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.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. These beautiful labels captured the attention and entertained many children in the early 20th century when they were released.
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.
Film still from the R.C.M.P series, “Storm O’Brien,” by Crawley Films Ltd., 1959
This series set out to create a more realistic picture of Canada’s Mounties. It hints at complex and difficult relationships—with Indigenous peoples, for example. Still, the overall look and feel is surprisingly romantic.
Tell us about yourself
My research interests focus on Canada’s northern peoples and exploration in the Canadian Arctic documented in government-sponsored films, lesser-known independent and unpublished amateur films, as well as home movies. When the opportunity arises, I turn my efforts towards often-forgotten orphaned films that require much needed attention, with the hopes of making them accessible.
My interest in LAC’s oral history collection began as a reference archivist, and later it became one of my major acquisition portfolios. This fueled a need to conduct donor interviews, as part of the long-established National Archives oral history program. Since 2015, I have been co-lead of LAC’s newly established Oral History Initiative—an oral history interview program that gives voice to and celebrates donors and LAC employees alike.
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The following is a sampling of early RCMP content from LAC’s vast collection of audiovisual records. The information is arranged in three categories: early fictional television dramas; early fictional feature films; and early documentaries and amateur films.
The RCMP portrayed in early fictional television dramas
The R.C.M.P. series was produced in 1959–1960 by Crawley Films Ltd., in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Based on actual cases from the RCMP files, these 39 half-hour shows were filmed in 35 mm black-and-white, and were broadcast in Canada, England, and Australia.
LAC acquired the Crawley Films fonds in 1983. The holdings consist of 38,837 film reels, 12,800 photographs, 42 metres of textual records, and other media. Crawley Films was officially founded in 1939 by Frank Radford “Budge” Crawley and Judith Crawley in Ottawa. Amongst the various categories of film that Crawley Films produced—industrial, feature, documentary, animation, and commercials—the R.C.M.P. television drama series really set Crawley Films apart from other production companies.
Canadians welcomed television into their homes in 1952, and by 1955 there were 23 television stations operating in Canada, where demand was growing for more content to be aired. In 1958, “Budge”, struck a partnership with the CBC and the BBC to produce a series that was to be the “day to day story of Canada’s federal police force.”
Munroe Scott, one of the script writers for the series, explained why Crawley Films chose the theme: “The RCMP fascinated us because they’d been into virtually every aspect of Canadian life. The story lines for each episode were meant to reflect mostly real life, although they were dramatized for television purposes.”
To produce the episodes, Crawley Films purchased 40 acres of land near Chelsea, Quebec, where an 8,500-square foot studio was built. The towns of Aylmer, Quebec and Outlook, Saskatchewan, stood in for the fictional western town of Shamattawa. Gilles Pelletier, a French-speaking actor, played the lead role of Corporal Jacques Gagnier, who was the head of the detachment. John Perkins played Constable Frank Scott, and Don Francks as the rookie sidekick Constable Bill Mitchell. Recurring roles of Special Constable Ben Aputagen was played by Angus Baptiste and Mayor Bill Cartwright, by Bernard McManus.
LAC has a complete set of the 39 episodes, as well as a version of episode 18, The Hunt, in German. Viewers tuned in to watch the series on CBC, Wednesdays at 8:00 pm. A list of all the episodes was compiled by The Classic TV Archive.
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Prior to the R.C.M.P. series, and already popular amongst viewers and listeners was the American fictional drama adventure series of 78 episodes, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, broadcast on CBS television between 1955 and 1958. The series was based on Sergeant William Preston, a Canadian Mountie with the North West Mounted Police, patrolling the wilds of the Yukon with his horse Rex and his faithful dog Yukon King. Together they fought evildoers in northern parts during the Gold Rush of the 1890s.
The television series was based on the popular radio drama, Challenge of the Yukon, a 15-minute radio serial about Sergeant Preston that first aired in Detroit between 1938 and 1947, and then on different radio stations up until 1955. The series was written by Tom Dougall, who was influenced by the poems of Robert W. Service. For those eager to travel down memory lane, the Old Time Radio Researchers Group website has all 609 radio episodes. LAC has some episodes of Challenge of the Yukon and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.
The RCMP portrayed in early fictional feature films
An iconic Canadian symbol, the RCMP was portrayed in several hundred Hollywood fictional works which saturated the film industry. Classics such as Rose-Marie (1936), a musical by MGM, and Renfrew of the Royal Mounted,(1937), a series of eight features by Criterion Pictures Corporation were distributed throughout North America and elsewhere.
The earliest fictional feature about Mounties was The Cattle Thieves (1909), made by the American-based Kalem Company, which was the first film studio to travel to Canada to film dramas on location. In doing so, they introduced the Northwest Mounted Police to the American public. American production companies also produced films with Canadian plots that were filmed on location in the U.S., a pattern followed well into the 1950s, when the emphasis was on the romance of Canada’s vast wilderness. A recurring cast of characters often included a French-Canadian trapper or lumberjack as the villain, a few Aboriginal people, miners, prospectors, whisky runners, and of course, a “noble Mountie.”
On the King’s Highway (1915) was an early Mountie drama story, directed by A.J. Edwards, of the Conness Till Film Company of Toronto, and the James Oliver Curwood story, Wapi the Walrus that became Back to God’s Country (1919), Canada’s earliest surviving feature film. Film historian Peter Morris described the story as a “melodramatic triangle of heroine, hero, and villain, with a setting in the wilds of North Canada, a dog as co-hero, plus bears, living amid their natural surroundings in the snow fastness of the North, and the omnipresent North West Mounted Police.”
Cameron of the Royal Mounted (1921) is a silent fictional adventure feature with English intertitles, made by Winnipeg Productions Ltd., and based on the book, Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police, by Ralph Connor. It tells the story of a young man who comes to Canada escaping arrest for forging a cheque. He falls in love but is shot by a jealous rival. The occasion presents itself to join the RNWMP. He rescues his kidnapped girlfriend, and clears his name of the initial offense. What really sets this feature apart from others is the bold decision to cast real Mounties from the RNWMP Fort McLeod post in Alberta as extras. LAC has an incomplete version of the film, with only two reels of a six-part feature.
Other films include Policing the Plains (1927) by A.D. Kean of Canadian Historic Features Ltd. in Vancouver, and His Destiny (1928) also known as North of 49 by British Canadian Pictures Ltd. in Calgary. The latter was shot on location in Alberta, and includes scenes of the 1928 Calgary Stampede. LAC has two incomplete versions.
The RCMP portrayed in early documentaries and amateur films
There are plenty of films made about the Mounties but not as many made by them. LAC has over 1,230 moving image and sound records for both governmental and private collections documenting activities of the RCMP. Documentaries provide a narrative of activities and events, such as Through the Northwest Passage, a film documenting a unique voyage in the history of navigation. The documentary shot by Corporal F.S. Farrar tells the story of the voyage of the wooden schooner St. Roch, Captain Henry Larsen, and her eight member crew as they sail from Vancouver, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia via the Northwest Passage from 1940 to 1942.
Amateur films play a significant role in documenting history, culture, and lives and activities of individuals. Many archives aim to promote their broader value or significance, as they are considered primary source material in the context of the historical record, especially given the increasing demand from researchers for their invaluable use in productions, sociological studies, websites, exhibitions, and more.
Real life stories about Mounties are also told through amateur footage. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, Henry Larsen shot seven reels of amateur film documenting varied activities, people and places encountered during his northern voyages.
In 1932, Doug Betts became an RCMP Constable and trained at the Fairmont Barracks in Vancouver. Shortly afterwards, he was posted to Dawson, Yukon Territory and Whitehorse, and was promoted to the rank of Corporal in the late 1940s.
The Norman Betts fonds consists of 23 reels of silent black-and-white 8 mm home movies. Corporal Doug Betts was an avid cameraman who took his camera on various work assignments, as well as during recreational leave, documenting placer mining operations, patrols by dog sled, investigation of a plane crash site, assisted hunting parties, and more. In addition, LAC conducted a donor interview with Doug Betts’ son Norman, to gain contextual information about the silent films.
Caroline Forcier-Holloway is an Audiovisual Archivist at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). During her career at LAC, she has worked in various capacities beginning in 1989 as a Specialized Audiovisual Reference Archivist, General Reference Archivist, Film Researcher, and finally, an Audiovisual Archivist. Since 2000, she has acquired audiovisual fonds and collections of oral history, and Aboriginal and northern content, as well as French and English, private and government, professional and amateur filmmakers and broadcasters.
The National Film Board of Canada (NFB) was established on May 2, 1939, under the National Film Act, with a mandate to produce and distribute films on subjects of varied interest to Canadians. Although its mandate has expanded, the NFB maintains a solid international reputation for capturing historically significant footage and producing visually stimulating flagship films, such as the early award-winning documentary Royal Journey (1951), documenting Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit to Canada and the United States.
In 1967, after a fire devastated most of the NFB’s nitrate film collection housed in a storage facility near Montréal, Quebec, it became clear that Canada’s film heritage was endangered. This tragedy provided the impetus to authorize the Public Archives of Canada (now Library and Archives Canada) to create a national film acquisition program in 1969. And in 1976, Canada officially had a National Film Archive with its own dedicated staff to ensure the ongoing collection and preservation of Canada’s film collection.
The NFB Fonds
The National Film Board fonds is Library and Archives Canada’s largest film collection, boasting a variety of genres that represent over 11,000 audiovisual records, including film, video, sound recordings, textual records, posters, technical drawings and more. These records consist of completed productions and pre-production elements, such as negatives, outtakes, stock shots, and prints. The photographic series documents everyday Canadian life—promoting tourism, industry and natural resources—since the NFB’s photography division was established in 1942.
Although many NFB filmmakers are now working entirely in digital form, it is not uncommon for audiovisual archivists, when opening a box of archival records, to come across the iconic green NFB label on cans of celluloid or video cases. The NFB’s once wide distribution of their productions is evidenced in the large amount of analogue records still found in libraries and archives across Canada. Most of its analogue productions having been digitized, NFB can now reach an even greater public with its online collection.
Important NFBContributors in the LAC Collection
Besides the National Film Board fonds, Library and Archives Canada has private fonds of well-known and award-winning NFB filmmakers and directors, such as Norman McLaren—Neighbours; Gilles Carle—La vraie nature de Bernadette; Evelyn Spice Cherry—Weather Forecast; Donald Brittain—Canada at War series; Cynthia Scott—Flamenco at 5:15; Claude Jutra—Mon oncle Antoine; Bill Mason—Paddle to the Sea; and Colin Low—The Romance of Transportation in Canada. You can view many of these movies for free or a small fee on the NFB website.
Art lovers interested in researching the life and working methods of Canadian artist Alma Duncan (1917–2004) must make Library and Archives Canada (LAC) one of their first stops. With the acquisition of Duncan’s complete records (fonds) between 1998 and 2005, LAC became the major centre for the study and preservation of artworks, and supporting material documenting Duncan’s personal and professional life.
The collection includes major oil paintings such as this early self-portrait:
In this painting, Duncan portrays herself wearing pants at a time when this type of attire was still considered somewhat risqué for a woman.
The collection also includes drawings, preparatory work, material related to Duncan’s separate career as a graphic designer, and original films by Duncan. Probably the most fascinating items are related to the film company, Dunclaren Productions, formed by Duncan and Canadian photographer Audrey McLaren between 1951 and 1960. That collaboration resulted in three internationally acclaimed short animated films created for the most part in an Ottawa attic. Today these films are recognized as milestones in the history of short animated film, a genre in which Canada has always been a leader.
The Dunclaren Productions holdings include most of the original handmade puppets and props that Duncan created for the films.
This puppet and its accompanying “scared” replacement head created for the film, Folksong Fantasy, illustrate the painstaking methods Duncan used to make the characters in her films appear to change expression.
Meticulously crafted props like this tiny igloo and kayak created for the film, Kumak, the Sleepy Hunter, highlight Duncan’s lifelong interest in themes related to the Canadian arctic:
A major retrospective exhibition on Duncan’s life and work, ALMA: The Life and Art of Alma Duncan (1917-2004), opens on October 2, 2014 at the Ottawa Art Gallery. LAC is a major lender to this exhibition, which will include many of the original art works illustrated above.
Film festival season is upon us, and as numerous Canadian cities including Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Vancouver welcome the world’s film industry, it is an opportune time to discover the rich collection of feature films at Library and Archives Canada (LAC).
Since the 1970s, LAC has been acquiring and preserving Canadian feature films, an effort that has become more concerted since 2000. Our collection now includes the earliest surviving Canadian feature film, Back to God’s Country (1919) by Canadian film pioneer Nell Shipman, as well as the latest acclaimed works, such as Louise Archambault’s Gabrielle (2013), Denis Villeneuve’s Enemy (2013) starring Jake Gyllenhaal, and the latest from the Trailer Park Boys, Swearnet (2013).
Since 2000, we have acquired master copies of all feature films funded by Telefilm Canada, a federal cultural agency, thereby ensuring their long-term preservation. In addition, we have compiled a collection of privately funded films.
Representing the most diverse and complete collection of Canadian features in the world, we have over 2,800 feature films starring national and international award winners, including Academy Award nominees and winners. Our collection includes film prints, master videotapes and digitally created features, all preserved in our state-of-the-art storage facility.
As the film industry rapidly switches to digital filmmaking, we too are changing the feature film acquisition process by including Digital Cinema Packages (DCPs), the digital equivalent of a film print.
In light of the influence of the American film industry on the international cinema market, Canadian feature films frequently have limited theatre distribution. As a result, LAC is a major access point for Canadian films that are no longer available commercially, thus preserving a diverse collection of feature films to archival standards, and accessible to researchers.
These films provide cinephiles with access to Canada’s cinematic heritage through online descriptions; on-site research and screenings; and loans to festivals and cinematheques for exhibition.
Related Resources :
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has released the last set of heritage films on its YouTube channel. Easy to access, you can now enjoy the following short films:
- First World War British Newsreel: excerpt
- Footage on Ypres, 1914-1918
- Canadian Official War Films
- Part 2: Vimy Ridge, 1914-1918
- Pathé Gazette Newsreel, 1918
The visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada in autumn 1919 was one of the first major cross-Canada events covered by the motion picture newsreels. Library and Archives Canada has preserved silent film of the event, including the film entitled Britain’s Future King.
The Prince’s Canadian tour began on August 11, 1919, when his ship arrived at Newfoundland. It ended on November 10, when he left Canada by train to begin his visit to the United States. His Canadian itinerary took him to many cities across the country. Canadians gathered in cities, towns and villages along the route to see the Prince.
The visit had all the ingredients ideal for media coverage: an itinerary packed with photo opportunities and a public fascinated by celebrity and eager to see its community celebrations depicted in the newsreels and newspapers. Radio broadcasting was in its infancy, so it was up to the newsreels and the print media to report on the visit. In addition, Canada was in the mood for celebrating after the hardship of the war years.
Canadian weekly newsreels carried reports of the tour as it unfolded, bringing to audiences film of such events as receptions with First World War veterans, the opening ceremony of the Québec Bridge, the Prince laying the cornerstone of the Peace Tower of the new Parliament building in Ottawa, and a visit to a British Columbia sawmill.
The Prince viewed films of his trip while he travelled across Canada. Newsreels in Britain and other countries also showed film from the tour. Some of the newsreel companies compiled their footage into documentaries. For example, Pathéscope of Canada Limited issued two films, Britain’s Future King, and The Prince of Wales in Canada.
Son of George V, Edward became Prince of Wales in 1911. When his father died in January 1936, he became King Edward VIII but abdicated 10 months later. After his abdication, he was given the title Duke of Windsor.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) announces the release of eight heritage films on its YouTube channel. Canadians can now discover and enjoy with ease the following short films:
- Arrival of the Governor General, Lord Minto, at Quebec, 1902
- Canadian National Pictorial, 1921
- Her Own Fault, 1921
- State Funeral of the Late Right Honourable Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Feb. 22, 1919
- The Great Toronto Fire, April 19, 1904
- The Last Post for Distinguished Soldier, 1929
- The Rugged Road to Learning, 1921
- Transport in the North, 1925
The films served as a successful method to inform and influence the public. They were used to achieve many goals, from enticing potential immigrants, to increasing industrial investment, to encouraging the public to embrace changes. Perhaps most interesting however, is what these films reveal about how Canadians pictured themselves in the early part of the 20th century.
As part of its ongoing commitment to providing Canadians with quick and easy access to their documentary heritage, LAC will release three more sets of films on its YouTube channel in the coming months. Stay tuned!
You can also find archived versions of the films on other media on the Virtual Silver Screen page.
Library and Archives Canada (LAC) clients can use their credit or debit cards to purchase digital copies of textual material* through the Government of Canada’s Receiver General Buy Button (RGBB). The RGBB is a safe and secure service that provides convenient, reliable and secure payment services to clients and businesses during their online dealings with the federal government.
The RGBB is much safer than other methods of payment such as mailing or faxing a credit card number, or even providing it over the phone, as your personal information is protected throughout the entire payment process. When using the RGBB, your credit card number is immediately encrypted, then placed in secure transaction storage and no longer retrievable in an unencrypted format.
When you order copies and reproductions from LAC, a link to the RGBB will be sent to the email address you have provided. The link will be sent to you after LAC has completed the processing of your order. You may then pay the Receiver General by credit or debit card.
The Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) and the Office of the Privacy Commission (OPC) have studied the safety and security aspects of the RGBB. They published their research in a report entitled “Receiver General Buy Button Privacy Impact Assessment”, which concludes that privacy, safety and security concerns are low since the RGBB appropriately addresses any such concerns.
* Please note that clients who purchase photographic prints, videos, sound recordings or microfilm reels will continue to be contacted by our third-party suppliers for payment. LAC price lists and service standards are all available online.