Vimy Ridge Resource Post

Canadian soldiers returning from Vimy Ridge (c. April 1917). [Source] – This is a colourized version of arguably the most famous photo from the battle. Click here for the original.

100 years ago today, for the first time the Canadian Corps’ four divisions came together on the battlefield. The Battle of Vimy Ridge (April 9-12, 1917) was fought over what historian Tim Cook describes as an “open graveyard,” as it was the sight of over 100,000 previous French casualties. Over the course of four days, the Canadians Corps succeeded where earlier Allied assaults had failed. They overtook the heavily-fortified, seven-kilometre ridge and pushed the Germans back to the Oppy–Méricourt line. In the process, 3,598 Canadians were killed and another 7,004 were wounded. Years later, Vimy Ridge would be seen as Canada’s most important battle of World War One.

I have mostly avoided talking about Vimy Ridge because it is the most heavily discussed, analyzed, and mythologized battle in Canadian history. After all, what is there to add when even the debate over whether Vimy was “the birth of a nation” appears to have come full circle? Nevertheless, to honour the occasion, I created a massive resource post full of information, resources, pictures, videos, art, for all those interested in the battle and the legacy of Vimy Ridge.
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Canadian Travel Ads (1940s-1960s)

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

It is hard to pinpoint when tourism began in Canada. Some consider European explorers of the 16th century to be the first Canadian tourists. Others argue it was the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century that really got things rolling because with modernization came with the development of cars and airplanes.

The postwar era was a peak time for Canadian tourism. From 1945-1960, most tourists preferred to travel to a handful of developed countries; the top 15 destinations received 97% of international tourists. In 1950, after the United States, Canada was the second most popular place to visit. Contrast that today with those same 15 destinations receiving only 55% of tourists and as of 2014 Canada has dropped to 18th on the list.

Travel ads during this time had the general look of postwar era advertising. Poster and magazine design had become an art form and drew heavily from the modernism and art deco movements. Artists utilized rich colours and bold geometric shapes to catch the attention of prospective tourists. As a result, many vintage Canadian travel ads all have a similar look: bright, eye-catching paintings, big, happy faces, occasionally a lot of descriptive text. There are some other similarities as well. See if you can spot them by clicking on the images below. Continue reading

Canada’s Olympic History: Summer Edition

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them.

Penny Oleksiak holds up the four medals that she has won over the course of the 2016 Rio Olympics. The Canadian Olympic Committee have not announced it yet, but Oleksiak is widely expected to be Canada’s flag-bearer for the closing ceremony on Sunday. [Source]

If you have been following the Rio 2016 Olympics, you will know that sixteen year old Penny Oleksiak now holds a unique spot in Canadian Olympic history as she is the first Canadian to win four medals in a single Summer Games. Also, the gold medal she is holding makes her Canada’s youngest Olympic champion. So far Canadian athletes have won 13 medals* in total during the 2016 Olympics. Yesterday marked the end of our nine-day medal streak, the longest of any Summer or Winter Games. Hearing about the achievements of our athletes in Rio got me thinking about our past performances in the Olympics. Here is a look back at some of the best (and worst) moments from Canada’s history at the Summer Games.

* Update – Canada finished the Rio Olympics with 22 medals in total; 4 golds, 3 silvers, and 15 bronze medals. Continue reading

Images from a Forgotten War

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

“Canadian soldiers catch a ride after a lengthy patrol,” (June 1951 by Philip Plastow) [Source]

Did you know that over 26,000 Canadian men and women served in the Korean War and its aftermath? If you didn’t, you’re not alone. The Korean War (1950-1953) is often referred to as “The Forgotten War” not just by Canadians, but by veterans of the conflict at large. The term was originally coined by U.S. News & World Report in 1951 to describe how most people weren’t interested in news regarding Korea.

Today there are many initiatives (like The Memory Project: Korea) dedicated to “remembering” this Forgotten War, but the conflict still doesn’t garner the same sort of attention that others do. This blog is a good example considering that this is my first post on the subject. I plan to explore the Korean War in greater depth in future posts, but first things first: a visual overview. Continue reading

Canadian WWI Political Cartoons

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

Eye-catching posters weren’t the only art form during the First World War designed to deliver a message to the Canadian public. Newspapers across the country utilized their artists to depict the war abroad through political cartoons. However, unlike the government  and the Red Cross, their agendas weren’t always pro-war. This post takes a look at how political cartoons changed overtime as the journalists and the public’s opinion of the war began to sour as the years went on. Also, we will be looking at other issues that arose during the Great War and how Canadian cartoonists responded to them as well. Continue reading

Snapshots: The Siksika Nation (c. 1880s)

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

Bobtail, Cree Chief, Alberta. (A. Ross, 1886)

Did you know studio photography was all the rage back in the 1880s? Yup, the above photo is authentic and not a historical recreation. The photographer, Alexander J. Ross (1851-1894), captured many different First Nations men and women on film between 1884-1891. This post takes a look at Ross’ photographic career and the history of the Siksika Nation at large, as he took the most photos of them. Continue reading

The End of World War II in Canada

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

Monday, May 7, 1945 edition of The Evening Telegram (a Toronto newspaper).

Neither Victory in Europe Day nor Victory over Japan Day took place on November 11th. Today’s date belongs to the anniversary of the end of World War I. By the time World War II ended, Armistice Day had been observed by Canada since 1919. It was formally renamed “Remembrance Day” and placed on November 11th back in 1931. For Remembrance Day in 1945, Canadians had much to be grateful for as not one but two chapters of war had come to a close earlier that year. Continue reading

The Art of Negative Campaigning

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

Union Government Campaign Poster, (c. 1917).

Far from being a staple of the modern era, negative campaigning and politics have always gone hand-in-hand. When it comes to campaign ads designed to attack political opponents, that has a long history as well. Archaeologists who excavated the ruins of Pompeii discovered ads defaming political candidates on ash-covered walls. Needless to say, Canada also has a tradition of political mudslinging stemming all the way back to the days of Sir. John A Macdonald. Nowadays when we think of negative campaigning/advertising, television attack ads probably come first to mind. Before we even touch on those sorts of ads though, let’s wind the clock back a bit first. This post will take a look at some historical federal campaign posters from the context of the time they were produced. Continue reading

Old White Guys Smiling for Votes: Canada’s Electoral History

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

From the Chronicle Herald for August 6, 2015 by Michael de Adder.

It’s August 11, 2015 and that means that the 42nd Canadian General Election is only a mere 69 days away. If that seems horribly long and tedious, just remember it could be worse. That being said, between now and October 19th, I intend to do a couple of posts related to our own electoral history. The first of which is a visual look back at past Prime Ministers in the act of campaigning along with some fast facts about these 22 individuals. Continue reading

The Liberation of the Netherlands

Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.

“Left of the Line” Advance, from Canadian Army Newsreel 69, (April 1945).

May 5, 2015 marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Netherlands from Germany during World War II. The actual liberation began back in September 1944 when Allied forces first tried to break into the German-occupied Netherlands from the south. This attempt was unsuccessful, so the Canadians were brought in. Continue reading