History of Canadian Culture Fun Facts

Did you know.... Canada was named after the Iroquoian word for 'village'?

10 Interesting Facts

  • Canada’s first million-selling author was Marshall Saunders, with her novel Beautiful Joe (1894)
  • One of the first professional painters in New France opened his studio after being released from prison – for counterfeiting money.
  • The first image in a regularly scheduled television broadcast, in September 1952, was the station logo – upside down.
  • Piracy in the pre-downloading age: in the 1870s, Toronto newspaperman J.R. Robertson could have an illegal edition of a US novel on the shelves within a month of its legal publication in the US. And he might sell 50,000 copies of each illegal edition, at a fraction of the cost of the legal edition.
  • The most important government department before 1945 in cultural patronage, and the only one that showed ‘conscious, consistent and imaginative policy’ in supporting culture, was the Department of National Defence, largely through its support of military bands.
  • Early Canadian art dealer James Spooner found that art didn’t pay – and so he added a tobacco shop and a dog kennel to his art gallery to make extra money.
  • Cinema came to Canada in 1896, courtesy of a travelling French showman with the improbable name Monsieur Lumière.
  • Better known for her memoir The King and I (originally Anna and the King of Siam), Anna Leonowens was a fixture of Halifax’s cultural life, and started one of the city’s most popular book clubs.
  • Canada’s first Department of Fine Arts, at Acadia University, was founded with a grant from the Carnegie Foundation.
  • One of the most successful women in 19th century Canadian writing was May Agnes Fleming. Largely forgotten now, she was a giant on the book market – when she died in 1880, the expatriate New Brunswicker was one of the highest paid authors in North America.

National Anthem: various versions

Dr. Richardson's Version
O Canada ! Our fathers' land of old
Thy brow is crown'd with leaves of red and gold.
Beneath the shade of the Holy Cross
Thy children own their birth
No stains thy glorious annals gloss
Since valour shield thy hearth.
Almighty God! On thee we call
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall,
Defend our rights, forfend this nation's thrall.

In 1908, Collier's Weekly began publishing a Canadian version of its magazine, and the inugural edition held a competition for English text set to Lavellée's music. Mercy E. Powell McCulloch won the competition and her poem was printed, but the lyrics didn't catch on.

McCulloch Version
O Canada ! in praise of thee we sing;
From echoing hills our anthems proudly ring.
With fertile plains and mountains grand,
With lakes and rivers clear,
Eternal beauty, thou dost stand
Throughout the changing year.
Lord God of Hosts! We now implore
Bless our dear land this day and evermore,
Bless our dear land this day and evermore.

Many new versions followed, including one by poet Wilfred Campbell and Toronto critic Augustus Bridle. Other versions were written for Quebec City 's tercentennary in 1908. One version became quite popular in British Columbia :

Buchan Version
O Canada, our heritage, our love.
Thy worth we praise all other lands above.
From sea to sea throughout their length,
From Pole to borderland,
At Britain's side, whate'er betide,
Unflinchingly we'll stand.
With hearts we sing, "God save the King",
Guide then one Empire wide, do we implore,
And prosper Canada from shore to shore.

A version written by lawyer and (at the time) Recorder of the City of Montréal Robert Stanley Weir in 1908 gained the most notoriety. It was published in an official form for the Diamond Jubilee of Confederation in 1927 and became the accepted version in English-speaking Canada :

Weir Version
O Canada ! Our home and native land.
True patriot love in all thy sons command.
With glowing hearts we see thee rise,
The True North strong and free!
And stand on guard, O Canada,
We stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, glorious and free,
We stand on guard, we stand on guard for thee.
O Canada, we stand on guard for thee!

More facts

  • It is quite possible that the Vikings touched on the east coast of Canada in the year 1000, but the first recorded landing is that of John Cabot in 1497, at which time he claimed the new found land for English King Henry VII. Subsequently in 1534 a French navigator, Jacques Cartier, planted a cross on Gaspé Peninsula and took possession for France . Thus began a French-English rivalry that continued for 250 years.
  • Canada is the world's second largest country with an area of 9,970,610 km²
  • Parliament adopted what is now Canada 's National Flag on October 22, 1964. Queen Elizabeth II proclaimed it so on February 15, 1965. The red and white colors of the Flag had been Canada 's official colors since November 21, 1921, when King George V declared them so. The maple leaf emblem has been considered the country's emblem since the early 18th century.

From the 'Canadian Farm & Home Almanac'

The CN Tower rises 555.3456 metres (1,822 feet 1 inch) from the shores of Lake Ontario , entering itself into the record books as the world's tallest free-standing structure.

Casa Loma was built at the beginning of the 19th century by Sir Henry Pellatt, and this is the story: While still in his early twenties, Henry married a young 'society' girl named Mary Dodgson. Soon afterward, he founded the Toronto Electric Light Company, appointed himself secretary (at a salary of $25 a month), and negotiated a deal to install arc lights in a small section of Toronto . Six years later, he held the contract to install all the street lighting for the entire city of Toronto ! Henry Pellatt had the means to see his dreams of owning a castle come to fruition.

Summer, 1915. World War I Col. John McCraea Canadian veteran of the Second Boer War and professor of medicine at McGill University in Montreal, was struck with admiration at the courage of the dead and overwhelmed by awe at their selflessness as he caught sight of the tiny, red poppies dancing lazily in the gentle breeze among the grave markers of his fallen comrades. Inspired by the sight, and by the memories of the previous days of vicious fighting, McCrae grabbed a pad of paper and pen and quickly began to write down the words that had suddenly appeared in his mind. In minutes, his creation was complete:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Thursday, December 6, 1917 dawned over Halifax as beautifully as had countless other bright, snow-covered days during the late Nova Scotia autumn. By 8:30 a.m., however, that all changed when Halifax was rocked by the most violent man-made explosion ever created and would remain unparalleled until the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima 30 years later. In mere seconds, one-third of Halifax had disappeared. Two thousand people lay dead. Nine thousand more were injured. A French munitions ship, the Mont Blanc, was entering Halifax harbour in preparations of joining a convoy en route to supply ammunition to the Allies in France . The ship was loaded with 31,800 kg (35 tons) of benzine; 204,000 kg (225 tons) of TNT; 2,087,000 kg (2,300 tons) of picric acid; and 55,400 kg (61 tons) of cellulose nitrate (guncotton). All either highly explosive or extremely flammable.

The word Canada originated a Huron Iroquoian word - Kanata meaning "village" which referred to the settlement of Stadacona which was situated on the site of Quebec City.

The first people of Canada were the Native Americans and the Inuit.

The Vikings travelled and settled to the Canadian land in the 1000's.

Europeans, notably the French, settled in Canada in the 1500's & 1600's.

In the 1700' the Canadian colony was passed to the British.

In 1982 the Canadian constitution was adopted.

“O Canada,” originally named “Chant national,” was written by Adolphe-Basile Routhier (French lyrics) and Calixa Lavallée (music) and first performed in Quebec City in 1880. The song was approved by the Parliament of Canada in 1967 as the unofficial national anthem and adopted officially on July 1, 1980.c --c The Canadian Encyclopedia. Accessed January 30, 2009.

The east coast of Canada was settled by Vikings around the year A.D. 1000.-- k Story, Noah. 1967. The Oxford Companion to Canadian History and Literature. Toronto , Canada : Oxford University Press.

Newfoundland was the first part of Canada to be explored by Europeans. Ironically, it was the last area to become a province, in 1949.l --l Watkins, Mel (ed.). 1993. Canada . New York , NY : Facts on File, Inc.