“I leave you Éva Gauthier”

By Isabel Larocque

When Éva Gauthier made her first professional performance at Notre-Dame Cathedral in Ottawa, none could have predicted that the 17-year-old girl would one day rank among the greatest singers in the history of Canada.

Éva Gauthier was born in 1885 in a Francophone neighbourhood in Ottawa; she was the niece of Zoé Lafontaine and her husband Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Éva showed an innate ability for music at a tender age, and her family soon recognized her potential, encouraging her to continue on that path. Aside from taking singing classes with several renowned teachers, Éva also sang as a soloist at Saint Patrick’s Basilica in Ottawa.

She also benefitted from financial support from her uncle, Sir Wilfrid Laurier. As such, at age 17, she was able to go study at the Conservatoire de Paris with one of the most famous teachers of the time, Auguste-Jean Dubulle. A big believer in Éva’s talent, Aunt Zoé brought her to Europe and even played the piano for Éva’s audition at the Conservatoire.

Black-and-white photo of a young woman in a white lace dress, facing the camera.

Éva Gauthier, 1906. Photo: William James Topley (a193008)

During her studies and early career, Éva Gauthier was lucky enough to rub shoulders with the greatest musicians and teachers of her time. So it wasn’t long before she was noticed. In 1906, the great singer Emma Albani, her mentor, introduced her thus during her farewell tour: “As my artistic legacy to my country, I leave you Éva Gauthier.” With an introduction like that, there was no doubt young Éva’s future was very promising!

Black-and-white photo of a woman standing and facing the camera, wearing a dark-coloured dress, a fancy hat and a fur stole.

Éva Gauthier, 1906. Photo: William James Topley (a193009)

Despite her small size, Éva Gauthier had a powerful voice that certainly turned heads. In 1909 in Italy, she got the role of Micaela in the opera Carmen and she made a standout performance. But her career in opera was very short. While preparing for her second role―at Covent Garden in the opera Lakmé―the stage director removed her from the cast, fearing that her talent would outshine the lead actress. Devastated, Éva Gauthier turned her back on opera and decided to leave Europe.

She went to Indonesia to join Frans Knoot, who would eventually become her husband. She remained in Asia for four years, an adventure that gave her life a new direction. During her stay, she studied Javanese music with Indonesian gamelans and immersed herself into an exotic, unfamiliar musical and cultural style. She put on several shows, notably in China and Japan, and received glowing reviews: “This dainty Canadian singer has a voice of great flexibility, power and range. The entire evening was a musical treat. The applause was loud, long and well deserved.”

Her experience in Asia gave Éva a particular sound and a unique style. This allowed her to stand out when she returned to North America, where far-eastern music was still relatively unknown. Her refusal to adhere to traditions was one of Éva’s characteristic traits. She never let conventions define her and so brought about a renewal of musical culture in the 20th century.

Black-and-white photo of a woman facing the camera and wearing a traditional Javanese dress.

Éva Gauthier wearing one of the Javanese costumes she was known for. (ncl002461)

After her return to North America, Éva Gauthier―who now enjoyed a certain notoriety―put on several shows a year. The greatest musicians approached her, asking her to sing their compositions. Igor Stravinsky swore by her alone and demanded that she be the first to sing every one of his pieces. Éva mingled with musical personalities and befriended a good number of them, including pianists and composers Maurice Ravel and George Gerswhin.

It was with the latter that she gave a memorable concert at the Aeolian Hall in New York, in 1923, that brought together classical and modern music. Gershwin accompanied the singer on the piano during a daring premiere. Éva Gauthier even integrated jazz music into the program, a style she greatly loved but which was still poorly regarded. Although critics were not kind, the general public enjoyed the breath of fresh air and the event became a landmark in musical history.

Éva Gauthier gave hundreds of performances during the rest of her career, both in America and Europe, integrating various styles into her ever-entertaining performances. She focused the final years of her life on teaching students how to sing and, though she was no longer on stage, she remained very active in the music scene, acting as mentor to the next generation of artists. Her impeccable technique, her daring attitude and her refusal to follow convention opened the way to new artists and helped make Éva Gauthier a true legend of modern music.

If you want to hear some musical excerpts sung by Éva Gauthier, visit the Virtual Gramophone by Library and Archives Canada. There you will find several French Canadian folklore classics performed by the singer.

You can also listen to our Éva Gauthier podcast and flip through our Éva Gauthier Flickr album.


Isabel Larocque is project manager for Library and Archives Canada’s Online Content team.

Tommy Burns, Hanover’s Hero

By Isabel Larocque

In 1906, as American boxers took turns being world heavyweight champions, no one could have predicted the victory of Canadian Tommy Burns. At 170 cm tall, this boxer was not only the shortest ever to win the title of world champion, but also the only Canadian to do so. Often underestimated by his opponents because of his size, Burns had exemplary technique that allowed him to crush even the toughest of adversaries.                                                                                                                                                Born Noah Brusso in Hanover, Ontario, Tommy Burns was the 12th child in a family of 13 children. He grew up in a modest environment and, at a very young age, was taken out of school by his mother following a fight with a classmate.

She completely disapproved of boxing. That is why, as an adult, after a fight that put one of his opponents in a coma, Noah chose to change his name. He believed that, by doing so, his mother would not be able to follow his exploits. Since Irish boxers had an excellent reputation, he chose an Irish-sounding name, Tommy Burns, in the hope of boosting his career.

Black-and-white photo of a man wearing boxing gloves, shorts and shoes.

Boxer Tommy Burns, date unknown. (c014091)

Black-and-white photo of a man wearing boxing gloves, shorts and shoes.

Boxer Tommy Burns, 1912. (c014094)

In the ring, Tommy Burns used strategy; each of his actions was calculated. He insulted his opponents to put them off balance. He avoided being hit. When he attacked, he managed to eliminate them through his speed and hook. His many years of hockey and lacrosse training had given him strong legs, while his long arms gave him a reach that surprised his opponents. His amazing technique won him many victories, as most of his competitors relied only on physical strength.

Burns considered boxing technique a science unto itself. He even wrote a book on this topic, Scientific Boxing and Self Defence. Published in 1908, the book is part of the Library and Archives Canada collection.

Black-and-white photo of a hand holding a book open at the title page.

Book written by Tommy Burns, Scientific Boxing and Self Defence Photo: David Knox

However, what distinguished Tommy Burns most from the boxers of his time was his willingness to fight opponents of all nationalities. While most boxers refused to compete against athletes of different backgrounds, Burns saw this as an opportunity to gain experience and prove that he was the very best. He was the first heavyweight champion to defend his title against an African-American.

As Burns climbed to the top, he faced champions from around the world. Becoming the best white or Canadian boxer was not enough for him: he wanted to be the best in the world. That is why, in 1908, he chose to fight Jack Johnson, a boxer of imposing stature. Burns lost the fight, and Johnson became the first black boxer in history to win the world champion title. Burns’s bold performance won him a standing ovation when he left the arena.

Tommy Burns had a few fights after this battle, but he was never be able to reclaim his title as world champion. After his boxing career, he became a promoter and coach, before turning to religion and converting to evangelism. He died in 1955 in Vancouver from heart disease. His legendary confidence and daring make him one of the most famous boxers of all time.

To find out more about Tommy Burns’ achievements, consult Legendary world champion boxer Tommy Burns.


Isabel Larocque is a project officer in the Online Content team at Library and Archives Canada.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Prime Ministers and the Arts”

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Prime Ministers and the Arts”.

Colour image of a puppet that resembles Prime Minister John Diefenbaker.

Library and Archives Canada is the main repository for documents relating to Canada’s Prime Ministers. LAC not only has all the political documents relating to each Prime Minister, but also intriguing, less official and often unexpected items.

The exhibition entitled Prime Ministers and the Arts: Creators, Collectors and Muses curated by LAC employees Madeleine Trudeau and five time podcast guest Meaghan Scanlon, weaves artwork, artifacts, documents, objects, portraits and photographs together to reveal a less formal, but equally fascinating side to our former Prime Ministers.

The exhibition is on right now at 395 Wellington in Ottawa. It runs until December 3rd, 2019.

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.

Related Links:

Discover the Collection: Art

Discover the Collection: Biography and People

Discover the Collection: Politics and Government

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

D-Day and the Normandy Campaign, June 6 to August 30, 1944

By Alex Comber

A colour photograph showing a landing craft approaching the beach, with smoke coming from a village and barrage balloons overhead.

Infantry landing craft at D-Day, June 6, 1944. (e010777287)

On this day 75 years ago, Canadian soldiers, sailors, pilots and aircrew were fighting in France in one of the largest military operations in history. Operation Neptune, or “D-Day,” was the first phase in the overall ground operations in Normandy, code-named “Operation Overlord.” Soldiers of the 3rd Canadian Infantry Division conducted an assault landing on a stretch of French coast, in the massive Allied effort to establish a new theatre of operations in Western Europe. Canadian units were tasked with creating a beachhead on a section of coast code-named Juno Beach. The assignment for Canadian forces was considered an honour, as the other four beaches, code-named “Utah,” “Omaha,” “Gold,” and “Sword,” were earmarked for landings by units of the powerful Allied members of the United States and Great Britain.

A black-and-white photograph of an officer briefing a small group of non-commissioned officers with a map of a village.

Lieutenant R.R. Smith briefing the non-commissioned officers of the Regina Rifles with a sketch of their objective, Courseulles-sur-Mer, France. (e011084119)

Senior Allied commanders and military planners at Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Force had learned from previous operations, such as the failure at Dieppe two years before, and the successful landings in Sicily in July 1943. This effort to open a new front in the war would benefit from a coordinated approach between land, sea, and air forces, along with comprehensive planning, attention to logistics, a massive build-up of equipment and personnel, feints and decoys to keep the enemy guessing, and a steady flow of accurate intelligence about enemy strengths and dispositions.

An armada of naval vessels escorted the invasion forces across the English Channel, while the airspace was controlled by squadrons of Allied aircraft. A vast array of specialized landing craft transported personnel, tanks, and artillery. In the Canadian sector, craft deposited men and equipment near the villages of Courseulles-sur-Mer, Bernières-sur-Mer, and Saint-Aubin-sur-Mer.

A colour photograph showing soldiers, laden with arms and equipment, walking in shallow water towards a French village.

Canadian infantry going ashore at Bernières-sur-Mer in Normandy, France. (e010750646)

Tanks of the 2nd Canadian Armoured Brigade struggled ashore and began supporting the advancing infantry soldiers by firing on reinforced enemy positions, while some units of the Royal Canadian Artillery had already been bombarding enemy positions from their landing craft on the final approach. Hours earlier, paratroopers of the 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion had been dropped deep behind enemy lines as part of Operation Tonga, the airborne landings by the British 6th Airborne Division. Their mission was to destroy bridges, secure strongpoints, support a nearby attack by British paratroopers, and generally create chaos and hamper enemy efforts to counter-attack.

A black-and-white photograph showing a soldier in a paratrooper jump smock, holding a Sten sub-machine gun, sitting on a bicycle in a field.

Private Tom J. Phelan, 1st Canadian Parachute Battalion, who was wounded at Le Mesnil on June 16, 1944, rides his airborne folding bicycle at the battalion’s reinforcement camp, England, 1944. (a204971)

A black-and-white photograph showing a column of soldiers marching up a street in a damaged village.

Infantrymen of Le Régiment de la Chaudière moving through Bernières-sur-Mer, France, June 6, 1944. (a131436)

The fighting on the ground was accompanied by more involvement from Canadians serving in other forces. Pilots and aircrew flying with many Royal Canadian Air Force and Royal Air Force squadrons provided air cover for the naval operation and ground fighting, patrolled the coasts, attacked enemy troops and armour, provided photo-reconnaissance, and served on bombing missions to support the landings.

A black-and-white photograph showing a group of RCAF personnel posing beside and on top of a fighter-bomber aircraft, fitted with a large bomb.

RCAF 440 Squadron members pose with a Hawker Typhoon in Normandy, France. (e010775786)

On D-Day, Royal Canadian Navy personnel served in more than 70 naval vessels (landing craft, destroyers bombarding the coast, and minesweepers clearing the way for the invasion forces). In early July, a naval Beach Commando unit went ashore to direct forces and maintain order on the invasion beaches.

A black-and-white photograph showing two rows of sailors in battle dress, front row crouching, with a damaged fortified concrete structure behind them.

Personnel of W-2 Party, Royal Canadian Navy Beach Commando “W” outside a German fortification in the Juno sector of the Normandy beachhead, France, July 20, 1944. (a180831)

The first Canadian boots on the ground in France would be joined by an entire army in mid-July. The First Canadian Army would become the largest formation of men and women in uniform in Canadian history. Bitter fighting continued as the Allied ground forces resisted counter-attacks and pushed inland. Canadian army units would gain objectives in operations at Carpiquet, around Caen, and advancing towards Falaise, but at great human cost.

Approximately 350 Canadian military personnel were killed during the D-Day landings. By the end of August, Canadian land, sea, and air forces had suffered about 5,000 fatalities as a result of operations in France, while many more were wounded. Operation Overlord closed in late August, as opposition crumbled in Normandy and surviving German units withdrew to regroup.

A black-and-white photograph showing a long column of German soldiers being directed by Allied soldiers along a beach, with vehicles, a sea wall, and a prominent house in the background.

German personnel captured on D-Day embarking for England. (a132474)

Check back on July 4th to read Part two of LAC’s 75th Anniversary of D-day series, which will explore some of the unique collections LAC holds about these events.


Alex Comber is a Military Archivist in the Government Archives Division at Library and Archives Canada.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “UFOs at LAC: The Falcon Lake Incident – Part 2 of 2”

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, “UFOs at LAC: The Falcon Lake Incident – Part 2”.

Black-and-white drawing of a vehicle resembling a flying saucer. There are various annotations, measurements and dimensions written on the paper.

A vehicle resembling a flying saucer [ufo-sketch]

Falcon Lake, Manitoba. Located in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, 150 kilometers east of Winnipeg. It’s May 20th, 1967, and mechanic, and amateur geologist Stephan Michalak wakes up early to begin his hobby of prospecting for quartz and silver. After a morning of working in the bush, and a light lunch, Stephan returns to the task at hand, chipping away at a quartz vein he has found. The cackling of some geese nearby, obviously frightened by something, startles him. He looks up, and sees two glowing objects descending towards him.

In the second part of this two-part episode, we discuss the evidence and investigation into the Falcon Lake Incident. Stefan Michalak’s son Stan and researchers Chris Rutkowski and Palmiro Campagna once again join us to discuss Canada’s most infamous UFO case.

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.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “UFOs at LAC: The Falcon Lake Incident – Part 1 of 2”

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is releasing its latest podcast episode, “UFOs at LAC: The Falcon Lake Incident – Part 1”.

Black-and-white drawing of a vehicle resembling a flying saucer. There are various annotations, measurements and dimensions written on the paper.

A vehicle resembling a flying saucer [ufo-sketch]

Falcon Lake, Manitoba. Located in the Whiteshell Provincial Park, 150 kilometers east of Winnipeg. It’s May 20th, 1967, and mechanic, and amateur geologist Stephan Michalak wakes up early to begin his hobby of prospecting for quartz and silver. After a morning of working in the bush, and a light lunch, Stephan returns to the task at hand, chipping away at a quartz vein he has found. The cackling of some geese nearby, obviously frightened by something, startles him. He looks up, and see’s two glowing objects descending towards him.

In part one of this two part episode, we unravel Canada’s most infamous UFO case with the help of Stephan Michalak’s son, Stan, and Canadian UFO expert and author, Chris Rutkowski. Also, Palmiro Campagna, an accomplished author and a ‘regular’ in the research rooms at LAC, will take us through some of the extensive records surrounding the case.

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.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Francis Mackey and the Halifax Explosion”

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “Francis Mackey and the Halifax Explosion.”

A black and white photo of smoke rising over the Halifax harbour

A large smoke plume after the collision between the ships Mont Blanc and Imo, resulting in the Mont Blanc exploding in the Halifax Harbour (PA-138907)

On the morning of December 6th, 1917, Pilot Francis Mackey was guiding the French ship Mont Blanc into the Bedford Basin when, at the narrowest point of the harbour, it collided with the Norwegian ship Imo. The Mont Blanc, laden down with high explosives, caught fire and, about 20 minutes later, exploded.

The blast, which was the greatest man-made explosion until the invention of the first atomic bombs, levelled the Richmond district of Halifax, parts of Dartmouth, and wiped out the Mi’kmaq community of Turtle Grove.

On today’s episode, we talk with retired teacher and author Janet Maybee. Her book Aftershock: The Halifax Explosion and the Persecution of Pilot Francis Mackey attempts to clear Mackey’s name and restore honour to the Mackey family.

To view images associated with this podcast, here’s a direct link to our Flickr album

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.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Canada’s Canoe Archive”

Colour oil painting of a birchbark canoe, in profile, moving through calm water in front of a bare rock cliff. Eight men are paddling the canoe while a man in a black hat and a woman in a pale blue hat sit in the middle. A red flag is partly unfurled at the stern of the canoe. The bow and stern of the canoe are painted white with colourful designs added.

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “Canada’s Canoe Archive.”

For many Canadians, paddling in a canoe serves as a refuge from our hectic day-to-day lives, and as a means of reconnecting with nature, family and friends. But thousands of years before European settlers arrived in what we now call Canada, the lakes and rivers served as vital trade routes for the Indigenous peoples here, with the canoe at the heart of that experience. In this episode, we pay a visit to the Canadian Canoe Museum in Peterborough, Ontario, and get a behind-the-scenes tour of its incredible canoe collection. Curator Jeremy Ward takes us through this storied collection of iconic watercraft.

To view images associated with this podcast, here’s a direct link to our Flickr album.

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.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Get Your Summer Read On, Part 2”

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out Get Your Summer Read On, Part 2.

The TD Summer Reading Club is Canada’s biggest bilingual summer reading program. Developed by the Toronto Public Library, in partnership with Library and Archives Canada, this free program highlights Canadian authors, illustrators and stories. The goal of the program is to foster literacy by encouraging kids aged 12 and under to read during the summer months.

In the second of this two-part episode, we talk with the TD Summer Reading Club French author for 2018, Camille Bouchard. Camille has been a children’s author since the 1980s, and has written over 100 books! He has also won multiple awards, including a 2005 Governor General’s Award for his book, Le Ricanement des hyènes. We also talk with a special surprise guest during this episode—a famous Canadian writer who was made an Officer of the Order of Canada, and once served as Canada’s National Librarian.

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.

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Mr. Lowy’s Room of Wonder

Vignette of a highly decorative manuscript keyOur latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “Mr. Lowy’s Room of Wonder.

Down an obscure hallway at our downtown Ottawa location, there is a mysterious room overflowing with majestic tomes and ancient wisdom. “The Lowy Room,” as it is affectionately called by Library and Archives Canada (LAC) staff, is a self-contained museum housing over 3,000 rare, often unique items dating back to the 15th century. In 1977, Jacob M. Lowy donated this collection of Hebraica and Judaica to LAC on the condition that it be kept together as a distinct collection and with its own dedicated curator.

In this episode, we pay a visit to the current curator of the Jacob M. Lowy Collection, Michael Kent, who gives us a guided tour of some of the incredible items in the collection and shares the stories surrounding their journey.

To view images associated with this podcast, here’s a direct link to our Flickr album.

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.