Do you have a question about the MHS? The answer might be here. If not, contact us at right.
The Manitoba Historical Society (MHS), founded in 1879, is the oldest organization in Western Canada dedicated to preserving our past for future generations.
The MHS is a public organization and it is not affiliated with the Government of Manitoba. It is unlike historical societies in many parts of the United States, which are typically affiliated with—and funded by—a state government. Anyone can become an MHS member.
As a registered Canadian Charitable Organization, the MHS welcomes and encourages donations; they are a major means by which the costs of our activities are supported, including our magazine Prairie History and our comprehensive website that now comprises over 27,000 pages.
The MHS holds fast to the mandate of our founders, continuing their legacy of preservation, promotion, research, and education. Our award programs recognize the works of Manitoba youth, and the many farms, businesses, and organizations that have operated continuously for 100 years or more. We are advocates for preserving our province’s built heritage. We present field trips throughout our province, host films and lectures, and organize multicultural events where Manitobans can share their rich past.
New members of the Manitoba Historical Society are often not aware of the full scope of our activities. Even long-time members may not know about all of the things we do. The many benefits are listed below, grouped into four general categories: awards, publications, programs, and museums.
Centennial Farm – This program was initiated by the MHS in 1980 to recognize farms which have been operated continuously for 100 years or more by a single family. To date, over 1,200 farms have been so designated throughout southern Manitoba. Recipient families receive a plaque or certificate, usually at a formal presentation ceremony. A separate Century Farm program of the provincial government provides signs which recipient families post at their farm gate.
Centennial Business – In 1999, the MHS initiated the Manitoba Centennial Business Awards to recognize businesses that have operated continuously in the province for over 100 years. Changes in business location and ownership are permitted. Recipient businesses, of which there have been 52 so far, are presented with a commemorative plaque at the annual Macdonald Dinner or at an event sponsored by the recipient.
Centennial Organization – This program was started in 2004 as part of the MHS’s 125th anniversary celebrations. It commemorates 100 years of continuous operation by non-profit organizations, clubs, congregations, and associations in the areas of culture, economic development, education, health, heritage, labour, politics, recreation and sport, religion, and social reform. Twenty-six awards have been made to date, usually at an annual awards ceremony.
Margaret McWilliams – This award was instituted in 1955 as a memorial to Margaret S. McWilliams, a well-known Manitoba author, by her husband, former Lieutenant-Governor Roland F. McWilliams. Its purpose is to encourage the study and interpretation of the history of Manitoba. Certificates are presented at an annual awards ceremony to authors of scholarly books, popular books, works of historical fiction, local histories, institutional histories, essays, theses, displays, videos, and web sites.
Young Historians – This award program is open to all school children in the province to encourage them in producing essays, posters, models, and videos on themes from Manitoba history. Thirty-three awards were made at our most recent annual ceremony. The winner of the Dr. Edward Shaw Award (named in honour of the late MHS President and historian) for the best senior essay has their work published in our journal, Manitoba History.
Douglas Kemp – This award was inaugurated in 1988 to recognize exceptional service in the promotion and preservation of Manitoba’s heritage, usually by an MHS member. It commemorates the late MHS President. This award is typically presented at the Annual General Meeting.
Charles Bell – This award was initiated in 2004 to recognize the student with the highest standing in the introductory course History of Canada (11.144) at the University of Manitoba. The award commemorates the life and work of Charles Napier Bell, who was President of the MHS from 1889 to 1891 and again from 1913 to 1929.
Time Lines newsletter – The newsletter, and its predecessor Keywords, is published every two months. It reports on MHS activities, advertises upcoming events and museum developments, and informs members about heritage news around the province and elsewhere.
Manitoba History journal – Manitoba History is a peer-reviewed journal which has been published since 1980. It is the only journal devoted to the history of Manitoba and it contains well researched, scholarly articles as well as articles of general interest, book reviews, advertisements, and an annual bibliography. Originally published twice a year, its publication frequency increased to three times a year in 2005.
Web site – Originally developed in the late 1990s to provide basic information about the MHS, the web site was re-launched in 2002 with the full content of MHS publications (Transactions, Manitoba Pageant, back issues of Manitoba History, Keywords, Time Lines). It also contains unique documents and articles, biographies, lists of award recipients, and information about the MHS museums.
Reference library – The Edwin Nix Memorial Library located in the MHS office was designated in 2004 in honour of the late MHS member. It contains collection of books, journals, newsletters, local histories, and pamphlets relating to the general theme of Manitoba history.
Sir John A. Macdonald Dinner – This event is held each year on the Saturday closest to January 11, nationally designated as Sir John A. Macdonald Day, the birthday of Canada’s first Prime Minister. It is the Society’s primary fundraiser of the year. Recent dinners have featured speakers such as the Honourable John Crosbie, Rex Murphy, Mel Hurtig, Phil Fontaine, Jamie Brown, Judge Murray Sinclair, Jake MacDonald, and the Honourable John N. Turner. In 2006, we featured entertainer Mike Ford.
Multicultural Dinner – This annual events highlights the ethnic diversity of Manitoba. Each dinner features a particular group, including its indigenous foods and beverages, and accompanied by a presentation on its activities in Manitoba. Recent dinners have been held at the Centro Caboto, the Icelandic Club, St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church, the Czech and Slovak Association, the St. John’s Cathedral, and the Winnipeg Chilean Association Hall.
Film Night – This event, a collaboration between the MHS and the Archives of Manitoba (and, most recently, the CBC), has been held annually since 1997. It highlights archival film footage held at the Archives and has incorporated guest speakers and noted specialists. Its role is to increase public awareness in the holdings of the provincial archives.
Field Trips – The MHS operates guided historic bus tours to various sites in the region. Recent field trips have included stops at Wawanesa’s Sipiweske Museum, the Archibald Museum near La Rivière, the Inglis grain elevators, the Royal Canadian Artillery Museum in Shilo, and the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum in Brandon. The MHS has prepared walking tour guides of Tuxedo, Crescentwood, Wolseley, and Point Douglas neighbourhoods in Winnipeg.
Annual General Meetings – The appointment of MHS officers, adoption of constitutional revisions, and major decisions requiring membership approval are transacted at the AGM, held alternately in Winnipeg and rural communities. The event is usually accompanied by a presentation or an historical tour.
Committees – The MHS’s standing committees address topics of specific interest. Some committees are responsible for research, planning, and presentation of awards, or operation of museums. Others are more wide-ranging in their terms of reference. At present, committees include: Centennial Business, Centennial Farm, Centennial Organization, McWilliams, Young Historians, Field Trip, Finance, Publications, Membership, Program, Macdonald Dinner, Historic Preservation, Heritage Trust, Dalnavert Museum Management, and Ross House Management.
Conferences – Our history conference is held periodically to enable students and amateur historians as well as professionals to present papers on their current research. In 2005, we sponsored the Second Annual Fort Garry Lectures in History that was organized by graduate students at the University of Manitoba.
Presentations – The Program Committee, often in collaboration with other MHS committees and external groups, organizes oral presentations on a range of topics. In 2005, presentations were made on Winnipeg’s early hotels by Bruce Cherney, and its rock music history by John Einarson, among others. We also inaugurated a series of public lectures in our Dalnavert Visitors Centre.
Representation – The MHS appoints a representative to provide input to several external groups, such as the City of Winnipeg Historic Buildings Committee, which advises on significant architectural features around the city. Our representative on the Winnipeg Real Estate Board’s Citizen’s Walk of Fame proposes nominees in an historical category, for whom a brass bust is unveiled annually in Assiniboine Park. We are represented on the Board of Heritage Winnipeg, which considers heritage matters in Winnipeg.
Affiliated societies – The MHS’s mandate includes assistance in the formation and work of local historical societies in furthering the objectives of the Society throughout Manitoba. Any local, regional, national, or international group which endorses the objectives of the MHS is invited to become an affiliated society with a view toward facilitating intercommunication and mutual enrichment.
Ross House – This log house, site of the first post office in western Canada, was built in 1852 by William Ross. It has been moved twice and is now located in Joe Zuken Heritage Park, in Winnipeg’s Point Douglas neighborhood. The Ross House Museum is owned by the City of Winnipeg, and operated by the MHS. The Society is responsible for the collection and display of artifacts, and it provides museum staff. Ross House is open during summer months.
Manitoba Organization: Manitoba Scientific and Historical Society / Manitoba Historical Society
The Manitoba Historical Society: A Centennial History by Gerald Friesen
This article was originally published in Manitoba History in 1982 to mark the centennial of the Society’s founding, in 1879.
The First Half Century: A Sketch of the Early Years of the Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba by David A. Stewart, MD
Manitoba Pageant, Volume 24, Number 3, Spring 1979
Presidents of the Manitoba Historical Society
This list contains all the people who have served as President of the Society since its founding in 1879.
The Manitoba Historical and Scientific Society Act (1879)
The “Historical and Scientific Society of Manitoba” came into being when an Act was assented in the provincial legislature in June 1879.
The Manitoba Historical Society Act (1994)
A new Act of Incorporation replaced the original one in 1994, formally recognizing the name under which the Society had operated for most of its existence.
The Society’s Constitution and By-laws define all aspects of its functions.
The Society publishes an Annual Report on its activities. Copies are available here.
Manitoba has numerous old houses that have fascinating stories. Unfortunately, only a small fraction have had that story told. If you would like to learn more about your Manitoba home, including when it was built and who lived in it in the past, here are a few leads.
In 1978, Lillian Gibbons, a long-time reporter for the Winnipeg Tribune, published a book entitled Stories Houses Tell in which she related the stories of some 300 houses around Winnipeg. Copies of her book are still available through antiquarian bookstores and in local libraries.
A few Winnipeg houses that have been researched by the Manitoba Historical Society as the residence of a noteworthy Manitoban are listed here.
Here are some ways to learn the history of other Winnipeg houses.
Tax Assessment Records – The City of Winnipeg has a tax assessment database where you enter the street name and number. It tells you a number of details about the house, including the year that it was built. Be careful in reading too much into such records. According to the City, the Foulds House on Palmerston Avenue in Wolseley was built in 1911. Historical research confirms it was actually built in 1872.
Other City Records, including Building Permits – The City of Winnipeg Archives contains records on building tax assessments, blueprints, and building permits for numerous structures around the city, going back to the 1870s. The documents for your home may be among their holdings.
Henderson Directories – The Henderson’s Directory contains listings, by street address, of the primary householder, their spouse’s name, and their occupation. The directory was updated annually, and paper copies from 1880 to 2000 are available at the Legislative Library of Manitoba and the Millennium Library. Some volumes have been digitized and are available on the website of the University of Alberta. By tracing an address’ listing in each directory, it may be possible to reconstruct the chronology of occupation of a house.
There is a Henderson directory for Brandon available online at the University of Alberta, covering the period from 1906 to 1955 (with a few missing years). The City of Brandon has tax assessment rolls archived in the basement of its City Hall.
Every municipality is required by law to maintain tax assessments records back to the incorporation of the municipality. The Rural Municipality of Portage la Prairie, for example, has a wonderful collection of tax rolls in its municipal office in Portage la Prairie.
Another source of information for rural Manitoba are aerial photographs at the Manitoba Air Photo Library in Winnipeg.
Since its incorporation in 1879, the Manitoba Historical Society has had a concern for the built heritage of this province.
In the early 1880s, the original Fort Garry was demolished in order to allow Main Street to run straight to the bridge spanning the Assiniboine River near The Forks. The north gate of the old fort stands today because of actions of MHS members. The Society has had a hand in preserving Ross House, Riel House, and more recently, the Bank of Hamilton, the Bank of Commerce on Main Street, and the Grand Rapids Tramway road-bed. It is important that significant sites and buildings remain and are protected so that our past is not just words in books.
The MHS has a Historical Preservation Committee through which it continues its role in preserving Manitoba’s historical landmarks. Please contact the MHS office if you would like to become active in this or any other MHS committee.
If you have an artifact, photograph or other item of historical interest which you would like to preserve for future generations, you may wish to donate it to an organization which can do so. Depending on the nature of the items, there are several organizations in Manitoba which may be interesting in receiving a donation.
NOTE: The Manitoba Historical Society does not normally accept donations of historical items but would instead refer you to other organizations which are better equipped to accept and preserve them. However, some items may be accepted. Information on the MHS’s donation policy is available here.
Some organizations which may accept donations of historical items:
- Archives of Manitoba
- Manitoba Museum
- University of Manitoba Archives and Special Collections
- University of Winnipeg Archives
- Brandon University McKee Archives
- Manitoba Legislative Library
- City of Winnipeg Archives
Check our links page for other archives and museums
Museums and archives in local communities may also be interested in acquiring items relating to their vicinity. The MHS may be able to help in locating a suitable organization. Please contact our office to discuss this possibility.
Most organizations are not in a position to pay for items, but they may be able to issue a tax receipt for its appraised value.
The Manitoba Historical Society is a volunteer-based organization with modest financial resources. As such, it is normally not in a position to make financial donations to projects. We may, however, be able to donate items such as publications for use in fundraising activities (Silent Auctions, etc.), and we may be able to provide letters of support to accompany your applications to granting agencies. These would depend on the nature of the project for which they are solicited, and its relevance to our mandate. Please contact the MHS office with all such requests. They will be considered and a reply returned to you. Please be sure to describe the project for which our support is requested, and indicate clearly the nature of your request.
Q: I am looking for information on the old named telephone exchanges used in Winnipeg. For example, the number 582-8264 was called Justice-2-8264.
By going through old Winnipeg telephone books at the Manitoba Legislative Library, we determined that named telephone exchanges were introduced in the city in 1954 and were phased in over a couple of years, replacing six-digit phone numbers consisting of a two-digit number followed by a four-digit number (e.g., 44-4625). These new numbers consisted of a two-character exchange name, followed by one digit, followed by four digits. In other words, it was, in effect, the same system as we have today except that letters substituted for the first two digits.
Names of telephone exchanges used in Winnipeg included: Alpine, Castle, Cedar, Chapel, Edison, Globe, Grover, Hudson, Justice, Lennox, Spruce, Sunset, Turner, Vernon, and Whitehall.
The use of named exchanges was relatively short-lived. They began to be phased out in 1963 and were completely gone by 1967, replaced by a system referred to as All Number Calling or ANC. The reason given for the change was that “The telephone industry’s continued rapid growth and the introduction of new services such as Direct Distance Dialing have led to a shortage of suitable exchange names. ANC will make available the necessary codes to meet the telephone needs of a growing population and future telephone development.” [1966 Winnipeg telephone directory]
In 2012, with the number of telephone lines increasing dramatically as a result of the widespread use of cellular telephones, Manitoba telephones began using a mandatory ten-digit number in which the former seven-digit number was preceded by the area code 204 for earlier lines or 431 for later ones.
See also: MHS Centennial Business: Manitoba Government Telephones / Manitoba Telephone System / MTS Allstream / Bell MTS
Sources: We thank Colleen Armstrong for providing additional information used here.