Manitoba History: “Only Brandon Men Can and Will Save It”: Boosterism, Brandon College, and the Crisis of the Great Depression
The Great Depression was a challenging period for institutions of higher education in Western Canada. In Saskatchewan, provincial grants for higher education were reduced by 41 percent between 1930 and 1934, and in 1932 the grant to the University of Manitoba was cut nearly in half.  Publicly-funded institutions experienced unprecedented austerity, but the Depression’s effect on the revenues of denominationally-based colleges, gained from endowments, student tuition, and voluntary grants from individuals or groups, was especially severe. Early in the 1930s both Regina College, originally a Methodist sponsored institution, and Mount Royal College, a United Church affiliate in Calgary, were forced to become non-denominational, publicly-funded and government-operated colleges.  Later in the decade, Brandon College experienced a similar transition. 
W.T. Easterbrook, a faculty member of Brandon College late in the Depression, recalled that Brandon College in the 1930s was “... a hard-times college.”  It had been since its inception. Established in 1899 on the initiative of the Baptist Conference of Manitoba, Brandon College failed repeatedly to secure a university charter from the province of Manitoba, and in 1911 became affiliated with McMaster University. The crisis of the Great Depression eroded the school’s financial resources, ended the formal Baptist association with the College, and stimulated the city’s business elite to lead an initiative to ensure the College’s survival.
The philosophy behind this initiative was “boosterism.” This idea had shaped business-led civic initiatives in Brandon and other Western cities since the earliest days of settlement.  By the 1930s, the dominance of Brandon’s boosters in shaping civic developments was challenged by working class political opposition and somewhat undermined by the diminished financial independence and legislative autonomy of the City of Brandon.  Nevertheless, in 1939, at the conclusion of a protracted campaign on behalf of the College, the city’s business elite, acting through the Brandon Board of Trade, secured the provincial and municipal financial support required to sustain the College. Moreover, they secured as well a corporate structure for the operation of the institution which placed members of the elite in control of College affairs.
Brandon College was always short of money. While a complete record of the College’s financial affairs in unavailable, it is clear that by 1917 the College had an accumulated debt of $107,000. In March 1917, the College Board undertook to issue $100,000 in Brandon College bonds as a means of financing the accumulated debt. But, except in 1926 and 1928, the College continued to experience annual deficits even throughout the relatively prosperous twenties. In 1928, the deterioration of the College’s financial position prompted the Baptist Union to investigate its financing.  Advised by the College administration that an endowment plan to provide continuing financial security was under development, the Union agreed to provide $10,000 towards the accumulated deficit.
The 1928 endowment scheme involved a syndicate of wealthy Baptist businessmen who had agreed to pledge collectively $750,000 to the fund. The syndicate included financier Cyrus Eaton of Cleveland, industrialist Gordon Edwards of Ottawa, lawyer E. J. Tarr of Winnipeg, and the President of the McKenzie Seed Company, A. E. McKenzie. With the exception of McKenzie, all were wealthy Baptist laymen. Eaton and Tarr were graduates of Woodstock College and McMaster University. McKenzie had served on the Brandon College Board for a number of years.  The syndicate’s pledge was conditional upon the College raising $100,000 by July 1930, and an additional $400,000 before July 1934. 
Raising such a huge sum was a dubious enterprise in 1929; it soon became an impossibility. By 1931, the financial condition of the College was so bleak that President Dr. J. R. C. Evans sought funds from Gordon Edwards simply to pay the College’s current salaries.  With the collapse of the endowment scheme and the failure to find a solution to the chronic financial crisis, late in February, 1931, the Baptist Union of Western Canada resolved to close the College at the end of the academic year. 
The prospect of losing the College galvanized the city’s business elite.  A delegation, including H. A. McNiell, a Brandon solicitor and the President of the Brandon Board of Trade and Civics, David Beaubier, the sitting Conservative member of Parliament, and J. R. C. Evans, representing the College administration, was appointed to seek an interview with the provincial government on the future of the College. The results of a meeting on 23 February 1931 with R. A. Hoey, Manitoba’s Minister of Education, were disappointing. At the end of March 1931, Premier Bracken, already burdened with a deepening financial crisis, advised President Evans that
But the city’s business elite refused to accept Bracken’s position as the last word on the College. In late April, following further negotiations, Bracken agreed that, if the City of Brandon were to issue bonds on behalf of the College, the province would guarantee them.
In May 1931, Brandon City Council agreed to place a proposal before the city’s ratepayers to provide the College with an annual grant of $20,000 for a period of five years. As well, if at the end of that period the College authorities had raised $800,000 as an endowment fund, the City would add a further $200,000 in debentures by the City. A three-fifths majority of the city’s ratepayers was required to approve the funding proposal for the College. Moreover, civic support for the proposal was conditional upon the College providing confirmation that it had commitments of annual donations of $22,500 from a number of private benefactors. 
In the course of the campaign leading to the vote, Mayor Harry Cater, who had initially supported the move to assist the College, came out against the bylaw, arguing that prior to the City committing itself to financial aid, a guarantee should be provided to the City concerning other aid anticipated by the College. Cater, a maverick politician who stayed in office for many years as an anti-establishment candidate, went so far as to place an advertisement in the Brandon Sun criticizing the bylaw and advocating a “no” vote.  Opposition was strengthened just days before the vote with the admission by one of the College’s benefactors, Gordon Edwards of Ottawa, that he was not in a position to guarantee his continued support of the College. 
By 1931 the city’s business elite had the power to bring the question of the College’s future before City Council and to gain Council’s agreement to place before civic ratepayers a bylaw to provide financial help to the College, but its power to control civic affairs was not what it has once been. As Brandon had grown in the years following 1900, organized labour had emerged to contest the business elite’s influence. In 1917, a Labour Representation League had been organized to sponsor labour candidates for public office. Like many centres in western Canada in the spring of 1919, Brandon had experienced a sustained and deeply divisive labour revolt. 
The principal legacy of the Brandon labour crisis of 1919 was an enduring community antagonism similar to that which emerged in Winnipeg in the same period.  As in Winnipeg, Brandon workers, having failed to achieve their aspirations through mass economic action, turned to the ballot box to gain their objectives. Organized as the Dominion Labour party in 1919, the Workers’ Campaign Committee in 1922, and the Independent Labour Party from 1927, working class activists in the city contested for political dominance in the city. In response, Brandon’s business elite sponsored candidates under the banner of the Citizen’s Committee in 1922, the Citizen’s Campaign Committee of One Hundred in 1925, the Young Citizen’s League from 1927 to 1929, and the Brandon Progress Association during the 1930s. 
Because of the highly politicized nature of Brandon civic politics and the remarkably generous nature of the proposal to aid the College, the Board of Trade’s request to Council to provide financial aid to the College became a divisive municipal issue and the focus of a contest between classes in the city. Opposition to the proposal came in particular from the working class regions of the city. On June 2, 1931, when the proposal was voted on, in eight of seventeen polls the majority went against it. In one poll in the north end the vote was 58 for and 179 against. The overall vote was 1307 to 930 in favor of the bylaw. However, because a three-fifths majority was required for adoption, the bylaw was defeated by a margin of 61 votes. 
He was also angered by the leading role played by Beatrice Bridgen, a Brandon-based labour and social activist, in promoting opposition among workers in Brandon to the College. Bridgen, a student at the College prior to the Great War, had emerged as a leading figure of the Brandon People’s Church, which was organized by Rev. A. E. Smith during the labour crisis in the city in the spring of 1919. She was active in the Brandon Labour Party and its successor, the Independent Labour Party, and, in the federal election in 1930, she was a candidate for the Independent Labour Party in Brandon. 
The city’s workers had some reasons for viewing the College in a positive light. Faculty members had given addresses to the Peoples’ Forum, a labour political organization modeled after the Peoples’ Forum created in Winnipeg by J. S. Woodsworth in 1912. Chester New, who had come to the College prior to the Great War to begin his career teaching Canadian history, had been publicly identified with the cause of the successful Brandon Civic Employees’ Union strike in the spring of 1919. Indeed, his support for the workers was acknowledged at the conclusion of the victorious strike, and the Brandon Sun reported that business elements in the city were out “to get Dr. New.”  Another faculty member, Douglas Durkin, had volunteered his services to the Brandon Trades and Labour Council when he was on the faculty of the College in the early years of the Great War. 
However, New and Durkin were not the only people who came to mind when workers thought of Brandon College. H. P. Whidden, the President of the College from 1912 to 1923, was a symbol of opposition to labour. It is likely that Whidden’s notoriety as the successful anti-labour “conscription” candidate in the divisive federal election of 1917 influenced the attitude of the city’s workers towards the College in its hour of need. In 1917, the most militant of the city’s workers had nominated a Brandon College student, E. L. Brisson, to run as an anti-conscription candidate in opposition to Whidden. In 1931 it was not forgotten that in January 1918, a majority of the students at Brandon College had voted to have Brisson expelled from the school for his anti-conscriptionist stand.  Perhaps even more damaging to the cause of the College in labour circles was the close association of the institution with A. E. McKenzie. McKenzie, the personification of the city’s Protestant business elite and the chairman of the College Board in 1931, owned the A. E. McKenzie Company, Brandon’s largest locally owned enterprise. For many city workers, the College campaign of 1931 echoed a similar effort that had occurred during the Great War to save the Brandon YMCA from financial disaster. In 1916, a proposal to have the City issue bonds on behalf of the YMCA was withdrawn when vigorous opposition made it clear that it would not pass. Opponents of the proposal argued that the Y was an elitist institution. Harry Cater, Mayor in 1916, characterized efforts to bail out the Y as intended primarily to save “... A. E. McKenzie and a few of his friends from financial disaster.”  McKenzie ‘s unpopularity with the city’s workers was evident in 1918 when east end voters frustrated his efforts to secure a tax exemption for an expansion to his seed business by voting against a bylaw designed to help his company. 
Brandon’s workers also had a number of more immediate reasons for rejecting the appeal to save the College. Since 1929, they had been victimized by unemployment and economic misery. When the vote on the College bylaw took place, eight hundred Brandon workers, in a city with a population of only 17,000, were unemployed. Moreover, the move to provide financial support to the College came at a time when relief was being denied to some and reduced for others, while entire relief employment projects were being cancelled by the City for want of funds. As recently as May 20, 1931, a large delegation of unemployed men had protested the City’s decision to discontinue relief to the unemployed.  Under such circumstances, it was unlikely that the city’s workers would support a proposal to subsidize the College. This attitude was in direct conflict with the boosterism of the city’s business elite which portrayed its interests as synonymous with those of the community, and expected ordinary citizens to make financial sacrifices so that institutions it deemed essential to the city’s progress could be maintained. 
Predictably, the defeat of the civic bylaw did not end the business elite’s efforts to preserve the College at public expense. In the wake of the defeat, Evans wrote to Dr. A. P. McDiarmid, the first President of the College, to explain that “ever since the returns were made known a feeling of righteous indignation has been developing within the city.”  On June 9, 1931, a public meeting organized by the Brandon Board of Trade voted to raise $20,000 locally through a civic campaign throughout the city to save the College. A “central committee” of one hundred was organized to spearhead the campaign. By the end of June, $21,798.46 had been raised in a city wide campaign, and the decision was taken by the Baptist Union and the College Board to keep the College open. 
Though the College opened its doors to students in the fall of 1931, the failure of the 1929 endowment scheme, the defeat of the civic bylaw, the erosion of financial support from the Baptist Union, and the worsening economic conditions throughout Western Canada left it still on the brink of collapse. Though the civic campaign had generated much needed operating funds, the College’s financial picture darkened when both Cyrus Eaton and George Edwards told Evans that they were unable to meet their financial commitments to the College. Eaton advised the College just days before the fall 1931 term was to begin that he simply could not provide the $12,500 earlier committed for that academic year. 
In an effort to replace these funds J. R. C. Evans asked S. J. McKee, the founder of Brandon College as well as a teacher and registrar until his retirement in 1924, to write to Rev. W. S. Richardson, the principal secretary to John D. Rockefeller Jr., requesting a grant for the College. In his appeal to Richardson, which was expressed in a vocabulary of evangelical sectarian expansion and virulent anti-communism, McKee stressed the work of the College with the “foreign element” in the west:
To this end, McKee urged that Brandon College could play an important role in this work by adding courses on “Home Economics, including health, hygiene, physiology and the evil effects of alcohol and narcotics ...” to its academic department. With these in place the best of our foreigners [could be] gathered in and prepared to go out again among their people to redeem them from Communism and atheism for the sake of Christ. 
But no grant came from the Rockefeller Foundation.
As the Great Depression progressed, the financial condition of the College deteriorated. In 1932, a plan launched by the Board of Trade to resubmit the civic bylaw to the city’s ratepayers had to be abandoned because the deepening financial crisis made it even less likely to pass than it had been a year earlier. Instead, in June 1932, the Board of Trade organized a civic campaign to raise $7,000 for the College. It fell $2,000 short of the target.  The success of “Brandon College Sundays” in Baptist churches across the west was undermined by the unprecedented poverty of grassroots Baptists. A minister from Asquith, Saskatchewan wrote to Evans to explain that
In 1933, a Canada wide appeal to raise $25,000 for the College realized only $12,500 by January 1934; this included a contribution of $500 from Prime Minister R. B. Bennett.  In 1934, the Baptist Union’s efforts to assist the College through a “Dollar Gift Drive” generated only $4,000 of a projected $15,000. In February 1935, the Baptist Union Board executive agreed to provide the College with $8,000 a year in monthly grants and to cooperate in raising $7,000 through a canvass of individuals in the West. However, by April, the College had received only $1,810 from the Union under this agreement and only $375 had resulted from the promised canvas of Western Baptists.  In June 1936, the Baptist Union agreed to organize a “Brandon College Honor Drive” with the objective of raising $60,000 to address the College’s debt. In 1936, the campaign generated less than $1,500. The local College Board was no more successful. The Brandon “College Campaign” for 1936 produced total corporate contributions of $621 and cash contributions from citizens of $547. 
The negative effect of these failed financial drives was mitigated in part by generous forbearance on the part of the faculty. Throughout the 1930s, they accepted reduced salaries and irregular payment in order to keep the College open. They offered in advance to return their last cheque of the 1931-32 fiscal year if such a sacrifice would ensure the continuance of the College.  In 1934, the faculty were not paid for October or November. By 1935, some were owed a year’s salary. In November 1936, J. R. C. Evans was forced to plead with past contributors for money to pay faculty salaries prior to Christmas. 
By July 1937, the College’s failure seemed imminent. The twenty year term of the bonds issued in 1917, now totalling $90,000 in principal and interest, concluded on July 1, 1937, and the College had to default on its obligations to bond holders. In May 1937, Evans wrote to the London and Western Trust Company, the trustee of the College’s bonds, requesting the deferral of the date of maturity of the bonds and interest payments for two years. The College received a letter from one of the College’s bond holders who explained that he had been counting on the receipt of the principal and interest from the bonds to supply fuel and clothing for his family. Leath McCaw went on to explain that
Aside from its obligation to bondholders, the College owed $20,000 to the Baptist Union and the Memorial Gymnasium Fund, a fund initiated by the students, $38,000 in salaries to the teaching faculty, $12,000 to local merchants, and $7,000 to a bank.  During a meeting with City Council and local creditors at City Hall on July 27, 1937, the College Board proposed to liquidate a portion of its debt by drawing from its endowment funds and the Gymnasium Fund to pay “... 40 cents on the dollar in full settlement of arrears of salaries and tradesmen’s accounts and 25 cents on the dollar in settlement of its debenture indebtedness.”  With the exception of the Royal Bank of Canada, the College’s local creditors accepted the proposal. 
However, the College’s bondholders and faculty, the groups asked to bear the greatest portion of the College’s debt, were less amenable. C. C. Lucas, who had taught at the College prior to joining the faculty of the University of Toronto, responded to the debt settlement plan by noting that
Annie and W. L. Wright, who both had taught at the College for thirty years, were appalled by the proposal. In addition to their years of service to the College, they had made financial contributions to the College’s operation from time to time. Moreover, they were counting on the payment of back salaries for their retirement. To them the principle of the proposal was wrong, for
Like the faculty, the American Baptist Publication Society, which held College bonds which had a face value of $30,000, rejected the debt settlement plan proposed in July 1937, and asked why tradespeople were to be given preference over bondholders in the debt settlement proposal. The collapse of the debt settlement plan frustrated fund-raising activities, underscored the uncertain future of the College, and resulted in the demand from tradesmen and merchants that the College pay cash for all goods and services.
The situation was desperate. In October, C.G. Stone, an alumnus of the College and member of the Union Board, suggested to Evans that it was essential to “discover whether or not our leaders in the east are sufficiently interested in the College to enter into a definite scheme for perpetuating it ...”  To this end, he proposed an “East-West” conference on the question. In November 1937, the Baptist Union took the decision to close the College if the Conference did not generate an immediate solution to the institution’s financial problems. Even with the prospect of the conference, the attitude of leading Western Baptists gave Evans cause for concern. In his November report to the Brandon College executive, Evans explained that
Prior to the East-West Conference, the Brandon College Commission, established by the Union Board in June 1937 to “make an immediate survey of our theological and educational work ...” met in Brandon on January 26 and 27.  The Commission made an exhaustive examination of the College’s dismal financial circumstances. The College’s budget had shrunk from over $100,000 in 1926 to $52,400 in 1933, and for the year ended in August 1937 to $47,000. Yet, in every year the College had accumulated more debt. Contributing to this dismal financial picture was a continuing decline in financial donations to the College. For example, in the years from 1920 to 1933 Baptists in the West, who numbered approximately 15,000, had contributed $128,500.  However, while donations from individuals in Western Canada had averaged nearly $16,000 a year in the 1920s, they amounted to only $2,702 in 1933, $7,215 in 1934, $8,167 in 1935 and $4,464 in 1936. The Commission concluded its deliberations without taking a position on the future of the College. 
On February 3, 1938, the delegates to the East-West Conference assembled at the Alexandra Palace Hotel in Toronto. Under the chairmanship of Albert Matthews, Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, the conference quickly came to the conclusion that “... the current debt should be the first problem to meet and that in respect to maintaining our Baptist prestige and honor, it should be paid in full.”  Though it had no power to make a decision regarding the future of the College, in the end, the East-West Conference decided to recommend that the Baptist Union accept the offer of the British Columbia Convention to provide $5,000 yearly for five years to pay down the College’s accumulated operating deficit. It also proposed that for a period of five years an additional $6,000 be raised for the same purpose from the Baptists of Ontario and Quebec and the Baptist Union, and that the $15,000 required to carry on the work of the College until June 1938 be made up by both east and west in a special effort.
Uncertainty concerning the future of the College created an impossible situation for those with immediate responsibility for the institution. J. R. C. Evans explained to W. C. Smalley that because of the continuing debate about the future of the College
It was imperative that a definite decision be made immediately by the Union Board with regard to the College. Evans got his answer early in March. During a special meeting held on March 4, 1938 the executive of the Baptist Union of Western Canada agreed that “... in view of the inability of the Baptist Union to make provision for adequate financial support, that the College [should] cease to operate at the end of the current year.” 
When the Baptist Union had decided to close the College in 1931, A. E. McKenzie had predicted that “if the College is to be saved permanently only Brandon men can and will save it.”  With the 1938 decision by the Baptist Union Board, Brandon’s business elite, through the Brandon Board of Trade which it dominated, determined to do what it could to save the College. The business community’s dedication to this cause was principally a manifestation of a traditional approach to civic affairs, termed “boosterism” by some writers, which had shaped the civic agenda of Brandon’s business elite since the origin of the city in 1882. 
In 1937, the City of Brandon had defaulted on payments due to its bond holders, and the provincial government had appointed a financial supervisor to oversee the city’s financial affairs. Under these circumstances, if financial support for the College was to be secured, it would have to come from the provincial government.  This realization was the point of departure for an extended and varied campaign by the Brandon Board of Trade to secure financial backing for the College from the Province.
In late March 1937, Brandon’s Board of Trade sought a meeting with provincial authorities about the College’s future. The meeting involved Premier John Bracken, Minister of Education Ivan Shultz, and a Brandon delegation composed of A. E. McKenzie and Dr. H. O. McDiarmid of the Board of Trade, along with Dr. J. R. C. Evans. McDiarmid had run unsuccessfully as a Liberal in Brandon in the 1936 provincial election. During the meeting, Premier Bracken indicated that the government was prepared to discuss the possibility of government support for the College if the Baptist Union of Western Canada assumed responsibility for the current liabilities of the institution. 
This receptive, yet non-committal approach, was typical of the Bracken government, which had been in power since 1922. It was a cautious, conservative, “nonpartisan” government, led by an individual whose “particular genius was his ability to persuade his political opponents to join forces with him, resulting in a cabinet of unusual variety.”  The Bracken caucus was predominately rural based, British and Protestant in origin. Bracken’s cabinets always contained a rural majority. Under these circumstances, Brandon’s chances of securing financial support for the College seemed reasonably good. This especially so in light of the results of the 1936 provincial election in which the Bracken government had lost a total of 22 seats, seven in the rural southwest, to the revitalized Conservatives led by Errick Willis, a Boissevain native and small town lawyer and farmer. 
However, these advantageous political circumstances were balanced by the difficult financial situation of the government as well as its willingness to make cuts in the money available for education. In 1934, the government grants to secondary schools went down by $67,000 from $302,000 to $235,000. Similarly, the grant to the University of Manitoba had been reduced from $405,000 to $250,000 in 1932 and not increased since. 
On April 12, 1938 a Brandon Board of Trade delegation provided the government with a brief prepared under the direction of A. E. McKenzie, who had emerged as the central figure in the effort to save the College. The brief stressed the school’s role as a center of secular higher education in western Manitoba, pressed Brandon’s claims for resources in support of higher education, and asserted that:
While not opposed to the existence of the provincial University, Brandon’s boosters rejected the idea that the resources and wealth of the western section of the province should be contributed to the provincial University while
The brief contained two proposals for the continuance of the College. The first proposed that the school be transformed into a non-denominational institution, and that the provincial government take over the administration and operation of the College and conduct it as an Arts institution, providing an annual grant of $35,000. Under the second proposal, the College would be given a charter, under which a board of directors would be appointed, and the College would be affiliated with the University of Manitoba, while the provincial government would provide the College with an annual grant of not less than $35,000. Notwithstanding the desire of the Bracken government to gain favor with the electorate in Brandon and the rural southwest, its financial position and its previous actions in imposing austerity on the province’s education system, made a grant to Brandon College in the order of $35,000 politically and fiscally impractical. Accordingly, the provincial government rejected both proposals advanced in the Board of Trade brief. 
Late in April, the Board of Trade’s College committee developed a new strategy to bring political pressure on the government. In a whirlwind campaign throughout southwestern Manitoba, Board of Trade representatives asked rural members of the Legislature and members of the Boards of Trade in each town to be members of a joint delegation to lobby the Premier and other members of the government. On May 4, 1938 sixty delegates, principally small town businessmen and professionals, from forty-five towns in southwestern Manitoba met in Brandon and travelled to Winnipeg to meet with representatives of the provincial government in an effort to save the College.  Described by the Brandon Sun as “the largest and most representative delegation ever to wait on cabinet,”  the delegation, organized and led by the Brandon Board of Trade, reflected the ability of the city’s business elite to evoke strong regional sentiment in support of Brandon’s interest. Such a delegation would certainly attract the attention of the Liberal-Progressive government because of its weakened condition in the rural southwest following the 1936 provincial election.
Nevertheless, this attempt to pressure the government into providing financial resources for the maintenance of the College was also unsuccessful. A planning document dated May, 10, 1938 concluded that “if Brandon were to press the Government in its present temper, it is a fair conjecture that its answer to Brandon’s application for financial grant would be in the negative.”  A stalemate had developed, and the problem had to be approached from a new angle.
In order to renew contact with the government, the Board of Trade committee proposed the creation of a “investigating committee” to look into the case for and against the College. Rather than accept the Brandon proposal, the province appointed a Commission of three educational experts to travel to Brandon to make a thorough investigation of the College’s physical plant and financial affairs. A report was provided to the Minister of Education in late May, 1938. The report indicated that the College had liabilities in excess of $220,000 including salaries, accounts payable, bank loans, debts owed to the Baptist Union, and the Memorial Gymnasium Fund, and $89,300 in principal and interest owed to the College’s bondholders. An examination of available revenue sources showed that in order to break even the College required additional operating revenue of approximately $30,000 annually. Even with this additional finance, there could be no allowance made for the payment of principal or interest on bonds, the elimination of accumulated debt, or the cost of necessary repairs, renovations and equipment. 
On June 12, 1938 J. R. C. Evans wired A. E. McKenzie in Chicago to inform him that he had been advised by Ivan Shultz, the Minister of Education, that Cabinet had not yet considered the report on the College. However, the Minister feared that the prospects of mounting expenditures to operate the College would, almost certainly, ensure a negative response to the Brandon appeal. A financial commitment from the province would require, as a pre-condition, the establishment of a significant endowment to establish some financial security for the College. Evans asked McKenzie to take the lead in establishing such an endowment for the College. 
On the same day that McKenzie received Evans’ request, he advised his Winnipeg solicitors to provide the government with an endowment proposal in which, conditional upon the province providing an annual grant to the College of not less than $35,000 for twenty years, McKenzie was prepared to
He further guaranteed that the company (or he himself) would pay not less than $3000 per annum as income on the said shares.
In a letter to the Premier, Dr. H. O. McDiarmid expressed scepticism about the actual value of the endowment. In his “personal” letter to Bracken, McDiarmid explained that
He noted, as well, that the details of the proposal were not known in Brandon—McKenzie had insisted that the endowment proposal be kept secret until the government accepted his proposal—yet, given McKenzie’s local reputation as a notorious skinflint, “many of course could easily believe that there was a catch in any offer that he would make.”  Under the circumstances, MacDiarmid concluded that the matter of provincial aid to the College was almost certainly a dead issue as he could not see any possibility of enough money being raised in Brandon to keep the institution open.
Meanwhile, in Winnipeg skepticism ran deep about the appropriateness of financial aid to bail out Brandon College. In a lengthy editorial on July 18, 1938 the Winnipeg Free Press said that the chronic financial difficulties of the University of Manitoba and the policy of the Province with regard to the general public financing of higher education should preclude any assistance to Brandon. As recently as the last session of the Legislature, noted the Free Press, the Provincial government had rejected a proposal to increase the University of Manitoba’s grant by $40,000 even though the University of Manitoba had the smallest budget of the three prairie universities. Moreover, the Province had repeatedly stated that its first responsibility was to fund primary education. In its submission to the Rowell-Sirois Commission in December 1937, the Province had provided a “model” budget for the province; primary education was given an increase of $1,000,000 but there was no increase for higher education. A Provincial grant to Brandon College would therefore involve a major change in the Government’s policy toward higher education in Manitoba. Accordingly,
a special session of the Legislature should be called to reconsider the whole problem of higher education in Manitoba. The Brandon request, argued the Free Press, was far too important “to be met by private and semi-private negotiation.” 
The government was not prepared to accept McKenzie’s proposal which required a commitment of $35,000 in public funds. However, the Cabinet did provide the Liberal-Progressive caucus with a report dealing with the request from Brandon for financial help and sought a recommendation on the case. In the document, almost certainly prepared by the Minister of Education, Ivan Shultz, caucus was reminded that the province’s public schools were in desperate need of additional financial support; that the Province was under growing pressure to restore the University of Manitoba’s budget to 1932 levels; that the Teachers’ Pension Plan for which the province bore significant responsibility was moving towards bankruptcy; and that funds available from the federal government for technical education on a shared cost basis had not been accessed because the province had no money to cover the provincial share of such education costs. Further, caucus was advised that “in giving this matter consideration it is suggested that you think of it as part of the educational problem and not as a merely isolated one.” 
In the end caucus recommended a compromise which was accepted by the Government.  Probably because of the results of the 1936 provincial election, and the vigorous regional lobby mounted by the Board of Trade’s College Committee in April and May, the request for funds to maintain the College was, in the, dealt with by caucus largely as a political question. The precarious position of the Liberal-Progressive government in the rural southwest following the 1936 provincial election moved caucus to recommend that the case of Brandon College should be treated as an exception. The government should commit additional public monies to this particular institution of higher education, even though primary and secondary schools were suffering.
On July 18, 1938, Premier John Bracken advised the Brandon College committee that the province proposed to provide the sum of $15,000 annually to the College, for a period of twenty years, conditional upon the Brandon advocates of the College raising a similar amount locally, and transforming the institution into a non-denominational college, affiliated with the University of Manitoba. Under the circumstances, little more could expected from the Province, and it was clear from Bracken’s letter that the amount of $15,000 was the maximum available from government sources. As the Winnipeg Free Press explained editorially, “the Government’s offer to Brandon [was] ... an extraordinarily generous one, and will be so regarded by the Province at large.” 
The initial response from Brandon was one of disappointment, particularly with the size of the proposed grant and the dollar for dollar stipulation which required a substantial financial commitment from the College committee.  Yet, the Brandon College committee of the Board of Trade realized that it had reached a point of decision; any further appeal to the Government was futile and might even threaten the proffered $15,000. Accordingly, the Board of Trade’s College committee launched a financial campaign on August 1, 1938 to raise the required $15,000, and during a public meeting organized by the Board of Trade on August 5, 1938, the decision was taken to open the College in September.  The meeting also appointed a provisional College Board and directed it to continue the financial campaign in Brandon and Winnipeg, to canvass City Council concerning the possibility of financial support for the College, and to ask A. E. McKenzie to provide the College with $3,000 for the 1938-1939 academic year.
The new College Board appointed during the meeting was manifestly a representative group of the city’s business elite and included the most affluent businessmen in the city. The chairman of the new Board was F. R. Longworth, an insurance agent and President of the Board of Trade and Civics. Other members were Brandon’s Mayor F. H. Young, W. C. Hughes, owner of Hughes and Co. a real estate holding company, R. B. Alexander, Manager of the Rumford Laundry, A. E. McKenzie, owner and President of the A. E. McKenzie Co., E. Fotheringham, President of Brandon Creamery and Supply Co., J. H. Donnelly, an insurance agent, W. P. Clark, owner of Cordingly-Clark Ltd., a music business, and M. S. Donovan, Manager of M. S. Donovan and Co. Chartered Accountants. 
On August 8, 1938, F. R. Longworth wrote to Premier Bracken in response to the provincial government’s proposal and advised the Premier that $11,000 of the $15,000 required to match the provincial funding offered for 1938-39 had been raised. Because the Board required more time to secure its share of the long term financing for the College, the government was asked to agree to make a grant for the year 1938-1939 in the amount of $15,000, and waive the dollar for dollar stipulation set out in the province’s proposal.  Though the province agreed to waive the twenty year term of its proposal, it reaffirmed its earlier position that the new College organization had to match the provincial contribution dollar for dollar, and insisted that the College Board pursue the possibility of municipal aid for the College.
Even with provincial funding for the College and the prospect of municipal support, the existing $90,000 bonded debt of the College presented legal obstacles to the lease or sale of the College to the provisional Board. As the proposed College budget of $30,000 did not allow for the accommodation of any debt, a successful appeal to the bondholders for an elimination of the interest owing, a reduction in the principal amount, and a definite plan as to the payment of the debt was required or the plan to save the College would fail. It was the intention of the Baptist Union to allow the College to fall into bankruptcy in the event that the new College organization did not purchase the College by January 1, 1939.
In its appeal to the College’s bondholders, the provisional Board sought the cancellation of fifty percent of the bonds held by each of them; the reduction of the present rate of interest to four percent commencing the 1st of December, 1939; and the cancellation of all interest accrued and unpaid as of December 1, 1939. Presented with the fact that if the College ceased to function the value of the College bonds would be negligible, and that, upon cessation of operations, the institution would immediately be subject to municipal taxation amounting to over $10,000 per annum, the bondholders accepted the provisional Board’s proposal.  With this agreement, the provisional College Board was able to take up the offer of the Baptist Union of Western Canada to sell the College buildings for the sum of $5,000. 
Prior to any transfer, the provisional College Board required a new charter from the Provincial government. On April 17, 1939 the legislation establishing Brandon College Inc. was assented to.  The new charter established a corporation for the promotion of the higher education of males and females in a non-denominational college. The College would be governed by a twenty-one member board of directors elected from the members of the corporation and a senate composed of three members of the Board of Directors and the professors in the college. The city’s business elite dominated the membership of the new corporation, and effective control of the new organization was firmly in its hands. 
In the spring of 1939, the central concern of the Board of Brandon College Inc. was the financial stability of the new College. It was clear to the College Board that the “heroic” effort made in the fall of 1938 to raise $15,000 locally could not be repeated for 1939-1940 and thereafter.  A more stable means of financing the College had to be found. To this end, the agreement of the City of Brandon was secured to seek special authorization from the provincial government to levy a rate of one mill on the dollar for a period of twenty years in order to provide financial support for the College. It was expected that this measure would net a sum of $5,000 per annum. As well, the government was asked to provide the additional $10,000 required annually by the College, in addition to the $15,000 already committed by the province in 1938. 
On March 21, 1939 the Minister of Education rejected Longworth’s request, citing the terms and conditions agreed to in July, 1938. In a revised proposal, the College Board urged the province to increase its grant to the College by $7,500 to a total of $22,500.  The province concluded the negotiation with the agreement to provide the College with an annual grant of $22,500 for a period of twenty years. However, it imposed four conditions: the ratepayers of the City of Brandon had to provide financial support to the College of one mill of taxation for a similar period; A.E. McKenzie had to immediately establish the trust fund previously agreed upon; the College had to operate as a non-denominational college affiliated with the University of Manitoba; and, the College Board had to vow
With this proposal from the province in hand, the College Board turned to the matter of the civic bylaw in support of the College.
Though the provincial government was prepared to allow Brandon City Council to support the College without authorization from the city’s ratepayers, Council was unwilling to do this. A bylaw was submitted to the city’s ratepayers on June 6, 1939 on the question of financial support for the College. The task of securing an affirmative vote was made somewhat easier by the provincial government’s amendment to the Municipal Act to require only a simple, rather than a two-thirds, majority. In preparation for the vote on the bylaw, the College Board established a campaign organization. Workers were placed in every poll in the city to get out the “yes” vote. Free transportation to the polls was offered. Indeed, the organization in support of the College bylaw was similar to that which was typical of a seriously contested provincial election campaign. As well, a vigorous campaign, including advertisements in the Brandon Sun setting out the benefits to the community of the College, a letter of support to every ratepayer in the city from the Mayor, and strong editorial endorsement by the Brandon Sun, was mounted. The bylaw was passed with a majority of 420 votes, 1019 votes in favor and 599 against, though four of eighteen polls had a majority against. The principal opposition to the bylaw came from ratepayers in the north end of the city.  With the passage of the civic bylaw, all of the essential steps for the re-establishment of College were completed.
The transformation of Brandon College ended an era of Baptist sponsored higher education in western Canada. By illuminating the complete inadequacy of the school’s financial resources, the crisis of the Great Depression had forced a choice between the demise of the College or its re-establishment as a secular institution. Brandon’s business elite, driven by traditional civic boosterism, prevented the College’s demise through a protracted campaign which involved repeated legal, financial, and political initiatives in Brandon, southwestern Manitoba, and Winnipeg. In 1931, the determination of the business elite to secure funding for the College was blocked by the city’s working class. As well, throughout the decade, the capacity of Brandon’s boosters to shape events was reduced as the legislative autonomy and financial vitality of the City of Brandon were diminished by the circumstances of the Great Depression. Such a state of affairs forestalled a local solution to the problem of maintaining the College, and forced the City’s business elite to focus its principal efforts to save the College on provincial authorities. In finally transforming the College into a publicly funded secular institution, Brandon’s business elite asserted control over the affairs of the College and assured the survival, largely at the province’s expense, of an institution which it viewed as integral to the social and economic order of southwestern Manitoba.
The authors would like to acknowledge the financial support of the Manitoba Heritage Foundation in the research for this paper through the Foundation’s financial support of the Brandon Depression Research Project. The authors would like to acknowledge the assistance of Ken Kurlizv of the Brandon University Archives in tracking down a number of references in the Brandon College Papers.
1. Michael Horn, “Professors in the Public Eye: Canadian Universities, Academic Freedom, and the League for Social Reconstruction,” History of Education Quarterly, Winter 1980, p. 426. For Manitoba see, W. L. Morton, One University: A History of the University of Manitoba 1877-1952 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1957), p. 146.
2 . On denominational colleges in western Canada during the Depression other than Brandon College see, D. C. Masters, Protestant Church Colleges in Canada (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1966); and, James M. Pitsula, An Act of Faith: The Early Years of Regina College (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1988).
3. The history of Brandon College is dealt with in A. E. McKenzie, ed., History of Brandon College Inc. (Brandon: Brandon College, 1966); C. G. Stone and F. Joan Garnett, Brandon College: A History, 1899-1967 (Brandon: Brandon University 1969); and Walter Ellis, “Organizational and Educational Policy of Baptists in Western Canada 1873-1939” (Unpublished Bachelor of Divinity Thesis, McMaster University, 1962).
4. W. T. Easterbrook, “Clare Pentland-Brandon College, 1937-1940,” Canadian Journal of Political and Social Theory, vol. 3, no. 2 (Spring-Summer 1979), p. 101.
5. On the theme of boosterism see Alan F. J. Artibise, “Continuity and Change: Elites and Prairie Urban Development, 1914-1950” in Alan F. J. Artibise and Gilbert A. Stelter (eds.), The Usable Urban Past: Planning and Politics in the Modern Canadian City (Toronto: Macmillan, 1979), and Alan F. J. Artibise, “Boosterism and the Development of Prairie Cities, 1871-1913,” in Alan F. J. Artibise (ed.), Town and Country: Aspects of Western Canadian Urban Development (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, 1981).
6. For the development of labour’s involvement in Brandon’s civic affairs prior to 1919, see Tom Mitchell, “A Square Deal for All and No Railroading’: Labour and Politics in Brandon, 1900-1920,” Prairie Forum, vol. 15, no. 1, Spring 1990. On the related themes of diminished financial autonomy and legislative independence see Donald Ian MacDonald, “A Study of the Financial Problems of An Urban Municipality in Manitoba—The City of Brandon” (Unpublished Master of Arts thesis, University of Toronto, 1938); John H. Taylor, “Urban Autonomy in Canada: Its Evolution and Decline,” in Gilbert A. Stelter and Alan F. J. Artibise, (eds.) The Canadian City—Essays in Urban and Social History (Ottawa: Carlton University Press, 1984).
7. Walter Ellis “What Times Demand: Brandon College and Baptist Education in Western Canada,” in George Rawlyk, ed., Canadian Baptist and Canadian Higher Education (Kingston and Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1988), pp. 76-79.
8. On Cyrus Eaton, E. J. Tarr, and Gordon Edwards, see Sir Charles G. D. Roberts and Arthur Leonard Tunnell (eds.). The Canadian Who’s Who, vol. II, 1936-37 (Toronto: Times Publishing Co., 1936). A. E. McKenzie was born in Wilcox Lake, Ontario in 1870 and came to Brandon with his family in 1883. In 1897 he founded the A. E. McKenzie Seed Company which he operated until his death in 1964 at the age of 94. Throughout his life in Brandon, McKenzie was a leading member of the city’s Protestant business elite. His principal focus of interest, aside from his business ventures, was the development of Brandon College. In 1941, the University of Manitoba conferred an honorary degree of doctor of laws on Mr. McKenzie principally because of his contribution to the development and maintenance of Brandon College. Brandon Sun, 26 September 1964, 2 February 1960.
9. J. R. C. Evans to Dr. A. W. Vining, September 27, 1929. Brandon University Archives, Brandon College Papers, Evans Era, (hereafter College Papers, Evans Era), Series 1, Subseries 5, 1913-1938, Box 1, File 4.
10. Dr. J. R. C. Evans was born in Nanaimo, British Columbia in 1891. He was the son of British immigrants to Canada. Evans graduated from Brandon College in 1913 and completed a PhD in Geology at the University of Chicago in 1924. He taught at Brandon College from 1913. Prior to his appointment as President Evans had served as Residence Master and College Dean. On his request for funds see J. R. C. Evans to Gordon Edwards, 5 February 1931 for Evan’s appeal for funds. College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1936, Box 1, File 5.
12. Alan Artibise has described how such decisions were shaped by closely knit elites who made and implemented critical decisions affecting the evolution of prairie urban centres. See Alan F. J. Artibise, “Continuity and Change: Elites and Prairie Urban Development, 1914-1950,” in Artibise and Stelter, The Usable Urban Past.
13. John Bracken to J. R. C. Evans, 28 March 1931. Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Bracken Papers, MG 13, I 2, Box 45, F 497. For a discussion of the financial crisis facing the provincial government in the spring of 1931, see John Kendle, John Bracken: A Political Biography (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1979), pp. 110-120.
15. For Harry Cater’s career in Brandon politics see “Harry Cater: Brandon’s Most Successful-But as Yet Unrecognized-Municipal Politician,” Chapter VI in W. Leland Clark, Brandon’s Politics and Politicians (Brandon: Brandon Sun, 1982). On the careers of maverick mayors such as Cater during the 1930s see John H. Taylor, “Mayor’s a La Mancha: An Aspect of Depression Leadership in Canadian Cities,” Urban History Review, vol. IX, no. 3, February 1981.
17. See Tom Mitchell, “Brandon 1919: Labour and Industrial Relations in the Wheat City in the Year of the General Strike,” Manitoba History, no. 17, Spring, 1989.
19. On class division in Brandon politics following 1919 see W. Leland Clark, Brandon Politics and Politicians, and Errol Black and Tom Black, “Social Democratic Challenges for Power at Brandon City Hall—The Civic Elections of 1943 and 1971,” unpublished paper, 1991.
22. J. R. C. Evans to Dr. H. P. Whidden, 11 May 1931, College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1936, Box 1, File 12. On Ms Bridgen’s early association with labour and politics in Brandon, see Tom Mitchell, “A Square Deal for All.” See also Joan Sangster, “The Making of a Socialist-Feminist: The Early Career of Beatrice Brigden, 1881-1941,” Atlantis, vol. 13, no. 1, Fall 1987, pp. 14-28. There is some irony in the fact that Ms Brigden was awarded an honorary degree by Brandon University in 1973, principally for her record of social activism.
24. Durkin was a faculty member at Brandon College during the years 1911 to 1915. For a discussion of his career see the Introduction by Peter Rider in the reprint of The Magpie. Douglas Durkin, The Magpie (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1974).
29. For a discussion of the evolving nature of boosterism in prairie communities see Alan F. J. Artibise, “Continuity and Change”
37. J. R. C. Evans to Rev. John McLaurin, 8 July 1933, College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1936, Box 1, File 9. Dr. H. H. Bingham to J. R. C. Evans, 14 November 1933, College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1936, Box 1, File 4. See also, J. R. C. Evans to Mr. Albert Matthews, 13 January 1934, College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1936, Box 1, File 8.
38. J. R. C. Evans to Mr. G. E. McKee, 14 December 1934, College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1936, Box 1, File 10. J. R. C. Evans, President’s Report 9 April 1935, College Papers, R80-43, Box 1.
39. For the “Honor Campaign” see “Brandon College Statement Re. Budget June 21/37,” College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series 1, Subseries 5, 1913-1938, Box 1, File 11. For the Brandon contributions see the “Brandon College Campaign-1936,” College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series 1, Subseries 5, 1931-1935, Box 1, File 4.
50. Minutes of a Meeting of a Committee of the Baptist Union of Western Canada appointed to make a Survey of Baptist Theological and Educational Work in the West, 26-27 January 1938, p. 1, College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1B, Subseries 1, 1937-1938, Box 1, File 2.
51. Brandon’s 17,000 citizens, by comparison, had contributed a total of $28,517. The lion’s share of the Brandon contribution to the College was derived from the city wide campaigns in 1931 and 1932. Minutes of a Meeting of a Committee of the Baptist Union of Western Canada appointed to make a survey of Baptist Theological and Educational Work in the West, 26-27 January 1938, p. 2, College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1B, Subseries 1, 1937-1938, Box 1, File 2.
57. See for example Alan F. J. Artibise, “Boosterism and the Development of Prairie Cities, 1871-1913”
58. On this general theme see Donald Ian MacDonald, “A Study of the Financial Problems”; John H. Taylor, “Urban Autonomy in Canada”; Alan F. J. Artibise, “City-Building in the Canadian West: From Boosterism to Corporatism,” Journal of Canadian Studies, vol. 17, no. 3, Fall 1982.
71. I. Pitbaldo to The Honorable Ivan Shultz, K.C., Minister of Education, 13 June 1938, College Papers, Series 1, Subseries 6, Box 2, File 14. The role of powerful businessmen in the creation of secular institutions of higher education in Ontario after World War II is the focus of Paul Axelrod, “Businessmen and the Building of Canadian Universities: a Case Study,” Canadian Historical Review, vol. 63, no. 2, 1982.
74. Winnipeg Free Press, 18 July 1938. Bracken received a “personal” letter from Mrs. H. M. Speechly, a member of the Building Committee of the University of Manitoba Board of Governors, in which Mrs. Speechly pressed Bracken to consider the provincial University’s needs for a new Home Economics facility. Mrs. H. M. Speechly to John Bracken, 14 July 1938, Bracken Papers, MG 13 I2, Box 117, F 1279.
79. “Minutes of a Meeting called to Discuss the Brandon College Situation.” Prince Edward Hotel, 5 August 1938, College Papers, Evans Era, Unprocessed Presidential Files.
80. Ibid. The funds raised by the College Committee were derived from a city wide door to door canvass and solicitations from firms in Winnipeg and Toronto. The Brandon canvass secured $7,189 during a four day campaign in early August. It was hoped that $1,500 could be raised in southwestern Manitoba. In September, a canvass of Winnipeg firms resulted in approximately $4,000. On the matter of the civic bylaw it was soon discovered that the City was not legally competent to enter into the kind of arrangement proposed by the College Committee unless it received authority from the provincial government. College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1B, Subseries 1, 1938-1939, Box 1, File 6.
82. W. H. Hoot, Recording Secretary, American Baptist Publication Society, to London and West Trust Company, 24 January 1939, College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1, Subseries 5, 1913-1938, Box 1, File 15.
84. An Act to Incorporate Brandon College Incorporated, assented to 17 April 1939, College Papers, Series 1E, 1900-1965, Box 1, File 1 and 2. By establishing, through By Law nine of the new corporation, that the tenure of faculty was at the pleasure of the Board, each faculty appointment being one year in duration, yet subject to renewal by the Board, the College’s new administration seemed assured of a reliable faculty. The structure of governance adopted for the new college was clearly in the tradition of the British civic universities created in the expanding urban centers of Victorian England. See David R. Jones, “Governing the Civic University,” History of Education Quarterly, Fall 1985, pp. 281-302.
85. The original provisional Board developed a list of individuals whose membership in the new Brandon College, Inc. was solicited. See College Papers, Evans Era, R81-30 Series IF, 1900-1965, Box 1, and College Papers, Evans Era, Series 1, Subseries 6, Box 2, Files 11-12.
Page revised: 22 June 2016