Memorable Manitobans: Robert James Campbell Stead (1880-1959)
Born at Middleville, Ontario on 4 September 1880, son of Richard Stead (c1841-?) and Mary Campbell (1843-1924), he moved with his family to Cartwright in 1882. After attending the Winnipeg Business College, he founded the Rock Lake Review (renamed the Southern Manitoba Review in 1903), a weekly newspaper in Cartwright in 1899 and edited it for some years, then the Crystal City Courier from 1908 to 1909. He moved to Calgary, Alberta in 1912 and, by 1913, was director of publicity for the colonization branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1919, he became publicity director for the federal Department of Immigration and Colonization, and from 1936 to 1946 he was director of publicity for the Department of Mines and Resources, being succeeded by Homer Smiley Robinson. He was President of the Canadian Authors’ Association in 1923.
Stead began his literary career by writing a number of volumes of patriotic verse, such as Kitchener and Other Poems (1917). He was best known for his prairie novels, particularly The Bail Jumper (1914), The Homesteaders (1916), The Cow Puncher (1918), Dennison Grant (1920), Neighbours (1923), Smoking Flax (1925), and Grain (1926). Although most of his work was neglected by critics for many years as being popular writing of only regional interest, he has in recent years been recognized as one of the founders of prairie realism and an important Canadian novelist. His last manuscript Dry Water, written in the 1930s, was published in 2008.
He died at Ottawa, Ontario on 25 June 1959. There are papers at Library and Archives Canada.
Ontario birth registration, Ancestry.
Pioneers of Manitoba by Robert Harvey (1970).
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
Obituaries and burial transcriptions, Manitoba Genealogical Society.
We thank Vicki Wallace for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 18 March 2023