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Canadian Portraits
C.B.C. Broadcasts Edited by R. G. Riddell (1940)


The history of a pioneer community offers a rich field to the biographer, for by its very nature the frontier attracts unique and progressive individuals. The exacting demands of a new country can be met only by men and women with initiative and originality. The pioneer is a man who ventures out on an uncharted course, and who stakes his future on his ability to adapt himself to new and strange conditions of life.

The portraits which have been sketched in this volume are drawn from three hundred years of Canadian history. They are the stories of men who, as successive generations have pressed on towards new frontiers of settlement, have built their lives into the very foundations of the -country. To the beginnings of civilization in Canada they have brought the rare qualities of the pioneer—strength of character, courage, the ability to improvise, confidence in the future. In the life of each one of them the spirit of adventure was ever-present, leading always to new experiments and fresh discoveries.

These biographies were prepared originally as radio talks, and they were presented in a series arranged by the radio committee of the Canadian Historical Association for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. The subjects were selected from many different periods in Canadian history, and from the whole length and breadth of the country. They represent also a wide variety of ability and interest, and the list includes explorers, politicans, scientists, artists, teachers, a lumber king, a judge, a village bard. Many familiar names are missing for the purpose of the series was to tell new stories rather than repeat old ones. The subjects are therefore men whose fame has been less generally known, but who hold an undisputed place in the company of great Canadians.

The authors are all authorities who have made a special study of the men whose stories they have told. Mr. Graham Spry, who writes on Brule, is a Canadian Rhodes Scholar now resident in England. The article on Bayly is by Professor A. S. Morton, Librarian in the University of Saskatchewan and Provincial Archivist in that province, who is a well known authority on western history. The sketches of the two Nova Scotians, McCulloch and Uniacke, are, respectively, by the Provincial Archivist in Nova Scotia, Professor D. C. Harvey, and his assistant, Mr. J. S. Martell. Professor Chester New is head of the Department of History at McMaster University, and his book on Lord Durham has established him as an authority on the period during which Bidwell lived. The article on Merritt is by Dr. A. R. M. Lower, professor of History in United College, Winnipeg, whose writings on Canadian economic history are well known. The late Douglas MacKay gathered the information for his biography of Simpson when he was editor of the Hudson’s Bay Company magazine, The Beaver. Dr. Charles Camsell is Deputy Minister of Mines and Resources, and he is in a very real sense a successor in office to the subject of his sketch, William Edmund Logan. The colorful biography of Glasier is by Mr. Ian Sclanders of the St. John Telegraph and Journal. Mr. Graham Mclnnes, who writes on Kane, is a noted art critic and journalist. Professor R. O. MacFarlane of the Department of History, University of Manitoba, knows thoroughly the period during which Schultz lived, and has written a number of articles on early days in Manitoba. Mr. D. A. McGregor of the Vancouver Province is the author of the article on Begbie. Sir Ernest MacMillan is Principal of the Toronto Conservatory of Music and his biography of Lavallee is an interesting chapter in the history of Canadian cultural life. Dr. Marius Barbeau, whose article on Jobin is based on a personal interview, is on the staff of the National Museum of Canada. President H. J. Cody of the University of Toronto writes about Tassie as one famous educator about another, and Dr. L. E. Kirk, Dean of the Faculty of Agriculture in the University of Saskatchewan has written a chapter in the early history of western agriculture in his article on MacKay. Professor F. H. Underhill, Department of History, University of Toronto, is well known as an authority on Canadian political life during the post-Confederation period, when Goldwin Smith was in Canada. Mr. E. A. Corbett is Director of the Canadian Association for Adult Education, and was for many years Director of Extension in the University of Alberta, the province in which Michael Clark lived. Mr. D. E. Cameron, who writes the sketch of “Bob” Edwards, is Librarian in the University of Alberta. The article on McIntyre is by Mr. W. A. Deacon, Literary Editor of the Toronto Globe and Mail, who has included a biography of his subject in his book, The Four Jameses.

The papers have been edited in such a way as to keep as much as possible the freshness and informality of the original broadcast talks.

R. G. Riddell
The Department of History, University of Toronto.

Canadian Portraits
C.B.C. Broadcasts Edited by R. G. Riddell (1940) (pdf)

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