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Early Winnipeg Newspapers: The Last 70 Years of Journalism at Fort Garry and Winnipeg

by John W. Dafoe

MHS Transactions, Series 3, 1946-47 Season

MHS Transactions were originally published by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make online versions available as a free, public service. As an historical document, Transactions may contain language that is no longer in common use and which may offend some readers. They should not be construed to represent the views of today’s Manitoba Historical Society.

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Many stories are told of the idyllic conditions in the Red River Settlement in the middle of the last century. The settlers were supposed to live in rude comfort and in harmony. Whatever truth there may be as to this, certain it is that the serpent, in the form of a newspaper, entered into whatever Eden there was and started trouble. On 1 November 1859, seventy years and four months ago, two young newspaper men arrived with a printing plant from Toronto, and started the first paper in what was afterwards known as the Canadian Northwest. They were Englishmen, William Coldwell, 25 years of age, born in London; and William Buckingham, 27 years of age, born in Devonshire. Both were thoroughly competent reporters, with a considerable Toronto experience.

What moved these young men to come to the uttermost confines of civilization? Undoubtedly their appearance in the Red River settlement was the sequel to the newspaper campaign which had been carried on for eight years by the Toronto Globe in favor of the cancellation by the British Government of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s charter and the transfer of the territory of Rupert’s Land to Canada. This campaign was inspired in the first place by A. K. Isbister, a native of this country, who had attained a position of considerable prominence in the educational and legal world of Great Britain, and whose name is perpetuated by a school in Winnipeg and by scholarship grants to the University of Manitoba. He suggested this policy to the redoubtable George Brown, “through a mutual friend,” according to a statement by Brown, and it was steadily advocated, as I have indicated, by the Toronto Globe.

Coldwell and Buckingham thus came here with a policy ready made for them. They were the forerunners of what came to be known as the Canadian party. The paper they founded they called the Nor’Wester.

An interesting description of the arrival of the first newspaper in the territory known as Rupert’s Land was given by William Coldwell, one of the founders, at a dinner of the Winnipeg Press Club on 2 April 1888. Mr. Coldwell described how the paper and much of the plant had been purchased in St. Paul and transported north over the old Crow Wing Trail by Red River cart, the carts being drawn by oxen. “We made,” said Mr. Coldwell, “a very wild start indeed, as one team ran away at the outset and distributed some of the type in the streets.” The journey from St. Paul to the Red River Settlement took over a month, or from 28 September to 1 November. “In our slow going, sleepy travel we did not exceed 15 or 20 miles a day.” There were in 1859 no houses on the present site of Winnipeg, except the great log villas of Andrew McDermott and Alexander Ross along the river bank; so the Nor’ Wester was housed in a little shack, probably near the present corner of Water and Main streets.

“Here,” said Mr. Coldwell, “we commenced publication on December 28, 1859, and at the outset were greater monopolists than we had any wish to be. We were our own editors, reporters, compositors, pressmen, news boys, and general delivery agents, besides having to undertake a house-to-house canvass throughout the entire settlement. We secured a liberal subscription for our fortnightly newspaper—payment in advance. The subscription price was 12 shillings, afterwards reduced to 10 shillings per annum.”

The Nor’ Wester started right in as a paper in opposition to the existing order. They slung a pretty good pen in those days. The first number spoke of the interest of the Canadian government in the colonization of the vast country watered by the Red River, the Assiniboine and the Saskatchewan. “The country in the Northwest cannot remain unpeopled. The printing press will hasten the change,” they declared. They denounced the discouragement of colonization by the authorities and asserted that the only possible future for the Red River Settlement and the territory to the west was union with Canada. The two pioneer newspaper men told the people of the Red River Settlement that they were “living in a miserable state of serfdom.” What an assertion in view of the many statements, which had been made as to the idyllic conditions of rude comfort under which the inhabitants lived! They declared that the Hudson’s Bay Company was utterly unsuited to the times and absurd in form, and they spoke of the “settled conviction, right or wrong, in the people’s mind that the Council of Assiniboia is a puppet in the hands of the Hudson’s Bay Company.”

A year of this strenuous journalism was enough for Buckingham. He retired and returned to the east, where he had a considerable subsequent career as publisher of the Stratford Beacon and as private secretary to Alexander Mackenzie during his term as prime minister of Canada. He, jointly with Hon. G. W. Ross, became Mackenzie’s biographer. He died as recently as 1915.

Buckingham’s successor on the Nor’ Wester was James Ross, a native of the settlement and a graduate of Toronto University. Coldwell and he proceeded along the lines of the policy I have indicated. It was a policy that entailed serious sacrifices for the two intrepid pioneers. Mr. Ross was postmaster at the time he associated himself with Coldwell, but he was soon fired. He was also sheriff, and he lost that job too. Subscriptions to the paper were cancelled, and socially they were pretty well ostracized, being banned from the parties held by the elite. They were regarded as a pair of obstreperous agitators, and had the word been known at that time they would undoubtedly have been called Bolsheviks!

The files of this newspaper can be seen, at the provincial library in the legislative building—its first number with the old time journalistic motto: “Naught extenuate nor aught set down in malice,” and later numbers describing the course of life in the settlement. Some files have verbatim reports of lectures and addresses by such famous Red River Settlement characters as Archdeacon Cochrane. Others have accounts of mishaps at buffalo hunts, such as the death of a hunter from a seared throat got by the explosion of powder while he was blowing down his gun barrel to clear it. The unique life of the Red River Settlement is mirrored in its files. One of the most notable reporting performances of the Nor’ Wester was a verbatim report, in the best style of the divorce reports which until recently appeared in the London papers, of the notorious Corbett case, extremely spicy details of which were set forth for the edification of a community which was greatly scandalized thereby.

Coldwell left the paper and returned to the east in 1864, and at the same time James Ross was succeeded as editor by the famous Dr. John Christian Schultz, who advocated with even greater vigour the annexation of the country to Canada. With Schultz was associated Dr. Brown, who succeeded later to the editorship.

In order that one may realize something of the difficulties with which the Nor’ Wester had to contend, it should be stated that, in addition to other groups, there was one strong American group in the Red River Settlement. There was a constant controversy as to the future of the settlement, the American group thinking that the only destiny of the country was annexation with the United States. This was scarcely to be wondered at, as the trade tracks of the country were chiefly to the south, 1,500 carts a year going to St. Paul. Schultz and Brown had a very stormy time. They were the principals in many stirring incidents. The authorities harassed them almost unceasingly. At one time they threw Schultz into jail, but he was liberated by the populace. There are also records of mobs visiting the newspaper office to instruct the editor how to conduct his paper.

Rev. Dr. George Bryce paid the following tribute to the Nor’ Wester: “This paper by its advocacy of union with Canada gave publicity to the cause which was chiefly instrumental in bringing that dream to pass.” And Professor Chester Martin, probably nearer the mark, states: “The vigour with which those in charge of the Nor’ Wester conducted their campaign was probably very largely responsible for the troubles of 1869-70, as it was the organ of what was known as the Canadian Party.”

The Nor’ Wester was an early casualty of the Red River uprising. When the trouble started the paper ceased to exist, because Louis Riel commandeered it. The last issue appeared on 24 November 1869.

At this moment the indefatigable Mr. Coldwell reappeared on the scene with a new lot of type and a printing press, prepared to start a paper which he proposed to call the Red River Pioneer. Riel bought the plant outright for 550 pounds sterling, and to get the money he looted the Hudson’s Bay treasury and carried off the cash. Riel merged the two papers and called that which he issued the New Nation. This he put in charge of a young American, Major H. M. Robinson, who had some connection by marriage with a family at Fort Garry. Robinson was to run the paper in the interest of Riel, who wanted it to wield an influence in support of the provisional government of which he was “President.” Robinson, however, thought his chief job was to get on with the business of annexing the country to the United States. He wrote articles entitled “Consolidation,” “The Future of the American Continent,” and “One Flag, One Empire”—a phrase I have often heard used in another sense. Another was entitled “Annexation is Our Manifest Destiny.” Riel after four months decided that was not a judicious line of stuff to put out and he put Major Robinson in an institution that was the equivalent of the modern “hoosegow.” He then turned the paper over to Thomas Spence, a man who had come to the Red River four or five years earlier, an Irishman who was said to be a friend of D’Arcy McGee. Thomas Spence has a niche of fame in the history of this country, because he was the man who established the Republic at Portage la Prairie. The New Nation came to an end in August, 1870. In its final issue there was an editorial complimentary to Col. Garnet Wolseley who was then nearing the fort with his troops. Robert Cunningham, a representative of the Toronto Globe, who came in with the troops, joined forces with Coldwell and they started a new paper called the Manitoban in November 1870. It was the first of a flock of weeklies. If you want to start a paper nowadays you can do it with $500,000 or $1,000,000; but those were the days when political papers could be established given a handful of type, a printer and a “slashing” writer. The Manitoban inaugurated the era of the small political paper. It appeared as the organ of the government party, which embraced the “old timers” or settlers and supported the Clark Administration. Then the Canadian Party published a paper called the News Letter, which was a very lively sheet. Still another was started, the Manitoba Liberal, conducted by Stewart Mulvey who, as an Irishman, was “agin the government.” There was also a French paper, the Metis, which was edited by Joseph Royal, political figure.

In 1871 a notable journalistic event occurred in the Red River Settlement. A group of American newspaper men took a trip to the West and penetrated to the Settlement. Included in the party were Charles A. Dana, famous editor of the New York Sun, and Bayard Taylor, noted American poet. Telegraphic news made its first appearance in this year. Alexander Begg, the historian of the early days, began in 1872 the publication of the Manitoba Trade Review.

The year 1872 was an unfortunate one for the newspapers in the Red River Settlement. Dominion elections were held in that year. It appears that some one monkeyed with the voters’ lists, which was a popular political pastime in those days. The elections were held on a list that was two years old. The result was that many “Canadians” could not vote. They could wreck the newspaper offices, however, and they wrecked them all so thoroughly, with the exception of the Manitoba Liberal, that it took them months to get going again. During this interregnum the Free Press decided it was an opportune time to be born; and though many other papers have come and gone since, it has refused to die. The Free Press was formed under a happy combination of circumstances. There was a young man who wanted to start a newspaper and another young man who had the money with which it could be started. The former was William Fisher Luxton, teacher of the only school in Winnipeg, who had gained newspaper experience in Goderich and Seaforth, Ontario. The other young man was John A. Kenny, who had just arrived in the settlement from Ontario with $4,000. The Free Press got off to a flying start and perhaps to that fact its long life can be attributed.

This much has to be said for the Free Press, that it is the only survivor of a large family of newspapers which appeared during the seventies, many of which were born only to die. One, the Daily Herald, edited by Mr. Fonseca, lasted two weeks. It was revived later by Walter R. Nursey, but expired after the lapse of two months. One of the papers which was born and had a brief life was the Standard, founded and edited by Molyneux St. John. There is a fine name for an editor! St. John was the junior member of a noble English family and had been an officer in the English army. He came to this country as a newspaper correspondent with the Wolseley expedition and remained for some years. Twenty years later he returned to the province and was for a brief period editor of the Free Press. At a later period he was, until his death, Usher of the Black Rod in the Federal House at Ottawa.

There was considerable excitement in conducting newspapers in the Red River Settlement in the seventies. Here is a sample: Contempt of court proceedings against Mr. Luxton were taken. Mr. Luxton had disagreed violently with the chief justice of the province as to the manner in which he conducted his court. Brought before the angry chief justice he was fined $500. Immediately sixty-four men in the court room put their hands in their pockets and produced the money. There is a signed list, in the files of the Free Press, of the worthies who paid the fine, and the last of the sixty-four died only a month ago in the person of W. F. Alloway.

The Free Press started as a weekly in 1872. In 1874 it came out as an evening daily. Later, opposition dailies began to appear. The Nor’ Wester and the Daily Herald did not last long. The Daily Tribune was started by George H. Ham in 1878 but its career was brief and troubled. In 1880 the Daily Times came out in opposition to the Free Press, and from that time, I regret to say, there has been competition with the Free Press, except for one blessed period when we were monarchs over the whole scene for four or five weeks.

A complete list of the newspapers published in Winnipeg between 1859 and 1885 was given by William Coldwell in connection with his address to the Winnipeg Press Club in the latter year. Mr. Coldwell said:

The record of newspapers from the start runs thus: 1859-70, the Nor’ Wester published in succession by William Coldwell, Dr. John Schultz, and Dr. Brown; 1870, the New Nation, published by Major H. M. Robinson; 1870, the Manitoban, Cunningham and Coldwell; 1870, the News Letter, by P. G. Laurie; 1871 the Manitoba Liberal, by Stewart Mulvey; 1872, Manitoba Trade Review, by Alexander Begg; 1872, Manitoba Gazette, G. F. Carruthers; 1872, Manitoba Free Press, Kenny and Luxton; 1873, Nor’ Wester, E. L. Barber; 1874, the Standard, Molyneux St. John; 1877, Manitoba Daily Herald, Messrs. Begg and Walter R. Nursey; 1878, Manitoba Telegraph, Mr. Nursey; 1878, Quiz, Geo. H. Kerr; 1878, the Gazette, Hon. H. J. Clarke; 1879, Winnipeg Daily Times, C. R. Tuttle; 1879, Tribune, George H. Ham; 1880, Daily Times, Amos Rowe; 1881, the News; 1882, the Daily Sun, W. Naegle; 1883, the New Sun.

“All of these,” said Mr. Coldwell, “excepting the last two, the Free Press and Sun (which was a year or so later absorbed by the Free Press) have passed into the happy land where sheriffs are unknown!” Of Mr. Coldwell, it is to be noted that illness forced his retirement from the Free Press staff in the early 1880s. He moved to the coast and died there in 1907.

George H. Ham came to the Red River in the winter of 1874, from Port Hope. He was a member of the Free Press staff, first as printer and then as writer. He started the Tribune in 1879, which, as Mr. Ham in his characteristic way said, “he contributed to the list of busted newspapers.” Mr. Ham has left a good description of journalistic activities in Winnipeg in the seventies.

“One great hardship,” he wrote,

was the frequent failure, through climatic conditions, of the telegraphic service, which came from Montreal, and from Ottawa, via St. Paul. It didn’t take much of a storm to put the service out of business, but everybody sympathized with the paper’s announcement that the telegraph lines were down and no dispatches had been received, and blamed the telegraph company instead of the paper for the lack of news. Three cents a word was charged for press dispatches and as the Canadian dispatches had to be repeated at Buffalo and St. Paul, Sanskrit was easier to decipher than some of them when they finally reached Winnipeg.

In those early days no one could realize the troubles of a reporter’s routine unless he experienced them. Sometimes, when the telegraph service was out of commission, no mails for three or four days, the thermometer 40 degrees below zero, and not a blessed thing doing, the situation was appalling. But the paper had to be issued, and Jack Cameron (the city editor) was a wonder, and what he didn’t conjure up wasn’t worth conjuring. But pleasant memories linger of those earlier days, kindly companions and congenial work and I can look back with pleasure that I was amongst those pressmen in the happy days when everybody knew everybody else in Winnipeg, or knew who they were, and the little frontier outpost had a glorious pioneer glamour which, alas, has passed away forever.

The “Jack Cameron” to whom reference has been made by Mr. Ham was the first news editor of the Free Press. John R. Cameron came to the settlement with the troops as a sergeant. A printer named Griffin helped him to get out the first issue of the Free Press. Cameron achieved considerable celebrity in the community through a column which he conducted under the heading, “Noremac’s [Cameron spelled backwards] Nonsense.” Quite a romantic story is told about him. Apparently smitten right away by the charms of a lovely young lady whom he noticed, Cameron was as suddenly overcome by religious emotion, and with enraptured voice he remarked to a companion: “I want to go to that young lady’s church.” He went to church faithfully and he subsequently married the fair object of his affection, though history does not record whether his church attendance record following the nuptials was as exemplary as it was previously. Cameron afterwards returned to Hamilton, the city from which he had come west, and made a reputation for himself as an editor and a humourist.

A note might perhaps be here made of the subsequent career of George Ham, whose death occurred but a few years ago. Ostensibly, during the eighties, he was a registrar under the old system of Land Titles, but actually he was engaged in journalism, a good deal of the time, with a deputy in charge of his office. When his office disappeared owing to economies practised by the Greenway government, he joined the Free Press staff. He amused himself by pretending to be a green reporter; and the naive comments of the “new reporter” on things in general soon set the town rocking with laughter. He remained with the Free Press for two or three years until the C.P.R. saw in him the making of a useful publicity man, and his subsequent career was with that railway. He was a man of extraordinary charm and humour, with a marvellous capacity for clever, instinctive impromptu and repartee. A story is told of how he was rushed to an emergency hospital for an operation for appendicitis. He told the surgeon as he was going under the ether: “Well, doctor, you can take my appendix but please leave me my table of contents.” Once he made some kind of a “bonehead” play in the handling of a newspaper article, and when taken to task for it he replied: “Well, I may not be broad-minded, but I am certainly thick-headed!” These are just samples of the sparkling, bubbling wit which made George H. Ham a most cherished companion. Many of his best stories are to be found in the book which he left behind, Tales of a Raconteur.

With the arrival of the railway and the coming of the eighties, Winnipeg got into the throes of the great boom. The newspapers had a brief period of glory and prosperity. The Free Press went from the evening field to the morning field in 1881, and that left the evening field to the Times, which was then under the control of Amos Rowe, who acquired his journalistic training in an auction room in Ottawa. Those were the days when the air rang with the talk about the crossing at “Grand Valley” and about “Nelsonville, the banner town of Southern Manitoba.” Then in April, 1882, the newspapers announced “Edmonton, Edmonton, at last”, whereupon the boom blew up.

At that time Winnipeg appeared to be the Mecca of many of the livest newspaper men of Canada. They flocked in and after a short stay a good many went out; some stayed, perhaps because they hadn’t the price of a ticket. Among them were Albert Horton, afterwards editor of the Senate Hansard; A. C. Campbell, afterwards editor of the House of Commons Hansard, who is still active, in retirement, in Ottawa; John Lewis, now senator; J. P. Robertson, afterwards provincial librarian; R. K. Kerrighan, “The Khan;” and, most notable of all, Ed. Farrer, who for a short time was editor of the Times. In many ways Farrer was the most remarkable journalist that Canada had ever seen. He belonged to a noted Irish family and was closely connected with dignitaries of the Roman Catholic Church. He was a student at the Jesuit college in Rome, but one day he walked out of the college, left the life of seclusion, study and prayer behind him and became an adventurous journalist in Canada. He was a man of extraordinary talent as a controversialist. It was a matter of record that he had written campaign literature for both parties at the Dominion elections in 1882. It was reported that he was once seen wandering about in the early dawn and that he explained that he had been up all night trying to figure out how he could answer his own case for the other side.

Mr. Rowe had a good deal of trouble with Mr. Farrer. One amusing story is told of an encounter which Mr. Rowe had with him. Mr. Rowe, who was a dignitary of the Orange Order, went on a lecture tour in support of it, and while he was away Farrer wrote an article criticizing the order. This distressed Mr. Rowe very much. On his return he expostulated with Mr. Farrer, saying people must be wondering why it was he spoke of the order in one way and wrote of it in another.

“Don’t worry, Amos,” was the consoling reply of Mr. Farrer, “no one will ever accuse you of writing that article!”

There were two or three papers in succession known as the Sun. About 1883 the position of editor was taken by T. H. Preston, a young newspaperman of Toronto, who some years later returned east and became owner of the Brantford Expositor, entering upon a career as a public man, and having an opportunity, which he declined, of being leader of the Liberal party in Ontario.

The Free Press had a succession of notable editorial writers. One of them was W. E. MacLellan, who came from Nova Scotia to practise law but soon gave it up for newspaper work. He was a very vigorous writer of the old, slashing style type. He was induced to leave the Free Press and go over to a new Conservative evening paper, the Manitoban, which was being founded by Acton Burrows, who is still engaged in the publication of trade papers in Toronto. Mr. MacLellan, for a short time before he made his shift, wrote the editorials for both papers, which was comparatively easy since he would write an article for one paper and then write a scathing reply to it in the other. It worked very well, but he once narrowly escaped having a mishap. Having written a powerful leader for the Free Press, the morning paper, he wrote a telling reply to it and before going home for the night delivered it at the Manitoban, the office next door. It was not until noon the next day that he discovered to his horror that the first article had been thrown out of the Free Press by Mr. Luxton, who had rejected it upon seeing the proof. Mr. MacLellan, so the story goes, grabbed his hat and rushed over to the Manitoban office to have the scathing reply to the article which never appeared taken out of the evening issue of the Manitoban. Newspapers in those days consisted of only four pages, and they were printed on a flat press, two pages at a time. The edition had been half printed; as it contained the crushing rejoinder it was necessary to consign the whole of it to the furnace, which was a serious matter in those hard times!

The breaking out of the rebellion of 1885 provided an exciting time for the newspapers. The Sun, the Times, and the Free Press were put on their mettle and there was extreme rivalry between them. The Free Press rather objected to what it regarded as the abhorrent sensationalism of its contemporaries, and made a celebrated declaration of news policy with a view to putting its more volatile rivals to shame. The high water mark of this declaration was in these terms:

Whether the campaign be of long or short duration, exertions will be made to give the readers of the Free Press exactly what the public wants and have a right to expect from any newspaper worthy of the name—reports of actual occurrences as soon as possible, as distinct from the mischievous imaginings of ’war correspondents’ located in the home office. During the campaign the regular issues of the Free Press can be confidently relied upon for all that has transpired. When anything happens, it will be reported. When nothing happens, nothing will be reported.

I came to Winnipeg in May, 1886, and joined the reporting staff of the Free Press. There were at that time four newspapers in Winnipeg: the Free Press, a morning paper; the Manitoban, already referred to; the Sun, and a small paper called the News, edited by W. T Thompson, who is now managing editor of the Duluth Herald. One of the reporters on the News, if my recollection is right, was John J. Moncrieff, now a veteran of Manitoba journalism.

Among the other active newspapermen of that time was Fred C. Wade, who was editorial writer of the Free Press, and afterwards a noted lawyer and politician; he died in London some years ago as agent general for British Columbia.

The Free Press news staff at that time consisted of Walter Payne, who is still with us and is the dean of Manitoba newspaper men; T. E. Morden and myself. Mr. Morden, who was a reporter on the Free Press for well over thirty years, had an extraordinary reputation as an accurate reporter. In controversies in the legislature as to the accuracy of reports, it was always conclusive if it could be asserted that the report was by Mr. Morden. No one ever challenged either his integrity or his accuracy. He was a man absolutely without guile, except in one respect. If when late at night space became contracted and he was told to put the balance of his “copy” in four more pages, he would, in his desire to give everybody a fair show, write so fine a hand that he would get as much in these four pages as he ordinarily put into a dozen!

I was city editor of the Free Press; the city editor of the rival Manitoban was C. W. Handscomb. I was John Wesley; he was Charles Wesley. He was just one day my senior, which justified us in having a joint two day birthday celebration every year. For these and other reasons there was between us close friendship and brisk rivalry. Charlie carried his singing and acting talents to the American stage for a time, but came back to Winnipeg and to journalism and at the time of his death in 1906 was dramatic editor of the Free Press.

The leading reporter of the Sun was R. L. Richardson, who afterwards had a somewhat remarkable journalistic and political career.

The Free Press, in 1888, gobbled up the Morning Call, into which the Evening Manitoban had been turned. Later it absorbed the Sun, and for five weeks it was monarch of all it surveyed. The Tribune, founded by R. L. Richardson, then made its appearance and we had a competitor which was to prove permanent. For some years there was a very vigorous political duel between the Free Press and the Greenway government, which was supported by the Tribune. A gentleman who was active in politics at that time has often told me a sad story of his experience with the two newspapers. As a supporter of the Greenway government he was instructed to extirpate the Free Press in his constituency and get all the people to take the Tribune. Just as he succeeded in doing this, at a very considerable cost, there was a shift in the newspaper scene in Winnipeg. The Free Press, owing to a change in ownership, resumed its pristine faith in Liberalism and became an ardent supporter of the Greenway government, while the Tribune began to see serious faults in the administration which it formerly adored, whereupon the unfortunate politician had to do his work in his constituency all over again in reverse.

By this time Mr. Luxton had ceased to be connected with the Free Press. By purchasing rival newspapers he had brought new interests into the partnership which he could not control, with the unfortunate consequence that about 1893, owing to differences as to policy, he ceased to be editor of the paper. He thereafter founded a paper, reviving the old title, Nor’ Wester, and for a short time conducted it.

This is an opportune moment to say something about Mr. Luxton. He had his defects like everybody else, but he was one of the whitest, squarest men I ever knew. He had certain journalistic principles which he strongly held and which he impressed upon the journal which he founded—traditions which are still operative and which have not had a little to do with whatever success the Free Press has achieved.

After his retirement from the Free Press and his unsuccessful venture with the Nor’ Wester, he had a brief period of newspaper experience in St. Paul. He edited the St. Paul Globe, a paper now extinct, a position which it is understood he owed to his old time friendship with J. J. (“Jim”) Hill. But Mr. Luxton came back to Manitoba. He took over a position in the public service, and died a good many years ago. His name will always be honorably associated with the history of journalism in Manitoba.

Associated with Mr. Luxton on the Free Press and afterwards on the Nor’ Wester was an editorial writer of exceptional ability, D. J. Beaton, “Black Dan”, as he was popularly called. I found myself fascinated by his extraordinary style of composing editorials. He wrote on soft copy paper with the hardest pencil he could find. His calligraphy was extraordinarily minute and no one ever saw any interlineations or changes in his copy. He would sit at his desk motionless for long periods of time until a sentence was formed letter perfect in his mind. Thereupon he would write it down. His day’s work would be represented by three or four pages, but on these pages there was a complete editorial page!

Mr. Beaton gave two sons to journalism, both of whom have achieved a considerable degree of eminence. One is Welford Beaton, whose writings about the movies frequently appear in the Saturday Evening Post. The other is the well known columnist, “K.C.B.”. Both got their original newspaper trainings as boys on the Free Press.

After an absence of some years I came back to Winnipeg in September, 1901 to take the editorship of the Free Press. At that time the newspapers in Winnipeg were: the Free Press, morning and evening, with E. H. Macklin in charge; the Tribune, with R. L. Richardson as owner and editor; and the Telegram, into which the Nor’ Wester, by a series of changes, had evolved. It was an evening paper, but shortly afterwards it put out a morning edition. One of the happy consequences of the establishment of the Telegram was that it gave to Winnipeg one of its most valued citizens in the person of Mr. W. Sanford Evans.

Mr. Richardson divided his attention between journalism and politics. He was elected to the Dominion parliament in 1896, and thereafter, with the sole exception of the general election of 1911, he contested a constituency at every Dominion election. In addition, he fought two by-elections, all of them, after 1901, unsuccessfully until 1917 when he became Unionist member for Springfield. Mr. Richardson had a considerable gift of humour and his special contributions to his paper, embodied in the reflections and observations of “The Major”, gave a good deal of amusement to his readers for a long period. He was also a very effective platform speaker.

Mr. Evans retired from the Telegram and newspaper life about 1905, and his place was taken by Mr. M. E. Nichols, who after some years of service entered into newspaper ventures in Montreal, but finally returned to Winnipeg to take charge of the Tribune under its changed ownership.

I don’t propose to say much in detail about the journalism of the last twenty-five years. Members in it are still with us and it is not necessary to dwell upon them. But some general observations might be in order. I have no desire to indulge in laudation, but I think it can safely be said that Winnipeg is now and has always been well served by its newspapers, and that in many ways they have rendered a very substantial service to Canada and to Western Canada. One such service might very properly be here mentioned. It seems incredible when it is recalled that up to 1907 the newspapers of Canada bought their telegraph service from the telegraph companies, one of which, at least, was an auxiliary of a railway corporation. The impropriety of having such a service and its inadequacy were felt keenly by the Winnipeg newspapers and in the summer of 1907, finding something at last on which they could agree, they met together; Mr. Macklin and I for the Free Press; Mr. Nichols for the Telegram; and Mr. Richardson for the Tribune. We made a solemn vow that for better or worse, we would have our own news service, obtained from sources open to us. I remember going first to Chicago and then to New York to arrange for such an independent news service as could be obtained at that time. The result was the formation of the Western Associated Press, which began in Winnipeg and spread throughout the west. Within five years cooperative news gathering came into effect throughout Canada. As the outcome of the movement which started in Winnipeg, the Canadian Press came into existence. The Canadian Press now includes in its membership every considerable daily newspaper in Canada. It operates leased wires night and day, from Cape Breton to Victoria. It maintains correspondents in several outside capitals. Its expenditure runs into hundreds of thousands of dollars and it has rendered invaluable national service in supplying impartial, adequate news reports, and in providing for an interchange of news between all parts of Canada.

Time does not permit of the reference to papers in the province outside of Winnipeg and to the men who founded them which perhaps should be made. The first paper published in Manitoba, outside of Winnipeg, was the Portage la Prairie Review, by Thos. Collins, started about 1878. Other pioneer newspaper publishers of Manitoba were: C. S. Douglas, Emerson International; James Hooper, Morris Herald; Alex Dunlop, Neepawa Press, A. Weidman, Selkirk Inter-Ocean; C. Cliffe, Brandon Mail; F. Galbraith, Nelsonville (now Morden) Mountaineer; and W. I. White, Brandon Sun. Mr. Dunlop still publishes his paper. Mr. White, after long service in the Dominion Immigration Department is living in retirement in Saskatchewan. The others have passed on.

In addition there has grown up an extensive and varied newspaper press-trade and technical papers; farm, commercial and church papers; and a considerable number of papers published in foreign languages. A recent newspaper directory shows a total of publications of all kinds in the province of Manitoba of 149, of which seven are dailies. There are in the province 62 points at which newspapers are published. There are 22 papers published in languages other than English. Printing and publishing have become one of the most notable industries in Western Canada, and while government statistics do not separate newspapers proper from publishing, the figures show that altogether there were, in the year 1928-67 printing and publishing establishments large enough to be so regarded with a total capital of $3,699,524, with a yearly outlay for wages of $2,000,000, and total valued products of $5,383,000—a notable development in 70 years from the venture of Mr. Coldwell and Mr. Buckingham into the field of journalism!

Page revised: 22 May 2010

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