Private Thomas Ricketts, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Newfoundland’s Private Thomas Ricketts and his selfless bravery demonstrated at Ledeghem, Belgium.

A black-and-white copy of a newspaper clipping. “Proclamation!” is written in large, capital letters at the top of the clipping.

Seeking recruits to the 1st Newfoundland Regiment, The Daily News, August 22, 1914 (Source: The Rooms)

At the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Newfoundland was a dominion of the British Empire. In order to support the British Army and war effort, Newfoundland recruited a volunteer army, garnering enough men to outfit and sustain a battalion throughout the entirety of the war. Two additional battalions were later added: the 2nd Reserve Battalion, mostly stationed at Ayr, Scotland, and the 3rd Battalion, responsible for recruiting and training in St. John’s. In 1917, in recognition of their courageous actions and heroic participation during the battles of Ypres and Cambrai in France, King George V bestowed the regiment with the prefix “Royal”.

A sepia photograph of a soldier in uniform with a Victoria Cross and a Croix de Guerre pinned to his chest.

Private Thomas Ricketts, VC, undated (Source: The Canadian Encyclopedia)

 

Born in Middle Arm, White Bay, Newfoundland, on April 15, 1901, to John and Amelia (Cassels) Ricketts, Thomas Ricketts enlisted with the 1st Battalion, Newfoundland Regiment, on September 2, 1916. He was underage—only 15 years old—when he volunteered, but claimed to be 18 on his attestation papers. His deception went unnoticed and he was accepted. He embarked for England with the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and during his service was shot in the leg in November 1917. Ricketts returned to his regiment in the spring of 1918, after recovering.

On October 14, 1918, the 1st Battalion was participating in the advance from Ledeghem, east of Ypres, in Belgium. The regiment had been fighting through rolling smoke and mist to push back the Germans and capture enemy pillboxes and weapons. By mid-morning, the mist had burned off, revealing a stream, the Wulfdambeek. Forced to cross it, the regiment was exposed to enemy fire. They suffered heavy casualties and soon after were pinned down by enemy shelling. Unable to call on their own artillery fire to combat the German shelling, the only solution was to disable the enemy battery and weapons and to kill the enemy soldiers.

Ricketts volunteered to run forward with his section commander, toting a Lewis machine gun in an effort to outflank the battery. They rushed forward in short advances under heavy machine gun fire, and soon ran out of ammunition, still 300 yards away from the battery. The Germans saw an opportunity to move up their gun teams to take out the advancing pair while they were vulnerable. Ricketts realized the situation and retreated 100 yards under debilitating machine gun fire to retrieve more ammunition. Upon his return with additional resources, he adeptly handled the Lewis gun, driving the enemy and gun teams back to a nearby farm. With the threats removed, the platoon advanced without casualties and captured four field guns, four machine guns, and eight prisoners. Later, a fifth gun was intercepted and captured.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in uniform, angled away from the camera.

Private Thomas Ricketts, undated (Source: National Defence)

As recounted in the London Gazette:

By his presence of mind in anticipating the enemy intention and his utter disregard for personal safety, Pte. Ricketts secured the further supply of ammunition which directly resulted in these important captures and undoubtedly saved many lives.

London Gazette, no. 31108, p. 309, January 6, 1919

Ricketts survived the remainder of the war and was discharged on June 17, 1919, for demobilization. He was invested with the Victoria Cross by King George V on January 19, 1919, at Sandringham, England, when he was only 17 years old, the youngest Victoria Cross army combatant recipient. He returned to Newfoundland a war hero. Upon his return home, he returned to school and later became a pharmacist. In addition to his Victoria Cross, Ricketts was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre with Golden Star for his gallantry.

He died in St. John’s, Newfoundland, on March 21, 1967.

Rickett’s Victoria Cross and Croix de Guerre is on display at the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa, Ontario.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file for Private Thomas Ricketts.

Tag pictures and give history a hand

You can tag the images in this blog! Immerse yourself in the CEF digitized files and transcribe, tag, translate and describe their content. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping LAC’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!


Ashley Dunk was a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, VC

By Emily Monks-Leeson

On this day in 1918, Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie was killed in action northeast of Cambrai, France. His actions on that day would lead to his posthumous award of the Victoria Cross.

Wallace Lloyd Algie was born on June 10, 1891, in Alton, Ontario, the son of James and Rachel Algie of Toronto. He graduated from the Royal Military College of Canada and volunteered in the active militia with the Queen’s Own Rifles of Canada and the 40th Regiment, serving as a lieutenant.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer wearing a peak cap.

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie, undated. Source: Directorate of History and Heritage (National Defence and the Canadian Forces)

Algie was a bank clerk in Toronto before enlisting as an officer in the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) on April 19, 1916. He sailed on the SS Laconia on September 25, 1916, and was attached to the 95th Battalion upon arrival at Seaford, England. He proceeded to the European theatre with the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion on May 26, 1917. He completed various officer training courses, including one on the Lewis Gun.

On October 11, 1918, the 27-year-old lieutenant was leading his troops in the 20th Battalion of the CEF near the village of Cambrai, France, when they came under intense machine-gun fire from a nearby village. His citation in the London Gazette, January 28, 1919, tells the story of the actions that led to his death and the awarding of the Victoria Cross:

“For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice on the 11th October, 1918, north-east of Cambrai, when the attaching troops which came under heavy enfilade machine-gun fire from a neighbouring village. Rushing forward with nine volunteers, he shot the crew of an enemy machine gun, and, turning it on the enemy, enabled his party to reach the village. He then rushed another machine gun, killed the crew, captured an officer and 10 enemy, and thereby cleared the end of the village. Lt. Algie, having established his party, went back for reinforcements, but was killed when leading them forward. His valour and personal initiative in the face of intense fire saved many lives and enabled the position to be held.”

Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie is buried in Niagara Cemetery, Iwuy, France.

A typed page detailing the events of October 10 to 11, 1918.

War diary page of the 20th Canadian Infantry Battalion explaining Lieutenant Algie’s actions for the day (e000960948)

Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lieutenant Wallace Lloyd Algie.


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

Images of Chickens now on Flickr

A black-and-white photograph of a small boy. To the boy’s left is a white rooster on top of a pedestal.

Portrait of Henri Groulx, Lachine, Quebec [MIKAN 3194088]

Chickens are domesticated birds that we use for eggs and meat. There are a number of chicken producers and egg-laying hatcheries in each province. According to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Ontario and Quebec have the highest concentration of producers followed by British Columbia and Alberta respectively.

A colour photograph of a man placing water dishes in an enclosure for chicks.

A man provides water for chicks in one of the Marshall Chicken Ranch hatcheries, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 4301626]

A black-and-white photograph of two women inspecting eggs, as they move along a conveyor belt, and placing them in cartons.

Ms. Hines and Ms. Dominey preparing eggs for consumers, Port Williams, Nova Scotia [MIKAN 4948583]

Chickens are not migratory, have a small territorial range, and cannot swim or fly well. People easily captured the birds and brought them along when moving to new locations. Domestication happened quickly. From family use to businesses servicing large urban populations, chickens have proven to be extremely versatile in terms of care and breeding.

A black-and-white photograph of a man feeding chickens next to their coop.

Poultry raising, Oromocto, New Brunswick [MIKAN 3643515]

Visit the Flickr album now!

The aeronautical engineers at A.V. Roe Ltd.

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Andrew Elliott

In 1948, the first class of the new aeronautical engineering school at the University of Toronto graduated. This graduating class comprised people such as Gerald Vincent Bull, Fred Matthews, Daisy Pon, William McCarter, William Kuzyk, and Ralph Waechter. Most of these individuals (including the first woman to graduate in aeronautical engineering) would take on jobs at the A.V. Roe Ltd. headquarters in Malton, Ontario. They would go on to work on various aspects of a number of revolutionary aircraft that would appear within the next ten years, including the famed (and fated) supersonic Avro Arrow. Library and Archives Canada recently acquired the fonds of two of these individuals, William Kuzyk and Ralph Waechter.

The story of A.V. Roe Ltd is, as the Canadian Air and Space Museum suggests, “a chronicle of triumph and tragedy for Canadian aviation.” Starting in 1945, the company had two initial projects. One was a commercial aircraft called the Jetliner, or the C-102. The other was a military aircraft, a two-engine, all-weather fighter-interceptor called the Canuck, or CF-100. Finally, starting in 1950, the company began work on the design for the Avro Arrow. The company assembled aeronautical engineering teams from Britain and Canada and began work on the design of the airframe and turbo-jet engines for these airplane types.

The C-102 Jetliner was a revolutionary aircraft designed for commercial air travel. The first flight of the C-102 Jetliner was in August 1949, and in every subsequent flight, it broke records for speed. Unfortunately, production of the aircraft never went beyond the testing phase.

A black-and-white photograph of an airplane on a runway with groups of men hanging around the aircraft.

Avro Canada C-102 Jetliner aircraft (a092486)

One of A.V. Roe’s most successful productions was a two-engine, all-weather fighter-interceptor called the Canuck, or CF-100, as seen here:

A black-and-white photograph of an airplane on a runway with a man looking into the open engine box and another man standing behind him.

Avro Canada CF-100 (a068257)

The CF-105 Arrow had “technically advanced features’, such as the striking high delta-wing, tailless configuration, as well as other leading-edge aerodynamic features. You can see this in the early designs:

A black-and-white cross-section drawing of an airplane showing the fuselage, wing and vertical tail for an airplane.

Drawing no. 7-0400-01, Issue 1 of CF-105 Avro Arrow (e011161348)

A sketch of the outline of a very futuristic looking airplane.

Sketch of Avro Arrow (e011161340)

In the late 1940s and early 1950s, it was an exciting time to be an aeronautical engineer, and A.V. Roe hired new graduates in the field immediately.

Ralph William Waechter (1926–2012) studied aeronautical engineering at the University of Toronto from 1944-1948. After graduating, he was hired to work as an aeronautical engineer, a flight-test engineer, and an experimental aerodynamicist at A.V. Roe Canada Ltd. in Malton, Ontario. William Kuzyk (1922–1990) attended the University of Toronto between 1943 and 1949, graduating with a degree in Aeronautical Engineering in 1949. While he was completing his degree, he also worked for A.V. Roe as a design checker in the Gas Turbine Division.

During their decade of work at the company, Waechter and Kuzyk worked in various departments. Among other things, they were flight test engineers in the Flight Test Research Department. Here, their principle activity was data collection. Many of their reports deal with the technical challenges of high-speed flight and the related phenomena that can occur. Along this line, there is considerable data and graphs indicating performance and effects, particularly in relation to air speed and high-speed performance. Concerning the Avro Arrow, both aeronautical engineers tested the performance of various other experimental versions, including those with zero-length launch technology.

A black-and-white drawing of the side, front, and top views of an aircraft.

Rocket Geometry Zero Length Launch, CF-105 Arrow (e011161341)

A detailed technical drawing of an airplane in launching position.

Arrow Launching Position for Zero Length Launch (e011161347)

A drawing showing two planes above the clouds.

A photograph of a drawing of a CF-105 AVRO Arrow (a111546)

Despite continued design and flight success through to 1958, the international and national political climate played a role in the demise of the Avro Arrow. On February 20, 1959, the federal government cancelled the entire Avro Arrow project. All work on the project ceased, and 14,000 employees at A.V. Roe were laid off. Waechter and Kuzyk, like many other employees, found jobs in aeronautical engineering companies in the United States where they would stay through the 1960s. Unlike others in the field, they came back to Canada in the early 1970s and had continued success in their fields of expertise.

When the Avro Arrow project was cancelled, it was advised that all project records be destroyed. Consider, then, how lucky it is for us that neither William Kuzyk nor Ralph Waechter heeded these orders. Because of this, we now have unique visual evidence of the innovative aeronautical research and development that was occurring in Canada in the middle part of the 20th century.

Further research

LAC holds various fonds containing material related to the Avro Arrow, including:

As well, material can be found in the fonds of various Members of Parliament and Prime Ministers, including:

Within the government holdings, a researcher may find scattered material about A.V. Roe and its various aeronautical projects:


Andrew Elliott is a private archivist in the Science, Economics, and Environment section of the Archives Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell and his courageous acts at the Canal de l’Escaut, France, from October 8 to 9, 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, ca. 1918 (c001595)

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, on December 11, 1889, Mitchell was a civil engineer before enlisting as a private with the Canadian Railway Construction Corps on January 21, 1915. In 1916, he became a lieutenant and joined the 1st Tunneling Company, Canadian Engineers. Mitchell was promoted to captain in 1917 after receiving the Military Cross for his gallantry. In 1918, Mitchell was posted to the 4th Battalion, Canadian Engineers. During his time with the 4th Battalion, he performed a heroic feat that helped to ensure Allied success at the Canal de l’Escaut, northeast of Cambrai, France.

A black-and-white photograph of a dried-out canal with a crooked bridge in the background. A bridge in the middle distance has a horse-drawn carriage crossing it with supplies. Throughout the photo, soldiers are moving about, and some are carrying supplies.

Canadians constructing a bridge to move supports and supplies, Canal du Nord, France, September 1918 (a003285)

After the end of the Battle of Canal du Nord on October 1, 1918, Allied soldiers were intent on entering and clearing the town of Cambrai. Previous offensives had opened some roads into the town, and now a further manoeuvre was needed to bring in the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division. German resistance was strong to the northeast of Cambrai, and the Canadians aimed to capture and move beyond the town. The following days would see a Canadian offensive, with Canadian forces liberating French villages against stubborn German resistance.

On the night of October 8 to 9, 1918, Mitchell led a party of sappers (soldiers responsible for building and repairing roads and bridges, and clearing mines) on a reconnaissance mission near Cambrai. Their task was to go beyond the security of the Canadian front lines to inspect bridges over which the Canadian 5th Infantry Brigade planned to advance. The goal was to prevent these bridges from being demolished. After coming across one bridge that had been destroyed, Mitchell and his team moved on to the next bridge, which stretched across the Canal de l’Escaut.

A black-and-white photograph of a town with damaged buildings, with stone and rubble heaped in the middle. One soldier is bent to the ground beside a large pile of debris. A nearby soldier standing to the left is watching him.

Canadian Engineers looking for mines in Cambria, France, October 1918 (a003271)

Under heavy barrage and in total darkness, Mitchell ran across the bridge, unaware of the enemy’s positions or strength. He discovered that the Germans had prepared it for demolition. With the assistance of a non-commissioned officer, he cut the detonation wires and removed the explosive charge. When the Germans realized that their explosives were being removed, they moved toward the bridge to set off the detonations. Seeing that his sentry was wounded, Mitchell rushed forward to assist. He killed three German soldiers and took 12 prisoners. Saving the bridge helped to assure the later success of the 5th Infantry Brigade’s operations.

As recounted in the London Gazette:

Then under heavy fire he continued his task of cutting wires and removing charges, which he well knew might at any moment have been fired by the enemy. It was entirely due to his valour and decisive action that this important bridge across the canal was saved from destruction.

London Gazette, no. 31155, January 31, 1919, pp. 1503.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer in uniform.

Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell, VC, ca. 1918 (c001594)

Mitchell served in the Canadian Engineers until April 28, 1919, when he left during general demobilization. He returned to Canada after the war and resumed his career as a civil engineer. During the Second World War, he commanded engineering units in Britain. In 1943, he returned to Canada as a lieutenant-colonel in charge of an engineering training centre. After the war, he returned to his civilian career once again.

Mitchell’s service in both world wars has been commemorated in a variety of locations. In Manitoba, Coulson Mitchell Lake was named in his honour. In Montréal, a street and a branch of the Royal Canadian Legion bear his name. The main building of the Canadian Forces School of Military Engineering at the Canadian Army Base in Gagetown, New Brunswick, also carries his name.

Mitchell passed away at his home in Montréal on November 17, 1978.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Captain Coulson Norman Mitchell.

Transcribe war diaries or tag pictures, and give history a hand!

The War Diaries of the Canadian Engineers are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!


Ashley Dunk is a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The Jamaican Canadian Association and women’s involvement

By Christine Barrass

Founded 56 years ago, the Jamaican Canadian Association (JCA) was created by Jamaicans living in Toronto. It was 1962, and as Jamaica prepared for independence from the United Kingdom, this group decided to plan a celebratory dinner and dance. The event on August 6, Independence Day, was a roaring success. Discussions afterwards supported setting up an organization that could both help immigrants from Caribbean countries adapt to life in Toronto and advocate on behalf of Caribbean and African-Canadian citizens in the city. To this end, a Constitution Committee, made up of three men and three women, was established. On September 23, 1962, participants at a well-attended Organizational Meeting approved the JCA constitution and elected its first Executive Committee.

Dr. Vincent Conville, a long-time member of the association and its president from 1977 to 1978, wrote his PhD thesis on the JCA. In 2008, he donated the material that comprises the Jamaican Canadian Association fonds to Library and Archives Canada. This material contains transcripts of oral interviews he conducted with founding and prominent members of the group as well as copies of the JCA newsletter, In Focus. These interviews and newsletters include many frank and insightful opinions from women such as Amy Nelson, Kamala-Jean Gopie and Erma Collins.

Unusual for its time, the JCA had more female than male members. These women were a diverse group of university students, nurses and domestic workers who joined the association with a shared desire to help others in the Caribbean community in Toronto and across Canada. Women in the JCA played a varied role that changed over time. Despite their numbers, women acted largely behind the scenes rather than in leadership positions during the JCA’s first decades. They organized fundraisers, created committees and supported the association’s goal of providing much-needed social services. In an interview conducted by Dr. Conville, one of the founding members of the JCA, Amy Nelson, acknowledged the inequality in the organization, viewing it as a product of the times: men were simply found in leadership roles more often, whether in the JCA or in society at large.

The front page of a black-and-green printed newsletter. The main headline reads: “….founder, Amy Nelson looking back on 40 years…”

In Focus newsletter, dated November 2002 (e011218459)

One woman who managed to become a leader in the JCA was Kamala-Jean Gopie (formerly Jean Gammage). Joining the association in 1974, she quickly became a very active member. In 1975, she took on the role of Executive Secretary, and from 1978 to 1980 she served as the first female president of the JCA. Despite her leadership roles, however, she recalled in an In Focus interview that attending an award ceremony as a guest rather than as an organizer was a novel experience!

The front page of a printed newsletter. The headline reads: “Kamala-Jean Gopie: A woman with a mission.

In Focus newsletter, Volume 4, Number 3, dated May 1995 (e011218458)

The unique contributions by women in the JCA led to the creation of what was initially the Women’s Auxiliary, later resurrected as the Women’s Committee. Formed in the early 1970s, the Auxiliary focused on using women’s backgrounds as health care workers to support some of the JCA’s activities. In its second incarnation as the Women’s Committee, the focus changed. Erma Collins, the first female Vice-President of the association, and Pam Powell, a former Board member, recalled that this committee filled gaps in programming for the female membership. The committee addressed pressing issues such as women’s health care, including organizing a health fair in Ontario for Black women, in 1993. The committee subsequently broadened its focus to address other issues of gender equality as well.

The front page of a printed newsletter. The main headline reads: “JCA elects first female 1st Vice-President.”

In Focus newsletter, Volume 3, Number 9, dated April 1993 (e011218457)

The Women’s Committee proudly continues to this day!


Christine Barrass is a senior archivist in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Unemployment insurance revenue stamps and the Danny Leong collection

By James Bone

The Canadian government studied and established the first building blocks of our current social safety net in the early 1940s, during the Second World War. The government was looking to avoid or abate a repetition of Canada’s experience of increased unemployment when soldiers returned from the First World War, especially in manufacturing with the end of wartime production and the resulting lower demand. One of the ideas that it seized upon was unemployment insurance: a mandatory program to which both employees and employers would contribute based on a given employee’s wages; if the job was lost, that person would have some guarantee of a continued income for a specified period. The legislation establishing the program received royal assent in August 1940 and took effect on July 1, 1941. While unemployment insurance has been modified and reformed since then, the essence remains the same under the present Employment Insurance program.

A colour photograph of a red-brown stamp with the following text: Canada. Unemployment Insurance. Assurance-Chomage. 1/6 27¢. Insured 0 Assuré.

An uncancelled 27-cent unemployment insurance stamp from 1941 (MIKAN 4933817)

A colour photograph of a green unemployment insurance stamp.

A 51-cent unemployment insurance stamp from 1941 (MIKAN 4933828)

At the time, of course, there was no computer-based record keeping, and a means had to be devised to show not only that payments for contributions had been made but also that a given employee was entitled to coverage. The most common method of proving that taxes or fees had been paid for government services during the late 19th and early 20th centuries was through the use of revenue stamps. Similar to postage stamps, revenue stamps specify the amount of money paid to purchase the stamp and the tax or fee that they were created to pay for. When used, revenue stamps were cancelled by an official to indicate that their value had been used for the intended purpose. Unemployment insurance stamps were available for purchase at post offices, and employers were required to withhold a set proportion of an employee’s wage, while also making their own contributions, to purchase these stamps. The stamps would then be affixed to booklets, generally kept with the human resources or management unit of a company, and then submitted annually to the local Unemployment Insurance Commission office. Each employee would have a booklet every year held by each employer for whom he or she worked. To ensure that the wages withheld were going toward the purchase of unemployment insurance stamps, employees were permitted by law to inspect their booklets twice a month.

A colour photograph of a page from a used unemployment insurance booklet with seven attached unemployment insurance stamps, dated May, June and July 1949.

A used Unemployment Insurance Commission booket from May to July 1949 (MIKAN 4937508)

A colour photograph of a page from a used unemployment insurance booklet with several attached unemployment insurance stamps, dated October and November 1949. The stamps are very colourful, and there is a handwritten note with a date and initials.

Caption: A used Unemployment Insurance Commission booklet from October and November 1949 (MIKAN 4937509)

At the launch of the unemployment insurance program, many forms of employment were not eligible for coverage. These included agriculture, fishing, forestry and logging, hunting and trapping, air and water transportation services, medicine, nursing, teaching, military, police, and civil services. Over time, more forms of employment were made eligible for coverage. Most notably, in 1957 employment in the fishing industry was covered, providing a much-needed income guarantee to people in the newly confederated province of Newfoundland and throughout the Maritimes. At first, existing stamps were overprinted with the image of a fish to indicate their intended use in the fishing industry. In later years, fishing unemployment insurance stamps were issued without an overprint.

A colour photograph of a block of 50 specimen red unemployment insurance stamps.

Unemployment insurance stamps from 1959 (MIKAN 4933286)

Among the various types of revenue stamps used by federal and provincial governments, unemployment insurance stamps are relatively scarce. This is because under the program’s legislative act and regulations, it was illegal to sell unused stamps, and only an employer or an employer’s human resources designate could be in lawful possession of unused stamps. Further, most of the booklets and used stamps submitted to the Unemployment Insurance Commission as well as most of the unused stamps were intentionally destroyed after their designated five years of retention. Also, unsold stamps were returned from post offices to the Unemployment Insurance Commission for destruction once they were no longer eligible to be sold, which happened when changes to unemployment insurance premiums required stamps to be issued in new denominations.

The Danny Leong collection

It is thus fortunate that Library and Archives Canada was able to acquire the Danny Leong Unemployment Insurance Stamp collection (R15771), which includes more than 11,000 stamps, unemployment insurance booklets from all the years of their use, and other associated materials. Both Danny Leong and his widow, Violet Anne Leong, were employees of the Unemployment Insurance Commission in British Columbia. Through this employment, Danny Leong was able to collect specimens of the stamps and booklets that were no longer needed for business use, training or reference in the office.

Most of the stamps in this collection are pre-cancelled specimens, printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company in Ottawa and forwarded to the Unemployment Insurance Commission as examples of stamps to be issued and sold at post offices. The collection also includes specimen and used insurance booklets, possibly retained for training purposes. The most curious item is a singular engraved die proof dated March 1959. This unique proof is for a never-issued agriculture unemployment insurance stamp—as mentioned above, agriculture was not covered by unemployment insurance during this period. Evidently, consideration was given to including agricultural work in the program, and this consideration was serious enough to have involved having a stamp for that purpose designed and engraved. In discussion of this item, Yves Baril attributed the work as most likely that of the Canadian Bank Note Company’s letter engraver Donald Mitchell, while the design appears to be that of Harvey Prosser, with supervision by John Francis Mash.

A colour photograph of a die proof of an orange agriculture stamp.

Unissued agriculture unemployment insurance stamp die proof, from March 12, 1959 (MIKAN 4933808)

The use of revenue stamps and unemployment insurance booklets to record payments for insurance continued until the early 1970s. Thereafter, the program was reformed with computerized records and the first issuing of Record of Employment forms, which are still in use. Most importantly, the 1971 reform of the Unemployment Insurance Act made coverage almost universal regardless of industry. The final issue of unemployment insurance stamps, printed in 1968, went mostly unused, with only a few used examples having ever been found by collectors. Of interest to both those who study philately and labour history in Canada, the Danny Leong Unemployment Insurance Stamp collection is available for consultation at Library and Archives Canada. For further reading on Canadian revenue stamps, including unemployment insurance stamps, Edward Zaluski’s Canada Revenues is an outstanding resource.

A colour photograph of a sheet of gold unemployment insurance stamps overprinted with SPECIMEN.

A sheet of unused unemployment insurance stamps from 1948 (MIKAN 4933742)


James Bone is an archivist in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Images of Recordings for Children: 78rpm discs, 1918-1962 now on Flickr

These colourful, playful discs represent some of Canada’s earliest recordings for children. Some were simply recordings of nursery rhymes or well-known tunes in English and French.

A colour image of a record label for the Canadian Music Corp., Ltd. Side 2 depicts an outline of Canada with the name Dominion overlaying it. The recording title listed is “Ma mère m'envoit-au marché” followed by the artists Hélène Baillaregion – vocals, and Gilbert Lacombe – guitare.

“Ma mère m’envoit-au marché, Side 2” [Ma_Mere.jpg]

Some of the discs would have come as part of a package of items. The Dee & Cee Company was a doll manufacturer, rather than a record company, that produced the “Pretty Baby” discs. Dee & Cee presumably included the discs with the sale of some of their dolls, probably as an attempt to increase sales.

A colour image of a record label for the Dee & Cee Toy Company, Ltd. Side 1 depicts a small girl sitting and holding an open book. The company name and the recording title “Pretty Baby” are on the book cover.

Pretty baby, Side 1 [Pretty_Baby_1.jpg]

These beautiful labels captured the attention and entertained many children in the early 20th century when they were released.

Visit the Flickr album now!

How archives can protect human rights

By R.L. Gabrielle Nishiguchi

When asked to name one of Canada’s fundamental democratic institutions, how many people would immediately say “Library and Archives Canada”? Yet, a nation’s archives preserves in perpetuity the evidence of how we are governed.

From the story of Japanese Canadian Redress, we can  learn how records held by Library and Archives Canada (LAC)—combined with crucial citizen activism making use of these records—have contributed to holding the federal government accountable for now universally condemned actions.

From silence to a movement

When the Second World War ended, devastated survivors buried their trauma out of necessity in order to focus on rebuilding their lives. Silence enveloped the Japanese Canadian community.

However, in the late 1970s and early 80s, at small, private, social gatherings where survivors felt safe to share their wartime experiences, a grassroots redress movement was born.

The Redress Agreement states that between 1941 and 1949, “Canadians of Japanese ancestry, the majority of whom were citizens, suffered unprecedented actions taken by the Government of Canada against their community.” These actions were disenfranchisement, detention in internment camps, confiscation and sale of private and community property, deportation, and restriction of movement, which continued until 1949. These actions were taken by the Government of Canada, influenced by discriminatory attitudes against an entire community based solely on the racial origin of its members.

A black-and-white photograph showing a Japanese-Canadian man, who is crouching, and four children in front of a store.

Sutekichi Miyagawa and his four children, Kazuko, Mitsuko, Michio and Yoshiko, in front of his grocery store, the Davie Confectionary, Vancouver, BC, March 1933 (a103544)

A black-and-white photograph showing twelve Japanese Canadians unloading a truck.

Arrival of Japanese Canadian internees at Slocan City, BC, 1942. Credit: Tak Toyata (c047396)

Citizen activism and declassified government documents

In 1981, Ann Gomer Sunahara researched newly declassified Government of Canada records made accessible by the then Public Archives of Canada. Sunahara’s book The Politics of Racism documented the virtually unquestioned, destructive decision-making with respect to the Japanese Canadian community of Prime Minister Mackenzie King, his Cabinet, and certain influential civil servants.

A black-and-white photograph of two men standing near a tall, iron gate. A London bobby (police officer) is visible behind them.

Rt. Hon. W.L. Mackenzie King (right) and Mr. Norman Robertson (left) attending the Commonwealth Prime Ministers’ Conference, London, England, May 1, 1944. It was during this time period that Norman Robertson, Under Secretary of State for External Affairs, and his special assistant Gordon Robertson (no relation) developed the plan which resulted in the deportation of 3,964 Japanese Canadians to Japan in 1946. (c015134)

The National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC), which came to represent the views of the community concerning redress, astutely recognized the critical importance of having access to government documents of the 1940s, which could serve as primary evidence of government wrongdoing.

On December 4, 1984, The New Canadian, a Japanese Canadian newspaper, reported that the NAJC had “spent months digging through government archives” to produce a report entitled Democracy Betrayed. The report’s executive summary stated: “The government claimed that the denial of the civil and human rights [of Japanese Canadians] was necessary because of security. [G]overnment documents show this claim to be completely false.”

Citizen activism and the records of the Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property

In 1942, all Japanese Canadians over the age of 15 were forced by the government to declare their financial assets to a representative from the federal Office of the Custodian of Enemy Property. Custodian “JP” forms containing a detailed listing of internee property formed the nucleus of 17,135 Japanese Canadian case files.

To further negotiations with the Canadian government to obtain an agreement, the NAJC needed a credible, verifiable estimate of the economic losses suffered by the Japanese Canadians. On May 16, 1985, the NAJC announced that the accounting firm Price Waterhouse had agreed to undertake such a study, which would culminate in the publication of Economic Losses of Japanese Canadians after 1941: a study.

Sampling Custodian records in 1985

A team of Ottawa researchers, primarily from the Japanese Canadian community, was engaged by Bob Elton of Price Waterhouse to statistically sample 15,630 surviving Custodian case files, held by the then Public Archives of Canada. These government case files contained personal information that was protected under the Privacy Act (RSC, 1985, cP-21). However, under 8(2)j of the Act, the files were made accessible to the team for what the Act deems “research and statistical purposes.”

On September 20, 1985, the Ottawa Citizen newspaper reported Art Miki, then president of the NAJC, saying that the “Custodian (case) files are the most valuable raw material for the economic loss study because they meticulously document each transaction whether it was the sale of a farm, or a fish[ing] boat, a house or a car.”

A black-and-white, head-and-shoulder photograph of Art Miki.

Art Miki, educator, human rights activist, and president of the National Association of Japanese Canadians (NAJC) from 1984 to 1992. Miki was chief strategist and negotiator during the Redress Campaign, which culminated on September 22, 1988, with the signing of the Japanese Canadian Redress Agreement between the NAJC and the Government of Canada. In 1991 he received the Order of Canada. Photographer Andrew Danson (e010944697)

Citizen activism: Molly and Akira Watanabe

In the final sampling, 1,482 case files were reviewed. It was grueling, painstaking work. Some researchers were unable to continue because of nausea and eyestrain induced by hours spent pouring over microform  images, some of very poor quality.

A superlative example of citizen activism is the dedication of Ottawa researchers Akira Watanabe, Chairman of the Ottawa Redress Committee, and his wife Molly. With several hundred files still unsampled, dwindling numbers of researchers and only four weeks remaining to do the work, the Watanabes went to Public Archives Canada after work for twenty evenings. Molly Watanabe died in 2007.

On May 8, 1986, the study was released to the public. Price Waterhouse estimated economic losses for the Japanese Canadian community at $443 million (in 1986 dollars).

Archival records alone do not protect human rights

Documents sitting in a cardboard box on a shelf, or microfilm sitting in cannister drawers, cannot protect human rights—people do. Japanese Canadian Redress showed Canadians that it takes dedicated activism to locate and use archival records.

Archival government and private records from the 1940s preserved by LAC and used by citizen activists were critical in building the Japanese Canadian case for Redress. By preserving the records that hold our government accountable in the face of injustice, LAC continues to be one of our country’s key fundamental democratic institutions.


R.L. Gabrielle Nishiguchi is an archivist in the Society, Employment, Indigenous and Governmental Affairs Section, Government Archives Division, at Library and Archives Canada.

Sergeant William Merrifield, VC

By Ashley Dunk

In Library and Archives Canada’s Victoria Cross blog series, we profile Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day they performed heroically in battle, for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross. Today, we remember Sergeant William Merrifield and his gallant actions near Abancourt, France, on October 1, 1918.

A black-and-white photograph of a soldier in uniform.

Sergeant William Merrifield, VC, undated. Source: National Defence and the Canadian Forces

Born in Brentwood, Essex, England, on October 9, 1890, Merrifield was a firefighter before the outbreak of the First World War. He enlisted on September 23, 1914, at Valcartier, Quebec, joining the 2nd Battalion (Canadian Mounted Rifles) of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. In 1917, he joined the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion. For his bravery in November 1917 during the Battle of Passchendaele, Merrifield received the Military Medal.

As September 1918 drew to a close, the Battle of Canal du Nord in France was also near its end. The Canadians stationed around the battlefield were engaged in regular patrols and reconnaissance missions. Allied artillery, including 6-inch guns and 60-pounders, fired continually, but the shells often fell short of their targets in the German trenches. In one instance, the Allies accidentally shelled and destroyed one of their own Lewis guns and caused casualties among their own soldiers. The Germans stubbornly defended their trenches, making the Canadians’ objective of breaking through the lines very difficult.

On October 1, 1918, near Abancourt, Merrifield and his men were under fire from two enemy machine-gun posts. Unable to advance further because of the German guns, Merrifield decided to attack both posts single-handedly to eliminate them. Dashing from shell hole to shell hole, he killed the enemy soldiers in the first post and sustained wounds during the assault. In spite of his injuries, he pressed on to the second post, killing its occupants with a hand grenade. He remained in battle and continued to lead his platoon until he was severely wounded.

A black-and-white copy of a typed textual record, with handwritten signatures down the right side of the page.

War Diaries, 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion, describing some events from October 1, 1918, page 4 (e001078521)

Merrifield survived the remainder of the war and was discharged on April 24, 1919, in general demobilization. He moved to Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. He died in Toronto on August 8, 1943.

A public elementary school in Sault Ste. Marie was named after Merrifield; William Merrifield V.C. Public School in the Algoma District School Board was open from 1946 until June 2015. And Merrifield Outdoor Rink is located at the corner of Henrietta Avenue and Patrick Street in Sault Ste. Marie.

As well, the 56th Field Artillery Regiment in Brantford, Ontario, dedicated its armoury (Sergeant William Merrifield VC Armoury) to his memory.

Merrifield’s Victoria Cross was donated to the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa.

Library and Archives Canada holds the digitized service file of Sergeant William Merrifield.

Want to experience life during a time of war?

The War Diaries of the 4th Canadian Infantry Battalion are open for you to transcribe, tag, translate and describe their contents. Every addition to a record becomes new metadata, searchable within 24 hours, helping Library and Archives Canada’s records become more “discoverable” day after day. Visit the blog article explaining how you can give a hand to history!

Ashley Dunk is a project assistant in the Online Content Division of the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.