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Memorable Manitobans: James Henry McCarthy (1863-1940)

Educator, librarian.

Born in Haldimand County, Ontario on 25 February 1863, son of Charles and Margaret McCarthy, he was educated in the public schools of Caledonia, Ontario and the high school and Normal School at Toronto. He taught school in York Village, Ontario then came to Manitoba in 1888 and taught school at Portage la Prairie (circa 1891). Moving to Winnipeg, he was the Principal of Carlton School (1893-1899) and Pinkham School (1904-1905), and sold life insurance (1899-1904).

He became the first librarian of the Winnipeg Public Library when the Carnegie Library opened in October 1905, serving in the position until his retirement in December 1928. Under his administration, the first children’s room of any library in Canada was opened, in January 1907, followed a few months later by a reference library. Two branch libraries, the Cornish Library and St. John’s Library, opened in 1915.

In 1889, he married Eleanor Isabela Beattie (1863-?) of Hagersville, Ontario. They had two sons: Fredric Ralph McCarthy (1890-?) and Clarke William McCarthy (1900-?). He served seven years with 90th Regiment, Winnipeg, resigning with rank of Captain, in 1902. He served on the municipal council for the City of Winnipeg from 1902 to 1903. He was a member of the Carleton Club, IOOF, COF, and Methodist church. In 1911, he lived at 378 Qu’Appelle Avenue, Winnipeg.

After retiring in 1928, he lived at Victoria, British Columbia until 1937 when he returned to Winnipeg. He died there on 12 October 1940 and was buried in Middlechurch Cemetery.


1891 Canada census, Ancestry.

“The public schools,” Winnipeg Tribune, 31 August 1898, page 2.

Birth and death registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.

1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.

“Two Principals are selected,” Manitoba Free Press, 9 March 1904, page 3.

Who’s Who in Western Canada: A Biographical Dictionary of Notable Living Men and Women of Western Canada, Volume 1, edited by C. W. Parker, Vancouver: Canadian Press Association, 1911.

The Story of Manitoba by F. H. Schofield, Winnipeg: The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company, 1913.

“J. H. McCarthy, first librarian, dies, aged 77,” Winnipeg Tribune, 14 October 1940. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B9, page 98]

“Death climaxes careers of many notable people in course of 1940,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 January 1941, page 1.

Henderson’s Winnipeg and Brandon Directories, Peel’s Prairie Provinces, University of Alberta Libraries.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 11 February 2015

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

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