Memorable Manitobans: Arthur W. Puttee (1868-1957)
Labour leader, MP (1896-1900), MP (1900-1904).
Born at Folkstone, Kent, England on 25 August 1868, son of William and Elizabeth Puttee, he was apprenticed as a printer. He came to Brandon in 1888 but worked for some years in the United States, chiefly in Seattle and St. Paul, before settling in Winnipeg in 1891. He was the Manager of Winnipeg Printing and Engraving then, from 1923 to retirement in 1953, was the proprietor of Printers’ Roller Company.
He was active in the International Typographical Union and was Canada’s first labour MP (Independent Labour), winning a hotly-contested by-election in January 1900 against Edward Daniel Martin. One campaign jingle went, “The Martin is a summer bird / Uncertain of his flight / But year round Puttee sticks and hears / The stalwart’s ‘Voice for Right.’”
There were charges that he was Clifford Sifton’s candidate, particularly in the November 1900 election, which Puttee again won. It was true he had much Liberal support. In 1904, he found labour sentiment had moved leftward and the Liberals no longer trusted him. He was easily defeated in the general election, even losing his deposit. From 1897 he was a moderate labour leader, editor of the radical newspaper The Voice, in which he had a financial interest until its collapse in July 1918, after which his role in Winnipeg’s labour movement diminished. During the 1940s, he called for the expulsion of “reds” from unions which he felt had become dangerously strong.
He was one of the strongest voices in favour of the organization of a Canadian Labour Party based on the British Labour Party model. He and R. A. Rigg were nominated early in 1918 to meet with Prime Minister Borden on the conduct of the war, but neither man attended. In the 1922 provincial general election, he was one of eight Progressive candidates for a Winnipeg seat in the Manitoba Legislature, the others being George F. Chipman, Thomas J. Murray, Richard W. Craig, Martha J. Hample, Patrick James Henry, Peter McCallum, and Charles K. Newcombe.
On 15 December 1892, he married Gertrude Mary Strood (?-1952) and they had five children. The family lived on College Avenue and later on Queenston Street. Puttee was a member of First Unitarian Church of Winnipeg.
He died at the Princess Elizabeth Hospital on 21 October 1957. There are scattered but extensive papers at the Archives of Manitoba.
“Puttee elected,” Manitoba Free Press, 6 February 1900, page 6.
“Vote Progressive for a united province,” Winnipeg Tribune, 3 July 1922, page 5.
“Labor Council pioneer dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 22 October 1957, page 24.
The Canadian Directory of Parliament, 1867-1967, edited by J. K. Johnson, Public Archives of Canada, Ottawa [Library and Archives Canada], 1968.
Times of Trouble: Labour Quiescence in Winnipeg 1920-1929 by David Edward Hall, MA thesis, University of Manitoba, 1983, page 17.
Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 1 September 2022