Fonds MG4167 - Herman Jackrabbit Smith-Johannsen Fonds

Family letters, 1939-1941

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Herman Jackrabbit Smith-Johannsen Fonds

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2.67 m of textual records
250 photographs

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Biographical history

Herman Smith-Johannsen was a pioneer in the sport of skiing in Quebec. He laid hundreds of miles of cross country ski trails in the Laurentian mountains north of Montreal and was involved in cross country skiing marathons even into his 107th year. He had some involvement in downhill skiing, encouraging his children to become involved at the Olympic level.

Herman was born in Norway on the 15th of June, 1875. He spent some time as a cadet in the Royal Norwegian Army Reserve before going on to the University of Berlin to study engineering in 1894. As a student he joined the fratetrnity, Berolina, adopting its motto "never rest and never rust" and acquiring the nickname "Jonas".

On a visit to Norway in 1987, he died of pneumonia on January 5th at the age of 111. His ashes were flown back to Canada so that he could be buried next to his wife, Alice according to his last request. The graves, in the cemetery at the church of St. Francis of the Birds in St. Sauveur, are marked by a granite boulder bearing their names and dates.

Custodial history

These records were given to the Archives by Peggy Austin upon the death of her sister Alice Johannsen (1911-1991). The material has been sorted into the papers of Herman "Jackrabbit" Johannsen and those of Alice who was the director of the University Museums for some years and later director of the Gault Estate.

Jackrabbit's papers had been kept by Alice since before her father's death. In Alice's own papers are some collected files relating to her father. These include chronologies of his life and "Dad's journals" (summaries of journals (1906-07) which no longer exist, and summaries of journals (1948-1962) in the collection). These biographical notes presumably served as aids during the writing of The Legendary Jackrabbit Johannsen.

Jackrabbit and Alice spent much time together in their later years. Alice was able to aid Herman in organizing his various activities and related paper work.

Scope and content

The papers of "Jackrabbit" Johannsen reflect his personal, professional and recreational activities, mainly between 1934 and 1985. The largest part of the papers consists of correspondence with friends and organizations, particularly relating to skiing and outdoor life. Family relations are also covered. A series of brief journals provides a record of some of his daily activities, from 1948 to 1984. The remainder of the fonds include publications about Johannsen, photographs, maps and personal documents such as passports.

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