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From the archives: Mapping the river city

A beautiful panoramic map offers a bird's-eye view of what Winnipeg, Manitoba would have looked like in 1881

  • Aug 04, 2016
  • 224 words
  • 1 minutes
An illustrated panoramic map of Winnipeg circa 1881 Expand Image

Great stories and great maps have long been a staple of Canadian Geographic, but it might be hard to beat the one-two literary-cartographic punch the magazine delivered on the final four pages of its January/February 2000 issue.

That double issue featured a gorgeous 1881 bird’s-eye-view map of Winnipeg (above) — the fourth in a series of similar maps produced to mark the 70th anniversary of The Royal Canadian Geographical Society and Canadian Geographic — and a companion piece, “Muddy waters,” in the magazine’s now-defunct “A sense of place” section, by writer Miriam Toews, herself a Manitoba native. (Read Toews’ piece below.) 

Both works are superb for the way they effortlessly transport you to Winnipeg. Toews does so through her examination and often sinister evocation of Winnipeggers’ relationship to their city’s rivers, which she says involves both intrigue and repulsion. Meanwhile, the map, courtesy of what in 2000 was known as the National Archives of Canada, takes you on a flight over that fabled windblown corner of Portage and Main, sweeps you along the sinuous Red and Assiniboine rivers where ships puff clouds of black smoke, and allows you to hover over an already bustling place that was on the cusp of the remarkable growth and prosperity the soon-to-be-completed CPR would bring.

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