Museum Musings: North Star Newspaper

Bill Smiley Archives. James home and studio on 8th Street.

Earlier this summer, I came across the mention of a newspaper of which I had never before heard.  None of the other volunteers in the Bill Smiley Archives could remember hearing of it.  Then, towards the end of August, an acquaintance from university days came into the Historical Museum with a batch of newspapers from the early part of the 1930s.  These newspapers, obviously printed by the same firm, were entitled The Farmer and Labour News, and The North Star.

We received only two copies of The Farm and Labor News.  The first copy we received, dated August 31, 1933, indicated that commencing with the next issue the newspaper would be published on Fridays instead of Thursdays.  The second issue we received, dated the following week, was indeed published on a Friday.

There were a number of issues of The North Star included in the package we received from Gordon.  As a result, it was far easier to determine the weekly content of the newspaper, as well as to track the paper’s battle to enlist sufficient subscribers to cover its costs.

And speaking of “battle”, the two newspapers were linked by a letter entitled The Battle which was sent to C.C.F. supporters and signed The North Star Publishing Company.  The letter advised its readers that the gentlemen publishing it were individuals who believed in the C.C.F. movement and wished to assist in the movement accomplishing its goals.

After the failure of The Farmer-Labor News which they deemed to be the only publicity medium supporting the C.C.F. movement (the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, forerunner of the New Democratic Party), these individuals had determined to commence publication of The North Star to fill the void left by the cessation of The Farmer-Labor News.

According to the authors of The Battle, they “took care of the unfinished subscriptions of that paper to create harmony with the subscribers”, and they invested the necessary capital to make possible the publication of The North Star.  They expected, and felt sure, that they would receive the moral support of the C.C.F. Board, but were “sorry to say that this (support) has not been in evidence”.  Rather, they wrote, other publications were “encouraged to obtain circulation in this province, perhaps not officially” but by members of the movement.  “The names of C.C.F. minded people have been sent to a paper outside the province and we have been subjected to opposition and sniping within our own ranks.”  Furthermore, they wrote, no printing jobs had been secured from the party, unless they were prepared to accept orders below cost.

The letter went on to exhort all C.C.F. supporters to take an active part in the drive for subscriptions to the newspaper, suggesting a three-month subscription at a cost of 25 cents.  “We sincerly (sp.) trust that the rank and file will rally to our side and be partners in making it possible to keep news of the movement before the people.”

I was interested in determining who these people were, so started doing some research.  The Northern Saskatchewan Farmer and Labor News was indicated as a Weekly Publication in Sympathy with the Farmer, Labor, and C.C.F. Movement, and was published every Thursday from 31 – 8th Street East (Prince Albert) by The Farmer and Labor News Publishing Company.  The editor of the newspaper was identified on page 2 of each issue as C.T. Anderson.

The 1932 Henderson’s Directory lists Tribune Printers as occupying that address.  The proprietor was listed as J.V. Frawley.  Tribune Printers was further listed in the same directory under the heading Printers – Book and Job.  The directory does not list any C.T. Anderson, which could mean that he arrived in Prince Albert after the canvass was completed for that year’s edition of the directory, or that he lived outside the Prince Albert City limits.

There was no Henderson’s Directory published in 1933, but the 1934 directory lists Tribune Printers at that address, with Peter Diener and Gus Hagen as the proprietors.  A.A. Frawley was listed as a pressman for the company, and as a resident of 31 – 8th Street East, along with Peter Diener.  Gustav Hagen is listed as residing at the Merchants Hotel (formerly the Marlboro and now a Travelodge).  The company is not listed under the directory’s headings of Newspapers and Periodicals, nor under Publishers.  There is no listing for C.T. Anderson.

Once again, there was no edition of the Henderson’s Directory in in 1935, but the 1936 Henderson’s lists Bob’s Repair Shop at 31 – 8th Street East.  There is no listing for Tribune Printers, North Star, Frawley, Diener, or Hagen.  Nor is there any listing under the headings Newspapers, Printers, or Publishers.

Financial survival appears to have been difficult for these two newspapers.  The August 31, 1933 issue has a front page article entitled “Advertising Index” in which are listed those individuals, both business and professional men, who advertise in the paper because “they want to deal with you”.  The list included 36 Prince Albert businesses and professional men, 10 from Kinistino, 2 from each of Regina and Birch Hills, and 1 from each of Toronto and Brancepeth.

The August 31st edition included, amongst other items, a rebuttal to a Daily Herald editorial, an item from the Provincial Publicity Department entitled “Of Interest to our Readers”, and an article entitled “The Mystery of Hitler”.

As previously noted, there was no Henderson’s Directory published in 1935, so it could not be ascertained who owned the Tribune Printers in that year.  Very limited information was contained in the newspaper itself, as not even an editor’s name was included.  The paper itself, however, appears to have taken on new life.  There was a Women’s column and a Youth Column, both of which appeared nearly every week.  The Women’s column was written by a woman from Spy Hill, and the Youth column was prepared by someone in Yorkton.  There was also a column by Grace MacInnis, which reported on happenings in Parliament and the Legislative Assembly.  It is presumed that this was the same Grace MacInnis who was the first woman elected to the House of Commons from British Columbia.

As well as news and views of a provincial and national political nature, The North Star often ran editorials and articles about Prince Albert City Council.  One story which caught my eye, from the May 29, 1935 issue, was entitled City Fathers Are Not Superstitious.  Readers of The North Star were told of a motion presented to City Council by Alderman Dent requesting a reduction in licensing fees (from $20 a day to $10 a day) for those practising the occult sciences.  These sciences included psychology, phrenology, and astrology.  Alderman Sanderson led the opposition to the motion, suggesting that although there might be something to psychology, the citizens of Prince Albert needed to be protected from those practising these arts.  I was sufficiently interested in this story to seek out how the Daily Herald had reported the story, but I was unable to find any report from the pages of that newspaper.

Not all the stories included in The North Star showed the City of Prince Albert in a negative light.  The February 20, 1935 issue noted that the Provincial Ski Meet would be held in Prince Albert the following week.  A subsequent issue of the paper noted the success of the ski meet, and the high regard participants and onlookers received as a result.

The June 19th edition of the paper reported on the local nominating convention held by the party to select the C.C.F. candidate for the federal election.  Six candidates entered their names, including D. Downing, E.L. Bowerman, Tom Johnston, J.L. Phelps, Reverend Robinson, and J.J.F. MacIsaac.  After each of the six were allowed to speak, all but Johnston and Bowerman withdrew.  After the ballot, Tom Johnston of Govan was chosen as the candidate.

It is of interest to note that MacIsaac was later a candidate in this constituency, as was Bowerman.  In 1945, Bowerman defeated MacKenzie King, and was our Member of Parliament until 1949, when the Liberals once again won the seat, with Francis Helme being the successful candidate.

Although there was much of interest in these newspapers, especially in The North Star, there did not appear to be a sufficient financial base.  An early front page editorial suggested that the publishers had left their previous occupations in order to produce the newspaper.  The editorial indicated that “no monetary return has been withdrawn from the paper by the publishers in salary; the mechanics only being paid.”

Another front page report spoke of the termination of publication of The Westerner, published from Moose Jaw, but finding only limited support after only a few weeks of operation.  That story suggested that the Moose Jaw paper was merely a prince, while The North Star was the king.  The story ended with the following:  “The North Star was first in the weekly C.C.F. publicity field.  The Prince is dead (sorrow and regret).  The King Still Lives!  Long Live the King!”

It would be interesting to know how much longer the King lived, as we know that by 1936 The North Star had disappeared.  We are working in cooperation with the Provincial Archives to determine if they have additional information about these two newspapers.  However, if any of our readers have further information, and are willing to share it, we could build on what we currently know.

Coffee and Conversation returns this month.  On Sunday, September 17th, at 2:00 p.m., Harris May will be presenting on Hoo Sam who was convicted of murder and hanged at the Prince Albert gaol.  Plan to attend his talk at the Historical Museum.