The diary of Hector Langevin

Hon. Sir. Hector Louis Langevin, M.P. by William James Topley, via Wikimedia Commons

The diary of Hector Langevin is one of the highlights of the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection. It describes Langevin’s journey across the United States by rail, and up to the B.C. coast by boat, on his journey to scope out the appropriate place to end the Canadian Pacific Railway. Ultimately, of course, Vancouver was chosen as the terminus, and in this diary you can come to understand the reasons why Langevin, as Minister of Public Works (1869–73), recommended a site on Burrard Inlet instead of the former front-runner, Port Moody.

Naturally, Langevin also describes his travels along the way to B.C., including a description of Chinatown in San Francisco, and in B.C. he describes the climate, natural resources, existing nations of indigenous peoples, their treaties and Chinook “trading language”, potential for settlement, business activity, public works required, postal, communication, and transportation arrangements, as well as potential railway termini on Burrard Inlet, Esquimalt, and the Skeena River.

You can access a full digital version of the Langevin diary, as well as a French transcription and an English translation here:

Langevin diary (digital version)

Langevin diary (French transcription)

Langevin diary (English translation)

The Langevin diary is also on display in the Chung Collection exhibition room. If you’d like to see it in person, visit Rare Books and Special Collections and join one of our weekly tours of the Chung Collection. The weekly drop-in tours are held every Thursday from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. in Rare Books and Special Collections on Level 1 of UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre!

If you are unable to make the drop-in tour, you are welcome to browse the exhibition anytime RBSC is open, Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The exhibition is free and open to the general public, as well as the UBC community. For more information, please contact Rare Books and Special Collections at 604 822-2521.