Montreal Newspapers

Seven daily newspapers[1] were published in Montreal throughout the first decades of the 20th Century. La Presse an independent, Liberal newspaper had the largest circulation in Canada, 128,000, plus a U.S. edition (23,000). La Presse was owned by Trefflé Berthiaume[2] who offered readers colourful crime stories, comics, classified and display ads and reports on civic, provincial and municipal politics. La Presse did not directly challenge the ideology of the clerico-nationaliste elite and was not anti-clerical but both editorials and news coverage were generally supportive of the liberal, progressive measures including, improvements in education, a public library, municipal reform and improvements in public health. The newspaper supported Canada’s entry into the war and promoted the creation and recruitment of the 22nd Battalion as well as other French Canadian units. La Presse vigorously defended Quebec’s enlistment record in editorials and in a pamphlet published in English. La Presse opposed conscription and supported Laurier in the 1917 election.

La Patrie (21,000), owned by the sons of founder Israel Tarte, supported the Conservative Party, the war effort and conscription. Designed to compete with La Presse it carried comics, and other political features. Le Canada (18,900) an eight page, morning newspaper was controlled by Quebec Liberals to provide a reliable voice for both the Federal and provincial parties. From 1903 – 1908 Godfroy Langlois[3], the leading racial in the Liberal Party edited the paper as an exponent of secularism and progressivism. He was replaced in 1910 by Fernand Rinfret a moderate, less abrasive voice.

The fourth French language daily Le Devoir (19,000) was founded in 1910 by the nationaliste icon Henri Bourassa.[4] Featuring front page editorial essays signed by Bourassa or his close associate Omer Heroux, Le Devoir covered Canadian and Quebec politics in a format designed to appeal to those educated in the provinces’ classical colleges. The constant themes were anti-imperialism, minority language rights and after 1914 opposition to Canadian participation in the war.

The Montreal Star had the second largest circulation in Canada (112,000). An evening paper was owned and directly influenced by Hugh Graham[5] who for services to the Empire became Lord Atholstan in 1917. Graham’s passionate imperialism translated into unconditional support for the Prime Minister, the Conservative Party, local recruiting and eventually conscription. His views did not interfere with day to day coverage of life in the city by energetic reporters.

The Montreal Gazette (33,351) a morning paper was identified with the Montreal business community and the Conservative Party. Traditional in format, the Gazette provided substantial reports on local, national and international affairs.

The Montreal Daily Mail and its evening edition The Evening News (26,000 combined) was established in 1913 by Brenton MacNab and M. E. Nichols two experienced editors. The newspaper provided detailed coverage of municipal affairs as well as national and international news. The editors supported the Conservative Party and conscription before ceasing publication in August 1917.

The Montreal Herald (19,279), a long established morning newspaper offering lively coverage of politics, crime and human interest stories was the only English-language Liberal daily in Montreal. Hugh Graham purchased the Herald in 1914 combining it with the short lived Telegraph to become the Herald-Telegraph 1914-1919; it retained editorial independence and continued to support the Liberal Party.

Montreal’s weekly newspapers are another key source for information and opinion. The Standard (77,000) established in 1908 by Hugh Graham was said to be modeled on the Illustrated London News. In addition to the extensive photo section the Standard carried local, national and international news and features. The Montreal Weekly Witness and Canadian Homestead began as the weekly edition of the Montreal Daily Witness 1845-1913. A liberal, protestant, temperance journal owned and edited by John Repath Dougal; the Witness offered detailed coverage of the war and the Canadian reaction, as well as American news and editorial cartoons from U.S. newspapers.

The relatively low cost of starting a weekly newspaper led to the appearance and disappearance of numerous 4 – 6 page French language weeklies. Among those published in Montreal Le Nationaliste the weekly edition of Le Devoir, L’Action the literary and political journal created by Jules Fournier,[6] Le Pays the radical rouge journal founded by Godfroy Langlois and Le Croix an ultramontane, anti-Semitic journal said to be popular among the clergy.

In 1916 Gustave Francq a printer and prominent local activist established Le Moude Ouvrier as a voice for labour. The Canadian Jewish Chronicle began publication as an English-language weekly in May 1914. It is a key source for the wartime experience of Montreal’s Jewish community. It may be accessed on the Google News Archive site.

The Star, Gazette, La Presse and The Standard were digitized from microfilm in whole or part for this project. La Patrie, Le Canada and the French language weeklies as well as the Montreal Witness are availiable on Bibliothèque et Archives Nationale (BANQ) webstie. Le Devoir is availiable on microfilm in many university libraries and may be accessed online by topic using the “Recherce en texte integrale” tab on the BANQ website “Outils de recherché”.



[1] The standard source for Quebec newspapers of the era is André Beaulieu et Jean Hamelin, La Presse Quebecoise Vol 5 Circulation figures are from McKim’s Directory 1914

[2] Jean de Bonvill, Berthiaume, Trefflé DCB Online

[3] Patrice A. Dutil, Langlois, Godfroy DCB Online

[4] Réal Belanger, Bourassa, Henri DCB Online

[5] Enn Raudsepp, Graham, Hugh DCB Online

[6] Laurent Mailhot, Fournier, Jules DCB Online