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If a news reporter tests your knowledge on the street, asking you to identify an old, fluffy-haired man, you’ll want to be ready. “Why, that’s Sir John A. Macdonald,” you’ll say with an easy smile. Want to knock that reporter off his feet? Check out these resources and build up an arsenal of knowledge on the Old Chieftan in time for his 197th birthday on January 11!

John A. Macdonald

The Canadian Encyclopedia

Founded in 1985, the Canadian Encyclopedia is a free, bilingual resource on all things Canadian. It’s also our mother site! Check out its articles on:

Sir John A. Macdonald
Confederation
Fathers of Confederation
The Conservative Party
The Pacific Scandal
Election 1891: A Question of Loyalty
Book Review: John A. Macdonald’s Tragic Life
The Canadian Pacific Railway

 Sir John A. Day

Celebrate our founding father’s birthday with Historica-Dominion Institute‘s website, Sir John A. Day. With videos, a timeline, online resources, and a print-out party hat, history has never been more of a blast!

CBC Digital Archives

The CBC Digital Archives houses thousands of radio and television clips from CBC’s storied history as Canada’s public broadcaster. A search on John A. Macdonald reveals a store of riches collected under: Sir John A. Macdonald: Architect of Modern Canada. Listen to Macdonald’s great grandson speak about the origins and character of John A. Macdonald, from his humble origins to his notoriously heavy drinking; listen to a re-enactment of Macdonald’s most ambitious proposal in the House of Common: a transcontinental railway spanning the country from sea to sea, and watch as Macdonald enters the twenty-first century in the form of an action figure!

Library and Archives Canada

In 2004, the National Archives of Canada and the National Library of Canada were combined to form the Library and Archives Canada, a double-strength dose of Canadian knowledge. The site provides a biography of Sir John A. Macdonald, replete with artwork, primary documents and ephemera like an elaborate banquet menu in honour of the Old Chieftan.

John A: Birth of a Country

In the fall of 2011, CBC Television premiered the political drama, John A: Birth of a Country. It addition to being glossy and well-produced, it’s a surprisingly poignant portrayal of the power players of Canada’s early history. The drama follows the fight for control between Conservative leader John A. Macdonald and George Brown, leader of the future Liberal Party, as they are spurred to action by intense mutual hatred and wildly different visions for Canada. Watch the entire drama unfold on CBC Television.

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A still from the CBC drama, John A: Birth of a Country

The Macdonald Festival

If you’re around Kingston, Ontario this summer, head over to the Macdonald Festival, a celebration dedicated to examining the private life and political contributions of Canada’s first prime minister. The comedy, “Sir John, Eh? The Musical” is the highlight, performed in the Sanctuary of St. Andrew’s Church, where Macdonald regularly attended services. A picnic, vignettes by the Barefoot Players, and the walking tour, “In Sir John A. Macdonald’s Footsteps,” round out the rest of the festival’s activities.

The man Who Made Us

John A: The Man Who Made Us, Random House Canada, Toronto, 2007

John A: The Man Who Made Us

In 2007, the award-winning biographer Richard Gwyn brought us the first full-scale biography of Canada’s first prime minister in half a century with John A: The Man Who Made Us, covering the years from 1815 to 1867. In 2011, the second volume, Nation Maker: Sir John A. Macdonald: His Life, Our Times, was published to great acclaim. It covers Macdonald’s years from confederation in 1867 to his death in 1891. Both are must-reads for Canadian history buffs.