Tommy Burns, Hanover’s Hero

By Isabel Larocque

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

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

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

Boxer Tommy Burns, date unknown. (c014091)

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

Boxer Tommy Burns, 1912. (c014094)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

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

Canadian libraries invite kids to Get Your Summer Read On!

Summer has arrived, and libraries across Canada are inviting kids and their families to Get Your Summer Read On! Kids can register for the TD Summer Reading Club at their local participating library and pick up their free reading kit, which includes a notebook and stickers. There is also a special notebook for kids with print disabilities so they can participate fully. Kids can track their reading throughout the summer, participate in programs at the library, and visit www.tdsummerreadingclub.ca to create an online notebook and read great ebooks. While online, kids can also submit book reviews, share jokes, learn to draw like our illustrator (Anne Villeneuve), write stories, find great recommended reads and much more!

A watercolour illustration of a man and a child with backpacks hiking down an ocean pathway.

©Anne Villeneuve

A real impact

The Club is big—and it’s getting bigger every year! A recent tally of TD Summer Reading Club numbers shows the significant impact of the program: over 700,000 kids participated in more than 38,000 programs, which were delivered by over 2,000 library branches across the country. Studies show that kids who keep reading throughout the summer do better when they return to school in the fall. The TD Summer Reading Club is an ideal way for kids to stay engaged.

A watercolour illustration of a bear and two children lying down in a hammock that is being lifted into a blue sky by open books. The older child is reading a story while the baby listens attentively.

©Anne Villeneuve

Kids can read, listen to and comment on two different stories created exclusively for the TD Summer Reading Club, one written in English by author Kevin Sylvester and the other in French by author Camille Bouchard.

A watercolour illustration of two children escaping the rain by entering an old, spooky abandoned house.

©Anne Villeneuve

Kids can participate anytime, anywhere—at local public libraries across Canada as well as at home, online, on the road or wherever their summer takes them. The TD Summer Reading Club celebrates Canadian authors, illustrators and stories. It’s designed to inspire kids to explore the fun of reading their way—the key to building a lifelong love of reading.

The three libraries designated as Get Your Summer Read On headquarters have events on the following dates:

  • June 16: at Bibliothèque Paul-Aimé Paiment, Québec, Quebec
  • June 21: Bkejwanong First Nation Public Library, Walpole Island, Ontario
  • June 23: Spruce Grove Public Library, Spruce Grove, Alberta

These locations will feature special programming and participation by our partners, including Toronto Public Library, Library and Archives Canada, and TD Bank Group.

TD Summer Reading Club is Canada’s biggest, bilingual summer reading program for kids of all ages, all interests and all abilities. This free program is co-created and delivered by over 2,000 public libraries across Canada. Development of this national, bilingual program is led by Toronto Public Library in partnership with Library and Archives Canada. Sponsorship is generously provided by TD Bank Group.

A colour illustration of three children reading in a hammock.

©Anne Villeneuve

And now, for something different…

To learn more about this year’s program, check out LAC’s most recent two-part podcast episode: “Get Your Summer Read On!” In part 1 of the episode, we sit down with Kevin Sylvester, the English author for the 2018 TD Summer Reading Club. Kevin is joined by our podcast host, Geneviève Morin, as well as a special co-host, 9-year-old Presley, who is a big Kevin Sylvester fan.

In part 2 of the episode, which comes out on June 19th, we catch up with Camille Bouchard, the French author for the 2018 TD Summer Reading Club. Camille took time to chat with us on the phone as he was travelling across North America in his RV. Part 2 of the episode also features a surprise interview with a famous Canadian writer who once served as Canada’s national librarian. You’ll have to tune in to find out more!

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

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

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

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

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

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

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

The Battle of Vimy Ridge

A banner that changes from a black-and-white photograph of a battle scene on the left to a colour photograph of the Vimy Memorial on the right.Everything was in place for the hour of the assault, 5:30 a.m. on April 9, 1917.

The preceding hours of darkness aided by cloud cover had permitted the infantry to file forward unobserved into their jumping-off positions, many of which were clearly observable to the enemy in daylight. Had this movement been witnessed, an enemy barrage might have broken up the assault wave with serious casualties; as it was, the positions were gained without notice.

In the half-light of zero hour under a cold overcast sky, when manoeuvring was still largely obscured from the enemy, the intense bombardment opened with sudden fury, and the advance of the infantry began. Continue reading

New podcast! Check out our latest episode, “Gratien Gélinas: One of Our Own.

Our latest podcast episode is now available. Check out “Gratien Gélinas: One of Our Own.
Black-and-white photo of Gratien Gélinas, with his head in his hands, holding a cigarette.Gratien Gélinas is considered one of the founders of modern Canadian theatre and film. He was a playwright, director, actor, filmmaker and administrator of cultural organizations. His personifications of the common man paved the way for many of Quebec’s leading scriptwriters, and he gave a voice, at home and abroad, to French Canada’s culture and society. On today’s episode, we travel to Saint-Bruno, near Montréal, to speak with Anne-Marie Sicotte, granddaughter of Gratien Gélinas, who tells us about his life and legacy.

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.

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “Mackenzie King: Against his Will”

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, Mackenzie King: Against his Will.

Black-and-white image of William Lyon Mackenzie King sitting on his front porch.William Lyon Mackenzie King was Canada’s longest serving prime minister. He is also increasingly viewed as one of the greatest. However, King’s accomplishments are not restricted to the realm of politics. He was also a prolific correspondent and kept an ongoing, almost daily diary from 1893, until a few days before his death in 1950. In it, King not only wrote down meticulous accounts of his life in politics, but also included fascinating details from his private life.

On today’s episode, we talk with professor and author Christopher Dummitt, whose latest book details the history behind the diaries and how they became available for the world to read.

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.

Library and Archives Canada releases its latest podcast episode, “A Look inside the Preservation Centre

A colour photograph of a large modern building made out of glass with metal pillars.Ever wonder where Library and Archives Canada stores, protects and preserves Canada’s diverse and rich documentary heritage? Join us for this episode as we take you on a walking tour of LAC’s Preservation Centre in Gatineau, Quebec. This state-of-the-art facility is the crown jewel of documentary heritage preservation in Canada and we are celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017. In this episode, we will guide you through the Preservation Centre, discussing its award-winning architecture and offering insight into how we store and preserve our national treasures.

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

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

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

Library and Archives Canada is releasing its latest podcast episode, “Former Enemies Are Now Friends”

Colour photograph of a sculpture of two enemy soldiers leaning over to shake hands over a rugby ball.For many descendants of First World War veterans, the act of researching the service files of their relatives opens up a world of new information regarding their families. In this episode, Former enemies are now friends, we speak with Tim Hack about the amazing journey he undertook to reconnect with his great-grandfathers, who fought on opposite sides of the First World War. Tim came across the Canadian Expeditionary Force files right after starting work at LAC. This discovery inspired him to retrace his great-grandfathers’ footsteps across northern Europe. He was gracious enough to share the audio diary of his trip with us. But before Tim embarked on his trip, we invited him into our studio to talk about where this journey began and what he was hoping to achieve by walking in his great-grandfathers’ footsteps one hundred years later.

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

Subscribe to our podcast episodes using RSS, iTunes or Google Play, or just tune in at Podcast–Discover Library and Archives Canada: Your History, Your Documentary Heritage.

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