Archival series offers glimpse into Winnipeg’s early days

Around 32,000 letters sent to City Council make up the Council Communication series

Folded twice, dated, and indexed, around 32,000 letters sent to City Council between 1874 and 1971 are carefully cared for by the City of Winnipeg Archives. They make up the Council Communications series.

“When I started at the Archives, the series was described to me as the heart of the archival collection,” said Sarah Ramsden, Senior Archivist at the City of Winnipeg.

From residents requesting services and public improvements, to a letter from 1885 informing Councillors Louis Riel had surrendered, the series helps tell the story of Winnipeg’s early years.

A letter from 1885 informing City Council that Louis Riel surrendered.
A letter from 1885 informing City Council that Louis Riel surrendered.

“Each one also gives you a glimpse into what was happening at the time, although it doesn’t give you the complete story,” said Ramsden.

The first letter was a job application from A. M. Brown, who became the first City Clerk. He began the filing system used for the Council Communications series.

The topics of other letters include typhoid fever, advocating for women’s right to vote, and a request to boycott the 1936 Berlin Olympics. There is also one dated 1879 from the Federal Government acknowledging receipt of a letter from the City requesting a new bridge over the Red River to St. Boniface.

Two stacks of letters to City Council are filed in cardboard at the Council Communications series at the City of Winnipeg Archives. The date "August 12th, 1935" is visible on the front letter.
Around 32,000 letters sent between 1874 and 1971 make up the Council Communications series.

“The role of the archivist is not to memorize every bit of history that comes our way but to file it, to safeguard it, to be able to recall it when needed, and facilitate public access to the records,” said Ramsden.

Residents can access the Council Communications series in person or view digitized versions on Winnipeg in Focus.

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