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A Real Companion and Friend:
The diary of William Lyon Mackenzie King

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Behind the Diary

Mackenzie King's Life: A Chronology


December 17:
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King is born in Berlin (now Kitchener), Ontario.


  • Begins studies at the University of Toronto.


September 6:
  • Begins his diary.


  • Graduates from the University of Toronto (B.A. honours).
  • Works as a journalist and reads for the bachelor of law examinations.


  • Receives LL.B. degree from the University of Toronto.
  • Attends the University of Chicago as a fellow in Political Economy.


  • Receives M.A. from University of Toronto.
  • Works in Toronto, mainly tutoring and writing.
  • Writes a series of articles for the Mail and Empire on the social problems of Toronto, including housing problems and sweated labour.
  • Begins studies at Harvard University, where he has been awarded a scholarship.


  • Receives M.A. from Harvard. During the summer he stays at the home of Professor Charles Eliot Norton.
  • Works as a tutor. Also, investigates working conditions in Boston for the Consumers' League, and writes a report, which is published. Is awarded another fellowship, to continue his studies at Harvard.


  • His fellowship at Harvard is renewed, with the privilege of using it for study abroad. In the summer, he tutors Peter and Robert Gerry at Newport, Rhode Island. Later, sails for England. Studies at the London School of Economics.


  • Travels in France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland and Italy.
  • Postmaster General Mulock offers him the job of editor of the Labour Gazette and he accepts.
  • Returns to Canada.
July 24:
  • Arrives in Ottawa to begin his new job.
September 15:
  • Appointed Deputy Minister of Labour.
  • First issue of Labour Gazette is published.
  • Visits Kingsmere for the first time.


  • Buys his first property at Kingsmere.
December 6:
  • Bert Harper drowns.


  • His work in the Department of Labour brings him increasing recognition as a skilled negotiator.


  • The Secret of Heroism is published.
  • Works as a conciliator in prolonged coal strike at Lethbridge, Alberta.


  • Industrial Disputes Investigation Act, based largely on his recommendations, is passed.


  • Visits President Theodore Roosevelt at the White House.
  • Travels to England to discuss oriental immigration with British.
  • Resigns as Deputy Minister of Labour to run for Parliament.
October 26:
  • Elected in North Waterloo.
  • Appointed to attend International Opium Commission in Shanghai, China, and to undertake Canadian Government mission to India.
December 16:
  • Sails from New York on the Lusitania.


  • Carries out his missions in the Far East.
  • Returns to Canada.
May 10:
  • Takes his seat in the House of Commons for the first time.
June 2:
  • Sworn in as Minister of Labour.
June 30:
  • Receives Ph.D. from Harvard.
November 12:
  • Takes his seat in the House of Commons as Minister of Labour.


  • Attends meetings in Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium and France, as representative of the Canadian government.


September 21:
  • General federal election. The Liberal Government is defeated and he is defeated in Waterloo North. Begins work as editor of The Canadian Liberal Monthly.
  • Starts work for the Rockefeller Foundation as a labour consultant.


April 4:
  • Sister, Bella, dies.


August 30:
  • Father, John King, dies.


December 17:
  • General federal election. Union Government defeats the Liberals. Is defeated in York North.
December 18:
  • Mother, Isabel Grace Mackenzie King, dies.


  • Completes his work for the Rockefeller Foundation.
  • Industry and Humanity is published. To celebrate the publication, he gives a small dinner party. Among the guests are Joan and Godfroy Patteson, his neighbours at the Roxborough Apartments, who are to become two of his closest friends.


August 7:
  • Is chosen as leader of the Liberal Party.
October 20:
  • Elected as Member of Parliament for the riding of Prince, Prince Edward Island.


December 6:
  • General federal election. Liberals win largest number of seats, but not a majority. Is elected in North York.
December 29:
  • Sworn in as Prime Minister and Secretary of State for External Affairs.


March 18:
  • Brother, Max, dies.
June 3:
  • Named Privy Councillor of the United Kingdom and becomes "Right Honourable."


  • Moves into Laurier House.
March 2:
  • Canada signs Halibut Fisheries Treaty.
  • Travels in England and Europe.


  • The Pattesons give him a dog, an Irish Terrier, brother of their dog Derry. He names his dog Pat, and becomes very fond of him.


October 29:
  • General federal election. Conservatives under Arthur Meighen win largest number of seats, but not a majority. Is defeated in York North. Remains in office as Prime Minister, supported by the Progressives.


February 15:
  • Elected in a by-election in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
June 28:
  • Asks Governor General Byng for dissolution but Byng refuses, saying the Conservatives deserve a chance. He resigns.
June 29:
  • Arthur Meighen is sworn in as Prime Minister.
July 2:
  • Meighen Government is defeated.
September 14:
  • General elections. Liberals are returned to power.
September 25:
  • Returns to office as Prime Minister.


March 31:
  • Old Age Pensions Act is passed.
July 1:
  • Diamond Jubilee of Confederation. During this summer, Ottawa receives many distinguished visitors, including the Prince of Wales, Charles Lindbergh, and British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin.
  • The Message of the Carillon is published.


August 27:
  • Along with representatives of 15 other countries, he signs the Multilateral Treaty for Renunciation of War (Kellogg-Briand Pact) in Paris.


  • Appoints first woman Senator, Cairine Wilson.
July 28:
  • General elections. Conservatives under R.B. Bennett win a majority. He is re-elected in Prince Albert.
August 7:
  • Bennett is sworn in as Prime Minister. King becomes Leader of the Opposition.


  • His interest in spiritualism increases. He attends séances.


October 14:
  • General federal election. Liberals win a majority.
October 23:
  • Becomes Prime Minister again. He travels to the United States to visit President F.D. Roosevelt.


May 12:
  • Attends coronation of King George VI.
  • Travels in England, Scotland, France and Germany, has discussions with Adolf Hitler and Rudolf Hess, and attends an opera with Hermann Goering.


August 18:
  • With U.S. President F.D. Roosevelt, he opens the Thousand Islands International Bridge, Ivy Lea, Ontario.


May 17:
  • King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) arrive for a visit of Canada and parts of the United States. He welcomes them at Quebec City, and accompanies them on their tour.
June 15:
  • End of the Royal Tour. The King and Queen sail for home.
September 1:
  • Germany invades Poland.
September 3:
  • Britain declares war on Germany.
September 10:
  • Canada declares war on Germany.


March 26:
  • General federal election. Liberals win another majority.
  • War in Western Europe becomes intense.
late May-early June:
  • Evacuation of Dunkirk.
June 10:
  • Canada declares war on Italy.
August 1:
  • Senate passes the Unemployment Insurance Bill.
August 17:
  • Mackenzie King and President Roosevelt sign the Ogdensburg Agreement.
  • Permanent Joint Board of Defence is established.


July 15:
  • His dog, Pat I, dies.
  • Makes a trip to Britain, his first journey by air.
  • Acquires another dog, a second Irish Terrier called Pat.
  • Canadian troops sent to Hong Kong.
December 7:
  • Japan attacks Pearl Harbour.
December 8:
  • Canada declares war on Japan.
December 25:
  • Hong Kong falls to the Japan. Many Canadian casualties.
December 30-31:
  • British Prime Minister Winston Churchill visits Ottawa.


  • National plebiscite on conscription.
August 19:
  • Dieppe raid. Many Canadian casualties.


  • Construction of the Alaska Highway.


  • Quebec Conference. He attends with Winston Churchill and F.D. Roosevelt.
August 25:
  • President Roosevelt visits Ottawa.


June 6:
  • D-Day. British, American and Canadian troops begin the liberation of Europe.
August 1:
  • Family Allowance Bill passed by the House of Commons.
  • Second Quebec Conference.
  • Conscription crisis.


  • Attends United Nations conference in San Francisco.
May 8:
  • V-E Day. The war in Europe ends.
June 11:
  • General elections in Canada. Liberals win another majority, but he is personally defeated in Prince Albert.
June 26:
  • In San Francisco, he signs United Nations Charter on behalf of Canada.
July 1:
  • Family Allowance Act comes into effect.
August 6:
  • Elected in a by-election in Glengarry, Ontario.
August 15:
  • V-J Day. The Second World War ends.


January 1:
  • Canadian Citizenship Act comes into effect. He receives certificate as first Canadian citizen.
June 25:
  • Mackenzie King, St. Laurent, and others meet with a delegation from Newfoundland to discuss the possible entry of Newfoundland into the Canadian Confederation.
August 11:
  • His dog, Pat II, dies.


July 22:
  • By a narrow margin, Newfoundland votes to join Canada.
  • Acquires another dog, Pat III.
August 7:
  • Resigns as leader of the Liberal Party. Louis St. Laurent is chosen as the new leader.
November 15:
  • Resigns as Prime Minister. St. Laurent is sworn in as Prime Minister. He continues to sit as a regular Member of Parliament.


April 30:
  • Parliament is dissolved and an election is called. He is not a candidate in the election; therefore, this date marks the end of his parliamentary career.
June 27:
  • General federal election. The Liberals under St. Laurent win a majority.


June 26:
  • With friends Joan and Godfroy Patteson, Mackenzie King moves to Kingsmere for the summer.
July 20:
  • Suffers a heart attack and slips into unconsciousness. (Note: The diary entries for July 20 to 22, 1950, are written by a new staff member, Rolland Lafleur.)
July 21-22:
  • Staff members, including Fred McGregor and Edouard Handy, come to Kingsmere. Family and close associates are informed of his condition.
July 22:
  • Joan Patteson, staff and family members come to pay their respects. At 9:42 p.m., he dies.