Guest curator: Shane McCord

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.


Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen, by Mary Ann Knight, 1805

Oval portrait miniature of Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen wearing a white and red headdress with an ostrich feather and long earrings with circled stars. He is also wearing a patterned shirt with a red mantle.

Portrait miniature of Major John Norton, Teyoninhokarawen, the Mohawk Chief by Mary Ann Knight, 1805 (MIKAN 2836984)

The British public held Romantic ideas about Canada, especially its First Nations peoples. Teyoninhokarawen probably played up to these when he sat for this portrait. Here, he wears his own adapted version of Indigenous dress.


Tell us about yourself

I hail from the Ganaraska Forest. Technically, the address of my family home was in a small village called Campbellcroft, in rural Ontario however the nearest neighbor was over a kilometer away and there was little sense of a village. While there, my parents fostered a strong interest in art and culture. Sadly, while the nearly 12,000-acre Ganaraska forest is a place of much wonder and variety, one thing that one does not find there is a major art gallery with an internationally renowned collection. Consequently, as a teen I toured the world’s galleries through reproductions like those I found in the now rare Carnegie Art Reference Set for Colleges. The media fascinated me as much as the message and I developed an interest in reproductions of art works and their spread and dissemination in Canada. I circuitously followed this interest through my studies and ended up writing about bookworks, or artist’s books as they are variously known in my field. From the study of books and reproductions it was a short leap to library and archival school.

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Teyoninhokarawen (ca. 1760–1823) was born John Norton in Salen, Scotland, of Scottish and Cherokee parentage. Military records show he went to Canada, and after discharge from the army in 1788 went to live with the Grand River Mohawk Indians, later becoming the adopted nephew of Joseph Brant. His portrait was painted by Mary Ann Knight, an English miniaturist. It was painted during Norton’s visit to England when he acted as an emissary for the Grand River Mohawks, and it was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1805.

This portrait is a fantastic gateway into late 18th, early 19th century Canadian history. I chose to write about this item, first because it is so visually appealing. The portrait was painted in Europe where Romanticism is very much part of the spirit of the age and this shines through in the presentation of Norton. It was becoming unfashionable for portraits to depict people wearing contemporary European dress. My knee-jerk point of comparison is Thomas Phillips’ portrait of Byron wearing an Albanian scarf wrapped as a turban—though many of Jean-Etienne “The Turk” Liotard’s brilliant portraits might also serve as interesting comparative foils for this miniature.

Norton’s headwear is this portrait is fascinating in the way it perpetuates then prevailing orientalizing mythologies—naturally at this time drawing connections to Rousseau’s by then famous concept of the noble savage—but also truthfully representing Norton’s transatlantic identity. The feather in the headdress is that of an ostrich. Not a common bird on the shores of the Great Lakes where Norton had been adopted as a Mohawk, nor in his father’s Cherokee territory in Tennessee. Ostrich feathers however were popular as part of headwear in the UK, including in Scotland where, as in John Michael Wright’s portrait of Lord Mungo Murray, they gave the wearer an adventurous look. The feather at once connects Norton to the established visual trope of depicting Indigenous peoples of North America wearing ceremonial feather headdresses, while at the same time, the European inclusion of the imported ostrich feather illuminates Norton’s Scottish side.

Detailed view of Norton’s headdress which is white and red with an ostrich feather joined to the front.

Detailed view of Norton’s headdress. (MIKAN 2836984)

All that in just the feather! The rest of Norton’s wardrobe is equally interesting in different ways. This portrait is so rich that there are books full of things Canadians should know! Actually, I would quite literally start by recommending further reading (this is Library and Archives Canada after all). The first book is The Journal of Major John Norton. Norton completed the journal in 1815–16 while in England and it covers a wide range of subjects including his travel from Upper Canada to Tennessee and other southern U.S. states, as well as the frontier wars in the 1780s and 90s. Throughout The Journal, Norton provides an interesting and unique discussion of North America’s Indigenous people. Of particular note is his discussion of Joseph Brandt. Two editions of The Journal have been published, both by The Champlain Society. The more recent edition includes an introduction and additional notes by Carl Benn, who is a preeminent expert on Norton and whose works are a great source for more information.

Another book I would recommend to those intrigued by Norton is The Valley of the Six Nations, also published by The Champlain Society. This book, prepared by Charles M. Johnston, presents a collection of significant documents relating to the Six Nations in the region where Norton spent much of his adult life. It includes many documents discussing the land disputes that the Mohawk people of the Six Nations had with the British and colonial government. Some of documents presented in this volume are by Norton himself, and the originals of many of the documents are in LAC’s archival holdings.

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Oval miniature portrait of Colonel William Claus dressed in a dark jacket and white cravat, against a blue background.

Colonel William Claus by Andrew Plimer, c.1792. (MIKAN 2895040)

I’ve chosen this portrait of Claus, because his role in Canadian history has been squarely in the opposite corner from Norton. Eight years after this portrait was painted, Claus was appointed as the Indian Department’s Deputy Superintendent General for Upper Canada. In this role, he was very much Norton’s adversary. In Robert Allen’s entry on Claus for the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, he described the relationship between the two as an “acrimonious feud.”

This feud centred around Six Nations claims to land around the Grand River. While correspondence shows that the two came into conflict with each other several times, Claus struck a devastating blow to Norton when he discredited Norton to colonial authorities, thus causing Norton’s trip to England as a representative of the Six Nations to fail. Claus’ criticisms of Norton were not entirely without foundation as Norton did not truly represent the perspectives of all of the chiefs of the Six Nations.

There is a great deal more that could be said, and in fact has been said, in the sources mentioned above and elsewhere about the relationship between Norton and Claus and the Six Nations dispute with the Indian Department. These two portraits are a fascinating entry point into this chapter of history which still has reverberations today.

Biography

Colour photograph of a young boy peering up at an elaborate model shipShane McCord has worked as an art archivist at Library and Archives Canada since 2010, where the focus of his work has ranged from 17th-century plaques to contemporary art. He has a Master in Art History from Concordia University and a joint Master of Archival Studies and Master of Library and Information Science from the University of British Columbia.

Guest curator: Anne Maheux

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.


Mary Miles Minter in Anne of Green Gables … from the four famous “Anne” books, Realart Pictures, 1919

Colourful print of Anne wearing dress-up clothes against a green backdrop. She is holding a red and yellow parasol, and wearing black boots, a red skirt under a high white overskirt, and a brown shawl. The Realart Pictures logo is in the top left corner, with the actress’s name and the title of the movie along the bottom.

A colour lithograph poster of actor Mary Miles Minter in Anne of Green Gables from Realart Pictures, 1919 (AMICUS 27641454). “Anne of Green Gables” is a trademark and a Canadian official mark of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority Inc.

You may not have recognized Lucy Maud Montgomery’s red-haired heroine from this American movie poster. It presents one of the earliest mass-produced images of “Anne.” She has since become a regulated symbol of Canada.


Tell us about yourself

My curiosity about artists’ materials and techniques has taken my research in many directions, from the pastels of Edgar Degas and other 19th-century artists to the complex printmaking techniques of Canadian artist Betty Goodwin. I have been practicing paper conservation for over 30 years, treating everything from Old Master prints to huge contemporary drawings. As well, I have a special love for weaving, playing the cello, and oversized paper artefacts that present great challenges in treatment and mounting.

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Our poster of Anne of Green Gables is rare. Like newspapers, movie posters are ephemeral objects that are not intended to have a long lifespan. These types of objects are usually printed on poor quality papers that were never meant to withstand the ravages of time, which makes the survival of our Anne of Green Gables poster so special.

Three separate sections of the above poster. The first section shows the top half of Anne’s body; the second, the bottom half of her body; and the third, the actress’s name and the title of the movie.

Figure 1. Three separate sections of the Anne of Green Gables poster (AMICUS 27641454). “Anne of Green Gables” is a trademark and a Canadian official mark of the Anne of Green Gables Licensing Authority Inc.

This 1919 poster was made with a process called lithography, a common printing method used at the turn of the century to mass-produce commercial products like posters, maps, advertisements and packaging. Lithography was invented in 1799 by Alois Senefelder and named for the limestone printing surface, from the Greek lithos, meaning “stone.” It became a popular and inexpensive way to create colourful, luminous images by the late 19th century. Unlike other printmaking processes, lithography is based on a chemical principle: oil and water do not mix. To make a lithographic image, the artist draws directly on the specially treated stone surface. A chemical process makes the greasy drawing receptive to the greasy printing ink, while the non-image areas are kept wet to repel the ink.

Because of its size, our poster was drawn on three separate stones and printed on three pieces of paper (Figure 1). Looking at the sides of the image, we can see the irregular edges of the lithographic stones (Figure 2). The thin white lines throughout the image are printing creases. The thinness and size of the paper make it difficult to place the sheets smoothly on the stone, hence the fine wrinkles that open after the ink is dry, leaving these characteristic white marks (Figure 3). In this detail, we can see that the artist used a greasy crayon to draw the image on the lithographic stone, and also applied the greasy ink in a fine spray. Colours are added by using additional stones that are printed in overlapping transparent inks (Figure 4). Special registration marks help guide the printer as each consecutive stone is printed (Figure 5).

Only four overlapping colours (red, yellow, blue and black) were used to produce this colourful image of Anne of Green Gables!

Colour closeup of a detail of the poster where you can see that the different doesn't overlap perfectly.

Figure 2. Detail of uneven edge of the lithographic stone

Colour closeup of the poster showing white line crossecting the image.

Figure 3. Detail of printer’s creases

Colour closeup of the poster showing the translucent quality of the image.

Figure 4. Detail of overlapping, transparent colours.

A colour close-up of the poster showing the registration markers in the lower right-hand corner.

Figure 5. Detail of registration marks

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The Dionne Quintuplets come to mind as another example of celebrated Canadian icons (Figures 6, 7). In 1934, the “Quints” became international celebrities as the first documented surviving multiple-birth infants. In their early years, they were the subject of three feature films and drew tourist crowds to their small town in northern Ontario. The Quints provided lucrative endorsements for many products, like Quaker Oats, featured in this poster.

Like the Anne of Green Gables poster, this image of the Quints (“Quins” on the poster) was mass-produced using the lithographic printing method. The poster was intended to be used as a three-dimensional standing display and has suffered wear and tear from physical handling. It was recently conserved for an exhibition, and the treatment was kept to a minimum to preserve the evidence of its use. The poster was stabilized by repairing tears and replacing the deteriorating cardboard backing with a sturdier archival material. Damages from abrasion and use were reduced through careful toning with watercolour to make the image more readable (Figures 8, 9).

Creased and torn advertisement depicting black-and-white die-cut prints of the little girls wearing overalls and white shirts on a red background. The logo sits across the top of each girl’s legs, with the company name along the bottom of the poster.

Figure 6. Today our healthy Dionne Quins had Quaker Oats. Full image, before treatment (MIKAN 3825441)

The same poster after treatment, without most of the tears and creases.

Figure 7. Today our healthy Dionne Quins had Quaker Oats. Full image, after treatment (MIKAN 3825441)

A colour close-up of the poster showing the extent of the damage before and after treatment.

Figure 8. Detail of Émilie, before treatment
Figure 9. Detail of Émilie, after treatment

Biography

A black and white photograph of a woman on a dark background.Anne F. Maheux has a BA in Fine Art from the University of Guelph and received a Master’s in Art Conservation (MAC) from Queen’s University and a certificate in the conservation of works of art on paper at the Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard University Art Museums. She is a recipient of the American Academy in Rome Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation, and is an accredited member of the Canadian Association of Professional Conservators. She was Conservator of Prints and Drawings at the National Gallery of Canada for over 25 years, and is now Head, Conservation of Works on Paper, Maps and Manuscripts at LAC. Her scholarly interests include 19th-century pastel painting, particularly the work of Edgar Degas and Giuseppe De Nittis. She has published extensively on pastels, and on innovative conservation techniques and treatments.

 

Guest curator: Jeff Thomas

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.


Canada Day 2005, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada, by Jeff Thomas, 2005

First Nations figure set in front of a train marked “Canada” with grain graffiti on its side.

Canada Day 2005, Brandon, Manitoba, Canada from The Delegate on Tour Series by Jeff Thomas, 2005 (MIKAN 3932014) ©Jeff Thomas

For Iroquois artist Jeff Thomas, Canada has always excluded his people. He made this series in order to symbolically place them back in the national picture. Each photograph takes back a major symbol of Canadian nationhood.


Tell us about yourself

I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and I am an enrolled member of the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario. I am a self-taught photographer and curator. My career in photography began from a near-fatal car accident in 1979 that left me with a permanent disability from a spinal cord injury. I turned to my interest in photography to begin the process of rebuilding life. My career began with two objectives: to address the absences of contemporary and of historical Indigenous photographers in archival collections. My primary objective was to address the absence and invisibility of urban-based Iroquois like me.

In 1990, I was living in Winnipeg, Manitoba, when I discovered, during a research project at the Manitoba Museum, that LAC had a complete copy of Edward Curtis’s 20-volume series The North American Indian. Curtis played the role of antagonist in my early career, primarily because of his staged images of an Indigenous tribal life, which had vanished decades before. Very little was known about Curtis—wanting to know more, I moved to Ottawa in 1993 and began the next stage of my career.

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In 1999, my son Bear was moving to the West Coast, so I was losing my muse. Bear had started posing for me in 1984. Around the same time that Bear was leaving, I received a box in the mail from documentary filmmaker Ali Kazimi. Ali had made a documentary film about my work titled Shooting Indians: A Journey with Jeff Thomas. Ali introduces the film by holding up a plastic Indian and cowboy. And when I opened the box, I saw the plastic Indians and the cowboy, with a note from Ali saying, “You will find something interesting to do with them.”

Indians on Tour began in the summer of 2000 during a walk around the Parliament Hill area in Ottawa. I had a plastic toy Indian figure in my camera bag, and when I stopped to photograph a statue of an Indian hunter, I placed the toy Indian in front of the bronze hunter and photographed the two. What transpired when I saw the photograph was a new level of possibilities for me in addressing absences of Indigenous representation in the everyday world. From that point, I started taking the plastic figures with me wherever I travelled. I eventually added new Indian figures that I discovered in tourist shops, and to make posing them less reliant on a flat surface, I started making portable dioramas for the figures, mounted on a portable light stand.

Small light-brown First Nations figure set in front of Indian hunter statue. Tall office buildings and trees can be seen in the background.

War Dancer and Indian Hunter Statue by Jeff Thomas in Ottawa, 2000 © Jeff Thomas

In 2005, I was in Brandon, Manitoba, for an opening of my work, and since the next day was Canada Day, I drove around the city looking for an interesting site to pose the delegate. When I saw the grain car with “Canada” and some graffiti on its side, I knew I had found the site for my Canada Day image.

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A black-and-white photo of a Dakota First Nation woman wearing a striped dress under a long beaded breastplate. It is matched with a necklace, long earrings and braids.

Studio portrait of Dakota First Nation (Sioux) woman (MIKAN 3258922)

In 1994, LAC hired me to write new captions for photographs showing Indigenous people, with culturally insensitive words in the old captions. One image stands out from my project. I wrote a new caption for a photograph showing a full-length image of an Indigenous woman. She was probably a mother, wife, grandmother and elder for her community. The caption was “Sioux Squaw”; squaw is considered a very derogatory word. The caption I wrote was simply “Dakota Woman.”

An important point is that the original caption was not deleted, so researchers will see both captions in the database. The new caption inspired a researcher to try and identify the woman, and the new information he found was subsequently added to the database caption. It was amazing to see the impact that changing two words had on one photograph. I suspect that once more Indigenous people use the database, someone from her community will add her name to the caption.

Biography

A colour photograph of a lightly bearded man smiling at the camera.

Jeff Thomas credit Justin Wonnacott

Jeff Thomas is an urban-based Iroquois, self-taught photo-based artist, writer, public speaker and curator, living in Ottawa, Ontario. He has works in major collections in Canada, the United States and Europe. Jeff’s most recent solo shows were Mapping Iroquoia: Cold City Frieze, McMaster Museum of Art, Hamilton, Ontario; Resistance Is NOT Futile, Stephen Bulger Gallery, Toronto, Ontario; and The Dancing Grounds, Wanuskewin Heritage Park, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

Thomas has also been in many group shows, including l:ke – Toronto: Tributes + Tributaries, 1971–1989, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto, Ontario; Land/Slide: Possible Futures, Markham, Ontario; SAKAHÀN, National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa, Ontario; and UNMASKING: Arthur Renwick, Adrian Stimson, Jeff Thomas, Canadian Cultural Centre, Paris, France. In 1998, he was awarded the Canada Council for the Arts’ prestigious Duke and Duchess of York Prize in Photography. He was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Art in 2003. In 2008, he received the Karsh Award in photography.

Related resources

Guest Curator: Caroline Forcier-Holloway

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.


Film still from the R.C.M.P series, “Storm O’Brien,” by Crawley Films Ltd., 1959

Black-and-white still of an actor in an RCMP uniform leaning against a Bombardier truck.

Film still from “Storm O’Brien,” an episode of the television show R.C.M.P, by Crawley Films Ltd., 1959 (MIKAN 3563899) ©Michal Anne Crawley

This series set out to create a more realistic picture of Canada’s Mounties. It hints at complex and difficult relationships—with Indigenous peoples, for example. Still, the overall look and feel is surprisingly romantic.


Tell us about yourself

My research interests focus on Canada’s northern peoples and exploration in the Canadian Arctic documented in government-sponsored films, lesser-known independent and unpublished amateur films, as well as home movies. When the opportunity arises, I turn my efforts towards often-forgotten orphaned films that require much needed attention, with the hopes of making them accessible.

My interest in LAC’s oral history collection began as a reference archivist, and later it became one of my major acquisition portfolios. This fueled a need to conduct donor interviews, as part of the long-established National Archives oral history program. Since 2015, I have been co-lead of LAC’s newly established Oral History Initiative—an oral history interview program that gives voice to and celebrates donors and LAC employees alike.

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

The following is a sampling of early RCMP content from LAC’s vast collection of audiovisual records. The information is arranged in three categories: early fictional television dramas; early fictional feature films; and early documentaries and amateur films.

The RCMP portrayed in early fictional television dramas

The R.C.M.P. series was produced in 1959–1960 by Crawley Films Ltd., in partnership with the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). Based on actual cases from the RCMP files, these 39 half-hour shows were filmed in 35 mm black-and-white, and were broadcast in Canada, England, and Australia.

LAC acquired the Crawley Films fonds in 1983. The holdings consist of 38,837 film reels, 12,800 photographs, 42 metres of textual records, and other media. Crawley Films was officially founded in 1939 by Frank Radford “Budge” Crawley and Judith Crawley in Ottawa. Amongst the various categories of film that Crawley Films produced—industrial, feature, documentary, animation, and commercials—the R.C.M.P. television drama series really set Crawley Films apart from other production companies.

Canadians welcomed television into their homes in 1952, and by 1955 there were 23 television stations operating in Canada, where demand was growing for more content to be aired. In 1958, “Budge”, struck a partnership with the CBC and the BBC to produce a series that was to be the “day to day story of Canada’s federal police force.”

Munroe Scott, one of the script writers for the series, explained why Crawley Films chose the theme: “The RCMP fascinated us because they’d been into virtually every aspect of Canadian life. The story lines for each episode were meant to reflect mostly real life, although they were dramatized for television purposes.”

To produce the episodes, Crawley Films purchased 40 acres of land near Chelsea, Quebec, where an 8,500-square foot studio was built. The towns of Aylmer, Quebec and Outlook, Saskatchewan, stood in for the fictional western town of Shamattawa. Gilles Pelletier, a French-speaking actor, played the lead role of Corporal Jacques Gagnier, who was the head of the detachment. John Perkins played Constable Frank Scott, and Don Francks as the rookie sidekick Constable Bill Mitchell. Recurring roles of Special Constable Ben Aputagen was played by Angus Baptiste and Mayor Bill Cartwright, by Bernard McManus.

LAC has a complete set of the 39 episodes, as well as a version of episode 18, The Hunt, in German. Viewers tuned in to watch the series on CBC, Wednesdays at 8:00 pm. A list of all the episodes was compiled by The Classic TV Archive.

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Prior to the R.C.M.P. series, and already popular amongst viewers and listeners was the American fictional drama adventure series of 78 episodes, Sergeant Preston of the Yukon, broadcast on CBS television between 1955 and 1958. The series was based on Sergeant William Preston, a Canadian Mountie with the North West Mounted Police, patrolling the wilds of the Yukon with his horse Rex and his faithful dog Yukon King. Together they fought evildoers in northern parts during the Gold Rush of the 1890s.

The television series was based on the popular radio drama, Challenge of the Yukon, a 15-minute radio serial about Sergeant Preston that first aired in Detroit between 1938 and 1947, and then on different radio stations up until 1955. The series was written by Tom Dougall, who was influenced by the poems of Robert W. Service. For those eager to travel down memory lane, the Old Time Radio Researchers Group website has all 609 radio episodes. LAC has some episodes of Challenge of the Yukon and Sergeant Preston of the Yukon.

The RCMP portrayed in early fictional feature films

An iconic Canadian symbol, the RCMP was portrayed in several hundred Hollywood fictional works which saturated the film industry. Classics such as Rose-Marie (1936), a musical by MGM, and Renfrew of the Royal Mounted,(1937), a series of eight features by Criterion Pictures Corporation were distributed throughout North America and elsewhere.

The earliest fictional feature about Mounties was The Cattle Thieves (1909), made by the American-based Kalem Company, which was the first film studio to travel to Canada to film dramas on location. In doing so, they introduced the Northwest Mounted Police to the American public. American production companies also produced films with Canadian plots that were filmed on location in the U.S., a pattern followed well into the 1950s, when the emphasis was on the romance of Canada’s vast wilderness. A recurring cast of characters often included a French-Canadian trapper or lumberjack as the villain, a few Aboriginal people, miners, prospectors, whisky runners, and of course, a “noble Mountie.”

On the King’s Highway (1915) was an early Mountie drama story, directed by A.J. Edwards, of the Conness Till Film Company of Toronto, and the James Oliver Curwood story, Wapi the Walrus that became Back to God’s Country (1919), Canada’s earliest surviving feature film. Film historian Peter Morris described the story as a “melodramatic triangle of heroine, hero, and villain, with a setting in the wilds of North Canada, a dog as co-hero, plus bears, living amid their natural surroundings in the snow fastness of the North, and the omnipresent North West Mounted Police.”

A colourized image showing a man and woman on horseback in a clearing before tall green trees and snow-capped mountains. The man is wearing a yellow shirt unbuttoned to expose his chest. He is reaching over to the woman who is wearing a white cap and red cloak. At the bottom left is a second image, a black-and-white cut-out of a uniformed officer leading his horse to a campfire with a tall tree in the background. The movie title is on the right side of the poster.

Promotional poster for the film Cameron of the Royal Mounted, 1921, by Winnipeg Productions Ltd. (MIKAN 199330)

Cameron of the Royal Mounted (1921) is a silent fictional adventure feature with English intertitles, made by Winnipeg Productions Ltd., and based on the book, Corporal Cameron of the North West Mounted Police, by Ralph Connor. It tells the story of a young man who comes to Canada escaping arrest for forging a cheque. He falls in love but is shot by a jealous rival. The occasion presents itself to join the RNWMP. He rescues his kidnapped girlfriend, and clears his name of the initial offense. What really sets this feature apart from others is the bold decision to cast real Mounties from the RNWMP Fort McLeod post in Alberta as extras. LAC has an incomplete version of the film, with only two reels of a six-part feature.

Other films include Policing the Plains (1927) by A.D. Kean of Canadian Historic Features Ltd. in Vancouver, and His Destiny (1928) also known as North of 49 by British Canadian Pictures Ltd. in Calgary. The latter was shot on location in Alberta, and includes scenes of the 1928 Calgary Stampede. LAC has two incomplete versions.

The RCMP portrayed in early documentaries and amateur films

There are plenty of films made about the Mounties but not as many made by them. LAC has over 1,230 moving image and sound records for both governmental and private collections documenting activities of the RCMP. Documentaries provide a narrative of activities and events, such as Through the Northwest Passage, a film documenting a unique voyage in the history of navigation. The documentary shot by Corporal F.S. Farrar tells the story of the voyage of the wooden schooner St. Roch, Captain Henry Larsen, and her eight member crew as they sail from Vancouver, British Columbia to Halifax, Nova Scotia via the Northwest Passage from 1940 to 1942.

A black-and-white photograph of a man dressed in winter clothing aboard a boat with icy water in the background.

Captain Henry Larsen aboard the RCMP patrol vessel St. Roch, in the Northwest Territories, ca. 1944. (MIKAN 3191981)

Amateur films play a significant role in documenting history, culture, and lives and activities of individuals. Many archives aim to promote their broader value or significance, as they are considered primary source material in the context of the historical record, especially given the increasing demand from researchers for their invaluable use in productions, sociological studies, websites, exhibitions, and more.

Real life stories about Mounties are also told through amateur footage. Between the 1930s and the 1950s, Henry Larsen shot seven reels of amateur film documenting varied activities, people and places encountered during his northern voyages.

In 1932, Doug Betts became an RCMP Constable and trained at the Fairmont Barracks in Vancouver. Shortly afterwards, he was posted to Dawson, Yukon Territory and Whitehorse, and was promoted to the rank of Corporal in the late 1940s.

The Norman Betts fonds consists of 23 reels of silent black-and-white 8 mm home movies. Corporal Doug Betts was an avid cameraman who took his camera on various work assignments, as well as during recreational leave, documenting placer mining operations, patrols by dog sled, investigation of a plane crash site, assisted hunting parties, and more. In addition, LAC conducted a donor interview with Doug Betts’ son Norman, to gain contextual information about the silent films.

A black-and-white photograph of a man dressed in winter clothing sitting on a sled with six sled dogs on leads.

Doug Betts sitting with Kluane, his lead sled dog from Doug Betts No. 8: home movie, ca. 1935–1939. (MIKAN 188444)

A colour photograph of a yellow film package with writing identifying the film.

Kodak film box that contained a 16 mm 100 ft. reel of film shot by Constable Doug Betts. (Information such as annotations, stamp cancellation, and film due date, provide important clues to identifying the content and dates of a film).

Biography

A colour photograph of a woman with a very broad smile.Caroline Forcier-Holloway is an Audiovisual Archivist at Library and Archives Canada (LAC). During her career at LAC, she has worked in various capacities beginning in 1989 as a Specialized Audiovisual Reference Archivist, General Reference Archivist, Film Researcher, and finally, an Audiovisual Archivist. Since 2000, she has acquired audiovisual fonds and collections of oral history, and Aboriginal and northern content, as well as French and English, private and government, professional and amateur filmmakers and broadcasters.

Related Resources

  • Search – Film, Video and Sound (LAC database)
  • Wade Rose, Barbara. Budge: What Happened to Canada’s King of Film, Toronto: ECW Press, 1998. AMICUS 18144389
  • Morris, Peter. Embattled Shadows: A History of Canadian Cinema 1895–1939, Montréal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, c1978. AMICUS 877273

Guest curator Meaghan Scanlon

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.


Les voyages du sieur de Champlain…, Samuel de Champlain, 1613 and its map, the Carte geographique de la Nouvelle Franse faictte par le sieur de Champlain [Geographical map of New France by Samuel de Champlain, 1613]

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

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

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

Drawn from history: Canadian political figures in comics

By Meaghan Scanlon

Most of us are familiar with newspaper editorial cartoons. These one-panel gag comics often feature exaggerated and satirical images of politicians. But did you know that Canadian politicians have also appeared in web comics, graphic novels, and even Super Hero comics?

Kate Beaton’s web comic Hark! A Vagrant frequently features historical figures. Her strip “A History Debate” sees a collection of well-known individuals from Canadian history, including Sir John A. Macdonald, engaged in a discussion about what they can do to make Canadian history less boring. (Obviously, we don’t think it’s boring at all!)

A few Canadian political figures’ lives have been recounted in biographical graphic novels. Two examples are Louis Riel: A Comic-Strip Biography by Chester Brown and Hyena in Petticoats: The Story of Suffragette Nellie McClung by Willow Dawson. These biographies may take some liberties with their portrayals of events, but for the most part they are based in reality.

However, Canadian politicians have found themselves in some truly fantastical situations in the pages of Super Hero comics. You may have read recently that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will appear in the pages of a Marvel comic book written by Canadian Chip Zdarsky. This is not the first time the world of comic book heroes has borrowed a character from Canada’s political sphere. In the first issue of New Triumph featuring Northguard, the titular hero uncovers a plot to kill Quebec Premier René Lévesque. Fortunately, Northguard arrives in time to save Lévesque’s life.

In issue No. 120 of The X-Men, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau meets with James MacDonald Hudson, codename: Vindicator, of the Canadian Super Hero team Alpha Flight. Trudeau instructs Vindicator to capture the X-Men’s Canadian member, Wolverine, and bring him home to Canada. Canadian artist John Byrne drew the comic.

A large screen shows the X-Men fighting a giant robot. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau stands in front of the screen along with Alpha Flight team leader Vindicator. Trudeau asks Vindicator to explain who the X-Men are. The words “The Uncanny X-Men” appear in large text at the top of the page. The story title is “Wanted: Wolverine! Dead or Alive!” The location of the scene is given as “The War Room of the Canadian Ministry of Defense – Ottowa [sic], Ontario, Canada …”

Pierre Trudeau gets a lesson on the X-Men from Alpha Flight’s team leader Vindicator in The X-Men no. 120, published by Marvel Comics, April 1979. (Reprinted in X-Men: Alpha Flight (AMICUS 44300363) © MARVEL

Perhaps the most unusual depiction of Canadian politicians in comics occurs in Angloman: Making the World Safe for Apostrophes! Angloman, the heroic champion of bilingualism, encounters a series of super-powered characters who might seem strikingly familiar to students of Canadian politics. Power Chin, for example, is a parody of Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, complete with the oversized chin that was Mulroney’s trademark feature for caricaturists. Pierre Trudeau appears as The Northern Magus, a mysterious caped figure with a rose in his lapel. The Northern Magus has incredible magical powers and only speaks in rhyme.

Sketches and textual descriptions of three characters – Poutinette, The Northern Magus, and Power Chin.

Character biographies for Poutinette, The Northern Magus and Power Chin from Angloman: Making the World Safe for Apostrophes! (AMICUS 14740760. © Mark Shainblum and Gabriel Morrissette. Reproduced with the permission of Signature Editions.) (AMICUS 14740760)

To learn more about comic book depictions of Canadian history as well as other Canadian comics, visit Library and Archives Canada’s exhibition Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity. The exhibition runs at 395 Wellington St. in Ottawa until September 14th. Admission is free.

Additional resources


Meaghan Scanlon is the Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

A greater sisterhood: the Women’s Rights struggle in Canada

“Women are going to form a chain, a greater sisterhood than the world has ever known.” Nellie McClung, 1916

The year 2016 marks an important commemorative milestone for women’s rights: the 100th Anniversary of Women first obtaining the right to vote in Canada. To highlight this egalitarian achievement and many other barriers overcome by Canadian women over the past century, Library and Archives Canada (LAC), working in partnership with Canadian Heritage, will launch an outdoor exhibition titled A Greater Sisterhood: The Women’s Rights Struggle in Canada.

Following on from LAC‘s Let Them Howl: 100 Years of Women’s Suffragea display of portraits  this past winter on the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and at Fort Gibraltar in Winnipeg—this new exhibition features reproductions of portraits and documentary photographs of significant and influential persons and groups of women. The women featured in this exhibit broke through barriers to achieve full participation in the economic, political, and social life of Canada, helping to make it a more inclusive and democratic country.

A black-and-white photograph showing a group of nursing sisters waiting in line to cast their votes at an outdoor polling station. Four male officers oversee the proceedings while one sister casts her vote behind a screen. In the background are encampment tents.

Canada’s Nursing Sisters at a Canadian hospital casting their votes in the Canadian federal election, December 1917 (MIKAN 3194224)

During the First World War, more than 2,000 nurses, supervised by matron-in-chief Margaret Macdonald, served overseas as members of the Canadian Army. The Military Voters Act, 1917, gave all military personnel, including nurses, the right to vote in federal elections, paving the way to the expansion of women’s voting rights in 1918.

Madeleine Parent, a Quebec labour union activist and a founding member of the Confederation of Canadian Unions, led efforts to achieve better working conditions for women in the textile industry. As a co-founder of the National Action Committee on the Status of Women, Parent also supported Aboriginal women’s rights.

A black-and-white photograph showing a woman walking down a street; behind, there is a man with a sign that says “L’union fait la force” [Unity makes strength]

Madeleine Parent walking in the May Day Parade in Valleyfield, Quebec, ca. 1949 (MIKAN 3257043)

Throughout her fifty-year career as a singer-songwriter, Buffy Sainte-Marie has focused on issues facing Indigenous peoples. She has won recognition and countless awards for her music and her work as an activist and educator. In 1997, she founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project, which helps create core teaching curricula based on Indigenous perspectives.

A black-and-white photo portrait of a woman with long dark hair looking directly at the photographer.

Buffy Sainte-Marie. Photograph taken by Robert Taillefer, 1975 ©Robert Taillefer (MIKAN 4167090)

Be sure to visit the outdoor exhibition, A Greater Sisterhood: The Women’s Rights Struggle in Canada, on display on Plaza Bridge, directly opposite the Hotel Château Laurier on Rideau Street in Ottawa, which runs until Thanksgiving weekend.

Learn more about Women First Obtaining the Right to Vote in Canada or read about our other blog articles on the topic.

A Sunny Legacy: Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Library and Archives Canada (LAC), in partnership with Parks Canada, is marking the 175th anniversary of Sir Wilfrid Laurier’s birth (November 20, 1841) with the exhibition A Sunny Legacy: Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The celebrations started this morning at Fairmont Château Laurier, 1 Rideau Street, Ottawa, to coincide with the 104th anniversary of the grand opening of the famous hotel. One of the features is a commemorative display of LAC historical items alongside a Sir Wilfrid Laurier bust from Parks Canada—a perfect opportunity for a selfie!

A colour photograph of a woman leaning over towards a book that is held by a cardboard cutout figure.June 1, 1912, the Lauriers are on their way to the opening ceremony of the Château Laurier Hotel. A modest man, Laurier is said to have initially turned down the offer of having this Grand Trunk Railway hotel named after him.

A black-and-white photograph showing a group of peopleA black-and-white photograph showing a group of people sitting in a car. sitting in a car.

Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Lady Laurier and unidentified passengers arrive for the opening of the Château Laurier Hotel, June 1, 1912 (MIKAN 3191987)

Be sure to visit the Laurier House National Historical Site at 335 Laurier Avenue East, in Ottawa, to see the main display on this prominent politician.

The exhibition features photographs, souvenirs, personal and political correspondence, and original historical records from the collection of Library and Archives Canada—some of which are on display for the first time. This selection of items honours Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who was known for his articulate vision of a common purpose, his sense of compromise and interest in national unity. A widely admired dignitary with a strong sense of inclusiveness and cultural acceptance, Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Canada’s longest-serving member of Parliament and the first French-Canadian, bilingual prime minister.

Centered text elaborately framed with gold whiplash lines in the form of rose vines, pink coloured roses and leaves on the bottom corners; below the frame is an illustration of the Ottawa Parliament Buildings.

Luncheon in honour of Sir Wilfrid Laurier, 1902 (MIKAN 186966)

A hand-drawn embellishment consisting of red roses and green leaves on brown stem at top left corner above text.

Menu, Canada Club Menu, 1897 (MIKAN 186966)

Souvenirs on display highlight part of the prime minister’s role in representing Canada at public international events. Often collected in albums, memorabilia such as invitations, tickets to theatre performances, and menus from formal state dinners and luncheons give a glimpse into the social side of the prime minister’s duties. Visit the exhibition at Laurier House to see what was on the dinner menu over 100 years ago!

A newly discovered treasure from the collection—one recently restored by conservators—this illuminated address on parchment paper recognizes the important efforts by Laurier’s government to populate the West.

An illuminated address showing an elaborate scroll to the left of the text and a Red River Cart in the upper right-hand corner.

Illuminated address from the Mayor and Council of Winnipeg (MIKAN 186966)

Join us in celebrating one of the most pragmatic and eloquent Canadian prime ministers and visit the exhibition, A Sunny Legacy: Celebrating Sir Wilfrid Laurier, being held in Ottawa until November 20—Laurier’s birthday!

To learn more about Sir Wilfrid Laurier, view a Flickr set, and to discover Canada’s heritage, go to http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/.

Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity

By Meaghan Scanlon

The first Canadian comic book, Better Comics no. 1, was published 75 years ago by Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publishing. Since that time, Canada has produced many talented comic book artists. Library and Archives Canada (LAC) presents a new exhibition of reproductions of these artists’ work. Entitled Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity, the exhibition runs from May 12 to September 14 in the lobby of LAC’s main building at 395 Wellington St. in Ottawa.

Alter Ego takes three different approaches to the subject of comics and Canadian identity. The works featured are organized into three thematic groupings: “Collective Identity,” “Secret Identity,” and “Personal Identity.”

“Collective Identity” looks at the ways Canadian artists have engaged with national identity in their work. The Canadian identity is built through shared symbols and a shared history. Many Canadian comics, particularly in the superhero genre, have used the country’s national symbols to build patriotic feeling. There are also several comics about important figures and events from Canadian history. Through their depictions of distinctly Canadian stories, these comics help us consider what it means to be Canadian.

“Secret Identity” spotlights some of the Canadian artists who have found success outside Canada. From the earliest days of American comic books when Canadian Joe Shuster co-created Superman, Canadian artists have made significant contributions to international comics. Often, these artists’ work has little to do with their home country. To fit in with the wider world, they keep their Canadian origins hidden below the surface—like a superhero’s secret identity.

“Personal Identity” delves into Canada’s impact on the genre of autobiographical and realist comics. A number of Canadian cartoonists have drawn comics about “normal” characters—people who are more like Clark Kent than Superman. Dealing with issues such as family relationships, trauma and recovery, and sexual identity, these comics are highly personal. At the same time, their portrayal of circumstances that countless readers can relate to makes them universal.

The archetypal superhero, with his dual identity, is an extreme illustration of the idea that each of us is many things simultaneously. We define ourselves by our various qualities, and choose which side of ourselves to emphasize depending on our circumstances. Alter Ego examines some of the many perspectives on identity revealed through the work of Canadian comic artists. All of these perspectives work together to show that there is no single “Canadian identity,” but rather as many versions of the concept as there are Canadians.

Visit Alter Ego: Comics and Canadian Identity and see which parts of your unique version of Canadian identity are reflected in Canadian comics! See you at 395 Wellington St. starting May 12. Admission is free.

Additional resources


Meaghan Scanlon is the Special Collections Librarian in the Published Heritage Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The Persons Case, 1929

The Persons Case is a historic part of women’s fight for political equality in Canada. The case is significant for establishing that interpretation of the Canadian Constitution is adaptable to the changing needs of society and for determining that “qualified persons” in the British North America Act, 1867 (BNA Act, now known as the Constitution Act, 1867) includes women. This decision paved the way in Canada by asserting women’s rights to be active in political life.

The events leading to the Persons Case began in 1916 when Emily F. Murphy was appointed as the first female police magistrate in the British Empire. Undermining her authority, lawyers challenged her position as illegal on the grounds that a woman was not considered to be a person under the BNA Act, and therefore she was unable to act as magistrate. Although the Provincial Court of Alberta would confirm Murphy’s appointment by declaring women as “persons,” this decision was not proclaimed federally.

Over the next 10 years, the federal government faced pressure from women’s groups to appoint a female senator. The government declared the appointment of a women impossible according to the BNA Act, which specified only “qualified persons” could hold a senate position. Turning to the law, Murphy found that under section 60 of the Supreme Court Act, five interested persons are allowed to petition the government for interpretation on a constitutional point.

Murphy enlisted the help of Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie Mooney McClung, Louise Crummy McKinney, and Irene Marryat Parlby—now known as the “Famous Five”—who were engaged politically and championed equal rights for women.

A black-and-white photograph showing five women standing on either side of a man.


(Front row, L-R): Mrs. Muir Edwards, daughter-in-law of Henrietta Muir Edwards; Mrs. J.C. Kenwood, daughter of Judge Emily Murphy; Hon. Mackenzie King; Mrs. Nellie McClung. (Rear row, L-R): Senators Iva Campbell Fallis and Cairine Wilson. This photograph was taken at the unveiling of a plaque commemorating the five Alberta women whose efforts resulted in the Persons Case, which established the rights of women to hold public office in Canada. Photograph taken by Eugene M. Finn, National Film Board of Canada, June 11, 1938, Ottawa, Ontario. (MIKAN 3193154)

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