Matthews, James Skitt


MATTHEWS, James Skitt, archivist (b 7 Sept 1878, Newton, Wales; d 1970, Vancouver). After attending school in New Zealand, he immigrated to California. In 1899 he reached VANCOUVER, where he went to work for Imperial Oil. Active in the militia, he served overseas during WWI. He achieved the rank of major and was known as Major Matthews the rest of his life. After his retirement from business in 1924 he pursued his interest in Vancouver history. His documents, records and memorabilia filled up his home; when he transferred the collection to an attic room in city hall in 1931, the City Archives was born. After a dispute over ownership of the material was resolved in 1933, he was appointed city archivist and held the position until he retired in 1969, at age 91. Idiosyncratic in his approach to history and irascible by nature, Matthews was continuously embroiled in controversy with the city and the academic establishment, but his passion for collecting historical records—at a time when there was little official support—was undeniable, and his work inspired much excellent work that followed.