A Diminished Roar
Winnipeg in the 1920s
The third instalment in Jim Blanchard’s popular history of early Winnipeg, A Diminished Roar presents a city in the midst of enormous change. Once the fastest growing city in Canada, by 1920 Winnipeg was losing its dominant position in western Canada. As the decade began, Winnipeggers were reeling from the chaos of the Great War and the influenza pandemic. But it was the divisions exposed by the 1919 Winnipeg General Strike which left the deepest marks. As Winnipeg wrestled with its changing fortunes, its citizens looked for new ways to imagine the city’s future and identity.
Beginning with the opening of the magnificent new provincial legislature building in 1920, A Diminished Roar guides readers through this decade of political and social turmoil. At City Hall, two very different politicians dominated the scene. Winnipeg’s first Labour mayor, S.J. Farmer, pushed for more public services. His rival, Ralph Webb, would act as the city’s chief “booster” as mayor, encouraging U.S. tourists with the promise of“snowballs and highballs.” Meanwhile, promoters tried to rekindle the city’s spirits with plans for new public projects, such as a grand boulevard through the middle of the city, a new amusement park, and the start of professional horse racing. In the midst of the Jazz Age, Winnipeg’s teenagers grappled with “problems of the heart,” and social groups like the Gyro Club organized masked balls for the city’s elite.
- NOMINEE, Manitoba Day Award (Association of Manitoba Archives) (2020)
“A great look at the 1920s. Through his attention to detail, Jim Blanchard brings to life Winnipeg’s historical figures and makes them human and relatable. This book captures the ambivalence of the 1920s and shows how the city attempted to knit itself back together after the dramatic events of the previous decade.”
– Dale Barbour, author of Winnipeg Beach
“Blanchard has a talent for putting his readers’ boots on the snowy ground and letting them see life as it was in Jazz Age. While his narrative is crowded with members of Winnipeg’s elite the author excels when he tells the stories of regular citizens while framing them in the context of the era’s events and trends.”
– Nigel Moore, Canada’s History
“Reading Blanchard made me want to revisit Winnipeg.”
“Like Blanchard’s other books, A Diminished Roar falls between the scholarly and the popular, more episodic and descriptive than analytical but based on solid research and written in a tone that makes it accessible to the general reader. It is also nicely illustrated with a rich selection of archival photos and maps. More importantly, the book fills a large gap since there has been so little written about the city’s history after 1919. Blanchard reveals many ignored or forgotten facets of life in Winnipeg in the 1920s, and one hopes for an eventual sequel dealing with the 1930s.”
About the Author
Jim Blanchard is a retired academic librarian and Librarian Emeritus of the University of Manitoba. He is a former president of the Manitoba Historical Society and is the author of Winnipeg’s Great War: A City Comes of Age and Winnipeg 1912.