From January 1st, 1922 in the Vancouver Sunday Sun, a cartoon courtesy of the Denver Post, illustrated by Albert Wilbur Steele. “Keep to the Right! Lives of Mothers and Babes are Priceless—Watch out!” This of course represents the date that traffic switched from the left side of the road to the right side of the road in British Columbia. Chuck Davis reported on his website: “The change went surprisingly smoothly; there were no accidents.” Thanks to HeritageVancouver for tweeting me the cartoon! Although this cartoon is not actually created in Vancouver by a Vancouverite, it is still worth taking a moment to delve into some history on the artist.
Born in Illinois in June of 1862, Albert Wilbur married Anne Crary and had 4 children, one of whom died at birth or as an infant. Albert passed away from pneumonia on March 12, 1925 in Denver, Colorado. Ancestry.com shows his three children also passed away in 1925, but I do not believe this is necessarily correct. It’s possible there may be some confusion with another George C Steele, and at least one of his two daughters, Eva C Rogers of Berkeley may well have lived to the 1940s. His youngest daughter, Agnes M Steele married someone named Paul Brown of Denver, a decidedly difficult name to search for any genealogical information! Albert Wilbur’s wife Anne survived to the year 1941.
Herein lies another tragic epidemic, there is typically very little biographical info that can be gleaned from the web on early newspaper cartoonists, and Mr. Albert Wilbur Steele is no exception. However, there is one academic paper dedicated to his work which illustrates how significant and powerful the early cartoonists of the era actually were.
“The Image-makers’ Arsenal in an Age of War and Empire, 1898-99: A Cartoon Essay, Featuring the Work of Charles Bartholomew (of the Minneapolis Journal) and Albert Wilbur Steele (of the Denver Post)” was written by Bonnie M. Miller of UMass, Boston, and the article can be rented or purchased online here ($5.99 rental, $30 purchase); recommended for cartoon historians!
Nearly all of the Vancouver Sun from 1922 is in the Google News Archive, which is great, but what’s sad is the fact that there are no more additions being made to the Google News Archive, in part because publishers are trying to commodify their archives. Thankfully, there are a few local institutions who have picked up the torch and are leading their own collective digitization strategies, like this initiative that UBC has taken. Beyond that, if you’re looking to lead your own digitization campaign, there’s always archive.org!