Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Challenges and Rewards of Archival Work: Schwartz Agencies files

Henry Schwartz, 1959 Galt Museum & Archives #197529101203
Henry Schwartz was a Hungarian immigrant who got his start in business as a land agent for the railway. In 1927 he co-founded a company called the Colonist’s Service Association. (By the end of the depression Henry was the sole owner and it was re-named Schwartz Agencies.) This was an agency that helped people looking to move to Canada get transportation and proper documentation. This involved making sure there was a place to live and work waiting for them. Henry would act as an agent, often corresponding with government officials in English for clients that only wrote in Hungarian.
Around World War II Schwartz Agencies mostly brought over Central Europeans destined for the Sugar Beet fields. From 1939 to 1946 non-military travel was suspended between Europe and Canada so no immigration occurred during this time. Even after travel resumed, the post-war situation in Europe made getting the proper documents difficult. I found one letter from the Canadian government granting admission to Schwartz’s client, but the official doubted the Hungarian government would allow anyone to leave. There were similar applications regarding people in the Soviet Zones of Germany and Austria after World War II, all of which made me a little sad. However, it was also in these files that I came across an application submitted by my uncle’s father requesting that his wife and children join him in Canada from Hungary. When I saw my uncle’s name on the application, written in his father’s handwriting, it was definitely a history win.
Thanks to grants from the Community Foundation of Lethbridge and Southwestern Alberta and the Archives Society of Alberta I was able to spend my summer working full-time on preparing large donations like this one for public use. It can take a lot of time and effort to process archival records. First I had to go through everything and see what kinds of material I was dealing with and what shape in was in.  As it turned out there was a lot of it (if you stacked the papers the pile would be ten metres high) and some of it was in pretty bad shape.  Not surprizing considering some of it was nearing 85 years old and had spent about a decade in a barn.
After coming up with a strategy for organizing the material, I set aside the boxes that contained mould so that their contents could be cleaned later. Then I transferred the clean papers into proper archival folders and boxes, preparing them for long-term storage. I spent a lot of time unfolding pages, separating out acidic paper like newsprint, and removing rusty pins. Finally, I had to clean the mouldy documents.  This involved setting up a vacuum and carefully brushing the paper with a soft paintbrush while sucking up the mould.  This took a couple of days and I’m pretty sure I looked like something from a science fiction movie while doing it since I had on green gloves and a HEPA mask. The very last thing I did was write up a description and history of the fonds (archival collection) which you can find on the archives online database under the title Schwartz Agency fonds.

This project was full of the most amazing things—far too many to get into now. Some of my favourites are pre-WWII passports from central Europe, brochure and manual for an indoor charcoal barbeque, the entire set of blueprints for the College Mall Theatre, and the set of resumes where the female applicants listed their height, weight, hair and eye colour. Researchers will find the immigration files invaluable when searching for information on family members (especially those from central Europe) that immigrated to Southern Alberta from the late 1920s to the 1960s. There is also material that can help you research your house if it was built in the 1960s by one of several builders associated with the Schwartz family.
  By Jennifer Vanderfluit

Jennifer Vanderfluit is a History and Museum Studies graduate from the University of Lethbridge and long-time volunteer at the Galt. In summer of 2012, Jennifer was contracted to arrange and describe Schwartz Agencies fonds and other collections for the Galt Museum & Archives.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Controversy in Lethbridge! Fears of Perversion, Immorality, and Change in 1974

In January 1973 the Lethbridge Birth Control and Information Centre (LBCIC) opened its doors. The LBCIC was run by Judy Burgess, a young nurse who had just finished her schooling at the Galt School of Nursing. Burgess was supported by local doctors, Lloyd Johnston and Robert Hall, and the LBCIC was established next to the Haig Clinic in an old heritage house.

The LBCIC, 1974. Galt Archives, 19901067001
The centre provided literature, out-reach seminars, and counseling on birth control. The centre was supported by many students, women’s liberation activists, local doctors, and city officials. In fact, the LBCIC Board of Governors included Dr. Johnston, Dr. Hall, the City Manager, and a local high school Principal.

The support for the LBCIC was confronted by another group of Lethbridge locals who thought it was immoral to say the least. In 1974 the Community Services Advisory Committee recommended the city pull all municipal funding from the LBCIC and close it down for good. This recommendation caused uproar on both sides: supporters advocating for free access to information and women’s reproductive health, and the protestors calling for moral parental education on birth control.

City Council was flooded with letters of support and protest of the LBCIC. A total of 138 letters opposing the centre were sent, almost all within the month of April. Only 35 letters of support were sent to City Council but three petitions, bearing 893 signatures, accompanied them.

Many citizens in opposition of the LBCIC used their titles of parent, taxpayer, and citizen to give them authority on the issue of birth control information and education. Some also used their occupations in the same aspect. A small number of doctors and nurses, and one clergyman wrote in opposition of the LBCIC. Many of the protestors referred to the center as ‘disgusting’ and ‘immoral’ and the literature distributed ‘perverse’ and ‘pornographic’. Many of them argued that birth control education should be taught in the home and by parents so moral, family, and religious values could be instilled in Lethbridge youth.

Those who supported the LBCIC advocated for equal rights and access to birth control information. Many supporters, such as Rita Moir, editor at the time of the independent university newspaper The Meliorist, believed the LBCIC “produced positive responses in informed people.” Many citizens asked City Council to consider that the LBCIC “fulfills a much needed educational service in the areas of birth control, VD, and adolescent sexuality that has not been available elsewhere.” Many of the support came from the large post-secondary community, including the college and university student unions, the Meliorist staff, various professors, and staff from the Galt School of Nursing, Lethbridge College, and the University of Lethbridge.

The city continued to fund the LBCIC until 1978 when they closed. The next year, in 1979, the Lethbridge Health Unit took over the services and opened the Family Planning Centre. The Lethbridge Health Unit still provides these services today through the Sexual Health Clinic. 
This local controversy occurred only five years after the Canadian government decriminalized birth control and abortion (1969). Therefore, free and legal access to birth control and abortion information was relatively new. This paired with the prevalent religious groups in Lethbridge and surrounding communities made for a strong resistance against the LBCIC.

The LBCIC was part of a much larger national birth control and reproductive rights movement in the 1970s. Similar feminist and student initiatives like the Vancouver Women’s Caucus’ abortion caravan (1970) and the McGill Birth Control Handbook (1968). These are just a few examples of birth control activism in Canada. However, the LBCIC is significant because it has never been researched before. In fact, Albertan reproductive rights activism and its social responses have been left out of the history of the Canadian birth control movement and women’s movement.

If you would like to see some of the LBCIC’s newsletters and articles, or if you would like to learn more about the 1974 controversy in Lethbridge visit the Galt Archives! You can find the accession numbers on our online database by searching “Birth Control Information Centre.”

By Karissa Patton

Karissa Patton is a fourth-year History major at the University of Lethbridge who is interested in Southern Alberta Women’s History. This spring she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing stories uncovered in the archives.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Bringing up Father: Comic strips in the Lethbridge Herald during the Great Depression

The Sunday morning funny pages bring laughter to people all over Canada every week. The tradition of reading the ‘funnies’ has brought a lightness to the often depressing, shocking, or upsetting news. The comic strip “Bringing Up Father” by George McManus brought laughter into the homes of Lethbridge Herald readers during the Great Depression. These comic strips by George McManus featured an upper-middle class family, with the grumpy and mischievous father, Jiggs, as the main character. 

Lethbridge Herald, June 4, 1930.

The comic strip’s plot usual featured the social blunders and misadventures of the “Bringing Up Father” family. The plot of most of the “Bringing Up Father” comic strips begins with Jiggs getting caught in a lie and Maggie either throwing a rolling pin or dishes at him. The comics explore familiar but mundane conflicts that many upper-middle class families and couples would have experienced. However, the themes of “Bringing Up Father” during the 1930s rarely referenced the Great Depression that the world was experiencing.

Lethbridge Herald, June 15, 1938.
In 1931 and 1932, the two worst years of the Great Depression in Canada, The “Bringing Up Father” comics rarely mentioned economic plight, not to mention the world wide Depression. During the Great Depression Canadian unemployment rates never dropped below twelve percent! Although the “Bringing Up Father” comics seem to ignore the plights of the Great Depression, by doing so McManus allowed readers to temporarily escape from the hardships all around them. The stories of Jiggs, his wife Maggie, and their daughter Nora brought laughter to people all over North America during some of the most dismal years in history.

You can view the “Bringing Up Father” comic strips at the Lethbridge Herald online database at the Galt Archives.

If you are interested in comics you may also want to check out Nerd Fest at the Galt Museum and Archives this week, March 21-23, 2013. Click here to learn more about Nerd Fest!

By Karissa Patton
Karissa Patton is a fourth-year History major at the University of Lethbridge who is interested in Southern Alberta Women’s History. This spring she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing stories uncovered in the archives.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Have you ever wondered about the history of your home? “How to Research Your House” Archives Program, March 7, 2013

Have you ever wondered who owned your house before you? Or when it was built?

The Chinook Club House originally resided
in Lethbridge's downtown area. However, the
lot was sold and the house was moved. Now a
Bed & Breakfast, the building can be found
in one of Lethbridge's new south side developments

Last week’s Archives Program outlined the many resources available to research your home here at the Galt Archives as well as other local resources. If you are interested in the history of your house, we've recapped the information here - read on!

Before you start your search, consider:
  1. Street names may have changed, This is significant because many of the records you will find will be under the original address 
  2. Some areas in Lethbridge started as separate municipalities and were later annexed. For example, sections of the North side of Lethbridge began as the small community of Stafford. 
  3. Houses can be identified differently. This means that your home may be described as a district, block, or lot in the early records. This can be confusing because of the large subdivisions created in Lethbridge.
After you have considered original street name, municipality, and description of your home you will be able to research your home more easily. To start, try a title search. This can be done at any local registry or the Alberta Land Titles Office in Calgary. You will have to pay a fee to have a title search done for your house. To learn more about title searches check out the Government of Alberta website.

The next resource to research your home are the house Inventories, or “Black Binders,” at the Galt Archives. These binders include photos and information on each house. The binders are organized by street addresses and are very easy to work with. The Henderson directories, also available at the Galt Archives, will complement the House Inventories in your research on your home. These local directories range in date from 1909 to 2000 and are organized by name and address. These directories can tell you who lived in your home, as well as other interesting facts about that person. For example, some residents’ occupation, marital status, and tenant/owner status. These were a popular and fun item at the program last week! They are very interesting and give you a lot of information on the houses inventoried.

If you are a very thorough researcher or none of the above resources help you with your search you can also investigate local fire insurance maps. These maps are housed at the Galt Archives and range in dates from 1891 to the 1950s. The fire insurance maps provide the most detailed view of the buildings, including the materials used in the construction of each building.

There are many other resources available for your house research! The Galt Archives has published sources in the ATCO Gas Reference Library that outline local histories which may have information on some houses, streets, or neighbourhoods in Lethbridge and other Southern Alberta communities; if you are researching a rural community, such as Coaldale, the Atco Gas Reference Library is an excellent place to start. You can also check out the Galt Archives online database to explore online maps, photos, and documents.

Another alternative resource is your house itself! For example, if you have the original wall paper you may be able to find the approximate date the house was built. You can also search your basement, attic space, under your stairs, etc. for clues about the history of your home (if you do renovations you can also look inside your walls). Some homeowners have found old newspapers and other interesting items that can tell you a lot about your home, the first or early owners, or give you an excellent start for your research.

So if you are interested in the history of your home try the different strategies and check out the resources listed for you. You are also always welcome to come and talk to us at the Galt Archives!  We would love to help point you in the right direction.

Make sure you join us next month for the Archives Program: Volunteering at the Archives!

By Karissa Patton

Karissa Patton is a fourth-year History major at the University of Lethbridge who is interested in Southern Alberta Women’s History. This spring she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing stories uncovered in the archives.

Friday, 1 March 2013

“She Cared Enough to Come:” Archives Exposed Exhibit Honours Senator Joyce Fairbairn

The new Archives Exposed exhibit, From Galt Baby to Senator, opens today! This exhibit will be honouring Senator Joyce Fairbairn through a series of photos and artifacts. Senator Fairbairn was born and raised in Lethbridge and has worked on Parliament Hill in various jobs for the last five decades.

Joyce Fairbarin worked for Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau
as a Legislative Assistant and, later,
Senior Communication Coordinator
until 1984 when she became the first
Senator from Lethbridge, AB.
She was born at the Galt Hospital in 1939 and attended Lethbridge Colligate Institute (LCI). During her time at LCI she also worked as a teen journalist at the Lethbridge Herald writing a column titled, “Teen Chatter”.  Even as a young woman Fairbairn was active in her community as she contributed to the Herald and participated in local speech contests and festivals.

Fairbairn left Lethbridge to attend the University of Alberta, from which she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in English in 1960. A year later, she graduated from Carleton University with a Bachelor of Journalism. Fairbairn stayed in Ottawa and began writing for many newspapers and became the first woman to work in the Parliamentary Press Gallery.
Her career on Parliament Hill continued when Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau hired Fairbairn as his Legislative Assistant in 1970. Later Fairbairn also became Prime Minister Trudeau’s Communications Coordinator.  In 1984 Fairbairn was appointed to the Senate where she worked until January 18, 2013.

Senator Fairbairn was named Chief Morning Bird Woman
when she was inaugurated into the Kainai Chieftainship
in 1990. As a member of the Kainai Chieftainship she attends
meetings and pow-wows.  Photo courtesy of Glenn Miller.
After Fairbairn was appointed to the Senate in 1984 it quickly became clear that she would not be limited to the Red Chamber. Senator Fairbairn quickly became known for attending Southern Albertan milestones, openings, celebrations, and even the occasional cake decorating contest. Senator Fairbairn became well known throughout Southern Alberta because, as one constituent commented, “she cared enough to come”. 
Through her many accomplishments Senator Fairbairn has become a great role model for young women and young Canadians. Her devotion to her communities is amazing, communities such as the Paralympics Association, the Kainai Nation, the University of Lethbridge, the city of Lethbridge, and many more.
It was my privilege to curate this exhibit to honour Senator Fairbairn and her great accomplishments. Please come and be impressed by Senator Fairbairn’s career endeavors and her passions and honours at the Archives Exposed… Galt Baby to Senator exhibit!

By Karissa Patton

Karissa Patton is a fourth-year History major at the University of Lethbridge who is interested in Southern Alberta Women’s History. This spring she is the archives assistant social media contributor for the Galt Museum & Archives, earning Applied Studies credit while sharing stories uncovered in the archives