Dramatic Episodes in Canada’s Story by Charles W. Jeffreys was published by The Ryerson Press in 1931.
The 1931 catalogue provides the following entry: “The episodes depicted are chosen from the great mine of Canadian history, and cover a span of nearly four hundred years. In a vivid manner, they suggest how rich in human interest is Canada and what a wealth of picturesque and dramatic incident it possesses. This volume by the greatest historical painter in Canada to-day is an outstanding literary and artistic achievement of our time.
“Both from a literary and artistic standpoint, Mr. Jeffreys’ drawings constitute a rich and valuable addition to any collection of Canadiana, whether public or private” – T.W. Banton, Toronto Public Library Board.”
This rare edition by C.W. Jeffreys depicts sixteen events in the history of Canada. As Jeffreys states in the preface, “I have had no intention of attempting to present the most important or significant events in the history of Canada. This, in any case, would be a matter of opinion, of varying points of view. My aim has been merely to pick out from the great mine of Canadian history a few fragments that may suggest its richness in human interest and its wealth of picturesque and dramatic incident.”
The titles of the sixteen plates are as follows: Cabot and the New Found Land, Champlain’s Fight with the Iroquois, Champlain on the Ottawa, Maisonneuve’s Fight with the Indians, St. Lusson at Sault St. Marie, Frontenac on the way to Cataraqui, Hennepin at Niagara Falls, The Brothers La Verendrye in sight of the Western Mountains, The Founding of Halifax, The Battle of Ticonderoga, Wolfe Chooses His Battleground, Captain Cook at Nootka, Loyalists Camping on the St. Lawrence, Mackenzie at the Arctic, Father Lacombe and the Blackfeet and The Battle of Batoche.
In each of the pictorial reconstructions, Jeffreys relied on recorded facts and tried to be accurate in detail to reduce the use of artistic licence. No authentic portraits of personalities such as Cartier, Champlain, Frontenac, La Verendrye, Algonquin, Huron or Iroquois leaders existed so the artist was “compelled to construct their figures from his own conceptions, aided by his knowledge of their actions and such hints as he can gather from their words as to their characters and temperaments.” Jeffreys goes on to say that he “based his drawings on authentic data” with the hope that they “convey something of the spirit and the larger significance of the events they depict.”
Jeffreys’ hope was that “If they visualize in some degree the life of our past, and arouse an interest in the common heritage of our country’s history, their main purpose will be fulfilled.”
Charles William Jeffreys was born in Rochester, England in 1869 and came to Canada in 1880 via the U.S. He was apprenticed at the York Lithography Company during which time he worked for the Toronto Globe. After a stint at the New York Herald, Jeffreys returned to Toronto and began illustrating for magazines and books.
His work is featured in several Ryerson Press publications, including The Picture Gallery of Canadian History and many more. In 1904, Jeffreys founded the Graphics Arts Club with fellow artist Ivor Lewis and others. Charles Comfort was also a member. This group later became known as the Canadian Society of Graphic Art. Jeffreys also taught painting and drawing at the U of T until 1939. Jeffreys was made a member of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. Jeffreys died in 1951 leaving a remarkable legacy of Canadian pictorial history.