Sheet Music from Canada’s Past: The Great War

By Emilie Gin

Did you know that you can view, download and print digitized versions of sheet music from LAC’s collection? A portion of the collection—including pieces from the First World War—has been digitized and can be accessed online from LAC’s library catalogue, Aurora. Here’s how to search special collections using Aurora.

Sheet Music from Canada’s Past provides a rich opportunity to dive deeper into the sounds and lyrics that punctuated the Canadian experience of the First World War or “the Great War.” Canadians at home and those fighting abroad found comfort, courage and a sense of patriotism in music.

What is sheet music?

Sheet music typically refers to individual popular music pieces that were printed on one or more folding sheets of paper. Both professional composers and amateur songwriters published and distributed sheet music for sale. These musical scores were unbound and inexpensive for publishers to produce and relatively affordable for consumers as well.

Sheet music played an important role in the musical lives of Canadians. While some upper class households of the early 20th century had phonographs or gramophones to play recorded music, many could not afford these new technologies. For many, the only way to enjoy music was to hear it live, either at a concert hall or by playing music themselves using sheet music.

Music and the national narrative

While music functioned as entertainment and a form of catharsis during the complicated and tumultuous time of the Great War, it was also a medium ripe for the promotion of a government-approved national narrative.

A colour drawing of a soldier with a rifle standing in front of the British flag, a war medal and a portrait of a H.W. Ellerton in uniform.

Cover art for “The Khaki Lads” (OCLC 25442742)

The War Measures Act of 1914 required that all publications (including sheet music and other forms of media such as novels and posters) be approved by the Department of Militia and Defence. Although it is difficult to assess the true impact of music and its messages, sheet music does gives us a window into the everyday life of Canadians during the First World War.

Canadian identity—The Maple Leaf and Britannia

Expressions of Canadian patriotism and allegiance to Britain were extremely prevalent themes in published sheet music during the First World War. This is no surprise—these types of pieces boosted morale by supporting a national narrative of unity through patriotism among soldiers and those at home. They instilled courage and reminded soldiers in the fray of their duty and purpose. These pieces presented a narrative of Canadian identity that was nearly exclusively Anglophone and still fervently tied to Britain.

A colour drawing of a soldier holding a rifle, with a green maple leaf in the background.

Cover art for “They Heard the Call of the Motherland (The Men of the Maple Leaf)” by Edward W. Miller (OCLC 123910582)

Following Canada’s involvement in important battles such as Vimy Ridge, the Somme and Passchendale, the First World War marked an important shift in Canada’s self-awareness from a colony to a nation. However, the Conscription Crisis of 1917 brought up significant and important questions about Canada’s ties to Britain, as well as about the relationship between French and Anglophone Canadians.

A black and white image where the words The King Will Be Proud of Canada are surrounded in a wreath of leaves and a beaver.

Cover art for “The King Will Be Proud of Canada: Canadian Military Song” by S.G. Smith and Frank Eborall (OCLC 123910650)

Here are a few examples of patriotic sheet music that can be downloaded from LAC’s collection:

Everyone’s doing their bit: The home front

Music was an important part of everyday life on the home front. Volunteerism was an especially common message found in popular sheet music. Knitting garments for soldiers, donating money, buying war bonds or volunteering for nursing efforts were all suggested activities that would contribute to the war effort. Pieces such as “He’s Doing His Bit, Are You?” reinforced citizens’ duties to Canada and the Crown, stating “If we cannot do the fighting—we can pay.”

A colour drawing of a soldier dressed in a tan uniform holding a rifle above his head.

Cover art for “He’s Doing His Bit, Are You? If We Cannot Do the Fighting—We Can Pay” by W. St.J. Miller (OCLC 1007491809)

Here are a few pieces that illustrate messages encountered by Canadians on the home front:

The Duality of Music in Wartime

Sheet music occupied somewhat of a double life in public consciousness in wartime. Acting as both both entertainment and a form of governmental subliminal messaging, it is difficult to ascertain exactly how Canadians might have felt about popular music. Music likely offered a welcome break from atrocities and troubling news from the front, however there is no denying that sheet music publishers published materials that supported a government-approved national narrative.

An colour image comprised of a large ship, a dove, a woman welcoming the ship and a portrait of S. M. Hallam.

Cover art for “When Jack Comes Back” by Gordon V. Thompson (OCLC 1007593602)

Nevertheless, this note found on the cover illustration for the piece “The Canadian War Song: When Jack Comes Back,” by Gordon V. Thompson, surely rang true for many Canadians during the First World War:

                “We all need good music these war days. It makes the wheels of life turn smoothly and helps to dry the tears.”


Emilie Gin is a student acquisitions librarian working in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

New Books in the Genealogy Services Collection

By Emily Potter

A colour photograph of two shelves of multi-coloured hardcover books.

A sample of the variety of books held in the Genealogy Services Collection at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa. Photo credit: Emily Potter

We’re excited to announce recently acquired genealogy publications, which you can consult in the Genealogy and Family History Room on the 3rd floor of the Library and Archives Canada building at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa.

Check out the list below. After each title, you will find a call number, which will help you find the book on our shelves. The OCLC number links to the record in our new library catalogue Aurora providing additional information. First time using it? See Aurora help.

If you are just starting out in genealogy, visit the Genealogy and Family History section of our website on how to begin your research.

Also visit What’s new in the collection, for highlights of selected new acquisitions and archives now open for consultation.

Happy exploring!

Church, cemetery and newspaper indexes

Baptêmes et sépultures des quatre voisines de Saint-Clément de Beauharnois by Société du patrimoine de Sainte-Martine. CS88 QC43 B42 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032020299)

Flamborough Obituary Slips, 1883–1891 by the Waterdown-East Flamborough Heritage Society. CS88 ON35 F53 1999b (OCLC Number: 62927324)

Massey, Ontario, Massey Grandview Protestant Cemetery by the Sudbury District Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society. CS88 ON31 M47 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082503187)

Massey, Ontario, Massey Immaculate Conception Roman Catholic Cemetery by the Sudbury District Branch, Ontario Genealogical Society. CS88 ON31 M47 2016b (OCLC Number: 1082504357)

Family histories

Ainslie (Volumes 1 & 2) by John Stuart Ainslie. CS90 .A43 2016 (OCLC Number: 1103323498)

My Writings on the Audet-Lapointes by Guy Saint-Hilaire. CS90 A935 2017 (OCLC Number: 1019429805)

La famille Berthiaume: cent vingt-cinq ans d’histoire (1892–2016) by François-Xavier Simard. CS90 B4274 2016 (OCLC Number: 1032012228)

La famille Boily au XVIII : de Saint-Jouin-de-Marnes à la Baie Saint-Paul by Raymond Boily. CS90 B56 2013 (OCLC Number: 937871289)

The Bonhomme family, 1632 to 2015 by Joseph Bonhomme. CS90 B642 2017 (OCLC Number: 1082496422)

The Stalwart Brydons: from Scotland to Galt to Manitoba: a History of 100 Years in Canada by James Emerson Brydon, Dianne Brydon. CS90 B8 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082476540)

The Descendants of John Archelaus Carpenter of Weston, New Brunswick, Canada by Miles Ludlow Carpenter. CS90 C288 2016 (OCLC Number: 1018310137)

Famille Chatel by Charles G. Clermont. CS90 C476 2016 (OCLC Number: 947133998)

The Clark and Simonite Saga: Where Past and Present Meet by Carolyn Gillanders Loveless. CS90 C538 2016 (OCLC Number: 1036081812)

Angus MacLean: a Genealogy by Marleen MacDonald-Hubley. CS90 Mc69 2012 (OCLC Number: 907028372)

The Dickinson Men of Manotick by William and Georgina Tupper. CS90 D498 2015 (OCLC Number: 927183619)

The Grandmother & Grandfather’s Story: Lewis and Mary Fisher, Loyalists in the American Revolution and New Brunswick Settlers by Robert C. Fisher. CS90 F574 2017 (OCLC Number: 1082478346)

The Griersons of Torbolton Township by Doris Grierson Hope. CS90 G725 2016 (OCLC Number: 1036095475)

New France Descendants of Leduc Families: History and Genealogy Repertory by Adrienne Leduc. CS90 L44 2017 (OCLC Number: 1033521074)

Les Pellerin du Québec, 1722–1916 by Jacques Gagnon. CS90 P43 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032011484)

Pommainville d’Amérique : Henri Brault dit Pomainville et ses descendants by Edgar Pommainville. CS90 P63 2017 (OCLC Number: 976416112)

Antoine, first Theroux in Canada by Mary Jeannette Hounsome. CS90 T4869 2016 (OCLC Number: 1082503547)

Descendants of Johann Christian Schell and Johannes Schell by J.P. Schell. CS90 S4213 2004 (OCLC Number: 1082497015)

St-Cyr in North America, 1624–2016: the Descendants of Pierre Deshaies St-Cyr and Marguerite Guillet and Mathieu Rouillard St-Cyr and Jeanne Guillet by François St-Cyr. CS90 S233613 2016 (OCLC Number: 952211418)

Mountain Romantics: The Whytes of Banff by Chic Scott. CS90 W458 2014 (OCLC Number: 883939953)

Local Histories and Biographies

 Before Surveyors’ Line was Run: the History of Simon Orchard and Samuel Rowe, the First Settlers to Paisley, Ontario in the Queen’s Bush by Marguerite Ann Caldwell. CS88 ON32 P34 2013 (OCLC Number: 1036198843)

My Creignish Hills by Floyd MacDonald. CS88 NS69 C74 2015 (OCLC Number: 1019413004)

Cypress Hills Metis Hunting Brigade Petition of 1878 for a Metis Reserve: History of the Cypress Hills Hunting Brigade: Biographies of Petitioners by Lawrence Barkwell. E99 M47 B37 2015 (OCLC Number: 1032013125)

Les familles pionnières de la seigneurie de La Prairie, 1667 à 1687 by Stéphane Tremblay. CS88 QC43 R68 2017 (OCLC Number: 1033510580)

A Glance Backward by Ray Johnson. CS90 A715 1988 (OCLC Number: 1082475369)

Jewish Papineau: an Account of the People and Places of the Montreal Neighbourhood Known as “Papinyu” as Recounted by Philip Teitelbaum and Other Contributors by Peter Teitelbaum. CS88 QC42 M65 2015b (OCLC Number: 1007771024)

Prairie Pioneers: Schönthal Revisited by Mary Neufeld. CS88 MB274 A48 2016 (OCLC Number: 945781920)

La Reine: 100 ans d’histoire by Gérald Doré, Marie-Claire Piché-Doré and Victorin Doré. CS88 QC41 L35 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032010291)

Remember Me: Manitoulin Military by the Manitoulin Genealogy Club. CS88 O6 R46 2015 (OCLC Number: 919340193)

The Settlers of Monckton Township by Les Bowser. CS88 NB52 M66 2016 (OCLC Number: 962852120)

Visages estriens: hommage à nos gens by La Société de généalogie des Cantons de l’Est. CS88 QC46 A1 2017 (OCLC Number: 1032018896)


Emily Potter is a Genealogy Consultant in the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada

Inuit soldiers of the First World War: Lance Corporal John Shiwak

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

by Heather Campbell

A black and white photograph of a young Inuk man in a military uniform staring towards the camera.

Lance Corporal John Shiwak, First Royal Newfoundland Regiment, c. 1915. Courtesy of Veteran’s Affairs Canada

As we remember the sacrifices of the soldiers who fought in the First and Second World Wars, many of us are aware of the First Nations and Métis soldiers who fought for our country. But only a few of us may know about the Inuit soldiers who also fought alongside Indigenous and non-Indigenous alike. My great-great-uncle, Lance Corporal John Shiwak, was one of those men. Due to his skills as a hunter, he became a sniper—“one of the best in the British Army,” according to a fellow officer.

My uncle hailed from Nunatsiavut, the Inuit region in northern and central Labrador, which was part of the British Dominion of Newfoundland in 1914. When the call came for Newfoundland men to enlist, it also made its way up the north coast of Labrador to the Inuit men of these settlements. Inuit culture was, and still is, largely a non-confrontational culture. Many of these young Inuit men were encouraged to enlist by people in positions of authority, such as Dr. Harry Paddon, a physician for the International Grenfell Association. Regardless of their motivations, approximately fifteen Inuit men enlisted and set sail for England in the summer of 1915.

A black and white photograph of two Inuit women and an Inuit child standing beside a wooden house.

Hopedale, Newfoundland and Labrador, 1913. Credit: Edith S. Watson (e010791418)

What a culture shock it must have been for these men who, like my uncle, were all from tiny, isolated communities of a few hundred people at most. In addition to the size, hustle and bustle of European towns and cities, the worldview was very different. Although Inuit hunt for survival, we respect each life we take and are taught from a young age to not cause an animal pain or distress. When we take a shot, we want to be certain it is precise and effective. Especially during the early 20th century, when the cost and scarcity of ammunition meant that every bullet had to count. Sometimes that meant going home empty handed.

I imagine those Inuit soldiers felt exactly the same way when they discharged their firearms in war. It must have been a huge adjustment for them to fire in haste, knowing they may have wounded someone. However, they knew that the men on the other side of the trenches had to be stopped for others to live, just as animals in Labrador had to die for their families to live. I imagine it was the only way to reconcile themselves with the horrors of war.

A black and white photograph of trees and white houses with black roofs. In the background, there is a boat on the water.

Hudson’s Bay Company Buildings, Rigolet, Labrador, September 1926. Photo Credit: L.T. Burwash (a099501)

The story of my great-great-uncle Lance Corporal John Shiwak is unique because in addition to his traditional activities as a hunter, trapper and fisherman, he was also a writer, poet and artist. He wrote many letters from the front lines to his friend Lacey Amy, a journalist and author from Ontario. Mr. Amy wrote the article “An Eskimo Patriot” in the July 1918 issue of The Canadian Magazine, telling of their friendship and some of Uncle John’s feelings during the war.

The duration of the war was wearing on him. He had no close friends, none to keep warm the link with his distant home. In September he lamented: “I have no letters from home since July. There will be no more now till the ice breaks”. And in his last he longed again for the old hunting days. Labrador, that had never satisfied his ambitions, looked warm and friendly to him now… That was in mid-November. A month later an official envelope came to me. Inside was my last letter. On its face was the soulless stamp. “Deceased”.

Every year on Remembrance Day, our family would talk about Uncle John with a quiet reverence, remembering the deep grief experienced when he did not return home. I have yet to meet a Labradorian living elsewhere who does not long to return to Labrador. The connection that we have to the land is difficult to express. We see firsthand how the land provides us with everything that we need to survive. Many generations of history are embedded in not only the community, but also each fishing spot, trapline, woodcutting path, hunting ground and berry-picking spot. This creates a special bond between people and the land. To be away from Labrador is to be disconnected from a piece of ourselves.

When I first visited the Canadian War Museum, I was drawn to the recreation of a First World War trench. Visitors can walk through it and put themselves in the shoes of soldiers on the front lines. As I slowly made my way through the trench, it affected me deeply. Tears streamed down my face as I imagined Uncle John huddled in the mud, writing in his journal or sketching images of the land and animals, longing for the peace and solitude of his ancestral home. A home that he would never see again.

A black and white photograph of a cemetery behind a fence and small leafless trees near Cambrai, France. There is a house and a farm in the background.

Raillencourt British Cemetery near Cambrai. Shiwak was not buried in this cemetery, but was equally far from home. (a004409-v8)

During the battle of Cambrai on November 20, 1917, an exploding shell killed Uncle John and six other soldiers. Eighty-eight years later, in 2005, my cousin, Jason Sikoak (formerly written as Shiwak), took part in the Aboriginal Spiritual Journey. In this journey, a group of Indigenous people travelled to Europe to honour Indigenous soldiers. Jason told me that during this journey, Uncle John’s spirit visited him in a dream. We hope that he followed Jason back to the shores of Rigolet and that he is at peace.

A black and white photograph of ships in body of water. There are trees in the foreground of the photo.

A point of land seen from a distance with Hudson’s Bay Company buildings along the shoreline and boats anchored in the cove. Rigolet, c.1930. Photo credit: Fred. C. Sears (e010771588)

This blog is part of a series related to the Indigenous Documentary Heritage Initiatives. Learn how Library and Archives Canada (LAC) increases access to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation collections and supports communities in the preservation of Indigenous language recordings.


Heather Campbell is an archivist in  the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Recognition and Remembrance: A Métis soldier in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, 1917–1918

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By David Horky

The Gabriel Dumont Institute (GDI) maintains a list of over 5,000 individuals whose names are engraved on the National Métis Veterans’ Memorial Monument in Batoche, Saskatchewan. Unveiled in 2014, the monument serves to recognize, remember and honour veterans from across the Métis Nation Homeland who have served Canada throughout history. The list of Métis veterans (PDF) provides the veteran’s name, service number, enlistment (the war or activity), and the location of their inscription on the monument (by column and row).

The GDI list has been invaluable for my own personal research about one of my distant relatives who fought and died in the First World War. I recently discovered Métis branches on my own family tree on the Métis Genealogy section of the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website, and it was while doing this research that I found the digitized military service file of a distant relative, Private Arthur Carriere.

Searching the GDI list, I was proud to find an entry for a Private Arthur Carriere, confirming that he was indeed among the many names engraved on the National Métis Veterans’ Memorial Monument. I realized in the process that the service number on the GDI list—2293697—corresponded to the regimental number referring to the same soldier on the LAC website. This simple example demonstrates the great value of the GDI list to relatives and researchers interested in identifying Métis veterans from the 600,000 digitized service files in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Being able to access a digital copy of Arthur’s First World War service file—a tangible record of his involvement in the war—was a very personal way for me to pay my respects to one of my kin in remembrance of his service and sacrifice to our country. Despite the brevity of much of the information recorded on the various forms and documents in the file, they collectively provide a story, impressionistic to be sure, about Arthur’s brief and tragic wartime experience.

A typed page with the title, Particulars of Recruit, Drafted under Military Service Act, 1917. There are also stamps and handwriting on the page.

The Attestation Paper from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

Although there weren’t any explicit references to Arthur’s Métis heritage recorded in the file, I thought I could detect traces or clues in some of the records, especially the Attestation Paper, which provides basic information about his background at the time of his enlistment—age, occupation, residence, name and address of next of kin, etc. Born in 1893 in St. Adolphe, Manitoba, Arthur was 24 years old, single, and a farmer living in St. Vital, Manitoba at the time of his enlistment. His next of kin is his mother, A. (Angèle) Carriere, of Ste. Rose, Manitoba. The communities in particular struck my attention—all are Franco-Manitoban with strong and continuing Métis roots. The next of kin information is often very useful to trace Métis roots, as ethnic origin is not usually stated in the file.

The Attestation Paper also indicates the circumstances of Arthur’s enlistment—the most obvious being that he did not volunteer, but was drafted under the provisions of the Military Service Act. He reported for medical examination on November 14, 1917 in Fort Frances, Ontario, and was called up on January 11, 1918 in Winnipeg for active service as a private with the Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians), a regiment of mounted rifles.

A typed and handwritten form with the title “Casualty Form—Active Service.” The regimental number, rank and name of the soldier is typed underneath in blue ink along with handwritten notations.

The casualty form from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

The Casualty Form—Active Service record provides us with a very brief outline of Arthur’s activities following his enlistment. Leaving Halifax on April 15, 1918 on the S.S. Melita, the Lord Strathcona Horse (Royal Canadians) arrived in Liverpool, England on April 28, 1918. On August 20, 1918, shortly after arriving in France), Arthur joined the Canadian Corps Reinforcement Centre where troops were held before being sent to reinforce existing units. A couple of weeks later on September 13, 1918, he was transferred to the Royal Canadian Dragoons (RCD), a regiment assigned to the Canadian Cavalry Brigade but that mainly played an infantry role throughout the war. Less than a month after joining the RCD, Arthur’s life was tragically cut short. On October 10, 1918, he is simply reported as “killed in action.” This is one month and a day short of the signing of the Armistice on November 11, 1918 that ended the First World War.

A few more details about Arthur’s death is provided by another military record, the Circumstances of Death Registers, First World War, which the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF) used to report the cause of a soldier’s death, where and when it occurred, and the soldier’s final resting place. The entry for Private Arthur Carriere indicates that on October 10, 1918 “while acting as a medical orderly at Brigade Headquarters in Troisvilles, he was killed by an enemy shell.” The location of his final resting place is given as Grave 8, Plot 11, Row C in the Highland British Cemetery, recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Register as being one mile south of Le Coteau, France.

Too many to list here, there are other First World War records held at LAC, as well as external sources of information that can provide valuable additional details about WWI soldiers and the various CEF units serving overseas in France and Flanders.

An index card listing the regimental number, rank, surname, Christian name, unit, theatre of war, date of service, remarks and latest address of a soldier. In the top right corner the letters “B” and “V” are written, with a blue checkmark through them.

The medal card from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

An index card with the name “Carriere, Pte. Arthur,” “649-C25592” and a checkmark written at the top. There is also a large “M” written in blue ink.

The Memorial Cross card from Arthur Carriere’s digitized service file. (Library and Archives Canada, CEF 2293697)

Arthur’s story does not end simply with his death. The medals he garnered, such as the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, indicated by crossed-out capital letters “B” and “V” on the medal card along with the Memorial Cross, Scroll and Plaque, were dutifully given by a grateful nation to his mother in mourning.

The Franco-Manitoban Métis community of St. Norbert also felt the loss of Arthur’s death. Shortly after the end of war, they erected the St. Norbert War Memorial in recognition of the ultimate sacrifice paid by Arthur and 12 other local residents.

In this light, one can see in Arthur’s story a tradition of recognition and remembrance of the services rendered to Canada by veterans of Métis Nation communities that stretches back from the memorial erected in St. Norbert at the end of the Great War all the way to the present-day National Métis Veterans’ Memorial Monument in Batoche. The GDI acknowledges that there are probably many unknown Métis veterans who deserve our recognition and remembrance. Using the GDI form, you can submit the names and military service information of additional Métis veterans to engrave on the National Métis Veterans Historic Monument and ensure that they receive the recognition and honour due them from Canada and the Métis Nation.


David Horky is a senior archivist at Library and Archives Canada, Winnipeg office.

Mighty Indigenous Warriors: From Egypt to the First World War

On the left of the graphic, Tatânga Mânî [Chief Walking Buffalo] [George McLean] in traditional regalia on horse. In the middle, Iggi and girl engaging in a “kunik”, a traditional greeting in Inuit culture. On the right, Maxime Marion, a Métis guide stands holding a rifle. In the background, there is a map of Upper and Lower Canada, and text from the Red River Settlement collection.

By Elizabeth Kawenaa Montour and Sara Chatfield

When First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation were recruited in 1914 to fight in the First World War, enlistees were not aware of the new reality of 20th-century warfare. As a prelude to the First World War, in 1884, approximately 56 Kanienkenha:ka (Mohawk), 30 Ojibway and 19 Métis men were recruited for Britain’s six-month Nile expedition in Egypt totalling 400 men. The men were chosen for their strength, endurance, and skill in handling boats and rafts—qualities that were needed to navigate up the numerous cataracts and rapids of the Nile River. They did not see active battle, as they arrived two days after the city of Khartoum, Sudan had fallen, and British Major Charles G. Gordon had been killed. The expedition returned with the loss of 16 men and stories of what they had seen. Along their journey on the Nile, they saw monolithic temples and statues carved out of hillsides at Abu Simbel, the Sphinx of Giza, the pyramids, exotic markets and Egyptian life in Cairo.

A black-and-white photograph of a large group of men standing in front of the Parliament buildings.

Canadian voyageurs in front of the Parliament Buildings, a detail from the “Canadian Nile Contingent,” 1884. (c002877)

Three decades later, their next involvement in an overseas military expedition was with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces (CEF) in the First World War. It was an opportunity for First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation soldiers to see the world, and to prove their courage and combat skills. Soldiers were facing a major change in combat style and warfare. The new reality of war involved the use of chemical warfare, machine guns, fighter aircraft, armoured vehicles, and trench warfare.

Our latest Co-lab challenge, Correspondence regarding First Nations veterans returning after the First World War, illustrates some Indigenous peoples’ experiences during the war, touches upon how their communities coped during their absence, and gives information about their lives after they returned home. These documents provide us with information that the Personnel Records of the First World War may not. They offer information such as what the solider planned to do after the war, if he owned land or farm animals, or if he was suited to farming. There is also information about whether the soldier suffered any lingering disabilities, who they lived with, and if they had any dependants.

Created by the former Department of Indian Affairs, these records are unique in that an overseeing federal “Indian Agent” included personal information and comments on the returning First Nations soldiers. In contrast, this was not the case for non-Indigenous soldiers, as no similar sets of records exist for the rest of the CEF.

A page from the “Indian Agent’s Office,” Chippewa Hill, Saugeen Agency, February 14, 1919.

Document from RG10 Vol 6771 file 452-30 sent to Duncan Campbell Scott from T.A. Stout on February 14, 1919, providing information about John Besito. (Image found on Canadiana)

This personal information became part of the federal government files in Ottawa. The records are also unique in that the “Indian Agents” delved into the soldier’s post-service life. The information that was collected included gratuitous private information and personal judgements about the veterans and the civilian lives they returned to. For example, the “Indian Agent’s Office” notes dated February 1919 for Private John Besito from Saugeen Agency, Ontario, state, “He has a location of fifty acres in the Reserve. He has a house and some improvements on his location.”

As well as administrative information, such as CEF regimental numbers and membership in First Nation agencies and bands, these records also give us genealogical information. For example, the names of three deceased soldiers are listed in a letter to the Department of Indian Affairs dated February 12, 1919, written by the “Indian Agent” of the Griswold Agency in Manitoba. The letter states that the deceased soldiers are from Oak River and Oak Lake Reserves. The letter also includes the CEF regimental number of one of the deceased, Private John Taylor, and that the Department of Indian Affairs paid a pension to his wife and two children. Other correspondence informs us that Private Gilbert Moore, who was killed in action on March 24, 1918, left behind parents in poor circumstances and that they applied for a pension; and that Private Thomas Kasto left a mother who received a pension.

A black-and-white studio portrait of a First World War soldier in uniform and holding a rifle.

Photograph of Canadian Expeditionary Forces soldier Michael Ackabee. (e005176082)

As well as providing information about the soldiers who fought with the CEF, these files make reference to women in First Nation communities who provided funds to help with the war effort to organizations such as the Red Cross, the Girls Overseas Comfort Club, and the Canadian Patriotic Fund. Women in the communities knitted socks and made shirts to add to the “comfort boxes” that were mailed to the men overseas. They also fundraised by making beadwork, woven baskets, and quilts to sell at box socials and fairs.

Indigenous soldiers who survived the war often returned home changed, both positively and negatively. Sapper Peter Taylor, a Kahnawake soldier, suffered the rest of his life with complications from mustard gas poisoning until he passed away in 1955. Private Tom Longboat, the Olympic long distance runner from Six Nations of the Grand River reserve, returned home from his duty overseas in France to find his wife had remarried after receiving word that he had been killed.

A black-and-white photograph of two men in First World War military uniforms smiling and buying a newspaper from a young boy. The man on the right is accepting a newspaper from the boy and giving him money in exchange.

Private Tom Longboat, the Onondaga long distance runner, buying a newspaper from a French boy, June 1917. (a001479)

Many who returned home were affected mentally and physically. We give our gratitude for their sacrifices and service, and they will be forever acknowledged, honoured, and respected.

This blog is part of a series related to the Indigenous Documentary Heritage Initiatives. Learn how Library and Archives Canada (LAC) increases access to First Nations, Inuit and Métis Nation collections and supports communities in the preservation of Indigenous language recordings.


Elizabeth Kawenaa Montour is a project archivist and Sara Chatfield is a project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division of the Public Service Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Highlights of Hayward’s photos for companies

By Olivia Chlebicki

As a summer student in the Private Specialized Media section of Social Life and Culture Private Archives, I was tasked with the project of describing a group of photographs from the Hayward Studios fonds. Samuel J. Hayward, a photographer born in the United Kingdom, moved to Canada and made an imprint on our history by capturing moments, people and places.

Hayward began his career working for advertising and photoengraving firms. In the early 1920s, he became the official photographer for Canada Steamship Lines. His career also took him to other companies, like Canadian Vickers Ltd., an aircraft and shipbuilding company, and Steinberg’s Ltd., a grocery company. Hayward documented events at such companies as well as their products. For example, his fonds includes photos of architectural subjects, locomotives, aircraft and ships. These are all very much documentary photos, but after sifting through the collection, I found many shots that caught my eye because they were artistic and visually captivating.

The photos I worked with were mainly taken in Montréal between 1920 and 1970; Hayward captured scenes of society and pieces of history there throughout the years. Showcased here are a few that stood out, both visually and through the histories encapsulated in them.

A black-and-white photo of a woman in a grocery story wearing a white dress and pouring a liquid from a can into a glass. She is standing behind a bin of canned drinks and two shopping carts with signs that read “Now in Cans.”

A promotion in a grocery story for the Continental Can Co.’s soft drinks in cans (a085192)

The first photo shows an employee in a grocery store advertising a (presumably) new product, “Soft Drinks now in Cans!” As the ad states, soft drinks are being introduced in cans, a product that we are very familiar with today. Hayward’s photo provides viewers with a glimpse of this moment in social history.

A black-and-white photo of a man standing on a telephone pole and working on the wires. It is snowing, and he is wearing a winter coat, gloves and hat.

A Bell Telephone Company electrician (a069351)

Hayward took many photos for the Bell Telephone Company, particularly ones featuring workers. The second photo depicts a hard-working, committed employee on the job during a snowstorm. The man is strapped to the pole and attending to the cables as the snow blows by.

A black-and-white photo of men and women watching a champagne bottle being broken against the hull of a large ship. A man is holding his hat over the face of a woman wearing a fur coat.

Christening a Canadian Vickers ship (a085036)

The third photo captures the moment of breaking a champagne bottle against the bow of a new ship. This common naval tradition of christening a ship invites good luck. A sponsor usually announces the name of the ship as the bottle is smashed, and the ship is then launched. Hayward shows this tradition in his photo: a newly built Canadian Vickers ship is christened. A woman in a large fur coat stands front and centre with a microphone, likely the sponsor. It is a somewhat comical scene, as a man uses his hat to protect her face as the champagne bottle smashes against the hull.

A black-and-white photo of the launching of a ship into the water, surrounded by logs and other debris.

The moment when the Canada Steamship Lines ship Canadian Forester was launched. (a059444)

The fourth photo depicts the launching part of this same naval tradition. The Canada Steamship Lines ship Canadian Forester is captured at the exact moment of its launch. As the ship lands in the water, the waves rise as high as the top of the ship. Working with Canada Steamship Lines, Hayward photographed the journeys and lives of many ships.

A black-and-white photo of the front of a large ship. There is a dent on the side of the hull that is furthest from the dock.

The SS Ikala after a collision (a059755)

The ship pictured in the fifth photo is the SS Ikala, a New Zealand freighter docked in Montréal. When I researched the ship, I came across an article in the Montréal Gazette, Friday, May 13, 1927, describing the ship’s encounter with a tank vessel called the James McGee, which resulted in a small collision. In Hayward’s photo, the result of the accident can be seen on the front left side of the ship, documenting evidence of that event.

Photography is an artistic resource for Canadian history. Moments are documented, time and history are captured visually. These highlights from Hayward’s collection depict such instances, providing viewers with insight into the social life and culture of the time and place. The photos that Hayward took for Canadian companies help to enrich the collection at Library and Archives Canada by illustrating aspects of our history and society.


Olivia Chlebicki worked as a summer student in the Private Specialized Media section of the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Now it’s personal: a look at personal archives at Library and Archives Canada

By Stephen Danilovich

Imagine that an archive of you has been donated to Library and Archives Canada (LAC). Picture the sorts of things that make it into your collection: a high school diary, this month’s grocery receipts, your last social media post.

Now imagine that you are the archivist processing your own archive. How would you organize all of these items into distinct groupings? Where would you restrict access to sensitive information, and why? And would you try to describe your records fairly … or would you be tempted to tidy things up?

These are some of the questions that arise when working with personal archives: archives produced by individual people, as opposed to institutions or corporations. Needless to say, things can get personal with personal archives. Nowhere else do questions of privacy, original order, donor relations and other archival concerns come into contact so closely with the day-to-day questions of being human.

One thing that makes personal collections unique is that they tend to turn the tables on you, the archivist. You start to consider all of the traces you leave behind, how some future archivist might try to piece together your life. You also notice the many things that slip through the cracks and go unrecorded.

As any archivist will tell you, much of an archivist’s work happens in those blind spots. An archivist has to draw connections between or across the actual items, creating an intellectual arrangement that will give future researchers a way into the collection. So what happens when archivists try to create intellectual order out of a human life, its records and traces?

Two black-and-white images, side-by-side, of a woman in profile with dark hair. The image on the left is the negative, and the one on the right is the final photograph.

Two ways of seeing: negative, positive. Miss Ethel Hand, November 10, 1934, photo by Yousuf Karsh (e010680101)

To answer this question, I spoke to archivists in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division, which includes the collections of such celebrated authors as Carol Shields, Michael Ondaatje, Daphne Marlatt and others. The fact that many of these authors are still living today makes these questions all the more vital.

“It puts your own life into perspective,” says archivist Christine Waltham, who has been working with the collection of Thomas King. “It’s someone giving their life, really.”

“You really feel you know these people,” says Christine Barrass, a senior archivist whose first encounter with personal archives was the fonds of Doris Anderson. “It seems very transactional, but when you get to know the nitty-gritty of it, it’s a real honour and a real privilege.”

Black-and-white photograph of a woman in profile with grey hair and a dark necklace.

A portrait of a subject: Doris Anderson, October 10, 1989, photo by Barbara Woodley (e010973512)

Perhaps the most unexpected challenge to arise while working with personal archives is the emotional investment that the archivist can begin to develop for the archive and its creator.

“The emotions that come up, that you don’t get in institutional archives, that can be hard to deal with,” Waltham says. “How to describe it respectfully.”

“It can be a bit too much, if that’s not something you want in your daily life,” explains Barrass, who believes that the good and the bad about personal archives are two sides of the same coin: how intimate things can get.

Often, the archivist is the first person to see the material aside from the creator, which calls for an implicit relationship of trust. This privileged view of someone’s life comes with a deep sense of responsibility, leading to what Catherine Hobbs, a literary archivist, calls “archival paranoia.”

“It is the sense of never being able to do enough,” Hobbs says, “which is the sign of any responsible archivist.”

Processing someone’s archive becomes a constant tightrope walk between the creator’s public and private lives. Any item can turn out to be a clue to a secret affair, a feud kept under wraps, or a side of the person that no one knew before. To add to the stakes, what future researchers will find useful can be impossible to predict.

All this requires a careful balancing act between the donor’s privacy on the one hand and access for future researchers on the other, while at the same time upholding LAC’s mandate.

“Our role is to stand in the middle distance: act as guardian, and as the facilitator of research,” says Hobbs.

It is this strange mix of personal intimacy and a bird’s-eye distance that makes working in personal archives so special.

Black-and-white photograph of a woman with long dark hair in a flowing white dress, seated in front of an oval mirror and looking toward the camera.

Between mirror and lens: “The Mob,” Dominion Drama Festival, April 24, 1934, photo by Yousuf Karsh (e010679016)

As a summer student employee, taking on archival work for the first time, I hoped to get some clarity on the proper practices for processing a personal archive. But I quickly learned that personal archives are as varied and nuanced as their creators.

“The messiness of life that’s in personal archives is what makes it special,” Waltham says.

And that messiness requires a special touch. Given how unique each personal collection is in both arrangement and content, being too prescriptive about predetermined procedures for creating intellectual order may not always be the best approach. If an archivist tries to formalize too much, some of the uniqueness of a collection could be lost.

“How much you can tell just from what the records look like, the conditions they were kept in,” Waltham adds, “that says a lot about the person.” An overly standardized processing method could mean losing some of that granularity. One could even claim that personal archives go beyond the realm of social science and into something like art—even a collaboration with the archive’s creator.

Hobbs argues that working in an archive is more than a science, “it’s a responsible practice.” The most important thing that an archivist can bring to a personal archive is a sense of “the honesty of the endeavour”: being present with the actual life of these records in an empathetic way, and understanding the rare intimacy that is involved when someone gives up such a private part of himself or herself.

After all, maybe what is required for personal archives is a little self-awareness on the part of archivists—an understanding of the role they play in this grand procession between everyday human lives, record keeping and research. Creating order out of someone’s personal records is itself an unavoidably personal practice. Archivists working with personal archives have to be especially sensitive to the way that we are all participating in what Hobbs calls this “human experiment,” co-creating as much as we are cataloguing when we try to make sense out of another human being.

For all the challenges and emotions that come with personal archives, archivists at LAC do the best they can. The ultimate hope, as Hobbs puts it, is to “leave the archives better than we found them.”


Stephen Danilovich is a student archivist in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

How genealogists can use newspapers

By Emily Potter

Newspapers contain a wealth of information for historical researchers, but you may be surprised by how helpful they can be for genealogy research. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds an extensive collection of newspapers that are just waiting to be explored.

Here are a few of the ways that newspapers can come in handy when doing your genealogy.

Birth, marriage and death announcements

Birth, marriage and death records are among the most popular genealogy sources, but depending on the province, civil registration records can be restricted for up to 110 years. Researching birth, marriage and death announcements in newspapers allows you to access this information in openly available records. These announcements provide not only dates and locations for key moments in an ancestor’s life but also names of parents and other relatives.

Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • For an ancestor’s death, sometimes a short death notice will appear in a newspaper, but a much fuller obituary might appear a few days later in the same paper.
  • If you are looking for a more recent obituary, many newspapers publish their obituaries online. Try searching online with quotation marks around your ancestor’s name. Search using the city name and year, if known, e.g., “Brown, George” obituary Vancouver 2005.
  • Detailed birth announcements became popular only in the latter half of the twentieth century, while marriage and death announcements appeared earlier in newspapers.
  • Many newspaper announcements have been indexed in a published format. If you do not know the date of an event but think that there may have been an announcement in a local newspaper, you can search in LAC’s Library Catalogue, Aurora, to see if there is a published index. Search using keywords, such as: genealogy, index and the newspaper name.
Three columns of text from newspapers, with information about deaths and marriages.

“Died,” Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1830, p. 3 (OCLC 20173495)
“Mariage à la Basilique,” Le Droit [Ottawa], April 1, 1913, p. 4 (OCLC 18514296)
“Married,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], April 5, 1845, p. 163 (OCLC 18249106)
“Died,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], April 5, 1845, p. 163 (OCLC 18249106)

Accidents and crimes

Many researchers have family stories about ancestors involved in accidents, crimes or unusual events, but these stories can be hard to confirm. Fortunately, many of those types of events were covered in local newspapers. If you have an idea of when and where the event occurred, it may be worthwhile to peruse the area’s local newspaper. Some of these events are also referenced in published newspaper indexes.

Alt text: Two columns of text from newspapers, with the headings “Imprisonment for Libel” and “Killed by Lightning.”

“Imprisonment for Libel,” The Palladium [Charlottetown], February 22, 1845, p. 114 (OCLC 18249106)
“Killed by Lightning,” The Phoenix [Saskatoon], August 22, 1906, p. 6 (OCLC 16851731)

Ship arrivals

When did my ancestor arrive in Canada? This is a common genealogy question; fortunately, LAC holds passenger lists from 1865 to 1935. However, the majority of lists have not survived from prior to 1865, and it can be difficult to find immigration information for ancestors. Alternatively, most major newspapers, as well as those in coastal cities, recorded ship arrivals and departures. In rare cases, passenger names were included. The chance of finding a reference to your ancestor is higher if he or she was considered a person of importance. This information was often found in the business section of a newspaper, under Shipping News or Marine Intelligence.

The website The Ships List is a great resource for information about passenger ships and includes some lists of names found in newspapers.

A column of text from a newspaper, with the heading “Port of Quebec.”

“Port of Quebec,” Montreal Gazette, May 10, 1830, p. 3 (OCLC 20173495)

Social news

Many newspapers included news items about the local happenings in the town, sometimes describing when a resident had family visiting or had been travelling abroad. Although these notations do not always include genealogical information, it can be interesting to know what your ancestors were doing. Newspapers for larger cities would mainly focus on high-society individuals.

Two columns of text from newspapers, with the headings “Granby” and “Compton,” which provide information about residents of the towns.

“Granby,” Sherbrooke Daily Record, June 5, 1905, p. 3 (OCLC 12266676)
“Dans Les Cantons de L’Est : Compton,” La Tribune [Sherbrooke], May 25, 1910, p. 4  (OCLC 16390877)

If you are visiting LAC, use Aurora to search and order newspapers before your visit. You can also consult the geographical list of LAC’s newspapers on microfilm (some references include a note indicating they are available online). Our Places pages also include links to websites that include digitized newspapers. As well, you can inquire at your local library about borrowing newspapers for your research.


Emily Potter is a Genealogy Consultant in the Reference Services Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Portraiture and the H. Sarah Howard Album (1874)

By Hilary Dow

In the past, photographic albums were used not only as mementos of loved ones and treasured events. They also declared the social identity and status of their owners, and they were forms of artistic expression. Sarah Howard’s 42-page album includes 123 photographs and was created in 1874. The H. Sarah Howard Album is an example of how women in that era used photocollage to express and represent their personal and social identities. An album does not deliver a conventional portrait, but this one reveals much about Howard and her life. It communicates dimensions of her personality and identity that could not be captured through traditional painted or photographic portraits.

An album page with photographs of three men and a woman, surrounded by coloured maple leaves

A page from the H. Sarah Howard Album, 1874 (e011201205)

Sarah Howard (1843–1911)

The words “H. Sarah Howard” are imprinted in gold embossing on the cover of the brown leather volume. This inscription refers to Hannah Sarah Howard, a Canadian woman born in Buffalo, New York, on December 25, 1843, to parents Marianne (née Wallbridge) and Hiram E. Howard. In 1861, Sarah Howard began studying science at the Buffalo Female Academy. Later, in Canada, she was involved with the Ottawa Agricultural Society and The Canadian Horticulturist, publishing articles and giving lectures on floriculture. In addition to her scientific pursuits, Howard was involved in the arts. She was trained as an amateur pianist and performed during the years that she lived in Buffalo. Howard also wrote and published poetry throughout her life, and she was regarded as a talented “sketcher” in Ottawa newspaper reports from the period.

Despite these accomplishments, Howard’s primary duty was to her family and domestic life, during a period when the social mobility of women was restricted. Following the death of her parents, Howard and her younger siblings Frances, Caroline, Henrica and Lewis immigrated to Belleville, Ontario, in 1868. They resided in the “Wallbridge White House” with their uncle Lewis Wallbridge, who was the last Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of the Province of Canada. In her early years in Canada under her uncle’s influence, Howard had access to elite social circles. She regularly attended upper-class functions and balls in Ottawa, such as Governor General Lord Dufferin’s Fancy Dress Ball of 1876. Three years after moving to Canada, Sarah purchased a home on John Street in Belleville for herself and her siblings; as the eldest of the Howard children, she was their legal guardian. During the time she lived there, from 1871 to 1878, she was the sole head of the household and acted as such. As an extension of her domestic duties at this time, she produced two decorative photo albums documenting her family life and social connections.

The H. Sarah Howard Album (1874)

Album-making was a common activity for upper-class and upper-middle-class women of the period. The craft was seen as an extension of domestic duty and reaffirmed women’s dominion over the family realm. Like other Victorian albums, the pages of Howard’s scrapbook contain photographic prints of the owner’s family and friends, which are surrounded by colourful paintings and drawings. The types of imagery used in the photocollages in Howard’s album include designs of flowers, animals and plant life, copies of European artworks, and comedic caricatures. The use of photocollage, a technique that creates a composite picture by assembling fragments of photographs in combination with other artistic and natural materials, results in compositions that are comical and imaginative. One page, for example, features caricatures holding picture frames, likely drawn from comedic stock characters illustrated in the British periodical Punch.

An album page of coloured images that include a man beating a drum, a man holding a poster, a man sitting in a chair reading a newspaper and a man blowing a horn with a banner attached. There are four photographs, embedded in the drum, poster, newspaper and banner.

A page from the H. Sarah Howard Album, 1874 (e011201205)

An album page with a large photograph of a man in the centre, surrounded by six smaller photographs of women and men. There are also coloured drawings of flowers, birds and a squirrel.

A page from the H. Sarah Howard Album, 1874 (e011201205)

Photocollage albums, which are often referred to as “scrap albums” by photo historians, initially became popular in Europe with the invention of the carte-de-visite by the French photographer André-Adolphe-Eugène Disdéri in 1854. Sometimes referred to as cabinet cards, these types of photographs were small 54-mm by 89-mm paper prints mounted on cabinet card backings and easily reproduced, shared and collected. Cartes-de-visite were sold in Canadian photographic studios by photographers such as William Notman and William James Topley. Howard had her portrait taken by Topley on numerous occasions, and several of his works appear in her albums. Most of the photographs in the album are portraits of Howard’s siblings, parents, schoolteachers, fellow students, cousins and friends. The photographs are sourced from Buffalo and Belleville. Photographs of her husband and children do not appear in it, so the album represents her life as a young woman until 1874, prior to her marriage to the Honourable Octavius Lambart in 1878.

Howard’s album can be interpreted as a portrait that shows her family life and how she wanted to be seen in society. Given her interest in maintaining her public appearance, it is likely that Howard used her album to uphold her public image and class status, factors central to her identity. It was standard practice for albums to be displayed in the parlour room of homes; they functioned as tools of social performance that told outsiders who the owner was and what he or she represented. Several pages in the album feature Howard’s portrait prominently.

An album page with a photograph of the album’s owner, Sarah Howard, in the centre of the photocollage. Her image is surrounded by paintings of morning glory flowers, and an individual and two group portraits of people who are likely Howard’s family and friends.

A page from the H. Sarah Howard Album, 1874 (e011201205)

Howard is typically pictured in profile view with a stern expression, and her clothing and jewellery are emphasized. These are features of the solemn Victorian portrait that was believed to represent one’s virtue, status and moral character. While Howard’s album, on one hand, shows her public image, it also conceals her private sentiments and feelings about specific moments in her life. A good example of this is a memorial page dedicated to Sarah’s parents. In the collage, the portraits of Hiram and Marianne Howard are placed inside a forget-me-not plant.

An album page with photographs of a man and a woman in the middle of two green leaves and surrounded by purple flowers.

A page from the H. Sarah Howard Album, 1874: a memorial page to Sarah’s parents, Hiram and Marianne Howard (e011201205)

Flowers had distinctive symbolic meanings in the Victorian era. Throughout the album, paintings of flora are used to visually communicate emotions and experiences attached to specific individuals and photographs. The album, though not a typical portrait, thereby expresses public, intimate and personal aspects of Sarah Howard’s identity.

 Collaborative albums: portraits of women by women

The H. Sarah Howard Album not only functions as a self-portrait, but also serves as a portrait of Sarah Howard by a professional woman artist. It may appear at first glance that Howard is the sole creator of her album; however, the Howard album bears a remarkable resemblance to the C.W. Bell Album, illustrated by Caroline Walker in 1875 and now in the Art Gallery of Ontario’s collection. Select pages of both albums have exactly the same photographs of sitters (Howard and Bell were relatives), and the same design templates and styles of paintings are used.

An album page with photographs of eight men and women in the middle of green leaves and surrounded by white flowers.

A page from the H. Sarah Howard Album, 1874 (e011201205)

Caroline Walker (1827–1904) was a professional artist who exhibited watercolours and ink sketches at the Upper Canada provincial exhibitions between 1859 and 1865. Walker made albums for other influential settler families in Ontario during this time, including the lawyer Charles W. Bell, Sarah Howard’s cousin.

It may seem peculiar to contemporary viewers that something as mundane as a family photo album could have been a commissioned work produced by an artist. However, albums represent cultural values and signifiers, as do conventional portraits. A portrait’s ability to represent power, status and social class is central to how art historians have defined this genre of art. Owning a family album in the 1870s was a marker of one’s social status, just as having one’s portrait made indicated one’s social importance. With the advent of photography in Europe and North America, gone were the days when portraits were confined to the medium of painting. While the development of the cartes-de-visite enabled the mass circulation of photographs, with lower prices and greater accessibility for the middle class, handmade albums containing hundreds of photographs were expensive and signified elevated individual and familial social rank.

Despite the album’s similarity to the artistic style of Caroline Walker, the album is mostly likely a product of collaboration between Howard and Walker. The album includes two distinct painting styles, and the photographs selected were evidently selections from Howard’s photograph collection. Regardless of the album’s attribution, the H. Sarah Howard Album represents biographical elements of Howard’s life and displays characteristics of portraiture such as identity, social status and self-representation.

The H. Sarah Howard Album is a Victorian photocollage album created in Belleville, Ontario, in 1874. The album comprises 42 pages and contains 123 photographs in total. It is in Library and Archives Canada’s holdings as part of the Lambart family collection.

© Hilary Dow


Hilary Dow is a young professional and emerging scholar and curator based in Ottawa. She recently graduated with an MA in Art History and a Graduate Diploma in Curatorial Studies from Carleton University.

Images of Fashion Plates now on Flickr 

A black-and-white drawing of a woman wearing a gown with a plain skirt edged with five rows of velvet along the hem and a pleated bodice draped like an apron over the front. She is wearing a hat with feathers and carrying an umbrella.

The Charneville Toilette from “Le Moniteur de la Mode” (C-115935k)

Fashion plates, or prints of popular clothing trends, have been available for a long time. However, they really became popular in the 19th century due to advances in printing, increased literacy, and the rise in magazine. Fashion magazines for both women and men discussed etiquette, literature, and new style trends. An ever-growing list of magazines produced their own plates or borrowed from other magazines. Some even included sewing patterns. The plates in this album were taken from magazines published in England (The Lady’s Cabinet), France (Le Bon Ton : Journal des Modes, Journal des Dames et des Modes, Le Moniteur de la Mode, and Le Follet : Courrier des Salons), and the United States (The Season, and Peterson’s Magazine).

A colour plate of a woman in a pink dinner dress with a pleated off-the-shoulder bodice and ruffles along the hem. She is wearing a pearl hair net, and holding a fan in her gloved hand.

“Dinner Dress” from “Ladies’ Cabinet of Fashion, Music and Romance” (e010863096)

The plates are works of art in their own right. They represent changes in art throughout the century from romanticism to art deco. Producing plates for magazines often involved an artist to draw the image and an engraver to print the plate. Popular magazines were able to hire some of the best illustrators of the day. Some prints were black and white, while the more high quality examples were hand coloured after printing. Printing changed too with the colours becoming more vibrant and the lines more crisp as the technology improved.

A colour plate of a seated women wearing a long cream skirt and a green shirt patterned with cream ovals. The shirt is belted with a red scarf. She is also wearing green high heel shoes, a long pearl necklace, and rings on her fingers.

“Robe d’intérieur” [Indoor dress] from “Journal des Dames et des Modes” (C-115396k)

Many plates were separated from their magazines and are now sold separately to art collectors or other interested buyers. This is probably how they ended up in our collection. Most were found in individual art collections, or in a costume designer’s collection.

A colour plate of two women standing in a living room. One is wearing a blue dress with ruffles at the sleeves and hem. The other is wearing a striped black and grey dress with a long bustle and ruffles at the hem.

Illustrirte Frauen-Zeitung [Women’s fashion illustration] (C-115400k)

Visit the Flickr album now!