Vancouver Heritage Foundation: Who was Major Matthews?


Vancouver Heritage Foundation is a registered charity supporting the conservation of heritage buildings and structures in recognition of their contribution to the city’s economy, sustainability and culture.

Major Matthews at his desk, CVA AM54 S4 Port P567.

Very few Vancouverites know the Major James Skitt Matthews archival collection quite like Heather Gordon. As head archivist for the City of Vancouver Archives, she has studied a significant amount of the historic record he created. In what is promising to be a fascinating look at his life and work, Heather will be presenting Who was Major Matthews?, an evening lecture at Hycroft Manor on Tuesday, November 29th.

Here is what she has to say about this upcoming talk:

“Major Matthews was 55 when he was appointed City Archivist in 1933 and he served the City until his death in 1970. What did Matthews do before his long official tenure?  And how and why did he earn the reputation that Alan Morley, in his 1974 edition of Milltown to Metropolis described thus:

‘A stocky, blunt and peppery enthusiast. He has been accused of obstinacy, arrogance, and even of idiocy, when what possessed him was the blazing white fires of selfless dedication. He has wheedled, importuned and bullied mayors, councils, commissioners… and spent himself and his money, until Vancouver possesses records of its early days unequalled in any other city in the world.’

I’ll take the audience on a whirlwind tour of Major Matthews’ early life and career and then his second life as City Archivist through highlights—the strange and the iconic—from the Archives’ holdings. From his quest to find a permanent home for the Archives to a bizarre souvenir from the 1939 Royal Visit, we’ll delve into the mind and methods of Major Matthews and evaluate the legacy he left behind.

If you have a favourite Major Matthews story, bring it with you!”

The S.S. “Charmer” in Burrard Inlet with Major Matthews`notes, CVA Out P1139.

This is sure to be an entertaining look at a colourful character responsible for preserving so many of our city’s early memories. We hope you can join us at our last Evening Lecture of 2016.

Tuesday, November 29th, 7:30pm – 9pm
$15 or $9 with a valid Student ID
University Women’s Club at Hycroft, 1489 McRae Ave

Register for this event here.

Special thanks to guest contributor Heather Gordon.