Drug History Canada

Musings on the history of drugs in Canada.

Category: resources

Ask and you shall receive; seek and ye shall find.

So I’ve been a little lax on updates and am trying to catch up. this post is actually about something I found in Saskatchewan in autumn 2012.

But some background.

My research has involved a lot of digging through pharmacy records.  I’ve done some detailed data collection of records from pharmacies in Ontario, Alberta, and British Columbia, as well as less detailed stuff from Nova Scotia.

This often involves reading prescription ledgers, or going through prescriptions pasted into big scrapbooks.  Depending upon the province, pharmacy laws had different requirements for saving prescriptions.  for example, in BC, the pharmacy legislation of the 1890s deemed the prescription to be the property of the customer. Consequently, instead of having to go through prescriptions that were written by individual physicians, with a variety of terrible hand writing styles, we get lovely ledgers written in a consistent and usually highly legible script. Thank you BC legislature!

In Saskatchewan I was a little flummoxed because I couldn’t find much in the way of prescriptions, and I wanted to try to be as broadly-sweeping as I could.

In finding archival records, the challenge can usually involve getting inside the head of the person who catalogued the records when the records arrived at the archives or library special collections office.

To deal with this problem of finding records, we have to go old school.  We have to do something that seems counter instinctive in this digitally catalogued age. We have to speak to people.

During my research, I was chatting quite a bit with archivists at the Saskatchewan Archives Board site located at the University of Saskatchewan.  (The Board has two offices, one in Regina and one in Saskatoon).

Archivists are of course a historical researcher’s best friends.  Because, as I’ve said before, they have stuff and they want you to use it.  (Normally, that is. Some places don’t want you to use it, and that’s an entirely different issue).

The archivist suggested I look at records in the U Sask special collections.  The contents of this material was not catalogued in such a way that it would be easy to find.  But she was pretty sure there was some substantial pharmacy holdings there.

Boy was she right.

The material is catalogued under the name of W C MacAulay, who was Dean of the College of Pharmacy in Saskatchewan from 1946.  Looking as I was for pharmaceutical records from the 1800s and into early 1900s, I’d not considered the records of someone who was born in 1909 to be useful for me. But in his position, MacAulay seems to have collected a lot of stuff.  It included the following list, from Series VI (in a fonds that is stated to have five series, this can be additionally surprising).

In the interest of making this information available, and with the consent of the librarian in the U Sask special collections office, here is what MacAulay’s records have as far as prescription records in Saskatchewan:

W.C. MacAulay Fonds. –  MG 43. – [ca. 1884]‑1975 (inclusive); 1921‑1975 (predominant).

[textual records + photographs]. – 6.6 m.  – M4.1-3.

[other Fonds material removed from this listing]

VI. Pharmaceutical Archives. – 1890-1954. – 6 m.

This series contains records, prescriptions, prescription books, ledgers, poison books, log books, and prescription formulae of various early pharmacies and pharmacists reflecting their practises and activities as well as association registers.

BOX 15

1. F.T. Carman – Moosomin, NWT. – 1892-1895.
Prescription Books.
Vols 1-2 – #100-1500 – [ca. 1884-1885].
Vols. 3-6 – #1520-3577 – [ca. 1886-1887].
Vols. 7-10 #3578-6057 – May 28, 1888-[ca. 1890].

BOX 16

Vol. 11 – #8066-9392. – Jan-Oct 1892.
Vol. 12 – #9393-B862 – Oct 1892-June 1893.

Vol. 3 – #B863-B2277. – June 1893-Mar 1894.

BOX 17

Vol. 4 – #B2278-B3729. – Mar 1894-Jan 1895.
Vol. 5 – #B3737-B5204. – Jan-Dec 1895.

BOX 18

2. W. Pennington – Moosomin, NWT. – 1895-1946.
Prescription Books.
Vol. 1. – #B5206-B8079. – Dec 1895-Apr 1897
Vol. 2. – #B8080-19829. – Apr 1897-July 1898.

BOX 19

Vol. 3. – #19830-21541. – Jul 1898-June 1899.
Vol. 4. – #21542-23271. – June 1899-Sept 1900.

BOX 20
Vol. 5. – #23272-25986. – Sept 1900-Oct 1901.
Vol. 6. – #25987-27844. – Oct 1901-Oct 1902.

BOX 21

Vol. 7. – #27845-29589. – Oct 1902-June 1903.
Vol. 8. – #29590-31307. – June 1903-Apr 1904.

BOX 22

Vol. 9. – #34607-36174. – Sept 1905-July 1906.
Vol. 10. – #41321-43078. – Nov 1908-Aug 1909.

BOX 23

Vol. 11. – #23654-24197. – Oct 1935-Aug 1937.
Vol. 12. – #245727-266254. – Dec 1938-Mar 1940.
Vol. 13. – #266749-268227. – Oct 1941-Feb 1943.
Vol. 14. – #59001-59500. – July 1946-Aug 1946.

BOX 24

3. W.L. Carley – Moosomin, NWT. – 1902-1930.
Vol. 1. – #12100-19645. – Feb 1902-Nov 1903.

BOX 25

4. J.H. Abercrombie – Togo, Saskatchewan. – 1905-1930.
Vol. 1. – Feb 1905-Dec 1915.
Note – a miscellany of prescriptions appear on the last few pages of this volume.
Vol. 2. – Jan 1916-July 1919.

BOX 26

Vol. 3. – July 1919-June 1922.
[A.J. Leach, pharmacist?].
Vol. 4. – July 1919-Apr 1922.
[J.H. Tripp, pharmacist?].

BOX 27

Vol. 5. – Jan 1925-June 1930.
[A.J.  Leach, pharmacist?].

5.  A.J. Leach. – Togo, Saskatchewan. – 1921-1924.
Vol. 1. –  Mar 1921-Dec 1924.
Note – Includes some scripts from J.I. Wallace of Kamsack, Saskatchewan.

BOX 28

6. J.H. Tripp. – Togo, Saskatchewan. – 1922-1935.
Vol. 1. – Apr 1922-Dec 1925.
Note – includes some scripts from J.H. Abercrombie of Togo.
Vol. 2. – July 1926-Feb 1935.
Note – includes a miscellany of scripts from other pharmacies and pharmacists.

BOX 29

7. University of Saskatchewan Pharmacy. – Nov 1953-Sept 1954.
Files 1 and 2. – 4001- 4998.  – Nov 1953-Sept 1954.

BOX 30
8. Pharmacy Ledger and Log Book. – 1890-1893, 1907-1911, 1933-1934.
Vol. 1. – Ledger.
Daily accounts, Nov 1890-July 1893.  Individual client accounts complete with purchases, prescriptions and payments between 1890 and 1895.
Vol. 2. – Log Book.
#6292 – 9204. – Oct. 1907-Feb 1911.
#1000 – 1359. – Apr 1933 – June 1934.

Saskatchewan Library records information is the property of the University of Saskatchewan and reproduced with permission.

Remaining post (c) 2014 Dan Malleck

Digital newspaper databases–first try

I have been attempting to compile a list of online searchable digital newspaper databases. It is more difficult than you may think.

What follows is the first draft, I suppose, of the results.  Most of this is English language material (except the general clearing house databases, many of which contain links to other language papers).

**I have created a separate page with this information. I will change it when necessary.  Note: this post will not be updated again, so check that page for the most up to date information.**

Many of the entries on the following list come courtesy of the good contributors on the H-Canada list.

I indicate where I can whether these are paid or free sites, how searchable they are, and what search results look like.

If you have found others, please let me know.  I have a feeling this is not exhaustive.

General clearing houses of newspapers

Paper of record.


This is a clearing house of a fairly random collection of digital newspapers. They are far from complete, and I can’t tell if they are expanding their site. I understand that it used to be an independent site, but apparently was purchased by Google. However, there still seems to be a decent collection if you’re willing to pay. I am.

Google Newspaper Archive

I understand that much of the original paper of record database is now part of Google News. For historians, this seems to be a pretty crappy source, since it is difficult to search historical records. The “date” fields are not the dates of the sources, but rather the dates they were added to the database. How dumb is that?


However, there is also a list of all the newspapers Google has in its digital archive. These are not easily searchable, so if you know the date you’re looking for you can browse, but good luck searching for specific words


This is all newspapers from everywhere, so unless you know the specific paper you’re looking for, it can be quite the slog. But it is something.

Newspaper Archive


This is a subscription service, but pretty good for western Canada papers (okay, Manitoba and Alberta mostly, but some Saskatchewan too).
I have used this for Manitoba, and I also had this one recommended to me by Sean Kheraj, who has a good blog in which he covers some of the same territory. http://www.seankheraj.com/?p=1036

I’m not going to reproduce everything Sean has on his site, so go there for a few that I don’t have. It’s only fair to him.



The International Coalition on Newspapers has a clearinghouse type site that links to newspaper databases around the world. It is not specifically historical, but does include many historical newspapers, as well as things like the Canada Gazette and various university newspapers.

Provincial newspaper databases

Alberta Heritage Digitizaton Project


This site is a free digital archive of select Alberta newspapers. However, it is not searchable by word. You can browse by year and by location. After that, you’re pretty much on your own. If you like going page by page (like the olden days with microfilm!) you’re gonna love this site.

Peel Library (Alberta)


Another good clearing house of Alberta newspapers. You can select the community. It does not give a snapshot of the page, but does give a title of the article (which is normally not all that useful, to be honest). But still nicer than a microfilm.

British Columbia Newspaper database


Another good one. It gives a little snapshot of the page so you can determine if it’s the type of thing you need to read.

New Brunswick Newspaper Archives


When I checked this was linked to only two newspapers, but it is searchable and gives a blurb for each page so you can decide if you want to look further. I like that quite a bit.



This is a community newspapers collection by Art Rhyno from the University of Windsor. It is a great site of Ontario’s searchable digital newspapers. It seems too good to be true, but it’s both true and good.

Quebec Newspapers at Bibliothèque et Archives Nationale du Québec


This does not appear to be searchable by text, only browse-able.  However, my French is pretty weak, so I may be misreading the site.

Specific newspapers or communities

British Colonist


I dream that all digital archives work like this. Free, word searchable, and it gives you a little chunk of the results before you have to look at the entire page. Thus, it makes searching a little quicker.

Globe and Mail: Canada’s Heritage

This is a ProQuest database so I am not going to point you to it. It is awesome and searchable and browsable and the entire Globe then Globe and Mail (no Mail archive) lifespan. However, as a Proquest joint, it’s expensive for individuals, and therefore best accessed through university libraries.

Quesnel Cariboo Observer


Through the Quesnel museum. Very nice searchable database of this regional newspaper in BC. Dates begin 1908 and search results give you a phrase in which your search term appears. Very nice.

Peace River Project


This is the same search format as the New Brunswick archive. Unfortunately for me this paper’s database begins in 1914, so after my period. But it still may be good for you.

Prince George Newspapers


This has a so-so search engine. But it does let you select or deselect options after it finds lots of stuff. On the right hand side of the page of search results it allows you to remove or focus on specific dates or locations. That’s handy.

Prince Rupert Digital Newspaper Archives


Another regional paper archive. This one is a tricky search engine and I don’t think you can specify by date.
Pay close attention: You need to get to the advanced search page by putting a search term in the field on the left. This will take you to another page, which includes an advanced search option. Click the “digital repository” tab before searching again. Otherwise, you will not see everything.

I tried “opium” and got nothing, then “minister” and got nothing. I knew this was not possible, so then I realized you need to “digital repository” tab… lots of hits after that.

Toronto Star: Pages of the Past.


This is also a ProQuest joint. It is also fully searchable and for the full life of the Star. It is also best accessed through a university library. However, unlike the Globe and Mail, it’s actually possible to get individual subscriptions. They vary (from 1 hour to 1 year) and therefore not terribly prohibitive.

Winnipeg Free Press


This is a format quite similar to the “Newspaper Archive” site listed above.  If you want to search only the WFP, use this, but the Newspaper Archive site will get you more papers.

Okay? Okay!

That’s it for now.  Thanks to the H-Canada contributors for this list, especially to Sean Kkeraj and also to Jonathan Swainger.

I did get an excel file from one researcher, but I do not want to post it here because he got it from an archive and I am not sure whose proprietary material it is.  Sorry.  It was pretty comprehensive.  I will go over it eventually and post links that are not available here.

If you know of any other sites, let me know and I will post them here.

(c) 2012 Dan Malleck