Celebrating Samuel de Champlain in 1908

I own a piece of Quebec history!

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Some days luck is on your side. It’s that simple!

Honfleur Intendance

On this day of July 2009, I came across the most unexpected little treasure: an original newspaper from July 18, 1908, a Special Issue celebrating the 300th of the founding of Quebec City by Samuel de Champlain, with four pages dedicated to Champlain, Honfleur, Wolfe, and Montcalm.

The issue in French is titled “Numéro souvenir 1608-1908“, and includes one illustration of Champlain, and three illustrations of Honfleur – right on the front page.

What were the odds that I would find such a newspaper at a flea market on Ile d’Orleans near Quebec City, just at the time I was preparing the trip “On the Steps of Champlain“, which will take these 36 students to France… and Honfleur?

I was ecstatic! I had just come back from Honfleur, in preparation for the upcoming trip. I had seen these places where Champlain started his expeditions, seen that little harbor, seen the plaque which mentioned him. Nowadays, Honfleur is not much different than the way it was portrayed in this 1908 illustration.

On that front page, the legend of the illustration of Honfleur said:

“La lieutenance à Honfleur, que nous fait voir la gravure ci-dessus était la principale place de Honfleur. Le vieux monument qu’on aperçoit au milieu de la place, a été construit avant Champlain. Le nom de la lieutenance vient de ce que les bâtiments, qui surmontent la voûte, étaient affectés au logement du lieutenant du roi. La fondation de cet édifice remonte au XIVe siècle. Sur la muraille nord de la lieutenance se trouve une plaque de marbre rappelant les embarquements de Champlain pour le Canada.”

It was telling readers about the well-known Lieutenance building in Honfleur, built in the 16th century, before the time of Champlain, and named after the King’s Lieutenant who used to lived there. It was also mentioning the plaque on its north side discussing the the Champlain’s expeditions which left from there. (Recently, as we celebrated the 400th anniversary of Quebec City in 2008, a new plaque has been added beside the old one on the Lieutenance.)

Samuel de Champlain

Above the fold, there is also that famous illustration of Samuel de Champlain. It tells us that Champlain was born in 1567 (fact now challenged), that he had traveled to the Caribbeans, came to Canada in 1603, founded Quebec in 1608 and died there in 1635 on Christmas Day.

That day of July 2009 I had definitely found a little treasure (which I paid $5 for!).

Little I knew that I would get another surprise.

Later that month, I was reading the “bible” book on Champlain (Champlain: The Birth of French America). And suddenly, here it was, the illustration from my newspaper, prominently reprinted on page 281!! The legend was fascinating as well:

“Portrait fantaististe de Champlain publié dans La Patrie du samedi 18 juillet 1908 (numéro souvenir 1608-1908). Entourée de fleurs de lys, cette représentation du fondateur de Québec montre bien que les Canadiens français de 1908 entendaient s’approprier le personnage de Champlain malgré la tentative de récupération du gouvernement d’Ottawa.”

It explained how this illustration framed with fleurs de lys, symbol of Quebec, proved that French Canadians were trying to make Champlain theirs, at a time the federal government in Ottawa was trying to make him theirs.

No doubt: I own a piece of Quebec history! Wow. (Click here to see front cover).

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