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MHS Centennial Business: Manitoba Free Press / Winnipeg Free Press

Link to:
Presidents | Publishers | Editors-in-Chief | Associate Editors | Managing Editors | City Editors | Editorial Page Editors | Reporters/Journalists | Miscellaneous Executives | See Also | Sources

Volume 1 Number 1 of the Manitoba Free Press was launched on 30 November 1872. A few copies distributed free appeared on 9 November. It was started by two young men, one with newspaper know-how, William Fisher Luxton, and the other with money and muscle, John A. Kenny. Luxton bought a press in New York and they rented a shack at 555 Main Street, near the present Main and James Street corner. It was hot in summer and cold in winter. The Luxton family and the widower Kenny lived upstairs. John Cameron, reporter and humourist, and Justus Griffin, printer, had a bunk downstairs in a cubbyhole next to the front office.

The type and press arrived by Red River steamboat on 25 October. It was the first cylinder press north of St. Paul, Minnesota, and was run by human muscle power supplied mainly by the huge and powerful Kenny who, among others, turned the handle.

Liberal in philosophy, the Free Press was a leader among newspapers in Canada. It became a leading daily and its sister weekly, the Prairie Farmer, became the most widely circulated farm weekly in Canada. Of 20 newspapers that started in Manitoba between 1859 and 1890, only the Free Press survived.

The eight-page first edition contained a variety of material including a story, a poem, men’s news, telegraphic dispatches, editorials, local news, and classified ads. The first main story was the re-election of General Ulysses S. Grant as President of the United States of America. It was the only daily west of Toronto on 6 July 1874. It cost 25 cents per week on subscription and there were 900 subscribers. In those early years, putting together a newspaper was a formidable task. All copy was written by hand and type was set by hand, one letter at a time. In very cold weather, even the red-hot box stove in the press room could not keep the ink and rollers warm and a row of 32 coal oil lamps was placed around the press.

Many other problems surfaced in those early years—failure of telegraphic services via Montreal and the USA due to adverse weather—storms, frost and prairie fires, unreliable paper supply that had to come by rail, steamboat or ox cart. For example, a paper shortage coincided with the hot story of the downfall of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald’s government. There was just enough paper for the Free Press to produce a handbill-sized sheet carrying the news from Ottawa and apologies to readers.

In 1874 the enterprise moved to a new building on Main opposite St. Mary Avenue. As it grew in popularity it continued to live up to its motto of fostering “Freedom of Trade, Liberty of Religion, and Equality of Civil Rights.” In 1882 it moved to a building on McDermot east of Main Street, stayed there until 1900, and then moved to a new address on McDermot and Albert Street. By then it had added a women’s section, crop reports, and a book and magazine page. Because of its growth it moved in 1905 to a four-storey building at Portage and Garry. As circulation grew and new presses were added, another move became necessary, and in 1913 the paper occupied the building at 300 Carlton and remained there for 78 years, becoming known as “the old lady of Carlton Street.” In 1991 the Free Press moved to its present location at 1355 Mountain Avenue.

From the beginning, Luxton’s outspoken editorials shaped the future of the new City of Winnipeg. About 1892, control of the Free Press passed to Clifford Sifton. From 1901 to 1944, John Wesley Dafoe served as editorial writer, editor-in-chief and president. He, too, was a man of strong opinions. He fought for Western issues such as breaking the CPR’s monopoly in the prairies, and lower freight rates. He actively promoted Dominion status and autonomy for Canada. In 1931 the name of the Manitoba Free Press became the Winnipeg Free Press.

James Gray related an interesting story dating to when he worked for the newspaper. A character named Davy Rait established squatter’s rights in the newsroom in 1924. His consuming passion was to avoid work at all costs and he managed to spend his life in idleness. He cadged quarters from the newsroom staff, and for ten years slept erect in a chair by the door of the newspaper library. At the time the business manager for the paper was Edward Hamilton Macklin, known for his sulphuric vocabulary. A new employee, Scott Young, asked about the old man sleeping by the library door. Clem Shields, a senior employee, thought he would play a joke on the newcomer. He said: “That’s Mr. Macklin, so for God’s sake don’t slam the door when you go in or out. If you do and he wakes up, run and don’t look back.” Thereafter, Young tiptoed past the sleeping Rait, until one night disaster struck. Out of the library a few paces behind Young came the editor-in-chief John Wesley Dafoe. Young held the door open for Mr. Dafoe who, preoccupied with weighty matters, paid no attention to the door. It closed with a loud bang. Davy Rait awoke and screamed and shouted abuse at Dafoe’s back while the awestruck Young hid behind a counter. So convinced was Young by this exhibition of what he thought was “Macklin terror,” that for weeks afterwards he removed his shoes before tiptoeing past the sleeping Rait.

In January 2001, an MHS Centennial Business Award was presented to the Winnipeg Free Press by Sam Loschiavo.

Presidents

Period

President

1872-1893

William Fisher Luxton (1844-1907)

1893-1906

John Mather (1828-1907)

1906-1912

John Wright Sifton (1833-1912)

1912-1935

Edward Hamilton Macklin (1863-1946)

1936-1944

John Wesley Dafoe (1866-1944)

1944-1961

Wilfred Victor Sifton (1897-1961)

1961-1969

John Wright Sifton (1925-1969)

1969-1974

Richard Sankey Malone (1909-1985)

1974-1980

?

1980-?

R. H. Shelford

Vice-Presidents

Period

Vice-President

1951-1961

Richard Sankey Malone (1909-1985)

Publishers

Period

Publisher

1944-1961

Victor Sifton (1897-1961)

1961-1969

John Wright Sifton (1925-1969)

1969-1974

Richard Sankey Malone (1909-1985)

1974-1979

Richard C. Malone

1979-1987

Donald Nicol

1987-1989

Arthur Wood (c1926-2004)

1990-1992

Bruce LeRiche Rudd (1936-2000)

1992-1994

Maurice Switzer

1994-2003

Rudy Redekop

2003-2005

Murdoch Davis

2006-2007

Andrew S. Ritchie

2007-2022

Bob Cox

Editors-in-Chief / Executive Editor / Editor

Period

Editor-in-Chief / Executive Editor / Editor

1872-1893

William Fisher Luxton (1844-1907)

1893-1898

Frederick Edward Molyneux St. John (1838-1904)

1898-1901

Arnott James Magurn (1861-1923)

1901-1944

John Wesley Dafoe (1866-1944)

1944-1946

George Victor Ferguson (1897-1977)

1946-1954

Alexander Grant Dexter (1896-1961)

1954-1959

Thomas Worrall “Tom” Kent (1922-2011)

1959-1967

Shane MacKay (1926-2001)

1967-1979

Peter McLintock

1979-1993

See Managing Editors

1993-1996

Duncan McMonagle

1996-2005

Nicholas Hirst

2005-2007

Bob Cox

2007-2012

Margo Goodhand

2012-present

Paul Samyn

Associate Editors

Period

Associate Editor

1929-1931

Thomas Beattie Roberton (1879-1936)

1931-?

?

?-1946

Alexander Grant Dexter (1896-1961)

c1967

Maurice Western
Peter McLintock

Managing Editors

Period

Managing Editor

?-1889

Archibald McNee (1845-1925)

1889-1944

?

1944-1950

Albert Ernest Horsemah “Abbie” Coo (1885-1967)

1944-1952

Edwin Elcome “Ted” Dafoe (1894-1981)

1952-1959

William Henry “Bill” Metcalfe (1906-1990)

1960-1975

Albert Boothe (1913-1985)

1975-1979

?

1979-1990

Murray Burt

1990-1993

David Clayton William “Dave” Lee (1946-2017)

City Editors

Period

City Editor

?-1914

Charles Victor Combe (1888-1953)

1914-1944

?

1944-1950

Edward Arthur Nicholson “Eddie/Ed” Armstrong (1904-1950)

1950-1960

?

1960-1965

Gordon Henderson Sinclair (1921-1976)

1965-?

?

?-?

Patrick Thomas “Pat” Flynn (1948-2012)

Editorial Page Editors

Period

City Editor

1980-1995

John Dafoe

1995-?

Brian Cole

?-?

Terry Moore

Sports Editors

Period

City Editor

1939-1944

Edward Arthur Nicholson “Eddie/Ed” Armstrong (1904-1950)

Reporters/Journalists

Reporter/Journalist

Period

Title(s)

Jeffrey William Anderson (c1929-2014)

Late 1950s

Music Critic

Edward Arthur Nicholson “Eddie/Ed” Armstrong (1904-1950)

?-1939

Sports Reporter

Welford Beaton (1874-?)

1895-?

 

Madeleine Bernier (1920-2017)

?-?

Women's Page Editor

David Reginald “Dave” Bonner (1928-2006)

1946-1978

News Photographer

Albert Boothe (1913-1985)

1975-1978

Consulting Editor

Lillian “Jimmy” Coo (1914-2005)

1937-1942, 1946-1947

Women's Sports

John Andrew Milton “Jam” Cook (1902-1963)

1940s

War Correspondent

Melvin Roy “Mel” Dagg (1931-2012)

1960s-1990s

Outdoor Writer, Columnist

Reynolds Leonard “Reyn” Davis (1943-2006)

?

Sportswriter

Olive Patricia Dickason (1920-2011)

?

 

Patrick Thomas “Pat” Flynn (1948-2012)

1981-2010

Night City Editor, Night News Editor, Deputy Editor, Travel Editor

Max Freedman (1914-1980)

1946-1953

 

Larry Joseph Geller (1937-2005)

1970-1977

Columnist

Marjorie McGillivray “Marj” Gillies (1923-2020)

?

 

James Henry Gray (1906-1998)

1935-1947

 

George Henry Ham (1847-1926)

1875-1879

 

Ella Cora Hind (1861-1942)

1901-?

Agricultural Reporter

Nancy Bisset Kennedy (1912-2005)

1930s

Columnist

Vincent “Vince” Leah (1913-1993)

1980-1993

Columnist

Florence Hamilton Randal Livesay (1875-1953)

1906-?

Women's and Children's Departments

Harold Ralph Maybank (1890-1965)

1919-?

 

Peter McClintock

1967-1980

Consulting Editor

William Henry “Bill” Metcalfe (1906-1990)

1931-1940

 

Harold Moore (1877-1971)

1920-1946

 

Frank Morriss (c1907-1972)

1928-1959

News Copy Editor

Roger Newman (1935-2021)

?

Legislative Reporter

Robert William “Bob” Noble (1901-1994)

1950-?

Culture Reporter

Elizabeth Fulton “The Bookman” Parker (1856-1944)

1904-1940

 

Philip Purcell (1865-1939)

1912-1917

Telegraph Editor

Katherine Gloria Queen-Hughes (1909-1978)

1927-1928

Sports Reporter

Bill Redekop

?

 

Lindor Marion Rose Heuvel Reynolds (c1958-2014)

1994-2014

Columnist

Heather Margaret Robertson (1942-2014)

?

 

John Robertson (1934-2014)

1956-?, 1986-1987

 

John Palmerston Robertson (1841-1919)

1881-1884

 

Télesphore Saint Pierre (1869-1912)

?

 

Garth Ross Taylor (1922-2002)

?

News Editor

Eugene Louis “Gene” Telpner (1920-2005)

14 years

 

Valentine “Val” Werier (1917-2014)

1980-?

 

Miscellaneous Executives

Executive

Period

Position

John Beaufort Somerset (1843-1901)

1893-1901

Secretary-Treasurer

See Also

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Free Press Building (300 Carlton Street, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Lyon Block / Aikins Block / Bate Block (221 McDermot Avenue, Winnipeg)

Historic Sites of Manitoba: John Wesley Dafoe Plaque (1355 Mountain Avenue, Winnipeg)

Sources:

“Davis named Free Press publisher,” Winnipeg Free Press, 19 July 2003, page 1.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 22 January 2022

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