KRIBS, LOUIS P., journalist, publisher, and author; b. 27 Feb. 1857 in Hespeler (Cambridge), Upper Canada, son of Ludwig (Lewis) Kribs, carpenter, and Elizabeth Pannebecker; m. 1880 Millie Cliff, and they adopted six children; d. 24 March 1898 in Ottawa.
Educated in Hespeler, Louis P. Kribs worked as a youth in the “lumber camps north of Barrie.” In the late 1870s he entered journalism as a reporter for the Toronto Globe but soon moved to Barrie to become editor of the Northern Advance. Later he became editor and proprietor of the Bruce Herald in Walkerton. He sold that paper in 1884 and returned to Toronto to join the News under the innovative Edmund Ernest Sheppard*, first as city editor and then, using the pseudonym Henry Pica, as the author of a popular series of articles featuring commentary on events of the day. According to American critic Walter Blackburn Harte, Kribs “did the best work of his life in his struggle to make a success of the News.” He left the News and went to Ottawa as parliamentary correspondent for the Toronto Daily Mail for one session, but after that journal renounced the policies of the Conservative government [see Christopher William Bunting], he resigned and edited the Daily Standard in Toronto, a campaign journal established by the Conservatives during the general election of 1887. Kribs next worked for the Toronto World but when the Conservative Empire was founded later in 1887, he became its news editor and afterwards its Ottawa correspondent. He was elected president of the Parliamentary Press Gallery in 1891.
The immensely likeable Kribs was described by newspaperman Hector Willoughby Charlesworth* as a “bulky blonde figure who looked like a German comedian and was nick-named ‘The Crown Prince.’” A gifted oboe player, he often whiled away late hours at the Empire, Charlesworth recounted, in “melancholy duets” with James Watson Curran on trombone. His flair for fun, hoaxes, and provocation had earlier buttressed Sheppard’s efforts to revitalize the News, but with mixed results. Kribs’s false announcement in 1885 that Sir John A. Macdonald had retired caused excitement; however, his unfortunate repetition in print that year of a story that the 65th Battalion of Montreal had shirked its duty in the North-West rebellion led to a libel suit against Sheppard. Four years later, after he had left the News, his dismissal at a municipal campaign meeting in Toronto of John Ross Robertson*’s Evening Telegram as a “ratsheet” almost caused a riot. Though he had shared the social radicalism of William Wallace* and fellow newsmen Thomas Phillips Thompson* and Alexander Whyte Wright* in the 1880s, Kribs was a persistent Conservative in politics. John Stephen Willison* of the Globe, who endured Kribs’s gibes in Ottawa at the time of the affair concerning Thomas McGreevy in 1891, charitably recalled Kribs as “devoted to ‘the party,’ belligerent when his idols were defamed, but so abounding in human kindness that his partisan ferocity had the flavour of comedy.” During the federal election campaign of 1891, Macdonald’s last, Kribs reputedly coined the party slogan “The Old Man, the Old Policy and the Old Flag.”
Like most members of the journalistic fraternity of central Canada, Kribs was an outspoken critic of temperance. In 1892, when the royal commission on the liquor traffic in Canada was appointed, he resigned from the Empire to represent the brewing and distilling interests. He presented a hard-hitting brief to the commission, replete with facts and figures drawn from all over Canada and the United States, to show that “drunkenness is greater, crime is greater, infractions of the law are more numerous, while general prosperity is less under a prohibitive than under a license law.” In 1894 he produced a summary of the commission’s Report for the Canadian Brewers’ and Distillers’ Association. As well, Kribs edited the Advocate (Toronto), a journal that represented those interests during the two years that it existed (1894–95).
Although he was an Orangeman, Kribs took up his pen in 1895 in support of the Roman Catholic minority of Manitoba, whose loss of school rights had become a burning national issue [see D’Alton McCarthy]. In a vigorous and able pamphlet he argued that the Canadian constitution embodied compacts guaranteeing the rights of minorities. Parliament’s failure to uphold the compact in the case of the Catholics in Manitoba would, in his view, be a “triumph of expediency over right,” “a despicable yielding up of the weak to the strong,” and contrary to “every rule of British fair play.” Kribs thus took high constitutional and moral ground. Archbishop Adélard Langevin* of St Boniface mentioned his pamphlet when he rebuked Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier*, who opposed federal remedial legislation, for not speaking out in support of the minority.
Kribs was ailing for the last few years of his life, evidently from the effects of typhoid fever, and he resided quietly in Weston (Toronto). He nevertheless took an active part in the Conservative election campaign of 1896. He died during a visit to Ottawa two years later and was buried in Hespeler.
Kribs had been prominent as a journalist, particularly in Ontario, and, although he held strong opinions politically, he was highly popular with journalists of all shades of opinion. At his death there were many tributes to both his ability and his genial and benevolent nature. The Globe commented: “The blues used to take wings at the sight of his burly frame and the sound of his friendly voice and hearty laugh. As a writer he was full of force and rollicking humor, but although he might hit an opponent hard and overwhelm him with harmless fun, there was never a suspicion of vemon in his invective or in his mirth. Generous, manly, clear and vigorous in intellect, sound in heart, his death is, in no merely conventional sense, a loss to the community.”
Kribs is the author of Report of Louis P. Kribs in connection with the investigation held by the Canadian royal commission on the liquor traffic (Toronto, 1894) and The Manitoba school question considered historically, legally and controversially (Toronto, 1895).
NA, MG 26, G, 9, Langevin to Laurier, 11 May 1895; RG 31, C1, 1861, 1871, Hespeler. W. B. Harte, “Canadian journalists and journalism,” New England Magazine (Boston), new ser., 5 (1891–92): 437. Daily Mail and Empire, 25 March 1898. Evening News (Toronto), 25 March 1898. Globe, 25 March 1898. Montreal Daily Star, 24 March 1898. Toronto World, 25 March 1898. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1898). E. E. Eby and J. B. Snyder, A biographical history of early settlers and their descendants in Waterloo Township, with Supplement, ed. E. D. Weber (Kitchener, Ont., 1971), 254. Christopher Armstrong and H. V. Nelles, The revenge of the Methodist bicycle company: Sunday streetcars and municipal reform in Toronto, 1888–1897 (Toronto, 1977). H. [W.] Charlesworth, Candid chronicles: leaves from the note book of a Canadian journalist (Toronto, 1925), 76–81. Cook, Regenerators. J. S. Willison, Reminiscences, political and personal (Toronto, 1919), 120.
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