MAP 547 - Panoramic view of the City of Vancouver, British Columbia, 1898, via the Vancouver Archives. Here you can see a detail of Brewery Creek, and that smoke stack in the centre of the image? That’s the site of Charles Gottfried Doering’s Vancouver Brewery, later known as the Doering & Marstrand Brewery. Actually, after a merger with the Red Cross Brewery, it became known as Vancouver Breweries Limited. There are so many subtle name changes in Vancouver’s beer history, it’s hard to keep track! More about that some other time.
The City of Vancouver Archives recently announced on their blog that thanks to funding from the British Columbia History Digitization Program, they have completed a project to digitize 512 maps and plans.
Maps are great archival records, filled with meticulous details of the city, typically accompanied by exquisite penmanship. However, they are like many early illustrated works—difficult to attribute. The map above, one of the most popular birds eye views of the city, states in very fine print at the bottom right hand corner: “Entered according to act of Parliament of Canada in the year 1898 by J.C. McLagan at the Department of Agriculture.” In a larger embellished font, the map also states “Published by the Vancouver World Printing and Publishing Company, Limited.”
Both of these details are interesting because J.C. (John James Campbell) McLagan was the editor and owner of The World newspaper which operated from 1888-1924. Bessy Lamb gives an excellent early history of The World among other early Vancouver newspapers in this 1942 research paper at UBC, and when you’re finished reading that, you can followup with this paper on women in the early BC newspaper trade, as McLagan’s wife Sara Anne took over the paper after his death. But back to the fine print on the map; it’s still not clear to me what all of this means. Was J.C. McLagan also employed by the Department of Agriculture?
I dug deeper and discovered this Vancouver Board of Trade annual report from 1892, indicating that he was indeed on the standing committee of Agriculture, along with S. Oppenheimer and E.E. Penzer. Actually, J.C. was also on the Immigration committee, so he must have been a busy man! What I really want to know is who was the cartographer?! Did J.C. McLagan actually have time to draw maps in his spare time, along with chairing meetings and running a newspaper?
I believe the answer lies here, in this document on Archive.org (original document in the National Library of Canada). Manitoba and the Great North-West was published in 1882, and it features a full page birds eye view map of the city of Winnipeg, very much in the same style as this map above. J.C. McLagan’s name is clearly stated on the title page, responsible for the “Sketch of the Rise and Progress of Winnipeg”. If the history books have not yet noted John James Campbell McLagan as an excellent cartographer, I believe they now stand corrected.
I hope you this has demonstrated just a few of the things you can learn from an old map! Take that, Google Maps!