Library and Archives Canada (LAC) is proud to present its Canadian pulp art and fiction collection, straight from the special collections vault. The collection featured in this virtual exhibit, Tales from the Vault!: Canadian Pulp Fiction, 1940-1952, is one of the very few known pulp magazine holdings in Canada, and is available for consultation at LAC.
This site is written in a snappy style similar to that used by the pulp writers of the 1940s and 1950s. It highlights and exhibits portions (covers and some text) of the English and French sections of the collection while providing an introduction to the pulp fiction industry in general, the beginnings of the Canadian pulp fiction industry, and selected areas of discussion and themes found within the collection.
In this exhibit you will be able to examine a diverse presentation of covers, selected advertisements and text, as well as a gallery of covers of particular interest to fans of pulp art. An additional feature is the presence of six full-length issues from the LAC collection that reflect a variety of societal themes such as gender portrayal and relationships, racism, Canadian identity and language use.
The LAC pulp fiction collection contains a cross-section of magazines, original manuscripts, cover art and proofs of covers, as well as source material such as photos and newspaper and magazine clippings. The collection also includes various pocket novels and serials written mainly between 1940 and 1952. The English portion of the collection was acquired in 1997 while the French portion was obtained over the course of the years 2002 and 2003.
Most of the pulp publishers active during the 1940s were marginal at best and often published under various guises and from more than one location. Generally, the activities of these publishers were viewed as disreputable. With the passage of the Fulton Act of 1949, it became illegal to publish comics, magazines or books that allegedly depicted crime, immorality or lurid tales.
The years following the passage of the Fulton Act were unkind to the pulp publishers; by the mid-1950s few of the companies established in the 1940s remained in business. For this reason, it is extremely unlikely that more of this literature will surface in the foreseeable future. As these were cheaply produced publications, this meant they were rarely kept and, once thrown away, were lost forever.
Tales from the Vault! and the LAC pulp fiction collection offer the opportunity for invaluable study of the development of literature genres, gender stereotypes, societal mores and laws, popular entertainment and art, and the pulp production process in the period following the Second World War.
Be warned! Canadian culture is multifaceted, spanning great human triumphs and disappointment. However, pulp fiction from this era was considered lewd, bawdy and seedy -- a bit embarrassing, too. What was once lowbrow has become mainstream. Nevertheless, the study of pulp fiction contributes to our understanding of Canada's documentary heritage. Pulp fiction is a part of our society and continues to creep into our daily lives.