Illustrated Vancouver Vol 9 – Vancouver, City of Destiny


Vancouver, City of Destiny, an illustration by Paul Goranson and Orville Fisher, depicting a wise old Father Time directing a young man towards his destiny. This special edition full colour cover was designed for Vancouver’s Golden Jubilee (1886-1936), from a supplement of the Vancouver Daily Province dated Thursday, May 31, 1936. According to the Province a week prior, it was announced that the two men were grand prize winners of the newspaper’s $100 contest. The contest attracted 75 entries; alas, if only we could see all those entries now!

Image shown here courtesy of The Province.

Both Goranson and Fisher were graduates of the Vancouver School of Art, and along with E J Hughes, they went on to complete a series of murals around town, starting with a series of murals for First United Church (lost/destroyed), another series for the W K Oriental Gardens cabaret in Chinatown (destroyed by renovation), the Malaspina Hotel murals (one panel now restored in Nanaimo), and the murals for the British Columbia display at the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, which ran concurrently in San Francisco during the 1939 New York World’s Fair.

What makes this 1936 illustration so remarkable is the striking resemblance between the background of this contest entry and the two panels from their 1939 Golden Gate murals as seen in my previous post. While I have not located any written documentation to substantiate this, it is entirely possible that this front page newspaper illustration attracted the attention of Honourable W J Asselstine, the Minister of Mines, Trade and Industry, who then saw an opportunity to commission a series of murals in order to promote the province at the 1939 Golden Gate International Expo.

I wish I could show the entire series of 12 panels here in high resolution glory, but as I mentioned previously, the original murals were lost or destroyed some time after the Expo closed in 1940. Preliminary sketches of four of the panels designed by E J Hughes were acquired at auction during the 1990s, three of the four drawings eventually making their way into the Vancouver Art Gallery’s permanent collection. Then there are three more panels which were reproduced on a smaller scale in the BC Archives in Victoria, and along with a series of black and white press photos of the interior of the exhibit hall, I’ve managed to stitch together what the entire mural would have looked like.

I’m still holding out hope that perhaps somewhere, amateur photographs might surface in someone’s family album depicting the murals, as videos from the expo have indeed appeared online from YouTube to to the Prelinger Archives. If anyone ever comes across any family photos from the 1939 or 1940 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Fransisco, by all means let me know! I know for a fact these BC residents were there: Clarence Ferris, the original one-man staff of the BC Government Travel Bureau’s Photographic Branch; Miss Margaret de Gusseme, manager the Harrison Hot Springs Hotel; Lloyd Craig; Al Williamson; RCMP Constable Smith; RCMP Corporal Barwiss; the Honourable W J Asselstine, the Minister of Mines, Trade and Industry; and the Honourable Gordon Sylvester Wismer, Attorney General of British Columbia. If you are a descendant of one of the above, I expect all family photo albums and heirlooms will be dutifully checked for me! Perhaps with your help, we can rebuild a little piece of our city’s lost history.

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A fan of all sorts of things, including art and architecture, which all came together in this little meme I called "Illustrated Vancouver".