Empire Marketing Board

By Judith Enright

More than 800 posters and poster designs were produced by the Empire Marketing Board (EMB) in the early part of the 20th century. Library and Archives Canada is custodian to 379 of these posters which represent a unique sampling from this bold and beautiful British marketing campaign.

Started in 1926 by Secretary of State for the Colonies Leopold Amery, the Board’s mandate was straightforward—to encourage and promote trade without tariffs between Great Britain and her colonies, and to lead the British population away from the purchase of foreign goods and support buying and consuming all things British.

A colour print showing two men sawing a tree trunk on the left and three men planting trees on the right, with the caption, “Timber in Canada.”

Timber in Canada (e007913043_a1-v6)

Colour print of a metal crane and two men loading a trailer, with the caption “Our Steel for Australia”

Our Steel for Australia (e010759060-v8)

Through newspaper advertising campaigns, pamphlets, hand bills, films, radio programs, and poster displays, the EMB set out to achieve its goal of “Bringing the Empire Alive” to Britain and its colonies. For its poster displays, the EMB commissioned some of the most reputable and notable artists and designers of the time, including Manitoba-born poster artist Austin Cooper.

A black-and-white photo of a man in an evening suit standing beside a poster on the wall.

Photo of Austin Cooper by Sydney Carter (a112227)

Using bold lettering and vibrant colours, the EMB posters were meant to be dynamic and eye-catching. Some of the posters were also gender-specific, depicting men as “Empire builders” and women as consumers. In Britain, the posters were placed on specially designed billboards and in shop windows in over 450 towns and cities. In the colonies, where the advertising campaign was less aggressive, posters could be found on the walls of many high-traffic areas such as stores and factories. Although some posters were meant to be seen as a single image, other posters were designed to tell their story through a sequence of three to five images, an approach often compared to reading a comic strip.

A colour print of a grocery store with signs advertising that many of the products are Canadian. In the front of the store, a woman is having a discussion with the grocer. The poster has the caption, “The Wise Shopkeeper and the Good Housewife.”

The Wise Shopkeeper and the Good Housewife (MIKAN 2844979)

A colour print of a woman wearing a long dress and holding a cup of tea, standing beside a side table with a tea tray, with the caption, “Drinking Empire-Grown Tea.”

Drinking Empire-Grown Tea (MIKAN 2844932)

The posters held by Library and Archives Canada were received between 1926 and 1933 and form a sub-series of the Canadian Department of Industry, Trade and Commerce fonds. The majority of these posters are dedicated to Canadian themes and goods, however products from other colonies are represented as well.

A colour print of a man walking in front of a well-lit grocery store with advertisements for Empire products. Men and women are going in and out the shop.

Far-left panel of the advertisement, “John Bull, Sons and Daughters” (MIKAN 2845188)

A colour print of men loading wooden barrels on a boat, with the caption, “Canadian Apples for the United Kingdom.”

Canadian Apples for the United Kingdom (MIKAN 2844965)

In 1932, Ottawa hosted the British Empire Economic Conference held to discuss the economic repercussions of the Great Depression. It was here that the practice of “Imperial Preference” was inaugurated, resulting in restricted tariffs within the British Empire and raised tariffs for countries outside the Empire. As a consequence, the Board was no longer necessary and was dissolved in 1933.

A colour print of a tiger and underneath is the caption, “Buy Singapore Pineapples in Tins.”

Buy Singapore Pineapples in Tins (MIKAN 2845035)

A colour print showing the crests of India, South Africa and Canada, with the caption, “Smoke Empire Tobacco.”

Smoke Empire Tobacco (MIKAN 2844917)

To view these posters, visit the Flickr set or explore the Empire Marketing Board by looking through the lower-level descriptions.


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

Visit the new webpage dedicated to the Carignan-Salières Regiment

Hear ye! Hear ye! Interested in the history of New France? Visit our new webpage dedicated to the Carignan-Salières Regiment, where you can access all of our resources related to this important unit in the history of New France.

We had the opportunity to sit down with Jean-François Lozier, Curator of French North American history at the Canadian Museum of History, and ask him some questions about the regiment. You can listen to the audio recording of his responses.

Images of Swimming and Pools now on Flickr

Swimming is an important survival skill. However, it wasn’t considered a sport or leisure activity until organized competitions were held in countries like Japan in the 1600s, and eventually in Europe in the 1800s. Men’s swimming was included in the 1896 Olympic Games, and women competed in the 1912 competitions, cementing its place as a sport. Various associations around the world were created to support and promote swimming as a leisure activity and sport. Canada was no different, in this regard.

Over time, a variety of pool facilities appeared across Canada, near natural bodies of water and purpose-built ones in more populated urban centres. Examples include in Vancouver near English Bay, Toronto’s Lakeshore Drive, and Montreal’s Bain Maisonneuve and Bain Généreux. Swimming and its facilities eventually evolved into places of fitness, hygiene, leisure and community gathering.

From Bolsheviks to birds: the fascinating life of Louise de Kiriline Lawrence

By Judith Enright

The Louise de Kiriline Lawrence fonds housed at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), is rich in content and diverse in media. It was donated to LAC in the 1980s by Mrs. Louise de Kiriline Lawrence and details a life that any researcher would be hard-pressed to categorize.

Louise de Kiriline Lawrence (neé Flach) was born in Sweden in 1894 into a wealthy and well connected family. She was extremely well educated and fluent in five languages. She chose nursing as a profession and joined the Red Cross to work in Denmark at a prisoner-of-war exchange camp. It was here that she nursed back to health then married Gleb de Kiriline, a wounded Russian officer. The two then moved to live and work in northern Russia. Gleb de Kiriline went missing after the Bolshevik revolution and Louise spent four years in a futile search to find him.

A black-and-white photograph showing a couple standing in front of a wooden building. She may be in a nurse’s uniform and he is wearing a Russian military uniform.

Louise and Gleb de Kiriline (MIKAN 3722648)

In 1927, Louise immigrated to Canada where she worked as a Red Cross nurse in Northern Ontario. She became the head nurse to the Dionne quintuplets and played a crucial role in their survival during the first year of their lives. Due to the notoriety of the Quints, Louise wrote a series of articles for Chatelaine magazine chronicling her experiences with the children and their family. She retired from nursing in 1935.

Louise married Leonard Lawrence in 1939. While her new husband was overseas during World War II, Louise devoted herself exclusively to nature studies and nature writing, particularly ornithology.

De Kiriline Lawrence conducted the majority of her nature studies and nature writing from her property on Pimisi Bay, in Northern Ontario. It was here, while living in a log cabin, that she began banding birds, keeping diaries, creating sketchbooks and writing hundreds of articles for various nature publications along with several books including her autobiography entitled Another Winter, Another Spring: A Love Remembered.

A black-and-white photograph showing three women outdoors under a tree. The woman on the right is seated and smiling at the photographer, the one in the middle is also seated but engrossed in her book, and the one on the left is lying down and looking at the photographer.

Louise (in the middle) with friends (MIKAN 3951807)

LAC is now the guardian of the Louise de Kiriline Lawrence fonds. It includes material pertaining to wildlife studies, bird data and illustrations along with ornithological reports, correspondence both personal and professional, book and periodical notes and manuscripts along with family papers. Also included are over one hundred drawings, over 700 photographs, audio material, award medals, wood blocks and a few lithographs as well as material regarding her life in Sweden and Russia.

Louise de Kiriline Lawrence died in 1992.


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

Who will make good? The Land Development Records of the Canadian National Railway and its corporate predecessors

Railways have long played a prominent role in the stories we tell about Canada’s development as a nation. Promising to facilitate travel and trade across the vast expanse of Canada’s geography, the construction of transcontinental railway lines was once seen as pivotal to the formation of a coherent national identity.

But railway companies also participated in the settlement of Western Canada by serving as the developers and property agents for land granted to them by the federal government. Following the transfer of Rupert’s Land to Canada in 1870, railway land grants were a key component of the government’s plan to increase the population of western regions already occupied by indigenous communities, Métis settlements, and Hudson’s Bay Company outposts. Even in the early twentieth century, land grants were used to encourage the railway companies to extend their tracks across the whole of the continent, and railway construction was partly financed through the lease and sale of this land.

The Winnipeg Regional Services office holds a rich aggregation of records documenting the sale and lease of Western Canadian farm and townsite land by the Canadian National Railway and its corporate predecessors. Originating from the various subsidiary property companies linked to the Canadian National Railway, the Canadian Northern Railway, and the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, these records sketch vivid portraits of Western Canadian settlers and some of the many challenges they faced in the early and mid-twentieth century. Continue reading

Drawn from history: Canadian political figures in comics

By Meaghan Scanlon

Most of us are familiar with newspaper editorial cartoons. These one-panel gag comics often feature exaggerated and satirical images of politicians. But did you know that Canadian politicians have also appeared in web comics, graphic novels, and even Super Hero comics?

Kate Beaton’s web comic Hark! A Vagrant frequently features historical figures. Her strip “A History Debate” sees a collection of well-known individuals from Canadian history, including Sir John A. Macdonald, engaged in a discussion about what they can do to make Canadian history less boring. (Obviously, we don’t think it’s boring at all!)

A few Canadian political figures’ lives have been recounted in biographical graphic novels. Two examples are Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown and Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung by Willow Dawson. These biographies may take some liberties with their portrayals of events, but for the most part they are based in reality.

However, Canadian politicians have found themselves in some truly fantastical situations in the pages of Super Hero comics. You may have read recently that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will appear in the pages of a Marvel comic book written by Canadian Chip Zdarsky. This is not the first time the world of comic book heroes has borrowed a character from Canada’s political sphere. In the first issue of New Triumph featuring Northguard, the titular hero uncovers a plot to kill Quebec Premier René Lévesque. Fortunately, Northguard arrives in time to save Lévesque’s life.

In issue No. 120 of The X-Men, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau meets with James MacDonald Hudson, codename: Vindicator, of the Canadian Super Hero team Alpha Flight. Trudeau instructs Vindicator to capture the X-Men’s Canadian member, Wolverine, and bring him home to Canada. Canadian artist John Byrne drew the comic.

A large screen shows the X-Men fighting a giant robot. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stands in front of the screen along with Alpha Flight team leader Vindicator. Trudeau asks Vindicator to explain who the X-Men are. The words “The Uncanny X-Men” appear in large text at the top of the page. The story title is “Wanted: Wolverine! Dead or Alive!” The location of the scene is given as “The War Room of the Canadian Ministry of Defense – Ottowa [sic], Ontario, Canada …”

Pierre Trudeau gets a lesson on the X-Men from Alpha Flight’s team leader Vindicator in The X-Men no. 120, published by Marvel Comics, April 1979. (Reprinted in X-Men: Alpha Flight (AMICUS 44300363) © MARVEL

Perhaps the most unusual depiction of Canadian politicians in comics occurs in Angloman: Making the World Safe for Apostrophes! Angloman, the heroic champion of bilingualism, encounters a series of super-powered characters who might seem strikingly familiar to students of Canadian politics. Power Chin, for example, is a parody of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, complete with the oversized chin that was Mulroney’s trademark feature for caricaturists. Pierre Trudeau appears as The Northern Magus, a mysterious caped figure with a rose in his lapel. The Northern Magus has incredible magical powers and only speaks in rhyme.

Sketches and textual descriptions of three characters – Poutinette, The Northern Magus, and Power Chin.

Character biographies for Poutinette, The Northern Magus and Power Chin from Angloman: Making the World Safe for Apostrophes! (AMICUS 14740760. © Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette. Reproduced with the permission of Signature Editions.) (AMICUS 14740760)

To learn more about comic book depictions of Canadian history as well as other Canadian comics, visit Library and Archives Canada’s exhibition Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity. The exhibition runs at 395 Wellington St. in Ottawa until September 14th. Admission is free.

Additional resources


Meaghan Scanlon is the Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Dentists and Dentistry now on Flickr

Few dentists were available during Canada’s early colonial period. Individuals made claims of dental expertise, however, it was “buyer-beware” if someone needed care. Professional dentistry in Canada was far behind professional and medical developments in Europe at the time.

During the 1800s, Canada benefited from the arrival of dental practitioners from the United States. These professionals started a movement for better education, training and practices in the country, which sparked the first Canadian publication on dentistry, The Summum Bonum, in 1815 by L.S. Parmly based in Montréal. Eventually, medical expertise took root in Canada and various associations were formed such as the Ontario Dental Association (1867), and the Royal College of Dental Surgeons (1868).

As standards of practice and education evolved, the inclusion of dental schools into university programmes cemented dentistry’s standing in the medical professions. Dental practices and services continued to spread and became available in cities and towns across the county. Care was also provided to our soldiers outside of the country during times of conflict such as during the First and Second World Wars.

Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson, VC

Today our series First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients remembers Lieutenant Thomas Lawder Wilkinson of the 7th Battalion, Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, British Expeditionary Force, who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on the Somme battlefields one hundred years ago today on July 5, 1916.

Lieutenant Wilkinson was born in Shropshire, England, and immigrated with his family to Canada prior to the First World War. On September 23, 1914, he enlisted with the 16th Battalion, Canadian Scottish, Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF), later transferring to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, to serve as a Gunnery Officer. It was with this unit that Wilkinson found himself fighting in the Battle of the Somme.

A black-and-white photograph of a young man wearing a cap and uniform and gazing beyond the photographer.

Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson, VC, undated (AMICUS 2715209)

Four days after the most devastating single day in the history of the British forces, Wilkinson and two other men were fighting their way to a forward machine gun, recently abandoned by a retreating party of British soldiers. On their own they succeeded in holding up advancing German soldiers until another unit was able to reach and reinforce them. Later that day, Lieutenant Wilkinson reached several men of different units trapped at a wall of earth over which German troops were throwing bombs. His citation in the London Gazette recounts how:

With great pluck and promptness [Wilkinson] mounted a machine gun on the top of the parapet and dispersed the enemy bombers. Subsequently he made two most gallant attempts to bring in a wounded man, but at the second attempt he was shot through the heart just before reaching the man. Throughout the day he set a magnificent example of courage and self-sacrifice (London Gazette, 26 September 1916).

A black-and-white photograph of four soldiers carrying a stretcher with a shrouded body on it through a devastated landscape.

Bringing in the Dead on the Somme Battlefields, July 1916, Canadian War Records Office (MIKAN 3520928)

The body of Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson was never recovered. He is commemorated on the British Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, France.

Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lieutenant Thomas Orde Lawder Wilkinson.

75th Anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division

By Laura Brown

When Canada entered the Second World War on September 10, 1939, Canadian women were not permitted to enlist in the armed forces. As in the First World War, nursing was the only opportunity women had to help in the war effort. Looking for other ways to “do their bit,” many women turned to volunteer work, paid labour, or joined unofficial military organizations that permitted members to wear uniforms and practice drills. By 1941, mounting pressure from women wishing to join up, as well as an impending shortfall of male recruits, forced the Canadian government to examine the potential role that women could play in the military. At the same time, the expansion of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan in Canada resulted in a need to staff ground positions at its newly opened centres across the country. The authorities, therefore, decided that the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) should be the first service to begin accepting women. The Canadian Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (CWAAF) was formed on July 2, 1941, its name changing to the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division (RCAF-WD) seven months later. By the summer of 1942, Canadian women were serving in all three branches of the armed forces – the air force, army, and navy.

A coloured poster showing the faces of a male and a female member of the Royal Canadian Air Force. The man wears an aviator’s hat and goggles and the woman wears a blue cap with a visor. A medallion consisting of a blue circle with a red maple leaf in the centre is situated between the man and the woman.

Second World War Royal Canadian Air Force Recruiting Poster, “Men, Women The RCAF Needs You Now!” [1943] (MIKAN 2999983)

Despite their title of “airwomen,” the female members of the RCAF stayed on the ground during their war service. Women may have not been permitted to fly planes, but the messages in recruiting posters, newspapers and films, such as Jane Marsh’s National Film Board film, Wings on her Shoulder (1943), reinforced the idea that the roles women could play were every bit as important to the war effort. In fact, the jobs that women took on in the RCAF-WD, such as working as typists, cooks, and parachute packers, were essential, and recruits were reminded that every military support role taken by a woman would release a man to go and fight. The RCAF-WD promoted this idea with its motto, “We Serve that Men May Fly.”  In total, 17,038 women donned the blue cap and uniform to serve in the RCAF-WD during the Second World War.

A black and white photo showing two women dressed in coveralls standing on either side of a long table, upon which a folded parachute rests.

Unidentified airwomen demonstrating parachute packing technique, RCAF Station Rockcliffe, Ontario, 1943 (MIKAN 3583064)

Two women who took on unique roles within the Women’s Division were Willa Walker and Jean Davey. Walker joined the service in 1941, excelled in her training, and eventually achieved the rank of Wing Officer, the commanding officer of the RCAF-WD. Jean Flatt Davey also joined the RCAF in 1941 and became the first female member of its Medical Division. She later attained the role of Chief Medical Officer of the RCAF-WD.

A black and white photo showing seven members of the Royal Canadian Air Force Women’s Division. The women stand outdoors, their hands clasped behind their backs as they smile at the camera. The figures wear standard issue uniforms including jackets, skirts, caps and shoes.

RCAF Women’s Division Personnel, undated. Jean Flatt Davey and Willa Walker are seen third and fourth from the left, respectively (MIKAN 4674254)

You can learn more about these women by exploring the Willa Walker fonds and the Jean Flatt Davey fonds. In these collections, as well as in other private and government collections at Library and Archives Canada, you can find a range of documents related to the RCAF-WD. This documentary heritage is a reminder of the remarkable contributions made by Canada’s first airwomen during the Second World War.

Related resources


Laura Brown is a military archivist in the Government Archives Division.