On This Spot is a history blog that focusses on then and now photography, comparing historical and contemporary photographs of the same locations. Locations include cities and battlefields in the UK, Germany, France, Japan and Canada.
If one year during the Toronto International Film Festival you’re engaging a Hollywood producer in conversation and have only a few seconds to pitch your action script before the bouncers drag you out from under the door of her bathroom stall, just fire off a three-word description of the two unlikely antagonists. Hollywood loves oddball enemies even more than unlikely buddy cops: cowboys versus aliens, mercenaries versus dinosaurs, Predators versus future governors of American states. Yet, inexplicably, no movie has been made of Toronto’s contribution to the genre: clowns versus firefighters.
"The Franklin shipwreck is one of the biggest, most celebrated discoveries in 21st-century marine archaeology. It also cleaved open a nasty dispute over the facts of — and credit for — the historic find. As the news went public, the civil servants, researchers, and others who played major roles in the discovery said they found themselves elbowed to the sidelines as the political messaging machine kicked into gear." [more inside]
Frances Oldham Kelsey, the doctor who kept thalidomide from becoming available in the United States, has died at age 101. [more inside]
Beginning in 1920, Robert J. Flaherty spent a year in the Canadian Arctic (Port Harrison in Northern Quebec) documenting the daily struggles of an Inuk man named Nanook. The resulting feature-length film, an American silent documentary with elements of docudrama, was the first of its kind, in a style that would eventually become known as "salvage ethnography." Nanook of the North: A Story Of Life and Love In the Actual Arctic (1922) [more inside]
Thomas King wins Governor-General’s Award for fiction In February, King won the British Columbia’s National Award for Canadian Non-Fiction for The Inconvenient Indian: A Curious Account of Native People in North America. On Tuesday, he won the Governor-General’s Literary Award for Fiction for The Back of the Turtle, his first novel in 15 years. [more inside]
First world war – a century on, time to hail the peacemakers "On the 100th anniversary of the start of the Great War, we should remember those who tried to stop a catastrophe" [more inside]
Postal History Corner: Canadian Postal and Philatelic History is chock full of fascinating information and high quality images and has been doing so for four years. [more inside]
On a wooded hillside outside Vladivostok, Russia, fourteen Canadians found their final resting place in 1919. Five others died at sea. They were ordinary folk who had enlisted in the closing days of the Great War for service in an unlikely theatre — Siberia. Consisting of 4,209 men and one woman, Canada's Siberian Expedition mobilized alongside a dozen Allied armies in a bid to defeat Lenin’s Bolsheviks. The mission failed — in the face of a robust partisan insurgency, divided Allied strategies, and heated domestic opposition.This is their story, including over 2,000 photographs and images. Also available in French and Russian.
Got a minute for Canadian history and some CanCon (prev: 1, 2, 3)? Great! Because Heritage Minutes are just that - 60 seconds of history from Canada's past. To date, there have been over 70 short segments produced, and you can watch them online at Historica Canada, and read about people and events below the videos. If you don't know where to start, here are the top 5 minutes according to a poll from 2012, and the top 10 from Macleans. But if that's all too serious for you, there are also parodies, plus more in this YouTube playlist.
The Sardine Museum with host Tony Nunziata (part two, part three, part four, part five). Bonus: Tony tells a short story. [more inside]
PhotosNormandie is a collaborative collection of more than 3,000 royalty-free photos from World War II's Battle of Normandy and its aftermath. (Photos date from June 6 to late August 1944). The main link goes to the photostream. You can also peruse sets, which include 2700+ images from the US and Canadian National Archives.
"The stubby (or steinie) in many ways embodied all that was solid and stoic in the Canadian character. Think of the two adjectives most appropriately applied to it - "tough" and "squat" - and what it also brings to mind are the great goalies of that era, those stalwart unbreakable warriors who worked between the pipes." - Ian Coutts Brew North. [more inside]
This iconic photo of the first Aboriginal woman to enlist in the Canadian Women’s Army Corps was used as a recruitment tool, and "appeared all over the British Empire [in 1942] to show the power of the colonies fighting for King and country." Its original caption in the Canadian War Museum read, "Unidentified Indian princess getting blessing from her chief and father to go fight in the war." Its current caption in The Library and Archives of Canada reads: "Mary Greyeyes being blessed by her native Chief prior to leaving for service in the CWAC, 1942." But as it turns out, the two people in the photo had never met before that day. They weren't from the same tribe or even related and Private Mary Greyeyes was not an "Indian Princess." 70 years after the photo was taken, her daughter-in-law Melanie made sure the official record was corrected. Via [more inside]
The last survivor of the 1917 Halifax Explosion is believed to have died in 2010. Today, on the 95th anniversary of the accident, those who came after share how the legacy of history's largest detonation of conventional explosives has affected their lives. [previously]
"All of their lives they had been taught and told--hypnotized, really--that no one played better hockey than Canadians. And in a span of the first few weeks, when they lost two games and tied another on Canadian soil, they had to confront the fact that this was just plain wrong. And then they had to immediately adapt and overcome and figure out a way to win anyway."Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic makes the case that 40 years ago today, the final game of the "Summit Series", between Canada and the Soviet Union, was the greatest day in Canadian history. [more inside]
The history of the Sikh Diaspora in USA and Canada goes back to Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee celebrations in 1897. Emerging as a casteless alternative to the ongoing Hindu Muslim wars in India, the Sikhs have always been known as a martial tribe, their prowess and courage respected by the British and others alike. Colloquially addressed respectfully as Sardarji, the men take Singh (lion) as their middle name while the women bear the name Kaur (princess). This custom further confirmed the equality of both genders as was the tradition set by the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak. The first Sikh Organization was The Pacific Coast Khalsa Diwan Society organized in the spring of 1912. [more inside]
North Americans may have noticed that U-Haul trucks and trailers are emblazoned with colorful SuperGraphics. First created in 1988 (previously), the mobile gallery now comprises 206 images. Most U.S states and Canadian territories and provinces are now honored by multiple designs, as are the U.S. armed forces and 9/11. The classic America and Canada's Moving Adventure series, seen on trucks and trailers, features an iconic image for each state, province and territory. The Venture Across America and Canada series, begun in 1997, presents "carefully researched rare findings, little-known facts and mysteries," exploring science and nature, technology and history. At the U-Haul website, the "Learn More" link on each Venture SuperGraphic page leads to a surprisingly exhaustive discussion of the subject of each graphic. [more inside]
"For the last 20 years, the huge rock has lain in the museum's interior courtyard, its many petroglyphs slowly disappearing under a layer of moss and lichen. Next week, it will be repatriated to Stswecem'c Xgat'tem First Nations and taken back home to the Fraser River at Churn Creek Protected Area, about two hours east of Clinton." [more inside]
...this symmetric aperture is called the "fenetre de breeze", roughly translated meaning the "zephyr window".
The Great Crepitation Contest of 1946 [mp3 at bottom] lingers on in the memories of record collectors, radio historians, and a generation of post-war vulgarians from Dr. Demento to Howard Stern. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's vivid recording of the contest (conceived at a company stag party) inspired legions of LP cover artists: an early public airing was encased in a sleeve designed by one of the earliest proponents of the illustrated album cover. Later editions were adorned with shockingly detailed renditions of the Great Contest, created by a variety of anonymous geniuses. (Speaking of art, it was also a rumored favorite of Salvador Dali). Though it has inspired various lurid myths, we've learned a little bit about the deepest roots of the contest right here on Metafilter. [more inside]
"Canada exists for no natural reason.... [This] is not to say that no significant differences exist between Canadians and Americans — just that our shared national border, unlike those of Europe, was not shaped by linguistic and ethnic variations. The War of 1812 made all the difference here. A complicated and unpleasant struggle, mostly forgotten, sundered our two countries. And that struggle is now 200 years old, which makes this as good a time as any to start remembering."
Grierson believed strongly that the filmmaker had a social responsibility, and that film could help a society realize democratic ideals. His absolute faith in the value of capturing the drama of everyday life was to influence generations of filmmakers all over the world. In fact, he coined the term "documentary film." [more inside]
This is a subject of but small importance; and I know not whether it will interest any readers, but it has interested me.
CN Turbo Train Part 2, part 3, 1970 Film. Canada Off the Rails: You know the story of the Avro Arrow, now discover how Canada fell from leader to laggard in another cutting edge, vastly profitable, globally relevant transportation industry, where Canadians had held a strong lead, until this Canadian homegrown industry was derailed; high-speed derailed... CN Turbo Train - "3:59" - The Lost Film (the high speed rail flickr pool is recommended viewing). [more inside]
The history of Toronto in photos is 90 some odd posts linked to provide a thematically organized visual overview. The vast majority of the photographs featured derive from the Toronto Archives. Should you be interested in a less visually oriented take on Toronto history, there is also the Nostalgia Tripping series, which was designed to be a bit more about storytelling than just the photos.
Vintage photographs of Toronto at night is brought to you by the same people who put out Toronto in photos from the 1850s to the 1990s, and several other sets linked within.
Yonge Street: Toronto Rock & Roll Stories. This documentary series by Bravo tells the story of Toronto's early rock scene, when "the Devil's music" stormed Toronto and Yonge Street became an essential destination for musicians, singers and music fans not only in Toronto but across Canada and beyond. [more inside]
Still, Expo is regarded as the best world's fair ever. Its success changed the world's view of Canada, and more importantly, it changed the way Canadians viewed themselves. For the first time the country basked in the pride and the glory of its talents and accomplishments. A nation had come of age. (previously) [more inside]
Survival, Strength, Sisterhood: Power of Women in the Downtown Eastside (Vimeo link; possibly triggering) is a 2011 short film by Alejandro Zuluaga and Harsha Walia, based on a concept by the Downtown Eastside Power of Women Group (TRT 32:00). [more inside]
Waterlife — No matter where we live, the Great Lakes affect us all. And as species of fish disappear and rates of birth defects and cancer rise, it seems one thing is clear: the Great Lakes are changing and something's not quite right with the water. An interactive documentary film from the National Film Board of Canada. [more inside]
Moosonee: I never cared for the satellite dish—although it blends in here. A snowy owl ran into it and died.
After checking the USGS map for the earthquake that happened on the Ontario-Quebec border region today, I bet you were wondering the same as me: What is the deal with Moose Factory? It's the island off the coast of Moosonee, the ancestral home of the Swamp Cree, the home of the Hudson's Bay Company, the site of the first English settlement in the Province of Ontario (1673) and is the home of the Moose Cree First Nation. Here are recent and historical photos of the region. [more inside]
In 1933 Newfoundland was a responsible, that is self governing, dominion on a par with Canada and Australia. To avoid a debt default the government suspended its constitution in favor of rule from the colonial office in London. After the second world war and a close referendum the the governments of the United Kingdom and Canada negotiated Newfoundland's ascension to Canada. The story boils down to a people losing their sovereignty due to a debt crisis. The Newfoundland Royal Commission report of 1933, the basis for the article and the actions it recounts is here. (The report is seeded with great-if-too-small pictures of Newfoundland from the 1930s and cool maps). [more inside]
The Beaver: Canada's History Magazine Canada's second-oldest magazine, published since 1920, will be changing its name because in this age of electronic communications its emails keep getting removed by spam filters.
Two hundred and fifty years ago the Battle of the Plains of Abraham* took place in Quebec City. In a fight that lasted less than an hour (following a three-month siege throughout the summer of 1759), both generals died and the British won Quebec, soon becoming masters of most of North America. [more inside]
Land's End: Photographer and writer Christopher Grabowski documents the fading industrial towns of the British Columbia coast. Interview, and some of his other Photo Essays at Geist Magazine.
Canadian War Poster Collection at McGill University. And if that doesn't strike your fancy, the list of digital collections include such time-honoured favourites as Expo '67, and the award-winner for unexpected collection, Gynaecology in Traditional Chinese Medicine. (previously)
Peace and War in the 20th Century is an ambitious, in progress, massive assemblage of posters, photographs, propaganda, ephemera, letters, diaries, paintings, sketches, stories, letters, music and related items, from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario. The collection is international in scope. Some of the nodes lack content, and the navigation is a little confusing, so the jump I list some of my favourite case studies from their site. [more inside]
Dick Stacey's Country Jamboree is now available on DVD/CD after years of slowly fading into obscurity. "I was wrong in thinking the Jamboree was a thing of the past," said Dick Stacey, a man whose three gas stations and motel took over sponsoring this uniquely Maine talent showcase on a whim in 1973—and ended up lasting just over a decade. [more inside]
It stands as one of the more unusual turning points of the Cold War, thanks mostly to the surprise appearance of several naked middle-aged women. Taking The Cure: How a group of British Columbian anarchists inspired democracy in Russia. [more inside]
Canada at scale: Exploration, colonization and development. And a pop-up menu. Go, eh!
Framing Canada is an online exhibit of early Canadian photography. Some images are quintessentially Canadian; others range from the sublime to the ridiculous. One picture just might settle a contentious debate once and for all. Most of the collection is organized into topical photo essays. [More inside]
From Muddy York to the Toronto of today.... My search to discover the exact age of the house I recently bought led me to the fabulous Toronto Archives. Even if you don't have the good fortune to live in Toronto and so have the ability to visit the Archives to take a free tour and check out their massive holdings, they have a whack of stuff on line. Of their million photographs dating back to 1856, over 21,000 are online. Check out some of their virtual exhibits. I couldn't begin to give you an overview of the site or even the best of its many gems, but check out Chinatown's VE day victory parade, Bay and Wellington as it was after a huge fire in 1904, old advertisements, letters and postcards (including some from the disenchanted), snapshots of a, er, less politically sensitive time (thanks, Capn!), and — inevitably! — hockey artifacts. A friend of mine makes a hobby of Toronto's history, and after this search of mine, I better understand her interest. It’s fascinating to see what lies beneath the layers of time on a surface so familiar and loved.
The Public Archives of Nova Scotia has some cool online exhibits. The original list of dead bodies recovered from the Titanic sinking caught my eye, they also have original log book pages from privateers, lighthouses, slavery and abolition, boats, boats, and more boats. [via]
The impressive Gimli Glider. Yes, seriously: it can be a glider. An amazing story of a commercial pilot with mad emergency landing skillz.
The past can be a fascinating place. An Anthropologist by training and finder of interesting things by avocation, Hugh Blackmer, began rescuing old photos from antique shops on Nova Scotia (the former Acadia) several decades ago. He's now posting them on-line for his Nova Scotia Faces project. He's using Flickr and experimenting with a wiki. He's finding some wonderful old moments.
Learning English with the CBC. Learn about Canadian history and improve your English skills with a series of audio and video clips, as well as quizzes and exercises. Topics include Terry Fox: A Marathon of Hope, Arctic Winter Games: The Olympics of the North, and Maple Syrup: A Taste of Canada, among others.
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