My Mother the Judge

my mother the judge

My Mother the Judge, published by The Ryerson Press, 1955

My Mother the Judge, by Elsie Gregory MacGill, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1955. It is the remarkable story of a woman, Judge Helen Gregory MacGill, who successfully “asserted the freedom of women to apply their talents in a day when this was a solely male prerogative.”

Helen MacGill was born in Hamilton, Ontario in 1864. She was the first woman undergraduate of Trinity College, University of Toronto, receiving both a BA and an MA. She was also the first female in the British Empire to receive a Music Degree.

Helen MacGill was no stranger to politics or advocacy. Her maternal grandfather, also a judge, successfully represented participants in the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837. Upon graduation, MacGill turned to journalism and wrote for Cosmopolitan, the Toronto Globe, San Francisco Morning Call and the St. Paul Globe. This led her to social advocacy and she spent much of the rest of her life pursuing better laws for women and children, notably in British Columbia. In 1917, she was appointed British Columbia’s first woman jurist and helped to establish standards in Juvenile Court. By 1947, MacGill had seen most of her personally-urged reforms become law.

From the flap copy of My Mother the Judge: “The story credits women with being the instigators of modern social legislation, and details this development in British Columbia. It treats the movement for women suffrage as part of the general social revolution, and the logical sequence to the struggle for manhood suffrage.” She served as a judge of the Juvenile Court of British Columbia for 23 years. Helen Gregory MacGill died on February 27, 1947.

Elsie Gregory MacGill, 1905-1980, grew up in Vancouver, British Columbia. She was the first woman to graduate in engineering at the University of Toronto (1929) and the first to take an MA in aeronautics at the University of Michigan. She became the chief aeronautical engineer of The Canadian Car and Foundry company of Montreal where she carried through the design, testing and certification of a primary training aircraft in 1939. She was also in charge of all engineering work of the Hawker Hurricane fighter (Battle of Britain) where she gained the title Queen of the Hurricanes. Following in her mother’s footsteps, Elsie MacGill was also an active feminist and was a member of the Royal Commission on the Status of Women, 1967-1970. Elsie Gregory MacGill died November 4, 1980.

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Pauline Johnson and Walter McRaye


Pauline Johnson and Her Friends by Walter McRaye, published by The Ryerson Press, 1947.

Emily Pauline Johnson was a Canadian poet and entertainer. She was born March 10, 1861, the daughter of a Mohawk chief. Her Mohawk name, Tekahionwake, means “double-life.” Pauline Johnson and Her Friends by Walter McRaye, was published in 1947 by The Ryerson Press. The 1945 catalogue reads as follows: “This is the story of Pauline Johnson, that everyone has eagerly awaited. The writing of this book is the fulfillment of a promise made her as she lay dying. “Tell them something of the real me, of my father’s people, my hopes, my dreams, and my aspirations.” Friend and fellow-artist for many years, Walter McRaye here sets down in simple and sincere form the story of the Mohawk poet, her rise to fame, and the tours they shared together, across Canada, and into almost every hamlet and city, from the Cariboo Trail to Halifax, and from Ottawa to London, England.”

The catalogue copy for 1945 reads in part, “This biography is much more than a formal life of the almost legendary Mohawk princess. It is a living likeness of the poet, and it is placed over against her time, the time they both knew best, people, growing towns, a pioneer country growing up, with side glances at the romantic world of London, its great houses, celebrated writers, Steinway Hall, the Watts-Duntons, Swinburne, and a world far removed from the Grand River Reserve – and now all but dissolved away and become history, legend, a lovely vanished dream.”

Pauline Johnson lived before Canadian authors had come into their own, as they have today. There were no book drives or “Canadian Book Weeks” or “Book Fairs” given by associations, no authors speaking before Canadian or other clubs in an effort to arouse Canadian enthusiasm for Canadian literature.


Pauline Johnson and Walter McRaye at Banff, 1901

As Pauline Johnson travelled across the country, reciting and entertaining the Canadian  public, she was inspired by its vastly changing landscapes as depicted in this stanza of her poem The Sleeping Giant:

You have locked your past, and you keep the key

In your heart ‘neath the westing sun,

Where the mighty sea

And its shores will be

Storm-swept till the world is done

Pauline Johnson died in Vancouver, March 7, 1913.



Walter McRaye

Walter McRaye was born in Merrickville, Onatrio, 1876. While on a tour in Winnipeg in 1897, he met Pauline Johnson, at the height of her career. By 1901 they were touring together, McRaye acting as her business manager, and sharing the billing with her. They toured together for nine years and gave their final performance together in Kamloops, B.C. in 1909. They shared fame together.

Following service in the First World War, McRaye resumed his entertainment touring and billed his tours as “entertainment with a punch.” McRaye, a staunch Canadian, deplored the fact that most of Canada’s pulp went to the Hearst empire and other American papers, but he was even more concerned by the fact that “the children of today have but a superficial knowledge of any of the great epochs in Canadian history that should never die.”

His book, Town Hall Tonight, was published by The Ryerson Press in 1929. The 1929 Fall Announcements states that “This Odyssey of the well-known entertainer, Walter McRaye, sets forth in sprightly fashion the colourful incidents of some thirty years’ wandering across Canada, with an occaisional excursion elsewhere – the United States, Great Britain and France. Thirty years ago “Town Hall Tonight” was the usual heading for all concert and lecture programmes and Mr. McRaye has chosen this as an appropriate for his book of reminiscences.”

Town Hall Tonight W. McRayeJPG.JPG

Town Hall Tonight by Walter McRaye, published by The Ryerson Press, 1929

In the introduction to McRaye’s book, Town Hall Tonight, Lorne Pierce, Managing Editor of The Ryerson Press from 1920 to 1960, quotes McRaye as saying, “The main work has to be done in our schools, if we are to become a nation of thinkers and executors, rather than a conglomeration of dumb followers.” He goes on to say, “ Teach citizenship.” “Boost Canadian literature.” We should say “Not Canada for Canadians, but Canadians for Canada.” These were sentiments akin to Lorne Pierce’s own heart. Pierce played a huge role in support of Canadian literature and Canadian culture throughout his life.

Walter McRaye died in 1946, just after his manuscript Pauline Johnson and Her Friends was delivered to The Ryerson Press.

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I Brought The Ages Home


I Brought The Ages Home, C.T. Currelly, The Ryerson Press, 1956

I Brought The Ages Home was published by The Ryerson Press, in 1956. Northrop Frye, Professor of English at Victoria College, was the editor. Professor Frye commented, “When this manuscript came to me for editing, it was immediately clear that my editorial duties were to be of the most unobtrusive kind. They have been confined to minor re-arrangements and to some smoothing of the reader’s path.” He let the author tell the “most amazing tale ever to come out of Ontario” to be told in the “author’s accomplished raconteur’s skill.

Charles T. Currelly (1876-1957) was born in Exeter, Ontario, and educated at Harbord Collegiate and Victoria College, Toronto. Upon graduation, Currelly was posted to a Methodist missionary site in northern Manitoba where he served from 1898 until 1901. In 1902, Currelly travelled to England, working his way across on a cattle boat, the Manchester Commerce. A chance meeting with Flinders Petrie, renowned Egyptologist, occurred after Currelly paid a visit to the British Museum in London. This landed Currelly a position helping Petrie set up an exhibition of ancient artifacts: “The marvel of seeing and touching these wonders of the past was so great that I had a feeling that one ought to fast, or make some peculiar preparation before handling such precious objects. I am glad to say that I never lost this feeling, and the careless handling or breaking of an antiquity has always been a nightmare to me.”

While in England, Currelly also met Nathanael Burwash, then Chancellor of Victoria College who, upon hearing of Currelly’s interest in antiquities and his planned excursion to Egypt with Petrie, concurred with the young collector’s desire to establish a museum in Toronto. This chance meeting in 1902 was the beginning of what was to become The Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology which now stands on the grounds of the University of Toronto. Upon his return to Toronto, Burwash set about establishing funding for the new venture.


Charles T. Currelly

Currelly was also very well-connected himself and was soon advocating the establishment of a museum with the likes of Pelham Edgar, English Professor at Victoria College (and winner of the 1936 Lorne Pierce Medal for distinguished service to Canadian Literature), Sir Edmund Walker, President of The Bank of Commerce, Sir Edmund Osler, President of The Dominion Bank to name a few. Currelly was able to convince his potential benefactors that it was entirely possible to procure antiquities at reasonable prices through his own experiences and dealings in Egypt, Crete and Asia Minor. He felt sure that these items would be of great value to the public.

The jacket copy of I Brought The Ages Home reads as follows: “I Brought The Ages Home is the story of how the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology developed from a dream in one man’s mind into one of the world’s great collections. Dr. Charles T. Currelly describes his life, first in Canada, then as an excavator in Egypt before the First World War, and finally as director of the museum he had created. The book is a museum in itself: an inexhaustible treasure house of history, anecdote, and of curious bits of information gathered from all over the world, together with one of the most amazing life-stories ever to come out of Canada, told with great wit and charm.”


Enter a Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto, Ontario, circa 1956

A plaque outside the Royal Ontario Museum recognizes the contribution to Canada made by Charles T. Currelly. It reads in part: “His work in various parts of the Mediterranean world inspired him with the idea of establishing an archaeological museum in Ontario. With the aid of the University of Toronto, he worked toward this goal and when the Royal Ontario Museum of Archaeology was created in 1912, Currelly became its first director. He retained this post, as well as his professorship in archaeology at the University, until his retirement in 1946.” Dr. Currelly spent his retirement years near Port Hope, Ontario and died after a brief illness during a trip to Florida in 1957.


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Canadian Heroes Series


The Story of Isaac Brock, William Briggs, 1908

In 1908, William Briggs published the first volume of the Canadian Heroes Series, The Story of Isaac Brock by Walter R. Nursey. This edition is 192 pages, clothbound with a four-colour image of The Death of Sir Isaac Brock by Charles W. Jeffreys depicting Brock falling after being struck by an Ohio rifleman while leading the charge in an attempt to recapture the redan (fortification).

While these books were written as “stories” a note at the front of each edition indicates that the volumes are for children, published under the auspices of the Ontario Library Association, and recommended by the Inspector of Public Libraries.

brock-portraitThe preface for The Story of Isaac Brock reads in part,” The story of Sir Isaac Brock’s life should convey to the youth of Canada a significance similar to that which the bugle-call of the trumpeter, sounding the advance, conveys to the soldier in the ranks. Reiteration of Brock’s deeds should help to develop a better appreciation of his work, a truer conception of heroism, a wiser understanding of his sacrifice…. Many a famous man owes a debt of inspiration to some other great life that went before him. Not until every boy in Canada is thoroughly familiar with “Master Isaac’s” achievements will he be qualified to exclaim with the Indian warrior, Tecumseh, “This was a man.”

This book went into multiple printings, exceeding 5000 copies. In the preface to the second edition, Nursey says, “It is gratifying to know that, incomplete as this “story” necessarily is, it has met with a kindly reception from grown-ups as well as young people, and is achieving the purpose for which it was written.”


The Story of Tecumseh, William Briggs, 1912

The second volume in the series is The Story of Tecumseh by Norman S. Gurd, William Briggs, 1912. Similar in style, this edition is 192 pages, clothbound and jacketed. The cover shows another Charles W. Jeffreys’ colour image Tecumseh at the Battle of Moraviantown.

The preface to this 1912 edition reads, “Less than a century has elapsed since the death of Tecumseh, but in that short period of time the figure of the great Shawnee chief has become shadowy and unreal. The place and date of his birth are uncertain, his burial place is unknown. No authentic portrait has come down to us, and the descriptions of his appearance are varied and contradictory.…He is remembered by Canadians as the leader of the Indian allies of the Crown in the War of 1812, but few realize the extent of his services to Canada in her hour of need.”

William Briggs also published Heroines of Canadian History in 1910 by W.S. Herrington. In this slim, 80-page, clothbound volume several Canadian women are profiled. They include Marguerite de Roberval, Madame de la Tour, The Founders of the Ursuline Convent, Mademoiselle Mance to name a few. In addition, there are profiles of people such as Madeleine de Vercheres, who, as a child of 14, staved off an attack by natives for seven days in 1692; Sarah Defield who fought off an American soldier to spare the life of Liuetenant FitzGibbon during a skirmish in the spring of 1813; Laura Secord who, upon overhearing a U.S. plan to march against the British commander Lieutenant FitzGibbon, successfully warned him of the impending attack; Abigail Becker, who saved eight sailors from a shipwreck off Lake Erie in 1854; Sarah Maxwell a Montreal School Principal who saved her students from a burning building, 1907.


Heroines of Canadian History, William Briggs, 1910

There were only two volumes in the Canadian Heroes Series published by William Briggs between 1908 and 1912, despite announcements that subsequent volumes would be forthcoming. Whether the outbreak of the First World War interrupted the publication of further editions is not clear. No subsequent volumes appeared.

William Briggs retired from the Methodist Book and Publishing House in 1918. In 1919, at the request of Dr. Samuel Fallis, the House changed its name to The Ryerson Press and hired a new editor, Lorne Pierce. In his first 10 years, Pierce  carried on the publishing plan of his predecessor and published over 100 profiles of prominent Canadians in his Canadian History Readers series.






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Mother Goose’s Bicycle Tour


Mother Goose’s Bicycle Tour, 1901, William Briggs

Mother Goose’s Bicycle Tour was published by William Briggs in 1901. The 96-page hardcover edition contains popular Mother Goose nursery rhymes presented in a unique fashion introducing French words. The cover is a two-colour, stamped illustration of Mother Goose with gilt-edged pages and a sturdy, sewn binding. The 71/2 by 10 trim size is a handy size for young hands. The paper stock is glossy and able to withstand many readings.






The Departure

The book begins with an illustration of Mother Goose setting out in a small boat with her companion goose on board. The black and white illustrations throughout are simple pen and ink sketches depicting all manner of characters of the Mother Goose rhymes. Upon a treacherous crossing of the English Channel, Mother Goose and her trusted feathered friend embark on a return journey to France to renew old friendships.




Long years ago dear Mother Goose

For little people made, you see,

Of merry rhymes and odd conceits

A veritable pot pourri.


Some riddles hard the brain to puzzle,

Tales that really seemed quite true,

Rhymes with fun just brimming o’er,

For each one something à son goût.




Said Mother Goose: “My faithful bird,

Our friends neglect us, to be sure;

But never mind, we’ll just prepare

And take a pleasant little tour.


Some evenings spent in brushing up

The foreign words we used to know,

Ere setting out upon a trip,

Would now be very à propos.

The story continues across the land and includes many of the favourite rhymes such as:


High Diddle, Diddle


High diddle diddle, the cat and the fiddle

The cow jumped over the moon.

Regardez donc cette vache agile,

Qui saute par-dessus la lune


and progressively increases the French usage to include:


Les valets des cartes


Les dames des cartes,

Elles firent des tartes

All on a summer’s day

Les valets des cartes,

Volèrent ces tartes,

And took them clean away.



The book contains a Glossary of Terms and Expressions translated from French into English as well as a helpful pronunciation guide. In addition, the Apple-Pie Party is a rhyming alphabet poem to help young people learn their ABC’s in both languages. Considering the fact that this book was published in 1901, it is a lively and entertaining expression of popular nursery rhymes in our two official languages.







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The Ryerson Press Chap-Books


Some of the 200 Chap-Books published by The Ryerson Press 1931-1960

The Ryerson Press published 200 Chap-Books from 1925 to 1960. These publications gave a voice to Canadian poets – some well-known poets, many unknown writers. They were produced as slim paperback volumes of 8 pages to no more than 32 pages, many with covers designed by Group of Seven artist J.E.H. MacDonald and his son Thoreau MacDonald. The volumes were produced in runs of no more than 250 copies each and sold for less than $1.00. A complete set of hardcover editions is contained in The Ryerson Press Archive.

Chap-Books became popular during the reign of Henry VIII. They were popularized by the tales and folklore of the times. One such tale is of Henry VIII and the Cobbler. It is rumored that the King would often disguise himself and walk among his people of an evening. On one such outing he came across a cobbler, busy at work late into the night. Henry purposefully broke the heel off his shoe and asked the cobbler to mend it, which he dutifully accomplished. The cobbler then invited this customer to his cellar where they partook in some refreshment. The cobbler was subsequently invited to pay a return visit to the palace at his leisure and to ask for – Harry Tudor. Some time later, the cobbler did pay a visit to the palace and, thinking that he was to meet some kind of courtier, told the Yoeman he had been invited to see Harry Tudor. Upon being ushered into the presence of Henry VIII, the cobbler immediately bolted and, once caught, was returned to face the King. Henry offered the cobbler a handsome pension and then treated him to a visit to his own cellar. This was one of the first Chap-Books to be published.

The following is taken from a piece of Ryerson Press promotion/order form titled Some Later Chap-Book Offerings. “Back in fifteenth-century France and in England during the rollicking reign of Bluff King Hal, the Chap-Book came into its own in presenting ballads and folk-lore. The idea has been revived again during the last year or two and the Ryerson Press has had considerable satisfaction in offering a series of slim books in striking yet uniformly-bound heavy paper covers, the work of a few of the older and several of the younger Canadian poets, at a price which makes it possible for almost anyone to make himself the possessor of a goodly number.”

The Toronto Evening Telegram claimed Chap-Books to be, “Little books of lovely verse, available at trifling cost, apt mediums of compliment and good will at the holiday season. Their cost is under a dollar; their value at a later date to the collector, may be much more, for they come in strictly limited editions of not many copies.”

Saturday Night declared, “The Ryerson Poetry Chap-Books – distinctive, interesting and praiseworthy.”

The Hamilton Spectator wrote, “Through such a medium new writers make their modest bid for favour and readers come into sympathetic accord with some of those who may later be among our chief poets.”

Indeed, among the “chief poets” to be highlighted in The Ryerson Press Chap-Book series were Charles G.D. Roberts, Al Purdy and Leonard Cohen. Sculptor Florence Wyle was also published in Chap-Book form.   Purdy’s Pressed On Sand was published in 1955. Here is one of Al Purdy’s Chap-Book offerings:

al-purdy-chap-bookI SEE NO HAND

I SEE no hand in the hand shape pressed on sand;

No men in the tide-walking town of time could

Clamber from phoenix flesh, or in any way extend…

But the cupped pooled reservoir of their blood,


Freighted about by bones like a moving lake,

Frames a reference of stars and cold suns:

Beyond and past the reach of micro and telescope

Their phalanx shines.


A carried history sounds in separate parts

And sings in skeletons; dust joins their graves.

No priest pouts for souls unshriven, or starts

Red thoughts rolling through dead men’s lives.


I see them curled in caves and changed to chemic salts,

Lifting on hot grey pavements and charged with rain

You! You over there, collapsed on your awkward stilts,

We shall run together again.


wyle-chap-bookFlorence Wyle was born November 24, 1881 in Trenton, Illinois. She intended to become a doctor, but after her first year in pre-med, she met her life-long partner, Frances Loring. The two moved to Greenwich Village in 1909 and then to Toronto in 1913. They lived for nearly 50 years in a house near Mount Pleasant and St. Clair, in Toronto. The Loring-Wyle Parkette was created in their honour. Their converted church made into a studio still stands.

In 1928, Wyle helped found the Sculptors Society of Canada. For her contributions to Canadian art she was awarded the Coronation Medal. She was also the first woman to obtain full membership in the Royal Canadian Academy of Art. Florence Wyle was regarded as one of the finest figurative sculptors in Canada of her time. She died January 14, 1968 in Newmarket, Ontario.

Wyle sculpted busts of A.Y. Jackson and F.H. Varley. Her work sits in the National Gallery in Ottawa, The Canadian War Museum and in the Art Gallery of Ontario. Wyle, along with her partner Frances Loring created several pieces for the Canadian War Memorials Fund following the First World War including On The Land and Munitions Worker. Wyle’s medical training gave her a unique perspective on human physiology and she was renowned for her depiction of the human form. Together, Wyle and Loring, also created the busts of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth on the Queen Elizabeth Highway outside Toronto.


GREAT barren rocks that mock at man,

The puny thing that calls the elements to aid

And comes with fire and dynamite and plough

To tear and blast and plunder,

And at last, afraid,

Creeps back to die –

Still are the ranges now;

Born in a turmoil of heat and light and thunder,

Age after age they have watched man pass

And heard his cry

Of joy and agony and wonder;

Serene they raise their mighty shoulders high

Among the wheeling stars that know the law,

In that vast universe where all things

Are as ordered and there is no flaw.


“Noon Hour” by Frances Wyle, courtesy the Canadian War Museum

Wyle’s inclusion in The Ryerson Press Chap-Book series is a testament to her ability to cross over into another art form. Ira Dilworth, former teacher, editor, conductor and CBC Radio Program Director, said of Wyle’s poems, “Miss Wyle’s poems are largely descriptive and most of her subject matter is drawn from the varying aspects of nature. To this she occasionally adds her own philosophical comment and so she takes her place in the long tradition of lyric poets of the best and most sensitive kind.”

Both Florence Wyle and Francis Loring died in 1968, in Newmarket, Ontario, only weeks apart. They donated the proceeds from the sale of their work to a fund to assist in exhibiting the works of young Canadian sculptors.





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R.L.S. published by The Ryerson Press, 1931

R.L.S. at Manasquan by Charlotte Eaton was published by The Ryerson Press in December, 1931. The copy in the Ryerson Press Collection is number 193 of only 350 copies printed. The Ryerson Press printed this edition of Robert Louis Stevenson at Manasquan “for their friends, at Christmas-tide, 1931.”

The edition is an 8 x 11 portfolio format and is protected by a spider-web glassine covering. The lettering on the blue Mayfair cover simply reads R.L.S. and is signed Charlotte Eaton. A portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson by Wyatt Eaton is contained on the frontispiece.  This edition was made available to The Ryerson Press by special permission from the Queen’s Quarterly.


Charlotte Eaton was the second wife of Canadian artist Wyatt Eaton. She married Eaton in 1887 and travelled extensively with him to America and Europe. The memories of Robert Louis Stevenson, his wife and mother are captured here in this brief edition.


Robert Louis Stevenson portrait by Wyatt Eaton, 1888.

A commemorative bookmark included in this edition conveys the following message: Charlotte Eaton, now a resident of New York, is the widow of Wyatt Eaton, a distinguished Canadian Artist and a native of the Eastern Townships, Province of Quebec. The constant companion of her husband, sharing the high qualities of his mind and devoted to his work, Mrs. Eaton travelled extensively with him in America and Europe. Everywhere they met interesting and distinguished people. The memories of Robert Louis Stevenson, his wife and mother, are but a few of the many vivid recollections shepherded from other days. Mrs. Eaton is the author of Desire, a book of verses, and of many fugitive essays and poems. She is particularly successful in French verse forms.

We are indebted to Queen’s Quarterly for permission to reprint the first part of this brochure. The reproduction of the pen-and-ink drawing of R.L.S. by Wyatt Eaton, which forms the frontispiece, is made possible through the kindness of Mrs. Eaton.

This brings to you the cordial Yule-tide greetings of The Ryerson Press. We pass on to you, at this time, two hearty words which Robert Louis Stevenson loved and taught to Bliss Carman. They convey our own wish for Christmas and the New Year – to you and yours. Sursum Corda! (Lift up your Heart)”.

Charlotte Eaton donated her husband’s papers and paintings to the Museum of Art, Toronto in 1911. The works of Wyatt Eaton are now housed in the Art Gallery of Ontario. Charlotte Eaton wrote several letters to Lorne Pierce at The Ryerson Press. These are now held in the Lorne Pierce fonds at Queen’s University. Charlotte Eaton wrote a book on her husband’s work as well as a book of verse, Desire, and three works based on her acquaintance with Robert Louis Stevenson. Wyatt Eaton died in 1896; Charlotte Eaton died in 1934.

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