Tag Archives: local history
“Winnipeg Riot” postcard from the PastForward database
We are marking the centennary of one of the most significant events in our city’s history this year: the Winnipeg General Strike, which began on May 15, 1919, and lasted for over a month, helping to shape labour history throughout Canada for decades after.
The Winnipeg Public Library will be hosting a series of lectures at the Millennium branch, beginning on Wednesday March 20th, from noon to 1:00 PM, and continuing on for the next four Wednesdays. For more details you can consult our newsletter – follow this link to our program calendar.
Also, come have a look at some of our new reads in the Local History Room:
Local author Gordon Goldsborough has recently released a sequel to his previous excellent book about our province’s hidden history, entitled More abandoned Manitoba : Rivers, Rails and Ruins. The book is richly illustrated (thanks in part to clever drone photography), exploring abandoned sites around Manitoba, describing their features, what caused them to be abandoned, and their link to the larger history of Manitoba.
Wisdom from the homeless : Lessons a Doctor Learned at a Homeless Shelter is both a timely wake-up call and inspiring read. The stories in it’s pages are from people who attend Winnipeg’s Siloam Mission, the homeless men and women as well as those who help take care of them. It “is about the wisdom that people with nothing can teach all of us in affluent North American culture”. Dr Neil Craton writes about his experiences as a physician in Siloam Mission’s medical clinic, treating all kinds of wounds, but also learning lessons in kindness and respect from his patients as fellow human beings persevering through pain and difficulties with joy and compassion. His stories also include the experiences of other volunteers and staff working in the shelter and how it changed their lives and their faith. The book is easy to read and benefits from great photography.
Bringing to the forefront the previously marginalised history of the LGBTTQ community of the Western province was the aim of history professor and author Valerie Korineck in her new book Prairie Fairies : A History of Queer Communities and People in Western Canada, 1930-1985. It focuses on five Prairie cities: Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, Edmonton, and Calgary, exploring the regional experiences and activism of queer men and women through oral and archival histories. In the first part of the book, spanning from 1930 to 1970, we learn about the public hangouts (restaurants, clubs, etc.) where queer people could assemble prior to creation of an organized movement The second part is about the role played by different activists and other community actors in the 1970’s and onward that helped create spaces for gay and lesbian individuals dedicated to their communities and transforming the local social and political landscape. Though this is a hefty academic title, it is filled with personal anecdotes and stories that makes it quite accessible to the more casual reader.
Gimli Harbour & Fishery : An IIlustrated History by Andrew Blicq explores the rich stories of the men and women who, over the last 140 years, have ventured out onto Lake Winnipeg in search of a living and a future. We see a way of life that grew fishery through archival documents and photos, seeing the evolution of the boats, the various industries and businesses that helped keep Gimli prosper, and the stories of the families for whom fishing was an arduous yet rewarding calling.
Come and check it out!
With the coming of Winter it’s time to have a look at the new arrivals in the Local History Room collection.
A long-anticipated arrival is Rooster Town: The History of an Urban Métis Community, 1901-1961 by Evelyn Peters which is the product of years of exhaustive research into a part of Winnipeg’s history that has re-surfaced after decades of obscurity, thanks to her work. Rooster Town, which grew on the outskirts of southwest Winnipeg from 1901 to 1961, was one of many Métis communities in Manitoba on the edges of urban areas, and probably the most famous of them all with 59 recorded households at its peak in 1949. Those years in Winnipeg were characterized by the twin pressures of depression and inflation, chronic housing shortages, and a spotty social support network. Rooster Town grew without city services as rural Métis arrived to participate in the urban economy and build their own houses while keeping Métis culture and community as a central part of their lives.
Stolen City: Racial Capitalism and the Making of Winnipeg by geographer Owen Toews is a widely-acclaimed new arrival that critiques what he identifies as the emergence of a ruling alliance that has installed successive development visions to guarantee its hold on regional wealth and power. Through a combination of historical and contemporary analysis, Toews argues how settler colonialism, as a mode of racial capitalism, has made and remade Winnipeg and the Canadian Prairie West over the past one hundred and fifty years. The author gives particular attention to “an ascendant post-industrial vision for Winnipeg’s city centre that has renewed colonial ‘legacies’ of dispossession and racism over the past forty years.”
In the first half of the 20th Century, the Canadian Northern Railway, later CN, established a train service to the east shores of Lake Winnipeg called The Victoria Beach Sub Division. This rail line opened up cottage country and changed people’s lives forever. Author Barbara Lange offers to take us through a time capsule with Memories of the Moonlight Special and Grand Beach Train Era. Sixty years after train service to the east shores of Lake Winnipeg ceased, a writer embarked on a journey of discovery. “People remember the boardwalk, concessions, the Moonlight Inn, picnics, the carousel, the dancing pavilion, Daddy Trains, beach romances, Hot Lips ginger beer, bands, Morse code, ice boxes, honey pot toilets, red boards, the Wye, fishflies, bittersweet vine, the Snowshoe Special, and a bygone era when passengers felt part of one big family.”
Settlers of the Marsh by Frederick Philip Grove is actually an old read: first published in 1925 after much resistance, and welcomed with much condemnation from critics, it has gradually become recognised as one of the greatest novel about the experiences of immigrants settling in the Prairies. The story centers on recent Swedish immigrants to Canada, based partly on the author’s own personal experience, taking place in northern Manitoba where settlers like protagonist Niels Lindstedt were hoping to start their own homestead despite inhospitable climate and the arduous work it required. Niels’ attempts to come to terms with his new land and community, and the toll that these attempts take on him are further complicated by his relationships with two very different women. His dreams of domestic happiness married to his neighbour’s daughter, Ellen, being dashed after she rejects him, Niels is seduced by a local widow, Clara, with devastating consequences for all three.
Fall programming is now upon us and the Winnipeg Public Library wants to invite you to come and learn about an exciting new resource now freely available to all Manitobans.
Our World on the Manitoba Research Gateway provides access for everyone within Manitoba to unique collections of millions of pages of digitized historical content including newspapers, maps, photos, pamphlets, manuscripts and more. The library will offer two information sessions this September so you can learn how to navigate its collections of historical newspapers and periodicals, and resources related to LGBTQ history, slavery and anti-slavery movements, and Indigenous peoples. Come and learn all about it!
With the last days of summer it’s time to see what new titles have arrived in the Local History Room.
Margaret Laurence and Jack McClelland, Letters, offers an intimate look at the professional relationship between two pillars of Canadian literature. Margaret Lawrence was at the height of her literary fame and Jack McClelland was one of Canada’s most important publishers – both of whom helped shape modern Canadian literature through their work. Over three decades of written correspondence found in this book, we eventually see a deep friendship developing through their shared passion and commitment to Canadian writing. It’s interesting to see their initial formal writing evolve, growing in warmth and familiarity over the years.
The effects of the Great Depression in Canada has remained an under-studied aspect of Canadian history until recently, but we are now seeing renewed interest in it. Drought and Depression is the sixth volume of the excellent History of the Prairies Series and contains articles on a broad range of topics related to the “Dirty Thirties” in the prairie provinces. On the back cover of the book, one can read that “between 1929 and 1932, per capita incomes fell by 49% in Manitoba, 61% in Alberta and an astounding 72% in Saskatchewan. The result was enormous social and political upheaval that sent shockwaves through the rest of the country.” Familiar subjects like unemployment, ecology, strikes, and the new forces that arose in Canadian politics because of the Great Depression are covered, along with lesser known ones like soldier settlements for unemployed veterans, and the prairie novel.
In Threads in the Sash: The Story of the Métis People, historian Fred Shore draws on years of research and explores the history, culture and political development of Canadian Métis from the days of the fur trade to the present. The book is written in a approachable style and tackles questions such as: Where did the term Métis come from? Why are the Métis recognized as Indigenous people? How much of Manitoba did the Métis build? If you have ever wanted to know who the Métis are, this book is highly recommended.
This next title is a treat for fans of flying and Cold War history from the experience of a local man. Retired RCAF Colonel Gordon Brennand recently published his memoir Farm Boy to Fly Boy. It tells the story of his childhood in rural Manitoba during the Great Depression, his enlistment in the air force to become an accomplished jet fighter pilot in the decades following WWII, and his years being a base commander in Portage La Prairie.
On the fictional side, we have received A Fist around the Heart by Heather Chisvin, a story of love and trauma between two sisters, Anna and Esther Grieve, that begins with them being sent to Winnipeg to escape the persecutions of Jews in Russia in the late 19th century. While Anna moves to New York and starts a new life for herself, Esther remains behind, slowly succumbing to mental illness despite living among the city’s wealthy. When Anna receives the unexpected news of Esther’s possible suicide on “If Day”, an unusual day in 1942 when a simulated Nazi attack took place in Winnipeg in order to raise funds for the war effort, she must return and find answers to what exactly happened to her sister.
The Holiday season is upon us and among the new titles that have arrived in the Local History Room collection, we have a very special treat for history fans.
This fall, the Winnipeg Public Library is proud to be a partnering with The World Remembers organization by hosting an electronic display of names in the Local History Room. This is part of a nation-wide act of remembrance and commemoration of the men and women who died a century ago during the First World War.
The World Remembers is a non-profit company based in Toronto whose sole purpose is to build and facilitate The World Remembers project.
The ongoing project began in 2014 by displaying, for one minute starting on October 15th and ending on November 11th, the names of everyone killed in the conflict in 1914, and repeating the process the following years. The World Remembers organization displays the names of those soldiers who died in World War 1 so that people not only remember these fallen soldiers but honor these shared histories. The monitor screen set up in the Local History Room shows a continuous loop of the names of soldiers killed in war in 1917. This display will end on November 11th and will display more than 661,800 names of soldiers who lost their lives from UK, Canada, France, Germany, the US, Turkey, Belgium, Australia, the Czech Republic, Italy, New Zealand, Slovenia, China and the former British Indian Army. This display will also be running simultaneously at other organizations (libraries, schools, and universities).
If you are interested in finding a specific individual whose name will be displayed, you can search the TWR database here and find out at the exact day and time it will come up.
There is also a book display set up near The World Remembers display for those interested in learning more about the First World War. Come and have a look.
It’s time to take a look at some of the recent arrivals in the Local History Room.
On June 19th, 1816 an event occurred that had a pivotal impact on the history of what would become Manitoba (even if it has somewhat receded from our collective memory). This was the of Battle of Seven Oaks that broke out between rival hunting parties of the fur trade companies (the Hudson Bay and North West) that were vying for control of the territory. The Seven Oaks Reader by Myrna Kostash offers a comprehensive retelling of the Fur Trade Wars. The book incorporates period accounts and journals, histories, memoirs, songs and fictional retellings, from a wide range of sources.
Come to the Local History Room and check it out!
We have a few new reasons for you to come and visit the Local History Room. A new display about the history of the railway system and how it shaped Manitoba is ready to explore, with artifacts and information generously loaned to us by the Manitoba Railway Museum – come and check it out! It’s also time to have a look at what’s new in the room’s collection, as it keeps growing with new additions.
Stay, breathe with me : the gift of compassionate medicine shares Helen Allison’s insights into the need to stop seeing patients simply as diseases needing cures and technologies but as living beings with symptoms and suffering that need to be addressed as a whole, with nonjudgmental medicine delivered with compassion. Several intimate stories tell of her experiences with her own patients in palliative care and the lessons she learned from them as they struggled with various, often fatal, ailments and how everyone, physicians or relatives, can contribute to improve their quality of life.
Finally, a title not in the Local History Room collection yet but which I would like to recommend for local fiction and horror fans is The Shadow Over Portage and Main: Weird Fictions, an anthology of short stories from authors who were influenced by their stay in Winnipeg. Whether it’s the extremes in our weather, our reputation for crime and murder, or our unique mix of cultures and ethnicities, authors like David Annandale, Eric Bradshaw and Keith Cadieux among others have written tales about the dark and gothic side of the city. My personal favourite is the story of a woman who discovers a book about superstition that has troubling effects on people who come in contact with it. Most of the stories are meant to inspire unease and fear, some of them have ghosts (predictably) and other supernatural threats, some don’t even mention Winnipeg but we are meant to recognize its “vibes”, which leads to the conclusion that our city can be quite a dark place!
Drop by and have a look in person, or feel free to explore the Local History and Genealogy Subject Guide for more of our recommended online resources to explore Manitoba’s past.