University of Guelph Archives and Special Collections | College of Arts

University of Guelph Archives and Special Collections

boy with sheep

Photograph: Boy with sheep, Reuben Sallows collection, University of Guelph Library, Archives, and Special Collections, Agricultural History (XA1 MS A182 #0700)

The University of Guelph Archives and Special Collections hold the Library’s 25,000 rare books, special collections, and research archives. The Agricultural History and Rural Heritage Collections are particularly valuable collections that contain a rich selection of resources related to rural history. The following is a list of particular valuable collections. For more information on each item, consult the library’s Primo database and discuss your research interests with the archivists.

For a complete register of the collections in the Rural History and Agricultural History collections, consult the Trellis database. In the search bar, enter "XA1 RHC" for all holdings in the Rural History Collection and "XA1 MS" for all holdings in the Agricultural History Collection, and click "Call Number" in the downbar next to it.

The Gates Collection
The Burton Noble Gates Collection is one chiefly on the science of Apiculture. Acquired in 1973 by the University of Guelph, it contains the personal library and archives of Burton Noble Gates - a professor and renowned apiarist. The collection holds over 12,000 items. It spans Canada, the Caribbean, China, Europe, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, South America, and the United States. Primarily predating 1930, materials in the collection include correspondence, clippings, pamphlets, reports, file cards, price lists, honey labels, reprints, posters, and artifacts.

The Leonard Harman/United Cooperatives Collection
A significant part of the agricultural history archives at the University of Guelph, the Leonard Harman Collection gives great insight into the roles of co-operatives in Ontario history. Acquired over two installments in June 1994 and February 1995, much of the correspondence, administrative records, and other materials were gathered and organized by Leonard Harman. The collection deals with the records of the United Farmers of Ontario (U.F.O.),  and the United Co-operatives of Ontario (U.C.O.) two major Ontario co-operatives that were formed in 1914.

The Abell Collection
The Helen C. Abell Collection spans the years 1938-1985, and includes such materials as correspondence, reports, resource material, and publications. It is a substantial collection, and offers an excellent look into the beginnings of rural sociology in Canada, as well as being a good resource for studying family and rural sociology in general. The collection was donated by Helen C. Abell in 1984 and 2002.

The Massey-Harris-Ferguson Collection
Beginning with the early settlement of Upper Canada and for most of the 20th century, Massey-Harris, or is was later know, Massey-Ferguson, was one of the largest agricultural implement companies in the world and one of Canada's largest corporations. Massey products were sold all over the world and the company was an international leader in developing innovative farm machinery. The Massey-Harris-Ferguson Collection exemplifies the history and growth of the industrial corporation and Canada's past. It is an important resource for researchers in Canadian rural and agricultural history. The collection covers the period 1806-1986 and includes pamphlets, brochures and circulars, photographs, magazines, correspondence, annual reports, marketing material, sales agreements, biographies; as well, it documents the company's production and history in Canada and overseas including many firms that joined Massey. In addition, there are important literary magazines encouraged by Hart Massey--the Trip Hammer, Massey's Illustrated and Massey's Magazine.

The Sallows Collection
The Goderich photographer, Reuben Sallows (1855-1937), devoted his professional career to capturing rural Ontario in pictures (many taken in and around Huron County). His work can be found in the National Archives of Canada, Ontario Archives, the Reuben R. Sallows Gallery at Goderich, and several other collections. Many of the photographs featured in this website are drawn from the Sallows Collection at the University of Guelph.

Huron County Oral History Project
As part of a larger work entitled, "Farm Work and Farm Life in Ontario in the early 20th Century", three researchers carried out interviews with men and women born between 1895 and 1910 in Huron County Ontario. The original tape-recorded interviews have been transcribed. The collection has been deposited in the University of Guelph Archives and provides a valuable source in recreating a picture of life in a 19th century rural community. This collection can be accessed electronically by searching in the library catalogue, Primo, using keywords and the phrase "Huron County Oral History Project".

The Stephen Sylvester Collection
Stephen Sylvester Main was born in Sheffield, Ontario and lived in and around the community all his life. He tried various professions including wheelwright, cheesemaker, electric railcar conductor, carpenter, farmer, and photographer. Between 1898 and 1920s, he took hundreds of photographs, mostly of rural Ontario. This collection contains glass negatives taken by Stephen Sylvester. As an amateur he took pictures of his own community including labourers and farmers, itinerant street performers, middle class people in their parlous, church groups, homes of the wealthy, and landscapes. In this way, Main captured the age of transition of rural life at the beginning of the 20th century.

The Don Head Farms Collection
The Redelmeier family purchased Don Head Farms, already famous for Southdown sheep and Aberdeen Angus, in 1940. They added Jersey cattle to the farm, and for the next 55 years gained recognition and honours in the show ring and in milk production. The herd was dispersed in 1995. The collection contains jersey cattle sales catalogues for 1960, 1983, and 1995. It also contains various photographs.

In 2007 & 2008, Masters students composed several abstracts discussing resources available in the archives.

Vineland Co-operative Limited Fonds by Matt Hickling

Goodall-Moyer-Comfort Family Collection by Ben Robinson

Rural Politicization:  The Farmers’ Sun by Peter Ellsworth

Rural Voices: The Dougall Family Collection by Rebecca O’Reilly

Thomas Murphy Daybook 1884-1885, Douglas Ontario by Liam Trimm

Home and Country FWIO Periodical Publication by Beth Robertson
         Home and Country remains a valuable resource for any historian exploring a variety of topics, including the FWIO, community and family, traditional domesticity, feminism and gender relations in the countryside. The level of insight that it may offer to such topics may not be as transparent as one might assume and thus serves as a significant avenue of research deserving further exploration.

Living the “Gouda” Life: Analysis of the Macpherson Collection by Jenn Annis
         The Macpherson Family collection documents the life of Mr. D.M. Macpherson and the creation of the Mammoth Cheese for the Chicago World's Fair of 1893. D.M. Macpherson was one of the largest cheesemakers in the Dominion of Canada during his lifetime and contributed to the creation of the famous Mammoth Cheese. The collection is comprised of 11 diaries, two scrapbooks, photographs, and some clippings and articles related to the Mammoth Cheese of 1893. The collection is of immense value to researchers studying the early cheese industry in Canada.

Community and Historical Memory in the Tweedsmuir History of Adolphustown by Jonathan Studiman
         The Tweedsmuir History of Adolphustown is a local history created by the Women's Institute of that area. This history is one example of a province wide Tweedsmuir history project begun in the 1940s by the Federated Women's Institutes of Ontario (WI). Operating under the guidance, but not direct control, of a provincial historical convener, local WI historical committees set out to document the history of their individual communities. The premise of the Tweedsmuir history project was to preserve the history of local communities, with a special emphasis on oral traditions and stories told by older members of the community which might be lost with the passage of time. In practice, the breadth, depth and focus of each Tweedsmuir history was dependent on the interests and work of local Women's Institute members. This particular history of Adolphustown (XR1 MS A192124, hereafter referred to as the "History") is best viewed as a primary source for the study on the construction of community history. A large amount of the material is focused on the United Empire Loyalists, the Adolphustown community, and their efforts to memorialize the Loyalists. This paper will first describe the History's documents, subject matter, and themes. Next, authorship, intended audience and message will be considered. Finally, the wider significance of this History for the study of rural history will be discussed.

Massey’s Illustrated and Massey-Haris Illustrated by Drew Swackahmer
         The Massey's Illustrated, later known as the Massey-Harris Illustrated journal, was a publication produced by the Massey company whose target audience was the rural agricultural family. The Massey company, established in 1847, was a manufacturer of farm implements and after the 1891 merger of Massey and Harris, it was known as Massey-Harris. The purpose of the publication was to promote farm life and advertise the company's farm equipment. In March 1882, the first issue was produced and had a circulation of 16,500 copies. The journal cost 50 cents per annum or 5 cents per issue and was mailed out to subscribers. Topics of the journal focused on rural life, but there were also articles ranging from humorous stories and child rearing all the way to national news and even an international travelogue. Collections, is the subject of this study.

Pursuing his Passion: William F. Clarke and the Ontario Farmer by Colleen Rose Nelson
         The Ontario Farmer, joined a larger body of agricultural journals published throughout Canada during the nineteenth century when it was developed in 1869 under the editorial direction of Reverend William F. Clarke. Clarke previously edited the Canadian Farmer, and was known for his agricultural and journalistic expertise, as well as his strong personality. The Ontario Farmer, a monthly journal of "Agriculture, Horticulture, Country Life, Emigration, and the Mechanic Arts" began when Clarke left Canadian Farmer, set out on his own in Toronto. Between 1869 and 1871 he edited three volumes of the journal, with twelve issues in each volume, each volume containing 384 pages. The University of Guelph Archives possesses all three volumes of the Ontario Farmer .

Of Hogs and Men: the Wilfred L. Bishop Collection by J.P. Lewis
         The Wilfred L. Bishop Collection is a compilation of Bishop's official and personal papers dated between 1925 and 1977. Wilfred Bishop was a dairy and hog farmer based in Norwich Township, Oxford County, Ontario. Oxford County is a municipality outside of London, Ontario and was settled in the late 18th century through a scheme formulated by John Graves Simcoe. Bishop was very active in the community, and involved in farming organizations, the United Church, local politics and historical societies. The collection was donated to the University of Guelph McLaughlin Library Archives and Special Collections by the Bishop estate with the assistance of E. Phelps, an archivist from the University of Western Ontario. The collection is quite large consisting of twenty-six boxes in all. Due to Bishop's extensive involvement in many rural initiatives, the Wilfred L. Bishop Collection provides excellent information on many aspects of farm life from organized marketing techniques to the development of important organizations such as, the Ontario Egg Producers Marketing Board and the Ontario Wheat Producers Marketing Board.

A Look at the Edward Spinney Archibald Collection by Omar Abdool
         The Edgar Spinney Archibald Collection is a brief glimpse into the life of the man whose name this collection bears. Being materials donated by his family, this collection is a reflection of Dr. Archibald's interests and career. Born in 1885, this Canadian would rise to extraordinary heights in both politics and the agricultural community. Earning numerous titles and honorary appointments, including being named as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and a Commander of the Order of the British Empire, Dr. Archibald was well recognized as an expert in the field of the application of scientific concepts to improving agricultural industries. As such,he became the Director of the Experimental Farms Service between 1919 and 1950, as established by the Canadian Government. This prominent position gave Dr. Archibald a unique opportunity to establish new and innovative ways to enhance agricultural productivity throughout Canada during a critical period of Canadian agricultural development. His position would also oversee the implementation of scientific processes to analyze and access current techniques in agriculture for future improvement.

Historical Imagining: The Photographs of Reuben Sallows by Michelle Lamb
         There are about 413 photos in the Reuben Sallows Collection. Each photograph was stamped with "R.R. Sallows Landscape and Portrait Photographer" on the back. From this information, Ministry officials were able to secure the reproduction rights from the Sallows family in Goderich, Ontario.
Reuben Sallows was born in 1855 in Huron County, close to Goderich. His love of rural Ontario began early, as he was born and raised on a farm. He left the farm in 1876 in pursuit of employment, and he was offered a job with a Goderich photographer, R.R. Thompson. By 1878 Sallows had accepted a three-year apprenticeship and subsequently bought the entire business in 1881.

The William Sunter Papers by Laura Quirk
         The William Sunter Papers are a collection of journals that were kept by a farmer in the late 19th century in Ontario. In these journals William Sunter detailed his daily activities and those of his family. He described his social network and the chores of daily life. Additionally, the journals reveal some specific accounts and sales that were also part of his routine existence. Taken together, the journals are an important source for providing a picture of ordinary daily life at that time. These journals are a small part of the Regional History Collection housed at the University of Guelph, McLaughlin Library Archives. The original provenance is unknown, though the information available in the library cataloguing system for the archives reveals that the collection was originally received as a gift.

The Ontario Rural Learning Association: Improving the Quality of Rural Life by Linda Amichand and Lorne Bruce
        The Ontario Rural Learning Association (RLA) was incorporated as a non-profit organization in June 1965 when the Ontario Folk School Council and the Ontario Farm Forum merged. It received its Ontario charter on 29 July 1966 with its main listed object "To promote, develop and improve a comprehensive rural adult education programme in Ontario." The association also registered as a charitable organization with the federal government to help develop its activities.
        The RLA followed in the tradition of the Farm Radio Forum broadcasts of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation from the 1930s - 1950s and the work of the Ontario Folk School Council. With the growing prominence of television, the long-running broadcasting series was cancelled by the CBC in 1965. Because it was felt a new co-coordinating organization was needed, the two rural groups joined together to promote adult learning in Ontario's small rural communities in farm and non-farm, town, and country. In the late 1960s, the association attracted hundreds of members.

The Farmer’s Advocate by Senita O. Kyeremateng
         In trying to understand the character of rural life in Canada in the past, one of the useful resources available today is The Farmer's Advocate. From its founding in 1866 until 1965, when the last issue was produced, a total of 100 volumes were printed. This is, therefore, a large collection of journals which contains a rich and continuous record of the issues and priorities of the farmers of that period.

Assessment of the Huron County Oral History Project by Deborah Schwartz
         The Huron County Oral History Project can looks at many themes, issues and subjects a relevant to the study of rural history in Ontario. The collection proves a valuable source in recreating a picture of life in a 19th century rural community. It is comprised of interviews with men and women born between 1895 and 1910. The interviews are part of a larger project that includes the similar oral histories done in Essex-Kent County, Dufferin County, and the Clay Belt. The work is entitled "Farm Work and Farm Life in Ontario in the early 20th Century".