Bertram Brooker fonds

Call Number: Mss 16, Pc 16, Tc 76 (A.80-53, A.88-52, A.03-119)

Title: Bertram Brooker fonds.

Dates: [18-], 1905-1989.

Extent: 1.31 m of textual records. -- 17 photographs. -- 6 tapes.

Biographical sketch: Bertram Brooker was born in Surrey, England in 1888. He immigrated to Portage la Prairie, Manitoba with his parents in 1905. At age seventeen he worked in the kitchens and in the timekeeper's office of the Grand Trunk Pacific Railway. Later he managed a movie theatre in Neepawa and did newspaper work in Portage and Winnipeg. In 1921 he moved to Toronto to assume a career in advertising and freelance journalism. Brooker began writing his first novel at the age of nine, and as early as 1910 he was writing and directing several of his own plays. His literary achievements include Think of the Earth (1936), Tangled Miracle (1936) and The Robber (1949). He won the first Governor General's Award for fiction in 1936. Although he was the author of nine books as well as texts on advertising and writing, Brooker is perhaps best known as an artist. He began painting in the 1920s and formed close ties with LeMoine Fitzgerald and most of the members of the Group of Seven. Apparently influenced by Fitzgerald and Lawren Harris, he became a pioneer in abstract painting.

Custodial history: The fonds was donated to University of Manitoba Archives & Special Collections in several instalments by the Brooker family beginning in 1980.

Scope and content: The collection contains correspondence, diaries, unpublished manuscripts, and copies of published writing. The twelve folders of correspondence, although primarily incoming, include exchanges between Brooker and other artists such as LeMoine Fitzgerald, William Arthur Deacon, and Pelham Edgar. His diaries consist mostly of fragmented excerpts of short, intermittent periods in his life. The heart of the collection is a core of his literary works, most of which have never been published. Most consist of original and second drafts showing evolutionary changes, corrections, and notations. There are thirty-five plays, portions of novels, seventy-five short-stories, essays (most of which are unpublished), and a considerable amount of poetry. Most of the poetry has been published by Professor Birk Sproxton in a book by Turnstone Press titled Sounds Assembling (1980). Several of the poems are in multiple drafts, though only a few are dated. Brooker's published writings on advertising remain with the family. Art work is not included in the collection. The balance of the manuscript collection consists of newspaper clippings, photographs, an account book, and other miscellaneous items. The collection also contains Brooker's private research library consisting of approximately 300 volumes, many of which are carefully annotated.

Restrictions: There are no restrictions on this material.

Accruals: Further accruals to this fonds are anticipated.

Finding aid: A printed finding aid is available in the Archives reading room and an on-line finding aid is available at the link below:

MSS 16, PC 16, TC 76 (A.80-53, A.88-52, A.03-119).