In July 1954, there was a spectacular birthday party in an isolated Quebec town, hemmed in on three sides by thick bush, and on the fourth side bordering the St. Lawrence River. A large crowd enjoyed French-Canadian ballads played by an accordionist and fiddlers in colourful lumberjack shirts and neckerchiefs. According to a report in the Chicago Tribune, the three-foot-square birthday cake was topped by a model of the town’s founder paddling a canoe, “as he did when he surveyed the forests and streams of the Quebec north shore…in search of pulpwood.” A Toronto newspaper executive who attended the party, according to the same report, hailed the founder as “a bulwark of America and builder of Canada.”
From today’s perspective, the sentiment and spectacle ring hollow. The birthday boy, and focus of all this jubilation, was Colonel Robert McCormick, a powerful and eccentric Republican from Chicago who...
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