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Description found in Archives

W. Arthur Irwin Fonds [multiple media]. 



Place of creation

British Columbia

8.4 m of textual records.
998 photographs.
48 drawings pencil, coloured pencil, coloured chalk.
35 audio cassettes (ca. 40 h).
9 prints.
9 maps.
8 audio reels (ca. 8 h).
1 technical drawing.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of the textual records, n.d., 1857-1991, in the following series: Mail and Empire and the Globe, Maclean's Magazine, the National Film Board, the Department of External Affairs, Victoria Daily Times, Personal and Memoirs. The order of these series chronologically parallels the pattern of Irwin's life and career, except for the Personal series, which encompasses his entire life. Various sub-series indicate major activities, interest or stages in Irwin's career. The material in this fonds has been arranged alphabetically, retaining as closely as possible the original order. It should be noted that the date range for each series is quite broad, reflecting the fact that Irwin added research notes to many of the existing files. Fonds also contains graphic material, ca. 1866-1988. Photographs are portraits of William Arthur Irwin, ca. 1920, 1935, 1943; Irwin as Chairman of the National Film Board, with Board members Stuart Keate, Jessie Caldwell, Gratien Gelinas, Bud Trueman, and Charles Beard, ca. 1950; other photographs relate to Irwin's career as Commissioner of the National Film Board in various diplomatic postings to Australia, Mexico, Guatemala and Brazil; various subjects such as World War I (from Albert Colby Cooke, ca. 1919), Saskatchewan Wheat Pool (ca. 1926), an ice-skating ballet called "The Machine" produced by Irwin in 1938, Maclean's Magazine (ca. 1930-1945), Irwin's birthplace and his namesake, Arthur P. Coleman, Welland Ship Canal (ca. 1929-1930), his retirement in 1971 from Victoria Daily Times; his honorary degree in 1977 from the University of Victoria. The photographs are by Michael Burns, Capital Press, Turofsky, James Lewcun, NFB, Guy Blouin, Austin Photos, J.A. MacDonald, Dept. of Railways and Canals, Welland Ship Canal, Randolph Macdonald, H. Grant Collingwood, Allan Walker. The art material consists of prints including a poster advertising Maclean's Magazine entitled "Why More Canadians Read Maclean's Than Any Other Canadian Magazine", ca. 1948; Japanese harbour scenes, bird studies, art critic, guard-house in Cairo, street scene in Europe, and country house in snow in Canada. The drawings consist of an illustrated script for an ice ballet entitled The Machine, written by William Arthur Irwin in 1938, when he was with the Toronto Skating Club, with drawings by Harold E. Eldridge. Fonds also contains sound recordings, 1966-1984, of a speech by Irwin to the Canadian Club, Victoria; interviews by David Bairstow of Irwin on the National Film Board; interviews by Glen Allen of Irwin about his memoirs; and interviews by Peter Desbarats of Irwin about his memoirs. Transcripts of the Glen Allen interviews can be found in Vols. 41-42. Fonds also contains a technical drawing and maps, 1914-1959, that consist of a deck plan of the SS Brasil - SS Argentina, and maps of Canada, the United States, Germany and Guatemala; and topographical maps of Europe relating to World War I.

Sound recordings
18: Restricted
Architectural: technical drawings
90: Open
Cartographic material
90: Open
Graphic (photo)
90: Open
90: Open
Graphic (art)
90: Open
A281-02 Item no. assigned by LAC 2 -- 33; 35 -- 42
90: Open
Archival reference no.
Former archival reference no.

Terms of use

Photographs: No donor restrictions. Various copyrights on items less than 50 years old. Copyright expired on items more than 50 years old. Credit: Name of photographer / National Archives of Canada / Copy negative no.
Art: Maclean's poster: Copyright: Maclean Hunter Limited. Ice ballet script illustrated by Harold Eldridge: Copyright: William Arthur Irwin and Harold E. Eldridge. Other prints: Copyright: Various.
Sound recordings: Tape 27 (Glen Allen) is restricted for reproduction unitl 1 January 2008. All other material in this can be reproduced for research purposes without referring to the copyright owner. Reproduction and use for any other purposes requires the written permission of the copyright owner.
Technical drawing and maps: No donor restrictions. Reproduction and use are subject to the Copyright Act.

Textual records: Finding Aid 1899 ia a file list. MSS1899 (Paper)

Textual records: Finding aid. MSS1899 (Electronic)

Technical drawing and maps: Itemized listing available for consultation. (Paper)

Sound recordings: See MISACS for item level descriptions. (Electronic)

Biography / Administrative history

William Arthur Irwin, journalist, editor, diplomat, was born in Ayr, Ontario, on 27 May 1898 to Reverend Alexander J. Irwin and Amelia (Hassard). Irwin served in France during the First World War. In 1921 he received a degree in political science from the universities of Manitoba and Toronto.

Irwin began his journalistic career in Toronto, as a reporter for the Mail and Empire (1920-1923) and as a feature writer for the Globe in 1923. He subsequently became the Globe's sessional correspondent, Parliamentary Press Gallery and editorial writer until his resignation in 1925. For the next twenty-five years (1925-1950), Irwin was associate editor, managing editor and finally editor for Maclean's Magazine. In addition to editing, researching and writing articles for Maclean's and The Financial Post on topics such as rust research, the Canadian Wheat Pool, and the "brain drain" of Canadian talent, Irwin investigated government defence contracts and was involved in the Bren Gun exposé. Irwin was instrumental in shaping editorial policy and in making Maclean's magazine of national significance.

Coinciding with this period, Irwin was a delegate to the British Commonwealth Relations Conference in London, England, in 1945 and the United Nations Conference on Freedom of Information in Geneva in 1948.

In 1950, Irwin's public service career began with his appointment as Commissioner and Chairman of the National Film Board of Canada. At the end of the two-year period he was re-appointed, and remained at the NFB until 1953. Between 1953 and 1964, Irwin held various diplomatic posts for the Department of External Affairs. He was Canadian High Commissioner to Australia (1953-1956) Ambassador to Brazil (1957-1959) and Ambassador to Mexico (1960-1964) and Guatemala (1961-1964). His diplomatic career included a brief return to Canada (1959-1960) to work for the United Nations General Assembly.

In 1964 Irwin returned to the private sector and to journalism as publisher of the Victoria Daily Times and Vice-President of Victoria Press Limited until his retirement in 1971. In 1977, he received an honorary L.L.D. from the University of Victoria.

Personal activities included co-editing the Canadian Writer's Market Survey 1931, a term as president of The Writer's Club in Toronto (c.1931), chairman (1938-1939) and committee member of the Canadian Institute of International Affairs, Toronto Branch, member of the University Club in Toronto and program chairman of the Toronto Skating Club Carnival. In 1938, Irwin produced and co-authored The Machine, an ice ballet, for the Toronto Skating Club carnival. Activities during the 1960s included speeches and articles on the Organization of American States and a seminar on Latin America. After his retirement, Irwin remained active during the 1970s and 1980s, researching and writing.

Additional information

Biographic information relating to W. Arthur Irwin is available in the accession file for the technical drawing and maps.

Acquired in 1992 from W. Arthur Irwin of Victoria, British Columbia.

Subject heading

1. Canada - Military policy, 1938 Writers' Club of Toronto, [1920-1991]
2. Governmental investigations - Canada, 1938 Toronto Skating Club, 1932-1938.
3. General A.G.L. McNaughton - Interviews, [1936-1975] Banff Conference on World Development, [1932-1991]
4. Norman Robertson - Interviews, [1936-1975] Organization of American States, 1932-1991.
5. Lester B. Pearson - Interviews, [1936-1975] Peter Newman, [1924-1991]
6. Toronto (Ont.) - Business enterprises, n.d., 1924-1988 Norman MacLaren, [1924-1991]
7. Toronto (Ont.) - Periodicals, Publishing of, [1924-1988] Bruce Hutchison, [1924-1991]
8. Europe - Description and travel, 1948 Blair Fraser, [1924-1991]
9. World War II Albert Colby Cooke, [1924-1991]
10. Diplomatic and consular service, Canadian - Australia, 1953-1956 Pierre Berton, [1924-1991]
11. Diplomatic and consular service, Canadian - Guatemala, 1961-1964 Hugh H. Keenleyside, [1920-1981]
12. Diplomatic and consular service, Canadian - Mexico, 1960-1964 Ogdensburg Agreement, 1940.
13. Journalists - Canada, [1920-1991] Commonwealth Conference (1945)
14. Editors - Canada, [1920-1991] Canadian Institute of International Affairs, 1937-1988.
15. Canada - Foreign relations - United States, [1920-1991] Victoria Daily Times, n.d., 1955-1971.
16. Irwin family, [1915-1991] India, [1928-1964]
17. Soldiers, Canadian, [1914-1918] Canada, [1928-1964]
18. Canada. Dept. of External Affairs, 1953-1964.
19. P.K. Page, [1928-1987]
20. National Film Act, [1942-1981]
21. National Film Board of Canada, n.d., 1942-1981.
22. John Grierson, [1924-1988]
23. E.J. Pratt, [1924-1988]
24. Stephen Leacock, [1924-1988]
25. Grant Dexter, [1924-1988]
26. Brooke Claxton, [1924-1988]
27. John Bayne Maclean, n.d.
28. George Drew, n.d.
29. MacLean-Hunter Publising Co., [194]-1970.
30. MacLean-Hunter Limited, 1970-1988.
31. MacLean Publishing Co., 1924-[194-]
32. Ian Mackenzie, [1909-1942]
33. Defence Purchasing Board, [1938-1975]
34. Davis Commission, [1938]
35. Bren Gun Enquiry, [1938]
36. King, William Lyon Mackenzie, 1874-1950.
37. Brazil.
38. Brésil.


Other system control no.

Related control no.

1. 1992-637 DAP
2. 1993-0046 MISA
3. 119-020163-1