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April 16, 2021

Photograph of Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) employees in the air raid shelter located in the sub-basement of Beaver House, the HBC’s Head Office, 1941 – Submitted by Anne Morton, Archivist at the Archives of Manitoba, 1981-2006, for most of that time with the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives


“This is one of 7 photographs published in The Beaver (December 1941, pp. 56-58) as part of the article ‘London Letter’, dated October 6, 1941.1 The other photos show the ruins of nearby buildings and the bunks in the air raid shelter for employees who volunteered for night-time ‘fire watching’ [watching out for incendiary bombs]. One of these volunteers, Alice Johnson, was to be the HBC’s Archivist (1954-1968).



“A photograph, like any other document, has a variety of things it can tell us. We see a man standing, four women seated. Since the photo originally appeared in the context of an article we know why they are at such close quarters. They are sheltering from air raids in the sub-basement of Beaver House. Employees were told that on their way to the shelter they should take with them all the papers on their desks. That way, if the office was destroyed, the HBC would still have its most current documents with which to carry on business. For war makes obvious the inherent fragility of paper records. In 1939 the Archives had been moved to the safety of Hexton Manor in Hertfordshire, home of Patrick Cooper, the HBC Governor.

“Strange as the setting may seem, and awkwardly squashed together as the people are, it would seem even stranger if the photo showed four men seated, three of them at typewriters. For the typewriter was the woman’s machine. In the late 1800s the word ‘typewriter’ could mean the woman who used the machine as well as the machine itself. Typing replaced handwriting as a means of copying documents because it is faster and more efficient. It was believed that slender, feminine fingers were especially suited to typing and so the typewriter gave women the entrance to office work. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, women working in offices were—and are–paid less than men. In the USA, anger over this injustice led to the ‘9 to 5 Movement’.

“We can see clearly the hands of the woman nearest us, poised over her keyboard. Documents, whether typed or written, on paper or clay, have for centuries been created by the human hand, whether pounding typewriter keys or holding a pen. What effect ‘dictation technology’ or ‘voice to text’ will have, when the human hand is no longer needed to ‘write’, remains to be seen. Handwritten documents are less and less used as a common means of communication. There is anecdotal evidence that this is beginning to have an effect on historical research. There are already people who have difficulty reading handwriting, even modern handwriting. It used to be that only medieval historians had to study palaeography. Is the time coming when historians of more recent historical eras will have to be taught how to read handwriting? I can sympathize. I first worked in 20th century records in the HBC Archives, with the late Alex Ross. Despite the romance of the quill pen, I much appreciated having to deal with typed documents. Perhaps some of them were typed by the women in this photograph?”


References:
  1. ^ The complete article and other pieces about the London staff in wartime are available on the web site of Canada’s History. https://www.canadashistory.ca/archive . Also of interest: Deirdre Simmons, Keepers of the Record: The History of the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007, and ‘9 to 5: The Story of A Movement’ on PBS video app.


Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story and Upcoming Events for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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April 9, 2021

Manitoba District School Attendance Registers, Woolwich School, 1952-1968 – Submitted by Ernest N. Braun, retired teacher and amateur local historian


“My generation transitioned from the old rural one-room District School to the consolidated schools in neighbouring towns. At the time, having one teacher in one room with 28 students spread from kindergarten level to grade 9 correspondence did not occur to us as unusual. In fact, hearing in advance what the next grade was learning, and reviewing what I had already learned in the previous years provided a rounded experience very hard to duplicate today, even with the ubiquitous Chromebooks and individualized instruction. The school attendance registers for those District Schools were largely recalled by the government and are now stored at the Archives, where you can check which days you missed school, and often read the lesson plans for each grade level. The depth/breadth of culture underlying the curriculum materials in those days is an eye-opener. While covering fractions, long-division, apostrophes and possessives, nature study and geography in grade 4, and doing calligraphy with a dip stylus, the students were also learning No 5 of Brahms’ “Hungarian Dances”, and drawing in parallel perspective, while at the same time students in grade 7 studied Hamlet and Othello. European history, Canadian history, world geography, detailed grammar analysis, physiology of the human body, the solar system and much more rounded out the rest of the curriculum. Small wonder that I prize those years as the best of all my years in school.”



Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story and Upcoming Events for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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March 26, 2021

Hudson’s Bay Company Archives photograph — Submitted by Mark Reid, Editor-in-Chief, Canada’s History magazine and CanadasHistory.ca, Director, Content & Communications, Canada’s History Society


“I am especially fond of a photo that was included in our special 100th anniversary issue of The Beaver, published with the help of the Archives of Manitoba in October 2020. The image shows a group of Inuit children playing on large supply sacks at Frobisher Bay, in what's now Nunavut, in 1960. The photograph originally appeared in a 1962 issue of The Beaver on children in the north. I love the joy on display in the photo, with smiling children enjoying some playtime.

“I selected this image because it speaks to the importance of family and of community in the North, and is a vibrant reminder that Indigenous communities do not just exist "in the past" but remain vital and resilient today as they reclaim and strengthen cultural traditions and ways of life.”

Kids playing on packed Hudson's Bay Company canoes
enlarge image

full size
Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, Archives of Manitoba, Hudson’s Bay House Library photograph collection subject files, photograph by Rosemary Gilliat, HBCA 1987/363/E-210/18.

Note: This photograph is held at the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives as part of the Hudson’s Bay House Library photograph collection subject files but copyright is held by Library and Archives Canada where it is part of the Rosemary Gilliat Eaton fonds.

Kids playing on packed Hudson's Bay Company canoes, Iqaluit, Nunavut, 1960.
© Library and Archives Canada. Reproduced with the permission of Library and Archives Canada.
Source: Library and Archives Canada/Rosemary Gilliat Eaton fonds/e010868858
Credit: Rosemary Gilliat Eaton


Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story and Upcoming Events for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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March 19, 2021

Why Be A Farmer? A film produced by Manitoba Department of Agriculture — Submitted by Roger Mills, Dairy Business Consultant


“I have enjoyed the film nights from the Archives of Manitoba, but particularly the 3 films on “Why be a farmer?” The third film, featuring Don Falk, really appealed to me, as at that same time, 1977, I was dairy farming in Britain.

“Our family immigrated to Canada in 1994 and took over a small dairy near Steinbach MB. We soon found that we could actually make a better living from 40 cows in Canada than 60 cows in England with very few regulations in place here… at that time. There had been disruption to the UK marketing system, lots of environmental challenges leading to draconian regulations and could not extract a vote of confidence about the ag industry from my local MP.

“The problems that Don related to in 1977, with regard to high priced land, volatile pricing in seasons of uncertain supply and demand due to uncertain weather, all still remain in agriculture today. These are exacerbated in 2021 by global trade issues, even higher priced land, machinery and machinery parts with declining margins for producers. Add to this the highest debt load agriculture has ever seen.

“The trend continues for grain producers to acquire more acres, over which to spread their overhead costs. The increased acres have necessitated farmers to operate large (more expensive) pieces of equipment. So the spiral continues. Inflation on land prices has helped the Balance Sheet to look healthy, but the old adage of ‘Asset rich and cash poor’ is still very applicable. Chemical and fertilizer use are still a huge expense, but methods of application are so precise with modern machinery and GPS, that total volumes are minimized.

“Dairy, egg and chicken sectors all operate their own supply managed systems, which matches production to demand and has the positive effect of more stable prices. However, here too, global trade issues have had a major effect, especially on the dairy industry, as successive governments have traded the in-demand Canadian dairy business for other commodities.

“As Don stated in the film, it was particularly hard for a young farmer to take over the farm or enter any sector of ag. Nowadays, with high priced land and quota in the supply managed sectors, it is probably even more difficult. This also applies to exiting the industry. There is so much value (and debt) in the farms today that it takes a team of banker, accountant, lawyer and a facilitator to help the farmer in any succession plan.

“I don’t think it is too difficult to recognize that farmers have to be more efficient than ever in this current economic climate to exist, let alone prosper. Farming is a business and also very much a way of life. It still has its rewards but the risks are huge. Farmers have a responsibility to produce food to feed an ever-growing worldwide population, but they cannot operate below the cost of production. Successive global governments implemented a ‘cheap food policy’ back in the 1950s and that is largely still in effect today, with some commodity grain prices barely at similar values to 5, 10 and 15 years ago.”

Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information. You can watch Why Be A Farmer? on Streaming from the Archives and you can watch our past online film nights at https://www.gov.mb.ca/yourarchives/events.html. You can also Visit Us in person at the Archives of Manitoba.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story and Upcoming Events for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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March 12, 2021

"Drawn by the Feathers or Ac ko mok ki a Black foot chief 7th Feby 1801" in Peter Fidler journals of exploration and survey, 1792-1806 — Submission by Ted Binnema, Historian


“Ak ko mok ki (Old Swan) drew a map for the Hudson's Bay Company trader, Peter Fidler, in February 1801 that depicted a vast area of western North America, from the North Saskatchewan River on the north, to the Bighorn Mountains on the south, between the Rocky Mountains and roughly the border between today's Alberta and Saskatchewan.

“This is the oldest surviving document, of which I am aware, actually created by an Indigenous person of the North American plains. In offering tantalizing access to the mind of a Siksika chief from more than two hundred years ago, it is informative, yet mysterious. What is more remarkable, is that it is part of a collection of Indigenous maps gathered by Peter Fidler in the late 1790s and early 1800s. In my opinion, it is a priceless document.”

Want to know more? Search Keystone for more information.

Want to participate in Your Archives? See Submit Your Story and Upcoming Events for details. You may e-mail us at yourarchives@gov.mb.ca with a comment about this blog post and your comments may be included on this page.


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