Charlie Chaplin goes to war — Part I: Starting your genealogy research from a First World War record

By Emily Potter

William Charles Chaplin, in actual fact—and, yes, the title is misleading. A little like the information you can sometimes find while doing family history research in a First World War file!

In Genealogy Services, one of the most common questions we receive is from clients asking about an ancestor’s First World War service. In many cases, military service is one of the defining stories they have heard about their ancestor, and they are keen to learn more about it.

Military personnel files are also chockful of biographical information and can be a great starting-off point for your genealogy research.

Let’s explore what genealogical information can be gleaned from a file through a fun exercise. For this exercise, I chose a soldier’s personnel file: that of William Charles Chaplin. Keep in mind that, when doing genealogy research, we are looking for names of ancestors, as well as dates or places of key life events, such as births, marriages and deaths. For this exercise, let’s see whether we can find that information for this person. We’ll also see what we can find out about his parents and his spouse.

Searching the personnel file

References to the personnel files of Canadian soldiers, nursing sisters and chaplains can be looked up in the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) Personnel Records of the First World War database. The digitized files can be accessed for free.

We begin by searching the database. At the search screen, enter your ancestor’s surname and given names, and click Search.

As you can see, I chose to search for the name “Charles Chaplin.”

A screenshot of the search results for the name “Charles Chaplin” from the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Search results for “Charles Chaplin.”

Review the results to see which reference matches your ancestor. If your ancestor had a common name, this will be more difficult because there could be hundreds of results. Be sure to check out the database’s Search Tips if you’re having trouble.

From the Result screen, I selected the entry “Chaplin, William Charles.”

Screenshot of the reference page for “Chaplin, William Charles” from the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Reference page for “Chaplin, William Charles.”

Once you have clicked on the name, you’ll see the reference information for the file. In most cases, there will also be a thumbnail image of the attestation paper. To access the complete file, click on the link marked “Digitized service file – PDF format.”

Screenshot of the envelope holding William Charles Chaplin’s service file from the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

File envelope for William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 1.

Among the first images in this digitized file, we see the envelope that held William Charles Chaplin’s physical file. This is where we find our first piece of information. The writing on the envelope indicates that Chaplin died on October 5, 1957.

The exterior of the envelope also includes the note “over age.” This implies that Chaplin was discharged for being too old to serve. In order to enlist, recruits had to be between the ages of 18 and 45, but it was common for men to lie about their age in order to appear eligible to serve.  Envelopes aren’t always included in the file, but when they are, they can include helpful information.

The attestation paper from William Charles Chaplin’s service file in the Personnel Records of the First World War database. The words “Attestation Paper, 95th Battalion” are typed at the top centre. The word “Original” is handwritten at the top right-hand corner.

Attestation paper for William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 3.

As we move to the third image of the PDF, we see the attestation paper. This is the document that was filled out when a soldier enlisted. This document indicates that Chaplin was born on June 23, 1874. This date may not be accurate because, as mentioned above, the envelope indicated that he was “over age.” It is possible that he lied about his age in order to enlist.

The attestation paper also indicates that he was born in Kent, England, but was living in Toronto at the time of enlistment.

Usually, a parent or spouse is listed as the significant other. In this case, we see that Chaplin has listed his daughter Miriam Chaplin. The reason for this is that his wife had died; this is confirmed by his answer to question seven.

From looking at the second page of the attestation paper, we also discover that Chaplin was Anglican.

The separation allowance card from William Charles Chaplin’s service file in the Personnel Records of the First World War database. It has “Separation Allowance” typed at the top.

Separation Allowance document for William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 17.

Genealogical information is not limited to the attestation paper. Additional details can often be found throughout a service file.

For example, in some cases, when a soldier married while in service, a document showing the change from the soldier’s pay being sent to the mother’s address to its being sent to the wife’s is included in the file.

In this case, on numerous pay sheets, we see the pay being sent to Agnes Eliza Chaplin, who appears to have been the designated guardian of Chaplin’s children.

An examination card issued by the Standing Medical Board, Shorncliffe, from William Charles Chaplin’s service file in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Examination card for William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 35.

On image 35, we get another clue about his age, indicating again that Chaplin was overage when he enlisted. Here we see his age as 46 in October 1916. If we accept his birth date as June 23, this would mean his birth year was in fact 1870, not 1874 as stated on his attestation paper.

A typed and handwritten document, titled Particulars of Family of an Officer or Man Enlisted in C.E.F. [Canadian Expeditionary Force], from William Charles Chaplin’s service file in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Particulars of family document for William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Images 45 and 46.

Images 45 and 46 are of the document Particulars of Family of an Officer or Man Enlisted in C.E.F. From them, we glean a whole bunch of additional information.

We find out that Chaplin had six children: Marian (also spelled Miriam elsewhere in the file), James, Richard, George, Agnes, and William. The children’s ages are also provided. From looking at the date of the document and knowing their ages, we can guess the approximate year of birth for each of the children.

From the second page of the document, we learn that Chaplin’s father has died and that Agnes Chaplin is his mother. This suggests that the guardian, Agnes Eliza Chaplin, whose name was mentioned in other documents, was his mother because the address provided for her is the same as the one that appears on image 17.

A typed and handwritten document called Canadian Expeditionary Force (Information for Separation Allowance Board) from William Charles Chaplin’s service file in the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Canadian Expeditionary Force (Information for Separation Allowance Board), William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 87.

On images 87 and 88, we come across a document titled Canadian Expeditionary Force (Information for Separation Allowance Board). This document was completed in 1919 by Gertrude Ada Prentice to have Chaplin’s separation allowance and assigned pay transferred to her, as she was now the one caring for the children.

Confusingly enough, the first page of the document indicates that Chaplin’s wife’s name was Eliza Agnes Chaplin and that she passed away on March 1, 1914.

Wasn’t his mother’s name listed as Agnes Chaplin? It is quite possible that they have the same name, but it is also very possible that mistakes were made by those completing the forms.

A typed and handwritten document from William Charles Chaplin’s service file from the Personnel Records of the First World War database. The handwriting is in red, black and blue ink.

Page from the CEF service file of William Charles Chaplin, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 88.

The first bit of information we find on image 88 is that his son J.W. Chaplin also served in the First World War and that his regimental number was 868139. Presumably, this is James, the eldest son, mentioned on image 45.

It appears that Chaplin’s daughters Agnes and Celia were adopted by Prentice when their mother died. Although not yet formally adopted, the boys were also living in her care at this time.

We also see that the children’s grandmother died in February 1919.

The note at the bottom states the following:

S.A.[separation allowance] and A.P. [assigned pay] paid to soldier’s mother-in-law as guardian of children, while soldier in service. On return from O.S. [overseas] soldier took children to live with present guardian (applicant) as grandmother not strong enough to look after them. Grandmother died Feb. 1919…

The quote above indicates that it was Chaplin’s mother-in-law caring for the children, not his mother. In some ways, this makes more sense. Specifically, the fact that his wife and his mother-in-law share the same given names is more logical because it was quite common to pass down names in a family. Mothers and daughters would sometimes share the same given names, much like fathers and sons.

On the other hand, why would his mother-in-law have the same surname as he does? Perhaps Prentice made an error when stating that the children had been with Chaplin’s mother-in-law and not his mother.

There is definitely an error somewhere in the file, but which is it? Unfortunately, this is the nature of genealogy research: we sometimes find information that simply does not add up.

Close-ups with yellow highlighting of typed and handwritten documents from William Charles Chaplin’s service file in the Personnel Records of the First World War database. The handwriting is in red and black ink.

Details from images 21, 46, 88, 87 (clockwise from left) from Chaplain’s service file, RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27.

From the above images, we can see that Agnes Eliza Chaplin, who lived at 16 Kipping Avenue, is indicated as either his mother or mother-in-law at different points in the file.

Let’s have a look at the personnel file of Chaplin’s son James W. Chaplin to see whether it can shed any light on this issue.

Screenshot of the reference page for James William Chaplin from the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

Reference page for James William Chaplin from the Personnel Records of the First World War database.

A quick search in the Personnel Records of the First World War database revealed the reference shown in the image above.

A portion of a soldier’s attestation page, with numbered columns on the left and typing with some entries crossed out and handwritten.

Detail of the attestation paper from James William Chaplin’s service file, RG150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 14, Image 3.

Upon opening the digitized file, there is some immediate clarification. James has listed his next of kin as his grandmother, Agnes Eliza Turton, living at 16 Kipping Avenue, Toronto, Ontario.

This suggests to me that the Agnes Eliza Chaplin in the file was always Agnes Eliza Turton, the mother-in-law of William Charles Chaplin.

But then why was Agnes listed with her last name as Chaplin throughout the file?

It is unclear whether this information was merely a clerical error that was copied several times or his choosing to identify her in this manner because he feared that there would be issues with his pay being sent to someone who was not a blood relation. Unfortunately, we really have no means of knowing.

Alt text: A typed document bearing red markings.

Detail of a page from William Charles Chaplin’s service file (RG150 Accession 1992-93/166, Box 1621 – 27, Image 97).

Returning to the file of William Charles Chaplin, we come across one last piece of helpful information. On image 97, we have another birthdate for Chaplin, June 23, 1870. This date aligns with the fact that he was discharged for being overage and is most likely more accurate than the date listed on his attestation paper. We also find out that he was born in the town of Chatham.

Let’s review what we have learned about William Charles Chaplin from his file:

  • Date and place of birth: June 23, 1870, Chatham, Kent, England
  • Date and place of marriage: Unknown
  • Date and place of death: October 5, 1957, place unknown
  • Mother’s name: Unknown
  • Father’s name: Unknown
  • Spouse’s name: Eliza Agnes Turton, daughter of Agnes Eliza; died before March 2, 1916
  • Children’s names: Miriam, James, Richard, George, Agnes, William, and Celia

This is quite a lot of information to discover about the soldier, not to mention all the information on Chaplin’s children, from looking only at his personnel file. This information includes not only the children’s names but also their ages, from which we can surmise their approximate birth years. We also know that two of his daughters were adopted by a Gertrude Ada Prentice and that she cared for his other children after his mother-in-law died.

Keep in mind that not all personnel files will include this amount of information, but we can definitely see how the files can serve as a great starting point for your genealogy research (and can also include conflicting information!).

We can now use this information to dive deeper into William Charles Chaplin’s family history, by searching other genealogy sources. Continue learning about this in Part II of this blog article.


Emily Potter is a genealogy consultant in the Public Services Branch of Library and Archives Canada.

A page in Canada’s history: Carnegie libraries

By Sara Chatfield

A black-and-white photograph of a two-storey stone building with a columned portico and ivy growing up its sides.

The Ottawa Public Library opened in 1905, funded by a Carnegie grant. (a044774-v8)

Libraries have always been special places for me. When I was young, my grandmother worked as a reference librarian at my local library, making my visits to the library extra memorable. I have always appreciated the scope of what you could find within the walls of a library: I loved the books, the magazines and chatting with the librarians about new arrivals. But the thing I loved most (and still love most today) about libraries are the buildings that house library collections, especially historic Carnegie library buildings. Carnegie libraries are distinctive buildings built in the late 1800s and early 1900s by Andrew Carnegie to promote free library access in North America and the world.

A colour photo of a one-storey building with brown-brick exterior walls and a green roof. A small set of stairs and a railing lead up to the entrance.

The Renfrew Public library, built in 1919/1920 and funded by a Carnegie grant. Photo credit: Sara Chatfield

To me, Carnegie library buildings have a majestic yet welcoming appearance. The early buildings (1901–1905) were not designed according to standardized plans. The architects, who hailed from Canada and the United States, were free to use their imaginations. Later buildings have similar design elements, such as arched windows, cupolas, porticos and symmetrical columns.

A black-and-white photo of a two-storey building with a columned portico. A man is walking in front of the building. Power lines can be seen to the right and behind the building.

The Galt Public Library, built in 1903, through a Carnegie grant given in 1902 (a031832)

I am not alone in my love of Carnegie library buildings. A former Ontario Minister of Citizenship and Culture once wrote that “Carnegie libraries represent a significant part of the cultural history and architectural heritage of Ontario.”

Carnegie libraries would not have existed without Andrew Carnegie and his lifelong love of libraries and learning. Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) was born in Scotland and immigrated to the United States with his family in 1848. He amassed a fortune with his Carnegie Steel Company, which he sold in 1901. He placed the money from the sale in trust for philanthropy, which became his main occupation. In total, the philanthropist gave grants to build 2,509 free public libraries to English-speaking communities worldwide. Andrew Carnegie believed the best way to provide free education and foster growing communities was to establish public libraries.

A black-and-white photograph of two ornate buildings, one with a columned portico and a cupola. People walking, a street car, and power lines are in the foreground.

The Vancouver Public Library (right) opened in 1903 with funding from a Carnegie grant. Since 1980, this building has served as the Carnegie Community Centre, which houses a library branch on the main floor. (a009531)

Carnegie provided the grant for each library building, but did not contribute funds towards the purchase of books or staff salaries. To secure a Carnegie grant for a library, cities and towns had to fulfill the “Carnegie Formula.” Among other criteria, this formula stipulated that cities provide the site, guarantee an annual budget and ensure free public access. Many applications for grants were refused because a town or city already had adequate library services or would not be able to guarantee the yearly funds needed for the upkeep of the facility. Some communities did not apply for or accept money from the Carnegie foundation, as they viewed Andrew Carnegie as a robber baron and disapproved of his business methods.

Of the 2,509 Carnegie libraries built in the early 1900s, 125 were constructed in Canada. Of those 125 libraries, 111 were built in Ontario. The majority of the libraries were built in the United States and Great Britain/Ireland. Carnegie libraries were also built in South Africa, Australia, Serbia, New Zealand, Fiji, Mauritius, Barbados and Guyana, among other places.

A colour photo of a brown-brick building with several beige accent columns as well as pediments and curved windows. There are red flowers to the left in the foreground.

The former Perth Carnegie Library, now known as the Macmillan Building. The two-storey library was designed in the Beaux-Arts style by renowned architect Frank Darling. The building was severely damaged by fire in 1980 and restored in 1982. Photo credit: Emily Tregunno

I have always found it interesting that the Carnegie Foundation gave grants to build libraries in both small towns and large cities. For example, in 1901, a grant was given to Ayr, Ontario, whose population was 807. At the time of construction of its Carnegie library, Perth, Ontario, had a population of slightly more than 3,500 residents.

A brown brick 2 storey building with curved windows on the top floor. The entrance is glass and there is a yellow fire hydrant in the foreground.

Ottawa’s Rosemount Branch of the Ottawa Public Library, built in 1918. A major renovation to upgrade the branch took place recently. Photo credit: Sara Chatfield

Many library collections outgrew their original Carnegie library buildings. Some of the buildings have been torn down, some have been damaged by fire, some of the buildings have been repurposed, and some municipalities have chosen to expand and renovate. Ottawa’s Rosemount Branch, originally known as the Ottawa West Branch, is an example of a Carnegie building that has undergone substantial renovations. Interestingly, the 1917 grant to build the Ottawa West/Rosemount Branch was the last of its type given in Canada.

A black-and-white photo of a two-storey square building with a large number of pedimented windows, a columned portico and a small balcony. There is text written across the bottom, which reads “HJW, 1788, Dawson Yukon, Carnegie Library July 1907.”

The Dawson City, Yukon, Carnegie Library. The grant for this library was given in 1903. The building was designed by Robert Montcrieff. Construction was completed in 1904. (a016721-v8)

Unfortunately, some communities could not sustain the financial strain of maintaining a library. The Dawson City library, built in 1903/1904 was popular and well attended. However, by 1920, the city’s population had shrunk to fewer than one thousand people, and the city could not continue to fund the institution. In 1920, the building was sold to the Masonic Lodge.

A black-and-white photo of a two-storey square building with several windows, some of them arched, an arched entrance, and columns. The building is surrounded by a decorative metal gate. There is text written across the bottom, which reads “Carnegie Library.”

The Winnipeg Carnegie Library, built in 1904/1905. This was the city’s first public library. It served as the city’s main branch until 1977. (a031593)

From 1995 to 2013, the Winnipeg Carnegie Library building was home to the City of Winnipeg Archives. According to a 2019 report by the Association of Manitoba Archives, construction was under way in 2013 to transform the former Carnegie Library into state-of-the-art facilities for the municipal archives, when an intense rainstorm damaged the roof and sent staff and the archive holdings to a temporary warehouse location.

Of the 125 library buildings built in Canada from 1904 to 1922, approximately 20 have been demolished. Several of the buildings are still being used as libraries as originally intended.

  • A colour photograph of a brown-brick building with a curved entrance. Two short flights of stairs lead to the building entrance.
  • A colour photograph of the inside of a library. A large skylight, book shelving and computer terminals can be seen in the room. There are four windows at back.
  • A colour photograph of a beige building with a columned entrance and a pediment above the front door. There is single set of stairs leading to the building. The words “Public Library” are etched above the entrance.
  • A colour photograph of a large room with three windows, two hanging lights, a black mat and book shelves.
 

Keep an eye out for these historic buildings. You might come across one in a small town near you!

Additional resources:

  • Local Library, Global Passport: The Evolution of a Carnegie Library, by J. Patrick Boyer (OCLC 191759655)
  • The Man Who Loved Libraries: The Story of Andrew Carnegie, by Andrew Larsen and Katty Maurey (OCLC 970404908)
  • The Best Gift: A Record of the Carnegie Libraries in Ontario, by Margaret Beckman, Stephen Langmead and John Black (OCLC 11546081)
  • Ottawa Carnegie Library – Application for State papers (RG2, Privy Council Office, Series A-1-a, vol 964)

Sara Chatfield is a project manager in the Exhibitions and Online Content Division at Library and Archives Canada.

Summiting Mount Logan in 1925: Fred Lambart’s personal account of the treacherous climb and descent of the highest peak in Canada

By Jill Delaney

When Howard “Fred” Lambart’s (1880–1946) painful, frozen feet finally touched solid ground again on July 4, 1925, he thought he would feel elated. After all, it had been 44 days since he and his fellow mountaineers had made contact with anything other than snow and ice on their ascent of Mount Logan, Canada’s highest peak (5,959 m). The expedition had exhausted them all, and Lambart could only manage a sense of relief at having made it this far. There were still 140 kilometres of hard travel to go before they reached the town of McCarthy, Alaska.

A sepia coloured photograph of a group of men with Mount Logan in the background.

Photograph of the party taken by Captain Hubrick at McCarthy, Alaska. From left to right: N.H. Read, Alan Carpe, W.W. Foster, A.H. MacCarthy, H.S. Hall, Andy Taylor, R.M. Morgan, Howard “Fred” Lambart (e011313489_s1).

Lambart was part of a team of eight climbers assembled by the Alpine Club of Canada and the American Alpine Club in 1925 to tackle Mount Logan, located in the remote southwestern corner of Yukon Territory, in what is now Kluane National Park. The mountain is in the Tachal Region of the Kluane First Nation’s traditional territory, “A Si Keyi.” The Lu’an Mun Ku Dan (Kluane Lake People) and the Champagne and Aishihik peoples have lived there for generations.

Most Lu’an Mun Ku Dan, Champagne and Aishihik First Nations people identify themselves as descendants of the Southern Tutchone. Others came from nations such as the Tlingit, the Upper Tanana and the Northern Tutchone. In the Southern Tutchone language, the indigenous peoples of this region are known as “the people who live beside the tallest mountains.”

Lambart had climbed many of the peaks surrounding Mount Logan as a surveyor for the Geodetic Survey of Canada. As part of this work, he had conducted photo-topographic work on the Yukon–Alaska border in 1912–1913.

No European settler had yet attempted to conquer the behemoth that is Mount Logan, the most massive mountain in the world. It was and still is a remote sub-arctic mountain, with notoriously terrible weather due to its proximity to the west coast. The 1925 climbing team, made up of Lead Captain A.H. MacCarthy, Assistant Lead Fred Lambart, Alan Carpe, H.S. Hall, N.H. Read, R.M. Morgan, Andy Taylor and W.W. Foster, hiked 1,025 km in 63 days. They carried packs of up to 38 kilograms for most of this time, and climbed a total of 24,292 metres, or more than four times the elevation of the mountain, in order to transport their supplies up the mountain themselves. Thanks to the Lambart Family Fonds at Library and Archives Canada (LAC), containing both Lambart’s personal diary and over 200 photographs taken during the expedition, we have a detailed and intimate account of the thrills and extreme hardships of this remarkable climb. Alan Carpe also created a documentary film, The Conquest of Mount Logan. It is a fitting time to revisit the event, with the recent completion of the first of two ascents in 2021–2022 by Dr. Zac Robinson, Dr. Alison Criscitiello, Toby Harper-Merrett and Rebecca Haspel, from the Alpine Club of Canada and the University of Alberta. Using photographs from the 1925 expedition, they are conducting a repeat photography project, as well as an ice-coring project, to better understand climate and change.

Fred Lambart came from an upper-middle-class British-Canadian family, and graduated from McGill University with a bachelor’s degree in science. He initially worked on surveys for the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway, before becoming a Dominion Land Surveyor in 1905. His daughter Evelyn would go on to an illustrious career as a filmmaker at the NFB. His daughter Hyacinthe was an early female Canadian pilot. Tragically, his two sons, Edward and Arthur, were killed during the Second World War.

The 1925 Mount Logan expedition came during a period of very active mountaineering, when Europeans saw “conquering” summits as moments of national, colonial and imperial prestige. Several attempts to summit Mount Everest were made during this time. In 1897, the Italian alpinist the Duke of Abruzzi (reportedly having his packers carry his brass bed up the mountain for him) summited Mount St. Elias, the second-highest peak in the Canadian northwest. Lambart himself was recorded as the first European to summit Mount Natazhat (4,095 m), in 1913.

Preparations for the 1925 Mount Logan expedition began in 1922. They included fundraising and the selection of the team. All agreed that A.H. MacCarthy should lead, with Lambart named as assistant. MacCarthy scouted three different routes in the years leading up to the official expedition, returning to the mountain again in February 1925 to cache 8,600 kilograms of supplies in advance, at various points along the route.

Photograph of Mount Logan with the names of the peaks and routes annotated.

Annotated photograph showing the route of the 1925 expedition (e011313492).

The team leaves McCarthy, Alaska, on May 12 and begins its climb on May 18. Much of the ascent is taken up with grinding slogs by the team members (they have no packers once they step foot onto the mountain) relaying their supplies up and down the glaciers to their various camps. Nevertheless, the alpinists do find moments to note the incredible beauty of their surroundings. On June 6, Lambart writes, “the early morning lighting on the mountains and lakes on the day developing into one of perfect clearness was a vision not to be forgotten.”

By June 11, while camping at King Col (5,090 m), the climbers’ exertion is beginning to show, along with signs of elevation sickness amongst a few of the members. Lambart reports shortness of breath, and Morgan and Carpe both vomit during the night, while MacCarthy’s eyes begin to suffer. “If Mac doesn’t let up there are a few that will not get through who otherwise could have done so,” writes Lambart. Discussions are held to try to convince MacCarthy to slow the pace.

The food supply begins to be something of an obsession, with Lambart’s calculations taking up more and more space on the pages of his diary. Lambart also notes that they plan to leave King Col the next day to try to make it to the summit and back in four days.

A photograph of Mount Logan with four climbers in the foreground.

Team members working a way up through the ice wall above King Col, King Peak towering above (e011313500_s1).

In reality, it takes another 10 days of exhausting climbing with snowshoes and crampons before they finally summit on June 23. The team begins to use ropes to keep team members safe as they tackle bad weather, steep climbs across icefalls, extreme cold and constant fatigue. Morgan, accompanied by Hall, turns back due to poor health. The remaining six continue to push upward, not knowing what lies ahead. While ascending what they think is the summit, Logan wrote the following:

[…] we saw straight off east about 3 miles the real summit of Logan which up to this time, I don’t think any of us had seen before. This was our goal, it was now 4:30 and the weather was holding.

A bit of up and down and a few switchbacks up the final steep, icy slopes—and, finally…

[…] we are on the top of the highest point in the Dominion of Canada. […] We all congratulated Mac and shook hands. […] Carpe ran the Bell and Howell a few seconds, Read took some snaps, but we were reminded by Andy that there was a storm brewing […]

Just 25 minutes is spent savouring their achievement. Almost immediately, the weather begins to close in around them, and the temperature drops rapidly. The sunshine they had enjoyed at the peak disappears as a heavy fog moves in, completely hiding any signs of the trail leading back to their camp. “We are in real peril,” Lambart later notes in his diary. Conditions are deteriorating so rapidly they decide to bivouac on a patch of steep hard snow, where they “were all burrowing like a bunch of rabbits,” to create shelters for the night. Lambart shares a burrow with Read, and gives his heavy coat to Taylor, who is on his own in another burrow. Much to his later misfortune, Lambart overcompensates with four pairs of socks in his boots, restricting the circulation to his toes. He wakes in the middle of the night to try to stamp some feeling back into them, but he will suffer from this miscalculation for the remainder of the expedition and beyond. Several of his toes were amputated later in life.

Photograph of two people standing side by side looking away from the camera.

Two members of the expedition looking out from King Ridge (e011313497_s2).

Although the mountain top remains shrouded in fog the next morning, they have no real choice but to continue in order to locate the trail to find their way back. In the process, both Taylor and Mac walk off cliffs they cannot see, falling several metres each, but without serious injury. Eventually they locate one of the willow poles they had placed every 150 feet as markers on the way up. Nevertheless, the ordeal is not over. The first rope becomes confused and marches in the wrong direction at one point, leaving them several hours behind the others in returning to camp. Lambart begins to hallucinate:

My glasses were dark and the scene ahead was of two figures constantly silhouetted against a dead whiteness where ground and sky was one. A strange imagination possessed me all the while that I could not drive away, namely, the presence of fences and fields and farms with habitations to right and left of us.

A much deserved day of rest follows, but they are back on the trail the day after, which Lambart finds to be “one of the most [difficult] tests of endurance and suffering of the whole trip.” MacCarthy’s obituary for Lambart later revealed that, on what is likely this same day (June 26), Lambart became exhausted in another bout of severe weather, and collapsed face down on their descent to the high-level campsite (5,640 m). He begged MacCarthy to leave him in order to save the others, “a murderous proposal” in MacCarthy’s mind, and Taylor supported him until they stumbled back to camp. Lambart remembers nothing of this.

The remainder of the descent goes relatively smoothly, with the temperature and the weather improving most days, and with the climbers having less equipment and supplies to carry. Additional days of rest are taken from time to time. The team begins abandoning supplies along the route, including Read’s diary, which is never retrieved. On July 1, the first signs of life are joyfully spotted—a bird at Cascade camp and bumble bees and flies at the Advance Base Camp below.

On July 4, their feet finally touch land again. Their relief is quickly dampened by the realization that bears had destroyed not just one, but two, caches of food the team had stowed for their return. Luckily, the next day, they find food that had been left hanging in a tree for them by a colleague. They celebrate that evening, but the next day are back hard at work, constructing rafts to carry them down the Chitina River in order to shorten their trek into town. The raft in which Lambart, Taylor and Read are travelling quickly transports them 72 km downstream to a meadow, from which they begin the final long hike of their journey. The raft conveying MacCarthy, Carpe and Foster follows, but “shot by us in a wider and better channel to our left. Mac held up his hand triumphantly as they went by. This was the last we saw of them.” Lambart, Taylor and Read arrive back in town late at night on July 12, racing each other the last few kilometres in their haste to arrive (in spite of Lambart’s very painful feet). There is no sign of the MacCarthy raft for several worrying days. MacCarthy, Carpe and Foster are finally located on July 15, having overshot their mark, tipped their raft and walked back toward McCarthy until they happened upon a road crew.

Lambart called the expedition “one of the strangest ventures of my life.” The men returned to their homes to much acclaim and publicity, with The New York Times naming Lambart one of the world’s greatest climbers. They wrote their report and printed their photos. Carpe developed and edited his motion picture, to be shown to appreciative audiences in the comfort of heated movie theatres and plush seats.

It would be 25 years before another team would attempt to climb Mount Logan. Today, climbers can fly onto one of the glaciers to avoid the long trek to the base of the massif. It is nevertheless considered to be one of the most challenging climbs in the world.

Other LAC resources:


This blog was written by Jill Delaney, Lead Archivist, Photography, in the Specialized Media Section of the Private Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada. Assistance was provided by Angela Code of the Listen Hear our Voices initiative.

The Dinosaurs of St. George’s Island, Calgary

By Richard Howe

One day in the 1930s, a group of people were enjoying a beautiful day on the park grounds of central Calgary’s St. George’s Island. The group’s peaceful picnic was disturbed when a drunk man appeared and began to bother them. A park officer approached, and the man, sensing danger, ran away unsteadily. Pursued by the park officer, the intoxicated man just barely managed to navigate the park’s pathways. Then, suddenly, he stopped in shock, staring spellbound at the bright green dinosaur standing right in front of him. After a short pause, the man straightened up and turned around, heading directly for the park’s exit. As he exited the park, his strides were steady. The park officer abandoned his pursuit, deciding that the shock had sufficiently sobered the troublemaker.

If you have some doubts about this story, I don’t blame you, but The Calgary Daily Herald reported on the incident shortly after it was alleged to have occurred. And the part about dinosaurs on St. George’s Island, at least, is true. Back in the late 1930s, there were close to 20 different prehistoric creatures there, and by the 1970s, there were over 40. These life-sized concrete sculptures were part of the Natural History Park at the Calgary Zoo. All of them are gone now, except for one. By the time I was old enough to visit the zoo on St. George’s Island, I didn’t even know that the others had been there at all.

The story about the drunk man comes from the front page of the newspaper on August 28, 1937, in an article about the completion of the new “Dinosaur Gardens.” In the accompanying photo, three human figures gather around the feet of a giant brontosaurus sculpture, not even reaching the dinosaur’s knees. That dinosaur—120 tons, 10 metres high, 32 metres long—would quickly become known as “Dinny,” and over 80 years later, it is the sole surviving dinosaur sculpture still standing on St. George’s Island.

A large sculpture of a brontosaurus in front of some tall trees, with two children running toward it.

“Dinny” is the last dinosaur sculpture remaining on St. George’s Island (e010973614)

As a child growing up in Calgary in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I remember that Dinny held a special place in the hearts of many adult Calgarians. It was notable how often they spoke of their fond memories of visiting the zoo as children and of climbing Dinny as a rite of passage. The urban landscape changes quickly in Calgary. The preparations for the 1988 Olympics had recently transformed much of the city’s downtown. If being a dinosaur wasn’t enough, Dinny was special just because it was something from Calgary’s ever-vanishing past.

The suggestion for building a dinosaur park in Calgary is said to have come from zoo society member (and later zoo society president from 1959 to 1965) Lars Willumsen after he visited the dinosaur park in Tierpark Hagenbeck (Hagenbeck Zoo) in Hamburg, Germany, in 1934. The world’s very first dinosaur park had been built back in 1854, in Crystal Palace Park in London, England. A few other parks, like the one in Germany, had sprung up around the world in the decades since. One of the goals of these parks was to help the public to understand the emerging field of paleontology and its discoveries, and to provide this education in an entertaining way.

Work on Calgary’s Natural History Park started in 1935. Alberta had been especially hard hit by the economic problems of the 1930s, but despite a meagre budget, a determined group of people were able to make something that the city would be proud of for years to come. Sculptor Charles A. Beil, a well-known artist living in nearby Banff, was recruited to help design the first dinosaurs. He was aided by engineer Aarne Koskeleinen and sculptor John Kanerva, who helped to figure out the method of construction and ended up doing most of the physical work. Charles Mortram Sternberg, a paleontologist working for the National Museum of Canada (a precursor to the Canadian Museum of Nature), was provided by the federal government to consult and guide the project and to ensure that the representations were appropriate and accurate. Dr. Omer H. Patrick, founding president of the Calgary Zoological Society since 1929, spearheaded the project. When Dr. Patrick presented the park to the city, former prime minister R.B. Bennett was invited to give the dedication address. “It was his initiative, foresight and expenditure which made this thing possible,” Bennett said of Patrick. “He took the lead.”

A woman, child and man stand under a large model of a dinosaur, surrounded by trees. The group is looking toward another dinosaur model.

Tourists admire sculptures of dinosaurs on St. George’s Island in Calgary, Alberta, in 1961 (e010976082)

The park turned out to be a great success and a popular tourist attraction. In 1952, one of the first-ever CBC television news broadcasts featured a story on the Natural History Park. When Scottish paleontologist Dr. William Elgin Swinton visited the park in 1957, he told stories of British service members who brought back postcards from the dinosaur park after serving in Canada during the Second World War. It became local legend that Dinny was the most-photographed object in all of Calgary. Dinny was made the zoo’s official symbol in 1959 and even appeared on the cover of an issue of Maclean’s magazine the following year. Until 1967, when the Husky Tower (four years later renamed the Calgary Tower) was built, Dinny was probably Calgary’s best-known landmark.

Today, near where Dinny stands, a bronze plaque commemorates the Natural History Park and the people who worked to create it. The names of Patrick, Willumsen, Sternberg, Beil, Koskeleinen and Kanerva are listed as founders. The plaque was unveiled in 1974 in a small ceremony near the park’s entrance. Dr. Patrick had died in 1947, but the five other men, most of them in their eighties, attended the ceremony.

A man is in a garage or workshop, standing near three sculptures of prehistoric reptiles and holding a can of paint and a paintbrush in his hands.

John Kanerva with some of his creations. Published in The Albertan, November 14, 1956 (Jack De Lorme, “John Kanerva, dinosaur builder, Calgary, Alberta,” 1956-11 [CU1139955]. Courtesy of Libraries and Cultural Resources Digital Collections, University of Calgary)

It was John Kanerva’s name that was mentioned the most. After the park and dinosaurs were built, Kanerva had continued to work at the zoo, making new dinosaurs and maintaining the originals. They became his life’s work. “Yes, John did most of it,” Dr. Sternberg said at the ceremony. Kanerva’s long association with Calgary’s beloved dinosaurs—and especially his role as Dinny’s sculptor—had made him a minor local celebrity. Sitting in his wheelchair as the plaque was uncovered, the 91-year-old smoked a thin cigar. He was surrounded by his family, friends and former colleagues, who applauded as bagpipes played. Many had been pushing the city for years to honour Kanerva and the other men with a permanent landmark, and Alderman Tom Priddle, who unveiled the plaque, apologized for the delay.

In 1975, the Calgary Zoo announced an extensive 10-year redevelopment plan. As Calgary had grown, so had the zoo and its reputation. With the goal of improving living conditions for the zoo’s animals, the decision was made to make room on St. George’s Island for new and expanded animal habitats.

This would be the end for the Natural History Park. However, owing to its popularity and history at the zoo, a new Prehistoric Park was planned just north of St. George’s Island, on the other side of the Bow River. The original plan was to move many of the original dinosaurs to the new park, in addition to adding some new sculptures. By this time, many of the dinosaurs, including Dinny, were showing signs of age and in disrepair.

The new park opened in 1983. While most of the plans for the Prehistoric Park were fulfilled, the dinosaurs were not moved, and they were destroyed at some point. However, new sculptures were indeed added at the new location. They were made of fibreglass this time, which would be easier to maintain, and their depictions were more modern, more in line with the public’s perception of what dinosaurs looked like. The original dinosaurs would have been difficult and costly to move and repair. A tough economic climate during development of the park had made sacrifice a necessity in order to ensure its completion. The dinosaurs were subject to the same boom-to-bust economic cycle as every other resident of Calgary, and in their case, they fell victim to it.

Dinny was thankfully—and perhaps literally—spared the wrecking ball. In 1987, at the zoo’s urging, the sculpture was made a provincial historical resource, protecting it as an important historical work. Along with Dinny’s new designation, the sculpture received some attention that year to repair some of the damage incurred over many decades.

A black-and-white photograph of two children climbing up a large model dinosaur.

Children climb on Dinny the dinosaur at the Calgary Zoo, Alberta (e010973689)

In recent years, the Calgary Zoo has taken a renewed interest in Dinny. Structural work was completed in 2019, involving reinforcement of the neck and rear left leg. Surface restoration and repainting started in June 2021 and is set to be completed by the end of the summer.

There was a time when John Kanerva would repaint Dinny every few years, but I don’t know when the sculpture was last repainted. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen Dinny with a fresh coat of paint. I’m looking forward to it. Dinny was meant to transport people to the past, to millions of years ago. But for me, I’ll be reminded of a much more recent time. Seeing Dinny looking once again like the pride of the city will be like visiting a Calgary I had always heard about but never got to know.


Richard Howe is a digital imaging technician in the Digitization Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

From the Lowy Room: a productive quarantine

By Michael Kent

Like many people, I had frustrated moments in spring 2020 when we entered lockdown. Quarantining away from family and friends, and having regular life come to a standstill, is an exceptionally draining experience. One way that I kept busy—and my spirits up—was by getting to some work projects that I had always wanted to tackle but that were constantly delayed due to other priorities.

One such endeavour, related to my own professional development, was to learn more about the key early reference material in my field, Judaic librarianship. We are very fortunate in the Jacob M. Lowy Collection to have several volumes of Early Modern Hebrew bibliographic literature. These books birthed the fields of Hebrew bibliography and the history of Jewish books. While I invariably use far more modern reference material, the legacy of these works influences my job on a daily basis. I was excited to be able to finally delve into the early history of my profession.

A colour photo of book with different coloured spines on a wooden shelf. The books have small white pieces of paper sticking out of their tops.

Some of the early Hebrew bibliographic reference material in the Jacob M. Lowy Collection. Photo: Michael Kent

While doing research at home during lockdown, I was surprised to discover that one of the books I was investigating had its own quarantine story. The volume is Shem ha-Gedolim (1774) by Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulai (he was also known as the Ḥida). Our collection is fortunate enough to have a first edition. This work, whose title translates as “Names of the Great Ones,” is a bibliography of Jewish scholars and their contributions to Hebrew literature. In authoring this book, Azulai became one of the fathers of Jewish bibliographic scholarship.

Azulai was born in Jerusalem in 1724. He was descended from a family of prominent rabbis with roots in Spain before that country expelled its Jewish population. As a scholar, he was known to treat his interest in religious and mystical subjects with strong intellectual curiosity. He would write many books, ranging across topics of Jewish law, history and folklore, as well as his own diary and travel logs. In all, he authored over 120 works, 50 of which were published during his lifetime. In addition to his scholarship, Azulai served as an emissary of the Jewish community of the land of Israel, visiting communities in Italy, Germany, Holland, France and England, as well as throughout North Africa. During his travels, he would visit public and private libraries, keenly interested in rare manuscripts and early printed books. The research he conducted at these libraries would serve as the basis for Shem ha-Gedolim.

A colour photograph of a page of a book, written in Hebrew.

The copy of the first edition of Shem ha-Gedolim in the Jacob M. Lowy Collection. Photo: Michael Kent

These travels give us the quarantine story. In 1774, on a fundraising mission, Azulai arrived in the port of Livorno, Italy. Upon disembarking from the ship, he was forced to stay in a quarantine camp for 40 days. This was a standard requirement for visitors to the city because of the fear of epidemics. He spent his time in the camp writing the book Shem ha-Gedolim. Upon his release, he worked with members of the local Jewish community to have the work published. While travelling through Italy, he would remain active in the process of publishing the volume, through receiving and editing proofs.

Learning that Rabbi Azulai was able to write a book during quarantine certainly makes me feel humble about my own accomplishments during our COVID-19 lockdowns. I certainly enjoyed the serendipity of discovering this quarantine story while filling my pandemic downtime. This opportunity for investigation has definitely given me a new appreciation for the origins of my field.


Michael Kent is curator of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection at Library and Archives Canada.

Arthur Lismer’s children’s art classes: a Co-Lab challenge

By Brianna Fitzgerald

As COVID-19 restrictions have suspended in-person children’s programming, the rush of energy, noise and creativity often found on early weekend mornings at art galleries across the country now seems like a distant memory. Since art classes and workshops have moved online to adapt to these times, we are in a period of great innovation in the sphere of children’s art education, meeting new challenges in engaging children’s creativity in a virtual space. This is not the first time that there has been a major shift in the way that children’s art education is delivered. In the 1930s, Group of Seven painter Arthur Lismer (1885–1969) attempted to radically shift how Canada thought about art education and to transform the art gallery from a formal space into a vibrant community space.

When I came across images of Lismer’s children’s art classes in the Ronny Jaques fonds in the Library and Archives Canada collection, I felt a rush of memories of my own childhood spent in art classes and the frenzied excitement of little hands and young minds at work making things. Before finding these images, I was unaware of the large role that being an art educator played in Lismer’s life, and his tireless efforts to popularize and emphasize the importance of art education. I was also unaware of how closely his model of education in the 1930s matched what I grew up with decades later. Children’s art classes in Canada grew in popularity across the country in the 1930s, and much of the growth was due to Lismer’s hard work and innovation.

A black-and-white photograph of a girl with dark braids and a light apron kneeling on the floor and holding a paintbrush in her right hand. The bottom of a framed painting can be seen behind her.

Girl with paintbrush at Arthur Lismer’s children’s art classes in Toronto (e010958789)

In 1929, when Lismer was appointed supervisor of education at the Art Gallery of Toronto (now the Art Gallery of Ontario), he began implementing many programs in line with his desire to democratize art, make it accessible to the average person and turn the gallery into a community space. Lismer’s first successful program was gallery tours for schools, which became part of the curriculum for some grades in the Toronto Board of Education. Lismer then launched Saturday morning children’s art classes. Teachers and principals from local schools would nominate their best art students to be invited to take part in the classes at the Art Gallery of Toronto. There was no tuition for these classes, only a small fee for material costs, and students had the chance to earn a scholarship for a junior course at the Ontario College of Art (now OCAD University).

With roughly 300 students attending the classes each week, the gallery was a lively place on Saturday mornings. Children were allowed to work freely and encouraged to explore their ideas and creative impulses. Children took part not only in painting and drawing, but also in clay sculpting, creating costumes, and acting in pageants. The classes were held within the galleries themselves, with children spreading out across the floor to work in various media, always in the presence of great works of art hung on the gallery’s walls. Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, exhibitions of work from children in the Saturday morning classes were a regular feature on the gallery’s calendar.

A black-and-white photograph of children kneeling in the middle of the floor in a gallery, surrounded by paper and art supplies. A teacher stands near the middle of the room, assisting a student. The walls are hung with framed paintings, and an adjacent gallery is visible behind four dark columns. The scene is full of energy as the children build paper houses.

Children participating in Lismer’s children’s art classes (e010980053)

The Saturday classes would eventually result in the opening of the Art Centre at the Art Gallery of Toronto, which would facilitate education activities for the gallery. The Art Centre allowed for smaller classes and more direct interaction with each child, and it expanded the possibilities of Lismer’s vision. After several successful years of running the program at the Art Centre, Lismer was invited to undertake a lecture tour across the country to talk about Canadian art and the children’s art classes. Lismer had already been giving talks for teachers in Toronto to teach them about art and his own methods, hoping it would find its way into their lessons. With the lecture tour, Lismer had the chance to change how art was taught across the country.

The Art Gallery of Toronto was not Lismer’s first or last venture into children’s art education. Lismer ran Saturday morning classes at the Victoria School of Art and Design (now the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design) in Halifax in 1917, where he was the principal at the time. Following his tenure in Toronto and his cross-Canada lecture tour, Lismer became the educational supervisor at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 1940. He once again established an Art Centre and education programming, as he had done in Toronto. Lismer continued to be involved with the Art Centre in Montréal, even after his retirement in 1967, until his death in 1969 at age 83.

A black-and-white photograph of six boys sitting on chairs in a gallery. Each boy has a second chair in front of him being used as a drawing easel. Two framed paintings can be seen on the wall in the background, and there are newspapers scattered on the floor.

Boys painting in Lismer’s children’s art classes (e010980075)

There are over a hundred images available to view online from these children’s art classes, which depict the wide variety of activities that Lismer developed for his education programming. These photographs give us a delightful peek at the classes some 80 years later. They welcome us to familiar scenes of children sprawled out on gallery floors, gathering art materials, painting at makeshift easels or sculpting in clay over tables well wrapped with newspaper. Although art classes for kids look and sound different during the pandemic, we can all look forward to having noise, mess and excitement take over gallery spaces on weekend mornings once again.

If you recognize someone, a location in the museum or a piece of art in the Arthur Lismer children’s art classes Co-Lab challenge, please tag the photograph!


Brianna Fitzgerald is a Digital Imaging Technician in the Digital Operations and Preservation Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

Etiquette, courtesy, good manners and polite society: Retrospective publications at Library and Archives Canada

By Euphrasie Mujawamungu

No one who searches through the LAC collection leaves empty-handed. Thirsty for knowledge, LAC’s etiquette collection attracted my attention. My excitement was so strong that I prepared as though I was setting out on a long journey to a destination I like to call “etiquette books published in Canada before 1953.”

We carry the genes of our ancestors with us and we enjoy the benefits of the trails they blazed for us by removing the obstacles that made their daily lives difficult. What’s more, we inherited their know-how and their courtesy.

In fact, etiquette seems like a way to build an orderly, caring and cared-for society. Codes of etiquette allow people to gather for events, joyful or sad, and spend time together in harmony with everyone somehow following the same set of rules. Contact and coexistence with peoples of different cultures have also influenced etiquette on all sides. As such, etiquette textbooks and schools specializing in this area gradually expanded their field of expertise as encounters between different civilizations grew.

The etiquette collection is rich and highly diverse. Far from being outdated, it holds promising interest for many. The works in the collection offer writers or filmmakers possible inspiration for scripts set in an era of interest. For some comedians, retrospective publications provide fodder for skits highlighting the contrast between the customs of modern times and yesteryear. For them, this documentation is vital! Even students researching lifestyles in different eras will find what they are looking for.

Black-and-white photo of people in formal attire seated around a long oval table. The table features place settings and decorative centrepieces.

A group of people demonstrating their good manners (a029856)

What it is exactly?

The terms etiquette and manners differ in that the etiquette is defined as a series of codes that create the conditions for good manners. Etiquette is quite exhaustive and covers all aspects of human life. It applies to behaviours, gestures and expressions both spoken and unspoken.

Many books have been written about etiquette, although the word may not necessarily appear on the title pages. Nevertheless, the following terms or keywords allude to the model practices expected in polite society: courtesy; the art of living; the art of dressing; good manners; the art of presentation; the art of correspondence; home economics; table manners; and politeness in the areas of transportation, leisure, travel and more.

Scope

Good manners are not the focus of publications alone. The once numerous specialized schools often catered to wealthy, elite young women. Finishing schools provided a full range of etiquette training.

Some careers also require employees to graduate from specialized schools, such as schools of protocol or butler schools.

The LAC collection

Vintage publications on etiquette are a treasure trove of information. Among other things, they teach us about the transformations that our society has witnessed. For example, a textbook on good conduct for teenagers informs us about what parents, teachers and society as a whole expected of young people of their generation. Some books describe dress codes. For example, at one time, women were not supposed to go out without a hat, especially to church. Men, however, had to remove their hats in church.

Developments in etiquette

Over time, certain social practices or rules change or fall by the wayside to meet new needs or to adapt to new realities. Etiquette has also adapted to changes in the work world, such as industrialization and the arrival of the female workforce. As communication and correspondence tools evolved, codes of conduct emerged for typed correspondence, the art of speaking by telephone and more.

Sociologists interested in the evolution of society, customs, relationships between men and women, or the role of young people and children in the family are sure to find material for their research. Moreover, when historians describe a major historical figure, they highlight the person’s habits, style of dress, achievements, and the etiquette of the time. Some well-known individuals led a morally questionable existence, while others were more virtuous. Sometimes, what was once considered immoral is no longer so.

Black-and-white photo of a woman setting the kitchen table.

Woman setting the table, 1945 (e010862357)

Some finds in the collection

Mille questions d’étiquette discutées, résolues et classées. M. Sauvalle. Montréal: Éditions Beauchemin, 1907. OCLC 300069021

This encyclopedic-style book covers a range of topics and provides a list of questions and answers about good manners in different situations.

For example, concerning illness:

[Translation] Question—What is the correct way to show concern for close friends who are ill with a mild but contagious sickness?

Answer—Many people with a mild but contagious sickness close their door to their good friends. [In this way,] friends are not exposed to catching the sickness: in this case, their friends should be thoughtful enough to slip their card under the door or in the box […]

Other handbooks are more moralistic.

Traits caractéristiques d’une mauvaise éducation, ou actions et discours contraires à la politesse, et désignés comme tels par les moralistes tant anciens que modernes. L. Gaultier. Quebec: Librairie de W. Cowan et fils, 1839. OCLC 49023922

This collection contains 555 examples of character traits that are contrary to politeness and good manners, and explains what a sensible young person should not do (in terms of clothing, cleanliness, conversations and contact with others).

Finally, people say that some fashions and lifestyles never fade. I like to say that good ideas are timeless. The following publication discusses the art of receiving guests.

Manuel de l’étiquette courante parmi la bonne société canadienne-française. Evelyn Bolduc. [Ottawa]: [1937?]. OCLC 1015541211

[Translation] For the hostess expecting dinner guests […]

We will now turn our attention to the menu that the hostess will have created based on locally available resources and the season. In November, for example, game will be easier to find than it would be in April; grapes are tastier and better than strawberries; and oysters are abundant.

During this season, the following dishes might be served: oysters, consommé, fish (not a crustacean since oysters are already on the menu), a first course, a roast; hopefully not a roast of chicken or turkey every time; salad, a dessert of fruit ice cream or jelly. Coffee is usually served in the living room.

Eating local and seasonal products: a lifestyle choice that nutritionists recommend even today! It also conforms to our responsible consumption principles.

The following pre-1953 publications on etiquette are also in the LAC collection:

How to Arrange a Public Dinner. Walter Gardner Frisby. Toronto, Ryerson Press [1938]. Series: The New Dominion Books, [no. 6]. OCLC 42308995

Etiquette in Canada: The Blue Book of Canadian Social Usage. Gertrude Pringle. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1932. OCLC 5322767

Manners. Toronto: McClelland, Goodchild & Stewart, 1914. OCLC: 222701034

Good Table Manners. Narcissa Burwell. [Toronto: Reader Mail, Ltd., 193-?]. Series: Home Service Booklets, 118. OCLC 1007367401

Every publication is unique and the information they contain is invaluable. Some stylists and fashion designers, vintage and contemporary, say they found their niche through the inspiration they discovered in books from a bygone era or in the styles and manners of their grandparents. The same applies to various other occupations.

In any case, the publications discussed in this article are somehow irresistible. They are absolute page-turners!


Euphrasie Mujawamungu is a retrospective acquisitions librarian with the acquisitions team in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

An “Epidemic” of Fake News a Century Ago

By Forrest Pass

Vaccines work. Yet vaccination opponents have long questioned their effectiveness, in spite of overwhelming evidence. A century-old pamphlet in Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) collection illustrates how unreliable sources, deliberate misinformation and outrageous conspiracy theories have been used to promote vaccine hesitancy. Reading historical anti-vaccination propaganda with a critical eye can serve as an “inoculation” against misinformation today.

In 1920 as in 2021, epidemic disease was very much on Canadians’ minds. As health authorities and the public worked to contain final flare-ups of the devastating Spanish flu pandemic, they also faced the worrisome resurgence of familiar diseases. In 1919, Ontario experienced a smallpox epidemic, perhaps introduced by returning soldiers or cross-border travellers; by August, the disease had spread westward, appearing among itinerant farm workers in the hops fields of the Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver. To stop the spread, British Columbia’s provincial medical officer of health, Dr. Henry Esson Young, enlisted the help of school boards to vaccinate all schoolchildren, except those exempted for reasons of conscience.

Young faced opposition from what he considered “a very active and clamorous minority.” In April 1920, vaccination opponents formed the People’s Anti-Vaccination and Medical Freedom League of British Columbia. The league’s secretary-treasurer, Ada Muir, argued that mandatory vaccination, even during a public health emergency, was a violation of personal liberty. Its objections dismissed by the provincial government, the league complained to the British Colonial Office and published Muir’s correspondence in a small pamphlet. British authorities forwarded the complaint to Ottawa, as public health was an internal Canadian matter. At the time, the Governor General’s office was a main line of communication between the British and Canadian governments. Thus, a rare—and well-travelled—copy of the pamphlet made its way into the records of the Office of the Governor General of Canada fonds at LAC.

Title page of a pamphlet, published in 1920, entitled Correspondence relating to An Appeal to the Imperial Authorities by The People’s Anti-Vaccination and Medical Freedom League of B.C. to secure judicial recognition of the fact that under Constitutional Law every freeman owns his own body and has reasonable right to attend to its welfare.

Title page of Correspondence relating to An Appeal to the Imperial Authorities by the People’s Anti-Vaccination and Medical Freedom League of B.C., 1920

Foreshadowing the arguments of present-day vaccination opponents, Muir questioned the purity of the smallpox vaccine and warned of serious side effects. She cited newspaper reports of people who had become sick after vaccination or similar treatments. However, the original sources do not agree with Muir’s interpretations. For example, she blamed medical malpractice for the recent deaths of a Vancouver streetcar driver and his young son, but the story in the Vancouver Daily World made no such accusation: the two had died of diphtheria, a once-common disease now controlled by vaccination.

A newspaper clipping from the Vancouver Daily World, June 29, 1920. The headline reads, “Father and son die following diphtheria: Late Mark W. Freure was popular B.C.E.R. motorman.”

Obituary for a father and son who died of diphtheria, Vancouver Daily World, June 29, 1920, p. 11 (OCLC 20377751)

In describing the smallpox vaccine’s most frightening alleged side effect, Muir should have looked before she shared, for she relied on the discredited research of a 19-century British doctor, Charles Creighton. Creighton believed that the smallpox vaccine caused syphilis, and pointed to an increase in syphilis deaths after the United Kingdom enacted mandatory vaccination in 1853. However, the two diseases are not related. Thirty years before Muir penned her pamphlet, experts had pointed out that new reporting policies, not vaccinations, explained Creighton’s supposed syphilis “spike”; public health officials had begun to record syphilis as the cause of deaths that they had previously attributed to unknown “other causes.” That this change coincided with mandatory vaccination was just that: a coincidence.

Mistrust of medical experts led Muir to imagine conspiracies worthy of the dark corners of the COVID-era Internet. According to Muir, a secretive guild of evil doctors controlled once-democratic British Columbia and deliberately infected children with terrible diseases to satisfy their perverted curiosity. “The human race,” Muir ranted in the pamphlet, “has degenerated into a mere stockyard for the practice of the licensed medical monopoly.” Doctors, she alleged, were an “alien element” whose loyalty to their own profession overrode community safety.

Unsurprisingly, Muir’s supporting sources for this conspiracy theory were scanty. The best she could do was to quote a “Dr. Lockhart” of “Dorchester St. Hospital, Montreal” who had supposedly admitted in 1902 that doctors swore never to testify against their colleagues in court. A Dr. F.A.L. Lockhart had indeed worked at the Montreal Maternity Hospital on Dorchester Street in 1902, but I have not found a reliable source for Muir’s quotation. I specify “reliable source” because the quotation did appear in two letters to newspapers, first in Winnipeg in 1907 and again in Vancouver some seven years after the pamphlet appeared. In both cases, the writer was Alan Muir, Ada Muir’s husband and fellow vaccination opponent.

The outcome of the 1920 smallpox outbreak directly contradicted Ada Muir’s conclusion that vaccination offered no protection against disease. Dr. Young reported that the vaccination opponents’ misinformation campaign had had “very little effect”: in six months, over 80 percent of British Columbia schoolchildren had been vaccinated. After identifying 576 cases of smallpox in 1920, the province reported only 137 cases in 1921, a decrease of over 75 percent. Muir interpreted the small number of cases in Vancouver as proof that the outbreak was a “scare” and that vaccination was unnecessary. The facts support the opposite conclusion: a swift vaccination campaign had flattened the curve.

The success of this local effort foreshadowed a coordinated global smallpox vaccination campaign after the Second World War. In 1977, the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated; this was the first eradication of a disease in human history.

Muir continued her anti-vaccination advocacy into the 1930s, but it became a secondary interest. Astrology was her new passion, and in a 1930 letter to the Vancouver Sun, she argued that a horoscope was as useful a medical tool as a serum or a vaccine. She denied, as Creighton had, that viruses and bacteria cause disease, believing instead that dirt itself was the culprit. It is hard to tell which bias affected which judgment: did Muir’s unusual ideas about health and sickness lead her to question medical expertise, or was she ready to embrace strange new theories because she already mistrusted medical science?

A newspaper clipping of a letter to the editor of the Vancouver Sun, November 27, 1930. The title reads, “Astrology Urged as Aid to Physicians and Surgeons.”

Muir recommends medical astrology, Vancouver Sun, November 27, 1930, p. 6 (OCLC 1081083578)

Errors, sensationalism and discredited theories make the propaganda of Ada Muir and the People’s Anti-Vaccination and Medical Freedom League of B.C. easy to dismiss. Yet today’s slick social media memes and viral videos spread similar anti-vaccination messages. Considering the source, looking for supporting evidence, checking whether others agree, asking the experts, and considering your biases are all useful skills in evaluating medical information, whatever the era.


Forrest Pass is a curator in the Exhibitions team at Library and Archives Canada.

Donald Nelson Baird and the 1945–46 Parliamentary Flag Design Committee

By James Bone

From Confederation through to the Great Canadian Flag Debate of 1964, the quest to give visual identification to the Canadian nation through an official flag was an elusive one. At various times the Union flag of the United Kingdom and the Canadian Red Ensign stood in unofficially for Canada, but attempts to create our own flag never bore fruit. Prime Minister Mackenzie King made an attempt between 1924–31 and there were periods of renewed interest during the Second World War, however these invariably fizzled due to partisan differences in Parliament. At the end of the War, Mackenzie King again sought a solution to the problem. In November 1945, his government struck a joint House of Commons and Senate committee to consider and report upon finding a suitable and distinct flag for Canada. To achieve this task, the Committee announced its intention to accept design submissions from the public.

Flag Design Submissions

To say that the Committee was inundated with potential designs would be an understatement. By the submission deadline, the official count was 2,695 and many more continued to arrive. The Committee’s records, which include a sampling of correspondence thanking people for their submissions, reveal that among those to submit design proposals were people such as the artist David Milne and Dominion Archivist Gustave Lanctôt. There were also designs received from children, veterans and Canadians of all sorts. To facilitate discussion, voting and the elimination of designs, the Committee created a process to count and classify the elements found in each submission. Prominent elements were maple leaves, beavers, the Union Jack and the fleur-de-lys.

During its mandate, the Committee also received and kept correspondence from the public. Some Canadians supported the process to find a suitable national flag, while others felt that any new flag would dishonour the memory of the recent Second World War dead. Likewise, some correspondents felt it would be unacceptable to include any element of French identity, while others pushed for a flag that reflected both the British and the French heritages of Canada.

Donald Nelson Baird’s Submission

One submission to the Committee arrived by way of Dorothy Baird of Truro, Nova Scotia, on behalf of her younger brother, Donald Nelson Baird (1920–2001). Originally from Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, Donald had suffered the effects of polio as a child and had only limited use of his arms, hands and legs. Despite this hardship, he learned to draw and paint with watercolours and would soon find himself at the centre of a national debate on the future of the Canadian flag.

A black-and-white photograph of a man looking towards the camera with a flag design in the background.

Donald Nelson Baird, Abbass Studio Limited, 1946 (Mikan no. 5082349)

Baird’s design was not overly complex. As described in the Committee minutes, it was simply a “Canadian Red Ensign with a maple leaf in autumn golden colour replacing the Coat-of-Arms on the fly.” The design was submitted as a small watercolour painting on paper and, like all submissions, received an identifying number from the Committee.

A flag design with the Union Jack in the left-hand top corner and a gold maple leaf on the right with a red background.

Donald Nelson Baird’s flag design, 1946, watercolour on paper (e011213692)

The design appealed to many members of the Committee, which had received several similar designs. However, given its prominent use of the Union Jack, its red field, and the lack of a French symbol, this appeal was far from unanimous.

Committee Deliberations

In the first quarter of 1946, the Committee deliberated over the many designs it had received in order to make a final selection. Votes were conducted periodically to eliminate certain submissions from the competition. By May 17, 1946, only five designs remained in competition and soon thereafter that number was whittled down to just two: Baird’s design and the Ligue du drapeau national’s design, the latter of which did not include a Union Jack.

The main proponent in the Committee for Baird’s design was R.W. Gladstone, Member of Parliament for Wellington South (Ontario). In the expectation that the Committee would select Baird’s design, Gladstone wrote to Dorothy Baird asking for a suitable photograph of Donald for publicity purposes. The letter also reveals that many similar designs had been received and that, of these, Donald’s seemed the most suitable and typified what Gladstone believed to be the desire of most Committee members. As discussed below, the final design proposed by the Committee for consideration by Parliament was modified slightly from Baird’s and officially was a product of the Committee itself, with no reference to Baird in its reports or minutes. Gladstone’s letter to Dorothy Baird is thus the best available evidence to show that it was indeed Baird’s design selected by the Committee.

A typed page with a crest and House of Commons written at the top.

Correspondence from R.W. Gladstone, MP for Wellington South (Ontario), to Dorothy Baird (Mikan 5082237)

A typed page with R.W. Gladstone’s signature at the bottom.

Correspondence from R.W. Gladstone, MP for Wellington South (Ontario), to Dorothy Baird (Mikan 5082237)

With just two designs remaining in competition, Gladstone then moved to have Baird’s design designated the new Flag of Canada. Deliberations stalled and a separate subcommittee was formed to study the question of whether or not a symbol other than the Union Jack could be used that would satisfy the majority of the Committee. Newspapers began running pieces about the new flag, with most Anglophone papers supporting Baird’s design, while Francophone newspapers such as La Presse supported the design by the Ligue du drapeau national. Cartoonist Bob Chambers, in an editorial cartoon for the Halifax Chronicle Herald, depicted Baird being lifted into the history books by Betsy Ross, the apocryphal designer of one of the first American flags. Baird’s name was also included in the November 1946 supplement to the biographical dictionary periodical Who’s Who.

On July 10, 1946, the subcommittee returned and reported that no alternate symbol could be found. Two members of the Committee remained opposed to Baird’s design as it both included a Union Jack and lacked any element of French Canadian heritage. By the time the Committee reconvened the following evening, the subcommittee had negotiated a compromise that the golden maple leaf would be “in a bordered background of white.” According to the minutes, this was to represent the French presence in Canada. This small modification was, in essence, the only change made to Baird’s original submission. This altered design was put to the Committee and passed in a vote of 22 to 1—thus making it their non-unanimous recommendation for the new flag. The Committee then prepared a final report for both houses of Parliament and recommended the appropriation of funds for the Secretary of State to produce prototypes of the new flag. Artist Frances Gage painted small prototypes, one of which is at the Canadian Museum of History, and an unknown number of full-sized prototypes were made and used for publicity photographs.

A colour photograph of two women holding a flag on a rooftop.

Flag prototype photograph, Weekend Magazine, 1946, photographer Louis Jacques (Mikan 5082300)

Outcome and legacy

Despite all the work that went into the Committee and its selection process, the final report was never presented to Parliament. Prime Minister Mackenzie King was reportedly in favour of the design but, out of consideration for national unity, it was more politic to quietly forget about the episode by invoking the fact that the Committee’s final vote had not quite been unanimous. As Baird’s name was not associated with the design in the Committee minutes and with the final design having been technically the creation of the Committee, his work was largely unknown as having been its inspiration and was soon forgotten outside of his family and community. Like most of the designs for which the Committee had a return address, Baird’s work was returned to his sister Dorothy and was kept by the family. For the next two decades, Dorothy frequently wrote to members of the provincial and federal governments when the question of a national flag resurfaced, urging them to reconsider Donald’s design. The last attempt was made in April 1964, when a sympathetic Member of Parliament, Robert Muir, informed Dorothy that Donald’s design would certainly find no favour with the government, as Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson had promised that the new national flag of Canada would be without the Union Jack.

This author speculates that had Baird’s design been adopted for a national flag in 1946, it likely would not have lasted through the period of renewed interest in establishing a more distinct national identity that came about in the 1960s and that produced the current National Flag of Canada. Nonetheless, Baird’s design and the work of the 1945–46 flag design committee most certainly help to illustrate aspects of the national mood towards Canadian identity in this perhaps lesser-known event in our history. Today, reproductions of Baird’s design can sometimes be found in specialty flag stores, though probably few know its whole story.

Library and Archives Canada has recently acquired the Donald Nelson Baird fonds, which features the original watercolour flag design, correspondence from the Committee and members of the public, newspaper clippings about Baird, and family photographs.

A man standing outside, facing the camera wearing jeans and a red plaid shirt holding the corner of a flag.

Author James Bone with Baird’s flag at Dominion City Brewing, Ottawa, June 2019, copyright James Bone.


James Bone is a philatelic and art archivist with the Private Specialized Media team at Library and Archives Canada.

When Ugandan Asian refugees arrived in Canada in 1972

By Sheyfali Saujani

A black-and-white photograph of a large group of people standing in a big room, with luggage and suitcases on the floor, and a Canadian flag and a sign reading “Bienvenue, Welcome.”

Ugandan Asian refugees arrive at a Canadian Forces Base in Longue-Pointe, Quebec (e011052358)

In September 1972, Canada welcomed the first of some 7,500 Ugandan Asian refugees. At the time, people who had migrated from the Indian subcontinent were called Asian, rather than South Asian. This was the first large-scale influx of non-European immigrants to Canada following a series of changes to the country’s immigration policy that started in 1962. These changes eliminated racial barriers to entry. My family was lucky enough to be among those immigrants.

Both of my parents were born in Africa. My mother, Shanta Saujani, was born in Durban, South Africa, and that is where she went, to be with her mother, when she was pregnant with me, her first child, in 1964. My father, Rai Saujani, was born in Uganda, where his father had arrived sometime around 1914 (we are not completely certain about the date). Asians from around the British Empire migrated to its African colonies in much the same way that Europeans circulated through the colonies (including Canada), and for many of the same reasons: economic opportunity, adventure and change.

But the colonial world did not treat all of its subjects equally, and divisions established under imperial rule persisted, or even deepened, after independence. In South Africa, Asians (people from the Indian subcontinent) were racially segregated, as were Black Africans under the country’s notorious apartheid policy. People designated “white” could go anywhere and everywhere. Those designated “black,” “brown” or “coloured” were restricted in their freedom of movement, residence, education and work. Even though my mother and I were both born there, I was not allowed to become a citizen because my father was a citizen of Uganda.

In Uganda, racial divisions were not legislated, but cultural mingling was discouraged by separate schools and social services. Under colonial rule, it was harder for Black Africans to obtain business licences and other benefits that might have allowed them to compete with entrepreneurial Asians who controlled many key sectors of the economy. Asians thus became a relatively privileged middle class that some Africans resented. Although many Asians, like my father, acquired Ugandan citizenship in order to serve their country, many others, fearful of losing British status, chose to remain British subjects.

In 1971, General Idi Amin ousted Uganda’s government in a military coup. The following year, he declared that there was no longer room for Asians in Uganda, even if they were citizens. In August 1972, he ordered the expulsion of all of the country’s roughly 80,000 Asians and gave us 90 days to leave.

A black-and-white photograph of a group of children sitting together on the floor eating.

A group of children who had recently arrived in Canada (e011052361)

That was a frightening time for us. Although my brothers and I were too young to fully understand the political tensions, we soon realized how bad things could get when some of our relatives were jailed. There had been an argument of some sort in one of the many long lines to acquire government documents, and three of my uncles were arrested by the army. At the time, my father was a deputy superintendent in the Ugandan police force, and he was able to use his connections to get my uncles released. I remember vividly the red welts left on their backs by the terrible beatings they had received while in prison. They were free, but now the army officers who had arrested them were looking for my father. We spent our last few weeks in Uganda in hiding, desperate to find a country that would give us sanctuary.

Because of the refugee crisis caused by Amin’s expulsion order, Canada offered to immediately accept 5,000 (though more eventually came) people needing a new home. Canada also sent a special team of immigration agents to Uganda to help expedite the selection and processing of those who would come here.

A black-and-white photograph of a man in uniform looking at a piece of paper, a man in a dark shirt and a light coloured jacket holding documents, a boy, and a woman with her hair tied back in a ponytail.

A Canadian official and a Ugandan Asian family who had recently arrived in Canada (e011052346)

Those officials suggested that we might be able to enter Canada more quickly if we came as sponsored refugees. Family members reached out to an aunt living in Hamilton. She had moved from Tanzania to Canada with her husband and three daughters a few years earlier.

To qualify as a sponsor, you needed to prove that you had a certain level of income. My aunt’s family fell just short of that number. My aunt feared that they might not qualify as sponsors, but then a helpful immigration officer asked about the monthly mother’s allowance cheques that the government gave out back then. Those small cheques, which my aunt received to help support my three cousins, allowed them to clear the financial threshold needed to qualify as sponsors.

A black-and-white photograph of a man in a uniform serving food to a woman holding a small child.

Food being given to recently arrived Ugandan refugees (e011052348)

A black-and-white photograph of a woman in an apron and a hat handing a paper cup to a smiling man in a suit, as a woman in a scarf holds a cookie and a paper cup.

Recently arrived Ugandan refugees receiving drinks (e011052353)

The day we arrived in Canada was a day of exhaustion, relief and elation for us, much like it probably was for the people in these photos. It was September 28, 1972, a cold and clear fall day in the army barracks near Montréal where officials received the refugee families. My brother and I recall the unexpected chill, for which we were unprepared after coming from equatorial Africa. Luckily, immigration officials had arranged for us to have access to winter clothes. My brother remembers that it was the first time he saw the famous four Hudson’s Bay colours (green, red, yellow and indigo) on some of the coats. We both remember the amazing colours of the autumn leaves. But the best memory of all is my mother’s. She remembers that there were 11 black-and-white television sets scattered around the hall where our paperwork was being processed. Suddenly all of the officials, soldiers and cafeteria staff started jumping up and down, yelling and screaming, hugging each other and shouting for joy. What we did not know but soon learned was that it was the day of the final game of the famous Canada-Soviet Summit Series, and Paul Henderson had just scored the winning goal. And my mother thought: what an auspicious day for us to arrive! We are very grateful for the refuge that Canada gave us, and the opportunity to become citizens of a peaceful country that strives toward inclusion.

For more images of the arrival of Ugandan Asian refugees in Canada in 1972, visit the Library and Archives Canada Flickr Album.

©  Sheyfali Saujani


Sheyfali Saujani worked as a radio producer with CBC Radio for 30 years. She is a writer and producer living in Toronto.