The Fraser Wilson Mural at the Maritime Labour Centre on Triumph Street in Vancouver. I finally made my pilgrimage out to see this mural first hand at the Got Craft fair this past weekend. And what better surroundings than an auditorium filled with crafters, makers, and artists! Fraser Aldwyn Wilson would be proud. 

This work is a monumental treasure; there aren’t many like it, and this piece is probably Fraser Wilson’s most significant work. We’re lucky to have it for many reasons; it was almost painted over, and had it not been relocated and/or painted over, it would have been destroyed by fire! The Pender Auditorium burnt to the ground in July of 2003.

The Maritime Labour Centre’s website tells us more about the mural’s history:

This mural depicting the mid-1940s British Columbia Industrial scene was originally painted on the wall of the Pender Auditorium by Fraser Wilson in 1947.

The building, owned by the Marine Workers and Boiler Makers, Industrial Union Local 1 until its sale in 1969, was at the time the center of trade union activity in Vancouver. It was not until the Pender [Auditorium] was to paint over the mural, and after it had changed owner (who now wanted a white background for divided work areas) that a few individuals including Gary Oliver, BC Teachers’ Federation’s Jim MacFarlan, and Alderman Bruce Yorke, lobbied an application through the 1986 Vancouver Centennial Commission to move and restore the mural for the walls of the newly-built Maritime Labour Centre, the new home of the Vancouver District Labour Council, and several unions including the Boilermakers.

The restored mural was re-dedicated by Fraser Wilson at the opening of the new Maritime Labour Auditorium on January 22, 1988.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating; the mural was painted in 1947, the same year Fraser Wilson spoke out against the newspaper during a bitter strike and he was promptly fired. More details from text originally posted on the Dayton Boot Company website:

Shortly after the company was launched, in 1947 the highly regarded cartoonist of the Vancouver Sun, Fraser Wilson, then president of the newspaper guild (union) spoke out against the Province during a bitter marathon strike. He was fired and told to leave his office and job within the hour.

Sadly, Fraser Wilson never worked another day in the newspaper industry. With his primary source of income lost, Mr. Wilson turned to advertising and art as his primary means of support. Charlie Wohlford and Wayne Wohlford recognized his talent and engaged Fraser Wilson to create catalogues, advertising and cartoons to promote the Dayton Brand.

I also speculate that the mural could very well be one of the first things he endeavored to do after he was fired. Whatever the case, it is magnificent. My photos don’t treat the mural quite as beautifully as the colour corrected/enhanced photograph by Sean Griffin, which I’ve also included above for reference. The colour discrepancies are probably a combination of both the unnatural lighting I was under and the mural’s pigments showing their age.

This brings me to a very important question; does anyone know the whereabouts of the descendants of Fraser Wilson? I would really like to followup with the family and ask them if there is more we can learn of Fraser Wilson’s legacy. To facilitate this, I’ll post a little bit of genealogy here in the hopes it will lead me to the family.

Fraser Aldwyn Wilson
Born July 1, 1905 in Vancouver, BC
Died July 31, 1992 in Burnaby, BC
Father: Adney James Wilson of Drayton, Ontario
Mother: Alexandria McRae of Chicago, Illinois

Fraser Aldwyn Wilson married Sarah Leith Reid on September 7, 1931.

Sarah Leith Reid
Born September 24, 1910 in Greenock, Scotland
Died November 25, 1987 in Burnaby, BC
Father: James McLaughlin Reid of Greenock, Scotland
Mother: Annie Leith of Paisley, Scotland

Fraser and Sarah Wilson had their son Joel J. Wilson some time in the 1930s? According to Sarah Wilson’s obituary in the Province dated November 27, 1987, Joel Wilson married Sally and had 2 daughters Tracy and Kelly, and there were also at least three great-grandchildren. However, I can’t seem to find any more recent information about Joel and Sally Wilson. It’s quite possible that Tracy and Kelly Wilson no longer carry the Wilson name. If anyone has any more information they can provide, please send me a note, and please provide a way to keep in touch. Perhaps there is still more we can learn of Fraser Wilson’s legacy. Thank you all in advance!

Vancouver from Little Mountain, Peter Ewart’s contribution to the Expo 86 poster collection. Thanks to Christopher for sending me this image in the comments a while back! Since then, I’ve made contact with Peter Ewart’s daughter, who provided me with the flanking two images that made up this panoramic tryptic view of Vancouver. I’ve stitched together the three images to give an impression of the complete image. A lovely scene from a lovely vantage point in the city!

The Lions Gate Bridge, from an ad for the British Properties from May 27, 1939, just a couple years after the bridge had opened. The complete ad has been posted here.

The Lions Gate Bridge, from an ad for the British Properties from May 27, 1939, just a couple years after the bridge had opened. The complete ad has been posted here.

The Lions Gate Bridge, with Stanley Park to the right, seen from the North Shore. This painting by Lyttle is dated 1980; I am unable to determine who this might have been, so any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

The Lions Gate Bridge, with Stanley Park to the right, seen from the North Shore. This painting by Lyttle is dated 1980; I am unable to determine who this might have been, so any suggestions would be appreciated. Thanks!

Vancouver Panorama, artist unknown, printed by Pierre Marc Products, Berkeley, California and distributed by the Vancouver Magazine Service Ltd. Because the Grouse Mountain tram is red, we can probably date this some time after or around 1976, when the original blue tram was upgraded with the new red Super Skyride tram. Seen via ebay.

Vancouver Panorama, artist unknown, printed by Pierre Marc Products, Berkeley, California and distributed by the Vancouver Magazine Service Ltd. Because the Grouse Mountain tram is red, we can probably date this some time after or around 1976, when the original blue tram was upgraded with the new red Super Skyride tram. Seen via ebay.

Two sets of Gordon Kit Thorne prints for sale on ebay. These two prints showing the two Lions are my favourites, one showing a determined hiker headed up the north Shore Mountains, the other depicting a more sedated view from Stanley Park. It seems to me his work has the ability to border kitsch, folk, and fine art all at once. Makes me wonder if he should have been a cartoonist instead.

Pool Days by Henry S. I received my reflections2013 print from Heritage Hall over the weekend, and it looks pretty great! I think there’s excellent potential for this illustrative style to make a real comeback!

Pool Days by Henry S. I received my reflections2013 print from Heritage Hall over the weekend, and it looks pretty great! I think there’s excellent potential for this illustrative style to make a real comeback!

Driveway, 2012 by John Ogilvy offers a dramatic perspective in this 40”x50” oil on canvas, currently on exhibit at the Ian Tan Gallery until November 29th. AND THE CRAWL STARTS TODAY!

Driveway, 2012 by John Ogilvy offers a dramatic perspective in this 40”x50” oil on canvas, currently on exhibit at the Ian Tan Gallery until November 29th. AND THE CRAWL STARTS TODAY!

View from the Digital Graphic Design lab at Vancouver Community College by Jeckenzibbel on Flickr.

…the panorama looks straight north and shows the following Vancouver landmarks: second window from left, the Harbour Centre with its revolving viewing platform and restaurant. Third window from left, the City of North Vancouver across Burrard Inlet, with the Seabus very small, just arriving. On the right of the window, the historic Dominion Building (gold and red). The 4th window is dominated by the new Woodwards condo tower and the old rotating W sign on a new structure, and the 5th window shows the Sun Tower, once briefly the tallest building in the British Empire back in 1911, when it was built…

View from the Digital Graphic Design lab at Vancouver Community College by Jeckenzibbel on Flickr.

the panorama looks straight north and shows the following Vancouver landmarks: second window from left, the Harbour Centre with its revolving viewing platform and restaurant. Third window from left, the City of North Vancouver across Burrard Inlet, with the Seabus very small, just arriving. On the right of the window, the historic Dominion Building (gold and red). The 4th window is dominated by the new Woodwards condo tower and the old rotating W sign on a new structure, and the 5th window shows the Sun Tower, once briefly the tallest building in the British Empire back in 1911, when it was built…