Fonds MG 1, vol. 877-879; microfilm reels 11028 - William G. Stairs fonds

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William G. Stairs fonds

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NSHP MG 1, vol. 877-879; microfilm reels 11028

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  • 32 cm of textual records
  • 3 cm of graphic material
  • 2 maps

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Biographical history

William Grant Stairs was born 28 Feb. 1863 at Halifax, N.S., the sixth child of John and Mary (Morrow) Stairs. He was educated at Fort Massey Academy, Halifax, N.S., Merchiston Castle School, Edinburgh, Scotland (1875-1878) and at the Royal Military College, Kingston, Ont. (1878-1882). He was first employed with the Government Trigonometrical Survey in New Zealand, then went to England where he entered the School of Military Engineering at Chatham. In 1885 he was commissioned a lieutenant in the Royal Engineers. In January 1887, Stairs was chosen to join the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition organized by Sir Henry M. Stanley. The expedition was designed to rescue Mehmed Emin Pasha, governor of the Equatorial Province of Egypt, who had been isolated in the vicinity of Lake Albert since the Mahdist revolt of 1882. Upon his return to England in 1889, Stairs was appointed adjutant to the Royal Engineers, Aldershot, and among other honours, was elected a fellow of the Scottish Royal Geographic Society. He visited Halifax in the late summer of 1890 where he was given a formal civic reception. In 1891 he was transferred to the 41st Welsh Regiment and promoted to captain. From July 1891 to 1892 he lead one of the Katanga expeditions organized by the Compagnie du Katanga/Congo Free State. He contracted blackwater fever and died 9 June 1892 at Chinde.

Custodial history

Anna P. Stairs of Halifax, youngest sister of William G. Stairs, donated the majority of the material in 1950. The scrapbook was donated by H.G. Stairs, Montreal, in 1962.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of journals (originals and typed transcripts), photographs, maps, and scrapbook kept by Captain William G. Stairs, primarily documenting the events of the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition and the publicity surrounding the expedition. Also includes an illustrated booklet entitled Stanley in Africa, newspaper clipping, bound program of the American Testimonial Banquet to Henry M. Stanley and his chief officers, and correspondence between Anna P. Stairs and other family members pertaining to the publication of William's journals.

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Journals microfilmed in 1971. Typed transcripts of the journals also available (transcript in vol. 2424 prepared by J.M. Konczacki, associate professor of history, Mount Saint Vincent University, in 1984).

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Originals in MG 1, vol. 877 and MG 9, vol. 63, and typed transcripts in MG 1, vol. 879 may not be photocopied.

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