Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Little History Lesson

That might sound boring to some people, but not to me. Part of the reason I love vintage is its connection to history. The clothes people wear inevitably say something about the time they live in.

The show that I'm working on at MTC is called The Fighting Days. It's by a Canadian playwright named Wendy Lill. It's a story about women's suffrage in Winnipeg and takes place between the years 1912 and 1916. Click here for a great summary about the play.

Three of the characters in the play were real women who lived and breathed and fought for women's suffrage in Winnipeg at the turn of the 20th century. The third character, a man is based on an actual person. I find all of this very fascinating.

With the expansion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the early 1880's came an increase in immigration and settlement in Winnipeg. At the turn on 20th century Winnipeg was a very exciting place. It was called "The Gateway to the West" and "The Chicago of the North"!

Main Street looking north from Portage Avenue, Winnipeg, 1912.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg - Streets - Main c1912 6 (N17779).

At the beginning of the last century, no city on the continent was growing faster or was more aggressive than Winnipeg. No year in the city’s history epitomized this energy more that 1912, when Winnipeg was on the crest of a period of unprecedented prosperity. In just forty years, it had grown from a village on the banks of the Red River to become the third largest city in Canada. In the previous decade alone, its population had tripled to nearly 170,000 and it now dominated the economy and society of western Canada. As Canada’s most cosmopolitan and ethnically diverse centre, with most of its population under the age of forty, it was also the country’s liveliest city, full of bustle and optimism.

Look at those hats! Click on picture to enlarge photo!

Winnipeg's old City Hall. The famous Victorian "gingerbread" building. Was structurally unsound and was demolished in the 60's. See great photos and read more about it here

There is a line in the play that refers to Winnipeg Beach as a spot where the "fashionable crowd" goes. Winnipeggers would take the train or drive out of the city to the beach. The boardwalk there was quite the hot spot. 

source for 3 photos above

1912. The building on the right is the "new" Post Office. The building on the right is the Manitoba Free Press. One of the characters in the play works at the Free Press.

This image, from a 1912 Winnipeg Industrial Bureau brochure, is typical of the boosterism of the period.

I sometimes find it hard to believe that this little city I live in was once a bustling metropolis.


1 comment:

  1. Aren't those photos wonderful! I really enjoyed looking at them. Thanks.


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