Walter Noble Sage



Born in London, Ontario, in 1888, Walter Sage was educated in both Canadian and English schools, and received his degrees from Oxford University and the University of Toronto. He lectured at Calgary College and at Queen’s University, and, at the age of thirty started his long association with the University of British Columbia, where for the last twenty years of his teaching career (1933-1953) he was Head of the Department of History. As one of the founding generation of faculty members, Sage had a great loyalty to the institution, which he fostered in many ways such as participating regularly in university ceremonies, such as convocations, when he joined his colleagues dressed in their colourful academic robes to demonstrate their affinity to their students at such a significant point in their careers This same desire to establish good relations with his students could be seen in his placing his priorities in his teaching, Like most of his colleagues in the Arts, and in contrast to those in Science, Sage was first and foremost a teacher, who saw his métier as handing on the wisdom and traditions of the past, rather than seeking to expand the frontiers of knowledge through original research During these early years the University’s resources, such as the number of books in its library, were very limited. The opportunities to undertake original research in distant libraries, or to partake in sabbatical leaves, were rare, and in the 1930s, during the Depression, entirely vanished. It was hardly surprising that Sage’s publication record was very slight, consisting mainly of short narrative articles. His area of specialty in his teaching lay in the colourful history of his adopted province, British Columbia. In 1921 he wrote an article on “The Gold Colony of British Columbia”, as the first of his contributions to the historical knowledge of the Pacific Northwest. In addition he supported local history associations to become established as part of the university’s public outreach, and readily accepted invitations to speak to such gatherings

The concentration in Walter Sage’s writing was the predominance of the biographical element, half of his twenty-six articles being devoted to such figures as Simon Fraser, Sir James Douglas, and the Spanish explorers. To him history, whether of the British Empire or of British Columbia, was a living study, absorbing for its revelation of human personality in action. It was this obvious enjoyment that made him a popular teacher, communicating his own pleasure in incident and anecdote, and delighted to discover and encourage a similar passion for history in the young. Generations of students at this university share the classroom memory of a burly figure shaking with infectious laughter while recalling the foibles of the great, or revealing an eager interest in the inter-relationships of character and event. At the same time, Sage had a strong sense of justice, and joined with his colleague in Economics, Henry Angus, in 1942 in protesting against the mistreatment of the Japanese immigrants who were rounded up and deported eastwards. This did not however lead him to take up a political engagement, which would in any case have been frowned upon by the university establishment. Inevitably, after the Second World War, when the university began its rapid and unprecedented expansion, Sage came to be seen as one of the now superseded old guard, a survivor of the unfortunate period of the Depression years, whose amateur contributions to the History profession were now to be overtaken by younger more professional scholars. His long service on the University Senate, however, was a sign of the esteem with which he was held by his contemporaries.


  • Canada
  • British Columbia

W.N. Sage. "Record of a Trip to Dawson, 1898": The Diary of John Smith. British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. 16, Nos. 1-2, Jan/Apr 1952, pp. 67-97: , Submitted.

W.N. Sage. Vancouver: The Rise of a City. The Dalhousie Review, 1937, pp. 49-54: , Submitted.

W.N. Sage. Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada: The Canoe Route : A Preliminary Statement. n.p., n.d: , Submitted.

H.F. Angus; F.W. Howay; W.N. Sage. British Columbia and the United States: the north Pacific slope from fur trade to aviation. New York: Russell & Russell, 1970.

W.N. Sage. Early Days of the Church of England on the Pacific Slope, 1579-1879. Montreal: Canadian Church Historical Society, 1953.

W.N. Sage. Richard C. Moody letters. : , 1951.

W.N. Sage. Canada : The Neighbor to the North. The Pacific Historical Review, V. 20, N. 2, May 1951, pp. 111-121: , 1951.

W.N. Sage. Garnett Gladwin Sedgewick, 1882-1949 : reprinted from the proceedings of the Royal Society of Canada. : , 1950.

W.N. Sage. Coal-seekers on Peace River, 1903. British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. 14, Nos. 1-2, Jan-Apr 1950, pp. 83-108: , 1950.

W.N. Sage. The North-West Mounted Police and British Columbia. Pacific Historical Review, V. 18, N. 3, Aug 1949, 345-361: , 1949.

W.N. Sage. Place of Fort Vancouver in the History of the Northwest. Pacific Northwest Quarterly, V. 39, N. 2, pp. 83-102, Apr 1948: , 1948.

W.N. Sage. Sir James Douglas, K.C.B. : The Father of British Columbia. British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. 11, N. 3, 1946, pp. 211-227: , 1946.

W.N. Sage. Where Stands Canadian History?: Presidential address. Report of the Annual Meeting of the Canadian Historical Association, 1945, pp. 5-14: , 1945.

W.N. Sage. Amor De Cosmos, Journalist and Politician. British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. 8, N. 3, July 1944, pp. 189-212: , 1944.

W.N. Sage. British Columbia Becomes Canadian (1871-1901). Queen's Quarterly, V. 52, N. 2, 1944: , 1944.

H.F. Angus; F.W. Howay; W.N. Sage. British Columbia and the United States: the north Pacific slope from fur trade to aviation. New Haven; Toronto: The Ryerson press, 1942.

W.N. Sage. The Historical Peculiarities of Canada with Regard to Hemisphere Defense. Pacific Historical Review, V. 10, N. 1, Mar. 1941, pp. 15-27: , 1941.

W.N. Sage. Robie Lewis Reid (1866-1945) - the Royal Society of Canada. : Royal Society of Canada, 1940.

W.N. Sage. John Foster McCreight, The First Premier of British Columbia. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, 3rd Series, Section II, V. 34, 1940, pp. 173-185: , 1940.

W.N. Sage. Towards New Horizons in Canadian History. The Pacific Historical Review, v.8, n.1, March 1939, pp.47-57: , 1939.

W.N. Sage. The position of the lieutenant-governor in British Columbia in the years following Confederation. from Ralph Flenley's Essays in Canadian History presented to George MacKinnon Wrong on his eigthieth birthday, The Macmillan Company, Toronto, 1939, pp. 178-203: , 1939.

W.N. Sage. From Colony to Province: The Introduction of Responsible Government in British Columbia. British Columbia Historical Quarterly, V. 3, N. 1, 1939, pp. 1-14: , 1939.

W.N. Sage. Geographical and cultural aspects of the five Canadas. Canadian Historical Association Report, 1937, pp. 28-34: , 1937.

W.N. Sage. The Critical Period of British Columbia History, 1866-1871. The Pacific Historical Review, Dec 1932, pp. 424-443: , 1932.

W.N. Sage. Spanish Explorers of the British Columbian Coast. Canadian Historical Review, Dec 1931, pp.390-406: , 1931.

W.N. Sage. Sir James Douglas. Toronto: The Ryerson Press, 1930.

W.N. Sage; T.C. Elliott. Governor George Simpson at Astoria in 1824. Oregon Historical Quarterly, V. 30, 1929, p. 106-110: , 1929.

W.N. Sage. The Annexationist Movement in British Columbia. Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada, Third Series, Section II, V. 21, 1927, pp. 97-110: , 1927.

W.N. Sage. James Douglas on the Columbia: Read before the Annual Meeting of the Members of the Oregon Historical Society, October 23, 1926. Oregon Historical Quarterly, V. 27, N. 4, Dec 1926: , 1926.

W.N. Sage. Sir Alexander Mackenzie and his influence on the history of the North West. Kingston: The Jackson Press, 1922.

W.N. Sage. Governor Douglas and the Establishment of the Gold Colony. Canadian Historical Review, V. 11, 1921, pp. 340-359: , 1921.

W.N. Sage. Sir George Arthur and his administration of Upper Canada. Kingston: Jackson Press, 1918.

W.N. Sage. The Chronicles of Thomas Sprott. Kingston: The Jackson Press, 1916.