The history of a country is to be read not only in its written or printed records. These, while of the greatest value and importance, do not tell us all that we desire to know. Old buildings, early furniture, tools, vehicles, weapons and clothing, contemporary pictures of people, places and events must be examined to fill out the story.
Often such things are of equal or of greater importance than many of those preserved in verbal records. Often, too, they are more reliable. A tangible object cannot lie or equivocate so successfully as a word. A building or a four-poster bed expresses the personality of its maker, and unintentionally reveals some secrets that may cast a light upon his character or that of his time.
The pictorial collection herewith presented is an attempt to indicate the great quantity of such material available, and where it may be found, to stimulate interest in these things, and to suggest the possibilities of their greater use in the teaching, or the study, of Canadian history, local as well as general. I have tried to give some explanations of the meaning and the historical connections of the various things depicted; but these I hope will be only starting points for wide enquiry and more intelligent employment of the material here gathered. This is in no sense a history of Canada, nor a substitute for one. My text is confined to notes on those pictures which were not included in my previous book, Canada's Past in Pictures, or which suggested or seemed to require some verbal comment, leaving the others to speak for themselves, as connected with subjects fully and excellently set forth in the works of our Canadian historians.
I have included a large number of my own imaginative pictorial reconstructions of Canadian history. For this apparent inconsistency I make no apology, since I have based them, in every instance, on such evidence, textual, material, or pictorial , as was available, and on the reasonable probabilities that the data suggested. At the same time I make no claim to their infallibility; new evidence comes to light from time to time which must alter or modify the previous conclusions of writer or artist alike. I hope, however, that I have made a clear distinction between my own imaginative drawings and the illustrations of actual places, persons, objects and events, whether depicted by artists of the past, or by myself and others today.
The collection therefore possesses a double character. The imaginative drawings include all those available which I think worth preserving as being fairly representative of my aim and effort over many years. My selection of source material has been guided by my experience of what I have found most necessary and useful in trying to visually reconstruct the life of the past. It is a glimpse into the workshop. Here are the raw materials, the tools of the trade, the things that must be used, whether in oral teaching, in pageantry and drama, or in pictorial representation. It has taken a wide search to gather them, and the collection here assembled is the work of a life-time of interest in Canadian history. I hope that it may be a guide and a time-saver for my fellow-workers, and an interesting pictorial survey of our past for the general reader.
It will be observed that some features often seen in many of our history books are missing. Some of these "old familiar faces," such as the portraits of Champlain and Frontenac, have been rejected because they have been proved to be spurious, or because, though depicted by contemporaries, they are misleading and incorrect in their details. A few have been omitted because they are to be seen frequently elsewhere, and the space they would occupy might be used for subjects less well known and of greater significance. Others have been left out for both reasons - for instance, Benjamin West's Death of Wolfe - even though they may have conspicuous merits as works of artistic imagination.
Opinions will differ as to the relative importance of the various subjects depicted. It is unwise to be dogmatic on this point; interest and emphasis shift with the passage of time; apparently trivial things are seen later to have been the germs of unexpected developments, or to throw a beam of explanatory light upon personages, or events, or the whole atmosphere and character of a period. My selection has been made with the aim of covering a wide field of activities, and appealing to many interests.
My obligations to my fellow-workers in Canadian history are so many and so great that I cannot make more than a general acknowledgment of my indebtedness. I cannot omit, however, the name of Dr. C. T. Currelly, from whom I have received much valuable information and advice, and whom I have freely consulted on many details of furniture construction, costume, the evolution and dating of arms and armour, etc. For assistance in making many of the drawings I am indebted to Mr. T. W. McLean, whose knowledge of the Canadian background has given a sympathetic and discerning touch to all his work. Miss Mary McLean also is responsible for some illustrations in the Indian section which required minute and careful drawing, as shown by the pages of snowshoes and basketry, in which the various methods of weaving and plaiting are clearly depicted.
As far as possible, I think I have given the original sources from which the pictures were obtained. In some cases, neither the name of the artist nor the time and place of its making could be discovered; occasionally we have to be content with the information that the picture has been in such and such a place or family for many years. Such traditions, of course, are not entirely trustworthy, and we can only hope that confirmatory evidence may appear in course of time.
I shall be grateful to any reader who will call my attention to any errors of fact, pictorial or verbal, and will welcome any comment on my interpretations or explanatory remarks. Different inferences may well be drawn by different minds from the same facts, and I shall be glad to be made aware of other conclusions and better informed points of view than my own.
For the present edition a few corrections have been made in details of some of the drawings, in accordance with information supplied by readers and critics, for which I am grateful. A few additions have been made to the notes and bibliography.
CHARLES W. JEFFERYS.
York Mills, Ontario.