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]

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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.

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Images of Breakfast now on Flickr

Breakfast. The first meal of the day. And most important one, according to many people, though some disagree.

A colour painting of a group of families sitting in a circle ready to start breakfast at sunrise.

Breakfast at sunrise [MIKAN 2833887]

Europeans during the medieval era did not usually eat breakfast at all. Eating too soon was considered a starting point for gluttony, and an affront to the religious beliefs of the time. However, during the 15th and 16th centuries, views started to change. Different foods were imported from around the world, such as tea, coffee and chocolate, and they became popular as morning foods. In addition, a more regimented workday for an expanding labour force reinforced the need for a meal to begin the day.

A black-and-white photograph of three men starting an outdoor breakfast. The men are positioned around a wooden crate with food on top of it.

L. Belanger, A.A. Cole and L.H. Cole having breakfast at Moose River Crossing, Ontario [MIKAN 3372757]

During the 19th and 20th centuries, Canada developed its own customs around breakfast. Traditional breakfast foods include pork sausages, bacon, fried potatoes, eggs, toast, cereal, oatmeal, pancakes and maple syrup. And don’t forget coffee and tea! Recent immigration has introduced even more types of breakfast foods from non-European countries, which add to our growing culinary experiences.

A black-and-white photograph of a woman and her two young sons sitting at a table eating breakfast.

Mrs. Jack Wright and her two sons Ralph and David eating breakfast, Toronto, Ontario [MIKAN 3196956]

A black-and-white photograph of a standing woman pouring a cup of coffee for another woman sitting at a table eating breakfast.

A maid serves breakfast to a female munitions worker in a dining room [MIKAN 3195702]

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The Artist’s Mirror: Celebrating a new exhibition of artist self-portraits at Glenbow

On June 15, 2018, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) and Glenbow Museum come together in Calgary, Alberta, to officially celebrate the beginning of a very successful collaboration. March 10th marked the opening of the first in a series of five co-curated exhibitions. All of the exhibitions feature portraits from LAC’s collection. In some cases, they also include portraits from Glenbow’s collection.

This exciting collaboration provides the opportunity for more Canadians to see many of Canada’s most important national treasures: all of the exhibitions will be presented at Glenbow, in Calgary. Each of the exhibitions in the series has a different theme related to portraits and portraiture.

A colour photograph of the entrance to the exhibition space at the Glenbow Museum.

Installation photograph of The Artist’s Mirror at Glenbow, courtesy of Glenbow Museum

A special kind of portrait

The first exhibition in the series focuses on one of the most fascinating types of portrait: images that artists create of themselves. The proliferation of mirrors during the 15th century is said to have contributed to the popularization of artist self-portraits. When artists hold the mirror to themselves, it is very difficult not to be drawn in.

A painting of a mirror and a still-life arrangement on a dressing table with several books, a brush, a radio, and two oranges on a plate on top of a newspaper. The mirror’s reflection shows the artist and another painting.

Self-portrait in Mirror, William Lewy Leroy Stevenson, ca. 1928, e011200954

Artist self-portraits are particularly intriguing because they appear to give privileged insight into the creative process. They are also exciting for their variety. The choice of medium is just one way in which artists have experimented with self-portraits, over the years, as statements of creative identity.

The exhibition includes 17 historical and modern self-portraits of Canadian artists, drawn from LAC’s collection. There are examples of video and sculpture self-portraiture as well as paintings, drawings and prints.

Many faces, many stories

A stand-out self-portrait in the exhibition is this sculpture by Inuit artist Floyd Kuptana.

A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man with his tongue sticking out.

Self-portrait by Floyd Kuptana, 2007, MIKAN 3922914

It is important to view this self-portrait from a variety of angles. The playful stone sculpture smiles, when viewed from one angle, and sticks out his tongue when viewed from another:

A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man with his head tilted to the side. A colour photograph of the front of a stylized sculpture of a man sticking his tongue out.The humour in this self-portrait masks a much more serious exploration of self, on a variety of levels. Kuptana created this self-portrait with traditional ideas as well as modern ones. The multiple faces and angles reflect shamanic beliefs about transformation. Yet, the idea of multiple personalities, within one self, is also associated with modern psychology.

A colour photograph of the side of a stylized sculpture of a man.Self-portrait… or portrait?

The exhibition provides a chance to see a portrait that remains at the centre of one of Canadian art history’s most interesting unresolved mysteries. Certain scholars feel strongly that this portrait, created by important British Columbia artist Emily Carr, is a rare, early self-portrait. However, others have argued that this drawing is merely an image Carr may have made of somebody else.

A charcoal drawing on paper of a young woman with bare shoulders seen from the back with her face in profile. Her hair is styled in a loose bun with short curls framing her face. Her gaze is off to the right.

Self-portrait thought to be of Emily Carr, ca. 1899, e006078795

Most agree that Carr created the drawing when she was an art student in London, United Kingdom. The drawing is done in a traditional academic style, not typical of Carr’s later work, but very much typical of a student demonstrating her mastery.

Those who believe this to be an image of Carr herself point to the strong resemblance between the drawing and contemporary photographs of her. They acknowledge that Carr was notoriously prudish and thus unlikely to pose with bare shoulders. However, they point out that it would be quite common, in women’s drawing classes of the day, to practise drawing the human form from suitably draped ancient classical sculptures. An artist could place their own head on a body copied from one of these unexceptionable nudes.

A vignette of the Emily Carr portrait showing the drawing’s classical lines of the shoulders and chin.With this image, Carr may have been striving to project herself within a particular style, fashionable when she was a young woman.

The exhibition invites you to judge for yourself.

A western connection

The exhibition provides a chance for LAC to present self-portraits that have a particular connection to Calgary.

One example is this amusing self-portrait by Calgary-based artist Gary Olson.

A pencil drawing of a man’s face squished up against a piece of glass. Most of the left side of his face is indistinguishable, but his right eye is keenly focused.

I Am Up Against the Picture Plane Again, by Gary Olson, 1977, e011195950. @ Gary Olson

The image is part of a series created by Olson while he was a college art instructor. He came up with these lighthearted images to convey the difficult theoretical art concept of the picture plane to his students. He portrays the plane literally, in these images, by flattening and distorting his own features against it. At the same time, Olson takes the opportunity to poke fun at the theory of art, capturing something of his own irreverent desire to push the envelope

Come see the exhibition

A colour photograph of a dimly lit room with various art pieces hung on the walls.

Installation photograph of The Artist’s Mirror at Glenbow, courtesy of Glenbow Museum

Be sure to visit The Artist’s Mirror, if you happen to be in Calgary. The exhibition runs from March 10, 2018 to January 6, 2019 and is open every day. For more information, please contact Glenbow Museum.

Images of blacksmiths now on Flickr

Blacksmiths manipulate iron or steel to create objects, such as tools, household goods, and art. They use specific tools to hammer, bend, or cut metal heated in a forge.

A black-and-white photograph of a man hammering a piece of metal at the Jolly Blacksmith shop.

Interior of Jolly Blacksmith shop, Ottawa, Ontario [MIKAN 3265334]

Many blacksmiths travelled to Canada during the mid-17th century to help build the trading posts of the Hudson’s Bay Company and its rival, the North West Company. As settlements grew, these metalworkers working in their workshops became an important technological and industrial hub of business and trade. They honed their skills to specialize in different domains. For example, a farrier was a blacksmith who specialized in the care and trimming of horses’ hooves, including shoeing them with horseshoes they created.

A black-and-white photograph of thirteen men posing for a group picture in front of the blacksmith shop.

Blacksmith shop, Harris Camp, Peter Co., Parry Sound, Ontario [MIKAN 3300810]

A black-and-white photograph of three soldiers watching a blacksmith shoeing a horse.

Personnel of the 7th Canadian Infantry Brigade watching a blacksmith shoeing a horse, Creully, France [MIKAN 3229115]

Around the mid-19th century, blacksmiths expanded their roles and continued to offer multiple services related to ironwork into the early 20th century.

A black-and-white photograph of a man in heating a horseshoe in a forge.

Harper Rennick heating a horseshoe, Shawville, Quebec [MIKAN 4948714]

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A Little History: the Hidden Stories of Children—an exhibition at the Canadian Museum of History

Too often the experiences, stories and contributions of children are romanticized, overlooked, or entirely absent from our history books. As is often the case, the least powerful in society leave little trace of their lives. Those childhoods that were documented and preserved can be quite telling.

The exhibition, A Little History: the Hidden Stories of Children, at the Canadian Museum of History presents rarely seen archival documents, photographs, works of art and artifacts from the collections of both the Canadian Museum of History and Library and Archives Canada. The exhibition recounts the unique experiences of children found in archival documents.

Children are rarely the authors of their own histories. Fragments of their stories lie within the materials that adults produce—from formal portraits found in family collections to documents in government and institutional records. These traces of their experiences help reveal the attitudes of adults toward them and the impact of laws and policies on them throughout history.

An oil painting of two young girls dressed in identical red dresses with lace around the neckline and red necklaces. One of them holds a small dog.

Céline and Rosalvina Pelletier, attributed to James Bowman, ca. 1838, oil on canvas (MIKAN 2837219)

Before the advent of photography, painted portraits were the only visual records of individuals. The absence of portraits of poor children demonstrates how this type of art was exclusive to the affluent. This portrait of the Pelletier sisters reflects their wealth and status. Depicted as little adults, the girls are dressed stiffly, holding a miniature dachshund (a symbol of fidelity), and wearing coral necklaces, which were believed to ward off childhood diseases.

A black-and-white studio photograph of three children. One is sitting in a chair and the two others stand beside.

The Children We Seek to Help, photographer unknown, ca. 1900, silver gelatin print. (MIKAN 3351178)

Institutional records are a key source of information about children. The “child-saving” era of the late 19th century saw the creation of a number of child welfare organizations, such as the Children’s Aid Society. These charities sought to help poor, abandoned and neglected children by operating orphanages and training schools, and providing adoption services. Child-rescue workers used photography to both document and promote their work, often invoking contradictory images to draw attention to their cause by portraying children as both innocent victims and criminals in training.

When viewing the past through adult eyes, the role and presence of children is sometimes obscured. But children were also involved in or felt the impact of significant events in Canadian history.

A black-and-white studio photograph of two children leaning against a side table, each with a hand on a cheek.

Jean-Louis and Marie-Angélique Riel, ca. 1888, by Steele & Wing, albumen print (MIKAN 3195233)

Jean-Louis and Marie-Angélique were born in Montana during the political exile of their father and Métis leader, Louis Riel for his role in the 1870 Red River Resistance. After their father’s execution in 1885, Marie-Angélique went to live with an uncle in Winnipeg, where she died of tuberculosis in 1896. Jean-Louis took his mother’s family name, moved to Montréal, and later died at the age of 25 in a horse-and-cart accident.

A handwritten letter from Louis Riel to his wife and children.

Letter from Louis Riel to his wife and children, dated November 16, 1885, ink on paper (MIKAN 126629)

This last letter from Louis Riel to his wife and children offers a private view of the Métis leader. Written on November 16, 1885, the day of his hanging in Regina, Riel speaks of his children, asks his wife to “have them pray for me” [translation] and ends his letter with “Take courage. Bless you. Your father, Louis ‘David’ Riel.” [translation].

Items created by children are often ephemeral and seldom preserved in collections. Those that have been preserved can be challenging to find as they are frequently subsumed within the broader histories and heritage of their families and communities and are rarely catalogued as being child-made. For these reasons, it is easiest to find material created by children who grew up to be important adults or were related to a famous adult.

The handwritten diary of Sandford Fleming, open and showing his writings.

Diary of Sandford Fleming, 1843, pencil and paper (MIKAN 4938908)

This diary, kept by 16-year-old Sandford Fleming, seems to foretell his later success as an engineer and inventor. Filled with architectural plans, scientific formulas, and inventions, the diary exemplifies Fleming’s industriousness.

Children’s letters and diaries provide a rare glimpse into their private worlds, revealing their unique ways of speaking, thinking and interpreting the world around them. Intimate, candid, and sometimes whimsical, the diaries, letters and drawings created by children invite us to see history with fresh eyes.

A black-and-white studio portrait of a young man in uniform, with arms crossed.

Portrait of Arthur Wendell Phillips Lawson, photographer unknown, 1918, matt collodion print (MIKAN 187937)

A handwritten diary with boxes on each date that includes the scores of the World Series games.

Diary of Arthur Wendell Phillips Lawson, 1914, ink, paper, and leather (MIKAN 129683)

This diary of 16-year-old Arthur Lawson invites us to understand his childhood sense of self and the world around him. Written at the beginning of the First World War, Lawson’s headlines about the battles raging overseas seem casually inserted alongside mundane notes about the weather, family events (like his brother’s birthday) and the scores of the 1914 World Series between the Boston Braves and the Philadelphia Athletics. Before the war was over, Lawson enlisted.

For more examples of these intriguing stories, visit A Little History: the Hidden Stories of Children on display in the Treasures from Library and Archives Canada gallery at the Canadian Museum of History from March 30, 2018 to January 27, 2019.

Images of Bird’s-Eye Views now on Flickr

 The expression “a bird’s-eye view” indicates the perspective of an area or object in relation to other things, such as a map, blueprint, or cityscape. Often depicted in drawings or photographs, a bird’s-eye view offers a reference point from high overhead.
A black-and-white photograph of Niagara Falls from a bird’s-eye perspective. There are various buildings on either side of the border and roads leading up to and alongside the riverbanks.

Bird’s-eye view of Niagara Falls with the various power plants on the Canadian side, Ontario (MIKAN 3318089)

A black-and-white photograph of Calgary, Alberta, from a bird’s-eye perspective. The Bow River and a bridge are in the foreground with a number of homes and larger buildings in the background.

Bird’s-eye view of Calgary, Alberta (MIKAN 3302621)

Some synonyms for bird’s-eye view include aerial view, aerial viewpoint, overhead view, bird’s-eye shot, and bird’s-flight view. There are slight differences in perspective, but all appear to depict the area from up above.

A black-and-white photograph of Cabri, Saskatchewan, from a bird’s-eye perspective. It shows a main dirt road with neighbouring houses and buildings. Some people, horses and wagons gather throughout the town.

Bird’s-eye view of Cabri, Saskatchewan (MIKAN 3259496)

A black-and-white map of Winnipeg, Manitoba, from a bird’s-eye perspective. The Red River is central, showing steamboats navigating it and settlements and main roads established along its banks.

Bird’s-eye view of Winnipeg, Manitoba (MIKAN 4146329)

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Images of snowshoes now on Flickr

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

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

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

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

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

Styles of snowshoes (MIKAN 3401671)

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

Styles of snowshoes (MIKAN 3401670)

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

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

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

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Guest curator: Shane McCord

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

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

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


Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen, by Mary Ann Knight, 1805

Oval portrait miniature of Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen wearing a white and red headdress with an ostrich feather and long earrings with circled stars. He is also wearing a patterned shirt with a red mantle.

Portrait miniature of Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen, the Mohawk Chief by Mary Ann Knight, 1805 (MIKAN 2836984)

The British public held Romantic ideas about Canada, especially its First Nations peoples. Teyoninhokarawen probably played up to these when he sat for this portrait. Here, he wears his own adapted version of Indigenous dress.


Tell us about yourself

I hail from the Ganaraska Forest. Technically, the address of my family home was in a small village called Campbellcroft, in rural Ontario however the nearest neighbor was over a kilometer away and there was little sense of a village. While there, my parents fostered a strong interest in art and culture. Sadly, while the nearly 12,000-acre Ganaraska forest is a place of much wonder and variety, one thing that one does not find there is a major art gallery with an internationally renowned collection. Consequently, as a teen I toured the world’s galleries through reproductions like those I found in the now rare Carnegie Art Reference Set for Colleges. The media fascinated me as much as the message and I developed an interest in reproductions of art works and their spread and dissemination in Canada. I circuitously followed this interest through my studies and ended up writing about bookworks, or artist’s books as they are variously known in my field. From the study of books and reproductions it was a short leap to library and archival school.

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

Teyoninhokarawen (ca. 1760–1823) was born John Norton in Salen, Scotland, of Scottish and Cherokee parentage. Military records show he went to Canada, and after discharge from the army in 1788 went to live with the Grand River Mohawk Indians, later becoming the adopted nephew of Joseph Brant. His portrait was painted by Mary Ann Knight, an English miniaturist. It was painted during Norton’s visit to England when he acted as an emissary for the Grand River Mohawks, and it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1805.

This portrait is a fantastic gateway into late 18th, early 19th century Canadian history. I chose to write about this item, first because it is so visually appealing. The portrait was painted in Europe where Romanticism is very much part of the spirit of the age and this shines through in the presentation of Norton. It was becoming unfashionable for portraits to depict people wearing contemporary European dress. My knee-jerk point of comparison is Thomas Phillips’ portrait of Byron wearing an Albanian scarf wrapped as a turban—though many of Jean-Etienne “The Turk” Liotard’s brilliant portraits might also serve as interesting comparative foils for this miniature.

Norton’s headwear is this portrait is fascinating in the way it perpetuates then prevailing orientalizing mythologies—naturally at this time drawing connections to Rousseau’s by then famous concept of the noble savage—but also truthfully representing Norton’s transatlantic identity. The feather in the headdress is that of an ostrich. Not a common bird on the shores of the Great Lakes where Norton had been adopted as a Mohawk, nor in his father’s Cherokee territory in Tennessee. Ostrich feathers however were popular as part of headwear in the UK, including in Scotland where, as in John Michael Wright’s portrait of Lord Mungo Murray, they gave the wearer an adventurous look. The feather at once connects Norton to the established visual trope of depicting Indigenous peoples of North America wearing ceremonial feather headdresses, while at the same time, the European inclusion of the imported ostrich feather illuminates Norton’s Scottish side.

Detailed view of Norton’s headdress which is white and red with an ostrich feather joined to the front.

Detailed view of Norton’s headdress. (MIKAN 2836984)

All that in just the feather! The rest of Norton’s wardrobe is equally interesting in different ways. This portrait is so rich that there are books full of things Canadians should know! Actually, I would quite literally start by recommending further reading (this is Library and Archives Canada after all). The first book is The Journal of Major John Norton. Norton completed the journal in 1815–16 while in England and it covers a wide range of subjects including his travel from Upper Canada to Tennessee and other southern U.S. states, as well as the frontier wars in the 1780s and 90s. Throughout The Journal, Norton provides an interesting and unique discussion of North America’s Indigenous people. Of particular note is his discussion of Joseph Brandt. Two editions of The Journal have been published, both by The Champlain Society. The more recent edition includes an introduction and additional notes by Carl Benn, who is a preeminent expert on Norton and whose works are a great source for more information.

Another book I would recommend to those intrigued by Norton is The Valley of the Six Nations, also published by The Champlain Society. This book, prepared by Charles M. Johnston, presents a collection of significant documents relating to the Six Nations in the region where Norton spent much of his adult life. It includes many documents discussing the land disputes that the Mohawk people of the Six Nations had with the British and colonial government. Some of documents presented in this volume are by Norton himself, and the originals of many of the documents are in LAC’s archival holdings.

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

Oval miniature portrait of Colonel William Claus dressed in a dark jacket and white cravat, against a blue background.

Colonel William Claus by Andrew Plimer, c.1792. (MIKAN 2895040)

I’ve chosen this portrait of Claus, because his role in Canadian history has been squarely in the opposite corner from Norton. Eight years after this portrait was painted, Claus was appointed as the Indian Department’s Deputy Superintendent General for Upper Canada. In this role, he was very much Norton’s adversary. In Robert Allen’s entry on Claus for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, he described the relationship between the two as an “acrimonious feud.”

This feud centred around Six Nations claims to land around the Grand River. While correspondence shows that the two came into conflict with each other several times, Claus struck a devastating blow to Norton when he discredited Norton to colonial authorities, thus causing Norton’s trip to England as a representative of the Six Nations to fail. Claus’ criticisms of Norton were not entirely without foundation as Norton did not truly represent the perspectives of all of the chiefs of the Six Nations.

There is a great deal more that could be said, and in fact has been said, in the sources mentioned above and elsewhere about the relationship between Norton and Claus and the Six Nations dispute with the Indian Department. These two portraits are a fascinating entry point into this chapter of history which still has reverberations today.

Biography

Colour photograph of a young boy peering up at an elaborate model shipShane McCord has worked as an art archivist at Library and Archives Canada since 2010, where the focus of his work has ranged from 17th-century plaques to contemporary art. He has a Master in Art History from Concordia University and a joint Master of Archival Studies and Master of Library and Information Science from the University of British Columbia.