Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 13

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 13: “Newsy” Jack Kanchikoff once had a column in the Vancouver Sun…

I’ve been a little obsessed with “Newsy” (or “Newsie”) Jack Kanchikoff ever since I first wrote about him on this blog in 2013. I also recently wrote an updated story on Newsie Jack for Scout Magazine. So imagine my excitement when I saw this drawing of him from an old issue of the Vancouver Sun just a few days ago.

It turns out that from 1949 to 1955 Jack Kanichikoff had a regular column in the Vancouver Sun promoting his annual fundraising efforts for the March of Dimes charity.  Since the start of the March of Dimes in 1949, Jack Kanchikoff worked tirelessly, year after year, fundraising for the charity for sick children.

“Newsy” Jack Says columns like these (below) appeared in the Vancouver Sun:

Three of “Newsy” Jack’s columns in the Vancouver Sun – Dec 24, 1949; Dec 27, 1950; and 1953.

It is interesting that the column from 1949 mentions a gift from an ex-news vendor (and Penthouse Nightclub owner) Joe Philliponi. In fact, several of the columns mentioned the generous support of Philliponi over the year’s for Jack’s one-man campaign for the March of Dimes. The columns also reveal that there were many individuals and organizations in the community who also supported Kanchikoff in his efforts. In fact, Jack Kanchikoff was such a feature of Vancouver society at this time that he garners several mentions in Jack Wasserman’s column.

Vancouver Sun, February 12, 1949.

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 12

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 12:  Rena Whitney was the city’s first female newspaper publisher…

Sara Ann McLagan may have been the first female publisher of a daily newspaper (Vancouver Daily World) in Vancouver, however, the title for the first female publisher of a newspaper in the city goes to Rena Whitney. Like McLagan, who took over as publisher after the death of her husband, John McLagan, in 1901, Whitney took the helm at the weekly paper, the Mount Pleasant Advocate, after the death of her husband publisher Mayo Whitney in March of 1900.

Clippings from the Mt. Pleasant Advocate. Available via UBC Open Collections.

The Advocate was established April 8, 1899, by newspaper publisher/editor and lawyer, (Charles) Mayo Whitney. Whitney originally from Massachusetts moved to British Columbia with his first wife Laura and son Charles Francis Whitney sometime in the late 1880s. By 1890, the Whitneys had settled in Courtenay, B.C. where Mayo and his son Charles (Frank) started a newspaper, the Courtenay Weekly News. After the death of Laura Whitney on December 22, 1893 in New Westminster, the Whitney father and son team continue to run the newspaper in Courtenay until at least 1895. They drop off the radar until 1899, when widower Mayo Whitney and his second wife Rena show up living in Mount Pleasant and publishing the Mount Pleasant Advocate.

The Advocate newspaper office was located at 2525 Westminster Avenue (Main Street) in the heart of the Mount Pleasant village. “Devoted to the interests of Mt. Pleasant and South Vancouver”, the paper was not known for its hard-hitting news, but was nonetheless an important part of the growing community of Mount Pleasant.

Sadly, there is not much known about Rena Whitney. The 1901 Canada Census for Vancouver reveals that Rena Whitney was born in the U.S.*, on July 3 1854, was a widow, working as a newspaper publisher, and living with her son, Ralph Cummings (from a previous marriage), a printer, who was born September 24, 1878. Ralph worked at the newspaper with his mother, first as a printer and later as the Advocate manager.

Vancouver Daily World February 28, 1908.

Rena Whitney sold the Advocate in early 1908 due to health reasons. The Vancouver Daily World item (above) explains that she left the city for California. Unfortunately, this is the last information we hear about this intriguing woman who was part of Vancouver’s newspaper history.

*Update: An archivist friend of mine located Rena Whitney’s California 1934 death certificate it appears that she stayed in Los Angeles with her sister for the remainder of her life. The death certificate also revealed that she was born in the US not NS (Nova Scotia) as I previously stated.

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Fun Fact: The first female publisher/editor in Canada was Mary Ann Shadd Cary who ran an anti-slavery newspaper called The Provincial Freeman (1853-1860).

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 11

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 11: Vancouver was home to the first true Canadian comic book (and comic super hero)…

The Maple Leaf Publishing Company, headquartered at 849 Homer Street in Vancouver, was the third largest of Canada’s wartime comic companies and the only one located outside of Eastern Canada. During World War II, U.S. comics were deemed “non-essential” imports under Canada’s War Exchange Conservation Act in 1940, so four Canadian companies decided to get into the game and a home-grown comic book industry was born.

A Better Comics cover featuring Brok Windsor from July 1946.

In fact, Maple Leaf is generally viewed as the publisher of the first true Canadian comic book. Their Better Comics Vol.1, No. 1 came out in March ’41 and was initially full-colour and priced at 15 cents. Later, to save production costs, Maple Leaf produced comics with black and white interiors, known as Canadian Whites, this move allowed them to drop the price to ten cents an issue.

Better Comics also introduced the first Canadian superhero –  artist Vernon Miller’s Iron Manwho appeared in the first issue of Better Comics.  Iron Man was the “lone survivor of an advanced, subterranean civilization”, and was “summoned to the surface world to aid humanity”.  His powers – “great strength, speed and the ability to leap vast distances” were similar to those of the early Superman. Iron Man’s costume was minimal, consisting of “blue swim-trunks, while boots (red or blue) were optional”. [ Not to be confused with Marvel Comics’ Iron Man, who was first introduced in 1963.  Therefore, it could be said that Vancouver is the birthplace of the first “Iron Man”!]

Other super heroes like Brock Windsor, Deuce Granville, Senorita Marquita, Bill Speed, Stuff Buggs, and the Black Wing were introduced to Canadians on the pages of the comics published by Maple Leaf.

In addition to Better Comics, Maple Leaf published Bing Bang Comics, Lucky Comics and Name-it Comics (later renamed Rocket Comics).

After the war ended, American comics were once again available for sale in Canada. Unable to compete, sadly, by late 1946 Vancouver’s Maple Leaf Publishing was out of the Canadian comic business.

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 7

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 7: Vancouver’s first aquarium was located at the old English Bay bathhouse…

Before the current Vancouver Aquarium was established in Stanley Park, there once was an aquarium located on English Bay across from Morton Park. The aquarium was located in a bathhouse built in 1906 (the building was torn down in 1964) and was in operation from October 1939 to June 1956. The former English Bay men’s bathhouse was leased by Seattle’s Ivar Haglund – yes, “Ivar’s Acres of Clams”, Ivar Haglund – in 1939.  Haglund was already the owner of an aquarium on Seattle’s waterfront when he entered into a share-the-receipts agreement with the Park Board to run the Vancouver aquarium. The aquarium opened with over 100 varieties of fish, plant and animal sea life on display, all obtained from the waters of English Bay and the Gulf of Georgia. The most popular exhibits were that of “Oscar and Oliver” the octopi and “Mike and Billy” the harbour seals.  A new wing that featured non-live exhibits like a ship’s wheelhouse, microscopic enlargements, and the story of the salmon canning industry was opened in 1941 to much fanfare.

Ad from the Vancouver Sun in 1940.

However, the war years must have taken a toll, because by 1945 unfavourable stories about the aquarium started to appear in the press. Like the one by Vancouver Sun reporter Ray Gardner, where he called the aquarium “dingy”, “damp”, and “unsightly”, saying it would be “a lovely place for Frankenstein to hole up for the winter”. In 1951, Park Board Commissioner called the aquarium “a farce, a dead horse, not a credit to this board”, and another commissioner called it a “monstrocity” – yikes! the bloom was definitely off that rose. It seems that the first aquarium may have been run more like an attraction, than as an educational facility.

These cartoons accompanied the 1945 Vancouver Sun article slamming the aquarium.

The bathhouse aquarium closed in 1956, replaced by a new purpose-built Vancouver Aquarium located in Stanley Park run by the Vancouver Aquarium Association.

In 1986 a Vancouver Centennial plaque was unveiled placed on a water fountain where the bathhouse aquarium once stood:

Vancouver’s First Aquarium – The second English Bay bathhouse, which was located on this site, was the home of the first Vancouver Aquarium. Owned and operated by Mr. Ivar Haglund of Seattle. The Aquarium educated generations of Vancouverites on the abundance of marine life native to our Pacific Coast. The Aquarium was in service from October 1939 to June 1956.  This plaque is donated on the occasion of Vancouver’s Centennial by the Ivar’s Corporation of Seattle in honour of its founder Ivar Haglund, and his special role in Vancouver’s history.

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 6

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 6: The first movie house in Canada was located in Vancouver…

Back in 1898 in an old store/warehouse on Cordova Street, John A. Schuberg introduced the movies to Vancouver. Four years later in 1902, Schuberg, known professionally as Johnny Nash, opened the Edison Electric Theatre on the same street. It was Canada’s first movie theatre.

Portion of Insurance plan of the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, July 1897, revised June 1903 (Sheet 6). Library & Archives Canada

Schuberg (1874-1953), who was the son of Swedish immigrants in Minnesota, married a woman named Nettie Burrows from Winnipeg in 1898. They traveled to Vancouver for their honeymoon. They were still in Vancouver when Edison’s Kinetograph, the first movie machine, came on the market. Schuberg went to Seattle and bought a machine for $250 and some short subject films of the Spanish-American War. He set up a temporary shop on Cordova Street. Attendance for his silent films was low until he decided to add “sound” to his films:

“I got behind the screen with some tin to make thunder and a couple of guns to add some realism.” he recalled. “After that we had trouble emptying the place for the next show.” – Vancouver Sun, December 15, 1953

After a sold out two-week run, he decided to take his picture show on the road. Schuberg fashioned a black-painted tent as a portable movie house and toured Canada’s fairs and carnivals with his film show. They toured Canada and the US for the next few years until the fall of 1902, when they returned to Vancouver and opened a permanent theatre on Cordova Street called the Edison Electric Theatre. This was the first movie theatre in Canada and the second in North America. The first film shown? A 500-foot film, The Eruption of Mt. Pelee, directed by Georges Méliès.

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 5

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 5: Vancouver once had bicycle liveries …

At the turn of the last century, before the automobile took over our city streets, bicycles were a common and popular mode of transportation. So popular in fact, there was a bicycle “craze” of sorts. Men, women and citizens of all ages were caught up in “cycling’s first golden moment”. But, what is the owner to do if they should find their “silent steed” in need of repair? Enter the bicycle livery.

What is a bicycle livery? Think of it like a horse livery, but for bikes. It was a place where you could rent a bicycle (perfect for visitors or fair weather riders) and where wheels were repaired and sold. There were several dotted around the city.

The popularity with all things two-wheeled resulted in bicycle races becoming very common in the late 1800s, and in 1890 the Terminal City Bicycle Club was formed in Vancouver.  Stories of some bicycle riders who were not only “reckless as to their own safety, but were indifferent to the safety of pedestrians” started appearing in the local newspapers, so on July 13, 1896, Vancouver City Council passed by-law (No. 258) to regulate the use of bicycles in the city.

Province Newspaper, 1898

Major J.S. Matthews, the first City Archivist, documented Vancouver’s fin-de-siècle bicycle “craze” in his book Early Vancouver. Here are some excerpts:

“The bicycle became so popular that racks were put up in the vestibules of the small office buildings to receive the “machines” of those employed there and who had business there. At the City Hall, there was a long rack which would accommodate perhaps two dozen bicycles. Similar racks existed at the C.P.R. Depot, and also public places such as parks, post office and hotel lobbies.”

“The “machines” were so numerous that the City Council ordered special bicycle paths constructed on those streets which were most frequently used. These paths were invariably cinder surfaced, and rolled flat, and ran along the edge of the street between the gutter and wooden sidewalk. They were about six feet wide, and constantly kept in order, level and smooth, by city workmen.”

“The bicycle paths led to and from some well-frequented area, or beside streets where there was considerable vehicular traffic. One ran from Seymour Street, along the north side, to the entrance of Stanley Park; another on the west side of Seymour from Robson to Pacific Street; a third from Granville Street South (from the Third Avenue Bridge) from the bridge, along the north side of Third Avenue to about Maple Street, where the track turned off in an indeterminate direction through the clearing until it reached Greer’s Beach.”

Terminal City Cycling Club at the reservoir near Prospect Point, Aug. 12, 1892. Photo: COV Archives, P18

By 1910, the automobile was starting to gain popularity and the street car system was well established in the city. So, like their equine counterparts, the bicycle went out of favour and bicycle liveries began to die out.

 

 

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 4

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 4: Woodward’s once had a peanut butter factory in the sky…

1956 ad for Woodward’s peanut butter.

The base of the tower that supported the revolving ‘W’ on top of the Woodward’s Store on Hastings once housed the Woodward’s brand peanut butter factory. The one person plant, located in the 4-storey extension from the roof, processed thousand’s of tons of peanuts using a cast iron machine that was first installed at the Hastings Street store in 1910. A sentimental favourite for fans of Woodward’s Food Floor, Woodward’s brand peanut butter was produced in the factory until the 1980s.

Photo: HBC Heritage – Woodward’s