beverages close by. The proper manner depicts a female researcher with no open food or drink near the documents.

Researcher Etiquette, Image 006 (AMICUS 23668326)

A black-and-white photograph displaying the improper and proper ways to handle archival documents. The improper manner shows a person dressed as a gorilla leaving fingerprints on documents after handling them without wearing white cotton gloves. The proper manner depicts a female researcher wearing white cotton gloves to handle the documents.

Holding Documents While Reading Them, Image 014 (AMICUS 23668326)

Visit the Flickr album now

Guest curator: Catherine Bailey

Banner for the guest curator series. CANADA 150 is in red along the left side of the banner and then the bilingual text: Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? and under that text is Guest curator series.Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? is a new exhibition by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) marking the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. This exhibition is accompanied by a year-long blog series.

Join us every month during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.

Plan for a group of eight farms by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne for the Canadian Pacific Railway, ca. 1889

Page with two grids drawn in black ink separated into squares or triangles to represent farms.

Plan for a group of eight farms by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne for the Canadian Pacific Railway, ca. 1889 (MIKAN 2925396)

This doodled design hints at the power railroad companies held to influence the look of the country. Settlements along Canada’s railway lines still reflect the grid plans imposed on them back then.

Tell us about yourself

During four very happy summers as an archival assistant at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, I worked with government records, private manuscripts and cartographic records, and I answered many reference inquiries for homestead applications (through which homesteaders obtained letters patent to confirm that they had settled former Crown land and had received legal title). During my last summer, I catalogued the series of historical township plans (maps) that covered all of Alberta.

Is there anything else about this item that you feel Canadians should know?

Portrait of a seated man in a suit, straddling a café chair and holding a cigar between two fingers.

Sir William Van Horne, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, ca. 1900–1910 by W.A. Cooper (MIKAN 3575931)

Since I am well acquainted with the Western Canadian land survey system and the homestead applications and township plans at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, this item from the Sir William Cornelius Van Horne fonds resonated with me. Those grid lines looked very familiar! But the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) influence on the look of Western Canada extends beyond this doodled sketch of a grid-based settlement plan; there is more to the story.

The CPR’s construction was supported by the government through the Canadian Pacific Railway Charter, which bestowed on the company a monetary subsidy of $25 million and land grants of 25 million acres (an area roughly the size of England), in addition to lands for rights-of-way, stations and yard works. Van Horne had direct responsibility for the CPR’s construction between 1882 and 1885, and was subsequently its Vice President, President and Chairman. Soon after the railway was completed in 1885, he and the other directors of the company realized that whatever small profits were made would be almost immediately swallowed up by the operating and maintenance costs of the difficult mountain sections.

Recognizing not only the potential lure of new settlement lands but also the grandeur of mountain scenery, Van Horne and the CPR used artwork and carefully crafted words in advertising campaigns that targeted settlement and tourism in Canada. The CPR’s influence and actions thus helped to shape Canada’s image abroad and contributed directly to the national economy.

Tell us about another related item that you would like to add to the exhibition

Van Horne is famously quoted as saying, “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.” Both his passion for art and his business acumen gave him a keen interest in the development of the CPR’s tourism campaign.

While there is a plethora of beautiful visual records at LAC and across Canada that could show how the CPR and Van Horne influenced the image of Canada abroad, I will focus instead on the complementary power of words, specifically those found in the 1891 version of the CPR tourist pamphlet The Canadian Pacific: The New Highway to the Orient Across the Mountains, Prairies and Rivers of Canada.

Image of mountain range with a small train leaving a train station, set between the title of the pamphlet at the top and bottom of the page.

Title page of The Canadian Pacific: The New Highway to the Orient Across the Mountains, Prairies and Rivers of Canada, published in Montréal by the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1891 (AMICUS 8155839)

Conceived and written by Van Horne himself, the 48-page pamphlet was originally begun in 1884 before the CPR was even completed, but it was not produced until 1887 because Van Horne insisted on having nothing but the best mountain illustrations to complement the text. He was one of the patrons behind the “Railway School” of Canadian artists that included John Arthur Fraser, Thomas Mower Martin, Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith and Lucius O’Brien. The artists were given free rail passes, with the only stipulation often being that the CPR would have first choice of the finished works for its own use.

Colourful watercolour scene depicting a green forest in front of cloud-shrouded blue mountains.

View of the Rockies by Lucius O’Brien, 1887 (MIKAN 2886889)

Etching of two men on a beach putting a dead deer in a canoe. Another canoe and a wigwam can be seen at the side in front of trees with a mountain across the river.

Aboriginal Hunters with Wigwam and Canoe by a River by Thomas Mower Martin, 1885 (MIKAN 3018705)

Notwithstanding Van Horne’s passion for art, as a businessman he was not above clearly reminding artists that they owed it to the CPR to portray the mountains in a suitably grand manner to entice visitors. In one notable circumstance, described in E.J. Hart’s book The Selling of Canada: The CPR and the Beginnings of Canadian Tourism (AMICUS 3976336), Van Horne wrote to John Arthur Fraser (who had been sent out in 1886 to sketch the entire CPR line):

The black and white sketches will hardly answer our purposes, the mountains not being sufficiently imposing. I made last night a rough sketch … which will illustrate my ideas; it is made mostly from memory and I have taken a great deal of license but I do not think that any one going to the spot without the picture in hand will ever accuse us of exaggeration. For the great glacier and Syndicate Peak I would like something similar to this. … I find the perspective in the glacier not right and the peaks projecting through the glacier are not treated broadly enough to give their proper distance. You will of course be able to make a great many improvements on my sketch, but I hope you will preserve the size.

Please make a sketch of Mount Stephen, treating it in something the same manner. (The Selling of Canada, p. 35)

The New Highway pamphlet itself was clearly aimed to entice tourists:

May I not tempt you, kind reader, to leave England for a few short weeks and journey with me across that broad land, the beauties and glories of which have so recently been brought within our reach? There will be no hardships to endure, no difficulties to overcome, and no dangers or annoyances whatever. You shall see mighty rivers, vast forests, boundless plains, stupendous mountains and wonders innumerable; and you shall see all in comfort, nay in luxury. If you are a jaded tourist, sick of Old World scenes and smells, you will find everything fresh and novel. … If you are a mountain climber, you shall have cliffs and peaks and glaciers worthy of your alpenstock. (New Highway, 1891, p. 8)

The language is so evocative that reading this today, we can actually imagine what it was like to travel across Canada on the CPR in the late 19th century. The story begins with an explanation of how to reach the Montréal terminus by steamship (unless it is winter, in which case Halifax is the destination), then noting: “But you are impatient to see the mountains, and if you will permit me to choose, dear reader, we will start from Montreal by the main line of railway, and in order that we may miss nothing we will return by the great lakes, and see Toronto and the Falls of Niagara then.” (p. 12)

The pamphlet goes on to extol the facilities of the train itself before providing a detailed description of each part of the journey to the West. The voyager is taken step by step from Montréal through the Ottawa Valley, then north of Lake Superior and into Manitoba, over the great plains of the then Northwest Territories, and into the majestic mountain ranges west of Banff, before emerging from the grand yet “terrible” Fraser Canyon into the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, and concluding with a combination of apology and exhortation:

I ask your pardon, patient reader, for my persistence in showing you all sorts of things as we came along, whether you wished to see them or not. My anxiety that you should miss nothing you might wish to see is my only excuse. You have been bored nearly to death, no doubt, and I have noticed signs of impatience which lead me to suspect your desire for freedom to go and see as you like, and as you have found that no guide is necessary, I will, with your permission, leave you here … (pp. 43–44)

In the end, the CPR’s appeal to the hearts and minds of tourists to promote and exploit the mountain scenery paid off not only for the company but also for Canada’s overseas image and the national economy, a fact that was recognized and further capitalized on by the federal government in the coming years. J.B. Harkin, the first Commissioner of Dominion Parks (1911–1936), shared Van Horne’s appreciation of the economic value of Canadian scenery, regularly including statistics in his annual reports to the Minister of the Interior. Citing the expenditures of foreign and Canadian visitors to Banff between 1910 and 1915 (approximately $15 million and $8.5 million respectively), he further praised the economic value of national park scenery:

It is unique in this regard that while it brings in large sums of money it means that the country does not give in return anything which represents a loss to the country. When wheat is sold we sell a portion of the fertility of our soil. But the tourist who pays his money to see our mountains and lakes and falls, our canyons and glaciers, not only leaves his money but also leaves whole and unimpaired all those natural attractions which brought him here. These beauties remain forever to attract more tourists and more tourist dollars.”

Want to learn more about the foundations of the Canadian tourist industry and the impact of Canadian railways? Take a look at the archived LAC web exhibition Canada, by Train.


Colour photograph of a woman with short hair and wearing a crimson blazer smiling.Catherine Bailey is a senior government records archivist at LAC, where she has been responsible for the health and social welfare, transportation, justice and security portfolios. While working on her Honours BA in Canadian History (UBC, 1986), she spent summers working as an archival assistant at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, before moving on to complete her Master of Archival Studies degree (UBC, 1988). General Editor of the Association of Canadian Archivists’ journal Archivaria from 2007–2008, she received the ACA Member Recognition Award (2004) and the Archives Association of Ontario’s James J. Talman Award (2012). She has written and presented widely on archival appraisal, especially the development of macroappraisal within the Canadian federal government.

Related resources

Beating hearts: John Alexander Hopps and the pacemaker

By Rebecca Meunier

Quick! Think of five inventions that have revolutionized the way we live.

Now try to think of five Canadian medical inventions. Not so easy, is it?

Why is it that most of us are able to think of five inventions that have helped to shape the world we live in, such as the wheel, but struggle to name even two Canadian medical inventions?

Though we might have the impression that countries such as the United States or England have the upper hand when it comes to the total number of medical inventions, we must not forget that Canada has long been a leader in the advancement of healthcare across the world. Some Canadian inventions include the discovery of insulin by Sir Frederick Banting; the invention of Pablum, an enriched infant cereal; and cobalt therapy.

There is one Canadian medical invention, however, that outshines all others. It has the power to make your heart beat steadily when you exercise and even when you are in love. That invention is the artificial pacemaker. Canadian electrical engineer John Alexander Hopps is credited with the invention of the artificial pacemaker (also known as the stimulator-defibrillator), and it is through Hopps’s work with Dr. Wilfred Bigelow and Dr. John Callaghan that the device first began to save lives.

A black-and-white photograph of an operating room scene with four men in surgical gowns and masks gathered around a prone patient who is hidden from view.

Dr. John Hopps in the background overlooking an operation in an operating theater, undated (MIKAN 3588818)

John Alexander Hopps was born in Winnipeg on May 21, 1919. He graduated in 1941 from the University of Manitoba, where he had studied electrical engineering. He then worked at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa on wartime radar development. In 1949 he was assigned to work in Toronto with Dr. Bigelow, who had recently discovered that there was a reduced risk of complications if, before an open-heart surgery, the patient was kept in a state of hypothermia. His work with Dr. Bigelow and Dr. Callaghan led to the development of the cardiac pacemaker in the 1950’s—a device that, though he did not know it at the time, would help prolong his own life. From 1957 until 1958 Hopps worked in Sri Lanka, helping to establish the first colonial engineering unit in Southeast Asia. Fifteen years later, in 1973, he became the head of the NRC’s new Medical Engineering Section. He continued to work on new medical innovations and became a leading voice for the importance of hospital safety standards. He was especially concerned with the protective measures taken by hospitals to reduce the risk of operating room electric shock hazards.

Hopps’s unique knowledge of technology and medicine brought him into contact with all kinds of challenges relating to technology and human health. He even wrote a research paper detailing his findings on the potential health hazards of a microwave oven used by the staff at the Riverside Hospital, concluding that there were no significant harmful effects associated with its use.

Hopps also became the first president of the Canadian Medical and Biological Engineering Society, and in this role continued to promote the use of engineering in the medical world.

The pacemaker that we know today looks very different from its predecessor. The world’s first pacemaker was about the size of a microwave oven and had to be placed outside the body. Over the years, countless doctors and inventors helped to shrink the size of the pacemaker so that it was eventually small enough to be placed inside the human body during a less invasive surgery.

A black-and-white photograph of a small machine with various knobs and dials. Two black wands are connected to the machine by a cord.

Operating room model of the stimulator-defibrillator (MIKAN 4997380)

The pacemaker became quickly invaluable to doctors and was included in mobile cardiac units.

A black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a lab coat, surgical mask and surgical cap. He is looking at his watch and standing next to a large machine with many drawers, knobs and wires. The machine has a sign on it that reads Mobile Cardiac Resuscitator.

Mobile Cardiac Resuscitator (MIKAN 4982761)

Black-and-white photograph of a young man wearing glasses and a bowtie.

John A. Hopps, circa 1945 (MIKAN 4997379)

In 1986, Hopps became an Officer of the Order of Canada. He died in 1998, after having permanently altered how medicine and technology interact with one another.

If you would like to read more about John Alexander Hopps and the pacemaker, you can explore his fonds, which is housed at Library and Archives Canada. Hopps’s fonds includes a wide range of materials, from textual documents relating to his work to pictures that help shed light on the evolution of the pacemaker to images of cardiac operations.

Rebecca Meunier is a student orientation technician at Library and Archives Canada.