'The Chinese Question': race, real estate cited 132 years ago according to Vancouver's first newspaper

UBC has acquired the city's first newspaper, printed in 1886. Even back then, questions about race, identity and the city’s place in a globalizing world were dominating public attention.

UBC acquires city's first newspaper, which will be available online for the public to read

Printed Jan. 15 1886, this copy of the Vancouver Weekly Herald and North Pacific News is said to be the first printed paper in Vancouver history. (University of British Columbia)

Even before Vancouver was a city, questions about race, identity and the city's place in a globalizing world were dominating public attention.

The University of British Columbia has acquired the city's first printed newspaper, titled The Weekly Herald and North Pacific News, which, at 132 years old, predates Vancouver's incorporation by three months.

On the front page was a story with the headline  "The Chinese Question:" a piece about legislation aimed at preventing Chinese workers from working on government contracts.

An edition of the paper printed shortly after described town meetings where people demanded that land not be sold to Chinese people.

"These are stories and themes that we're still grappling with today and it's interesting to see how we've evolved and maybe haven't evolved," said Katherine Kalsbeek, the library's head of rare books and special collections.

Kalsbeek says having pieces like this old newspaper in the collection are important because they show how our city has changed and how it has stayed the same.

"Our primary core mandate of the collection is to acquire anything related to the history and development of British Columbia."

The first edition of The Weekly Herald and North Pacific News acquired by UBC was printed Jan. 15, 1886.

It's a broadsheet paper: 45 centimetres wide and 60 centimetres long.

And as you might expect from a 132-year-old newsprint document, it has yellowed slightly. It has some tears and ink stains and is so fragile it must be preserved in a special case.

"The fact that this has survived for almost 132 years is pretty remarkable," she said.

Kalsbeek says the paper will be scanned so that anyone who wants to read it online can do so.

She estimates it will be available electronically by the end of January.

With files from Deborah Goble, Matthew Lazin-Ryder and CBC Radio One's On The Coast

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