Manitoba History: Toasts and Tumult: The First 35 Years of the Winnipeg Press Club

by Sheilla Jones
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Number 70, Fall 2012

This article was published originally in Manitoba History by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make this online version available as a free, public service. As an historical document, the article may contain language and views that are no longer in common use and may be culturally sensitive in nature.

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The Winnipeg Press Club’s 125 years of history started in the rough and tumble competition among Winnipeg’s newspapers in 1887, and the first history written about the club’s early years paints a picture of the personal, political and media challenges of that time.

It was a bitterly cold winter night when Winnipeg’s newsmen gathered to elect officers for the newly formed Winnipeg Press Club. The publishers, editors and reporters braving -39°C temperatures met 12 February 1887 in rooms they had already acquired in the new Winnipeg City Hall. The “gingerbread” building had extra rooms in the upper level that were being made available to various organizations and, as reported in The Manitoban the following Monday, the newsmen had set themselves up nicely. “The clubrooms in the city hall have been nicely furnished and carpeted and are exceedingly comfortable. As all kinds of games, etc. have been provided the press boys are not now at a loss how to spend an evening.” [1]

The election of officers that Saturday night was a raucous affair, according to a brief description in the Manitoba Free Press the following Monday.

There was a large attendance of the city pressmen, and great interest was taken in the election, which was conducted on the American plan of everyone voting, without nominations, for whom he pleased, a majority being necessary to elect.

There was a keen fight for the presidency between Mr. T. H. Preston and Mr. Acton Burrows. They tied on the first ballot; but on the second Mr. Preston won by a majority of two. Mr. Preston took the chair amidst cheers. Mr. W. E. MacLellan was elected vice-president on the sixth ballot. The other officers elected were: Treasurer, A. McNee; secretary, C. W. Handscombe; executive committee, G. A. Flynn, John W. Dafoe, A. P. Wood. [2]

Thomas Preston was the publisher of the Daily Sun (also known as The Manitoba Sun) in 1887. Like many newsmen of his time, Preston got into the news business at a young age. He was only 13 when he was taken on at an Ontario paper as a “printer’s devil.” Preston later recalled, “as a lad not quite 14 years of age I entered, as the custom then was, the door of journalism as a printer’s devil in the office of the Woodstock Sentinel. It was my duty to light the fire, sweep the floor, twirl the roller on an old Washington handpress, turn the crank for the power press on publication day, fold the papers, deliver routes, paste bills, and incidentally set type—for all of which I received the munificent sum of $20 the first year, $40 the second year, $60 the third year, and $80 the fourth year, and the privilege of boarding with the boss.” [3]

Preston worked his way up through the ranks of the newspaper business to the position of night editor of the Toronto Globe in 1881, and then moved to Winnipeg to take over the Daily Sun in 1882.

Thomas Hiram Preston (1855–1925) came to Winnipeg in 1882, as Night Editor of the Sun newspaper, later becoming Managing Editor of The Manitoban and, still later, of the Manitoba Daily Sun. He was the first President of the Winnipeg Press Club, in 1887.
Source: Archives of Manitoba, Personalities, Preston, T. H.

Acton Burrows, Preston’s competition for the position of Press Club president, was the editor of The Manitoban and the Deputy Minister of Agriculture in the Manitoba Conservative government under Premier John Norquay. His political leanings and those of the The Manitoban were hardly a secret, and the fact that he drew an annual salary of $2000 as deputy minister while editing what the Liberal opposition under Thomas Greenway called “the Government organ, the ‘Manitoban’,” [4] had the opposition calling for Burrows to be turfed from his government job. [5] Burrows resigned from the government job in 1887.

Vice-president of the new club, William Maclellan, was a lawyer by profession, but in 1887, he was the managing editor and chief editorial writer of the Liberal Manitoba Free Press. Maclellan had a reputation of being a brilliant editorial writer. He was so good that he is said to have written editorials for both the Liberal Morning Free Press and the Conservative afternoon Manitoban, unbeknownst to the newspapers’ publishers, “refuting his own arguments twice a day. He performed his double duties successfully until one of the editorials [did not appear] in the Free Press, and though his contentious viewpoint failed to appear in the morning edition, his rebuttal appeared in the afternoon edition of the Manitoban. He left town shortly after.” [6]

Archibald McNee, who was elected treasurer, was a veterinarian turned journalist who worked his way up the ranks at the Manitoba Free Press to become managing editor. Secretary Charles Handscomb was a bon vivant and man about town whose role as the Manitoba Free Press theatre critic brought him into close contact with the theatre crowd in general and with C. P. Walker and his wife Hattie. [7]

The three newsmen making up the Press Club’s executive committee were George A. Flynn, A. P. Wood and John Dafoe. The 20-year-old Dafoe had just moved to Winnipeg from Ottawa, where he had served a short stint as editor of the Evening Journal. [8] (Dafoe would later serve as a Free Press editor from 1901 to 1944.) Flynn left the Sun later in 1887 to become city editor of the St. Paul Dispatch. [9]

A young John W. Dafoe, circa 1885, not long before he arrived in Winnipeg to work as a reporter at the Manitoba Free Press. He was elected to the Press Club executive in 1887.
Source: Christopher Dafoe, personal collection

The first order of business for the newly formed Press Club in 1887 was to organize a party and then get to work on lobbying to change the province’s libel laws. On 7 March 1887, Charles Handscomb threw a Press Club party at his home on William Avenue, on the occasion of his birthday. It was reported the next day in the Manitoba Free Press, “Nearly all the journalists of the city were present, and they were right royally treated by their host, who is one of the most popular members of the club … Another pleasant feature of the evening was the presentation to Mr. Handscomb by Mr. Preston, on behalf of the Press Club, with a handsome gold ring, set with a diamond, as a tangible expression of their feelings towards him.” [10]

Preston, as a publisher, was keenly aware of the risks of libel action against newspaper publishers. By 1887, so many newspapers in Winnipeg had been born and died that the city was becoming known as the “graveyard of journalism.” The threat of financial loss due to malicious law suits was a real concern, and the Press Club was set to advocate for tightening up the provincial laws. On 17 March 1887, the Press Club’s efforts were noted in The Sun (Preston’s newspaper). “The Manitoba Press Club will take up the question of amendments to the law of libel with a view to action at the approaching session of the legislature.” [11]

Preston made the case that while newspapers can make mistakes, there had to be limits on libel suits. “[W]hen statements are made without malice, and upon reasonable foundations, in the discharge of a public duty, or in the ordinary routine of business, that may subsequently prove to be inaccurate, the publisher should have a certain amount of protection, and more particularly against persons who, having nothing to lose, institute a civil proceeding against him in the hope of [taking] him in a substantial win for damages. In many cases of the latter kind, where the plaintiff entirely failed in his action, the publisher has been unjustly compelled to defray the costs. This certainly is a great wrong.” [12]

The Canadian Press Association was taking a similar action in Ontario, and Preston advocated the same kinds of changes for Manitoba. These included requiring complainants to put up some money to cover costs in case they lost the case; requiring a demonstration of malice before a suit could proceed; and allowing a publisher, upon learning of an error, to publish a correction at the first opportunity, which would then serve as a bar to libel action.

“[W]hilst libel suits against newspapers have fortunately not been numerous in Manitoba,” wrote Preston, “the newly-formed Press Club cannot put its name to a more practical advantage than by taking precautions to provide that actions of this kind shall not be encouraged by the loose provisions of the law.” [13]

There was some urgency in attending to the libel issue as the Manitoba Legislature was to resume sitting on 14 April 1887. The Manitoba Free Press, which was under the direction of founder William Luxton, added its suggestions, including requiring a publisher to put up a surety when a newspaper is established because not all papers could be counted on to not abuse their power. “Among newspapers as among individuals there are many poverty-stricken, rib-stabbing sheets that from time to time pour out their irresponsible and slanderous attacks upon citizens who are almost utterly without redress. If the law of libel were so amended as to make such ventures give security for their actions the public would be greatly benefitted, and the press would be rid of some of the foul sheets that ruin private character and degrade journalism.” [14]

Acton Burrows took up the call for action in his new newspaper Morning Call. (The Manitoban had folded.) In the 20 April issue of the two-day-old newspaper, the Editor-in-Chief (Burrows) pointed out that changes to libel laws to protect publishers were being pushed in many American states, including a provision in the bill before the Ontario Legislature that would give publishers of daily newspapers three days to print an apology, with “ten clear days” allotted to weekly newspapers. [15]

The Winnipeg Press Club efforts were successful, with the Manitoba Legislature agreeing with almost all the recommendations put forward. The amended libel law was passed on 10 June 1887. [16]

In the meantime, the club executive had been busy organizing a big dinner on Saturday, 9 April, in the dining hall of the CPR station at Main and Higgins streets. The dinner featured a number of guests, including several prominent businessmen, a few city aldermen and the American consul. A report on the dinner was published in the Manitoba Free Press on the following Monday.

“In order to give the newspaper men of the city the entirely novel sensation of paying for a ticket to a banquet the Press Club held a dinner on Saturday evening at the C.P.R dining hall. It was also felt that it would be a pleasant thing to bring together all the members of the journalistic profession in the city, which would tend to increase the esprit de corps, which usually marks journalists, however antagonistic they may be in the practice of their profession. Although the unpleasant weather kept a number away, about thirty men, either now or in the past, actively engaged in newspaper work, sat down at the table—a good showing for a city of Winnipeg’s size.” [17]

The 1887 dinner, which was to be the first of many, set the tone for future dinners. It was an evening of good food, speeches, singing and a bounty of toasts—fourteen in all, with each requiring a reply. City Alderman Stewart Mulvey and US Consul Taylor both gave speeches reminiscing about “Journalism as It Used to Be” in the early days of newspapers in Winnipeg and Cincinnati. [18] (Mulvey had arrived in Winnipeg with the Wolseley Expedition in 1870, and bought a newspaper, the short-lived Manitoba Liberal, the next year. The Mulvey newspaper was the only one to escape unscathed during the election riots of 1872. Taylor had been a newspaper editor in Cincinnati in the 1840s.)

The Press Club elected a new executive on 8 January 1888: Hon. Presidents William Luxton and Acton Burrows; President Archibald McNee; Vice-President A. P. Wood; Treasurer John Dafoe and Secretary Charles Handscomb. [19]

In 1888, the club organized a reunion of Winnipeg’s newspaper men at Clougher’s English Chop House at 375 Main Street, an even more dramatic and toast-filled evening than the club’s first dinner. The 31 March event, reported in considerable detail in 1888 and reprinted in the 1955 WPC Yearbook/Beer & Skits Program, “will always be a memorable event in the history of Northwest journalism. It was the first reunion of all the newspaper men of the present and the past. Very few of the old timers who were in the city failed to put in an appearance; and the chief event of the evening was the recounting by them of events in the early history of Manitoba journalism. It gave a wide scope to the speakers and they made the most of it; it was the opinion of all that they had never heard happier after dinner speeches.” [20]

The evening was filled with toasts and replies to the toasts. On a sad note, however, the keynote speaker of the evening, William Coldwell, was too ill to attend the dinner. His talk, read to the audience, detailed the challenges of setting up the first newspaper in Winnipeg, the Nor’Wester. Veteran Free Press newsman George Ham introduced the speech by citing Coldwell as “the father of journalists in this country and one of the best journalists Canada could boast of.” [21]

(Coldwell’s speech resurfaced when it was discovered by Gerald E. Brawn, the News Editor for the Calgary Herald in the 1950s, when Brawn was going through some personal papers of Colonel Young, the one-time publisher of the Herald. Young had kept a copy of Coldwell’s speech from his days in Winnipeg. The papers were sent to the Press Club by former member Allen Bill, the managing editor of the Herald, and the speech is reprinted in this issue. [22])

The Winnipeg Press Club occupied rooms on the third storey of the “Gingerbread City Hall”, built between 1883 and 1886, and demolished in 1962.
Source: Gordon Goldsborough, personal collection, 2005-0098

Graveyard of Journalism

The speakers at the 1888 Press Club dinner paid tribute to the Winnipeg newspapers of the past. “Every one knows that there is a very large journalistic graveyard here, but few have any conception of the number of dead journals planted in it.” [23]

And there were many. Between 1859 (when the Nor’Wester began publishing) and 1884, 32 newspapers were started in Winnipeg, and by the end of 1885, a grand total of one daily and four weeklies remained. [24]

It should be remembered that Winnipeg was an isolated settlement when Coldwell arrived in 1859. In 1856, a writer from the American Harper’s New Monthly Magazine described the settlement in bleak terms: “Deserts almost trackless, divide it on all sides from the habitations of civilized man. … Receiving no impressions from without, it reflects none. It sends forth neither newspapers, nor books, nor correspondents’ letters; no paragraph in any newspaper records its weal or woe.” [25]

George Ham, who arrived in Winnipeg as a hopeful young reporter in 1875, described Winnipeg as a “muddy, generally disreputable village” of about fifteen-hundred people that “straggled along Main Street from Portage Avenue to Brown’s Bridge, near the present site of the City Hall, and sprawled between Main Street and the river. It was without sidewalk or pavements; it had neither waterworks, sewerage nor street lights. The nearest railroad was at Moorhead on the Red River, 222 miles away. Its connection with the outer world was one, or possibly two, steamers on the Red River in the summer, and by weekly stage in winter. It boasted telegraph connection with the United States and Eastern Canada by way of St. Paul, during the intervals when the line was working. Although essentially Canadian it was practically cut off from direct connection with Canada.” [26]

Ham quickly got work at the Free Press, but found his reporting job to be challenging, especially “on wintry days, when the mercury fell to forty degrees below zero, and the telegraph wires were down, and there were no mails and nothing startling doing locally, it was difficult to fill the Free Press, then a comparatively small paper, with interesting live matter. A half-dozen or so drunks at the police court only furnished a few lines, nobody would commit murder or suicide, or even elope to accommodate the press, and the city council only met once a week; but we contrived to issue a sheet every day that was not altogether uninteresting.” [27]

Ham tried his hand at publishing, setting up the Daily Tribune in 1879 by taking over the Daily Times. The venture folded after six months, contributing two more names to Winnipeg’s “graveyard of journalism.”

But the Press Club was about more than dinners and toasts to by-gone newspapers. Its members had a keen interest in baseball. In July 1888, the Press club team of “ball thumpers” took on the city telegraphic fraternity in what was described as “a deadly struggle for supremacy on the baseball field.” [28]

In its first 18 months of existence, the Press Club established a number of traditions that it has maintained through much of its 125 years. Put simply, it was “beer, business and baseball,” in that order.

George Henry Ham (1847–1926) arrived in Winnipeg in 1875 and took a job as a journalist with the Manitoba Free Press. Within four years, Ham had started his own newspaper, the Tribune. In 1880, it merged with a foundering rival, the Times, and Ham became Managing Editor of the new Winnipeg Times. He ran the staunchly Conservative paper until it was sold in 1885. He was a founding member of the Manitoba Historical Society.
Source: Reminiscences of a Raconteur

Trying Times

The Press Club got off to a strong start, but it was not long before the club found itself on shaky ground, mainly because of uncertainty going on in the Winnipeg newspaper business. Nonetheless, the club held an election for officers on 15 January 1889 for 1889/90, with President George Ham, Vice-President John Dafoe, Treasurer A. P. Wood, Secretary Charles Handscomb, and an executive committee of Walter Payne, R. L. Richardson and William Perkins. A majority of the new board was from the Free Press. The club, it was noted, “has run down somewhat during the last year, but the members intend infusing new life into it, and a prosperous year is prophesied.” [29]

That was, perhaps, a little too optimistic. The Manitoba Free Press, under the direction of Luxton, was aggressively acquiring competing newspapers. In February 1889, BurrowsMorning Call was taken over, and in January 1890, Preston’s Sun was absorbed by the Manitoba Free Press. [30] When the Free Press bought the Sun, it also bought its wire service franchise, which then gave the Free Press a monopoly over national and foreign news arriving by the CPR telegraph. Preston left Winnipeg for Brantford in 1890, having already been elected a Liberal MPP in the Ontario legislature. [31] Burrows stayed in Winnipeg and became editor of the monthly Nor’West Farmer, [32] established in 1889.

For a short time in 1890, the Free Press had a local monopoly, but then on 28 January 1890, R. L. Richardson, the city editor of the Sun—who was out of a job because of the Free Press—pulled together what was left of the Sun equipment and started up the Tribune.

In the midst of all the turmoil in the newspaper business, the Press Club put a one-line notice in the Free Press on 22 and 24 March 1890 stating, “The Winnipeg Press club has retired from active operations.” [33] It is likely that the club gave up its rooms at City Hall at the same time.

But you can’t keep a good club down. The Press Club baseball enthusiasts continued to play ball, calling all the city’s baseball players to the club quarters in September 1889 to see if they could pull together a “strong aggregation of ball thumpers” to send to Grand Forks for a baseball tournament. [34] And in July 1891, the press club ball team challenged the theatrical troupe, the Corner Grocery Company, to a rematch when they arrived to perform in Winnipeg. The thespians “had defeated the Press club in an interesting and humorous baseball contest” the summer before, and the newsmen were anxious to redeem themselves.

The Press Club had lost its amiable president George Ham when he was hired by CPR president W. C. Van Horne in July 1891 to be a spokesman for the CPR, working out of Montreal. The CPR was at the centre of a firestorm in Manitoba, where the Liberal government of Thomas Greenway was seen as being in bed with the CPR and the Free Press. The contentious William Luxton defied the Liberal slant of the paper and loudly criticized the CPR. As a result, he was booted from the Manitoba Free Press in 1893, and soon after started his own Conservative-leaning newspaper, the Daily Nor’Wester.

A commentary in the Conservative weekly, the Morden Monitor, lauded Luxton’s new paper in a demonstration of the heated rhetoric in the politics of the news business of that era. The fact that Luxton had thwarted the control of the Free Press, said the commentary, provided “a thrill of pleasure to think that the unholy combination of the corrupt Greenway government and CPR with its mealy-mouthed and sycophantic Free Press with all their power and gold, cannot in this free country cover up the unexampled rapaciousness of one and the thieving corruption of the other.” [35]

It may well have been difficult, if not impossible, for the Press Club directors—Dafoe and Payne from the Free Press, Ham from the CPR, Richardson from the Tribune, Luxton from the Nor’Wester and Burrows (a close friend of Van Horne [36]) from the Nor’West Farmer—and their fellow reporters and editors, to set aside professional and political rivalries in the name of the Press Club’s esprit de corp during such highly emotional times. It’s not clear who was on the Press Club board during this time, but it continued hosting events.

The link between the theatre and the Press Club remained strong, perhaps because Charlie Handscomb, who enhanced his bon vivant status with annual trips to New York to see the latest shows, [37] provided an on-going connection between the two worlds. Handscomb ventured into publishing in 1898, starting up Town Topics, a weekly magazine devoted to coverage of the arts, society news, and sports. C. P. and Hattie Walker were said to be investors in Handscomb’s magazine, and Hattie wrote for it as well. [38]

The Press Club organized a number of visits to the theatre, and in November 1900, the Press Club staged a joint theatre and baseball dinner at the Vendome Hotel to celebrate the end of the baseball season. It was an opportunity for the newsmen for “hours of pleasant respite from the usual arena where political issues, press dispatches, scoops and bad proofs are wont to hold sway, the occasion being the celebration of the successful termination of the Winnipeg Press Club baseball season.” [39]

On 26 October 1901, the Press Club’s baseball wrap-up event was held at the city’s exhibition grounds. “Not only will a record for the climate of Manitoba be made by holding a ball game the last week in October, but to-day’s outing promises to be of the most enjoyable of the many outings held by the newspaper folks. The street cars run to the grounds and those not having bicycles or automobiles are expected to take the cars in time to be ready for action by 3 o’clock sharp.” [40]

Meanwhile, Press Club members, including George Ham, William Maclellan and Thomas Preston, were organizing a banquet in the fall of 1905, [41] and the “Press Club nine” celebrated another year on the diamonds, with Charles Handscomb playing shortstop and Maclellan in right field. [42]

Robert Lorne Richardson (1860–1921), founder and publisher of The Winnipeg Tribune.
Source: Winnipeg Press Club

A Press Club for Women

The membership in the Press Club was strictly limited to men in the news business, and excluded others employed in getting the newspapers out, such as pressmen and advertising salesmen. No women were allowed. While there was little news published in the newspapers about the men’s Press Club in Winnipeg at the turn of the last century, women journalists, with women’s rights and temperance issues at the fore, were coming into their own.

In June of 1904, writer Margaret Graham marched into George Ham’s CPR office and demanded an audience. Graham, said Ham, “started cyclonically to tell me that while the C.P.R. had taken men to all the excursions to fairs and other things, women had altogether been ignobly ignored and she demonstratively demanded to know why poor downtrodden females should thus be so shabbily treated.” [43]

Ham told Graham that if she could organize sixteen women journalists for the trip to the upcoming St. Louis World’s Fair, the CPR would provide a car for them. Graham did and she, along with Mary Markwell (Kate Simpson Hayes) of the Manitoba Free Press and fourteen other women, made the trip to the expo, and on the way back, formed the Canadian Women’s Press Club. [44] Ham was given the position of honorary member, the only man to hold that honour. Winnipeg’s women journalists wanted a club of their own as well, and in 1907, formed the Winnipeg chapter of the CWPC, with Free Press farm reporter Cora Hind as president, and Free Press editor Lillian Beynon as secretary. The Winnipeg Women’s Press Club set up their own club room in 1912 in the Industrial Bureau at Main and Water streets.

George Ham (WPC president, 1889) with women reporters on their way to the St. Louis Expo in 1904. On the trip home, the women formed the Canadian Women’s Press Club. Standing directly in front of Ham is Manitoba Free Press women’s editor Kate Simpson Hayes.
Source: Library and Archives Canada

Winds of Change

Part of the social glue that held the Press Club together weakened in 1906 with the unexpected death of Charles Handscomb. He was only 39 when he died suddenly of diphtheria, [45] but he’d played a key role as Press Club secretary right from the first board election in 1887.

From 1907 onwards, the Manitoba Free Press contained regular mentions of the various activities involving the Canadian and Winnipeg women’s press clubs, but the men’s press club was largely invisible. Then, on 22 March 1910, the Free Press ran a one-line announcement stating, “The Winnipeg Press Club has retired from business.” [46] The women’s press clubs bloomed during the years leading up to the Great War; the men’s did not. However, many organizations put their activities on hold during the war years. There were more pressing priorities.

With the war years behind them, Winnipeg newsmen regrouped. Frank Williams, a Manitoba Free Press reporter, was getting the Press Club going by signing up newsmen as members at the Free Press and the Winnipeg Tribune, the only dailies operating in the city by the end of 1920. Williams later recalled that he almost lost his job getting the club going because Manitoba Free Press management thought he was signing up newsmen to start a union. Said Williams, “My answer to that was to beard … John W. Dafoe in his den and sign him up as a member.” [47]

The Press Club organizational meeting was held in the Tribune building so it wouldn’t look like the Free Press was trying to dominate the club. Hay Stead of MacLean Publishing was elected the president in 1922, [48] and the newsmen got busy organizing a dinner at the Fort Garry Hotel. The club was back in full swing. Williams recalled in 1953 that all the Press Club records from earlier times were all lost, and the club operated as if it had not existed prior to 1922.

Cartoonist Hay Strafford Stead (1872–1924) worked at the Manitoba Free Press, Winnipeg Telegram, Winnipeg Saturday Post, and The Winnipeg Tribune until 1922, the same year that he served as president of the Winnipeg Press Club.
Source: Manitobans As We See ‘Em, 1909-1909

Few of the original Press Club directors were around to carry the torch for the early Press Club, with the exception of John Dafoe. The club’s first president, Thomas Preston, lived in Brantford where he served in the Ontario Legislature until 1908, became president of the Canadian Newspaper Association in 1923, and died of a heart attack two years later. [49] Acton Burrows moved to Toronto in 1895 and set up his own magazine publishing company. He remained there until he died in 1935.

William Maclellan, who had left Winnipeg under a cloud in 1887, had set up a law practice in Duluth for a few years, then returned to his hometown in the Maritimes in 1900, and was editor of the Morning Chronicle in Halifax until his return to Winnipeg in 1905. [50] He later returned to Halifax to become an author and school inspector. Archibald McNee left Winnipeg in 1889 and moved to Windsor, Ontario.

William Luxton sold his interest in the Daily Nor’Wester to the Winnipeg News and Publishing Company in 1896 but stayed on until 1898 after the Nor’Wester became the Telegram, and then went to work at the Globe in St. Paul, Minnesota. Luxton returned to Winnipeg in 1901, and died of apoplexy in 1907.

George Ham’s death was reported by a Charlottetown newspaper in 1905, with the obituary reading: “With sincere regret many thousands of people will learn of the death of George H. Ham of the Canadian Pacific Railway, Montreal. Very few men had so extensive an acquaintance or so many friends. He was full of good-will for everybody. During his illness, letters and telegrams poured in from every quarter expressing most sincere desires for his recovery, but it had been otherwise ordered. He leaves a memory fragrant with the kindnesses that thousands have received at his hands.” [51]

The news of Ham’s death was (to quote Mark Twain) “greatly exaggerated,” as Ham continued a career where his travels on behalf of the CPR took him farther and farther away from Winnipeg. He did, however, maintain his close relationship with the Canadian Women’s Press Club, and often travelled with the women on their international trips.

R. L. Richardson kept the Tribune going, but also had a political career to consider. He was elected to Parliament in 1896 to represent Lisgar. In 1920, Richardson sold the Tribune to the Southams, who then also bought the Telegram, and the two papers were merged as the Tribune. At that point, there were only two daily newspapers in Winnipeg, the Free Press and the Tribune, and it stayed that way for the next 60 years.

By 1922, the old order was gone and a new era had begun for Winnipeg journalism and for the Winnipeg Press Club.

The Winnipeg Tribune press room in 1896, equipped with what is likely the equipment that publisher R. L. Richardson salvaged from the Sun when it was bought out by the Manitoba Free Press.
Source: University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections, Winnipeg Tribune Archives


1. The Daily Manitoban, 14 February 1887, page 4.

2. Manitoba Daily Free Press (hereafter, MFP), 14 February 1887, page 4.

3. “T. H. Preston, noted newspaperman dies”, MFP, 9 November 1925, page 5.

4. MFP, 3 July 1886, page 2.

5. Ibid.

6. Christopher G. Dafoe, 1988, “The Press Club: Beer and Uplift”, Torch on the Prairies, The Nor’Westers, Winnipeg, page 3.

7. Arrell, Douglas, 1999, Chapter 4: The Cosmopolitan, the Cultural Nationalist, and the Egocentric Critic: Harriet Walker, Charles W. Handscomb, and Charles H. Wheeler in Winnipeg, 1898-1906, Establishing our boundaries: English-Canadian Theatre Criticism, University of Toronto Press, page 107.

8. F. H. Schofield, 1913, “John Wesley Dafoe”, The Story of Manitoba, vol. 3, Clarke Publishing, pages 622–625.

9. WPC Yearbook, 1956, page 29.

10. MFP, 8 March 1887, page 4.

11. The Manitoba Sun, 17 March 1887, page 4.

12. The Manitoba Sun, 24 March 1887, page 4.

13. Ibid.

14. MFP, 4 April 1887, page 2.

15. The Morning Call, 20 April 1887, page 1.

16. An Act Respecting the Law of Libel, The Revised Statues of Manitoba 1887, King’s Printer, page 268.

17. MFP, 11 April 1887, page 4.

18. Ibid.

19. MFP, 8 January 1908, page 1.

20. WPC Yearbook 1956, page 13.

21. WPC Yearbook 1955, page 13.

22. Ibid.

23. WPC Yearbook 1956, page 13.

24. Loveridge, D. M., 1981, A Historical Directory of Manitoba Newspapers, 1859–1978, University of Manitoba Press, Winnipeg, page 5.

25. “A Visit to Red River”, Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, October 1856, as quoted by A. M. Pratt, 1967, The Story of Manitoba’s Weekly Newspapers, Manitoba Weekly Newspapers Association, Winnipeg, page 1.

26. Ham, George H., 1921, Reminiscences of a Raconteur, The Musson Book Company, pages 29–30.

27. Ibid., pages 39–40.

28. MFP, 14 July 1888, page 6.

29. MFP, 15 January 1889, page 4.

30. Loveridge, op. cit., pages 129–130.

31. MFP, 9 November 1925, page 5.

32. Canadian Rail, Issue 463, March 1998, page 19.

33. MFP, 22 & 24 March 1890, page 4.

34. MFP, 10 September 1889, page 4.

35. Marjorie Earl, 1988, “The Big Blue Bugle”, Torch on the Prairies, The Nor’Westers, Winnipeg, pages 45–46.

36. Canadian Rail, Ibid.

37. Arrell, op. cit., page 114.

38. Arrell, op. cit., page 110.

39. MFP, 5 November 1900, page 6.

40. MFP, 26 October 1901, page 5.

41. MFP, 18 September 1905, page 1.

42. MFP, 18 October 1905, page 1.

43. Ham, 1921, op. cit., page 151.

44. MFP, 9 July 1904, page 50.

45. Arrell, op. cit., page 114.

46. MFP, 22 March 1910, p. 1.

47. WPC Yearbook and Beer & Skits program, Volume 20, 1953, page 9.

48. MFP, 20 March 1922, page 1.

49. MFP, 9 November 1925, page 5.


51. Ham, 1921, op. cit., page 26.

Page revised: 7 December 2023