Lieutenant Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey, VC

The Discover Blog returns to the First World War Centenary: Honouring Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients series, in which we profile each of Canada’s Victoria Cross recipients on the 100th anniversary of the day that the actions for which they were awarded the Victoria Cross took place. Today we present the story of Lieutenant Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey, an Irish-born Canadian VC recipient from Medicine Hat, Alberta.

A black-and-white portrait of an officer wearing a Sam Brown belt and looking directly at the viewer.

Captain Frederick M. Harvey, V.C., undated (MIKAN 3216613)

Harvey, born in Athboy, County Meath, Ireland, was one of three Irish rugby union internationals to have been awarded the Victoria Cross, and the only one to have been awarded the medal during the First World War. He settled in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in 1908 and enlisted on May 18, 1916 with the 13th Regiment, Canadian Mounted Rifles, transferring to Lord Strathcona’s Horse (Royal Canadians) after arriving in France.

On March 27, 1917, Harvey’s troops advanced on the village of Guyencourt, France. As German machine gun fire inflicted heavy casualties, Harvey’s Victoria Cross citation recounts what occurred next:

At this critical moment, when the enemy showed no intention whatever of retiring and fire was still intense, Lt. Harvey, who was in command of the leading troop, ran forward well ahead of his men and dashed at the trench, still fully manned, jumped the wire, shot the machine gunner and captured the gun. His most courageous act undoubtedly had a decisive effect on the success of the operation (London Gazette, no.30122, June 8, 1917).

A black and white reproduction of a war diary entry showing the place, date, hour and a summary of events and information.

Extract from the Lord Strathcona’s Horse war diaries for March 27, 1917 (MIKAN 2004721)

Lieutenant Harvey was initially granted the Distinguished Service Order but was later awarded the Victoria Cross. He received the Military Cross for his role in the Lord Strathcona’s Horse advance on Moreuil Wood on March 30, 1918 and was also awarded the French Croix de Guerre.

Harvey remained with Lord Strathcona’s Horse and was promoted to Captain in 1923. He instructed in physical training at the Royal Military College of Canada from 1923 to 1927, was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1938, and, in 1939, was made Brigadier General. Harvey served as Honorary Colonel in Lord Strathcona’s Horse from 1958 to 1966. He died in August 1980 at age 91.

A black and white photograph of a man pining an award on another man’s pocket. Another man is reading the citation while a third man is carrying a case. In the background, rows of soldiers are standing at ease.

H.M. The King decorating Lieutenant Harvey L.S.H. with the Victoria Cross (MIKAN 3362384)

Library and Archives Canada holds the CEF service file for Lieutenant Frederick Maurice Watson Harvey.

Related Resources

Guest Curator: Tania Passafiume

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

Join us every month in 2017! Experts from LAC, from across Canada and from other countries provide additional information about 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, Ottawa, from June 5, 2017, to March 1, 2018. Admission is free.

Temples of Today by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934

Black-and-white photo of a grain elevator with tall, circular towers in front of a taller rectangular building.

“Temples of Today” by John Vanderpant, ca. 1934. (MIKAN 3784205)

Photographer John Vanderpant saw Canada’s grain elevators as temples. They were part of his utopian vision for the country, based on a faith in trade and industry. For him, industry would define the nation’s future.

Tell us about yourself

I knew I wanted to be a conservator since I was 13 years old. At this time, my uncle had married a wonderful woman named Janice. She was a fine art conservator, hence she treated paintings, works of art on paper, and photographs. I was very influenced by her, and it led me to work in her private lab as I was studying at university. It provided me with experience before I even started my graduate classes in conservation. When I graduated, there was no employment in Canada, and my aunt had closed her lab and was traveling that particular year. I ended up going to the George Eastman House on a whim. It was supposed to be just for three months. Instead I stayed there three years and three months! It was when I became passionate about photography, particularly historical processes. My hands were often black due to all the silver nitrate I was playing with! And now, I see my aunt’s name on a report or two, as she had actually interned here at LAC many years before me.

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

LAC’s collection of photographs is really diverse. You can always find a variety of processes and images. For this exhibition, I favor Temples of Today by John Vanderpant. I am a photograph conservator, so often I look beyond the image, looking deeper at the materials and how the photograph was made, or if anything has been altered. Many times, not to be distracted by the image itself, I turn the photograph around, so that the image is upside down, making it less distracting, so that I can concentrate on the material and not the image before me. But for this item, all I had to do was lean down and look at the surface of the photograph in raking light. That is when light is falling across the surface and I am almost at eye level with the surface. It is at this point you can really “see” an object; all the handling dents and deformities are really pronounced. When you do that with this item you see cat paw prints! We actually think that the cat walked one way, turned around and walked back! The photograph was already mounted on the paper support when the cat had walked on it. This is noted as one of the prints lies on both the photograph and the support. Perhaps Vanderpant had a cat who would visit him in the studio? I really enjoy finding these hidden secrets. I did try to remove or at least reduce the paw prints, but they appear to be stuck within the emulsion. So I could not do much as for treatment, and the paw prints remain.

A photo on a table with a bright light raking over it reveals a cat’s paw prints.

Viewing Temples of Today under raking light reveals a cat’s paw prints. Photo taken by Tom Thompson.

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

A photograph that I enjoy showing people is a daguerreotype from July 1858. The daguerreotype has captured the Molson Brewery in Montréal, after a fire. It is a half plate in good condition. The image is sombre as the fire has left nothing. In the centre of this emptiness stands a man with a seated female to the left with a small child, who moved as the image was taken and is blurry. It is a moving image, as you can imagine that the daguerreotypist had to be physically there, at this moment to document this period of time. A few years ago, this item was going on exhibition; therefore I was fortunate enough to be able to open the daguerreotype package (the original sealing tape had been previously removed), to examine the plate. Upon removal of the brass mat, I immediately noticed in the upper left corner, a finger mark. This was hidden behind the brass mat. This fingerprint could be from the daguerreotypist, who is, at this moment still unknown. It could have been accidently placed there as he or she was developing the plate or placing it into the daguerreotype package. For me it is a sign of the mysterious past—a bridge, a connector between these people in the image and to the person behind the camera who is not visible and us, the current viewer.

 The corner of a daguerreotype showing a fingerprint on the edge of the plate. The plate depicts a closeup of the Molson Brewery after a fire. A woman with a baby is sitting at the bottom edge.

A detail of a corner of a daguerreotype showing a fingerprint on the edge of the plate. Photo taken by Jennie Woodley. (MIKAN 3192967)

Black-and-white image of rubble in the foreground with a damaged building in the background. A woman with a baby sits in the middle to left of a standing man.¬

Full image of the Molson family brewery after the fire of 1858. (MIKAN 3192967)

On this theme of animals and photography, I would like to include the “Decadog,” as we call it at the Preservation Centre. This is a perfect example of an animal being an animal. It is a nitrate panorama negative of 7th Draft, “C” Battery, Royal Canadian Horse Artillery (RCHA). These were the units of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) and the Royal Air Force who trained at various camps in Ontario; here it was in Kingston. It was taken between 1914 and 1918. The nitrate negative was discovered when my colleagues Carla Klück and Louise Perrault were scanning the nitrate panorama collection in 2011. At first glance this long negative, which is 200 mm high x 1060 mm wide, is another documented proof of military troops from the turn of the century. On closer examination, a dog appears in the foreground. But not just any dog—a dog with eleven legs! Viewers are always confused when they notice this unusual aspect. Someone has previously outlined in black ink on the negative (which appears white on the positive print), ten of the legs (hence the name Decadog), omitting the second last paw on the left. You may be asking—how did this dog exist in Kingston? Easy enough answer is that the photograph was taken by a panoramic camera also known as a Cirkut. The Cirkut is a rotating camera that would capture a panoramic scene by pivoting horizontally while a roll of film moved across the film plane. At just the right moment, the dog must have walked as the camera was rotating from left to right. Consequently, the slow capture could capture the slow movement of the dog walking across the plane of view. To prove that this Decadog is a “normal” four-legged friend, I have included an additional nitrate panorama from our collection. This time it is from the 8th Draft “C” Battery, RCHA, CEF, Petawawa Camp on June 1916. From his face markings, we think that this is the same dog in both nitrate panoramas.

Black-and-white panorama shot of two rows of uniformed soldiers between two wheeled cannons. The Decadog is in front of the group. Barracks can be seen in the background.

7th Draft, “C” Battery, RCHA, CEF group photo with the Decadog by Andrew Merrilees. (MIKAN 4474227)

Black-and-white panorama shot of three and a half rows of uniformed soldiers in front of trees and tents. A soldier in the centre of the front row holds a dog on his lap.

8th Draft, “C” Battery, RCHA, CEF Petawawa Camp with a dog in the centre by Andrew Merrilees. (MIKAN 4473482)


Colour photograph of a woman looking at the viewer.

Credit Tom Thompson

Tania Passafiume has been the Head Conservator of Photographic Materials for Library and Archives Canada since 2005. After graduating from Queen’s University with a Master’s in Art Conservation (specializing in photographs, works on paper and book conservation), she moved to Rochester, New York. It was in Rochester at the George Eastman House where she remained for over three years, first participating in the Certificate Program in Photographic Preservation and Archival Practice and then as a Fellow in the first cycle of the Andrew W. Mellon Fellow in the Advanced Residency Program in Photograph Conservation. For the following three years, Tania was an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow, in Photographic Conservation at the Art Institute of Chicago. Tania has also worked in the following institutions and private labs: Jana Conservation, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, National Archives of Canada, City of Vancouver Archives, and Canadian Centre for Architecture. With the Canadian Conservation Institute she has published “Silver Gelatin Paper Sample Sets,” which is based on her George Eastman House thesis. Also stemming from this was research on Hippolyte Bayard, a topic on which she is currently working with the Centre de recherché sur la conservation des collections (CRCC), Paris. More recently, she spearheaded a LAC project with the Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Paris/Atelier de Restauration et de Conservation des Photographies de la Ville de Paris (ARCP) in a collaboration to create the first English-French visual glossary of photo conservation terms in enhanced eBook format called Lingua Franca: A Common Language for Conservators of Photographic Materials which will soon be available for free on iTunes.

Railway accident records at Library and Archives Canada

By Rebecca Murray

In recent years, large-scale railway derailments and collisions have caught our attention and have become questions of public safety, but this is not a new chapter in Canadian transportation history. Rail accidents dot the history of railways in Canada and have shaped the lives of many Canadians.

A black and white photograph of a partially derailed train in a train yard. Snow covers the ground and a city can be seen in the background.

Cars off track at Strachan Avenue, Toronto, December 19, 1916. Photograph taken by John Boyd (MIKAN 3364261)

Have you witnessed a railway accident? Was a family member or friend involved in a railway accident? Do you have an interest in railway history in a specific region or for a specific railway company? These are just some of the many reasons that researchers consult Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) Reference Services regarding railway accident records.

Starting your railway accident research

First, gather as much information as you can about the rail accident prior to contacting or visiting LAC. The exact date and location are extremely important, as are details such as individuals involved and if possible, type of accident (e.g. public crossing, derailment, crash). If you are missing some of these details, consult newspapers on microfilm or online before undertaking your search with LAC’s online tools. Accident records are usually organized chronologically by date, so the date is key for you to start your research with the correct institution.

LAC holds rail accident records for investigations that began in 1990 or earlier, whereas the Transportation Safety Board maintains an online database for investigations from 1991 to the present.

Records at LAC

Railway accident records can be found in various series of the Canadian Transport Commission fonds (RG46) depending on the time period and type of accident.

I suggest relying on the following search strategies and finding aids to begin your research:

Finding Aid # Format Time Period How to Use the Finding Aid
46-21 Archives Search 1838–1987 In the first box, click on the down arrow and select Finding aid number. In the box to the right, type 46-21. In the second row of boxes, the default is Any keyword. Type in accident in the box to its right. Press Enter. In the results list, you can use the right menu to sort all results by date, or you can limit your results to a specific decade.
46-10 Online Finding Aid 46-10 1904–1949, 1964–1972 The finding aid is arranged alphabetically and then chronologically by railway company. Each report varies in content, but often references accidents.
46-55 Online Finding Aid 46-55 1900–1992 Accidents at public crossings arranged alphabetically by geographic subdivision
46-58 Online Finding Aid 46-58 1982–1983 Chronological
46-59 Online Finding Aid 46-59 1984 Chronological

There are also additional resources online and onsite at Library and Archives Canada, 395 Wellington St., Ottawa. You can use Archives Search to do general keyword searches with terms like “rail” AND “accident” (or “derailment” or “collision”) and use the right menu to sort all results by date, or you can limit your results to a specific decade.

If you follow the steps described above and still can’t find what you’re looking for, don’t despair! Reference Services staff are always just a call or click away. You are also welcome to visit in person. No matter how you contact us, we are happy to help researchers with their questions.

Rebecca Murray is a reference archivist in the Reference Services Division of Library and Archives Canada.

Images for Clowns now on Flickr

A colour postcard showing a clown at the barber shop getting his hair and beard trimmed by two other clowns.

May you keep up your Heart under all trials this festive Season (MIKAN 4428002)

Whether you love them or hate them, clowns have appeared in various shapes and sizes throughout history and have ties to ancient Greek burlesque, Roman stage shows, and Chinese Imperial Courts. Ever evolving, the clown during the Middle Ages in Europe took on the form of the court jester or fool, amusing patrons and nobles alike, and getting away with impertinence, so long as the master was amused. Adorned with tassels, bells, pointed hats, colourful wardrobe, and wielding a mock sceptre, jesters or fools provided social commentary and comic relief in a court.

The clown eventually returned to the Western stage. In England, France, Italy and Germany clowns provided additional commentary to a performance—standing outside of the main drama, but commenting and provoking the audience. Minor differences in culture were apparent—in England clowns were used as comic foils and relief; in France they were romantic but sad individuals; while in Italy, a clown was a tragic figure with a breaking heart but providing mirth; and finally, in Germany clowns were dressed in bright colours with large footwear and white expressionless faces. Sound familiar?

The resurgence of travelling entertainment shows or circuses during the 18th and 19th centuries saw the venerable clown follow suit providing laughter and diversion between events. As circuses arrived in North America from Europe, the clown was present and quickly took a firm foothold on Canadian society and entertainment. During the early 20th century, many traveling circuses crossed Canada entertaining audiences from small to large cities featuring many performers, acrobats, and animal acts with clowns firmly sandwiched between events delighting crowds with their antics and eliciting laughter.

Visit the Flickr album now!

Block review reaches 25 million pages!

Library and Archives Canada’s Block Review project has just reached another important milestone—25 million pages opened. Since 2010, the project’s goal is to make previously-restricted archival Canadian government records available to the public. The Block Review Team takes a sample from each group of records and assesses the risks involved in sharing them. Since the project started, many Canadian historical records have been opened including those relating to Canada’s 1967 Centennial celebrations, along with early trade and foreign affairs records.

Of particular interest is the recent release of the first group of records from the Department of the Environment dating from 1969 to 1972. These records originate from the department’s Environmental Management Service and the Lands Directorate as well as registry material from the Policy Planning and Research Service. Over 300,000 pages are now open, with a focus on water pollution in the Great Lakes in the late 1960s, solid waste issues confronting municipal governments, and Canada’s relationship with NATO on environmental issues. These records would be of particular interest to researchers studying Canada’s early environmental knowledge and advocacy.

The Exchequer Court of Canada fonds

By Johanne Noël

Exchequer Court of Canada created in 1875

The Exchequer Court and the Supreme Court of Canada were created by the same legislation: the Supreme and Exchequer Courts Act. The Exchequer Court was in existence from 1875 until 1971, the year the Federal Court was created.

Since the Exchequer Court had fewer cases, they were heard by justices of the Supreme Court. These justices travelled across Canada for this purpose on a rotating basis from 1875 to 1887. In 1887, the Exchequer Court became a separate court; its first judge, the Honourable George Wheelock Burbidge, wrote the rules of procedure.

Black-and-white photo of a man with a moustache, wearing a suit and a white shirt.

George Wheelock Burbidge, September 1891. Photo: William James Topley (MIKAN 3213416)

Cases heard before the Exchequer Court

Cases argued before the Exchequer Court included actions brought against the federal government, such as claims arising from accidents involving civilian or military government vehicles. But the government could also initiate lawsuits in the Court, such as expropriations or measures related to intellectual property infringement (patents, industrial drawings and trademarks), as well as disputes between the different levels of government. The Exchequer Court also heard appeals from the admiralty courts and appeals related to maritime law, taxes and citizenship.

Records in the Exchequer Court fonds

The vast majority of records in the Exchequer Court fonds at Library and Archives Canada are files related to cases. Other documents include special work of the Court, correspondence, minutes of hearings, various records and dockets.


The Registrar of the Court kept a large record book, know as the docket record, in which he recorded cases in chronological order. For each case, he entered the number, the names of the plaintiff and the defendant, and the names of their respective solicitors. Throughout the proceedings, he listed the documents filed with the Court, the date they were filed and the cost of registration. A docket record could contain many cases and be up to 10 centimetres thick.

Cover of an album, bound in leather and worn corded velvet, on which is written: “Docket Record. Exchequer Court of Canada. 8435-12544. August 27, 1927–August 5, 1930”.

Cover of a docket record (MIKAN 4628412)

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Government of Canada Publications: On your MARCs… Get set… Go!

A new MARC21 bibliographic record service from Library and Archives Canada for Canadian libraries

Every year, the Government of Canada publishes numerous publications, including research reports, conference proceedings, and much more. Many of these publications are available through the Depository Services Program (DSP) managed by Public Services and Procurement Canada. Since 1927, the DSP has gathered and distributed government publications every year to Canadian libraries. With the transition from print material to electronic publications, the DSP has now evolved into a centralized, online weekly distribution service that provides access to electronic government publications.

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has a legislated mandate to be “the permanent repository of publications for the Government of Canada” (Library and Archives Canada Act, S.C. 2004, c. 11). Thousands of government publications are acquired through various means—such as the DSP, donations, and gifts—and in various formats.

With the increasing volume of electronic content being published by the Government of Canada, the need for timely, efficient and accurate cataloguing of government publications becomes even more necessary to ensure access and discoverability not only for LAC and its users, but also for all Canadian libraries and their users.

A black-and-white photograph of young woman giving a pile of books to a seaman. They are both standing on the deck of a boat with the harbor in the background.

Leading Wren Ruth Church, Women’s Royal Canadian Naval Service (WRCNS) delivering a supply of library books to Able Seaman Bill Swetman of HMCS PETROLIA, Londonderry, Northern Ireland, November 1944. (MIKAN 3519918)

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Guest curator: Isabelle Charron

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

Join us every month in 2017! Experts from LAC, from across Canada and from other countries provide additional information about 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, Ottawa, from June 5, 2017, to March 1, 2018. Admission is free.

Carte géographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain, 1612

Engraved map of New France. The land mass with trees, mountains and rivers is bordered by the ocean, which depicts ships and sea life. A compass, seal and sun are also included. A scene of First Nations people is set above a band of plant life surrounding the legend.

Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain [map of New France made by Samuel de Champlain], from the book Les voyages du sieur de Champlain…, 1613, engraved by David Pelletier in 1612 (MIKAN 3919638) (AMICUS 4700723)

Explorer Samuel de Champlain saw Canada as a land of potential. He published this book, with an eye-catching map, to advertise its possibilities to investors. The beautiful drawings of plants are probably his own.

Tell us about yourself

I’ll do that by telling you about the documents for which I’m responsible and how they inspire me. Early maps are a gold mine of historical information. They are also both art and science. I can’t look at them dispassionately, because they reveal so much about their makers: the way they saw the world, their ambitions, how they lived their lives, their relationships with the powers that commissioned their maps or sponsored their voyages (when they were explorers as well), how they obtained previously unknown information about various territories, and so on. It’s hard for us to imagine just how much human and financial effort was required to find new geographic information. People lost their lives trying to advance knowledge. And the individuals who came to possess these extraordinary documents are also exciting subjects. I often think of the François Girard film The Red Violin, which tells the stories, across three centuries, of the people who owned an unusual violin. Similarly, one could follow the work of a 16th-century cartographer, from the so-called Dieppe school, for example, such as Pierre Desceliers, who was always on the lookout for the latest discoveries about the New World. The literature on the history of Canadian and North American cartography is quite extensive, but there are still so many things to discover, and other things that will unfortunately never be recovered. And that’s where imagination comes in. Speaking of imagination, I truly enjoyed reading Dominique Fortier’s novel Du bon usage des étoiles, which created a whole world based on John Franklin’s last, ill-fated expedition. With the recent discovery of the wrecks of Terror and Erebus, reality and fiction blend together.

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

I could say so many things about this map.

Maps like these are very rare. It’s the only copy that LAC has, and is still attached to the very end of Les voyages, a book published by Champlain in Paris in 1613, with its original binding. Copies of the map may also have been distributed separately. The map was engraved on a copper plate by engraver David Pelletier, probably in 1612, then printed on two sheets that were joined together. The paper also has its story: the watermarks, drawings that are visible when the paper is placed on a light table, are the paper manufacturer’s trademark. They may help to authenticate a document and, since their positioning varies from one document to another, they make each document unique. The watermark on this map is bunches of grapes and, in a cartouche, the manufacturer’s monogram, “A.I.R.,” which we cannot identify with certainty.

This was Champlain’s first large map of North America. Intended for navigators, the map shows his explorations from 1603 to 1611. It also bears the royal coat of arms of France. Champlain had a special relationship with King Henry IV, who was assassinated in 1610.

In the world of discoveries and map-making of his time, Champlain was exceptional: one of the few cartographers who actually explored much of the territory that he showed on his maps. Most cartographers then were not explorers; they worked from maps or accounts provided by others. Champlain travelled with Indigenous people, who were his guides. He recognized their deep knowledge of their territory, questioned them about geography, asked them to draw maps, and incorporated that information into his own maps. He seems to have been the first European to take that approach. In this map, for example, Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls are based on information provided by Indigenous people. Champlain did not actually see Lake Ontario until 1615. He also included information from other European cartographers, particularly for the depiction of Newfoundland. Champlain’s work was frequently copied in turn.

Detail of map showing Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls. Three Amerindians are canoeing on the lake, which is surrounded by groups of longhouses.

Lake Ontario and Niagara Falls (“sault de eau” [waterfall]) (MIKAN 3919638)

Champlain is considered to be the first scientific cartographer of North America. His maps were unrivalled until the second half of the 17th century. In fact, he was well aware of the importance of his work: after the Kirke brothers captured the city of Québec in 1629, for example, Champlain pointed to his writings and maps as proof of France’s presence in the territory and stated that his maps were well known and had been used to update globes and other maps. We also know that he corresponded with the mathematician Guillaume de Nautonier. Apart from the somewhat awkward depiction, typical of his times, of two Amerindian couples, there is nothing “fanciful” on the 1612 map shown here. There are no “sea monsters,” which appear on maps by many of his predecessors; instead, he shows well-known, sought-after fish species, such as cod and sturgeon. The fish that looks like a crocodile in the large lake to the west, and which Champlain called a “chaousarou,” is a longnose gar, found only in North America.

Detail of a large fish that, with its elongated snout and copious teeth, looks like a crocodile.

“Chaousarou” (longnose gar) (MIKAN 3919638)

Here we see Champlain the observer in action, as his travels also involved documenting the resources of New France. For example, he purposely shows an Amerindian woman holding an ear of corn and a squash, standing beside a Jerusalem artichoke; these were three North American plants cultivated by sedentary peoples. Champlain probably took Jerusalem artichoke roots back to France, where the plant subsequently flourished.

Drawing of an Amerindian woman in a loincloth, holding a squash and an ear of corn in her hands and standing beside a Jerusalem artichoke.

Amerindian woman holding an ear of corn and a squash, standing beside a Jerusalem artichoke (MIKAN 3919638)

We don’t know the exact number of maps that Champlain made. Some were lost, but 22 have survived. Only one map that he drew with his own hand still exists; created in 1607, it shows the Atlantic coast, from LaHave in what is now Nova Scotia, to Nantucket Sound (the map is in the Library of Congress in Washington). Most of Champlain’s maps are small regional ones, engraved and published in Les voyages in 1613. Les voyages also has two general maps of New France: the one displayed here (1612) and a smaller one, in two versions (1612 and 1613).

A small map showing the Lachine Rapids, the St. Lawrence River and a number of islands, bordered by woodlands and rivers. Hunters are depicted at various locations. One scene shows an Amerindian and a French man drowning in the rapids. A legend is provided at the bottom of the map.

One of Champlain’s regional maps, showing the Lachine Rapids (MIKAN 3919889)

Champlain started working on another general map in 1616, but he never finished it (there is only one copy of this map). The cartographer Pierre Duval, who acquired the original copper plate of the 1616 map, had another version engraved in 1653 and attributed it to Champlain. In 1632, Champlain published his last map, a synopsis map, with his Voyages de la Nouvelle-France (there are two versions of this map).

Champlain’s last map, published in 1632, showing what he knew about North America from the Atlantic coast to part of the Great Lakes in the west. It includes Hudson Bay and a number of bodies of water, mountains, forests, Amerindian nations and European settlements. The map is also decorated with several drawings of ships, animals and fish, and it includes a scale and a compass rose.

Champlain’s 1632 map (MIKAN 165287)

Champlain returned to the city of Québec for the last time in spring 1633 and died there in 1635. Perhaps we will discover another of Champlain’s maps one day. Who knows?

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

Detail of six Amerindians paddling their canoes.

Amerindians paddling their canoes (details of the 1612 map; MIKAN 3919638)

A canoe! Without the assistance of Indigenous people, their knowledge of the territory and their canoes, Champlain’s work would have been much less complete. In this map, Champlain actually depicts some Amerindians in their canoes. I would have liked to have seen one of these images in the exhibition, enlarged on a big wall behind the showcase containing Les voyages and Champlain’s 1612 map. As I already mentioned, Champlain probably initiated co-operation between explorers and Indigenous people. He questioned them repeatedly about their knowledge of geography. In some cases, he asked them to draw maps, which have unfortunately been lost.

Later cartographers also recognized the vital importance of these relationships, including Jean-Baptiste Franquelin, a very talented explorer-cartographer himself, and even later, Pierre Gaultier de La Vérendrye, who made a map by one of his guides, the Cree Ochagach, famous. Collaboration with Indigenous people continued long after the end of French rule. This watercolour, painted around 1785 by James Peachey, which was originally to be part of a map that has not been found, may very well depict the contribution of Amerindians to knowledge about the territory.

A watercolour showing four Amerindians in a canoe: a woman, two men and a child, possibly on a duck hunt. Their clothing and accessories are a mix of Amerindian and European elements (particularly fabrics and jewellery). The woman is sitting in the stern and paddling. The two men are standing, with rifles in their hands; they have tattoos on their faces. There is also a dog in the canoe.

A plan of the inhabited part of the Province of Quebec, James Peachey, circa 1785 (MIKAN 2898254)

Like others before me, I’d also like to be able to show Champlain’s face. He was an intriguing man, a multi-talented leader, and was probably in excellent health; he escaped the diseases and misfortunes that claimed so many of his associates. However, there are no portraits of Champlain. The one we have all seen is a 19th-century fake. We could replace it with another imaginary portrait: the one created by the Québécois actor Maxime LeFlaguais, for example, in the recent television series Le rêve de Champlain.

Champlain’s 1612 map is a document of great historical value. It has been the subject of many research studies and, I’m sure, will continue to generate a lot of interest in the future. But it can also be looked at another way; I’d love to visit a multimedia installation, for instance, that was inspired by this map, to see how artists, particularly Indigenous artists, view Champlain, his work and his impact.


A colour photograph of a woman sitting at a large table with a map and a computer. Isabelle Charron has worked at LAC since 2006, and is an archivist with the early cartography collection. She worked for many years on various exhibition projects at the Canadian Museum of Civilization (now the Canadian Museum of History). She is particularly interested in the history of cartography under French rule and during the early period of British rule. She has a master’s degree in history from the University of Ottawa.

Related resources

Heidenreich, Conrad E., Explorations and Mapping of Samuel de Champlain, 1603–1632, Cartographica, Monograph no. 17, Toronto, University of Toronto Press, 1976. 140 p. (AMICUS 22100)

Heidenreich, Conrad E., Chapter 51: The Mapping of Samuel de Champlain, 1603–1635, in David Woodward, ed., The History of Cartography, Volume Three (Part 2): Cartography in the European Renaissance, Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2007, pp. 1538–1549

Litalien, Raymonde, Jean-François Palomino, and Denis Vaugeois, Mapping a Continent: Historical Atlas of North America, 1492–1814, Sillery, Quebec, Les éditions du Septentrion, and Paris, Presses de l’Université Paris–Sorbonne, 2007, 299 p. Produced in collaboration with Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (AMICUS 33519157)

Litalien, Raymonde, and Denis Vaugeois, eds., Champlain: The Birth of French America, Sillery, Quebec, Les éditions du Septentrion, and Paris, Nouveau Monde éditions, 2004, 399 p. In particular, Conrad E. Heidenreich and Edward H. Dahl, “Samuel de Champlain’s Cartography, 1603–32”, pp. 312–332 (AMICUS 30651498)

Trudel, Marcel, “CHAMPLAIN, SAMUEL DE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 19, 2016 (

British Columbia Penitentiary’s Goose Island: help is 20 km away, or 9 to 17 hours as the pigeon flies

By Caitlin Webster

Two brief notes in Library and Archives Canada’s holdings of the British Columbia Penitentiary illustrate the dangers of running prison work gangs in remote locations. At various points throughout its 102 years at the New Westminster site, the penitentiary operated a prison farm as well as carpentry, metal work and masonry shops. But in the early 20th century it attempted to establish an off-site logging and quarrying operation approximately 20 km from headquarters.

In 1903, the penitentiary acquired the deed to Goose Island through an Order in Council. Also known as Wright Island, Pen Island, and even Convict Island, this 140 acre property sits in the centre of Pitt Lake towards the eastern edge of B.C.’s Lower Mainland.

A handwritten page that reads, “On a Memorandum, dated 21st January, 1903, from the Minister of the Interior, stating that application has been made by the Minister of Justice for the transfer to his Department, for the purposes of the British Columbia Penitentiary of Goose Island, situated about the center of Pitt Lake, in Section 25, Township 5, Range 5, west of the Seventh Meridian, in the Railway Belt in British Columbia, the said island being required for the quarrying of stone thereon for use in connection with the penitentiary. The Minister recommends, as the land is vacant in the records of the Department of the Interior, that, under Clause 31 of the Dominion Lands Act, it be transferred to the Department of Justice for the purposes of the British Columbia Penitentiary as above mentioned. The Committee submit the same for approval.” [Signed by] Wilfrid Laurier.

The Order in Council granting Goose Island to the British Columbia Penitentiary, approved February 4, 1903. It was printed in the Canada Gazette (volume 36, number 34, February 21, 1903, page 4)

The penitentiary’s plan was to set up a work camp on the island to extract its lumber and mineral resources, and in June 1906 two guards and seven convicts travelled to the island from the New Westminster site. The group, which was later joined by seven additional convicts, cleared roads, built log houses and a wharf, cut 200 cords of wood, and quarried 96.5 yards of granite. Additional crews were sent in the spring and summer of 1907 and 1908.

As Goose Island was such a remote location at the time, prison guards were supplied with twelve carrier pigeons each week for communication purposes. One pigeon was sent from the island to the New Westminster site each day to provide a routine status report. For urgent matters, guards were to send two pigeons in quick succession, and for emergencies such as escapes, three or four pigeons were to be sent at short intervals.

A typed, mimeographed page describing how regular and emergency communication will take place by carrier pigeon between Goose Island and the New Westminster Penitentiary.

Page 2 of the British Columbia Penitentiary draft instructions for officers in charge of the Goose Island gang (MIKAN 4936751)

On May 27, 1908 such an emergency was encountered at the camp. At 3:55 pm, guards sent the first of at least two carrier pigeons, which arrived at the penitentiary at 9:00 am the following morning to report a “murderous assault” by two inmates. A follow-up message indicating that the prisoners had been handcuffed and that no injuries were incurred was sent at 8:10 am on May 28th and arrived at 4:30 that afternoon.

A handwritten note glued onto a typed page with a description of the note’s content and titled, “Message from Wright Island to the Penitentiary via Pigeon – May 28th, 1908.”

Message sent by carrier pigeon from Goose Island at 8:10 am May 28, 1908, arriving at the British Columbia Penitentiary at 4:30 pm the same day (MIKAN 4936749)

In addition to this attack, escapes and attempted escapes were also reported to have occurred from this camp. Predictably, the challenges of controlling a convict work gang in such a remote location led to the disuse of the island site. By 1919, the log cabins were in disrepair, and penitentiary staff erected “no trespassing” signs on the property to prevent vandalism. Despite some sporadic interest in the island’s stone, lumber, and recreational potential in the intervening years, little activity took place on the site before it was sold in 1953.

A newspaper feature titled, “Pitt Lake’s ‘Pen’ Island Re-discovered” accompanied by four black-and-white photographs of the work camp in disrepair.

Photographs by Charles Jennings accompanying a June 14, 1955 article by Jimmie McPhee in the newspaper, The British Columbian. (MIKAN 4936750)

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