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Manitoba History: Documents and Archives: The Bracken Collection at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba

Manitoba History, Number 13, Spring 1987

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

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In 1981, Government Records staff discovered a series of John Bracken’s files in the Legislative Buildings which detailed many events in provincial and federal politics from 1910 to 1944. These were recently catalogued and have now been added to the existing Bracken Collection at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.

Perhaps the most interesting among them are his constituency files which deal with local problems and opinions, patronage, and the prospects of Liberal and Progressive candidates. Bracken’s own constituency, The Pas, is the most extensively documented and is the source of the following correspondence. “Robbie” McRoberts had served on the 1936 Flin Flon Liberal Progressive Election Committee which had seen Bracken re-elected for the third time. Obviously an enthusiastic supporter, McRobert’s idea was not implemented. The next election would not be held until 1941. In the intervening years, a non-partisan government had been formed under Bracken’s leadership resulting in a campaign which, as the Winnipeg Tribune noted, was “unmatched for brevity and serenity.”

Sept. 14th, 1938

The Right Honourable John Bracken

My dear Prime Minister,

I regret that you were not able to come up to Flin Flon on the Churchill excursion as there was a matter I wished to take up with you.

When you were so good as to visit me in the Theatre at the time of the Exhibition I was just at the point of switching over from one machine to the other and naturally had to focus my attention upon the film in order not to miss the “cue” sign on the film which enables us to maintain an unbroken performance, so I was very disappointed that you had to leave so soon as in a few more seconds I should have had ten or fifteen minutes to devote to you — however when you met my wife later at the Exhibition you intimated that there would be another election ere long so I tried to get you next morning but missed you by a very few minutes.

Well we did not mention this to anyone but I do think that we should make a few preparations before the time draws nearer and more important matters fill you[r] mind.

You recollect the “headframe” at the mine, towering two or three hundred feet into the air, had the time permitted, and the HBM&S of course, I would have utilized it at the last election, as things turned out I am glad we did not as this gives us a good “stunt” for the coming one.

The idea is this — a mammoth head of your goodself — either in black and white or full colour — about 120-150 feet high.

The novelty of this would have a good effect locally of course but its principal value would be to the party as a whole — just imagine what a good press agent could do with a “stunt” like this - it should “make” every paper in the Dominion — think of the headlines —

“Town of 7000 voluntarily errect [sic] greatest effigy since the dawn of Time”.

“Gigantic Head of Liberal leader dwarfs Sphinx” — by the way the monumental Great Sphinx at Giza Egypt is not quite seventy feet high.

The great sculptures of Gutzon Borglum on the side of Mount Rushmore in the Black Hills of South Dakota, depicting American Presidents, don’t exceed the 60 feet of Washington’s head, his first, I believe.

What is conceded to be the biggest “hand written” (or any kind for that matter) poster in the U.S.A. or Canada was the “Bengal Lancer” Poster by the Yakima Valley Poster Service of Washington — this was 125 feet long by 16 feet high — the actual picture on the poster was only about 13 feet by 20 feet long and was made with the use of a projection machine, thus its [sic] not even in the same class as the job under discussion — in fact I think I may be pardoned when I say that we are not likely to be outshone for many a long day to come.

“Canada’s great mineral belt pays tribute to the man whose foresight and faith unlocked its vast wealth.”

Such publicity as the above for Flin Flon would alone arouse the spirits and goodwill of our humble citizens.

Many of your supporters battling in other constituencies might be pardoned for basking in some of your reflected glory by pointing to what would look to the outside world as a sure indication of success for you at this poll.

While it is true the 7000 souls aforementioned would not be called upon to do more than stare, and vote, you can be sure they would not resent being given credit for doing a job which overshadowed the work of tens of thousands of slaves throughout entire lifetimes. And there might be almost a sence [sic] of personal gratification for your goodself to know that your supporters thought enough of you to go to the trouble of eclipsing the works of man down through the centuries — candidates have been treated worse you know — ha! ha!

I am sure that the material will be readilly [sic] found without cost to the party as only a very few dollars will be involved — I shall be glad to take the matter up with one or two of the boys if you wish.

And, if you fancy the idea, it will be up to you to get the “Company’s” permission to erect the sign on the headframe — and also the promise of the help of three or four of their riggers to place the pieces in position — we will also raise the few dollars wages required if the “Company” so wishes.

Time is the thing most in demand — while a couple of weeks would suffice if I was able to shelve every-thing but the performances at the Theatre — it would be all the difference between work and pleasure if I had a month or two notice — you see I have only a studio 6 feet high by 20 feet long to work in — and thus it becomes more a problem of arithmatic [sic] than of art.

I should be glad to hear of your reactions to this scheme and I hope you will accept my apology for being so long winded.

With every good wish,

I beg to remain
Yours very sincerely, William Roberts.

September 26, 1938
Mr. William Roberts
Flin Flon Manitoba

Dear Mr. Roberts:

On my arrival at the office this morning, after an absence of two weeks, your confidential letter of the 14th instant was brought to my attention. I appreciate very much hearing from you, and I wish to thank you for your long letter and the interesting suggestion it contains.

For your confidential information I may say that there is no thought whatever of an early election. I do not know what comment I might have made that would make Mrs. Roberts think otherwise, but in any case the fact is as I have said.

Your ideas in the past were of very great service to us and I am sure would be again; and I appreciate more than I can say the fact that you think along these lines and try to co-operate as much as possible. I do not know when I shall be in Flin Flon again, but will probably be there several times before there is another election. In the meantime I wish you to know that I appreciate very much the suggestion you have made and will look forward to discussing the matter with you some time when I happen to be in your thriving community.

With kindest personal regards to yourself and Mrs. Roberts, I am,

Your very truly,
[John Bracken]

P.S. — You might keep this view with respect to the date of an election confidential, if you don’t mind.

John Bracken and Rt. Hon. Lord Stanley, 29 August 1938.
Source: Archives of Manitoba

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