The 100-year history of Manitoba’s Golden Boy

CTV file image of The Golden Boy.

Eternal youth at 100: The Golden Boy who has watched over Manitoba for a century

Published Nov. 19, 2019 5:28 p.m. ET
Updated Nov. 20, 2019 9:43 a.m. ET

WINNIPEG -- One of the most iconic symbols of Manitoba may have been designed as a symbol of eternal youth, but as of Thursday, The Golden Boy has towered over the provincial capital for 100 years.

It was on Nov. 21, 1919 that The Golden Boy was hoisted to his position atop the Manitoba Legislative Building for the first time.

Vanessa Gregg, manager of the visitor tour program for the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, said it took quite the journey to get here.

“Our Golden Boy made five trips across the Atlantic Ocean, before he finally arrived here in 1919,” Gregg said, giving CTV News the story that has almost become Manitoba folklore.

Undated, historic file image of The Golden Boy from the CTV archives.

Parisian sculptor Georges Gardet created the figure, which was cast in bronze during the First World War. The sculpture survived a bombing before being loaded into a ship, which ended up being commandeered for the war effort while he was still aboard. Hence his repeated crossings.

The statue arrived here with a different title from the one he’s now known by: Eternal Youth and the Spirit of Enterprise.

“But nobody ever calls him that,” said Gregg. “He’s been known as Golden Boy since the very early days, when he was a new bronze statue, and the bronze was shiny and the sun would reflect off of him, and he looked like he was made of gold.”


The Golden Boy may look small from the ground, but Gregg said he shouldn’t be underestimated.

“Looks can be deceiving,” Gregg said. “Because our Golden Boy really is 17.2 feet tall, or 5.25 metres tall.”

The top of his torch is 77 metres from ground level. And although Winnipeg boasts more than a dozen buildings higher than that in 2019, that wasn’t the case 100 years ago.

“When he was installed, the tip of his torch was the tallest point in all of Winnipeg,” she said.

Infographic: Jemie Clemis/CTV News

He may be out of reach, but you can get within sniffing distance.

While the upper section of the Manitoba Legislative Building is off limits to the public, staff can climb a series of winding staircases and metal stepladders to reach a hatch that opens up at the base of the statue.

The closest view possible of The Golden Boy (Megan Benedictson/CTV News)

From that close up, he looks imposing, even if out of reach.

Gregg said The Golden Boy weighs 1680 kg, or 1.68 tonnes.

“He’s made of bronze, and he’s hollow, but he’s still a very big boy,” she said. 


While it’s been 100 years since he first arrived, The Golden Boy has taken a vacation from his post.

In 2002, it was discovered the post holding him up had corroded. Without repairs, there was concern the more than one tonne of bronze could come crashing down.

And so in February he was plucked from the top of the legislative building with a crane to come down to earth for restoration.

CTV file image of The Golden Boy on display at the Manitoba Museum.

But before that happened, he was put on display at the Manitoba Museum, where 114,000 people came to see him up close.

“Very, very much larger than I anticipated,” one man who came to see the statue told CTV News at the time.

The restoration came with a makeover for The Golden Boy.

CTV file image of the statue being re-gilded at The Forks

He was put on display at The Forks, where workers used 4,000 sheets of extra-heavy gold leaf to re-guild him, at a cost of $34,000 at the time.

The statue returned to his place, facing north, by fall. 

Watch the full interview below -- Manitoba's Golden Boy at 100:  


The decision to have the statue face north was symbolic, a nod to Manitoba’s future with natural resources, with The Golden Boy’s torch leading the way.

Other symbols incorporated in the design include a sheath of grain, for Manitoba’s agricultural industry.  

The figure itself is modeled after Hermes, a messenger in Greek mythology that can symbolize commerce and trade. In the well-known Weakerthan’s song One Great City, John K. Samson describes him as a golden business boy.     

Gregg said some people who visit the legislative building are looking for a more solid identity.

“The Golden Boy was never a real person,” she said. “Within the last week, the question I’ve been getting the most from school children is, ‘Who was he?’

“And I’m like, he wasn’t really a real person, but he’s more of an idea -- an idea of the future of our province.”

She said as Manitoba has evolved, The Golden Boy has come to symbolize something else entirely -- the multiculturalism of a province made up of Indigenous peoples and immigrants and their descendants.

“He’s not originally from here. He’s from France,” she said.

“He had a heck of a time getting here, and now that he’s here, we love him an awful lot.”

PHOTO GALLERY Behind the scenes: Climbing to meet Manitoba's Golden Boy