Top 5 topics addressed by our Reference Librarians

By Emily Dingwall

At Library and Archives Canada (LAC), reference librarians respond to requests on a wide variety of interesting topics from clients. This blog post outlines five types of reference questions librarians frequently handle and suggests resources to consult on these subjects.

The cover page from Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada with the title “Public Accounts of Canada, for the Fiscal Year ended 30th June, 1884.”

“Public Accounts of Canada” report found in Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1885, Vol. 1, No. 1. (OCLC 1007491677, image from Canadiana)

  1. Federal government documents

Annual departmental reports. Clients are often seeking annual departmental reports. Annual reports from Confederation in 1867 to 1925 are printed in the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada. Learn more about the Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1867 to 1925. If you are in Ottawa, you can access the Sessional Papers at LAC by requesting them from staff in the 2nd floor reference room. They are also available through these websites:

Departmental reports post–1925 are published separately from other government documents in the Sessional Papers. You can request 1925–1930 annual reports from LAC staff or through the Internet Archive.

After 1930, search our library catalogue Aurora for annual reports by the name of the department as it was known  during that period.

Beginning with 1995, you can find annual reports at the Government of Canada’s Departmental Results Reports. For more recent years, you can search the specific government department website.

Parliamentary documents. We also receive many questions on searching parliamentary debates, journals and committee materials of the House of Commons and the Senate, such as for a speech made by a prime minister in the House. You can find these documents online:

A typewritten page with two columns of text, separated by a crest. The text on the left is in English and the text on the right is in French.

Front page of the Canada Gazette, Part II, Vol. 137, No. 23, November 5, 2003. (OCLC 1082716964, image from Canada Gazette)

  1. Legislative Research

Librarians frequently receive questions about legislation in print or legislation that can be found online through Justice Laws.

You can trace legislation through these main sources:

  • The Statutes of Canada include all acts and amendments to laws passed during each session of Parliament.
  • The Revised Statutes of Canada (R.S.C.) are consolidations of the Statutes of Canada incorporating amendments and acts that have been added since the last revision. The R.S.C have been published for the years 1886, 1906, 1927, 1952, 1970, and 1985.

The Statutes of Canada and the Revised Statutes of Canada are available in print format in our reference collection at LAC, as well as at many public and academic libraries. They are also accessible through the legal database LLMC Digital, which can be searched onsite at LAC.

To learn more about the Statutes and researching legislation, see the blog post Tracing Historical Legislation.

You can find official regulations and statutory instruments in Part II of the Canada Gazette, the official newspaper of the Government of Canada. Published in three parts, the Canada Gazette is searchable by keyword at these sites:

To learn more about the three parts of the Canada Gazette please see Canada Gazette publications.

Readings of bills, such as the First and Third readings, can be found by searching the library catalogue Aurora.

LEGISinfo, the Library of Parliament’s research tool, provides information on all bills considered by the Senate and the House of Commons since the start of the 37th Parliament in 2001.

An image of a four-column newspaper, Courrier canadien.

Courrier canadien, March 11, 1900. (OCLC 109270836)

  1. Newspaper Research

Librarians often assist clients in searching newspapers for information such as local histories, articles on individuals, or references to a past royal visit to Canada.

We hold newspapers in print and microfilm formats, which can be found through the Aurora library catalogue. We also subscribe to several newspaper databases.

The Geographical microform list names all the newspapers that we hold on microfilm (click on the OCLC number), as well as newspapers available online. The list is organized by province/territory, then alphabetically by location.

Major newspaper titles such as Le Devoir, the Montreal Gazette, and the Ottawa Citizen are available in our self-service microform reading room.

These newspaper databases can be accessed on the public workstations in our reference room: The Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Paper of Record and Newspaper Archive.

Online newspaper resources include:

The cover page of “Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War.”

Cover page of Colonel C.P. Stacey’s Official History of the Canadian Army in the Second World War, Volume I: Six Years of War: The Army in Canada, Britain and the Pacific. (OCLC 317352934, image from Government of Canada publications)

  1. Military History Research

Librarians receive military history questions from clients looking for published histories of specific regiments/units, recruitment statistics per year, and locations of Canadian units in Europe during World War II.

Resources for military history research include:

An image of a Grand Trunk Railway timetable from 1922.

Timetable of the Ontario lines of the Grand Trunk Railway from 1922. (e011297622)

  1. Railway Histories

Many clients contact Reference Services about railway history research. Examples of questions we receive include the histories of specific train stations, the histories of railway companies (Canadian Pacific Railway, Canadian National Railways, Grand Trunk, etc.), and routes of particular railway lines.

We hold railway maps, as well as passenger and employee timetables in print format that can be located by searching Aurora. Many timetables are part of the Merrilees Transportation Collection, which contains about 5,000 publications including books, trade literature, technical manuals, timetables, broadsides, periodicals and pamphlets.

An Ontario railway historian has made rail timetables available on Charles Cooper’s Railway Pages.

Canadian Pacific Railway timetables from 1930–1985 are available through the Chung Collection at the University of British Columbia Library.

These are two excellent print publications to consult on railway history:

  • Andreae, C., & Matthews, G. Lines of Country: An Atlas of Railway and Waterway History in Canada. Erin, Ont.: Boston Mills Press, 1997. This publication is a comprehensive outline of railway and waterway history in Canada and includes maps of railways in Canada from early days to the present. It can be accessed in our reference room.
  • Ballantyne, B., and Bytown Railway Society. Canadian Railway Station Guide. Ottawa: Bytown Railway Society, 1998. This publication lists stations, plans and pictures.

 I hope that these resources will help you with your research on these subjects. Of course feel free to ask us a question on any topic, and a reference librarian will be happy to assist you!


Emily Dingwall is a Reference Librarian in the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

The Grey Fox: Legendary train robber and prison escapee Bill Miner

By Caitlin Webster

Nicknamed “The Grey Fox” and “The Gentleman Bandit,” Bill Miner was a legendary criminal on both sides of the Canada–U.S. border. Although he committed dozens of robberies and escaped from multiple prisons, many saw him as a generous folk hero who targeted exploitative corporations only. Library and Archives Canada holds many documents, publications, sound and video recordings, and other materials relating to Miner, and hundreds of these documents are now available on our website as a Co-Lab crowdsourcing challenge.

Newspaper page showing text, an illustration of two armed men on horseback approaching a train, a portrait of the author, and photographs of Bill Miner, Shorty Dunn and Lewis Colquhoun.

Article in The Province newspaper on January 18, 1958: “Bill Miner – last of the train robbers” (e011201062-019-v8)

 

Born Ezra Allan Miner on December 27, 1846, Miner began his criminal career as a teenager, stealing horses and robbing merchants in northern California. He later moved on to burglarizing homes and robbing stagecoaches in California and Colorado, where he and his accomplices often took away thousands of dollars in cash, gold dust, bonds and other goods. His polite, conversational manner during robberies earned him the nickname The Gentleman Bandit. Law enforcement eventually caught up with Miner, and despite multiple escape attempts, he spent decades behind bars in San Quentin State Prison.

When Miner was finally released in 1901, it was to an unfamiliar 20th-century American West. After trying his hand as an oyster farmer, he soon returned to a life of crime. As stagecoaches had been replaced by ever-expanding railroads, Miner turned to train robbery. He tried and failed twice to rob express trains in Oregon, and escaped across the border to settle in Princeton, British Columbia. There he established himself as a cattle trader and ranch hand, using the alias George Edwards. Known for his generosity, Miner was well liked in the small town.

By 1904, Miner had recruited new accomplices and was ready to target another train, this time in Canada. On September 10, along with partners Jake Terry and Shorty Dunn, The Grey Fox robbed a Canadian Pacific Railway train at Mission Junction, B.C. After taking thousands of dollars in cash, gold, bonds and securities, the bandits evaded capture for over a year and a half. Then on May 8, 1906, Miner, Dunn and a new accomplice named Louis Colquhoun held up a CPR train at Ducks (now Monte Creek), near Kamloops. However, this job was an abject disaster. The take was only $15.50, the men were forced to flee on foot, and they were captured five days later. Yet with his popularity in the area and the anti-CPR sentiment at the time, crowds of supporters greeted Miner as the Royal North-West Mounted Police brought him in to Kamloops.

On June 1, 1906, all three men were tried and convicted, and the next day Miner began his life sentence at the B.C. Penitentiary in New Westminster. During his stay, Miner expressed no remorse, reportedly telling the visiting Reverend A.D.E. Owen, “I am what I am, and I have done what I have done, but I can look God and man in the face unashamed.” The same clergyman observed how Miner charmed fellow inmates and penitentiary staff, and warned the acting warden, “Old Bill is a man who is well worth watching.”

Two photographs of Bill Miner showing a front view and a profile view. They show Miner with his hair closely cut, and his mustache shaved.

Mug shot photographs of a shaven and shorn Bill Miner at the beginning of his sentence at the B.C. Penitentiary (e011201061-128-v8)

Form with physical description and criminal conviction details.

B.C. Penitentiary intake form for Bill Miner (e011201060-009-v8)

 

The warning was prophetic, as Miner escaped from the penitentiary on August 8, 1907. Guards and police searched the surrounding area, and then the wider Vancouver region, with no success. Rumours spread that he had received outside help to escape, in exchange for the return of bonds and securities he had stolen in the 1904 CPR robbery. In addition, newspapers reported high levels of public sympathy for Miner, with many expressing their wish that he never be recaptured.

Map on blue background, labelled to show general locations of penitentiary, asylum, and surrounding streets, park, and the Fraser River. Annotations indicate location of fence where Miner escaped, as well as other details of the local area.

Blueprint of B.C. Penitentiary site, showing location where Bill Miner escaped, as well as the surrounding area (e011201060-179-v8)

Poster showing photograph of Bill Miner, announcing a $500 reward for his recapture, listing details as to his escape, and describing his physical characteristics.

Reward notice for the recapture of Bill Miner, sent to police departments, publications and private detective agencies (e011201060-210-v8)

In the end, Miner returned to the United States and lived in Colorado until his money ran out. In 1911, he robbed a train in Georgia. He and his accomplices were caught within days, and at 64 years old, Miner was sentenced to 20 years in prison. After escaping in 1911 and 1912, Miner died in prison on September 2, 1913.

Library and Archives Canada holdings include records from the B.C. Penitentiary that provide fascinating details on Bill Miner and his escape from the prison. These documents are now available as a Co-Lab challenge, and include intake forms and mug shots of Miner, reports of prison officials, newspaper clippings, and letters from individuals claiming to have spotted The Grey Fox, even years after his death. Co-Lab is a crowdsourcing tool that invites the public to contribute transcription, translation, tags and description text. The public contributions then become metadata to improve our search tools and enhance everyone’s experience of the historical record.

 


Caitlin Webster is an archivist in the Vancouver office of the Reference Services Division at Library and Archives Canada.

 

 

Guest curator: Catherine Bailey

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 during 2017 as experts, from LAC, across Canada and even farther afield, provide additional insights on items from the exhibition. Each “guest curator” discusses one item, then adds another to the exhibition—virtually.

Be sure to visit Canada: Who Do We Think We Are? at 395 Wellington Street in Ottawa between June 5, 2017, and March 1, 2018. Admission is free.


Plan for a group of eight farms by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne for the Canadian Pacific Railway, ca. 1889

Page with two grids drawn in black ink separated into squares or triangles to represent farms.

Plan for a group of eight farms by Sir William Cornelius Van Horne for the Canadian Pacific Railway, ca. 1889 (MIKAN 2925396)

This doodled design hints at the power railroad companies held to influence the look of the country. Settlements along Canada’s railway lines still reflect the grid plans imposed on them back then.


Tell us about yourself

During four very happy summers as an archival assistant at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, I worked with government records, private manuscripts and cartographic records, and I answered many reference inquiries for homestead applications (through which homesteaders obtained letters patent to confirm that they had settled former Crown land and had received legal title). During my last summer, I catalogued the series of historical township plans (maps) that covered all of Alberta.

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

Portrait of a seated man in a suit, straddling a café chair and holding a cigar between two fingers.

Sir William Van Horne, builder of the Canadian Pacific Railway, ca. 1900–1910 by W.A. Cooper (MIKAN 3575931)

Since I am well acquainted with the Western Canadian land survey system and the homestead applications and township plans at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, this item from the Sir William Cornelius Van Horne fonds resonated with me. Those grid lines looked very familiar! But the Canadian Pacific Railway’s (CPR) influence on the look of Western Canada extends beyond this doodled sketch of a grid-based settlement plan; there is more to the story.

The CPR’s construction was supported by the government through the Canadian Pacific Railway Charter, which bestowed on the company a monetary subsidy of $25 million and land grants of 25 million acres (an area roughly the size of England), in addition to lands for rights-of-way, stations and yard works. Van Horne had direct responsibility for the CPR’s construction between 1882 and 1885, and was subsequently its Vice President, President and Chairman. Soon after the railway was completed in 1885, he and the other directors of the company realized that whatever small profits were made would be almost immediately swallowed up by the operating and maintenance costs of the difficult mountain sections.

Recognizing not only the potential lure of new settlement lands but also the grandeur of mountain scenery, Van Horne and the CPR used artwork and carefully crafted words in advertising campaigns that targeted settlement and tourism in Canada. The CPR’s influence and actions thus helped to shape Canada’s image abroad and contributed directly to the national economy.

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

Van Horne is famously quoted as saying, “If we can’t export the scenery, we’ll import the tourists.” Both his passion for art and his business acumen gave him a keen interest in the development of the CPR’s tourism campaign.

While there is a plethora of beautiful visual records at LAC and across Canada that could show how the CPR and Van Horne influenced the image of Canada abroad, I will focus instead on the complementary power of words, specifically those found in the 1891 version of the CPR tourist pamphlet The Canadian Pacific: The New Highway to the Orient Across the Mountains, Prairies and Rivers of Canada.

Image of mountain range with a small train leaving a train station, set between the title of the pamphlet at the top and bottom of the page.

Title page of The Canadian Pacific: The New Highway to the Orient Across the Mountains, Prairies and Rivers of Canada, published in Montréal by the Canadian Pacific Railway, 1891 (AMICUS 8155839)

Conceived and written by Van Horne himself, the 48-page pamphlet was originally begun in 1884 before the CPR was even completed, but it was not produced until 1887 because Van Horne insisted on having nothing but the best mountain illustrations to complement the text. He was one of the patrons behind the “Railway School” of Canadian artists that included John Arthur Fraser, Thomas Mower Martin, Frederic Marlett Bell-Smith and Lucius O’Brien. The artists were given free rail passes, with the only stipulation often being that the CPR would have first choice of the finished works for its own use.

Colourful watercolour scene depicting a green forest in front of cloud-shrouded blue mountains.

View of the Rockies by Lucius O’Brien, 1887 (MIKAN 2886889)

Etching of two men on a beach putting a dead deer in a canoe. Another canoe and a wigwam can be seen at the side in front of trees with a mountain across the river.

Aboriginal Hunters with Wigwam and Canoe by a River by Thomas Mower Martin, 1885 (MIKAN 3018705)

Notwithstanding Van Horne’s passion for art, as a businessman he was not above clearly reminding artists that they owed it to the CPR to portray the mountains in a suitably grand manner to entice visitors. In one notable circumstance, described in E.J. Hart’s book The Selling of Canada: The CPR and the Beginnings of Canadian Tourism (AMICUS 3976336), Van Horne wrote to John Arthur Fraser (who had been sent out in 1886 to sketch the entire CPR line):

The black and white sketches will hardly answer our purposes, the mountains not being sufficiently imposing. I made last night a rough sketch … which will illustrate my ideas; it is made mostly from memory and I have taken a great deal of license but I do not think that any one going to the spot without the picture in hand will ever accuse us of exaggeration. For the great glacier and Syndicate Peak I would like something similar to this. … I find the perspective in the glacier not right and the peaks projecting through the glacier are not treated broadly enough to give their proper distance. You will of course be able to make a great many improvements on my sketch, but I hope you will preserve the size.

Please make a sketch of Mount Stephen, treating it in something the same manner. (The Selling of Canada, p. 35)

The New Highway pamphlet itself was clearly aimed to entice tourists:

May I not tempt you, kind reader, to leave England for a few short weeks and journey with me across that broad land, the beauties and glories of which have so recently been brought within our reach? There will be no hardships to endure, no difficulties to overcome, and no dangers or annoyances whatever. You shall see mighty rivers, vast forests, boundless plains, stupendous mountains and wonders innumerable; and you shall see all in comfort, nay in luxury. If you are a jaded tourist, sick of Old World scenes and smells, you will find everything fresh and novel. … If you are a mountain climber, you shall have cliffs and peaks and glaciers worthy of your alpenstock. (New Highway, 1891, p. 8)

The language is so evocative that reading this today, we can actually imagine what it was like to travel across Canada on the CPR in the late 19th century. The story begins with an explanation of how to reach the Montréal terminus by steamship (unless it is winter, in which case Halifax is the destination), then noting: “But you are impatient to see the mountains, and if you will permit me to choose, dear reader, we will start from Montreal by the main line of railway, and in order that we may miss nothing we will return by the great lakes, and see Toronto and the Falls of Niagara then.” (p. 12)

The pamphlet goes on to extol the facilities of the train itself before providing a detailed description of each part of the journey to the West. The voyager is taken step by step from Montréal through the Ottawa Valley, then north of Lake Superior and into Manitoba, over the great plains of the then Northwest Territories, and into the majestic mountain ranges west of Banff, before emerging from the grand yet “terrible” Fraser Canyon into the Fraser Valley and Vancouver, and concluding with a combination of apology and exhortation:

I ask your pardon, patient reader, for my persistence in showing you all sorts of things as we came along, whether you wished to see them or not. My anxiety that you should miss nothing you might wish to see is my only excuse. You have been bored nearly to death, no doubt, and I have noticed signs of impatience which lead me to suspect your desire for freedom to go and see as you like, and as you have found that no guide is necessary, I will, with your permission, leave you here … (pp. 43–44)

In the end, the CPR’s appeal to the hearts and minds of tourists to promote and exploit the mountain scenery paid off not only for the company but also for Canada’s overseas image and the national economy, a fact that was recognized and further capitalized on by the federal government in the coming years. J.B. Harkin, the first Commissioner of Dominion Parks (1911–1936), shared Van Horne’s appreciation of the economic value of Canadian scenery, regularly including statistics in his annual reports to the Minister of the Interior. Citing the expenditures of foreign and Canadian visitors to Banff between 1910 and 1915 (approximately $15 million and $8.5 million respectively), he further praised the economic value of national park scenery:

It is unique in this regard that while it brings in large sums of money it means that the country does not give in return anything which represents a loss to the country. When wheat is sold we sell a portion of the fertility of our soil. But the tourist who pays his money to see our mountains and lakes and falls, our canyons and glaciers, not only leaves his money but also leaves whole and unimpaired all those natural attractions which brought him here. These beauties remain forever to attract more tourists and more tourist dollars.”

Want to learn more about the foundations of the Canadian tourist industry and the impact of Canadian railways? Take a look at the archived LAC web exhibition Canada, by Train.

Biography

Colour photograph of a woman with short hair and wearing a crimson blazer smiling.Catherine Bailey is a senior government records archivist at LAC, where she has been responsible for the health and social welfare, transportation, justice and security portfolios. While working on her Honours BA in Canadian History (UBC, 1986), she spent summers working as an archival assistant at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, before moving on to complete her Master of Archival Studies degree (UBC, 1988). General Editor of the Association of Canadian Archivists’ journal Archivaria from 2007–2008, she received the ACA Member Recognition Award (2004) and the Archives Association of Ontario’s James J. Talman Award (2012). She has written and presented widely on archival appraisal, especially the development of macroappraisal within the Canadian federal government.

Related resources

Images for the Last Spike, 1885 now on Flickr

Craigellachie, British Columbia, located near Eagle Pass in the Rocky Mountains, is where Donald Smith, on November 7, 1885, drove the symbolic “last spike” in a ceremony marking the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR). The CPR company was incorporated in 1881 to construct a transcontinental railway connecting British Columbia with the rest of Canada upon the province’s entry into Confederation. It was four years of dangerous work and controversies, with thousands of workers, including 15,000 temporary Chinese labourers, laying ties and rails, hammering spikes and exploding pathways through the mountains. The result of this hard labour was a country joined by transportation and enhanced communication—thanks to greater ease of mail delivery and telegraph lines that were built along the railway—and moving steadily into the twentieth century.