In their own words: Inmate publications of the British Columbia Penitentiary

By Olivia Cocking

In March 1951, inmates at the British Columbia Penitentiary in New Westminster, B.C. published the first edition of the penitentiary’s bimonthly magazine, Transition. Prison administrators promoted penal publications such as Transition during the 1950s and 1960s as part of a broader initiative to remodel the correctional system around a model of rehabilitation rather than punishment. With subscriptions offered for external readers at the rate of $1 annually, the editorial staff of Transition worked not only to keep inmates abreast of daily life at the penitentiary but also to establish a “feeling of understanding and faith” between prisoners and broader society.

Cover illustration showing an old-fashioned train engine and caboose, a railway station with a sign reading “Agassiz,” and a handcart containing mailbags labelled “BCP”

Front cover of the May–June 1961 issue of Transition magazine (e011311001)

Staffed by an editorial team of inmates and published at B.C. Penitentiary’s own print shop, Transition offered the penitentiary’s residents a chance to voice their views on a wide variety of subjects. Issues of the magazine featured editorials, articles of fiction and critical commentary, as well as coverage of prison sports and entertainment. Recurring columns included one on advice by a Dr. Larrup Loogan, called “What’s Your Beef?” and a section on prison affairs aimed primarily at the inmates, titled “The Inmate Speaks.” Holiday issues of Transition offered a particularly touching perspective, featuring seasonal greetings from inmates to friends and family, as well as reflections on the experience of the holiday season from inside the penitentiary. As one writer in the November–December 1959 issue noted poignantly, “high walls have a way of casting thick shadows across the laughter of a Christmas meant to be bright.”

Cover illustration with text “Merry Xmas,” showing two children in pyjamas facing a fireplace where Christmas stockings are hanging from the mantle.

Front cover of the November–December 1960 issue of Transition magazine (e011311002)

Publications like Transition often faced challenges in balancing the goal of providing an authentic outlet for inmates to express their views within the constraints of administrative censorship. However, given the realities of censorship, one of the most striking features of Transition is the frequency and depth of the critical analyses of criminal justice issues. Columnists discussed policy debates and offered personal perspectives on the effectiveness of Canadian strategies for prisoner rehabilitation. In Transition’s January–February 1959 issue, one columnist contended that Canadian efforts at rehabilitation had failed to live up to their goals, arguing that Canadian penitentiaries did “little but instill in the majority of inmates either a conscious or an unconscious desire to get even with society.” However, not all articles were equally disparaging. For example, a feature in the May–June 1961 issue detailed the positive contributions of B.C. Penitentiary’s blacksmith shop: “The inmate tradesmen in the BCP blacksmith shop are performing a public service that could be performed in no other way and by no one else. This is a fact in which these men can justifiably take pride.”

Cover illustration showing a man sitting at a desk writing a letter with his right hand and holding his head in his left hand, which also holds a lit cigarette.

Front cover of the September–October 1957 issue of Transition magazine  (e011311003)

Drug use and its treatment by the criminal justice system represented another frequent topic of debate among Transition’s columnists. The January–February 1959 issue features two contrasting opinions on the criminalization of drugs. One columnist argued that “the addict is a person who is mentally and morally incompetent” who could not be parted from his criminal tendencies by the legalization of drugs. The other contended that the social problems created by drug use lie in its criminalization, and not in the addicts themselves. As a result, he advocated the legalization of drugs as a government cost-saving measure and a remedy to the culture of criminality surrounding drugs.

Inmate columnists did not restrict their commentary to criminal justice issues. For example, the opening editorial of the 1961 Christmas edition sketches a pointed critique of voter apathy in Canadian elections. The editorial analysis presented by the columnists is especially effective when they highlight the eagerness with which their otherwise disenfranchised fellow inmates participate in Inmates Council elections. As they note, “Possibly they could set an example for the citizens and send forth emissaries to use a little rehabilitation on them.”

Back cover illustration showing a hand holding a cup containing signposts with various messages, such as “What Is A Convict?”, “Inside Looking Out”, “Rehabilitation?”, and “100 Year Failure!” A subscription form is included below the illustration.

Back cover of the January–February 1959 issue of Transition magazine (e011311004)

The vibrant discussion of criminal justice issues found in the pages of Transition reflects a broader debate taking place among policymakers during this period over how to best create an environment for the successful rehabilitation of inmates. This contentious atmosphere placed increasing strain on relationships of prison administrators and the penal press. By the mid-1960s, administrative, financial, and distribution support for penal publications decreased and censorship escalated, marking the decline of a Canadian penal press that catered to an external audience on any significant scale. As a result, issues of Transition published at the height of the magazine’s circulation during the 1950s and 1960s represent an invaluable resource, providing a unique look into the intellectual lives of inmates and an original perspective on criminal justice issues.


Olivia Cocking works at Library and Archives Canada’s Vancouver public service point as part of the Federal Student Work Experience Program (FSWEP).

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Songs of the Season”

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “Songs of the Season.”

Library and Archives Canada has the largest collection of Canadian music in existence. There are over 250,000 sound and video recordings alone, not to mention huge collections of sheet music, printed scores, concert programs and books. Therefore, it goes without saying that LAC also has the largest collection of Christmas and holiday music as well.

Joining us today to talk about some of this Christmas and holiday music in LAC’s collection, is music archivist, and LAC co-choir leader, Joseph Trivers.

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

For more information, please contact us at bac.balados-podcasts.lac@canada.ca.

Governor General’s Literary Awards 2018

By Liane Belway

Each autumn at Library and Archives Canada, we celebrate the best in Canadian literature by supporting the Governor General’s Literary Awards. Begun in 1936 and administered by the Canada Council for the Arts since 1959, these awards showcase the best in the year’s literary publishing. (Conveniently just in time for holiday shopping, in case you are looking for a gift for the book lovers in your life.) Reflecting Canada’s rich literary diversity, the fourteen winners in two official languages and seven categories were announced on October 30.

Here are all the winners, in English and French.

Fiction

The Red Word by Sarah Henstra, published by ECW Press and distributed by Jaguar Books Group, ISBN 978-1-77041-424-2.

De synthèse by Karoline Georges, published by Éditions Alto and distributed by Diffusion Dimedia, ISBN 978-2-89694-349-4.

Poetry

Wayside Sang by Cecily Nicholson, published by Talonbooks and distributed by PGC Books/Raincoast, ISBN 978-1-77201-182-1.

La raison des fleurs by Michaël Trahan, published by Le Quartanier and distributed by Diffusion Dimedia, ISBN 978-2-89698-359-9.

Drama

Botticelli in the Fire & Sunday in Sodom by Jordan Tannahill, published by Playwrights Canada Press and distributed by University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-1-77091-917-4.

Venir au monde by Anne-Marie Olivier, published by Atelier 10 and distributed by Flammarion/Socadis, ISBN 978-2-89759-303-2.

Non-fiction

Mamaskatch: A Cree Coming of Age by Darrel J. McLeod, published by Douglas & McIntyre and distributed by University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-1-77162-200-4.

Avant l’après : voyages à Cuba avec George Orwell by Frédérick Lavoie, published by La Peuplade and distributed by Diffusion Dimedia, ISBN 978-2-924519-75-2.

Young People’s Literature–Text

Sweep: The Story of a Girl and Her Monster, by Jonathan Auxier, published and distributed by Puffin Canada/Penguin Random House Canada Young Readers, ISBN 978-0-7352-6435-9.

Ferdinand F., 81 ans, chenille, by Mario Brassard, published by Soulières éditeur and distributed by Messageries ADP, ISBN 978-2-89607-413-6.

Young People’s Literature–Illustrated Books

They Say Blue by Jillian Tamaki, published by Groundwood Books and distributed by University of Toronto Press, ISBN 978-1-77306-020-0.

Le chemin de la montagne by Marianne Dubuc, published by Comme des géants and distributed by Diffusion Dimedia, ISBN 978-2-924332-40-5.

Translation

Descent into Night, translated by Phyllis Aronoff and Howard Scott, published by Mawenzi House Publishers and distributed by University of Toronto Press. It is a translation of Explication de la nuit by Edem Awumey, published by Les Éditions du Boréal, ISBN 978-1-988449-16-6.

Le Monde selon Barney, translated by Lori Saint-Martin and Paul Gagné, published by Les Éditions du Boréal and distributed by Diffusion Dimedia. It is a translation of Barney’s Version by Mordecai Richler, published by Knopf Canada, ISBN 978-2-7646-2503-3.

Find out more:

https://ggbooks.ca/#winners

https://livresgg.ca/#gagnants

A wealth of great Canadian literature in both official languages is represented in the GG selections, so check out the winners at your local library or search in Voilà, Canada’s catalogue to find a lending library near you.


Liane Belway is a librarian in the Acquisitions section of Published Heritage at Library and Archives Canada.

Juvenilia in the archives: a reading of Jane Urquhart’s early works

By Sara Viinalass-Smith

Juvenilia is defined as works produced by an author while still young. Juvenilia can provide unique insights into a creator’s early influences and the evolution of their writing. For many reasons, researchers will unfortunately find that examples of juvenilia are not always present amongst an author’s papers. Over time, juvenilia might go missing, be discarded, or even destroyed.

Some famous examples of lost juvenilia include Ernest Hemingway’s early works. When Hemingway was 23, a suitcase full of his early drafts and their carbon copies was stolen at a train station. All that remained of his early works, then, were a couple of short stories, a poem and some carbon copies of articles he had written. In the case of Truman Capote, his lost juvenilia weren’t really lost at all. Upon his death, his papers were donated to the New York Public Library (NYPL). Amongst them were several short stories written by Capote in his teens and early 20s. In 2013, a researcher came across the stories, and in 2015 they were published in The Early Stories of Truman Capote (Random House) and hailed as newly discovered texts. However, the NYPL’s Manuscripts and Archives Division was quick to make the distinction between “undiscovered” and “unpublished” in the media. While the stories had not necessarily ever been in print, they had been catalogued and were available to anyone wishing to consult Capote’s papers.

Though there are many reasons why early works might not find their way into the archives, Library and Archives Canada’s Literary Archives Collection is fortunate to include a variety of pieces of juvenilia. One very special example comes from the Jane Urquhart fonds.

The celebrated author of such works as The Underpainter and The Stone Carvers showed an early interest in creative pursuits. Urquhart (née Carter) was keen to experiment with different literary forms and studied acting from a young age. As a girl in the 1950s, she loved the books of Lucy Maud Montgomery, and adapted the novel Anne of Green Gables into a play.

A notebook with pencil handwriting of a dramatization of Anne of Green Gables.

A page from Jane Urquhart’s notebook titled “Anne of Green Gables” (e011202224)

Written in a blue Hilroy notebook, an elementary school mainstay for decades, Urquhart’s play opens with the familiar scene of Matthew Cuthbert and Anne Shirley in what Urquhart describes as a stage coach, on their way to Green Gables for the first time. While the script represents only a small portion of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novel, the text illuminates Urquhart’s own early reading interests and writing style. Even at such a young age, Urquhart follows the conventions of scriptwriting by beginning with a setting description and designating dialogue to different speakers. She was perhaps familiar with how a script is formatted because of her interest in acting. Within a few years of drafting her adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, Urquhart was a member of an acting workshop under the direction of Canadian theatre pioneer Dora Mavor Moore.

What makes this example of juvenilia even more important is how it contributes to our understanding of the lasting influence of Lucy Maud Montgomery and her works on Urquhart. Montgomery’s novels continue to have a worldwide audience, even though more than a century has elapsed since the original publication of Anne of Green Gables. Like many girls and boys, Urquhart discovered Montgomery’s novels as a child. Urquhart, however, had the unique opportunity of reflecting on Montgomery and her works as an adult, formally encapsulating her feelings about the books and their author in a biography written for Penguin Canada’s Extraordinary Canadians series. L. M. Montgomery was published in 2009. In it, Urquhart examines Lucy Maud Montgomery, the writer and the woman. She describes the struggles of an author who achieves commercial success, but who is ignored by literary critics who dismiss her writing as sentimental and lowbrow—criticisms levelled at female Canadian authors such as Carol Shields even decades later. Perhaps the most personal section of the biography is the final chapter entitled, “Her Reader.” In it, Urquhart describes an 11-year-old girl’s discovery of Anne Shirley in the 1920s, an experience that provokes the desire to write herself. That young girl, Marian, grew up to be Jane Urquhart’s mother, and it was Marian’s own copy of Montgomery’s first novel that Urquhart read as a child, inspiring one of her very first literary efforts.

This example of juvenilia and others can be found in fonds within the Literary Archives Collection. To browse the collection, visit LAC’s website.


Sara Viinalas-Smith is a literary archivist (English language) in the Social Life and Culture Private Archives Division of Library and Archives Canada.

“Hostilities will cease at 1100 hours on Nov. 11th. Troops will stand fast on the line reached at that hour which will be reported to Corps H.Q.”

Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) units maintained a daily account of their actions in the field, known as a War Diary. Using their diary, you can now follow in the footsteps of the 1st Canadian Division –throughout November 1918, including the day they received the ceasefire message by wire.

You can transcribe, tag and translate the words of the War Diary that documented the 1st Canadian Division’s story. With each page transcribed, Canada’s history becomes more accessible and easier to discover.


Want to see more War Diaries? There are hundreds for you to explore. Read our detailed instructions on how to search for CEF War Diaries.

If you find a War Diary image that you would like to contribute to, copy the MIKAN reference number, open our new Collection Search (Beta) and paste the number into the search field. Click the Search button. From the results page, click on an image to open it. Below the viewer, click the button called “Enable this image for Co-Lab contributions” and you will be transcribing, tagging and translating in no time!

Using the Railway index to access railway plans and profiles

By Rebecca Murray

Earlier this year I was working on a request for a researcher that involved spending some quality time with accession RG12M 77803/17 “Railway index,” a set of 30,000 index cards that provide detailed, item-level listings for railway plans and profiles from across Canada, dating from 1866 through 1937. Although I am used to working with accessions of cartographic material and their finding aids on a regular basis, this particular one was a challenge. It provides a great example of how difficult it can be to organize and understand extensive sets of records such as these.

Why might you even venture into this type of research, then? Why not rely on published sources? I am a huge advocate for the use of and reliance on primary sources for research. You can consult the original document and draw your own conclusions, both from the document itself and from its arrangement among the other records. Perhaps the plan you are looking for demonstrates a particular moment in time not usually shown in secondary sources. Or perhaps you’re investigating the evolution of a particular section of railway. No matter the reason, it’s time to get your hands into some white gloves and get into the archives!

Step 1

The first step is to review the index cards that are available on digitized microfilm. The index cards are arranged alphabetically by both railway company and location.

When you identify plans of interest, please note the plan number. For example, if I were interested in the “Plan & profile showing the approach of the Bridge in the city of Montreal P.Q. as located,” as listed on the index card below, I would note plan number 7457.

A ruled index card with black text.

An excerpt from the alphabetical index by railway company taken from RG12 reel C-6823

 

Step 2

When you are working onsite at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa, Ontario, you can consult a set of paper index cards in our Reference Room. Once you have identified the plan numbers for items you wish to consult or copy, you can use an additional set of index cards, found with the other map and plan finding aids and organized by plan number, to identify the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) item number for each. A team member in the Reference Room can assist you with both steps as required.

Colour photograph of metal drawers of index cards for accession RG12M 77803/17.

Photograph of RG12M 77803/17 Railway index card drawers in the annex to the Reference Room.

Colour photograph of index card drawer with card for plan 7457 sticking up.

Photograph of index card drawer showing card for plan 7457.

Colour photograph of index card with the item number circled in red.

Photograph of index card with complete reference information (item numbers) for plan 7457.

Step 3

If you are not on site, you can write to us using our online form and request assistance in completing the references for each item. For example, you could cite RG12M 77803/17, plan 7457, and ask for the item number in order to complete the reference. One of our team members can check the index cards to confirm the item number and then determine the container barcode to facilitate your consultation or reproduction request.

Many of these items are also available on microfiche, which helps with consultation. If you are on site, you can head straight up to the Microform Consultation Room on the 3rd floor and ask for assistance from LAC staff (during service hours) or take advantage of the self-service microfiche drawer labelled RG12M 77803/17. Don’t forget to wear gloves!

Did you know that the Microform Consultation Room has new flatbed scanners that provide high quality self-service copies of microfiche? Bring your USB key so that you can bring copies home with you.

These types of finding aids can be daunting to work with as they require collecting information along the way rather than simply finding all relevant information within one line of text. This represents a good challenge for the seasoned researcher (or archivist!) and a steep learning curve for new researchers. Please do not hesitate to reach out to our team for help with this or other types of requests. We are here to help you navigate LAC’s holdings, and we thrive on learning new things every day!


Rebecca Murray is an archivist in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

The road to peace: Canada’s Hundred Days

By Emily Monks-Leeson

After years of static trench warfare, the Allies’ Hundred Days Offensive, which took place over the final 100 days of the First World War, succeeded in breaking the trench line and returning the belligerents to warfare on open ground. A rapid series of Allied victories ultimately pushed the Germans out of France and behind the Hindenburg Line, leading to the Armistice of November 11, 1918.

Following the successful attack on Vimy Ridge, the Canadian Corps did not lose a significant offensive operation for the remainder of the First World War. Having earned their reputation as “shock troops”, they were put into the line in the most difficult battlefields. As British Prime Minister David Lloyd George later wrote in his memoirs, “Whenever the Germans found the Canadian Corps coming into the line they prepared for the worst.” True to form, during the period from August 8 to November 11, 1918, the four Canadian Divisions of roughly 100,000 men caused the defeat or retreat of 47 German divisions or one-quarter of Germany’s fighting forces on the Western Front. Canadians fought at Amiens, Arras, the Hindenburg Line, Canal du Nord, Bourlon Wood, Cambrai, Denain and Valenciennes. These battles, which were instrumental in the defeat of the German Army, came to be known as “Canada’s Hundred Days”. In the final month of the war, Canadian troops engaged retreating German forces in a running series of battles over 70 kilometres, ending at Mons, Belgium, on November 10 to 11, 1918. The location of this final battle was highly symbolic for the Allies, as it was at Mons that the British had fought the Germans for the first time on August 23, 1914.

A black-and-white photograph showing a large group of German soldiers milling around between a village and a river or canal. The buildings in the background are mostly destroyed.

German prisoners captured by Canadians after the Battle of Amiens, August 1918 (a002858)

While Canadian successes were widely acknowledged, they came at a high cost: in the final hundred days, Canada suffered fully 20 percent of their total battle-sustained casualties of the war. Both the loss of lives and the victories of battle in Canada’s Hundred Days are commemorated on the le Quesnel Memorial, the Dury Memorial and the Bourlon Wood Memorial. The Canadian liberation of Mons is marked by a plaque at the City Hall of Mons.

A black-and-white photograph of stretcher-bearers and medical personnel caring for wounded soldiers while other soldiers are standing around in the background.

The wounded arrive at a Canadian field dressing station, Battle of Amiens, August 1918 (a002930)

Thirty Canadian soldiers were awarded the Victoria Cross, the Commonwealth’s highest award for gallantry, during Canada’s Hundred Days. Library and Archives Canada’s Discover Blog series, First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients will remember each of them in the next 100 days, leading up to the armistice on November 11.


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

Canada’s Newspaper Heritage at LAC

Browsing through issues of the Ha-Shilth-Sa and the Windspeaker—two newly digitized Indigenous newspapers dating back to 1974 and 1986 respectively—you can’t help being drawn in by the immediacy of the social and political news, editorials, and correspondence, side-by-side with accounts of local sports, community music and cultural events, birth announcements and obituaries, and endless photographs and advertisements that capture decades of style, commerce, and social change. It’s this combination of meaningful information and nostalgic discovery that makes newspapers such an abundant and vital source of historical information.

The first page of a colour newspaper titled Wind Speaker wth the byline: AMMSA, Canada’s largest publisher of Aboriginal news. The main headlines read: Traditional wedding highlight of powwow and Quebec court rules in favor of Crees.

Windspeaker, Volume 17 – No. 9 (2000-01-01) (AMICUS 6341213)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is engaged on many fronts in supporting the acquisition, preservation, and access to Canada’s newspaper heritage, both locally and nationally. For example, the digitization of the Ha-Shilth-Sa and the Windspeaker is the result of a collaborative effort carried out in the context of the National Heritage Digitization Strategy, an initiative of Canada’s memory institutions to coordinate digitization activities across the country. This group, of which LAC is a member, received funding support from the Salamander Foundation to undertake a newspaper project as a response to feedback from clients and other cultural organizations, indicating that the digitization of LAC’s newspaper collection is a shared priority.

A yellowed newspaper titled Ha-Shilth-Sa and the byline (Nootka for “interesting” news) The headline reads: B.C. Indians demand action from provincial government.

Ha-Shilth-Sa, Volume 1 – No. 9 (1974-07-15) (AMICUS 4316697)

Spanning large daily newspapers and community, regional, multicultural, student, and Indigenous newspapers, LAC’s collection includes over 2,300 Canadian newspaper titles, approximately 200,000 reels of newspaper on microfilm, and 110 digital titles. It’s a vast collection that continues to grow as LAC responds proactively to the trends that influence the volume, variety, and format of newspaper production across the country. Part of that response includes developing acquisitions expertise relating to digital news content, as well as testing new acquisition models, which LAC is undertaking in collaboration with the Winnipeg Free Press, L’Acadie Nouvelle, and Northern News Services Online.

Meanwhile, LAC is supporting the ongoing efforts of Canadiana.org to digitize and provide online access to approximately 230 newspaper titles from microfilm held by LAC. Whether it’s the Saskatchewan Labor’s Realm, the Toronto Patriot, the Canadian Farmer-Labor Advocate, or the Western Clarion, the digital results of this project will be a source of valuable information and enduring fascination for all Canadians.

LAC also is developing an updated strategy to address our newspaper collection. Stay tuned!

Keep reading the LAC Blog for additional features about newspapers in LAC’s collection, including “Local newspapers at the heart of Canadian life” by acquisitions librarian Annie Wolfe, or visit the Newspaper Collection section of LAC’s website.

The Port of Montreal

From the establishment of Montreal as a city in 1642, until the arrival of steam-powered ships in the early part of the 19th century, the Port of Montreal was mostly used by trappers throughout the fur trade and then by French and English sailing vessels bringing supplies to their colony. However, with the appearance of steam-powered ships and the resulting opening of many new and international trading routes, the Port of Montreal would leave behind its humble beginnings and enter into a new period of growth and expansion.

An oil painting of a harbour and waterfront, with a green island visible on the right.

Montreal Harbour, painted by Andrew Morris in 1847, e008300982

Throughout the mid to late 1800s, the Port of Montreal saw countless changes and improvements, starting in 1830 with the establishment of the first Harbour Commission. By 1832, almost three-quarters of a mile of docks had been constructed, and by 1854, the navigation channel between Montreal and Quebec City had been successfully dredged to a depth of 16 feet. Other improvements during this time frame include the movement of goods from the port by train, the installation of electric lights, a further dredging of the channel to 25 feet, as well as the introduction of regular steamship service between the Port of Montreal and Liverpool.

The Port was further enhanced during the early part of the 20th century. The construction of grain elevators began in 1902 and transit sheds in 1908. And by 1910, the deepening of the channel between Montreal and Quebec City to 35 feet was well under way.

A black-and-white photograph of a wharf lined with various types of cargo with a large neo-classical building and a church along the shoreline.

View of the Bonsecours market, wharves and church, photograph by Alexander Henderson, ca. 1875 (c007943)

Because of the harsh Canadian winter, the Port of Montreal was open only seven months of the year up until the early 1960s. However, in 1962, the National Harbours Board (which had become responsible for the Port of Montreal after the demise of the Harbour Commission) introduced icebreakers to the waterway between Montreal and Quebec City. By 1964, the Port of Montreal was open all year long.

A watercolour of a huge ice buildup along the port shoreline of a city.

“Breaking up of the ice in the St. Lawrence at Montreal,” painted by George Henry Andrews in 1864 (e000996176)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has many items that chronicle the evolution of the Port of Montreal. The earliest item is a photograph taken in 1870 by Alexander Henderson depicting the steamship S.S. Quebec docked at Montreal harbour with horse-drawn carts on the shore in the foreground. There are also photographs of the Port by William Topley, Henry Joseph Woodside and Hayward Studios. LAC also has a beautiful oil painting completed in 1847 by Andrew Morris depicting the harbour and waterfront of Montreal from the unusual vantage point of Montreal’s shore across from St. Helen’s Island.

A black-and-white photograph of a busy harbour front, showing a street of buildings and boat-lined piers.

View of Montreal Harbour, photograph by William Topley, September 1902 (a201779)

A black-and-white photograph of railway lines running along a ship-lined harbour front.

Wharf and harbour, undated photograph by William Topley (a008893)

The Peace Tower carillon

By Rebecca Murray

Within the sandstone walls of one of Canada’s most iconic buildings, the Centre Block—with its distinctive Peace Tower—on Parliament Hill, there are cultural and architectural treasures that reflect our country’s history and people. One of these treasures is the carillon. According to the Parliament of Canada website, a carillon is a musical instrument “of at least 23 bells that are played from a keyboard-pedal board that permits infinite control of expression through variations of the touch.”

Following a lengthy commissioning and procurement process, the Peace Tower carillon was installed and inaugurated in 1927. This event was part of the 60th anniversary of Confederation, and the ceremony was the first of its kind to be broadcast across Canada, on radio, so that all Canadians could listen to the address and the bells.

If you’re interested in hearing the address and the bells yourself, please consult our film, video and sound database, and search with keyword Carillon, media type Sound and date 1927-07-01. Among the results is ISN 99534 “[Diamond Jubilee of Canadian Confederation: Commemoration Ceremony]”; this is described as including “O Canada and God Save the King played on the Carillon, Victory Tower, Ottawa by Percival Price (Carillonneur), and the message of the Carillon by the Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada.”

Black-and-white photograph of the Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King, Prime Minister of Canada, speaking at the dedication of the Peace Tower carillon.

The Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King delivering the inaugural address at the dedication of the Peace Tower carillon. Credit: Library and Archives Canada/PA-027555

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) holds extensive documentation about the carillon, from the “Tender for Tower Clock and Bells by Gillett & Johnson” dated November 27, 1924 (RG11, vol. 2683, file 1575-96D) to ornate invitations and programs for the inauguration (RG11, vol. 2687, file 1575-96, part HA); the latter is shown below.

Image from the program for the inauguration of the Peace Tower carillon, July 1, 1927.

Event program for the inauguration of the Peace Tower carillon, July 1, 1927 (e011213394)

LAC holdings also include programs for the carillon’s well-known summer concert series. The program booklet for the summer of 1939 has been digitized (RG11, vol. 2688, file 1575-96, part K) and is shown below.

A collage of two images, one showing the blue cover of a program and the other the inside of the typed program.

Cover of a summer program of the Peace Tower carillon concerts as well as a an example of a program for a day, dated 1939 (e011213393)

A wide variety of music was played on the carillon for listeners on Parliament Hill, including hymns, folk songs, modern music, patriotic airs and popular songs. You can see today’s program online (formal recitals are given most weekdays). Why not plan a visit to hear the noon concert if you’re in the National Capital Region?

If you’re interested in other historical summer programs, take a look at RG11, vol. 2688, file 1575-K for the year 1938, and RG11, vol. 2688, file 1575-L for the years 1940, 1941 and 1942.

LAC also holds the private fonds of the first Dominion Carillonneur, Percival Price (MUS 133). The fonds includes sound recordings, textual records and photographs. Two digitized finding aids are available through the fonds-level description to provide access to file-level descriptions for the items. There are no access restrictions on the material in this fonds.

The carillon is one of the many treasures on Parliament Hill. I hope you have the opportunity to explore some of them during your summertime travels. If you’re not coming to Ottawa this summer, you could take a tour of your local legislative assembly and learn about the traditions and treasures of your home province!


Rebecca Murray is a reference archivist in the Reference Services Division.