Manitoba Historical Society
     Keeping history alive for over 142 years

Memorable Manitobans: Ralph Martin Erwin (1902-1983)

Click to enlarge

Ralph Martin Erwin
Click to enlarge


Born at Burwell, Nebraska on 2 September 1902, in the 1920s he was in charge of the Western Canadian circuit of a theatrical company from Chautauqua, New York until it folded with the advent of vaudeville. He lived at New York City until 1931 when he moved to Winnipeg where, with a $400 loan from a relative, he opened a restaurant on Fort Street, naming it Salisbury House, where he served the new American invention of “hamburgers.” Believing the term inelegant, Erwin named his creations “nips.” The restaurant became a Winnipeg institution and Erwin eventually opened outlets around the city and in Brandon, Flin Flon, Kenora (Ontario), Moose Jaw (Saskatchewan), Calgary (Alberta), and Minneapolis (Minnesota). He opened Winnipeg’s first drive-in restaurant. From 1940 to 1947, he and his family lived at 115 Linden Avenue in East Kildonan. In 1979 he sold his majority interest in the company to a group of investors. A biography was published as The Erwin Story in 1982. He died at Toronto, Ontario on 5 June 1983.


Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 7 June 1983, page 38.

“Salisbury House started with $130,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 July 1991, page 20.

The Erwin Story by Patrick Donohue, compiled by Phyllis Erwin Ketchesen, edited by David M. Ferguson, Toronto, 1982.

We thank Phyllis Ketcheson for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.

Page revised: 8 December 2013

Memorable Manitobans

Memorable Manitobans

This is a collection of noteworthy Manitobans from the past, compiled by the Manitoba Historical Society. We acknowledge that the collection contains both reputable and disreputable people. All are worth remembering as a lesson to future generations.

Search the collection by word or phrase, name, place, occupation or other text:

Custom Search

Browse surnames beginning with:
A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | Y | Z

Send corrections and additions to the Memorable Manitobans Administrator at

Criteria for Memorable Manitobans | Suggest a Memorable Manitoban  | Firsts | Acknowledgements

Support the MHS

MHS YouTube Channel

Back to top of page

For queries on the above page, please contact the MHS Webmaster.

Home  |  Terms & Conditions  |  FAQ  |  Contact Us  |  Privacy Policy  |  Donations

© 1998-2021 Manitoba Historical Society. All rights reserved.