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:

Thursday, August 2, 2012

SNEAK PEEK #8: Proofing!

This week, Doowah Design's Steve Rosenberg sent the interiors of Imagining Winnipeg to Friesens.

UMP Director David Carr and I worked intensely on the proofs over the last ten days, checking for errors and omissions in addition to ensuring that that our design and layout choices were consistent.

We looked anxiously at each other and asked questions like:

"Do we have periods after all the source info in the captions?"

"Do we have hyphens between all instances of 'early-twentieth-century'?"

"Esyllt uses 'blackface' all-one-word in the introduction. Do the captions to those photos use the same spelling?"

Most of this necessary nitpickery took place at UMP's offices at the U of M, but on Tuesday afternoon, we traveled to Doowah's downtown offices for a final look-see.

This diptych shows David scanning the Esyllt W. Jones' introduction ONE LAST TIME in Doowah's board room.

(Please note all the UMP titles on Doowah's trophy addition to the eminently recognizable posters for Keanu Reeves' 1995 turn in 'the Scottish play' and the RWB' 1998 production of Dracula.)

Ariel Gordon
UMP Promotions/Editorial Assistant