Monday, December 24, 2012

Interviewing Esyllt: part three

6) Was it difficult to select 150 images from the thousands in the Archives of Manitoba?

Yes! David and Glenn Bergen from the press and I spent hours down there. We looked at literally EVERY photograph in the provincial collection, which is not even all the Foote photographs in existence. Many of them are simply extraordinary. Everyone should go down there and look at them.

7) What’s your favourite image in the book?

My favourite is a photograph I write about in the introduction. It appears on page 32 of the book. It is a woman in Aboriginal dress, her hair in braids, smoking a pipe. Many of Foote’s images are technically almost perfect. This one is partly hazy and has a ghost-like blur on one side, and a little girl in a white party dress. The woman is a mystery to me, and I like that. I don’t think history should be about definitive answers. Sometimes the questions are far more interesting.

8) What's next for you? What are you working on now, beyond the collections?

I’ve been working on a book about the men and women who designed Saskatchewan’s first medicare policies, after Tommy Douglas was elected in 1944. There are two Winnipeggers in it, actually. It is called Red Medicine: Transnational Lives and the Birth of Medicare.

After it is finished, I want to write a book about my father. He was a music teacher, a Welshman. His family members were Welsh nationalists. He taught me a lot about curiosity and independence of thought, but also tolerance. We lived in rural Saskatchewan, where he built rock gardens, took me bird watching, drove a turquoise Peugeot, and wore a Sherlock Holmes-style hat and a British overcoat to work. As you can imagine, he was considered a total weirdo. This never bothered him. He developed Alzheimer’s Disease when he was in his fifties. Last year, I inherited his old records, which he often played in the house when I was young. My plan is to write my memories of him one record at a time. My partner Todd and I are building a cottage on the beautiful Whitemouth River, and I plan to listen to my dad’s records and write a sort of biography, which will also be a history of an immigrant life. I am going to start with Peter Ustinov’s classic recording of Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

That record used to scare me to death.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: PJ Burton

My father was born in 1927 into the sepia and grey-toned world that Foote's photos captured like a bug in a mason jar. So many interesting things going on in there. It was a small commercial miracle, notewothy and slightly impossible. In the forties, mini-entrepreneurs stalked the streets of every city of any size and offered to "take your picture", then hand you a fancy calling card announcing where the results could be purchased. Say, at a near by department store where you may become inclined to browse. Well, not everyone had cameras and the alchemy that is photography gave one existential pause.

"I was over there, but now I'm here, yet I can see myself as I have recently been." Or, more astonishingly, I can see them as they were; a handy portable piece of witchcraft on paper where even the deceased live in permanent evidence of what we did that day.

My grandfather was born in 1892 and fully inhabited the world Foote knew. He was a full-share partner in the development of that world. They were kids in Brandon which, at the time, had a population of maybe seven or eight thousand primarily Britishers who took pride in their sense of organization, and for the most part, always wore a specific kind of hat. He went off to war in one, he and my great uncle, lying about their age (they were only 16) but that didn't prevent him from being capture by the Germans and spending many months in an unexpectedly accommodating P.O.W. camp. There were amenities: musical instruments and some guy from a nearby village who, like Foote, would take the band's photo so you could send it home to the missus.

So Foote and the people like him, had a new gadget of fascination and anything was a reasonable target from the mundane to the most cunning of stunts. Some of Foote's works clearly predates "Everyone say 'cheese'" and its subjects appear to just mildly tolerate the invasive box while others are clearly posed, amused and ready to have even more great fun!

My father's great chum in Brandon was a lad named John Robertson. Together, they would run around the back lanes and streets of the west side of Brandon. Don't expect that they were up to mischief; they were just running around unfettered by the constraints of the mantle of responsibility that came with being an older boy of, say, fifteen. Since they were only nine and ten the worldly cosmos of encroaching maturity had yet to grab them by the coveralls and shake the dreamy dust of boyhood out of them. So, they just ran around and did things. They did, however, have pigeons and would get together to discuss different breeds and their qualities. One quality my father found particularly disturbing was that they tasted pretty good and grandmother (his mum) would occasionally prepare squab. Knowing each of his feathered charges personally, my father railled against the black fates that he was unable to control and the unfairness of it all let alone the barbaric horror of having to eat his friend.

But this idyllic garden can never last and just assuredly as spring will melt into summer, both John and George were growing up. It was time to get a hat.

But look at the hats! Look at Foote's photo of, say, the Winnipeg General Strike. By golly, you don't get that many men together in their sharp fedoras, slouches and bowlers without a serious commitment to common purpose. Don't tell me they didn't mean business. And just look at the hats!

- PJ Burton

* * *

PJ Burton was born in Winnipeg in 1952 and received his teaching degree at the University of Alberta in 1979. During a brief stopover in Edmonton, he appeared on SCTV as a drummer in an Earl Camembert sketch, and again in Mel's Rock Pile. When he moved back to Winnipeg in 1980, he formed the band The Smarties. Soon after he put together Winnipeg's legendary showband The Chocolate Bunnies From Hell. He currently teaches at West Kildonan Collegiate and performs regularly with his band.

Interviewing Esyllt, part two

3) What is it like researching and writing about a city/province that you didn’t grow up in? (You were born/raised in Saskatchewan, correct?)

Historians are trained to glean some sense of the past in its own right, and while personal connection has something special about it, a lot of great history is written without that.

William Eakin's mug shot, 2004-6, Subconscious City exhibit.
I was born in the UK, and moved around the prairies a lot as a child after we emigrated when I was three. I have lived in Winnipeg for over 25 years, and so it is home to me, and I value that. I am very attached to the place. I love its perception of itself as a failed project, although I also argue with it in my work. Winnipeg is a city where people are very aware of local history, and their place in it. I think we take this awareness a bit for granted. It’s a great town to be a historian.

4) What drew you to working on a book about the photographs of L.B. Foote in particular?

David Carr asked me to do it! I took it as a compliment, so I said yes. I have been looking at Foote photos for twenty-odd years, mostly as illustrations. A few years ago, David Churchill from the Institute for the Humanities at the University of Manitoba asked me to be on a panel associated with the show “Subconscious City” at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, curated by Shawna Dempsey and Lorri Millan. I called my contribution “Getting Lost in the North End,” and I used some Foote images, along with others, to illustrate how historical photographs of poor families in the North End have generated these extremely persistent and negative stereotypes. My talk was about the possibilities of ‘getting lost’ in that part of the city, to see it with fresh eyes – to actually go there! The things I thought about for that talk formed my way in to the Foote archive; how certain images carry so much weight in a city’s history, and how we should sometimes re-assess what we think photos tell us.

5) What was your goal for the project?

I don’t think I had a goal. I started writing without knowing for sure what I had to say, because I am not a historian of photography. I looked at the records. I read Foote’s odd little half-memoir, and tried to figure him out.

I would like people who read my essay to think about the stories we tell ourselves about the past. Especially, I would like us to re-think the story of decline, which says nothing great happened in Winnipeg after 1919. I agree with what Guy Maddin says on the back of the book – Foote’s collection gives this impression of Winnipeg as a frenetic place full of people who get up to all kinds of stuff all the time. His photographs have this intensity, this enthusiasm. It’s a selective impression, of course, but all does not all end after the war and the general strike. Some historians have written about Winnipeg as if that was an endpoint, a rupture. I think this sensibility is too pervasive.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Reprint: Winnipeg Bestsellers (again!)

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Thanks to everyone who helped Imagining Winnipeg get back on the bestseller list! Yay!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Interviewing Esyllt, part one

As the Lost Foote Photos blog winds down, we thought we'd share author Esyllt W. Jones' thoughts and impressions around working on a project like Imagining Winnipeg:

1) In the last two years, you’ve co-edited three texts:

Epidemic Encounters: Influenza, Society, and Culture in Canada, 1918-1920 (with Magda Fahrni),

People's Citizenship Guide: a response to conservative Canada (w/Adele Perry), and 

Place and Replace: Essays on Western Canada (w/Adele Perry & Leah Morton). 

And now Imagining Winnipeg.

Is this breakneck pace normal for you? What has it taught you, in terms of managing your workload as a prof, parent, and community member?

I like to be busy! Editorial work is different from writing. Editing is collaborative work, and the collections you mention are things I’ve done with others. This book, too, belongs as much to the press as it does to me. It’s a cliché to say that academic work is solitary, but there is truth to it. I need projects that bring me into connection with other people, and sometimes this means I work on several at once. Finding time to write is more difficult. I’ve never really mastered that Alice Munro ability to write in between everything else going on in life.

I don’t know about managing workload. Our family always has a lot on the go, and it usually works out. A lot of opportunities come your way when you are a university professor, and there are obligations, too – to your students, to your community. Ultimately, I appreciate commitment more than its absence.

2) How did you come to working on social history and the history of health and disease? Did you have a particular mentor who piqued your interest?

I was a labour historian first, and for that I owe Doug Smith, who sent me to the archives, and also my employers at the union where I worked, for letting me help to write its official history.

I became interested in disease when reading documents from the Brandon and Selkirk mental hospitals. I had no idea how compelling these fragments of evidence from people’s past lives would be for me. I wanted to know how ordinary people lived with and through illness, and how it shaped their lives. I once read an interview with the novelist Ian McEwan, in which he talks about the influence on his writing of listening to the women in his working class family talk endlessly, without boredom or irony, about every gruesome detail of their own illnesses and those of their friends, neighbours, or mere acquaintances. I laughed when I read that, it was so deliciously familiar to me. That is my mother’s family. I grew up hearing stories of diphtheria, tuberculosis, pleurisy…it was sad, but also carried a certain meaning. It was a vocabulary for shared experience.

I had many good teachers when I did graduate work; Manitoba is fortunate to have such talented historians in our universities. I was inspired by gender historians like Ellen Ross, whose book Love and Toil about working class motherhood in England is still a model of humane scholarship to me.

* * *

Stay tuned for the next two sections from UMP's interview with Esyllt W. Jones, which will be posted December 17 and 24th.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Favourite Foote Photos: Mary Horodyski

I first came across Foote about twenty-five years ago in the basement of the Manitoba Archives.

I was an undergraduate history student searching for evidence of women’s role in the Winnipeg General Strike.

It seemed strange to me that women had made up one-quarter of the workforce in 1919 yet had never made it into any of the history books about the strike.

Foote’s photographs helped me prove that women attended public meetings and were on the street alongside the male strikers.

After this first Foote encounter, and over the next quarter century, Foote became intertwined with the city in my mind. Iconic, like the Golden Boy or the Arlington Bridge. So I felt surprised this summer to come across a letter from Foote – I had practically forgotten he was human, so mixed into the cement and metal of the city had he become.

I found the letter at the City of Winnipeg Archives where I had been working on the records surrounding the building of the aqueduct from Shoal Lake (how we still get our water, by the way, almost a hundred years later).

The letter is dated July 23, 1935 and in it Foote offers his photography services to the Greater Winnipeg Sanitary District. He needs the work, he says, because a “fire cleaned me out” and “my taxes are long overdue.” In fact, he says, “I am finding it very difficult to get along.” At the time of his letter, Foote would have been 62 years old—a pretty cruddy time, if you ask me, to be stuck hustling for money.

Esyllt Jones, in her Imagining Winnipeg essay, tells us that in 1948, when Foote was 75, both his legs were broken in a car accident.

So, my favourite Foote photo, now that I’ve learned a bit more about his life, and gotten a bit older myself, is the very last photo in Imagining Winnipeg: tough Mr. Foote, standing upright on the corner of Portage and Main, 77 years old, cane dangling from his overcoat pocket, and with his camera raised.

- Mary Horodyski

* * *

Mary Horodyski is in the middle of her third degree in history – an M.A. in Archival Studies at the University of Manitoba. She also has an M.A. in History from Concordia University and a B.A. in History from the University of Manitoba. In between (and sometimes during) history degrees, she works as a writer and researcher. She recently completed her archival internship at the City of Winnipeg Archives. Her Manitoba History article on women and the Winnipeg General Strike can be found here.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Blogging Foote

Hey all,

As you've probably noticed, Lost Foote Photos has not maintained...much...of a posting schedule since Imagining Winnipeg was launched back in September.

But between now and the end of the holiday season, we've a few humdingers in store.

First up is writer/archivist Mary Horodyski's discovery this summer of a 1935 letter from L.B. Foote to the Greater Winnipeg Sanitary District offices, asking for work.

Next is the story of Jennie (Kaleka) Kubara, who was photographed by Foote for the Winnipeg Free Press in 1938 with a group of students from Aberdeen School. Jennie attended the Imagining Winnipeg launch not knowing that she'd find a picture of herself inside...and it was such a treat to meet her!

After that comes a reaction to Imagining Winnipeg by P.J. Burton of Chocolate Bunnies From Hell fame.

Over the next few weeks, we'll also be serializing an interview the press conducted with author Esyllt W. Jones on the process of working on a book like Imagining Winnipeg.

And then...UMP Director David Carr will write a farewell to the Lost Foote Photos blog. We've greatly enjoyed sharing Foote's photographs and your thoughts on Foote's photographs, but there are five non-Foote books on our spring 2013 list...

* * *

In other, non-blog related news, the University of Manitoba Bookstore is offering what might be the best price in town on Imagining Winnipeg: $24.95. So if you're looking to give this book to family over the holidays, U of M Bookstore might just be THE place to do it...

U of M Press is also selling Imagining Winnipeg via our website. And we've recently created an e-single of author Esyllt Jones' introduction plus a few select photos that's for sale on Kobo and Barnes & Noble for $3.49.

Finally, I thought I'd let you know that there will be two more Imagining Winnipeg events in the new year.

Esyllt Jones will be doing a presentation on Imagining Winnipeg at the Louis Riel Library on Thursday, February 28 at 6:30 pm. A second event will follow at the Henderson Library.


Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #14: Westwood Library!

Kirsten Wurmann, Branch Head of Westwood Library, introduces UMP's Imagining Winnipeg talk/slideshow November 6. 

We had a roomful of people ignoring the U.S. election hubbub and the gloomy weather...including a intent eight-year-old who loved the banquet-in-the-sewer photo.

At the event, we had someone from East Kildonan request that we bring the slideshow to her neighbourhood library.

We've been chatting with WPL organizers...and it looks like we'll be taking our proverbial show on the road in the new  year, with two or three events at libraries around the city.

We'll let you know as soon as the dates are confirmed, but in the meantime, I thought I'd let you know about two upcoming events that author Esyllt Jones is doing.

First, she'll be speaking at the Fort Garry Historical Society's AGM on November 17 at 2:00 pm at the Pembina Trail Library.

Then, she'll be doing  a signing at McNally's in the run-up to Xmas.  On Sunday, December 2 at 1:00 pm, she'll be sitting by the cash desk with a stack of books and a bowl of come-hither candy.


Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #13: Esyllt at the Library

Erica Ball, Reader Services Librarian at the Millennium Library, introduces Esyllt W. Jones.

Esyllt W. Jones, author of Imagining Winnipeg, lectures on Foote's photography.
Esyllt W. Jones, author of Imagining Winnipeg, lectures on Foote's photography.

Esyllt W. Jones, author of Imagining Winnipeg, lectures on Foote's photography.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Precarious Foote-ings

"It was really a pleasure to attend the Imagining Winnipeg launch a few weeks ago at McNally's!

One of my surprise takeaways from the book launch was a new appreciation for the variety of perspectives from which Foote's body of work can be viewed, analysed and interpreted – from such overarching quandaries as what Esyllt Jones dubs the "mystery of his intent," to personal connections to memories and histories, through to John Paskievich's unveiling of Foote's evolution to the "fortuitous and dynamic arrangement of triangles" (in the photo of the young Queen Elizabeth).

As a collector of historic images, let me add to this mix – with yet another line of inquiry. Beyond the images themselves, I am often intrigued by attempting to imagine where, in taking a particular photo, the photographer might have positioned themselves. I don't think it readily occurs to many of us, but early photographers were often quite the aerialists. From the photos in Imagining Winnipeg, here are a few examples:

Page 1 – Looking out over a skating rink on the Red River.
Where was Foote when he took this picture? How was he able to take this photo from such a high elevation? My guess is he was atop the large wooden toboggan slide that was constructed every year next to this ice rink. In the image, can you see those smoke stacks in the distance? I have another photo postcard image, by an earlier photographer, that I believe was actually taken from atop one of those chimneys.

Page 2 – Overview of the construction of the new Legislative Buildings.
This picture was most likely taken from the top of the bell tower of the old Broadway Methodist Church (since burned and dismantled) on the South East corner of Broadway & Kennedy.

Page 58 – Peace Day celebration at Portage & Main. This one was likely taken from a second storey window of the building that stood on the SW corner of Portage & Main (current site of the Trizec Building).

Page 70 – Veterans’ march at City Hall.
This one is particularly intriguing. The shot is taken looking up the portion of Market Street that used to exist on the West side of Main Street – land now occupied by the current City Hall. Foote took this shot from the East side of Main. The side of the building that shows on the right of the photo was the south wall of a building that once stood at the North East corner of Main & Market. It was four stories high and, from images I’ve seen of it, there were no balconies or fire escapes evident on that building's south side. My best guess is that Foote took this west-looking shot from a high (4th storey?) south-facing window.

Well, by now you get the picture (no pun intended). I'm just pointing out that L.B. Foote, like other photographers of his day, didn't always keep both feet firmly planted on the ground."

- Rob McInnes, Postcard Accumulator and Purveyor

* * *

Another beautiful little postcard from Rob McInnes! 

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

FF event #2

Photos courtesy Trevor Hagan.

* * *

Winnipeg Free Press director of photography and multimedia Mike Aporius and photographer Mike Deal, speaking at the Favourite Foote event on October 10.

After urging everyone to take photographs, Mike Aporius stepped back and took a photo of the audience.

FF event #1

Wednesday night was the Favourite Footes event at the Winnipeg Free Press News Cafe.

Photos courtesy Mike Deal
Focusing on photographers and filmmakers, the event featured Erna Buffie, Colin Corneau, Bob Lower, Ian McCausland, and John Paskievich.

The nice thing about the WFP News Cafe was that it had three large TV screens mounted throughout the cafe.

We were able to show the slideshow of images from the book on the screens, which was lovely...and also confusing.

I hosted, and in those intervals when I wasn't on stage, I watched both the audience and the presenters. And I would often catch members of the audience staring intently across the room instead of watching the stage. And I would have to remind myself that they were looking at one of the TV screens, not necessarily the one on stage.

It was very interesting to hear the blog posts out loud, to hear the reverence that these image-makers had for Foote.

Another interesting aspect to the evening was how respectful the photographers were towards John Paskievich. They brought their copies of The North End to be signed - or bought copies at the event - and then posted pictures of his signature to Facebook and Twitter.

Interestingly, of the six images discussed at the event, only two were used in the book.

The first and best explanation is that there were roughly 2,500 photos in the Foote Collection at the Manitoba Archives and the book only had room for 150, so photos had to more than earn their keep to be included.

The second reason was that two of the photos, both of royal visits, ultimately couldn't be verified as being shot by Foote.

The final reason is that one of the photos was from the Manitoba Archives collection of coroner's photographs owned by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. As we've noted elsewhere on this blog, Foote worked photographing crime scenes, but A) UMP would have needed to get special permission to use these photos, unlike the ones in the Foote Collection and B) they depict dead bodies.

These are not cartoonish scenes, sterilized for the viewer. They are photographs of dead people, people that you or I might be related to. Some of them are bloody, but most of them are just sad...

All that said, it was lovely to bring together one of Foote's communities for an evening to celebrate this legacy. (One of his communities, you say? What are the others? Well, historians, for one. Architects, possibly. Writers. Anyone interested in vintage photographs.)

Thanks to everyone that consented to speak at the event. Thanks to the Winnipeg Free Press for sending Director of photography and multimedia Mike Aporius as well as Photographer Mike Deal to tell the audience about the Foote images in their archive.

Finally, thanks to everyone who came out and shared the evening with us!

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Monday, October 8, 2012

Footepaths, part 2: Take me home, Mr Foote

To archivists, the lost Foote photos present a paradox. The L.B. Foote fonds – fonds being the term archivists use to denote a collection of archival documents – is held by the Archives of Manitoba. The Foote fonds was acquired from L.B. Foote’s heirs after the death of the man himself. These records were acquired because of the importance of L.B. Foote in the history of the province. But, as I suggested in an earlier post, it is what is missing from the fonds – the lost Foote photos – that demonstrate the importance of the fonds.

In preserving records, archivists are careful to note down their provenance. It is the provenance, or origin, of a record that connects it to a larger group of records. Archivists preserve provenance through archival description, the text that describes the records held by the archives. Traditional archival provenance, however, preserves only one view of provenance: that of the material creator of the records. The provenance of the Foote fonds, for example, might state that the records came to the Archives of Manitoba from Foote's studio via his heirs.

But should Foote be considered the sole creator of these photos? It is true that his eye framed the photographs and his shop produced the prints, that it is his name in his writing that appears in the corners of the photos. But it was the city of Winnipeg that gave Foote the architectural and social subjects for his photos. Foote's photographs of landmark buildings and era-defining historical events, like his photos of the famous, the not-so-famous and candid photos of everyday life, were taken as opportunity afforded. It took the entire city of Winnipeg to create the Foote photographs. In this sense, we are all heirs of Foote, and we are all bequeathing our Foote photographs to the archives.

My friend Tom Nesmith, who also teaches archival studies at the University of Manitoba, pioneered this notion and calls it societal provenance. Archives do not describe the societal provenance of their records. To find that, you must go to Flickr.

The Foote photos found on Flickr have not been posted by archivists, but by Winnipeg citizens concerned with the history of their city. Most of the Foote photos on Flickr are scans of photos held by the Archives of Manitoba. Once posted, some acquire layers of comments and description, as people debate exact locations and compare the city that was with the city that is.

The photo selected for this blogpost is a simple photo of Foote's residence. But follow the link to the Flickr page and read the comments, detailing a conversation spread over eight months that identifies the location and a later, more famous neighbour (Marshall McLuhan!), while disparaging the subsequent development of the site ("the house is gone, now a wading pool next to the school. blah. sucks.").

What is the provenance of this photo? By one light its provenance is the Foote fonds, held by the Archives of Manitoba. But seen “In_The_Right_Light” (which just happens to be the Flickr commenter’s tag) the provenance of the photo is the city itself, the city that provided the material context in which this house, built in this style with these materials, was built on that particular piece of land. And then torn down. And then developed into a park with a wading pool.

It took L.B. Foote's eye to frame this photo, his shop to print it. It took the Archives of Manitoba to preserve this photo for future generations. It took an industrious Flickr user to post it onto the social network. It took other Flickr users to recognize the location and research the history of the site. It took Flickr to provide the virtual space in which all of these forces could come together to express the photo's societal provenance.

- Greg Bak

* * *
Greg Bak is assistant professor of History at University of Manitoba, teaching in the Master’s Program in Archival Studies. Previous to July, 2011 he worked as a digital archivist and manager at Library and Archives Canada. His research interests include Aboriginal archives, digital recordkeeping, digital culture and the use of digital archives as tools for social justice.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #12: Launch pictures!

The crowd at the McNally Robinson launch of Imagining Winnipeg, September 26.

UMP Director David Carr introduces Esyllt W. Jones.
Author Esyllt W. Jones.
The crowd at the McNally Robinson launch of Imagining Winnipeg, September 26.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Found Foote #14: Winnipeg Press Club

As I've noted elsewhere on this blog, during the process of putting together this book, we were contacted by many individuals and organizations, all eager to share images/resources.

Of course, during the hubbub, one or two of these communiques were, ahem, missed.

Like this obit marking Foote's death in 1957, sent back in January by Wendy Hart, VP – Admin & Communications for the Winnipeg Press Club.

Here's what Wendy had to say:

"Attached is a short Lewis Foote obit that appeared in the Winnipeg Press Club’s annual Beer and Skits program from 1958 (April 26/58). It appears to be a more or less a condensed version of the obit from the Tribune (which was probably written by a press club member), but perhaps it is useful to have one from a different source.

As mentioned in the piece, Foote was a charter member of the Winnipeg Press Club.

The WPC was established in 1887, while Foote was still living down east. 'Charter member' in this case is in reference to the year 1922, when a group of approximately 25 newspapermen (including Foote) signed on as charter members and for the first time drafted a formal constitution for the Winnipeg Press Club.

His fellow members in 1922 included such colourful figures as John W. Dafoe, George Ham, Hay Stead, A. V. Thomas, Jack Sifton (son of Sir Clifford), A. E. Coo, Frank 'Never Break' Turner and Nate Zimmerman."

Our thanks/apologies (cough) to the Wendy and the Winnipeg Press Club!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Favourite Footes at the WFP News Café

Please join UMP at an event focused on Winnipeg’s photographers and filmmakers!

When: Wednesday, October 10, 7:00 pm
Where: Winnipeg Free Press News Café (237 McDermot Avenue)
Cost: FREE

Favourite Footes features Erna Buffie, Colin Corneau, Bob Lower, Ian McCausland, and John Paskievich talking about their favourite Foote photos, accompanied by a slideshow of images from Imagining Winnipeg: History Through the Photographs of L.B. Foote.

The Winnipeg Free Press is also sending photo editor Mike Aporius and photographer Mike Deal to share photos from the WFP’s archives.

Light refreshments will be served.

* * *

About Imagining Winnipeg
In an expanding and socially fractious early twentieth-century Winnipeg, Lewis Benjamin Foote (1873-1957) rose to become the city’s pre-eminent commercial photographer. Documenting everything from royal visits to deep poverty, from the building of the landmark Fort Garry Hotel to the turmoil of the 1919 General Strike, Foote’s photographs have come to be iconic representations of early Winnipeg life. They have been used to illustrate everything from academic histories to posters for rock concerts; they have influenced the work of visual artists, writers, and musicians; and they have represented Winnipeg to the world.

But in Imagining Winnipeg, historian Esyllt W. Jones takes us beyond the iconic to reveal the complex artist behind the lens and the conflicting ways in which his photographs have been used to give credence to diverse and sometimes irreconcilable views of Winnipeg’s past. Incorporating 150 stunning photographs from the more than 2,000 images in the Archives of Manitoba Foote Collection, Imagining Winnipeg challenges our understanding of visual history and the city we thought we knew.

About L.B. Foote
Born in Newfoundland, Lewis Benjamin Foote arrived in Winnipeg in 1902, where he bought a house on Gertrude Avenue and began a career as a professional photographer. For more than 50 years, Foote’s photographs chronicled the development of the city. He was an active photographer until 1947 and died ten years later.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Reprint: Winnipeg Bestsellers

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From McNally Robinson Booksellers, who hosted our standing-room-only launch on Wednesday.

Thanks to John Toews, the events coordinator at McNally's, for all his help with the event!

And thanks to all of you for coming out, for standing in line to have your book signed, for helping us consume those "light refreshments."

It was such great fun!

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Favourite Foote Photo: Monique Woroniak

"Winnipeg is hard," is my answer when asked about this place. A difficult place to survive for some and, for most, a place that never quite delivers ease. Its endless contradictions, hits, misses and near-misses, make it a hard place to know. In the end, for many of us, it's also a place we find impossible to let go of.

Not unlike many Winnipeggers, I've lived with the photographs of Foote all my adult life and for many of my minor years too. They found their way to me through textbooks, loudly whispering reminders of my ancestors' immigration; as distractions in coat check lines on walls lining the way to gilded bathrooms at the Fort Garry Hotel; and, of course, they arrived along with any mention - anywhere - of 1919 and its strike.

But there were more, of course; even from only viewing a few sets you knew there had to be. Through the project undertaken by the publication of Imagining Winnipeg we've had our suspicions confirmed about the totality of Foote's work: that it's vast, complicated - even contradictory - and full of stories we've yet to discover. In this way, his work and our discovery of it, runs parallel to Winnipeg and what's been presented to us as the city's story.

It's a narrative we've been told/sold but that we know isn't true (couldn't possibly be true): that of linear progress from a genesis out of near nothing, to growth, boom, then stagnation and some holding of its own. A story with patches constructed and given labels like "Indians," settlers, (some) women's suffrage, Labour, Capital, a story of certain families and certain others. A story of the slow maturing of such a patchwork, each square in its place, only ever interacting at their edges.

As a city community we've let this story lay for some time, but lately it's felt like we're ready to hear more. (Indigenous peoples, for example, are moving more than ever to recover and grow their part in the narrative. ) But where to start? With their depictions of both owning and working classes, of women in many and varied roles, of leisure and work, and even of race beyond white, Foote's photographs must inevitably be one place to set out from. Taken together they fold the patchwork over on itself, and over again, reminding us of connections and interactions long ignored.

There is a photograph included in Imagining Winnipeg captioned "Memorial Boulevard looking south from Portage Avenue at night, 1927." There is no snow on the ground but it looks cold - autumn, maybe - and street car tracks, highlighted by the glowing spheres of lamp posts, intersect and then run parallel to disappear into a dark horizon. The Hudson Bay Company looms at left and pallet platforms rest empty to the right. There is no one in sight.

It's a patchwork of images folded over on itself. The Hudson Bay building calls to mind encounters of Indigenous peoples, fur traders and settlers, the streetcar tracks state progress, and the empty platform suggests a city once, but no longer, on the move. The ground looks unforgiving.

It is hard, but, like Winnipeg, beautiful in a way you can't let go.

- Monique Woroniak

* * *
Monique Woroniak is a life-long Winnipegger and lover of its histories. A public librarian working primarily with urban Indigenous peoples, she is a past member of the Management Committee of the Dalnavert Museum. She is currently working on a collection of poetry inspired by historical Winnipeg postcards and the stories they tell.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Reprint: Point of View #2

L.B. Foote - From the Free Press Archives

Winnipeg Free Press - ON-LINE EDITION
by: Winnipeg Free Press Photo Desk

On Wednesday, September 26, the University of Manitoba Press will release Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote.

Here are a selection of Foote images found in the Free Press archives.

Click here to see the WFP slideshow of Foote photographs.

Reprint: Winnipeg Free Press

A Foote in the Past

Winnipeg Free Press - ON-LINE EDITION
by: Staff Writer

Many of us have seen L.B. Foote photographs, whether or not we are aware of their provenance.

For at least 30 years, since the creation of the Foote archive at the Archives of Manitoba, these photographs have been used to tell the story of Winnipeg's past. They have illustrated everything from academic histories to posters for rock concerts.

And this familiarity is not only local - Foote's images have represented Winnipeg history to the nation and have been included in national museum exhibits both real and virtual.

Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote, by Esyllt W. Jones, history professor at University of Manitoba, is published by University of Manitoba Press.

A book launch is planned for Wednesday, Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at McNally Robinson at the Grant Park Shopping Centre.

There will be light refreshments, as well as a slide show of images from the book and a short talk by Jones.

The book is available for $39.95 at McNally Robinson and will be available at other major booksellers soon.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Reprint: Paperchase

From the Paperchase column in the Books section of Saturday's Winnipeg Free Press, written by Bob Armstrong:

"The University of Manitoba is unveiling a time machine this week, but that doesn't mean their physics geniuses are in line for a Nobel Prize.

This time machine is the product of the University of Manitoba Press, author Esyllt Jones and photographer L.B. Foote.

Jones' book on the photographer, whose images of early Winnipeg captured the Winnipeg General Strike, the building of the Hotel Fort Garry and the essence of an early-20th-century Canadian city, is illustrated with 150 of Foote's photographs.

In addition to publishing the book, University of Manitoba Press has also put out a call for lost Foote photos and documented the effort to rediscover this piece of our past on a blog at

The book launch, at McNally Robinson, Wednesday at 7 p.m., includes a slide presentation and lecture on Foote and his work."

Friday, September 21, 2012

Footepaths, part 1: The promiscuous dissemination of L.B. Foote

L.B. Foote was promiscuous. Book his services, pay his fee, and he would shoot your wedding, funeral, board meeting, honourary banquet or any other event. Foote’s photographs are part of the stories of countless families. People may not recognize his name but nonetheless treasure photographs that were framed by his eye and produced by his shop.

My favourite Foote photo comes with a story. Shortly after I moved to Winnipeg in the summer of 2011, Ian Park approached me and showed me a photograph that had come to him through his family’s papers. This photo is featured elsewhere on this blog, and shows the retirement party of Ian's great-grandfather.

Ian showed me the photo because he knew that I was the new professor of archival studies, just arrived from the national archives in Ottawa. Ian hoped that I would be able to advise him of where the photo might find an appropriate home.

I came up blank. Archivists are used to dealing with records by the boxful, not individual photos. As I looked at the photo, I cast about for a way for Ian to find a collection to which his photo could be added.

Ian’s request started me thinking about the nature of commercial photography and its representation in archives. After the death of L.B. Foote, the Archives of Manitoba received from his heirs the L.B. Foote fonds – fonds being the archival term for a collection of records. But what photographs would a commercial photographer have in his possession at his death? Of the thousands of photos taken by L.B. Foote many, like the photo from Ian’s family records, would have been permanently dispersed from the Foote studio.

To say that the term “fonds” means “a collection of records” obscures a key nuance. To archivists, a fonds is not simply any random collection of documents handed over to an archives. It is, rather, all of the records created or accumulated during the life of a person or organization. The Archives of Manitoba holds many Foote photos, but the existence of many, many “lost Foote photos” is evidence that it does not, in the strictest archival sense, hold the Foote fonds.

But then, no institution could. Surely it would be a sign of the failure of a commercial photographer, not to mention his irrelevance, if an archives upon his death could take possession of all the photographs he had ever taken. An admired, successful and in-demand photographer like Foote could not possibly bequeath to an archive the full count of photographs that he had taken and sold in his lifetime.

Foote's studio was like an orphanage, each photo a child who might be adopted. The photos that came to the Archives of Manitoba at the end of Foote's career were the sad ones, never adopted. The "lost" photos, like Ian's, were the lucky ones that made it out. They never were lost. They went home.

Foote’s importance as a photographer, then, is not measured by the known Foote photos. It is measured by the lost Foote photos. It is measured by all of the photos identified in this blog, and by the countless photos that remain in attics and cellars, jumbled in among family papers and business papers. It is measured by the countless more photos that have been or will be destroyed through accidents and neglect or with full deliberation. Paradoxically, it is the dispersal of the Foote fonds that makes the Foote fonds worth preserving.

- Greg Bak

* * *
Greg Bak is assistant professor of History at University of Manitoba, teaching in the Master’s Program in Archival Studies. Previous to July, 2011 he worked as a digital archivist and manager at Library and Archives Canada. His research interests include Aboriginal archives, digital recordkeeping, digital culture and the use of digital archives as tools for social justice.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Favourite Foote Photo: Esyllt W. Jones

My favourite image in the book is a photograph I write about in the introduction.

It appears on page 32 of the book.

It is a woman in Aboriginal dress, her hair in braids, smoking a pipe.

 Many of Foote’s images are technically almost perfect. This one is partly hazy and has a ghost-like blur on one side, and a little girl in a white party dress.

The woman is a mystery to me, and I like that.

I don’t think history should be about definitive answers.

Sometimes the questions are far more interesting.

- Esyllt W. Jones

* * *

Esyllt W. Jones is a history professor at University of Manitoba. She is the author of Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote as well as the award-winning Influenza 1918: Death, Disease and Struggle in Winnipeg (UTP, 2007).

Thursday, September 13, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #11: The Books!

So when a book arrives from Friesens, the great majority of the boxes - usually 10-12 boxes - are immediately shuttled to our basement storage space.

(Don't even get me started on Friesens' SUPERdolly...)

But we always bring 2-3 boxes to the office immediately.

These are mostly destined for promotional purposes. Review copies to various media as well as academic journals and desk/exam copies to profs who might wind up using them in their classes.

But we always crack open a box and have a quick congratulatory look-see.

It's the first chance we have, as a staff, to see the culmination of all the steps in the editorial and printing process. 

We usually wind up standing in a circle in the main office, muttering about details like the spine, the back cover, how the paper looks.

The look-see for what I persist in calling 'the Foote book' took longer than usual. We had to call Esyllt W. Jones, the book's author so that she could have a look, and several other UMP authors and SJC faculty happened to drop by just after the book arrived.

In a word: fun!

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

* * *

From top right: Managing Editor Glenn Bergen, Sales and Marketing Supervisor Cheryl Miki, author Esyllt W. Jones; author Jim Blanchard (giving me the stink eye), and the hand of former Parks Canada historian (and now SJC fellow) Robert Coutts.

Monday, September 10, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #10: At the Bindery!

photo by Michael Deal

* * *

Winnipeg Free Press photographer Michael Deal was at Friesens again late week, this time for the WFP's Jets yearbook, also coming out this fall.

While standing in the bindery, watching the WFP book take shape, he noticed something familiar on a pallet nearby...Imagining Winnipeg.

He was kind enough to take/send this photo...

We're gearing up the for launch here at UMP, making and sending out invitations and arranging for special guests. Won't you join us?

Friday, August 31, 2012

Found Foote Photo #13: Labour Day!

"As an avid collector of early Winnipeg & Manitoba postcards, I am always on the alert for L.B. Foote’s 'real photo' postcards.

I have only run into a handful but was thrilled when this one crossed my path just recently.

Early postcards of Stonewall, MB are also very hard to come by, so I was particularly thrilled to find this doubly-rare card!

According to the caption, it was taken on Labor (Labour) Day in 1913. Back then, parades were a major component of Labour Day celebrations in many, if not all, communities throughout the nation. It appears as though Stonewall was not an exception to this. The eclectic gathering captured in this photograph is obviously a collection of some of the decorated bicycles, automobiles and horse-drawn carriages that appeared in the town’s parade that day.

Stonewall’s train station appears in the upper left corner. I believe that the hexagonal structure to the right of the station is likely a water tower for steam engines.

The image itself covers only about ¾ of the front of this postcard. This particular postcard was never used/posted – or the blank area, as intended, would have been filled in with a message from the sender."

- Rob McInnes, Postcard Accumulator and Purveyor

* * *

The best part of doing this blog and this book is when people like Rob McInnes start sending you their Foote-related finds...

This came in yesterday, on the eve of the Labour Day weekend. I just had to post it!

Happy Labour Day from everyone at UMP!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


When: Wednesday September 26, 7:00 pm
Where: Atrium, McNally Robinson Grant Park (1120 Grant Avenue)
Cost: FREE

Please join University of Manitoba Press for the launch of Imagining Winnipeg: History through the Photographs of L.B. Foote.

The launch will include light refreshments in addition to a slideshow of images from the book and a short talk by author Esyllt W. Jones.

* * *

In an expanding and socially fractious early twentieth-century Winnipeg, Lewis Benjamin Foote (1873-1957) rose to become the city’s pre-eminent commercial photographer. Documenting everything from royal visits to deep poverty, from the building of the landmark Fort Garry Hotel to the turmoil of the 1919 General Strike, Foote’s photographs have come to be iconic representations of early Winnipeg life. They have been used to illustrate everything from academic histories to posters for rock concerts; they have influenced the work of visual artists, writers, and musicians; and they have represented Winnipeg to the world.

But in Imagining Winnipeg, historian Esyllt W. Jones takes us beyond the iconic to reveal the complex artist behind the lens and the conflicting ways in which his photographs have been used to give credence to diverse and sometimes irreconcilable views of Winnipeg’s past. Incorporating 150 stunning photographs from the more than 2,000 images in the Archives of Manitoba Foote Collection, Imagining Winnipeg challenges our understanding of visual history and the city we thought we knew.

Esyllt W. Jones is a history professor at University of Manitoba and is the author of the award-winning Influenza 1918: Death, Disease and Struggle in Winnipeg.

Born in Newfoundland, Lewis Benjamin Foote arrived in Winnipeg in 1902, where he bought a house on Gertrude Avenue and began a career as a professional photographer. For more than 50 years, Foote’s photographs chronicled the development of the city. He was an active photographer until 1947 and died ten years later.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Favourite Foote Photo: Chris Thomas

Leisure leisure leisure leisure.

We all want it. Its allure gets us through the cold, grinding winters of Winnipeg with its promise of happiness, escape, good company or simply peace of mind. I can think of nothing better than hopping into a car and hitting the highway in search of a beach, that pervasive symbol of leisure that now dominates the global tourism industry. That is assuming, of course, that I have the means to get to the beach, the time off in order to do so and presumably somewhere to reside if I intend to stay for more than twelve hours. Yes, leisure was and continues to be a particularly class segregated component of urban life.

Grand Beach was one of the early recreation destinations to materialize in the immediate radius of early twentieth century Winnipeg. L.B. Foote captures a group of people enjoying a leisurely moment on the beach in his photo from 1914, which reinforces the image of leisure as relaxation, company and the unobstructed pursuit of happiness.

It appears to be tea time in the photo – that unmistakable British soft-spot. But if you look closely, the cups they are using appear to have chips in their paint, probably because they were metal, the forerunner to disposable plastic or Styrofoam. We can only assume then that it was merely a top up of water. This duality is also evident in the subjects of the photograph, in what it shows and what it represents. It shows a group of mostly young women enjoying a day at Grand Beach, with a Bill Murray look-a-like peering at the group from the background and some children playing further back, among others who elude the focus of Foote’s camera and exist only as blurs.

Taken in 1914, the photo captures those who could afford to depart the city in order to pursue leisure, while those who could not remain invisible, stuck at work, stuck at home – stuck in Winnipeg. This was an era that featured a growing middle class, restless and eager to breach their urban boundaries and enjoy the immensity of the Canadian landscape.

Of course the photo has been staged, indicated by the arrangement of its subjects, who are mostly looking at the camera. What is more interesting, however, is that some are not. One woman in particular, situated in the bottom left of the photo, displays a quite intriguing expression as she looks up to someone off-screen, just to Foote’s left. She is wearing a hat that is unlike any of the others, seems to have a wedding ring on, and wears an ambiguous expression that approaches but does not quite reach skepticism. The other figure who immediately catches the eye is the only person in the group standing. The middle-aged man is in the act of pouring water. Unlike many of the others, he does not convey a sense of relaxation: he looks occupied, perhaps even somewhat begrudging of Foote and his camera, and the break in action. But then he may just have been captured at a bad time, it is impossible to know.

I have spent the majority of every summer just ten minutes north of Grand Beach in Victoria Beach. Yes, the name is suggestive; and yes, it does live up to its waspy name. It was connected to its larger, more prominent southern neighbour by way of the CNR line that travelled north from Winnipeg, stopping along the way at East Selkirk, Libau and up along the east shores of Lake Winnipeg. The train winds its way into this photo in the top left corner, appearing startlingly close to the mighty freshwater lake. In the context of this era, the train served as a symbol of mobility and class intersection because it was increasingly affordable to the middle class. The train represents a more accessible form of transportation, one that enabled travel among those who otherwise could not have afforded to travel, due to either time or financial constraints. It also permitted people to travel to areas such as Grand Beach, that a generation ago had been isolated and remote. Grand Beach developed by way of attracting the middle and upper classes of booming Winnipeg, offering an appealing escape from the toils and stresses of urban life, and the train was the means by which visitors travelled to it for over fifty years. This is not to say that transportation by train was completely egalitarian, considering they were not allowed to run on Sundays until 1923, the day of the week which coincidentally was many workers’ only day off. It is difficult to determine the class of the group depicted in the photograph with any degree of certainty, but it is unlikely that they were recent immigrants or poor. Perhaps this ambiguity reveals as much about the medium of photography as it does the economic status of Foote’s subjects.

Those familiar with the layout of Grand Beach will immediately recognize the location of this photo as being the primary entrance to what has since evolved into the most capacious and popular beach in Manitoba. Early infrastructure is apparent in the photo, including a rather sketchy looking dock, a track that has since been removed, and the iconic canoe, laying idle, awaiting adventure. Foote also photographed Grand Beach a decade later. Those later images captured the growth of the resort both in terms of its infrastructure and its number of users. In the age of the digital camera it’s easy to forget that early 20th century photographs were rarely taken for free or by a stray family member. While Foote may be capturing leisure, make no mistake that while doing so he is himself at work.

Yes, the depiction of leisure captured by this Foote photograph reflects those who were able to experience what was then an exotic and novel escape. In 1914 Winnipeg there were no guaranteed two day weekends, monthly statutory holidays or accrued pain vacation time, and thus not all were capable of leaving the city in search of leisure. I am thankful that this has changed, to an extent, as I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to experience my summers at Victoria Beach. That being said, I understand that this photo, while it capture a moment in the lifestyle of the privileged, should serve to remind us who is not enjoying an afternoon on the beach, and perhaps even provoke us to ponder why.

 - Chris Thomas

* * *  
Chris Thomas is entering his fourth year at the University of Manitoba, pursuing an honours degree in history. He is currently working as a research assistant for two professors, Esyllt Jones on her forthcoming book on Canadian medicare, and Paul Earl on his book chronicling a hundred years of the Canadian grain trade.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Reprint: Spent the day with the University of Manitoba Press as they did the press check for the L.B. Foote book Imagining Winnipeg

Photo by Michael Deal.

* * *

So Winnipeg Free Press photographer Michael Deal traveled with UMP director David Carr, Stephen Rosenberg and I to Altona for the press check of Imagining Winnipeg.

He shot video and photographs (still to come!) but also took this series of black and white cell phone photos documenting the printing process that he posted to his blog Thursday night.

Have a look, would you?

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #9: Press check!

My camera is full of pictures from our twelve hour day in Altona at the Friesens plant, observing UMP director David Carr and Doowah Design's Steven Rosenberg do the press check for Imagining Winnipeg.

l-r: David Carr, Randy the pressman, and Steven Rosenberg.
My clothes still have that 'new book smell.'

But more than that, my head is still full of the enormity of the place. Reams and stacks of paper...

What look like water pipes, coming down from the ceiling, specifically for ink to feed the machines...

The ancient embosser in the middle of all the machinery, including a robot arm that lifts boxes...

The art book that retails for $5,000 that Friesens printed in their trophy room...

And yet, homemade cherry pie in the cafeteria where we waited the 45 minutes or so between signatures. And the Safeway bag on a cafeteria table full of extra cucumbers. And the quilted version of the cover of Robert Munsch's Love You Forever on the wall.

I won't be able to share any of the images until Monday, when I'm back in the office, so I thought I'd throw up this pic, taken on my cell phone.

Thanks to Glenda for showing us around, for making sure we had covers and one of each of the signatures we approved to take home and for directing us to Jasmine's Tea Room, just down the street from Friesens.

Also, yay for my first press check!

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant

Further to Laura Lamont's Favourite Foote Photo

Earlier this week, Laura Lamont wrote about a Foote photo that features a banquet in St. Boniface sewer.

(This photo, incidentally, will be included in Imagining Winnipeg, with the caption "Banquet to celebrate completion of underground reservoir at St. Boniface Waterworks, 552 Plinguet Street, 1912. N3012.")
In her post, Laura says:

"There’s an odd custom of holding banquets in subterranean structures going back to 1827 with Marc Brunel’s candelabra-lit supper in the Thames Tunnel to prove how safe it was, and continuing on to a 1994 luncheon in the Channel Tunnel attended by the Queen."

There aren't any photographs of the 1827 banquet online, but I thought I'd share this painting of the event by George Jones, entitled The Banquet in the Thames Tunnel.

According to Wikipedia, Jones was a British painter and Keeper of the Royal Academy. He was most famous for his paintings of military subjects.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Favourite Foote Photo: Laura Lamont

In this 1912 photograph by L.B. Foote, about fifty men are assembled around a long table. They’ve finished dinner and have begun on a very English dessert course of fruit, cheese, and crackers; of the many bottles on the table, some are surely port.

The guests, some sporting doughty moustaches, are wearing their best suits. Where the jury-rigged gaslights don’t shine, the vaulted room disappears into shadow except on the left, where one solitary man looks to be neither guest nor waiter.

Did he put up the scaffolding for the dangling lamps, wrap the steadying cords around the pillars? Hands on hips, he looks like he wants this evening to be over with, to take down the wooden supports, to put away his ladder and go home to bed.

Why did Foote keep him in the frame? The photographer could have asked him to step aside, or to move to the back wall, obscured by the worthies.

It’s as if Foote is telescoping his vision seven years into the future to the Winnipeg General Strike, when the workers would move into the foreground to be recorded by Foote for their own sake.

However, this is no exclusive ballroom or gentlemen’s clubroom: it’s the new, 1-million gallon underground reservoir of the St. Boniface Waterworks on Plinguet Street.

There’s an odd custom of holding banquets in subterranean structures going back to 1827 with Marc Brunel’s candelabra-lit supper in the Thames Tunnel to prove how safe it was, and continuing on to a 1994 luncheon in the Channel Tunnel attended by the Queen.

It was a way of celebrating achievements sometimes forgotten once the guests were above ground again; indeed, though impressive at the time, the St. Boniface reservoir was overtaken in importance in 1919 by the Shoal Lake aqueduct.

While the aqueduct is still working, the reservoir has been filled in. I’m not sure what the man on the left would think of having stayed out late for that.

- Laura Lamont

* * *

Laura Lamont
has published work in Descant and the Turkish Review, and can get lost for hours while wandering through digital archives.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Catholic Order of Foresters, c. 1916. Courtesy of the Archives of Manitoba (n165).

* * *

This is the second item on this blog that touches on the Ancient Order of Foresters.

Here's a slightly longer excerpt from Esyllt's introduction to Imagining Winnipeg, which I think gives you a sense of both Foote's early history and of recruitment practices that fraternal orders such as the AOF practiced:

"For a time in PEI, Foote had sold photo coupons to families that they could reimburse at local studios, and he took this up again in Halifax and Dartmouth, selling coupons for sessions at the Cogswell Photo Company. He sold mostly to young military men and their girlfriends, and working-class families. He began to work in a team with a photographer, not in a studio, but at soldiers’ barracks and hangouts, and community events like boat races. At this time, Foote himself was a salesman, not a photographer. He purchased a cylinder phonograph, rigged it up so that twenty-four people could listen to it at once, and charged for the privilege at local fairs all over Nova Scotia. At the same time, he began taking his own photographs, of local churches and their ministers, which he would sell. He also worked as a recruiter for the Order of Foresters, playing his autoharp and hosting entertainment all along the south shore of Nova Scotia, encouraging people to join the Order."

Again, this image came to us courtesy of film editor Bob Lower.

Shooting star

Jimmie Ward's "Shooting Star", 1911. Courtesy of the Archives of Manitoba (n892).

* * *

From the Free Press archives: 

"Heading off the programme and perhaps of the most lively interest will be the aviation performance of George Mestach and Jimmie Ward. Monoplane and biplane will be seen for the first time side by side in the west. Mestach has a French machine, the very one which, driven by Jules Vedrines, took first place in the famous flight from Paris to Madrid last year. Mestach makes his specialty the delivery of letters and parcels and will no doubt oblige those who are desirous of taking advantage of the new mode of quick delivery at the fair. Ward is more of a sensationalist and his "Shooting Star" is a well known machine through the States, where he has electrified the spectators on more than one occasion by his daring." - July 6, 1912 description of the Canadian Industrial exhibition in Winnipeg.

For a more detailed discussion of Ward's history, see the 1995 article in the Minnesota Historical Society's History magazine.

(Born Jens P. Wilson, Ward changed his name to avoid a number of speeding tickets: "His affinity for speed soon caused him to take on a new last name, because his police record for speeding stood in the way of keeping his license.")

Again, this image came to us courtesy of film editor Bob Lower.

Giant horseshoe

Blacksmith with giant horseshoe, 1912. Courtesy of the Archives of Manitoba (n404).

* * *

Lately, we've been talking a LOT about the process of putting together Imagining Winnipeg, but there are thousands of Foote photos that didn't make it into the book.

So we thought we'd share this trio of images that came to us courtesy of film editor Bob Lower.

We couldn't find any more information about the people in this particular photo or the occasion that necessitated a giant horseshoe, but we were able to find advertisements from the same era that mimicked those on the wall behind the...giant horseshoe.

From the Free Press archives: