Pierre Berton (Pierre Berton)

Pierre Berton

Canadian Author, Historian, and Journalist. A prolific writer, he authored 50 non-fiction books. He wrote on popular culture, Canadian history, critiques of mainstream religion, anthologies, children’s books and historical works for youth. His books became popular because his light and fast-paced style was not weighted down by footnotes or deep probes into primary sources. He was born Pierre Francis de Marigny Berton in Whitehorse, Yukon, where his father had moved for the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush. In 1921 his family moved to Dawson City, Yukon in 1921, and in 1932 they moved again to Victoria, British Columbia in 1932. His mother was a schoolteacher who moved to Dawson City in 1907. He worked in Klondike mining camps during his years as a history major at the University of British Columbia in Kelowna, where he also worked on the student paper The Ubyssey. He spent his early newspaper career in Vancouver, where at 21 he was the youngest city editor on any Canadian daily, replacing editorial staff that had been called up during World War II. In 1942 he was drafted into the Canadian Army and became an officer, but remained in Canada until March 1945 when he was sent to England. He returned to Canada after the end of the war, and in 1947 he went on an expedition to the Nahanni River in the Canadian Northwest Territories with pilot Russ Baker, and his account for the Vancouver Sun was picked up by International News Service, making him a noted adventure-travel writer. Shortly afterwards, he moved to Toronto, Ontario, Canada and became the managing editor of the weekly news magazine Macleans. In 1957 he became a key member of the CBC’s public affairs flagship program, Close-Up, and a permanent panelist on the popular television show Front Page Challenge. That same year, he also narrated the Academy Award-nominated National Film Board of Canada documentary City of Gold, exploring life in his hometown of Dawson City during the Klondike Gold Rush. He then released an album in conjunction with Folkways Records, entitled “The Story of the Klondike: Stampede for Gold – The Golden Trail.” In 1958 he joined the Toronto Star as associate editor of the Star Weekly and columnist for the daily paper, leaving in 1962 to host the Canadian television’s “The Pierre Berton Show,” which ran until 1973. His television career included spots as host and writer on “My Country,” “The Great Debate,” “Heritage Theatre,” “The Secret of My Success,” and “The National Dream,” and from 1966 to 1984, he and long-time collaborator Charles Templeton made the daily syndicated radio debate show “Dialogue.” In 1994 the Pierre Berton Award was established and is presented annually by Canada’s National History Society for distinguished achievement in presenting Canadian history in an informative and engaging manner, and he was the first recipient of this award. Other notable awards include the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour (1959), the Governor General’s Awards for “The Mysterious North” (1956), “Klondike” (1958), and “The Last Spike” (1972), the Nellie Award for Best Public Affairs Broadcaster in Radio (1978), the Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), the Canadian Authors Association Literary Award for Non-Fiction (1981), the Canadian Booksellers Award (1982), the Companion of the Order of Canada (1986), Canada’s Walk of Fame (1998), the Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal (2002), and the Toronto Humanist of the Year (2003). He died of heart failure in Toronto at the age of 84. His writings, including finished books and articles as well as manuscripts, drafts, and research material are held in the Pierre Berton fonds at the McMaster University Archives in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. In October 2004 the Pierre Berton Resource Library, named in his honor, was opened in Vaughan, Ontario. His two-volume history of the war of 1812 was republished in 2011 as “Pierre Berton’s War of 1812.” His childhood home in Dawson City, Yukon, now called Berton House, is currently used as a retreat for professional Canadian writers. (bio by: William Bjornstad) Cause of death: Heart failure


  • July, 12, 1920
  • Canada


  • November, 11, 2004
  • Canada

Cause of Death

  • Heart failure


  • Cremated

2253 profile views