Arnold O. Brigden:

An Inventory of His Correspondence at the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections

Inventory prepared by Phyllis Gillanders
University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Finding aid encoded by Lori Podolsky Nordland (September 2002)
Finding aid written in English.

Revision History

  • July 26, 2005 - MSS 54, PC 72 converted from EAD 1.0 to 2002 by v1to02.xsl (sy2003-10-15).

Collection Summary

University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections
Elizabeth Dafoe Library Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2

Arnold O. Brigden

Arnold O. Brigden fonds


12.5 cm of textual records and other materials [Note: Includes 13 dry plates -- 25 photographs -- 11 glass slides -- 130 slides -- 4 loose films.]

MSS 54, PC 72


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Biography of Arnold O. Brigden

Arnold O. Brigden was the manager of Brigden's Limited Winnipeg from 1914 until 1956 when he retired. Arnold's father, Thomas Brigden, was the youngest brother of Frederick Brigden, the founder of the Brigden printing firm in Canada. Thomas was a Methodist minister and this led to his two sons, Arnold and Owen, receiving their education at Kingswood, the school for boys founded by John Wesley in 1748. Arnold Brigden retained contact with his school and a number of his school friends throughout his life. Arnold's mother was named Susie and he had two sisters, Kathleen and Dorothy.

In 1903, at the age of 17, Arnold came to Canada in order to live with his uncle, Frederick Brigden, and his cousins, George, Fred, Ellen and Bertha at 103 Rose Avenue in Toronto, a home which became a meeting place for many young artists and writers during the early years of this century.

Arnold was an apprentice in his uncle's firm, learning the craft of wood-engraving and the new skill of photo-engraving. He returned to England in 1908 but in 1910 he went to work for Gills, a large graphic arts firm in New York. He remained there until 1914 when he was persuaded by Frederick and Fred Brigden to take over the Winnipeg branch of the family firm. Arnold's sister, Kathleen, was an exchange teacher in Winnipeg from 1912 to 1914 and her presence in Winnipeg probably helped persuade Arnold to move from New York. Kathleen returned to England on July 28, 1914 and on July 17, 1915 she was married to William T. John.

In 1913 Frederick Brigden sent his son, Fred, to Winnipeg to find suitable premises for a new branch of Brigdens. Eaton's required art work for a Western-based catalogue and offered Brigden's the contract. Once the firm was operating in 1914 and Arnold was installed as manager, Fred Brigden divided his time between Winnipeg and Toronto. Following the death of Frederick Brigden in 1917 and his brother George's assumption of the Presidency, Fred Bridgen became General Manager of both branches of the firm. The Winnipeg branch was incorporated as a company in its own right in 1920 with Fred Brigden as President and Arnold Brigden as manager. Although Fred lived in Toronto from 1919 and left the operation of the Winnipeg business to Arnold, Fred made frequent visits to Winnipeg. These visits primarily were to go on painting trips with his numerous friends in the Winnipeg art community of the 1920's and 1930's.

Under Arnold Brigden's management, Brigden's Winnipeg Limited became a successful centre for the graphic arts in Western Canada. Charles Comfort and Eric Bergman were just two of the many artists who worked for the firm during the 1920's and 1930's. Arnold Brigden was an active supporter of the Winnipeg Art Gallery and the Winnipeg School of Art. He was also one of the first to collect works of such noted western artists as Lionel Le Moine, Fitzgerald and W.J. Phillips. Arnold's other interests extended to mountain hiking and camping, alpine gardening, photography, calligraphy, and the art of William Blake. His collection of Canadian and English art occupies an important place in the Winnipeg Art Gallery's holdings.

Arnold Brigden retired in 1956 and the Winnipeg firm was run from Toronto by Edward Nicholson, the grandson of Frederick Brigden. Arnold Brigden died in 1972.

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Scope and Contents of the Papers

Although the provenance of this collection is Arnold O. Brigden, the bulk of the manuscript collection consists of incoming letters from Arnold's family in England and Toronto. These letters contain more information about Arnold's family than about Arnold himself. Order was imposed on these letters since there appeared to be no original order and in several cases, because the year was not indicated, it was not always possible to ensure that the letters are arranged in their original sequence. The letters cover the period from 1909-1971 with the bulk of them written during the Edwardian era and during World War I. Sixty-one letters were received by Arnold Brigden from his mother, Susie Brigden, who was the wife of a Methodist minister. Since Methodist ministers only stayed three years in one parish, the letters are sent from Barrow in Furness, Lewes, Peterborough, and Cottingham and they are kept in separate folders. These letters give a good idea of the problems and concerns of a Methodist minister's wife at the beginning of the twentieth century as well as concerns over World War I. Arnold's two sisters, Kathleen and Dorothy, wrote twenty-seven and eighteen letters respectively. These letters are an excellent source about young English women in the early twentieth century who are finishing schooling and finding their first jobs as teachers. Dorothy's letters are also a source of information regarding concerts and plays taking place in London. Throughout there is a continuing concern about money matters and the difficulties of maintaining a genteel lifestyle on a limited income.

The letters from Toronto are from Arnold's cousins, Bertha and Fred, as well as from Arnold's Uncle, William, who was actively involved in Methodist church activities in Toronto. Fred Brigden was the son of Frederick Brigden, the founder of Brigden's in Toronto, and some of Fred's letters refer to business matters, especially after 1914 when Arnold became the manager of Brigden's in Winnipeg. However, Fred was a professional artist and since he was a member of the Ontario Society of Artists and had exhibited at the Royal Canadian Academy, his letters often refer to sketches or paintings which he was working on. Two of Fred's letters contain small sketches of work in progress.

Also included in the collection is a letter from Charles F. Comfort, written in 1971, to L.F. Smith, Vice-President of Creative Services of Brigdens Limited, Toronto, thanking Mr. Smith for sending Charles Comfort a compy of the commemorative book The First One Hundred Years . This book, written by Edward J. Nicholson in 1971, is kept in the Department. A second letter from Charles Comfort to Arnold Brigden discusses errors which occured in the earlier letter which Comfort sent to L.F. Smith as well as a general discussion of the commemorative book.

Only two written records were actually produced by Arnold Brigden himself. One is a brief postcard (c. 1956) and the other is his travel diary, Holiday Jaunts , which gives daily descriptions of holiday activities at Bear River, Nova Scotia in 1906, Port Sydney, Muskoka in 1907, and Felkstone in England where Arnold visited his sister Kathleen for a weekend in 1909.

This collection also contains thirteen dry plate negatives taken in 1908, when Arnold was still a young man and visiting his family in England, eleven glass slides of flowers and the Canadian Rockies, forty-two black and white photos taken in 1936 of the funeral of King George V and Wisley Gardens as well as a wedding picture of Arnold's sister, Kathleen, when she married Will in 1915. The photo collection also includes 132 35mm slides (c. 1956-1957) consisting of pictures of European trips, camping in the Canadian Rockies and flowers. As much as possible, the orginal order of the photograph collection has been maintained.

The balance of the collection consists of fifteen postcards, most of them showing the Royal Pavilion at Brighton, England, and two pamphlets of Wisley Garden published by the Royal Horticultural Society.

The Winnipeg Art Gallery also has a collection of Arnold Brigden's papers and further primary source material relating to Frederick Brigden, the founder of Brigden's in Toronto, can be found in the Baldwin Room, Metropolitan Toronto Library. For a full account of the Brigden firm, see Angela E. Davis, "Business, Art and Labour: Brigden's and the Growth of the Canadian Graphic Arts Industry 1870-1950." PhD. dissertation, University of Manitoba, 1986. (microfilm and manuscript copies in Elizabeth Dafoe Library; manuscript copies also in Clara Landers Library, Winnipeg Art Gallery)

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Organization of the Papers

This collection is organized into 9 series

  • INCOMING CORRESPONDENCE to ARNOLD, 1910 - 1916; 1939-1940; 1970, predominant 1911-1916
  • TRAVEL DIARY, ARNOLD O. BRIGDEN, 1906-1907; 1909

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Restrictions on Use

There are no restrictions on the material in this fonds. Researchers must abide by the relevant copyright legislation if they wish to use any material in any published form.

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Custodial History

The Arnold O. Brigden papers were given to the University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections by Helen Coy on April 21, 1982. She had received the papers from Dr. E.J. Thomas, a medical doctor at Deer Lodge Hospital and the former president of Thomas Gallery in Winnipeg. The papers were in the possession of Dr. Thomas because he was the executor of Arnold Brigden's will.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

INCOMING CORRESPONDENCE to ARNOLD 1910-1916; 1939-1940; 1970, predominant 1911-1916
11 Mother, Barrow in Furness 1911
2 Mother, Lewes 1912
3 Mother, Peterborough 1914-1915
4 Mother, Lottingham 1915-1916
5 Mother 1939-1940
6 Kathleen c.1910(15)-1916
7 Dorothy 1911-1915
8 Owen 1911-1914
9 Fred Brigden c.1908-1915
10 Bertha 1908(11)-1914
11 William Brigden 1911-1915
12 Charles Comfort 1971

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113 Bertha 1915

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114 Incoming correspondence to Fred B.

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115 Dorothy & Kathleen c.1914-1915

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116 Unidentified friends & relatives

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117 Letter fragments

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118 Nova Scotia, Ontario, England 1906-1907; 1909

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119 Postcards

One of the postcards was written by Arnold Brigden

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120 Royal Horticultural Society Wisley Garden; map of Wisely Garden

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a) Dry Plates [ca.1908]
11 Brigden Family Photos c.1908

5 dry plates

1 Unidentified Photos, include figures and landscap c.1908

8 dry plates

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b) Black & White Photographs 1915; c.1936
12 Funeral of George V, includes views of crowds in street, some shots of Brigden family at funeral, Buckingham Palace and Wisley Garden c.1936

22 photographs

2 Unidentified photos include railway and lake scenes

2 photographs

2 Kathleen Brigden and William T. John's wedding portrait July 17, 1915

1 photograph

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c) Glass Slides

stored with slides

13 Scenes from Canadian Rockies, include wild flowers, mountains, lakes and figures on horseback

11 glass slides

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d) Slides
14 Nature scenery

7 slides

5 Nature scenery

8 slides

6 Nature scenery

4 slides

7 Nature scenery

13 slides

8 Nature scenery

4 slides

10 Nature scenery

3 slides

4 Scenes of buildings and architectural features

4 slides

5 Scenes of buildings and architectural features

8 slides

6 Scenes of buildings and architectural features

5 slides

7 Scenes of buildings and architectural features

6 slides

10 Scenes of buildings and architectural features

3 slides

6 Scenes in the Canadian Rockies, includingcamping trips, vegetation and mountain scenery

10 slides

7 Scenes in the Canadian Rockies, includingcamping trips, vegetation and mountain scenery

4 slides

8 Scenes in the Canadian Rockies, includingcamping trips, vegetation and mountain scenery

15 slides

9 Scenes in the Canadian Rockies, includingcamping trips, vegetation and mountain scenery

16 slides

10 Scenes in the Canadian Rockies, includingcamping trips, vegetation and mountain scenery

6 slides

4 Unidentifiable

8 slides

5 Unidentifiable

4 slides

6 Unidentifiable

1 slide

7 Unidentifiable

6 slides

9 Unidentifiable

4 slides

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e) Loose Film
111 Camping scenes

2 loose films

11 Flowers in grass

1 loose film

11 Unidentified

1 loose film

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