Images of the Port of Montreal now on Flickr

A colour print of Montréal harbour and a moored sailing ship having its cargo unloaded onto the wharf. There is a paddleboat to the ship’s port side, and two men paddling a canoe across its bow.

View of the harbour, Montréal, Quebec [MIKAN 2837612]

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.

A black-and-white photograph of moored sailing cargo ships. Various types of cargo are stacked on the wharf and transported away by horse-drawn wagons.

Busy Montréal harbour, Quebec [MIKAN 3382335]

A black-and-white photograph of a ship moored to the dock. Four men are working from ladders hanging off the bow.

Canada Atlantic Railway barges in Montréal harbour, Quebec [MIKAN 3411873]

A black-and-white photograph of three moored ships. A port authority building is in the background. Along the wharf, there is a large unloading structure with hoists and scaffolding.

Shipping in harbour, Montréal, Quebec [MIKAN 3349054]

Visit the Flickr album now!

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)

Arthur D’Orr LePan, Camp Kosciuszko and the Polish Army in France

By Catherine Butler

Poland on the eve of war

On the eve of the First World War, an independent Poland had been absent from the European map for nearly 120 years. In the late 18th century, Poland was partitioned by Russia, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Prussia; Prussia would eventually become part of a unified Germany. Polish lands were carved up and absorbed, and Polish people were scattered among three powerful empires.

In the century following the partitions and the profound social and political transformations they precipitated, millions of Poles emigrated to North America. At the outbreak of the First World War, several hundred thousand Poles were living in Canada, while nearly four million were living in the United States. With such a large diaspora, countless Polish Americans and Polish Canadians were eager to fight on the Allied side with the aim of restoring their homeland.

After a series of meetings between the representatives of Sir Robert Borden’s government and Polish delegations from the U.S., the Canadian government, with the approval of Britain, agreed to provide training to Polish officers living in North America. These officers, recruited from Canada and the U.S., would be sent to fight for the Polish Army in France, which ultimately financed their training. Although initial training efforts started in early 1917, a designated Polish Army camp at Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario opened in September 1917. Colonel Arthur D’Orr LePan was appointed as Commandant to the camp, a facility that came to be known as Camp Kosciuszko.

A black-and-white photograph showing a field with a group of officers following their commander in the foreground, and officers standing at attention in a line in the background

Recruits at the Polish military camp, Niagara, Ontario, November 8, 1917 (a071288)

The diaries of Colonel LePan

Colonel A.D. LePan was born in Owen Sound, Ontario, in 1885 and was educated at the University of Toronto. He served in the Canadian Army from 1915 to 1919, including as Commandant until the camp closed in March 1919. His involvement in training Polish officers began in January 1917 with the arrival of 23 American volunteers at the School of Infantry in Toronto. As Commandant, Colonel LePan saw over 20,000 recruits from the U.S. and Canada pass through Camp Kosciuszko en route to France between September 1917 and March 1919.

Many of Colonel LePan’s activities at Camp Kosciuszko are described in diaries he kept during his time as Camp Commandant. These diaries were donated to Library and Archives Canada by his son, Douglas V. LePan, in 1977. Colonel LePan’s writings offer interesting insights into a fascinating episode of Canadian history.

In addition to lists of camp personnel, the diaries contain information about training, troop movements, lists of deaths in France, along with cause and location, and a plan of grave plots of Polish soldiers at the St. Vincent de Paul churchyard in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Colonel LePan also kept a copy of the telegram authorizing the establishment of the Polish camp.

Also included in these papers are remarks given in March 1919 by Colonel LePan during a banquet in Buffalo, New York, addressing the closing of the camp. In his speech, he spoke about how crucial international co-operation between France, Canada, the U.S. and the Polish Military Commission was in making the camp a success and, most importantly, in re-establishing an independent Polish state.

“One can quite readily conceive that the camp presented interesting international associations … It was no unusual sight to have gatherings of officers at which the countries of Poland, France, United States and Canada were represented and on each occasion was found officers who from their environment and education had different ideas and ideals, all cooperating with the one great ideal of making this new creation as big a factor as possible, not only in the creation of a national Poland, but as an agency for freeing the world from an oppression that not only Poles had heard of as we have on this continent, but also that they had felt in body and soul.”

Find out more

Until November 1918, the Niagara Historical Society and Museum will be presenting an exhibition entitled Camp Kosciuszko: The Polish Army at Niagara Camp, 1917–1919. The aim of the exhibition, which began in November 2017, is to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the opening of Camp Kosciuszko. Thousands of Polish Canadians and Polish Americans trained there before being sent to Europe to fight for the liberation of their homeland after 123 years of occupation.


Catherine Butler is a Reference Archivist in the Public Services Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

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.

Nursing Sisters who died in service during the First World War, Part 2

By Alex Comber

Canada’s nursing sisters were required to perform their duties in unpleasant and hazardous surroundings. Approximately 40 nurses who were members of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) died during the First World War as a result of illnesses acquired in active service. Others died after the Armistice from conditions attributable to this service. However, what was more shocking to Canadians were the 21 deaths of nurses from direct enemy action. This post briefly describes these events, and helps readers explore selected documents about military nurses.

A black-and-white photograph of a funeral procession of soldiers and nursing sisters, accompanying a wheeled stretcher carrier with a flag-draped casket on it, passing through a large cemetery of temporary grave crosses.

Funeral of Nursing Sister G.M.M. Wake, who died of wounds received in a German air raid on the hospital where she worked. PA- 002562 (a002562)

Nursing sisters served in Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) hospitals, Casualty Clearing Stations, and other facilities that were supposed to be out of the range of enemy artillery. However, accurate long-range artillery and new technologies, such as aerial and submarine warfare, brought these women into direct contact with the enemy. In several events starting in May 1918, nurses were killed in the line of duty because of enemy attacks. In Canada, press reports seized on the propaganda potential of these terrible events, to help bolster support for the war effort and promote new recruitment campaigns.

A colour poster depicting a soldier in service dress with “Canada” shoulder titles, holding an unconscious nursing sister in the water. She is wearing an apron with a large red cross emblazoned on it. He is shaking his fist in anger at a German submarine, with German sailors who appear to be shooting in other directions. A life ring marked “Llandovery Castle” floats nearby. The words “VICTORY BONDS WILL HELP STOP THIS” are written at the top, and at the bottom, “KULTUR VS. HUMANITY.”

Victory Bonds poster depicting a dramatic interpretation of the aftermath of the sinking of the Llandovery Castle (e010697267)

During May 1918, two Canadian hospitals were bombed by German aircraft. Katherine Macdonald, from Brantford, Ontario, became the first Canadian nursing sister killed by enemy action in the Great War, when No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, located at Étaples, France, was bombed by German aircraft on May 19, 1918. Two of her wounded colleagues died soon afterwards.

A black-and-white photograph of nursing sisters and uniformed soldiers cleaning up the debris from a hospital ward that has been damaged.

Aftermath of the bombing of No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, at Étaples, France, which resulted in the death of three Canadian nursing sisters. PA-003747 (a003747)

Official photographers captured scenes of the devastation and somber funeral processions for the nurses and the other medical staff and patients killed in the raids. At the end of the month, No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens, France, was also bombed. Three more nursing sisters died. Two of them, Nurses Agnes MacPherson and Eden Pringle were killed, along with doctors, medical orderlies and a patient during surgery.

A black-and-white photograph of uniformed soldiers working amidst the rubble of a large, heavily damaged brick building that has been bombed.

Aftermath of the bombing of No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital at Doullens, France, which killed three Canadian nursing sisters. PA-003746 (a003746)

Less than a month later, on June 27, off the southern coast of Ireland, the German submarine U-86 torpedoed the Canadian hospital ship Llandovery Castle on its return to England with only medical personnel aboard. The former passenger liner was steaming along at night, with special lighting illuminating its distinctive white hull and large red crosses. This clearly identified it as a hospital ship and a forbidden target for any belligerent. Once hit, the ship listed severely, hampering efforts to launch lifeboats. Many of the nurses had been asleep, and now struggled to evacuate the sinking ship. The entire group of nursing sisters boarded a lifeboat, with Sergeant Arthur Knight, CAMC. Tragically, the boat was swamped by suction caused by the violence of the ship’s sinking. Only Knight survived to struggle into another boat.

A black-and-white photograph of a patient in convalescent uniform reclining in a hospital bed.

Sergeant A. Knight, Canadian Army Medical Corps, recovers in hospital after the sinking of the HMHS Llandovery Castle. PA-007471 (a007471)

These terrible events were compounded by the actions of the submarine’s crew. Survivors testified that the submarine ran down and fired on lifeboats, killing more crew and medical staff. Only one boat escaped the night’s events. The bodies of the 14 nursing sisters were not recovered, and today these brave women are commemorated on the Halifax Memorial. Documents in their service files reveal that nurses like Christina Campbell, from Victoria, British Columbia, were experienced nurses who had also been treated for conditions such as neurasthenia (“Shell Shock”), nervous debility, insomnia, and general exhaustion from service near the Front. Today, cemeteries and monuments overseas, memorials across Canada, and entries in the Books of Remembrance in the Peace Tower in Ottawa pay tribute to First World War nurses who died in the service of Canada, tending to the wounded.

A black-and-white studio portrait of a nursing sister, in her uniform and hat, leaning against a table.

Nursing Sister Christina Campbell, who, along with the entire nursing staff, perished during the torpedoing of the Llandovery Castle, June 27, 1918 (a008112)

Research the lives of Canadian First World War Nursing Sisters:

With the digitization of the CEF service files, visitors to the Library and Archives Canada (LAC) website can quickly and easily gain access to a wealth of genealogical and historical information, and form their own impressions of the First World War service of these women, and all members of the CEF. Please explore the links below for service files recently made accessible online. When they exist, the digitized Circumstances of Death registers have been linked.

Roll of Honour: CAMC Nursing Sisters who died from enemy actions during the First World War:

No. 1 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, France, bombed May 19, 1918

No. 3 Canadian Stationary Hospital, Doullens, France, bombed May 30, 1918

His Majesty’s Hospital Ship Llandovery Castle, sunk June 27, 1918

Royal Mail Steamer Leinster, sunk October 10, 1918

  • NS Henrietta Mellett from London, Ontario, died at sea during the sinking of RMS Leinster, on October 10, 1918, when she was returning from leave to service with 15th Canadian General Hospital. An experienced military nurse, she had already served with the Red Cross in France, Egypt and England. She perished with more than 500 other passengers, when the Leinster was torpedoed by the German submarine UB-123 in the Irish Sea.

Related resources

In April 2018, Library and Archives Canada launched Co-Lab, a new collaboration tool, for the public to contribute by transcribing, tagging and interacting with historical records. Now we are adding a new challenge: showcasing the personal files of some of Canada’s nursing sisters who served in the First World War. You can get started right away!


Alex Comber is a Military Archivist in the Government Archives Division.

A Unique Example of Canadian Research: HMCS Bras d’Or

Web banner with the words: Premiere: New acquisitions at Library and Archives Canada showing a small picture of an otter fishing on the rightBy Marcelle Cinq-Mars

What is the connection between a digital watch, a GPS in a car, a microwave oven in a kitchen, and an epinephrine auto-injector for allergic reactions? Hint: It is the same as the link between radar, night vision goggles and the Internet. They are all technological developments from scientific research for military purposes.

Military-related scientific research has led to countless technological developments. And it goes back a long time!

In Canada, the Defence Research Board (DRB) was created in 1947; its mandate concerned military research in areas of Canadian expertise such as the Arctic, ballistics and biochemical warfare. Over the years, the DRB developed Canada’s first (and only) air-to-air missile, called the Velvet Glove. The DRB was also directly involved in the development of the Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line, an extensive network of radar stations to detect enemies in Canadian airspace.

A colour photograph of the red nose cone of a rocket next to two men working on the instruments that will go inside it.

Defence Research Board technicians adjust an antenna in a Javelin rocket in 1961 (e010975999)

At the height of the Cold War, the detection of enemies was also needed in the oceans. Submarines posed a real threat there, especially when they became armed with nuclear warheads. Accordingly, DRB scientists started working on a type of boat designed specifically to hunt enemy submarines. What they developed was a hydrofoil.

Hydrofoil technology dates back to the early 1900s. The famous inventor Alexander Graham Bell even made prototypes of them, which he tested on Bras d’Or Lake in Nova Scotia. Wing-like structures called “foils” are mounted under a vessel and lift it out of the water as the speed increases. As a result, water friction on the hull is reduced, and the vessel can reach impressive speeds.

In the 1960s, Marine Industries Limited in Sorel, Quebec, started building a hydrofoil for the Royal Canadian Navy. The hull was made of aluminum, the foils of steel. This special boat had features and technologies from both aeronautics and nautical science, so the captain had to be both an aircraft pilot and a naval captain.

The new vessel was commissioned into the Royal Canadian Navy on July 12, 1968, as HMCS Bras d’Or. Sea trials began off Halifax in April 1969. During the trials, the vessel reached an impressive speed of 63 knots (117 km/h), a record speed for a warship at the time.

A colour photograph of a hydrofoil in motion.

HMCS Bras d’Or, Royal Canadian Navy, demonstrates its hydrofoil system on February 18, 1970 (e011154076)

HMCS Bras d’Or saw service for a short time only. On November 2, 1971, the Government of Canada ended the hydrofoil program. Canada’s priority shifted from anti-submarine warfare to the protection of sovereignty. The Bras d’Or was donated to the Musée maritime du Québec in L’Islet-sur-Mer, where it remains on display.

Related resources


Marcelle Cinq-Mars is a senior military archivist.

Images Celebrating the Outaouais now on Flickr

The Outaouais region is steeped in history. Library and Archives Canada collections reflect this history, and remind us of the enduring importance of the people who have lived here, their economic and commercial enterprises, and the natural beauty of the region.

A colour photograph of two women and two men having a picnic in a park on the bank of a river.

Picnicking in Brébeuf Park on the Ottawa River near Hull, Québec [MIKAN 4292850]

A black-and-white photograph of a lumberman hammering the Company stamp, the letter “G,” meaning Gatineau, onto the ends of 16-foot logs.

A lumberman hammering the Company stamp “G” for Gatineau onto the ends of 16-foot logs destined for the Gatineau mills of the Canadian International Paper Co., Gatineau, Québec [MIKAN 3197680]

A black-and-white photograph of Duke Ellington standing between two women at the Standish Hall Hotel and posing for a picture.

Duke Ellington at the Standish Hall Hotel, Hull, Québec [MIKAN 3606806]

A black-and-white photograph of the Standish Hall Hotel in Hull, Quebec. A man in a hat and a trench coat is holding a case and standing on the right side of the building.

Exterior view of the Standish Hall Hotel Hull, Québec [MIKAN 3606795]

  Visit the Flickr album now!

Celebrating the history of the Outaouais!

By Jennifer Anderson

As a national memory institution, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) tells stories of national significance, but that does not mean we forget the value of local history.

Home to LAC’s Preservation Centre, the Outaouais region is steeped in history. LAC collections reflect this history, and remind us of the enduring importance of the people who have lived here, their economic and commercial enterprises, and the natural beauty of the region.

The history of the forestry industry is rooted in the Outaouais, and numerous items from the collection make this link evident. Whether it is a “log driver,” the famous draveur of Outaouais legend, working to dislodge logs blocked on the Gatineau River, the lunchtime ambience of the workplace, or the conviviality of an evening of music at the logging camps, the photographs of yesteryear speak to us with an immediacy that belies the passage of time. They also remind us of the long history of cultural diversity in the region, as French-Canadian, Irish, Scottish and Indigenous workers gained employment in the industry.

A black-and-white photograph of a man standing at the river’s edge with a long stick pushing logs away to keep them moving downstream.

A logger works to keep logs from catching and jamming in a stream, Gatineau, Quebec, May 26, 1942, Library and Archives Canada, e000760706

A black-and-white photograph of men relaxing and sharpening their axes in a log bunkhouse.

Lumberjacks relaxing and sharpening their axes in the bunkhouse at the l’Ange Vin camp, Gatineau, Quebec, March 1943, Library and Archives Canada, e000762608

A black-and-white photograph of three men gathered around a fire, presumably having a midday food break.

Joe Commanda, Martin Odjick and an unidentified man at a “nooning,” Gatineau River Valley, 1910, Library and Archives Canada, e011201807

A black-and-white photograph of a group of men sitting around in a bunkroom playing music and smoking.

Loggers in the camp bunkhouse enjoy an evening with a little “homemade” music, Gatineau, Quebec, June 1946, Library and Archives Canada, a116682

Today, archival collections related to forestry also speak to us of changes to the natural and built environments, and may suggest avenues for the conservation of flora, fauna and local heritage. Using crowdsourcing tools, historians and residents can help archivists by sharing their knowledge of the area to enhance the archival records for future generations of researchers.

A hand-coloured oval-shaped lithography of a man on a raft going down a log chute.

The timber slide, Hull, Quebec, 1855, Library and Archives Canada, c041680k

A black-and-white photograph of an industrialized river landscape showing a bridge, striated rock and buildings in the background.

“Chaudière – Hull side,” date unknown, Library and Archives Canada, a012528-v8

A black-and-white close-up photograph of Chaudière Falls with buildings visible on the distant shore.

View of the Chaudière Falls, looking across to Hull, Quebec, Library and Archives Canada, a012366-v6

A black-and-white photograph of the E.B. Eddy Company buildings in downtown Hull, Quebec.

The E.B. Eddy Company buildings, Hull, Quebec, April 1898, Library and Archives Canada, a027997

Some places sound familiar, but from today’s perspective, it is difficult to recognize certain buildings, as they have been lost to calamity or changing urban designs. In some cases, we may feel nostalgia for past eras, and at other moments, we might agree that the change has been positive.

A black-and-white photograph of a sparsely settled town with a few buildings in the background.

View of the town and the E.B. Eddy store in the distance, Hull, Quebec, ca. 1873, Library and Archives Canada, a012433-v6

A black-and-white photograph of a log drive going down a river.

Timber boom, Pointe-Gatineau, Quebec, 1935, Library and Archives Canada, a056909

A black-and-white photograph of a river shoreline where a manufacturing complex is situated. A large church is located up on the hill behind it.

Hull, Quebec, from Parliament Hill, Ottawa, Ontario, ca. 1923, Library and Archives Canada, a031007

Sometimes our photographic records are missing key bits of information, like the names of the people in the photograph! Do you recognize this hard-working nurse or her patient?

A black-and-white photograph of a nurse speaking with a man in a medical office and taking notes.

A nurse interviews an employee at the E.B. Eddy Company in Hull, Quebec, March 1946, Library and Archives Canada, e002504648

We would not want to give the impression that archives are all work and no play! Frequently, records remind us of the importance of leisure pursuits and recreation. For instance, archival photographs often speak to the sports and tourism industry based in the region.

A black-and-white photograph of people skiing.

Skiing in the Gatineau Hills, date unknown, Gatineau, Quebec, Library and Archives Canada, a009250

A colour photograph of two couples picnicking next to a river.

Picnicking in Brébeuf Park on the Ottawa River near Hull, Quebec, June 1952, Library and Archives Canada, e010948995

A colour photograph of a woman carrying her golf clubs under a partially clouded blue sky.

A golfer at the Chaudière Golf Club near Hull, Quebec, June 1952, Library and Archives Canada, e010949004

And, with a touch of nostalgia and more than a bit of jazz, archival collections can tell us stories of exciting cultural icons from the past. For instance, our records show that shortly before the 1951 fire that destroyed it, the Standish Hall Hotel received some illustrious visitors. On August 4, 1951, Louis Armstrong, Velma Middleton, and the “All Stars” jazz band played the Standish Hall Hotel, attracting the attention of the musical editor of Time magazine, who flew to Hull to hear them, and to interview Armstrong.

A black-and-white photograph of a large building, with a wide veranda and a sign reading “Standish Hall Hotel.”

Exterior view of the Standish Hall Hotel, Hull, Quebec, with owner J.P. Maloney standing to the right at the front of the building, between 1941 and 1950. Credit: Michael Berens. Library and Archives Canada, e002343711

A black-and-white photograph of two women with a man holding a trumpet.

Louis Armstrong at the Standish Hall Hotel, Hull, Quebec, August 4, 1951. Credit: Michael Berens. Library and Archives Canada, e002343722

The Standish Hall Hotel, formerly the home of E.B. Eddy, was converted into a concert venue by businessman J.P. Maloney in the 1940s. It attracted big names, including Oscar Peterson, Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington.

A black-and-white photograph of people standing in a hallway, with two women and a man posing for a photo.

Duke Ellington at the Standish Hall Hotel, Hull, Quebec, ca. 1950. Credit: Michael Berens. Library and Archives Canada, e002343721

A black-and-white photograph of five young people gathered around American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan to have their picture taken.

Sarah Vaughan (centre) with fans and friends at the Standish Hall Hotel, Hull, Quebec, ca. 1950. Credit: Michael Berens. Library and Archives Canada, e002343724

We hope you have enjoyed this walk down memory lane! If you have more information (i.e., dates, names, locations) about any of these photographs, please share them with us on our new crowdsourcing website, Co-Lab: http://co-lab.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng


Jennifer Anderson is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy section of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

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.

Nursing Sisters of the Canadian Army Medical Corps in the First World War, Part I

By Laura Brown

Forty-one-year-old Alice Isaacson had accomplished a lot by the time she joined the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC) as part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) in 1916. The Irish-born, American-trained nurse had eight years of nursing supervisor experience under her belt, as well as a year of service with the 23rd General Hospital of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) in Étaples, France. A reference letter penned by a Medical Officer, likely in support of her transfer from the BEF to the CEF, described her as “skillful, energetic and reliable” and as an individual who was undaunted by large tasks. On one occasion she was responsible for looking after 120 seriously ill patients with little assistance. One of the few things she had not yet learned to do was ride a bicycle, but this, too, would be tackled with determination before her return home at the end of the war.

Alice kept several diaries during her service overseas, which included postings in France at the No. 2 Canadian General Hospital at Le Tréport and the No. 6 Canadian General Hospital at Troyes. Her writings and an insightful photo album are now part of her fonds held at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). These records, as well as other private and government collections, such as the Department of National Defence fonds, are some of the examples of the valuable archival resources at LAC that document the history of women’s service in Canada’s military.

A black-and-white photograph of uniformed men and women riding bicycles. The women are dressed in light-coloured uniforms with dark belts and hats, while the men wear khaki uniforms with hats. They pedal along a pathway that is bordered on the left by a tall brick wall. A large building with windowed façades is prominent in the background. The caption, “Cycle Parade” is written on the lower half of the image.

Personnel riding bicycles, No. 6 Canadian General Hospital, Troyes, France, June 2, 1917. Photograph Album of Alice E. Isaacson, R11203-01-E (e002283123)

Only a few nurses were part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps at the start of the First World War in 1914, but numbers soon increased as civilian nurses were eager to transfer their skills into the military context. In total, more than 3,000 nurses served in the CAMC, including 2,504 overseas in England, France, and at Gallipoli, Alexandria and Salonika in the Eastern Mediterranean.

Nursing was the only means by which women were permitted to serve in the Canadian military during the First World War. To enlist, nurses had to be single, British subjects (which included Canadians at the time), in good health, between the ages of 21 and 38, and have qualifications from a recognized nursing school. If accepted, recruits were commissioned as officers with the rank of lieutenant, which is notable as Canada was the only country in the world to rate nurses as officers at the time. Canadian nurses were addressed with the traditional title of “Nursing Sister”, and enjoyed a number of benefits in their positions, including good wages and leave. The head nursing sister, known as the Matron-in-Chief, was in charge of all the nurses in the service. Margaret Macdonald of the CAMC was given this title, and was the first woman to hold the rank of major in the whole of the British Empire.

A black-and-white photograph shows nursing sisters dressed in white aprons and veils, attending to a crowd of male patients inside a tent. One of the nursing sisters is sitting on a chair, with her feet and hands folded, staring at the camera. The other two nursing sisters are standing as they bandage the wounds of soldiers. The patients are dressed in casual clothing and some are in uniform. Medical supplies including bandages and pails are seen in the foreground and mid-ground.

Nursing sisters attending to soldiers in a dressing tent at No. 7 Canadian General Hospital, Étaples, France, ca. 1917. W.L. Kidd Collection (e002712847)

Military nurses faced a multitude of new experiences that contrasted to their work in the civilian context, whether it was sleeping in a tent, shifting to a new posting at short notice, or making do with limited supplies. Improvising and adapting to changing circumstances was necessary, as nurses might face quiet wards with a few patients one day, and masses of incoming and outgoing patients the next. These women saw first-hand the bodily harm caused by the era’s modern warfare, including shrapnel and poison gas, and witnessed a loss of life that few could have predicted when they first enlisted.

Nurses were not permitted to serve in trenches and most were posted well back from the front lines, working in general or convalescent hospitals. However, some were tasked closer to enemy action. Alice Isaacson noted the coveted nursing positions at casualty clearing stations (advance units along the evacuation routes between front lines and hospitals) in her diary, while posted at No. 2 Canadian General Hospital in September 1917: “Such an exciting afternoon today! . . . Sisters Jean Johnston, S.P. Johnson and Riddle are to go to CCS tomorrow morning! Sisters Hally and Villeneuve are heartbroken at being left here – But we are all glad these sisters have their chance for CCS at last.”

A black-and-white photograph showing three people sitting on the steps of a wooden hut. Two men, wearing trousers with rolled up legs and casual shirts, sit on either side of a uniformed nurse. All are smiling at the camera.

Nursing Sister Lillias Morden with patients outside of a medical hut at No. 2 Canadian General Hospital, Le Tréport, France, 1917. Photograph Album of Alice E. Isaacson, R11203-01-E. (e007150684)

Nurses made significant contributions to the war effort in their care of ill and injured soldiers, a duty that extended after the armistice on November 11, 1918. The “Spanish flu” influenza pandemic that began at the end of the war and spread through military camps placed further demands on nurses. Close to 1,500 nursing sisters were still serving with the CAMC by mid-1919. Lillias Morden, a nurse from Hamilton, Ontario, was one of them. She joined the CAMC in 1916, served in England and France, and assisted with demobilization efforts at the end of the war. Morden did not leave her military position until November 1920.

While nurses such as Alice Isaacson and Lillias Morden made it home after the First World War ended, some nursing sisters were not as fortunate. Part II of this blog post will explore how the conditions under which nursing sisters served could be dangerous, with some paying the ultimate price.

Related resources

In April 2018, Library and Archives Canada launched Co-Lab, a new collaboration tool, for the public to contribute by transcribing, tagging and interacting with historical records. Now we are adding a new challenge: showcasing the personal files of some of Canada’s nursing sisters who served in the First World War. You can get started right away!


Laura Brown is a Military Archivist in the Government Archives Division.