Cures, Clothes, and Comfort: Profiting from the 1918 Influenza Pandemic

By Jane Jenkins

Spreading as fast as the COVID-19 pandemic these days are ads and YouTube videos touting cures and preventatives: if you can hold your breath for 10 seconds you don’t have the virus but if you do fall victim megadoses of Vitamin C, lemons, zinc lozenges, and anti-malaria drugs can cure you. Peddlers of quack cures like these see opportunity in the uncertainty of a world turned upside down. Things weren’t much different during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

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Source: Public Archives of New Brunswick

When influenza swept into New Brunswick in the fall of 1918, people were already bone-weary from four years of war and it seemed almost incomprehensible that things could get any worse. Unfortunately, people were soon overwhelmed by fear of the invisible killer they called “the enemy in our midst”. Health Department officials responded swiftly and within days of the first reported cases, issued orders to close all theatres, schools, and churches and to prohibit large gatherings and meetings. Although shops and small businesses could remain open, customer flow was greatly reduced. The province had been shut down and it would stay that way for five long weeks.

Isolation, boredom, and overwhelming dread replaced the usual routines of life that chilly fall of 1918. And feeding on this widespread anxiety were newspaper advertisements and articles trumpeting remedies to prevent or cure influenza by keeping the right attitude, making home-made recipes, or buying ready-made items. In most cases, the path to cure and comfort led straight to the clothes and other goods for sale in shops and stores. Continue reading

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History is Not a Shield for Ludlow

By  Richard Yeomans

In recent months there has been a growing debate about New Brunswick’s loyalist past, and especially how it fits into the present with the question of whether to rename the University of New Brunswick’s law school building, Ludlow Hall. This is a debate worth having, even if it involves uncomfortable truths about our history.

To many, the loyalists of the American Revolution are understood as the founding mothers and fathers of this province. Through the 19th century, this thinking evolved into a kind of myth that later Canadian historians used to imagine the foundation of modern-day Canada.[1] But in doing so, the 19th-century “tory myth” skewed our view of the loyalists as contrary-minded Americans that rejected revolution.[2] In other words, the loyalists were remembered historically as a deferential group of refugees who wholehearted accepted the authority of Britain.

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Ludlow Hall, [after 1984]. PR; Series 2; Sub-series 3; File 541; Item 2. Photo credit: Joe Stone & Son Ltd.

To argue this point, past historians would often chronicle the life and political exploits of certain loyalist refugees.[3] Famous loyalists such as Ward Chipman, Jonathan Odell and George Duncan Ludlow represented an elite minority, and their extensive written records have been easily taken as a blueprint of a larger loyalist ideology.  Their involvement in the establishment of New Brunswick was easily traceable, and in the post-Confederation era, served Canadian historians as iconographic counterpoints to American figures such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. Continue reading

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Unnatural Landscapes

 By Ronald Rudin

Unnatural Landscapes — a documentary film that I produced and Montreal filmmaker Bernar Hébert directed — takes viewers on a journey through 32,000 hectares of marshlands in the Canadian provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Along the way, viewers are encouraged to reflect on what it means for a landscape to be “natural.” The film is now available at: http://unnaturallandscapes.ca.

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For over three centuries, this landscape has been protected from the tides of the Bay of Fundy — the largest in the world — by structures that made it possible to farm on drained land that had once been salt marsh. After World War II, these structures — dykes that held back the tides and aboiteaux that allowed water to drain out from the fields — were deteriorating. In response, the Canadian government created the Maritime Marshland Rehabilitation Administration to reconstruct or replace them, sometimes succeeding and other times creating new environmental problems. Continue reading

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CBC Show: The Oland Murder

Premiering On Wednesday, 4 March, at 9:00 pm will be a 4-part true crime series by the CBC on The Oland Murder.

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The Oland Murder

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Breaking Royal Precedent?: The Escuminac Disaster and the Royal Tour of 1959

By Barry MacKenzie

The most recent season of Netflix’s The Crown includes a moving episode about the horrific disaster which befell the community of Aberfan, Wales, when in October 1966 an unsafe and poorly monitored coal tip avalanched and buried a portion of the village, killing 144 people (116 of them children). The episode focuses in part on the controversial decision by the Queen to avoid visiting the village until more than a week had passed, a decision which some have suggested is the greatest regret of her long reign. As someone who studies royal tours of Canada, my mind was immediately drawn to the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh’s visit with widows and orphans of a Canadian disaster which took place just seven years before Aberfan.

DG 14 jul 1959 p1 donation to fundIn the summer of 1959, the Escuminac Disaster weighed heavily on the minds of many New Brunswickers after it claimed the lives of 35 men and boys from the province, 31 from the Escuminac area.  On the night of 20/21 June, a violent storm unexpectedly struck the Northumberland Strait, and dozens of fishing boats were stranded on the open water as they were tossed about. Tales of bravery and sacrifice abounded, and whole families were devastated by the loss of fathers and sons. On 22 June, Lord Beaverbrook, a son of the Miramichi, pledged $5,000 to kick-off a relief fund established by the Fredericton Daily Gleaner, the Atlantic Advocate, and the Red Cross.  Donations poured in from around the world, and on 14 July, news broke that the Queen and Prince Philip, who had begun a 45-day tour of Canada just days before the disaster, had made a donation of an undisclosed amount to the fund, in what was called “a departure from royal precedent.”[1]  According to the Daily Gleaner, “It is the first time the Queen has made such a donation in Canada, and possibly the first time for any cause outside the United Kingdom.”[2] The parish priest in Baie Ste. Anne, one of the fishing communities most devastated by the storm, told reporters that “‘just knowing the Queen has given something will be a great help.’”[3] Continue reading

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Linda Kealey reviews Stephen Harold Riggins and Roberta Buchanan, eds. Creating A University: The Newfoundland Experience.

Stephen Harold Riggins and Roberta Buchanan, eds. Creating A University: The Newfoundland Experience. (St. John’s: ISER Books, 2019).

By Linda Kealey

I opened this collection of 32 short essays with great interest as I spent 22 years teaching in Memorial University’s (MUN) History Department from 1980 to 2002.  The authors, mainly “come from aways” (CFA) or non-native Newfoundlanders, mostly from the United Kingdom or the United States, reflect on their sometimes accidental arrivals in St. John’s to teach at MUN.  Like them, I too was a CFA and like a number of them I expected to stay for only a brief period before moving on.  These “arrival” stories have common themes:  vast ignorance of the geography, history and culture of Canada let alone Canada’s tenth province; the need to learn to deal with the  weather; the challenge of starting teaching with little experience and, especially, little preparation for handling students out of grade 11 who originated from small outport communities.

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Stephen Harold Riggins and Roberta Buchanan, eds. Creating A University: The Newfoundland Experience. (St. John’s: ISER Books, 2019).

Early academic arrivals often took a ship from the UK, a train from Quebec and a ferry from the mainland, trips that involved days  if not weeks .  When they arrived, they faced the challenge of finding housing, sometimes in university-owned houses in the early days when MUN had difficulty attracting faculty.  A number of new faculty members had very little money upon arrival and University policy did not permit advances. Perhaps the most brutally honest account comes from the English Department’s Roberta Buchanan: “I was 26 years old.  I was in a strange country where I knew no one.  I had no teaching experience. I was scared…I had a pack of cards.  I sat on the floor of my room, playing patience, watched tear-jerkers on television, and drank rye and ginger ale.  So began my new life in Canada” (251). While not all arrival stories in the volume are this stark, those coming to the university from outside experienced considerable culture shock, unfamiliar topography, and a myriad of challenges, including the limited availability of fresh vegetables other than root crops.  On the other hand, as many of these authors note, Newfoundland’s unique history, economy, folklore, music, culture, and physical geography became the basis of their research and publications. Continue reading

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Bonnie Huskins reviews Stephen Davidson’s Birchtown and the Black Loyalist Experience From 1775 to the Present

Stephen Davidson. Birchtown and the Black Loyalist Experience From 1775 to the Present (Halifax: Formac Publishing Company Limited, 2019).

By Bonnie Huskins

This book is a fitting tribute to two groups of African-Nova Scotians: the black loyalists who established, in Birchtown, the largest free black settlement in British North America, and their descendants in Nova Scotia and elsewhere, who have fought hard to keep the memory of their ancestors alive. Although not a descendent himself, Stephen Davidson is an educator and author well known to historians of the loyalists and loyalist era. He has published hundreds of stories and articles on the loyalists and many of his works appear in Loyalist Trails (a United Empire Loyalists’ Association of Canada publication), some of which document the stories of black loyalists (https://teachingafricancanadianhistory.weebly.com). As someone who is committed to making history accessible, Davidson’s writing is lively and engaging, and will capture the interest of the general reader. The text is also enriched by photographs taken by professional photographer Peter Zwicker, who is based in Lunenburg, Nova Scotia. Part One of the book details the decades-long struggle to save the Birchtown site. This is a story worth sharing in an era that privileges development at any cost over heritage preservation. The story also serves as an inspiration for historians and members of local history societies who tirelessly campaign to preserve elements of their past.

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Stephen Davidson. Birchtown and the Black Loyalist Experience From 1775 to the Present (Halifax: Formac Publishing Company Limited, 2019).

Located on the northwest arm of Shelburne Harbour, Birchtown was identified in 1783 by Governor John Parr as the site of a separate community for the free black loyalists who arrived with the loyalist fleets in 1783. By 1784, Birchtown boasted upwards of 1530 people, making it the “largest free Black settlement outside of Africa” (58). The first documented reference to the name “Birchtown” was in the journal of deputy surveyor Benjamin Marston, who recorded on 7 September 1783 that he had sent his assistants to “Birch-Town today out for Blacks” (58). The town is named after Brigadier General Samuel Birch, who signed freedom certificates for many of the black loyalists in New York City before they sailed to Nova Scotia. The settlement eventually declined in numbers, due to a general exodus from the area, as well as the migration of many Birchtown residents to Sierra Leone in 1792. Continue reading

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New issue of the Journal of New Brunswick Studies

The editorial board of the Journal of New Brunswick Studies/Revue d’études sur le Nouveau-Brunswick (JNBS/RÉNB) is pleased to announce the release of its latest issue.

The new issue can be accessed at https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JNBS/index.
JNBS/RÉNB is an online, multi-disciplinary journal that publishes peer-reviewed research about the province in English and French. The only journal of ideas in New Brunswick, it publishes thoughtful writing that engages a wide readership in ongoing conversations about the province.

PLEASE NOTE: If you have bookmarked or tabbed JNBS/RÉNB for easy access, we have had to change our url address as a result of moving to a new host server. The journal’s new address is https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JNBS/index. Please update your bookmark or tab with the new address.

For more information about the journal, contact editor.jnbs@stu.ca.


Le comité éditorial de la Journal of New Brunswick Studies/Revue d’études sur le Nouveau-Brunswick (JNBS/RÉNB) est heureux de vous annoncer que son dernier numéro est maintenant en ligne.

Vous pouvez y accéder en vous rendant à : https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JNBS/index. Journal of New Brunswick Studies / La Revue d’études sur le Nouveau-Brunswick (JNBS/RÉNB) est une revue pluridisciplinaire dans laquelle sont publiés des articles évalués par les pairs, portant sur la province et ce, en anglais ou en français. Unique en son genre dans la province, RÉNB/JNBS vise à publier des articles réfléchis qui intéresseront un vaste lectorat dans le but d’alimenter les débats sur le Nouveau-Brunswick.

Nota bene : Si vous avez mis en signet ou en onglet JNBS/RÉNB pour un accès plus rapide, nous vous avisons d’un changement concernant l’adresse url du journal, rendu nécessaire par des mises à jour liées à notre serveur d’hébergement. Voici la nouvelle adresse du journal : https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/JNBS/index. Veuiller réviser votre signet ou votre onglet en fonction de cette nouvelle adresse.

Pour de plus amples renseignements, écrivez à : editor.jnbs@stu.ca.

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Enslaved in Nova Scotia: The Case of Rose Welch

By Robyn Brown

There once was a young woman gave birth to a baby while living in a small outport of Nova Scotia. Unmarried, she delivered alone in a bedroom of the house where she lived; no one in the household knew she was pregnant. Her child was stillborn and she wrapped the body of the baby in a cloth before placing it in the river which flowed close to her home. Her story is one which could be placed in any time period; while not common, the situation of this young woman was by no means unheard of. What complicates this story, at least within the context of Nova Scotia, is that the child’s mother, Rose Welch, was the enslaved property of a wealthy merchant. Rose was charged with murdering her child but thanks to local magistrate Simeon Perkins interceding on her behalf, she was able to give evidence in her defense and was ultimately found not guilty of the charges brought against her. The trial of Rose Welch brings to light the experiences of an enslaved woman and her words, something unique in the discussion of slavery, and adds to the complicated history of enslaved people in Nova Scotia.

The date and location of Rose Welch’s birth is unknown. She is described as being a “black girl”, called either Rose or Pol. and was either a slave or a servant in the household of Benajah Collins, a wealthy Liverpool merchant; the courts were either unwilling or unable to ascertain her legal status. There is no mention of Rose having a family, something which was quite common in the context of slavery in Nova Scotia.[1] It is unclear as to when Rose came into the Collins household but given the time period, she likely worked as a domestic and lived in Collins’ house, as was the custom of the day.[2] When Perkins began recording his interactions with Rose Welch, she was already in jail, arrested for the suspected murder of her newborn child. There are no details on how she became a suspect or how long she had been incarcerated. Perkins notes that,

…she confessed  that  She  was the  mother of the  Child found that she  was delivered alone, in her  Chamber, about Sunset, & that  the Same night she laid the Child in the Tide’s way; that she did not do  anything to kill it, nor did she ever perceive any life in it; that she  had the Child Near a fortnight before she was taken up and that when she was examined before, she was  afraid, & ashamed to Own it, but Now she was Neither afraid, Nor ashamed to Own the truth.[3]

While this is a second hand account of her testimony, Perkins was, as a rule, meticulous in how he recorded legal proceedings in his diary. His diary represents the only record of certain judicial proceedings in Liverpool and Perkins took his role as legal records keeper quite seriously; there is no reason to believe that this is not an accurate record of her words. It is after this statement that things begin to change for Rose Welch, though it is unclear if she knew it. Continue reading

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Remembering Michael S. Cross

By Peter L. Twohig

When I heard that Michael died, I just wanted to hear his voice again. So I listened to a lecture he gave at Memorial University in 1983. The lecture series on Canadian and Working Class history took place at Memorial University, organized by Gregory Kealey, another eminent historian. I smiled when it was noted that Michael was actively working on his biography on Robert Baldwin. He would finish that book – but not until 2012! But like much of Michael’s work, it was done to a very high standard. It won the Osgoode Society’s John T. Saywell Prize in constitutional history and the Canadian Authors Association Lela Common Award for Canadian History.

There are dozens of historians more capable than me who could assess Michael’s impact on the discipline of history, and I am not up to that task. I can see books on my shelves that bear his name and countless others that were shaped by his editorial skill and trenchant criticism. In the acknowledgements of my second book, Labour in the Laboratory, I wrote that Michael’s “dedication to his students, the stuff of urban legend at Dalhousie and beyond, proved accurate and I benefitted from his criticism and support. He is a powerful role model, personally and professionally, and it was my privilege to be his student.” I stand by that assessment. Let me tell you why. Continue reading

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