Category Archives: Through Canada

National Treasure #148: Oscar Peterson

One of Canada’s most honoured musicians, Oscar Peterson was widely regarded as one of the greatest jazz pianists of all time. A highly accomplished soloist renowned for his remarkable speed and dexterity, meticulous and ornate technique, and dazzling, swinging style, he earned the nicknames “the brown bomber of boogie-woogie” and “master of swing.”
The Canadian Encyclopedia

Like Harry Wasylyk, Oscar Peterson was born in 1925. There the comparisons stop. While Wasylyk gets one of those 4-line Wikipedia entries, Peterson gets one of the longest entries in The Canadian Encyclopedia that I’ve seen:

  • Early years and education
  • Early career
  • Canada’s first jazz star
  • American introduction
  • Career highlights (focused on his performing career)
  • Compositions
  • Style and approach
  • Praise and criticism
  • Influence on other pianists
  • Career as educator
  • Radio and TV broadcasts
  • Canadian sideman
  • Personal life
  • Honours
  • Awards
  • Writings
  • Discography

About those awards:

  • 2 Juno awards
  • 8 Grammy awards, including one for lifetime achievement
  • 15 honorary degrees
  • 41 other awards

The miscellaneous honours are interesting for their diversity alone.

In 2002, he became the first person inducted into the Canadian Jazz and Blues Hall of Fame, and received a lifetime achievement award from the Urban Music Association of Canada. In 2003, Mississauga named a street Oscar Peterson Boulevard, and the government of Austria issued a stamp in his honour. In 2005, a public school in Mississauga was named after him, and Canada Post made him the first living person other than a reigning monarch to appear on a stamp. – The Canadian Encyclopedia

The discography is also a little startling.

. . . a prolific recording artist, he typically released several albums a year from the 1950s until his death [in 2007] . . . and “He also appeared on more than 200 albums by other artists, including Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, Billie Holiday and Louis Armstrong, who called him “the man with four hands.”

Want more?  Check out his site, read this biography, and watch these YouTube videos:

Piano Lesson

C Jam Blues

Hymn to Freedom (Peterson composition)

Honky Tonk Train Blues (with Keith Emerson)



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National Treasure #147: Harry Wasylyk

He gets one of of those really short Wikipedia entries: Harry Wasylyk, Winnipeg inventor, sort of, of the plastic garbage bag. Other sources are a little more expansive.

Enter Winnipeg inventor Harry Wasylyk who, after the Second World War, began experimenting with a new material called polyethylene. Harry made his first plastic bags in his kitchen and supplied them to the Winnipeg General Hospital to line their garbage cans. He quickly moved his kitchen production to a plant. – Library and Archives Canada  

Continue reading

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National Treasure #146: Geological Survey of Canada

Other than being a set of acronyms you’ve never heard of, what do these three things have in common:

  • CNSN

If you guessed that they are all initiatives involving the Geological Survey of Canada, you’d be right.  Continue reading

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National Treasure #145: Theodore Witte

Who? The inventor of the caulking gun, that’s who.  In 1894, that’s when.

Drawings from 1894 patent application for sealant gun.

Depending on your work, this invention – or the various iterations and improvements over the years (see one example here) – might be a wonderful or an irrelevant thing.

But if your day-to-day work or your occasional home repairs have ever called for caulking, you should bless the name of Theodore Witte, even though I find no evidence that he ever did anything else of particular note or ingenuity.  Like many other inventors, Canadian and otherwise, he toiled in relative obscurity but we are the better for that toil.


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National Treasure #144: William Stephenson

“James Bond is a highly romanticized version of a true spy.
The real thing is … William Stephenson.”
– Ian Fleming

“Inventor, businessman, master spy.”
– The Canadian Encyclopedia

Born in Winnipeg in 1897, Stephenson served as a pilot in WWI and earned medals for bravery. He invented the wirephoto and made his fortune in London in the 1920s, developing the market with newspapers. He “served on a royal commission in the 1930s to plan the development of India’s natural resources.”   Continue reading

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