Return to Vimy: Resource for Teachers

Return to Vimy, Denis McCready, provided by the National Film Board of Canada. “This is the first time the NFB has colourized its own archives for a film project, shedding unprecedented light on the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) film collection.”

Sick of hearing about Vimy Ridge? Too bad! I found this great nine minute film that can help teachers who want to bring World War I to life for their students.

The story follows a Canadian woman who visits the Vimy Memorial to make a charcoal imprint of the engraved name of her great-grandfather who died during the battle. She has his notebook which is full of sketches and diary entries that he made during months of preparation for Vimy Ridge. These sketches turn into colourized archive footage and enables us to witness the daily lives of the soldiers of the Canadian Corps and watch the detailed preparations that went to this battle. WW1 battle footage is shown, maps are used to support explanations, you see Sir Arthur Currie walking around/making plans, the Nursing Sisters pop up—seriously this short film has everything.

Looking for more Vimy Ridge resources? Check out my whole page dedicated to the battle.

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Women’s Fashion During the Regency Era (1810s to 1830s)

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.

Dress, Canadian (c. 1823-1825). A old rose silk taffeta and beige silk satin gown with a cotton lining. Sewn by hand. [Source: McCord Museum]

As men’s fashion moved to a more simple tailored style over the Regency era, losing the frills and certain colours along the way, women’s fashion did the opposite. It went from understated and sleek to poofy sleeves, bell-shaped skirts, elaborate hats, and ribbons galore. Corsets and multiple petticoats returned full-swing. It would take a little under a century before less constricting styles became popular again. Why the sudden change (or reversal, really) for women’s clothing? Continue reading

Men’s Fashion During the Regency Era (1810s to 1830s)

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.


“Man’s Tailcoat.  Probably England, 1825-1830. Wool plain weave, full finish, with silk cut velvet on twill foundation” [Source]

When it comes to timelines and the Regency Era, things get a little messy. Technically the era only lasts nine years. When “mad” King George III was declared unfit to rule, the Regency Act was passed and his son George, the Prince Regent, ruled in his place. When George the III died in 1820, the Regent became King George IV. However, there is a certain “romantic feel” to the Regency Era that goes beyond that short time frame and most slap on another decade or so when establishing a timeline. (1837 is the farthest the Regency Era extends on both sides of the Atlantic however, given that’s when Queen Victoria’s reign begins and the Upper and Lower Canada Rebellions occurred). In terms of fashion, Romanticism and the influence of “dandies,” had a major impact on western men’s clothing during this time. Continue reading

Three Takes on the Ends of War

Torontoians read about Germany’s surrender on VE-Day. Old City Hall is in the background.

For Remembrance Day this year, I thought I would change things up and take a look at a couple of primary sources to see how three newspapers from Toronto described the end of World War I and II. For those interested in more traditional posts, please check out Armistice Day, The End of World War II in Canada, and Veterans’ Stories: Morkin and Strachan. Continue reading

Spotlight: Faith Fenton


Faith Fenton aka Alice Freeman (c. 1885) [Source: LAC]

October is Women’s History Month in Canada and instead of writing about the usual suspects, I thought I would take a look at the life of a lesser known female figure in Canadian history. Alice Freeman (1857-1936), better known as “Faith Fenton,” was a schoolteacher turned popular investigative journalist. Her life was pretty remarkable not just because Alice was one of Canada’s first female journalists but because she was one of the thousands who headed up to the Klondike in 1898–except she was looking for stories, not gold. Continue reading

Ortona: Was It Worth It?

A Canadian soldier at the Battle of Ortona. December 1943. [Source: Canada at War]

The Canadian Forces faced one of their toughest battles during World War II during December 1943. Their goal? Capture the small coastal town of Ortona, Italy. The Canadians fought their way through rubble-covered narrow streets, booby-trapped houses, machine-gun fire, and concealed landmines throughout the town. As the CBC described it, Ortona was a battle in the “courtyard of hell.” The Canadians were successful in the end, but at a cost of 2,200 casualties. Was it worth it? (Shout out to GP Cox for inspiring me to research this battle!) Continue reading

Why Did the Fenians Attack Canada?

Battle of Ridgeway C.W. (c. 1869) by Unknown Artist. A famous, yet inaccurate depiction of the battle, as it was fought in a modern skirmish style (fighting and hiding behind cover), not in a Napoleonic line format. [Source]

Continuing our look at ridiculous events in Canadian history: The Fenian Raids. You know, that time Irish-Americans invaded Canada to free Ireland from British rule.

People were probably just as confused back then at this turn of events as they are now. Despite the fact that the Fenian Raids (1866-1871) all ended in failure, their history is tied up with that of Canadian Confederation. This post looks at the historical context and the myths surrounding the consequences of the Fenian Raids, as well as what exactly happened. Continue reading

How to Not Kill Samuel de Champlain

Champlain’s Statue, Nepean Point, Ottawa, Canada.

Barely a month after July 3, 1608, the day Samuel de Champlain and his fellow French colonists founded Quebec, what they hoped would be a permanent trading post and settlement, the Father of New France found himself at the center of an assassination plot. Using Champlain’s own words, this post looks at what led to the plot, how Champlain found out about it, and what was his response was. Continue reading

The Rise and Fall of Prohibition in Canada (Part Two)

A Toronto man doesn’t give a damn as he carries a keg of beer down a street in broad daylight during the Prohibition era (Sept 16, 1916). [Source: LAC]

Whereas part one looked at the rise of the temperance movement in Canada, part two will cover the prohibition era and its downfall. Prohibition barely lasted a decade in most provinces and its existence was plagued by problems. Why? The ban on booze created a situation where organized crime thrived and access to alcohol was relatively easy. Moreover, the violence, rum-running, and smuggling continued even after the provincial bans on alcohol were repealed because prohibition was still going on south of the border. Why was prohibition such a massive failure in Canada and what were the wider, long-lasting consequences? Continue reading