Sketches of two Winnipeg football players from the 1952 programme.

Football in Winnipeg

Football in Winnipeg

By Dr. Leah Morton, former Curatorial Assistant in History

A Winnipeg Rugby Football Club programme for the Grey Cup Year Summer 1952. It shows a player at the end of a punt.

Whether professional or amateur, Winnipeggers love their sports. Winnipeg’s relationship with sports is part of the Manitoba Museum’s Winnipeg Gallery, where over 100 ‘new to the public’ artifacts are on display. Among the artifacts are a Winnipeg Blue Bombers pin and a game programme from 1952. Further information about the team and the artifacts can be found in the digital kiosks in the gallery, but the pandemic means that we’ve had to close the kiosks to the public. That, however, doesn’t mean we can’t take a look at some aspects of the Blue Bombers’ history.

Football has been present in some form or another in Winnipeg since at least 1879. In that year, three teams – the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club, St. John’s College, and the Royal School of Infantry – formed a league. At the time, the sport was often referred to as “rugby football” due to rule similarities. By 1911, there were teams in other western provinces and the Western Canada Rugby Football Union was started. This league had a championship trophy called the Hugo Ross trophy, donated to the league by Winnipeg businessman Hugo Ross. Tragically, Ross was on the Titanic when it sunk. The trophy was awarded until 1935 to the winner of the Western Canada Rugby Football Union and until 1947 to the winner of the Western Interprovincial Football Union.


Grey Cup Souvenir Program, 1952. Copyright Manitoba Museum, H9-37-884.

Football has been present in some form or another in Winnipeg since at least 1879. In that year, three teams – the Winnipeg Rugby Football Club, St. John’s College, and the Royal School of Infantry – formed a league. At the time, the sport was often referred to as “rugby football” due to rule similarities. By 1911, there were teams in other western provinces and the Western Canada Rugby Football Union was started. This league had a championship trophy called the Hugo Ross trophy, donated to the league by Winnipeg businessman Hugo Ross. Tragically, Ross was on the Titanic when it sunk. The trophy was awarded until 1935 to the winner of the Western Canada Rugby Football Union and until 1947 to the winner of the Western Interprovincial Football Union.

A Winnipeg Blue Bombers pin with a miniature football attached to a blue and orange button by blue and gold ribbons.

Has the team always been called the Blue Bombers and have they always worn the Blue and Gold? Well… no. In 1930, the Winnipeg Football Club merged with the St. John’s team. The new team was given what might just be the best name in the history of sports names: the Winnipeg Winnipegs! ‘Pegs for short.

At first, the ‘Pegs’ uniforms were green and white… which may upset some current fans, as those are the colours of the Bombers’ chief rival, the Saskatchewan Roughriders (a team that is unable to count to 13)! Luckily, the ‘Pegs only wore those colours for two years before switching to the more familiar blue and gold. As for the name “Blue Bombers,” legend has it that long-time Winnipeg Tribune sportswriter Vince Leah came up with it prior to a game. Popular boxer Joe Louis had been nicknamed the Brown Bomber and Leah allegedly borrowed from that, calling the team the Blue Bombers. It seems to have stuck!

Blue Bombers pin, circa 1950. Copyright Manitoba Museum, H9-29-237.

The inside of a Winnipeg Rugby Football Club programme showing a history of Grey Cup games, and sketches of two Winnipeg players, John Brown - Centre, and Dick Huffman - Tackle.

Teams from the western provinces weren’t invited to play for the Grey Cup, the national football championship, until the 1920s. The ‘Pegs were the first team from the west to win the Grey Cup, which they did in 1935. Since then, the Bombers have won the championship several times. Their exciting victory in November 2019 ended the Bombers’ long championship drought – the team hadn’t won since 1990!

The team played at Wesley Park before moving to Osborne Stadium, near the Legislature, in 1935. They played there until 1953 when they moved to Winnipeg Stadium. Winnipeg Stadium was often referred to as ‘The House That Jack Built,” due to the electrifying play of Jack Jacobs, from the Cherokee Nation, who was the Bombers’ quarterback from 1949-1954. In 2013, they began playing at IG Field at the University of Manitoba campus. Unfortunately, the Covid-19 pandemic led to the cancellation of the 2020 Canadian Football League season. The league is scheduled to resume regular season games in June, 2021, but until then, the Blue Bombers are the reigning Grey Cup champions!

Two players from the 1952 Bombers Grey Cup team, John Brown and Dick Huffman. Copyright Manitoba Museum, H9-37-884.

Black Railway Workers and the Winnipeg General Strike

By Dr. Leah Morton, past Curatorial Assistant in History

The Winnipeg General Strike is central to Winnipeg’s collective consciousness; however, Black workers and union members are often overlooked in narratives of the strike. This blog post looks at John Arthur Robinson, a Black railwayman who is featured on the Winnipeg Personalities wall in the new Winnipeg Gallery.

A black and white photograph of a young Black man posed with his arms crossed in a studio portrait. He is wearing a suit and tie.

Like many other Black men, Robinson worked as a porter on sleeping cars. Robinson worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway, but all the big Canadian railway companies had luxurious sleeping cars so well-to-do passengers could travel in comfort and style. Porters had to take care of all of the passengers needs. Duties included, but were not limited to:

  • Keeping the sleeping car warm (with coal stoves) in the winter and cool (with giant ice blocks) in the summer
  • Serve food and drinks
  • Babysit children and drunken passengers
  • Set up beds and turn them into seats during the day
  • Remember every passenger’s schedule
  • Shine passengers’ shoes
  • Keep passengers entertained
  • Keep washrooms clean

Porters were treated in condescending, racialized ways. Regardless of their actual names, porters were usually called “George” or “boy” and were expected to play the role of the smiling black servant, despite the fact that they were usually given 72-hour shifts without sleeping accommodations.


Image: John Arthur Robinson was born in the West Indies and moved to Winnipeg around 1909. Railway companies actively recruited men from the American South and the West Indies, so it is possible that he came to Canada in this way. “Back Tracks to Railroad Ties” exhibit and black history research collection, P6899/2, Archives of Manitoba

Canadian Rail Unions

Railwaymen worked in a dangerous, tough industry, and they were often militant unionists; however, they worked to keep their unions for whites only. From its inception in 1908, the Canadian Brotherhood of Railway Employees (CBRE) excluded black workers and pushed for separate negotiating schedules and wages for Black and white workers.

Undaunted, John Arthur Robinson started a different union – the Order of Sleeping Car Porters (OSCP] – in 1917, a time when Winnipeg’s working-class consciousness was blossoming. The Winnipeg General Strike in May and June 1919 was a pivotal time for many, the members of the OSCP included. The OSCP, despite being marginalized and racialized within their workplace, voted on May 20th in favour of a sympathy strike. The OSCP also donated $50 – not a small sum in 1919 – to the strikers’ fund, a gesture for which the Strike leaders thanked them in their newspaper, the Western Labor News. In a show of solidarity, after learning from Robinson that the railways were bringing in scabs, the Strike Committee publicly  “defended black Canadian railroaders; right to employment in the press, denouncing the company’s tactics.”

A black and white photograph of a group of Black men in uniform posing for the photo. Many are holding instruments like trumpets, saxophones, tubas, or drums, and some carry batons. In the centre back, one holds up a sign that reads, "Railroad Porters Minstrels / Dominion Theatre".

Robinson and other OSCP members paid for their actions during the General Strike. Many were laid off or fired from their jobs. Despite this, Robinson continued to press for better wages and working environments for Black railwaymen. He was successful, for example, in getting the CPR to pay its porters the same wages as porters working for other railway companies.

Another goal Robinson had was to get the larger, national, and all-white CBRE to allow the Black members of the OSCP to join. Some CBRE members agreed with Robinson, but the most the CBRE would allow was for the OSCP to join as “auxiliary” members. They stayed in that position – as a racialized lower tier – until 1965. Robinson, for his part, continued to critique the union and the CPR for treating “black railwaymen as a disposable class of workers.”


Image: The Railway Porters Union Band of Winnipeg poses here in front of the Bank of Montreal at the corner of Portage Ave. and Main St., May 1, 1922. Foote 291, L.B. Foote Fonds, P7393/4, Archives of Manitoba.

The Black Community in Winnipeg, 1920

Railway workers generally lived in a railway hub and Winnipeg was certainly that. They were at the centre of a vibrant black community in the city. Geographically, the black community in the early 1900s lived around the CPR station near Main and Higgins. While most members of the OSCP spent a lot of time at the union office on Main Street, the broader black community was comprised of families, workers, churches, restaurants, and more. Their stories, like that of Robinson and the OSCP, should be told – and listened to – as part of Winnipeg’s history because they are a part of this city’s fabric.


For more information, check out: Mathieu, Sarah-Jane. North of the Color Line: Migration and Black Resistance in Canada, 1870-1955. (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2010)

Little Gothic Cottage on the Prairies

In 1895 William and Isabel Brockinton had a charming Gothic cottage built on their homestead south of Melita, Manitoba. In our new Prairies Gallery we will be featuring a small touchable model and a full scale stone replica wall section of this now abandoned home.

A weathered black and white photograph of a stone house with a buggy parked on the left side.

Brockinton House, circa 1895. From “Our First Century: Town of Melita and Municipality of Arthur,” 1983

An empty old stone house surrounded by long growing grass, and with an overgrown tree partially obscuring the left side of the house.

Still standing! The Brockinton House in July 2020. Photograph by Roland Sawatzky.

First, what’s a Gothic cottage? “Gothic” conjures all kinds of associations – darkness, brooding, mysticism, fashionable black clothing, and so on. But in architecture after 1800 it really was all about style. The Brockinton house is an excellent example of a Gothic cottage, a building style brought by migrants from Ontario after the 1870s. Though somewhat rare on the prairies, it was a very common house style in Ontario from the 1860s to the 1940s.

William and Isabel Brockinton arrived in Woodstock, Ontario in 1881 from England. The Brockintons were in their early thirties, with two children, when William quit his job as an auditor for the Birmingham Railway in England. Though educated at Oxford, William for some reason wanted to try his hand at farming in Canada. They stayed in Woodstock for the winter, where they would have seen many Gothic cottages, and then joined a party of young men who were going west to homestead in Manitoba. The Brockintons chose their future farmland from a Homestead Map, and proceeded to Manitoba in the spring of 1882. The railway had only gotten so far as Brandon, where they stopped and bought supplies. From there they travelled with oxen another 130 km to their new homestead, south of present day Melita. Isabel drove in a pony-powered buggy accompanied by her two small children, leading a cow tied behind. The family survived their first winter (barely) by hunkering down in a sod hut. In the second summer William acquired a second homestead near the Souris River and built a sod hut into the side of a ravine, thus surviving yet another winter. It was on this second homestead that the Brockintons would eventually build their stone Gothic cottage in 1895.


Image: William and Isabel Brockinton, circa 1910.

A close-up of a stone wall with stone blocks of varying shades of grey and brownish-red.

When I saw their abandoned house in 2014 as part of a curatorial field trip, I was amazed by the stonework. Though the home was small and stout, there was also an air of refinement to it, and I realized that great care had been taken in its design and construction.


Image: My colleague, Curator of Geology and Paleontology Dr. Graham Young, pointed out that the stones used in the walls were glacial “dropstones,” left behind as glaciers melted and receded to the north. Many buildings in the southwestern corner of Manitoba were made using thousands of dropstones collected from fields by settlers. Photo by Graham Young.

The “Small Gothic Cottage” was popularized by architect James Smith in an 1864 article in The Canada Farmer (Vol. 1, No. 1). It was based on houses that farmers were already building for themselves, but included exterior Gothic Revival design elements, in keeping with Victorian aesthetic ideals of the time. This included, among other things, a central high peaked gable above the front door, multi-coloured stone walls, and a hipped roof, all of which are obvious in the Brockinton home. The interior is small, with a room layout based on traditional English Lowland farmhouse plans of the 1700s. The kitchen was a back addition built after the original house was completed.

The Brockintons likely chose to have a small Gothic cottage built because they had seen and admired them in their short time in Woodstock, Ontario. Plans were easily accessible, and a builder would have been easy to find among the 1880s wave of migrant settlers from Ontario. Indeed, the stonemason was skilled: the stones were “dressed” on the exterior, meaning their exterior sides were squared, though the field stones were originally rounded. The walls are two feet thick, and include embrasure windows: they have a narrower opening on the exterior of the wall and flare out towards the interior. This is no mere hut! The Brockintons were making a statement with this house: “We’re here to stay, and we have class.”

View looking out an old window, with the wooden posts framing where the panes once sat. Out the window is a view over rolling grass and green trees below a blue sky speckled with white clouds.

The house is on a rise, with the front facing west, which would have taken the brunt of northwest winter winds. Imagine opening the front door in February! That might explain the exterior vestibule added to the front of the house. The only reason for this impractical orientation, in my opinion, is the view:  a ravine and the Souris river below, with a vista of riparian trees, illumined by the setting sun in an endless sky.


Image: View of the Souris River valley from the front window. Photograph by Roland Sawatzky.

Dr. Roland Sawatzky

Dr. Roland Sawatzky

Curator of History

Roland Sawatzky joined The Manitoba Museum in 2011. He received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Winnipeg, M.A. in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina, and Ph.D. in Archaeology…
Meet Dr. Roland Sawatzky

Winnipeg’s Window: The City Hall Stained Glass

In October 2019 the Manitoba Museum opened the Winnipeg Gallery, a permanent new exhibition space about the history and people of Winnipeg. The gallery features a large stained glass window that displays the old city crest.

This window was one of two that was salvaged from the old city hall building when it was demolished in 1962, and recent research has revealed more history of this piece and the artist who made it.


Header image above: The city hall stained glass window after restoration and installation in the Winnipeg Gallery. Photograph copyright Ian McCausland/Manitoba Museum.

A black and white photograph of a square Victorian building with towers and turrets. A few people are grouped in the foreground, near a statue on a tall pillar.

An arched transom window (a window placed above a door) was included at both the front and back entrances to the city hall.  Early photographs, however, show that these windows were made with clear glass, not the elaborate and colourful stained glass that we show off in our gallery. Looking at photographs from different archives narrowed the date of the installation of the stained glass window to sometime between 1898 and 1905, but it wasn’t until I found a short article in the Manitoba Free Press that I knew the exact date.


Image: The second city hall opened to great fanfare in 1886 on Main Street, replacing the poorly built first city hall, which only survived 7 years. The new building, designed by Charles and Earle Barber, was a marvel of architectural exuberance. At the time it was considered “one of the handsomest and cheapest City Halls in the Dominion.” It did not, however, include our window! Photograph by Norman Caple, circa 1890, City of Vancouver Archives, LGN 630

May 26, 1903

“The city hall is receiving finishing touches of its renovating, the main entrances having their old plain glass windows replaced by two stained glass windows, over each of the doors. These windows are bold and masterly in design, the seal of Winnipeg is placed in the centre, set in a frame of jewels, surrounding which is a wreath of light and dark maple leaves…”

That’s our window. Early photos also show that the windows faced inwards, meaning they were meant to be seen from inside, receiving the full illumination of daylight from the exterior. It also means that the Winnipeg crest was backwards when you were entering City Hall from the outside!

Sepia-toned photograph of the entry way to a brick building. Over elaborately carved doors sits a semi circle stained glass window below a doorway-framing arch.

This detail of a photograph from 1910 clearly shows our stained glass window (at least the back of it). City of Winnipeg Archives, i03103.

The Artist

The window was designed and made by John Raphael Allward, who moved to Winnipeg with his wife and son in about 1902. Allward was born in Toronto in 1856, and was the cousin of the famous Walter Seymour Allward who designed the Canadian National Vimy Memorial in France. John Allward studied art in New York under the master stained glass artist John La Farge. Allward was a specialist in large allegorical stained glass windows, which involved painting scenes directly onto glass, and he made windows for churches throughout North America. He set up shop with a partner at 253 Main St., under the name “Allward and McCormick Glass Co. Ltd.” Allward was also one of the founders of the Manitoba Society of Artists, which held their first public exhibition of 300 paintings in late 1903. Allward served two years in the Great War (at the age of 60!), and when he returned to Winnipeg he sold the business and retired to Seattle. After the 1920s, the popularity of stained glass windows in public places and private houses waned – most examples that survive in buildings today are over one hundred years old.

A black and white photograph looking our over a crowd gathered in front of a Victorian-style brick building. Groups standing on the entrance staircase and balcony hold up signs reading things like, "Canadian Corps Fall in", "We stand by our elected government", "Down with Bolshevism", and "Deport the undesirable alien". Above the door behind them is a semi-circle stained glass window.

The window witnessed the turmoil of the 1919 General Strike. Archives of Manitoba 3 SIS N12296

A black and white photograph of a square Victorian building with towers and turrets. Hanging on the front of the building is a large "V" with a banner reading "For Victory" beneath. Over the door below this is a semi-circle stained glass window.

The stained glass window also kept an eye on efforts to raise Victory Bonds in support of Canadian mobilization during the Second World War, circa 1944. City of Winnipeg Archives, i01438

A black and white photograph of a partially demolished brick building. On the left side, the lower portions of the walls still stand, but the right side is further removed.

In this photo, we can see that the stained glass window had been removed during demolition in 1962. It was stored at the former Carpiquet Barracks Site (north of Polo Park) until it was donated to the Manitoba Museum in 1974. It was in storage until 2018, when restoration began. City of Winnipeg Archives i01473.

Half circle stained glass window featuring a leaves and flowers pattern in oranges and greens. In the centre, surrounded by a laurel, is the city of Winnipeg crest with text reading, "City of Winnipeg Manitoba / Incorporated 1873 / Commerce, Prudence, Industry".

For more information about the incredible restoration process of this window, check out the Collections and Conservation blogs Monumental Moves: Sweating over Big Artifacts, Part 1 and Part 2.


Image: The old City of Winnipeg crest and its inspiring motto, “Commerce, Prudence, Industry” shines forth again for all visitors to see in the Winnipeg Gallery. Nice job, John Raphael Allward! Photograph copyright Ian McCausland/Manitoba Museum.

Dr. Roland Sawatzky

Dr. Roland Sawatzky

Curator of History

Roland Sawatzky joined The Manitoba Museum in 2011. He received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Winnipeg, M.A. in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina, and Ph.D. in Archaeology…
Meet Dr. Roland Sawatzky

Imprisoning Our Own: Caught at Emerson! (Part 2)

Post by Dr. Leah Morton, Assistant Curator (History)

This research was supported by a grant from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.


During the Great War, 8,579 people were sent to internment camps in Canada. Over 5,000 of them were Austro-Hungarian, or Ukrainian, civilians who had been classified as ‘enemy aliens.’ They were from countries Canada was fighting against, but the main reason for their internment was unemployment. It was hard for Ukrainians to find work during the war, mainly due to nativist beliefs (many thought Anglo-Canadians should be given the jobs). Unemployed ‘enemy aliens’ made others very nervous. In 1915, over 100 Ukrainians from Winnipeg who were trying to find work were sent to the Brandon internment camp.

In May 1915 unemployed Ukrainian men in Winnipeg staged a number of public demonstrations asking for work. A rumour spread that there was work to be had in the United States, so several hundred of these men decided to walk there. Nick Lypka, who participated in the walk, remembered that the group was very careful not to break any laws while walking to the border. Many dropped out along the 110 km walk so by the time they reached the border town of Emerson, there were only between 100 – 175 men left.

A worn sepia-toned photograph with ths bottom left corner torn off, showing a group of men marching into the distance, escorted by individuals with rifles at attention on their shoulders.

By the time the small, tired group arrived in Emerson, the ‘Mounties’ were waiting for them. Lypka remembers hoping the authorities would help them find work. He was wrong. Instead, the whole group was arrested and taken to the Brandon internment camp, 285 km away.

They arrived in Brandon, tired, bedraggled, and hungry. At the Brandon site, prisoners were given one hour of time outside per day, but they were not given any work, like at some of the other camps. They passed their time playing cards and learning English. Many tried to escape and one young man, Andrew Graphko, was shot and killed during an escape attempt.


Image: This photograph shows armed authorities marching the arrested men to Brandon. Copyright Manitoba Museum, H9-38-681C.

The pictures you see here were donated to the Manitoba Museum by an individual whose grandfather was likely one of the authorities involved in arresting the Ukrainian men and overseeing their march to Brandon. These pictures are an extremely important part of the historical record, as there are very few existing records detailing the arrests and forced march of May 1915.

Retired General William Dillon Otter, who was in charge of the internment camps, knew that many cities and municipalities were using internment to get rid of unemployed ‘enemy aliens’ even though they didn’t actually pose a security threat. He did not do anything to stop it. The Brandon camp was open until July 1916, at which time inmates there were sent to the Banff internment camp. The last internment camp was closed in 1920.

A worn sepia-toned photograph showing a group of men posing for a photograph. Many sit or lounge on the grass, and a few stand at the back. they are all wearing 1910s work wear and hats.

Image: Some of the Ukrainian men arrested in Emerson after their walk from Winnipeg. They were hoping to get to the United States to find work. The CN Bridge is visible in the background. Copyright Manitoba Museum H9-38-681.

Imprisoning Our Own: First World War Internment in Winnipeg (Part 1)

Posted by Dr. Leah Morton, Assistant Curator (History)

This research was supported by a grant from the Canadian First World War Internment Recognition Fund.


During the Great War (1914-1918) Canada interned thousands of German and Ukrainian immigrants. Internment camps were set up across the country and a few ‘receiving stations’ were opened to process and hold those slated for internment. One of these receiving stations was located at the Fort Osborne Barracks in Winnipeg.

A map of Canada identifying the locations of internment camps throughout the provinces.

In 1914 Canada adopted the War Measures Act, giving the federal government sweeping powers. It allowed the government to set up internment camps and create the category of enemy alien — a designation given to people who had been born in one of the countries Canada was fighting during the war and who wasn’t a naturalized citizen. Some Germans were interned, but the vast majority were Ukrainians who had immigrated to Canada from the Austro-Hungarian provinces of Galicia and Bukovyna. By the turn of the century, there was a sizeable Ukraine population in Winnipeg. Ukrainians were not treated well in Winnipeg before 1914 but with the outbreak of the war, they were increasingly seen as a threat. Of the 8,579 people who were interned, 5,954 were ‘Austro-Hungarian,’ or Ukrainian.

Image: This map shows the internment camps and receiving stations that were in use during the Great War.

Over 80,000 ‘enemy aliens’ had to register with the authorities. They had to turn in any guns, swear that they would not leave Canada, and carry official papers with them. Several thousand ‘enemy aliens’ were arrested and sent to internment camps. They were arrested for a number of reasons including: being unreliable, trying to cross the border, not carrying their papers, acting suspiciously, and being unemployed. Volunteering to join the war effort also led to internment! Those who were arrested were sent to an internment camp for the duration of the war. Before that, they were processed at a receiving station, like the one in Winnipeg.

A blakc and white photograph of several rectangluar builings close together. One of a multi-storey building, and the others are single-storey.

The receiving station was set up at the Fort Osborne Barracks, which at the time was located along Osborne Street, between Assiniboine Avenue and Broadway (on the current Legislative Grounds). It was in operation from September 1914 until July 1916. When Retired General William Dillon Otter, who was in charge of the internment operations, visited the Winnipeg receiving station in November 1914, he noted that 75 “prisoners” were already there, and 25 more were expected that night. About ¾ of those at the receiving station were Ukrainian. Upon arrival each internee was given clothing, a place to sleep, and they were fed.


Image: This picture of the Fort Osborne Barracks was taken from the Legislative Building when it was under construction (1910s) LAC 46629

Some people tried to escape. In September 1915, Martin Baraszchuk escaped from the receiving station by jumping out a window at the barracks. He had just been captured after escaping from the Brandon internment camp, and clearly did not want to be sent back. After jumping out the window, he was shot at by the military personnel guarding the Barracks, but they missed, and he was free for ten days, before being re-arrested and sent back to the receiving station.

Other than these small glimpses into the historical record, very little is known about the receiving station. In 1998, a plaque was placed on the Legislative Grounds to commemorate the Ukrainian Canadians who were held at the receiving station.