The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson


A National Post Bestseller!

How did Tom Thomson die in the summer of 1917?

Was landscape painter Tom Thomson shot by poachers, or by a German-American draft dodger? Did a blow from a canoe paddle knock him unconscious and into the water? Was he fatally injured in a drunken fight? Did he end his life out of fear of being forced to marry his pregnant girlfriend?

Commemorating the one-hundredth anniversary of the death of the renowned Canadian landscape painter, The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson offers an authoritative review of the historical record, as well as some theories you might not have thought of in a hundred years. Cultural historian Gregory Klages surveys first-hand testimony and archival records about Thomson’s tragic demise, attempting to sort fact from legend in the death of this Canadian icon.


Klages’ forensic archival sleuthing does provide, for the first time in almost a century, some degree of certainty surrounding this event.

Archival Narratives for Canada

Klages examines each hypothesis in turn, in clean, crisp prose.

The Many Deaths of Tom Thomson stands as both a conscientious case study and a larger investigation into what history can and cannot do.

Canada’s History

Klages has produced a timely and valuable contribution to the literature on Thomson that certainly will be of interest to historians, artists, and popular audiences.

Canadian Historical Review

About the Author

Gregory Klages

Posted by Dundurn Guest on July 14, 2015
Gregory Klages photo

Gregory Klages

Gregory Klages is the research director for Death on a Painted Lake: The Tom Thomson Tragedy, one of twelve archival websites produced by the international award–winning Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History project. His research concerning Thomson has appeared in Canadian and American publications, and been talked about in national newspapers. He has also shared his insights on television and radio across the country.