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Description found in Archives

Leonard Matheson Norris fonds [graphic material]. 



Place of creation

British Columbia

818 drawings.

Scope and content

Fonds comprises original editorial cartoons by Len Norris which were published in the Vancouver Sun from the early 1950s to the mid-1980s. Norris' style is characterized more as social commentary than political investigation. Recurring issues include bilingualism, western alienation, separatism, language issues, the monarchy, government waste, the Armed Forces, taxes, the civil service, and British Columbia provincial elections and cabinets under Premiers W.A.C. Bennett, Dave Barrett and Bill Vander Zalm. Local issues include road construction, gardening, tourism and weather.

Graphic (art)
90: Open
Archival reference no.

Terms of use

Copyright remains with the estate of the artist until 2049.

Works have been item-level catalogued in the Minisis-ICON data base. (Electronic)

Biography / Administrative history

Cartoonist. Leonard Matheson Norris was born in London, England on December 1, 1913 and immigrated with his family in 1926, first to Port Arthur, Ontario; in the 1930s, he relocated to Toronto. After one year of night courses at the Ontario College of Art, he joined the Stanfield Advertising Agency as art director from 1938-1940. In 1940, he enrolled in the Canadian Army where he served as the editor, writer and illustrator for a maintenance magazine entitled "Cam" for the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineeers Corps. In recognition of his achievements, he was awarded the Member of the Order of the British Empire. From 1945-1950, he worked as art director for Maclean-Hunter Publishing.

A recommendation from Maclean's magazine editor Pierre Berton led to a job as political cartoonist with the Vancouver Sun in 1950. Eschewing the more savage traditional style of political cartooning, Norris worked within the more gentle British genre of non-political, social commentary. His influences were such English masters as Carl Giles, Emwood and Trog. Norris' perspective was always that of the ordinary citizen, baffled by rather than angry with political issues and players. Recurring characters in his drawings included the diabolical child Filbert Phelps and his long-suffering parents and a crusty anglophile and royalist named Rodney. He invented mythical backdrops such as Tiddlycove and Amblesnide to parody affluent Vancouver suburbs and their residents. His treatment of Victoria as perpetually quaint, stuffy and replete with crumpet shops, was legendary. The civil service, the tax department, bilingualism and separatism were themes to which he often returned.

Throughout a career that spanned close to 40 years, Norris' popularity was enormous and reflected by fast-selling annual book reprints. An early winner of the National Newspaper Award, he was also presented with an honorary Doctorate of Law from the University of Windsor in 1973. In 1974, he was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and to the News Hall of Fame in 1979. Len Norris died in 1997. See artist's file 707-25. Also, annual reprints of Norris' cartoons published by the Vancouver Sun and the National Archives' publication "Norris La Palme", 1990.

Additional information

Custodial history
Acquired from the cartoonist.

Associated material note
Also included in the Archives' holdings are an additional 14 cartoons by Norris received, primarily, through the collections of prominent politicians such as Lester B. Pearson and Jean-Luc Pepin. Norris' originals have also been collected by the British Columbia Archives and the Vancouver City Archives.

Exhibitions note
In 1990, the National Archives held an exhibition at the Canadian Museum of Caricature, which featured the work of Len Norris and Robert La Palme. An exhibition catalogue was also produced.

Subject heading

1. Editorial cartoons British Columbia.
2. Caricatures en page éditoriale Colombie-Britannique.
3. Editorial cartoons Canada.
4. Caricatures en page éditoriale Canada.
5. Caricatures and cartoons Canada.
6. Caricatures et dessins humoristiques Canada.
7. Canadian wit and humor, Pictorial.
8. Humour par l'image canadien.


Related control no.

1. 1979-063 PIC
2. 1987-036 PIC
3. 1987-040 PIC
4. 1988-243 DAP