This Week in History


Live from Canada, its Saturday Night!

For the week of Monday November 27, 2006

On Saturday, December 3, 1887, the first edition of the Saturday Night newspaper appeared on the streets of Toronto just before the offices closed for the day. At five cents each, all 10,000 copies were scooped up. A Canadian journalistic institution, Saturday Night survived for 118 years, reaching its greatest national popularity and influence under Bernard Keble Sandwell, managing editor from 1932 to 1951.

Bernard Keble Sandwell
© M.O. Hammond. Archives of Ontario, I0001771

Born in England in 1876, B.K. Sandwell immigrated to Canada in 1888 and received a classical education at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto. For more than 50 years, Sandwell – well educated, intelligent, cultured and modest – successfully pursued careers in economics, education, journalism (Montreal Herald, Montreal Financial Times, Canadian Bookman, Saturday Night, Financial Post), civil rights advocacy and, in literature as editor, humourist and author.

As Canada’s pre-eminent drama and literary critic, Sandwell encouraged support of local English and French theatre and vigorously campaigned against any foreign control of Canadian theatre companies. His Saturday Night reviews helped Canadian theatres, playwrights, artists and the new Canadian Little Theatre movement survive and grow into a national theatre and drama industry.

B.K. Sandwell wrote 200 plus articles for Saturday Night
© St. Joseph Media
Under his progressive editorship Saturday Night evolved into a broad-minded national journal of independent opinion and a leading exponent of Canadian liberal thought. Before and during the Second World War, Sandwell’s Saturday Night became a moral conscience for Canada. Its remarkably humane editorial tone was in stark contrast to other popular journals, which tended to side with the prevalent public intolerance of the day. Saturday Night urged the Canadian government to accept Jewish refugees and later, when the results of the inaction had become horribly clear, Sandwell reminded Canada of its failure. When covering the controversial conscription crisis, Saturday Night's hard-hitting commentary demonstrated a considerable understanding of French Canada’s sentiment. Sandwell also argued that Canada’s treatment of its Japanese citizens was “morally wrong and completely indefensible” and he later called for the creation of a Canadian Bill of Rights.

Sandwell was extremely proud to be a Canadian. Throughout his remarkable career, he remained devoted to building and strengthening the new national identity that had emerged out of the major sacrifices of Canadians in the First World War and its aftermath: an identity that might overcome Canada’s regional diversity. For his contributions to Canada as "a moral conscience" while at Saturday Night, Bernard Keble Sandwell (1876-1954) was designated a National Historic Person in 1955.

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