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Rabbit Holes in the Archives and Library of the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies:

Updated: Nov 22, 2019

The Totem Sea Plane’s Foray to Banff National Park


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By Lindsay Stokalko, Reference Archivist/Librarian

A peruse through copy negatives created from a photo album in the Leonard Leacock fonds for the last Rabbit Hole Cairn article revealed a photograph of a “flying boat” docked on Lake Minnewanka (Figure 1).


Figure 1 - The flyingboat “Totem” at Minnewanka about 1932, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Leacock family fonds (V352/lc-35)

This fascinating plane was the Boeing-built A-213 – the only of its type. Designed by Captain E. F. (Edward Fothergill) Elderton and built in 1931, it was mostly stainless steel with an “Alclad” exterior. The Totem had a monoplane wing with spruce spars covered in fabric, with a 300 hp Pratt & Whitney Wasp R985 Junior A 9-cylinder air cooled radial engine mounted above the wing (Figure 2).



Figure 2 – [Totem on Amethyst Lake, Jasper National Park], 1933, Morris Taylor/photographer, Jasper Yellowhead Museum & Archives


This arrival flight from Jasper was reported in the July 21st,1933 Crag and Canyon (Figure 3).

Figure 3 – “Flies from Jasper to Banff in Seaplane” July 21, 1933 Crag and Canyon – available on Our Roots website via the University of Calgary: https://cdm22007.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p22007coll2/id/3836/rec/7

Figure 4 – Boeing Aircraft Co. "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF landing on Lake Louise as photographed by Slim Rusch in July of 1933 – copy of photo was provided to Jon Whelan by Emma Rusch from a Rusch family photo album

The Totem landing on Lake Louise (Figure 4) was photographed by Slim (Rudolph) Rusch (Figure 5), an employee of Canadian Pacific Hotels from 1926 to the 1960s, who was in charge of repairs to the Chateau Lake Louise, and all associated tea houses, lodges, and bungalow camps (personal communication, Jon Whelan). In the 1970s, Jon Whelan worked with Slim Rusch on the “Shutter Control Crew” who were responsible for closing the Chateau Lake Louise in September, and re-opening it again in the spring when the hotel was operated seasonally. When Jon Whelan visited Emma Rusch in Revelstoke in the late 1990s, she shared many albums she and Slim had created and the above image was included.



Figure 5 - Rusch, “Slim” – Revelstoke, B.C., Nicholas Morant/photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Nicholas Morant fonds (V500/A2/P-83/na-2)

This piqued Jon’s interest. He made a copy of the photograph and inquired with Lena Goon, who was Reference Archivist at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Archives at the time. She then found a photograph of the Totem on Lake Louise in Banff National Park (Figure 6).


Figure 6 – Boeing Totem F/B – 1st airplane landing on Lake Louise – Sport Pilot, September, 1933 page. 31, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Ross Richardson fonds (V533/pa-1)

This photograph is from the Ross Richardson fonds – Jon Whelan tracked down Ross Richardson’s contact information and got in touch with him. Ross then provided Jon with this additional photograph of the Totem approaching the dock at Lake Louise (Figure 7).


Figure 7 – - [Boeing Aircraft Co. "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF approaching dock at Lake Louise], 1933, – copy of photo was provided to Jon Whelan by Ross Richardson

I decided to take a closer look at the Ross Richardson fonds. When I started researching the Boeing A-213 Totem Flying Boat, I only found a few mentions of it online on sites such as Avia Déjà Vu and 1000 Aircraft Photos, however I was unsure where these sites sourced their information. When I pulled the textual documents (M422) in Ross’ fonds I found my answer.


Figure 8 - Ross Richardson, Bill Gibbons/photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Bill Gibbons fonds (V227/I/A/na-1711)

Within the fonds are:

  • Document entitled “Boeing Flying Boat” which outlines performance, areas, weights, dimensions, finish, equipment, construction, maintenance costs, drawings of the plane – a note indicates that all information was taken from the original brochure (M422/1)

  • Copy of Ross’ handwritten notes, including dates of operation, owners, additional notes and stories and references for original sources (M422/2)

  • Document entitled “Boeing Totem” which includes a summary of the test flight by D.R. MacLaren and engineer/designer E.F. Elderton, which lead to rudder improvements and revealed some fuel pump failures (M422/3)

  • A copy of an article from the September 23, 1932 Flight magazine (pages 890-892) entitled “The Boeing Totem” (M422/4) which includes very detailed information, drawings, and photographs all available online here which appears to be the original source of information for the two websites where I began my search

  • Information about another flying boat that made an appearance in Banff National Park several years earlier than the Totem– the Norman Thompson N.T.2B Flying Boat (Figure 9) built in 1916 and was owned by Rocky Mountain Aviation Transport Company of Banff Alberta from 1921 to 1924 (M422/5 to 8)


Figure 9 - Sea Plane, Lake Minnewanka, ca. 1921-1924, George Noble/photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, George Noble fonds (V469/I/na-414)

There was a follow-up in the July, 28th, 1933 Crag and Canyon regarding whether or not there would be enough interest in the $5/person flights for the plane and pilot to be able to stay in the Banff area (Figure 10).



Figure 10 – “Will Make Short Flights on Sunday from Minnewanka” July 28, 1933 Crag and Canyon – available on Our Roots website via the University of Calgary: https://cdm22007.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p22007coll2/id/3844/rec/7

Banff locals such as Cyril Paris, Peter Whyte, and Alan Mather took advantage of these flights, enjoying aerial view of the areas lakes, and there are several photographs of the Totem in Peter and Catharine Whyte’s fonds (Figure 11, 12, 13).



Figure 11 Figure 12 Figure 13


Figure 11 - [Boeing Aircraft Co. "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF], 1933, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/III/A/1/pa-313)

Figure 12 – [Boeing Aircraft Co. "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF], 1933, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/III/A/3/pa-494)

Figure 13 – [Boeing Aircraft Co. "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF], 1933, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/III/A/3/pa-495)


However, the $5/person charge for a sightseeing or fishing flight during the Depression was seemingly unsustainable, so Captain Holland and the Totem did not remain in Banff long – departing back to Vancouver in August of 1933 (Figure 14).


Figure 14 – “Seaplane makes fast time to Vancouver” August 5, 1933 Crag and Canyon - – available on Our Roots website via the University of Calgary: https://cdm22007.contentdm.oclc.org/digital/collection/p22007coll2/id/3869/rec/15

Cliff White, Cameron Stockand and James Chalmers took advantage of a fishing trip to Marvel Lake before the departure of the Totem back to Vancouver (Figure 15).


Figure 15 - Cliff Sr. got in a plane & flew to Lake Minnewanka, 1933, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Dave White fonds (V681/A/1/pa-112)


There are four additional photographs of the Totem in the City of Vancouver Archives – Stuart Thomson fonds (Figure 16, 17, 18, 19).


Figure 16 - Boeing Aircraft Co. of Canada, "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF, ca. 1932, Stuart Thomson/photographer, City of Vancouver Archives, Stuart Thomson fonds (AM1535 – CVA 99-2339)

Figure 17 - Boeing Aircraft Co. of Canada, "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF cockpit, ca. 1932, Stuart Thomson/photographer, City of Vancouver Archives, Stuart Thomson fonds (AM1535 – CVA 99-2340)

Figure 18 - Boeing Aircraft Co. of Canada, "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF on hoist, ca. 1932, Stuart Thomson/photographer, City of Vancouver Archives, Stuart Thomson fonds (AM1535 - CVA 99-2338)


Figure 19 - Boeing Aircraft Co. of Canada, "Totem" flying boat CF-ARF on hoist, ca. 1932, Stuart Thomson/photographer, City of Vancouver Archives, Stuart Thomson fonds (AM1535 - CVA 99-2341)

Captain Holland had to return the Totem to Vancouver as it had been sold by Boeing. The registration history of CF-ARF (and other aircrafts) can be found on the Canadian Aviation History - Historical Register (and interestingly the Totem is Canadian Aviation History’s airplane of the month for November 2019!):

So what happened to the Totem once it returned to Vancouver? The intended purpose of the Totem was several aspects considered “bush flying” and ranged from “fishery patrol, forestry patrol, mining and prospecting operations, and many others of the varied uses which aircraft can be put in developing the natural resources of Canada” (Flight Magazine, September 23, 1932, pg. 890-892).


The Totem likely operated serving these purposes throughout its ten year life. Boeing sold the Totem to a V. Spence in August 1933 who then sold it to Canadian Airways in May 1935. Canadian Airways operated the Totem until January 1938, when a W. J. Dyson is listed as operator until February 1942. Sadly the Totem was scrapped during WWII, likely for the much needed metal and the popular, well-built Pratt & Whitney R-985 Wasp Junior engine.



The next rabbit hole in the archives we will explore is Adeline Link (Figure 20). What’s the connection between the Totem and Adeline link? Find out next time!

Figure 20 – [Adeline Link and Peter Whyte], ca. 1931-1943, Catharine Whyte/photographer, Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies, Peter and Catharine Whyte fonds (V683/III/A/1pd2/45-003)

Check out this great post by the Peel Art Gallery Museum and Archives from some excellent tips on how to best use reference services at archival institutions, then come in to explore your own research rabbit holes at the Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Archives & Library – appointments are preferred and recommended. You can reach us at archives@whyte.org.


References and Further Reading:


Whyte Museum of the Canadian Rockies Archives & Library:



  • Big thank you to Emma Rusch, Ross Richardson, and especially Jon Whelan who shared information he gathered about the Totem Sea Plane with the Whyte Museum Archives & Library

  • Another big thank you Karen Byers at the Jasper Yellowhead Museum and Archives for providing image JYMA 99-292: http://www.jaspermuseum.org/

Back to The Cairn

111 Bear Street, Banff, Alberta, T1L 1A3, Canada

T: 1 403 762 2291   

E: info [at] whyte.org

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