Brunswick Press

Double Exposure, Alden Nowlan; Brunswick Press
Double Exposure, Alden Nowlan; Brunswick Press

The University Press of New Brunswick Ltd., known also as Brunswick Press or University Press, was created by letters patent, issued in Fredericton on 22 December 1950, and gazetted on 10 January 1951, with a capital stock of $500,000 (later increased to $1M in March 1951 and rumoured to have been bankrolled by Lord Beaverbrook).

The Press was incorporated for the purpose of printing, publishing, stimulating the graphic arts, and carrying out the trade of printing and publishing books, newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and decorative works of all kinds. The Press absorbed Fredericton's McMurray Book and Stationery Company and the T. Amos Wilson printing firm, owned and operated by Harry W. Wilson. Despite its name, the Press had no affiliation with the University of New Brunswick. Its headquarters was on Queen Street, Fredericton, in the Barbour Building (later known as the Gleaner building), at the corner of Phoenix Square.

The story of the University Press of New Brunswick is inextricably associated with Brigadier Michael Wardell (1895-1978). He was a close associate of Lord Beaverbrook, having first joined the Beaverbrook newspapers in London in 1926 after a career in the military. When he returned to Fleet Street once again at the end of the Second World War, he rose to become vice-chairman of the Beaverbrook organization.

After a casual visit to Beaverbrook’s New Brunswick, Wardell bought the local newspaper, the Daily Gleaner, in the summer of 1950. His purchase and establishment of the Press later that same year was made possible by the strong financial backing from a group of British and Canadian supporters, including Beaverbrook and Sir James Dunn.

Wardell was able to recruit to Fredericton some "imported experts" to run his enterprise, including Victor Hemming, formerly composing room manager of the London Times and one of the top typographers in Great Britain. Similarly, New Brunswick journalist and publicity executive, Horace Block, became managing director of the Gleaner.

Within his first five years in Fredericton, Wardell had launched The Atlantic Advocate magazine, successor to The Maritime Advocate & Busy East, and the shorter-lived Atlantic Guardian. The editorial aim of the much more successful Advocate, which was published by the University Press of New Brunswick, was "to fight the battles of the Atlantic Provinces, which will win for them a fair place in the life of Canada." One key to this, recalled Fredericton bookseller Margaret Hall, was that the University Press was the first publishing house in Canada to publish local authors. The Press's first New Brunswick title was Grace Helen Mowat's Broken Barrier (1951). By 1967, the Press had issued more than 80 titles, clearly affirming Canadian literary critic Desmond Pacey's declaration that "this venture [the Press and The Atlantic Advocate] not only fills a need in the cultural life of the province but provides a powerful stimulus to fresh creative effort." Pacey himself was frequently published in the pages of the Advocate and the larger Press.

In 1968, New Brunswick industrialist K.C. Irving assumed ownership of both the Gleaner and The Atlantic Advocate. The University Press of New Brunswick continued until the late 1970s, publishing beautiful books that showcased the creative and intellectual energies of New Brunswickers.

Patricia L. Belier, Summer 2011
University of New Brunswick

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

“Brigadier General Michael Wardell Correspondence.” Beaverbrook Canadian Correspondence. MG H 56. UNB Archives & Special Collections.

“Historical Sketch of the Daily Gleaner.” August 2010

McGowan, Robert S. "University Press of New Brunswick." CLA Bulletin 7.6 (May 1951): 211-12.

Pacey, Desmond. "Contemporary Writing in New Brunswick." Arts in New Brunswick. Ed. R.A. Tweedie, Fred Cogswell, and W. Stewart MacNutt. Fredericton: Brunswick Press, 1967. 33-40.

Royal Gazette. "Letters Patent." 10 January 1951, v. 109, p. 10-11; and "Supplement: Letters Patent.” 28 March 1951, v. 109, p. 128.

Tweedie, R.A. On With the Dance: A New Brunswick Memoir, 1935-1960. Fredericton: New Ireland Press, 1986.