Our Great Ones


Our Great Ones by Jack McLaren, 1932

Our Great Ones: Twelve Caricatures Cut in Linoleum by Jack McLaren with Footnotes by Merrill Denison and a Foreword by E.J.Pratt


Published in 1932 by the Ryerson Press, this is a First Edition and Number 1 of only 450 copies printed. The edition consists of 13 folios each containing a linocut caricature and footnotes accompanying each print. The prints are cut in linoleum by Jack McLaren and printed from original blocks. This edition is printed on Rolland White Antique with the portfolio on Donvale Antique. The biographical notes, which are contributed by Merrill Denison and foreword by E.J. Pratt are set in Kabel Bold (see below). The composition, presswork and binding were produced in Canada at Toronto, by Rous and Mann for the Ryerson Press.

The collection contains caricatures of George Brown, Sir Georges Etienne Cartier, Joseph Howe, Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Sir John A. Macdonald, Sir Richard Cartwright, Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Rev. Egerton Ryerson, D.D., Sir Donald Smith, John Strachan, Colonel Thomas Talbot and Sir Charles Tupper.

The Foreword, by E.J. Pratt states the following: “One of the most promising signs of the cultural progress of this country is that national biography should be recorded not merely through text-books and romantic fiction, but through the medium of caricature. This Album of prints by Jack McLaren, accompanied by the incisive and entertaining sketches of Merrill Denison, is a brilliant pioneer adventure in an art which in older countries has had a long and honourable tradition. It is the mark of intellectual maturity, when comic muse is invoked to throw a bag of salt into the cauldron of romance, and it is a matter of common historical observation that any period which, out of inflated seriousness, has too stridently advertised its vogue, has been most effectually corrected by a chorus of laughter.

The function of caricature is to place on exhibit, by controlled exaggeration, the quirks and salient of human character – mannerisms, it may be, which live longer in the public mind than the more sedate and self-conscious qualities. It does happen indeed that about the only thing which posterity remembers in the life of an individual is the size and colour of his nose, when all the other features of the proprietor have disappeared in the mist. Immortality in such cases is pre-eminently the gift of the caricaturist. It must not be assumed, however, that it is just the incidental lines that comprise the specialty of his art, and much less that it is the savagely satiric role which usually finds expression. Anyone turning over the pages of this portfolio will see that kindly though trenchant fingers have been probing into the recesses of our heroes with the purpose of restoring them to our streets and our homes. For, with our tendency to idolatry, we are inclined to forget that those dynamic personalities not only thundered in Parliament and from the rostrum, but that they were known to sleep, eat, perchance to swear, to doff togas and don bathrobes, and it is therefore fitting that, in addition to striking their official gestures in oil and marble and bronze, they should be lured into giving their unguarded intimacies in linoleum. Moreover, it was an inspired judgment in selection when the Ryerson Press committed to the care of two such artistic surgeons as McLaren and Denison the task of operating on our national glands.”




McLaren’s Rev. Egerton Ryerson

Rev. Egerton Ryerson, D.D. 1803-1882. Denison’s text reads, “This celebrated divine and public servant did for Methodism in Canada what Mussolini has done for Italy in Italy. Ordinarily a well-mannered, if somewhat forceful, gentleman of the cloth, he was capable of protracted choleric moments, particularly when contemplating the Family Compact and the villainies of that celebrated divine and public servant, Dr. John Strachan. Although contemporaries, the two never seem to have been strong personal friends, and this colourful relationship of another day has been nicely recaptured by the artist in depicting the great non-conformist educator, not only thinking of Dr. Strachan, but actually telling the latter gentleman in measured tones what he thought of him. While an ardent U.E. Loyalist, a devoted shepherd of his flock, and an editor who could write editorial that blew subscribers out of their pews, the seraphic Doctor’s first and last love was education, and lots of it, as cheaply as possible. He particularly loved to educate the opponents of Responsible Government. The public school system in Ontario – conceded by most Ontarioians to be the best on earth – was founded by him, in 1846, and has suffered few changes to the present day. Victoria College (“The truth shall make you free”) was his first founding. While inclined to be explosive in debate, he was never known to use profane language, and, by some miracle, avoided fighting any duels.”




McLaren’s Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir Wilfrid Laurier 1841-1919. Denison wrote, “This dignified study of the white-plumed chieftain, presents Sir Wilfrid as he is best remembered – in one of those moments of exalted spell-binding when, across the limpid folds of the Union Jack, the golden flood of his oratory hypnotized vast audiences. He is about to say a few words to the effect that this is Canada’s century, his only known utterance with which all parties agreed. He was the great pipe organ of Canada, the mighty Wurlitzer of his day, the last of our platform orators who possessed the grand manner. He could make an evening of constitutional law as exciting as a present-day broadcast of a football match and as entertaining as an evening in the theatre. Few have risen to dim his memory** or play the keyboard upon which he so majestically performed. So great was the magic of his personality, that he was not only able to change Quebec politically from a Conservative to a Liberal Province, but to make this spiritual anomaly persist down to the present day. But it might have been the horse-shoe pin in his cravat that did it. A staunch Imperialist and free trader, he also made a hobby of railroads, building as many of these as time and the national credit allowed. Sir Wilfrid was defeated at the last attempt to increase Canada’s trade with the United States; an unfortunate mistake which all succeeding governments on both sides of the border have done their best to rectify.”


**we forget their names for the moment

Jack McLaren was born in Edinborough, Scotland in 1899 and was educated in Edinborough and Toronto. He joined the Princess Patricia Light Infantry during WWI and became a member of the famous Canadian touring group, The Dumbells, entertaining soldiers at the front. In 1921, McLaren was part of the “Biff, Bing, Bang” comedy revue, the first Canadian revue to hit the New York Broadway stage. He was a brilliant satirist and used his pen to great effect during the 40s and 50s illustrating a number of books, notably The Incompleat Canadian and The Flying Bull. His landscapes hang in The National Gallery, Ottawa.

Merrill Denison (1893 to 1975) was born in Detroit, Michigan and grew up in Ontario. He became Art Director of Hart House in 1921 and began writing comedies, many of which were produced by local theatre groups in and around Tweed, Ontario where Denison had a cottage. His pioneering radio plays were successful throughout the 1930s. A strong follower of Canadian business, Denison also wrote about Canadian corporations including Molsons, Ontario Hydro, Massey-Harris and the Bank of Montreal. Denison died in 1975.



Poet E.J. Pratt, 1930, (courtesy David Pitt, Canadian Encyclopedia)

Edwin John Pratt (1882-1964) was an ordained Methodist minister. He was also a poet, a professor and a critic. Pratt grew up in Newfoundland. His first poems were published in 1914 but he was largely unnoticed until 1923 when his book Newfoundland Verse was published. Subsequent publications gave him recognition and he was made a member of the Royal Society of Canada in 1930 and won the Lorne Pierce Medal for poetry in 1940. Pratt won the Governor General’s Award for Poetry in 1937, 1940 and 1952 and was made Companion of the Order of St. Michael and St. George (CMG) in 1946. Several publications are represented in the Ryerson Press collection including Newfoundland Verse, 1923. E.J. Pratt taught English at Victoria College from 1920 until 1953. He died in 1964.




**The Linotype font Kabel was designed by German designer Rudolf Koch in 1928 soon after the release of Futura. It may have been named after the transatlantic telecommunications cable that had recently been laid. The font captures the modern look of the 1920s and features an Art Deco style with a low x-height and distinctive “a’, “e” and “g” along with the slanted endings on some of the tails of letters which adds to the “liveliness” of the font. A fitting typeface for McLaren’s evocative art and Denison’s witty remarks.


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C.W. Jeffreys


Dramatic Episodes in Canada’s Story, The Ryerson Press, 1931

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.


Cabot and the New Found Land

 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.

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The Strait of Anian



Strait of Anain was published in March, 1948 by The Ryerson Press

The Strait of Anian was published by The Ryerson Press in March, 1948. This was the new and eagerly awaited collection containing a large selection of Earle Birney’s latest poetry. This edition also contained his famous “David” along with a number of poems from the volumes David and Other Poems, 1942 and Now Is Time, 1945, included as both editions were out of print.

The Strait of Anian was a mythical passage pursued by many early explorers. It was the dream of many to find a shorter route to the vast wealth of the East. An early recounting of one such expedition is contained in a book on Sir Francis Drake: “…Sir Francis himself (as I haue heard) was of very good will to have sailed still more Northward hoping to find passage through the narrow sea Anian…and so from thence to haue taken his course Northeast, and so retourne…into England, but his Mariners finding the coast of Noua Albion to be very cold, had no good will to sayle any further Northward…” Thos. Blundeville…Of Sir Francis Drake His First Voyage into the Indies, 1594.

As we witness the impact of human activity on the global climate and as the poles warm, traffic will inevitably increase across our northern seas. Our governments will need to ensure that the vast reaches of the Arctic remain firmly under Canadian jurisdiction for future generations.


THROUGH or over the deathless feud

Of the cobra sea and the mongoose wind

You must fare to reach us,

Through hiss and throttle

Where the great ships are scattered twigs on a green


and the plane is a fugitive mote

in the stare of the sun.

Come, by a limbo of motion humbled,

Under cliffs of cloud

And over the vaulting whalehalls.

In this lymph’s abyss a billion

Years of spawning and dying have passed and will pass

Without ministration of man.

And for all the red infusions of sailors,

The veins of Vikings drained and of lascars,

Blood of Gilbert’s and Jellicoe’s,

For all haemoglobin seeping from corvette and sealer,

From the sodden hulls of Hood and Titanic –

Still do these waves when the gale snaps them

Fracture white as the narwhal’s tusk.

Come then trailing your pattern of gain or solace

and think no more than you must

of the simple unhuman truth of this ocean,

that down deep below the lowest pulsing of primal cell

tar-dark and still

lie the bleak and forever capacious tombs of the sea.

 The 1948 Ryerson Press catalogue entry for The Strait of Anian reads as follows:

Dorothy Livesay, in the Vancouver Sun, said of Earle Birney, “What makes this British Columbia writer important for Canadians is the fact that he is the only poet who sees Canada whole…If Birney rarely answers his own questions, at least he poses them in a forceful, thought-provoking way. No one can ask more of a poet.”

From the Vancouver Province, “Each line or sentence is a lash to the mind, whipping up the memory of experience or learning; each word is thought-loaded like the camel of a caravan, and the reader who lightly skips misses the weighted wealth…Earle Birney holds a degree merited by few. He is master of thought in poetry.”

Ralph Gustafson in The Canadian Forum, wrote The Strait of Anian “Presents a summation of Birney’s work to date which establishes him without doubt as one of the finest poets Canada has produced…To anyone reading this book it will be immediately evident that here is a poet affirmative, precisioned, indignant and adult. I can think of no poet more thoroughly Canadian, and Canadians instead of giving him another Governor-General’s medal should quickly put this book through a dozen editions.”

Canadian Poetry Magazine wrote, “Wider variety, greater maturity and increased competence are the marks of this new book.”


Earle Birney, The Canadian Encyclopedia

Alfred Earle Birney was born May 13, 1904 in Calgary, Alberta. He was educated at the University of British Columbia, the University of Toronto, Berkeley and the University of London, where he delivered a dissertation on Chaucer. Birney also taught creative writing and literature, and was a successful playwright, novelist and editor. He taught at several universities, including UBC, where he founded and directed the first Canadian creative writing program. His work at University of British Columbia led to the establishment of Canada’s first Department of Creative Writing in 1965. Later, Birney was appointed as the first writer-in-residence at the University of Toronto. Birney is regarded as one of Canada’s finest poets of the 20th century. Earle Birney died in Toronto on September 3, 1995.

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The Shell


The Shell, by A.C. Stewart. A William Briggs publication of the Methodist Book and Publishing House, 1917, with its illustrative shell and die-cut binding.

The Shell with Fragments and Reverberations, by Alexander Charles Stewart, 1867-1944, was published in 1917 by William Briggs. It is a book of poetry dedicated to the Chivalrous Sons of Canada, to the native-born and his foster brother and to the boy who from the battlefield of Vimy wrote his Mother that he had “Borne himself like a Canadian.”

The Preface reads in part, “In this day of High Speed and High Explosive, lightning transformations and sudden readjustments, conceptions are destroyed almost before completion and completion itself is but the point to immediate reconstruction….This little volume, then, does not pretend to claim attention on any basis beyond its fragmentary consonance with the wreckage of the Great War.”

The Shell

I’m the High-Explosives Shell,

The Giant Shell!

The lathed and polished copper-ring’d, the Masterpiece of Hell,

The deadly Shell!

Sired by God of Death in destruction’s maddened mood,

Nurtured in the womb of Wrath–

Queen of devastation’s brood;

From my mother earthquake-torn,

I, the lyddite-soul’d, was born

I am the Shell!

Alexander Charles Stewart was born in county Down, Ireland on August 16, 1867. He came to Canada as a child and was educated in Pickering Township, Ontario. He became a tunnel and bridge contractor at Fort William, Ontario. When he was not acting as contractor, he wrote poetry. He died at Port Dover June 12,1944

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Desmond Pacey & Frederick Philip Grove


Creative Writing in Canada, 1952, The Ryerson Press

Creative Writing in Canada, by Desmond Pacey and published by The Ryerson Press in 1952, is a short history of English-Canadian Literature. In this edition, the book covers the Colonial Period 1750-1867, the Confederation Period 1867-1897, the Early Twentieth Century 1897-1920, and an Introduction to the Literature of the Last Thirty Years, 1920-1950. Also included is a section on The Poetry of the Last Thirty Years and Prose Fiction since 1920.

The Preface states that the book was undertaken at the request of Dr. Lorne Pierce as a companion volume to John K. Ewers Creative Writing in Australia. (John Ewers was a novelist, poet and schoolteacher in Western Australia.) In Pacey’s own words, the book is a “selective survey which does not pretend to be exhaustive, but aims to single out the most interesting work in each period.”

In this edition, Pacey quotes a 1950 Times Literary Supplement which declared that “Canada is a country with no indigenous culture.” Pacey counters that argument by stating that while Canada is greatly influenced by British, American and European models, certainly neither England, France nor Italy, for example, had any “indigenous” culture either. Stimulation evolved over time.

Pacey goes on to argue that “Canadian art as a whole and perhaps literature particularly, has a distinctive conception of man’s lot on the earth, a conception engendered by the peculiar features of the Canadian terrain. There is a family resemblance between the paintings of Tom Thomson and Emily Carr, the poems of Duncan Campbell Scott and E.J.Pratt and Earle Birney, and the novels of Grove and de La Roche and Callaghan: in all of them is dwarfed an immensely powerful physical environment which at once is forbidding and fascinating.” Pacey attempts to demonstrate his assertion throughout the book.

Pacey concludes the volume with the assertion that Canadian literature is a response to the “overwhelming facts of geography, to the pressures of a frightening but alluring climate and landscape” which has had important consequences for the Canadian writer’s attitude toward his fellow-men (and women). He goes on to say, “Canadian literature…is recognizably North American in its vigor, range, and optimism, but it is more stable if less spectacular than that of the United States because it has been restrained not, as in Europe, by the pressure of a strong tradition, but by the pressure of a stern environment.”


Frederick Phillip Grove, 1945, by Desmond Pacey, published by The Ryerson Press, was designed by Thoreau MacDonald.

Frederick Philip Grove by Desmond Pacey, published by The Ryerson Press in 1945, is the study of one of Canada’s iconic authors, Frederick Philip Grove. A second edition was published in 1970 under the Critical Views on Canadian Writers series.

Pacey, in his 1945 edition, says Grove, “is regarded by most critics of Canadian literature as one of the two or three most important novelists we have produced, but his work is not widely known even here as it should be, and still less outside. … Grove’s greatest strength as a novelist is the patient accuracy and intelligence with which he records and interprets the processes of ordinary life. There must co-exist in any creative artist, an unusual capacity for observation and a large measure of imaginative power. Where these two powers are in equilibrium at high tension, the very highest art results.”

Certainly, for Lorne Pierce, legendary Ryerson Press editor, this was an observation that must have run true. Pierce agreed to publish Grove’s Settlers of the Marsh in 1925. It is the dark story of prairie settler Niels Lindstedt, an immigrant, who after first being seduced, married and then murdered his wife Clara Vogel, a former prostitute. The novel had been rejected by Macmillan Canada perhaps due to the squalid nature of its content, however truthful its portrayal may have been. But Pierce recognized Grove as “a real genius” and that Settlers of the Marsh was a “classic”.*

The 1925 Ryerson Press catalogue notes that: “Critics have compared this novel to those of Thomas Hardy and Knut Hansun. It is a realistic study, outspoken and compellingly powerful, of life in the pioneer districts on the western plains of Canada… L.M. Montgomery has called the book “a great and fascinating work of fiction.” “Its franker pages,” she adds, “have the straight simplicity of the Bible.” No stronger romance has come from the pen of a Canadian writer.”

The novel contained scenes which would have certainly been offensive to many during the 1920s in Canada. Although The Ryerson Press found a US publisher with which to co-publish, sales were not brisk and after 3 years, only 1000 copies had been sold. Interestingly enough, however, Pierce’s decision to publish was confirmed when then Prime Minister Sir Arthur Meighn wrote to congratulate The Ryerson Press on having the “literary courage to recognize a work of art when you see it, and having the courage to publish it.”*

*from Both Hands, A Life of Lorne Pierce of The Ryerson Press, by Sandra Campbell

Grove was considered a writer of historical fiction and it seemed that, at times, his writing spilled over into real life. His autobiography, In Search of Myself, 1946, was shown to include “names and dates that were dubious at best, completely false at worst.” Pacey acknowledged, in his 1970 revised edition of Frederick Philip Grove that Grove’s own autobiography was largely fiction rather than fact.

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Other works of Desmond Pacey published by The Ryerson Press include The Picnic and other stories, Ten Canadian Poets: A group of Biographical and Critical Essays, Creative Writing in Canada, revised 1962. This is the fourth edition of Dr.Pacey’s highly regarded collection of Canadian short stories. Prepared with copious notes on each author, the twenty-nine stories in this book include the work of such important writers as Thomas Chandler Haliburton, Alden Nowlan, Stephen Leacock, Irving Layton and others.

The fourth edition of A Book of Canadian Stories, originally published in 1947 and revised in 1962, contains 29 short stories by 29 Canadian writers and was considered a radical revision necessary to include the many newcomers to the Canadian scene, many for the first time: Irving Layton, David Walker, Hugh Garner, and Brian Moore. In addition writers such as Susanna Moodie, Frederick Philip Grove, Alden Nowlan, Ethel Wilson, Morley Callaghan, Mordecai Richler and Alice Munro are featured.

These stories are essentially Canadian in flavour. They provide insight not only into the problems of a Canadian nation – but into the problems of being Canadian. Students of English Literature will find A Book of Canadian Stories particularly helpful. As short stories for the general reader, they are enjoyable in their own right.”

Like Canada itself, Pacey concludes, “Canadian literature has developed relatively slowly and unspectacularly, but I believe that I speak for most Canadians in predicting that it has a great future before it.”


Desmond Pacey

William Cyril Desmond Pacey (1917-1975) was born in Dunedin, New Zealand and educated in Canada at Victoria College and Trinity College, Cambridge attaining a Ph.D. in 1941. He became professor of English at Brandon College, University of Manitoba in 1940. He joined the Wartime Information Board in 1943 and subsequently joined the English department of the University of New Brunswick in 1944. Pacey was acting dean by 1955, dean of graduate studies in 1960 and vice-president of the university in 1970. Desmond Pacey died in 1975.

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Marius Barbeau


Pathfinders in the North Pacific, 1958, The Ryerson Press and Claxton Printers Ltd., 238 pages. Illustrations by Arthur Price

Pathfinders in the North Pacific by Marius Barbeau, was published simultaneously by The Ryerson Press, Toronto, Ontario and The Caxton Printers Ltd., Caldwell, Idaho in 1958.

The Ryerson Press 1958 catalogue description states: “Discovery and exploration is the theme of Pathfinders in the North Pacific. The author, an anthropologist for the government of Canada, has explored much of this region and has studied its native annals for over fifty years. His fund of first-hand information regarding the area is well-nigh unsurpassed, and his researches have brought to light a great amount of previously unrecorded knowledge relating to the discovery of the Pacific, especially the North Pacific Coast, Bering Sea, Alaska, and the Northern Rockies.

The results of Barbeau’s studies have been published in several books. In this one he enters into a study of historic times with the arrival of the Russians in the Aleutian Islands and Alaska and the coming of Captain Cook in 1778. He also deals with the development of trade with China through the East India Company whose desire for furs – particularly that of the sea otter – made it possible for the English to satisfy their craving for tea, and to develop a taste for porcelain pots, for rich embroideries and chinoiserie and all the wonderful spices and riches of the Orient.

After the Russians and the English came the French, the Spanish, and the American whalers, then the discovery of gold and the further development of the Northland. The story unfolds with the help of ancient chronicles, frequent quotations from logs and journals of sea voyages, and the author’s interpretations of colourful Indian traditions.

Pathfinders in the North Pacific was edited by Joy Tranter and Dr. Douglas Leechman. After a presentation by Dr. Leechamn to the Free Lance Club of Ottawa, the following article appeared in the Ottawa Citizen in December, 1946, “It isn’t a question of can you write. It’s do you write. Writing requires application. Apply glue to the seat of your trousers, glue to the seat of your chair, press firmly together and stick to it until you turn out your story. This was the advice of Dr. Douglas Leechman, instructor in journalism at Carleton College, speaking to the members of the Ottawa Free Lance Club, at a meeting at the YMCA.”

Marius Barbeau was a prolific researcher and writer. A few of his many publications include Jongleur Songs of Old Quebec, interpreted into English by Sir Harold Boulton and Sir Ernest MacMillan, French Canadian Backgrounds, Henri JulienPainters of Quebec, Cornelius Krieghoff.

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Marius Barbeau, 1883-1969, was educated at Laval University and was a Rhodes Scholar, the first from French-Canada (1907-1910). His achievements as an anthropologist, folklorist, and writer with a record for long-sustained activity, won him a doctorate honoris causa, one of the five awarded by Oxford University at the centenary celebration for Cecil Rhodes in 1953. He joined the staff of the National Museum of Canada in 1910 (now the Museum of Canadian History) and made the study of native migrations from Asia into America via the Bering Sea his specialty. His other pursuits belong to the Huron-Iroquois area and to the folklore of New France in America. He assembled over 10 000 Inuit, First Nations and French Canadian and English Canadian folk songs – many of them on old Edison tube records. In 1956 he organized the Canadian Folk Music Society.

Barbeau was made a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967 and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Barbeau worked in the US and across Canada, in particular with the Tsimshian (meaning Inside the Skeena) in British Columbia in an area south of Ketchikan, Alaska. A Tsimshian myth of an ancient migration from distant lands led Barbeau to speculate that these people had made the journey across the Bering Sea. Anthropologists no longer adhere to this theory; however, Barbeau’s activity and that of his Nishga interpreter and field researcher, William Beynon, helped to preserve many of the cultural traditions of the Pacific Northwest. Barbeau was a celebrated and decorated anthropologist. Barbeau died in 1969. The Canadian Encyclopedia cites the many awards presented to Marius Barbeau:

Prix David, Province of Québec (1925, 1929, 1945)

Honorary Doctor of Letters, Université de Montréal (1940)

Honorary Fellow, Oriel College, University of Oxford (1941)

Parizeau Medal, Association canadienne-française pour l’avancement des sciences (1946)

Lorne Pierce Medal, Royal Society of Canada (1950)

Honorary Doctor of Letters, Université Laval (1952)

Honorary Doctor of Letters, University of Oxford (1953)

Canada Council MedalCanada Council for the Arts (1962)

National Award, University of Alberta (1965)

Diplôme d’honneur, Canadian Conference of the Arts (1968)

Companion, Order of Canada (1967)


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Sir John Franklin


Sir John Franklin, Morden H. Long, published by The Ryerson Press, 1930

The recent discovery of both HMS Erebus and more recently, HMS Terror, the two ships of the failed Franklin Expedition 0f 1845-47, has finally solved the 170-year-old mystery as to the final resting place of both the Terror and the Erebus. But what of Franklin and his men? That mystery has yet to be solved.

Sir John Franklin, by Morden H. Long, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1930. It is part of The Ryerson Canadian History Readers series. In this brief biography, only 28 pages in length, Long explores the life of John Franklin, 1786-1847.  While countless books, films, plays, poems have been created over the years, this brief treatise on the life of Franklin was meant for Canadian schools and is written in an entertaining, engaging yet factual tone.

The book begins with the unveiling of a monument to Franklin by  his wife, Lady Franklin, at Westminster Abbey in 1875. This simple act was the culmination of no less than thirty-eight rescue missions sent by the government or private parties to determine the fate of Sir John Franklin and his crew.

Franklin first went to sea in 1800. Though his father had wanted him to become a clergyman, young Franklin had been determined to become a sailor from his first sight of the North Sea at the age of ten. He was not to be denied and was assigned to the fighting ship H.M.S Polyphemus as mid-shipman at the age of fifteen. In 1801 he served with Nelson in the Baltic and engaged in the “the most terrible” battles. Although a competent mid-shipman and fierce combatant, Franklin instinctively turned to the work of exploration once the wars were over. He soon shipped out on the Investigator to map the entire seaboard of Australia. There he learned the art of map-making from Captain Flinders, a distinguished explorer.


Erebus and Terror (Copyright Mary Evans Picture Library 10006874/MEP)

Back in England in 1804, Franklin was soon aboard the H.M.S. Bellerophon where he participated in the Battle of Trafalgar. By 1814, Franklin had turned his ambitions again to exploration and he joined an expedition on board the Trent pressing north to Spitzbergen, Norway where they had eyes on the North Pole. While caught in the Arctic ice pack, Franklin showed great bravery and resourcefulness by managing to ward off the grinding ice by protecting the hull of his ship using walrus hide and thick hemp ropes lashed to the side of the vessel. The accompanying ship, Dorothea, however, did not fair as well and Franklin was bound to return home to England accompanying the sister ship.

Franklin participated in numerous overland expeditions in the Canadian northwest between 1819 and 1822, to meet up with other expeditions travelling through the Arctic Ocean. Franklin and his men endured great hardship, famine and near starvation before eventually making it back to England. After an absence of three-and-a-half years, Franklin set foot once again on English soil. For his achievements, Franklin was promoted to the rank of captain and made a Fellow of the Royal Society. He was also given command of his own expedition which would take him again to the Arctic Ocean.

In this next expedition, in 1825-27, two parties set out to map the Arctic coastline, one led by John Richardson from the mouth of the Mackenzie eastward; the other, led by Franklin, from the mouth of the Coppermine westward. They were to rendezvous and return to England on the Blossom which was to sail in from the Bering Sea. In the spring of 1825, Franklin and his men met up with an old travel companion, George Back, who had made provisions on Great Slave Lake in a camp that Back had named Fort Franklin. During the winter of 1826, Franklin wrote that his men played a variety of winter sport, much like hockey. In fact, Fort Franklin, claimed to be one of the birthplaces of the modern game of hockey. Fort Franklin was renamed Déline, Nunavut in 1993.

By August 18, 1826, Franklin and his team had traced 374 miles of the coastline to the west of the Coppermine but were forced to turn back due to winter closing in. Richardson, on the other hand, had been able to trace nearly 900 miles of the coast eastward from the Mackenzie hoping to meet up with Franklin. Not until a year after his return to England did Franklin realize he and Richardson had been a mere 160 miles apart by August 23, one week after Franklin had abandoned his trek due to bad weather.

This latest expedition, however, was seen as an incredible boon to scientific knowledge and resulted in copious honours bestowed upon John Franklin. He was knighted in 1829 and received an honorary degree from Oxford University. Franklin spent the next eighteen years at sea, six-and-a-half as Governor of Tasmania. In September 1828, he married Jane Griffen, the future Lady Franklin. But , still, he yearned for the “white North.”

By 1844, the Admiralty was considering another Arctic expedition. Franklin, backed by The Royal Society, was appointed its commander. The two ships, Erebus commanded by Franklin and Terror, commanded by Captain Crozier, were equipped with strengthened hulls and engines with screw propellers in addition to sails. Each had a complement of sixty-seven officers and men and was stocked with provisions for three years.

The expedition set sail May 24, 1845. On July 26, they encountered a whaler in Melville Bay and except for a band of wandering Inuit, these were the last humans to see the officers and crew of this fateful expedition.

Sir John Franklin died June 11, 1847. Only traces of the remaining crew have been uncovered since then until the discovery 0f Erebus off King William Island, in 2014, and Terror in 2016. Monuments erected in Franklin’s honour depict the burial of the commander by his crew among the hummocks of the Polar packthat vast and wandering grave.


Morden Heaton Long, 1886-1965, was Professor of History at the University of Alberta. He was born in Brantford, Ontario and was educated at Woodstock College and obtained his B.A. in 1908 from McMaster University. He was Rhodes Scholar for Ontario, 1909-1912, and received his B.A. in Honours School of Modern History from Oxford in 1912 and an M.A. from Oxford in 1923. He taught history at Victoria High School in Edmonton, Alberta in 1913 and lectured at University of Alberta, becoming a full professor in 1935 and head of History in 1946. Morden Long was a member of the Historical Sites and Monuments Board and was chair of the Geographic Board of Alberta. He was also a fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. Morden Long died in Edmonton in 1965.

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