Series 1 - James Dawson

Fifth Report of the Pictou Auxiliary Bible Society : John v. 39. Search the Scriptures. Memorandum, undated Letter, 12 August 1801 Letter, 11 August 1804 Letter, 16 August 1804 Indenture, 9 February 1805 Letter, 28 August 1813 Letter, 16 November 1814 Indenture, 23 October 1819 Indenture, 27 October 1819
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James Dawson

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CA MUA MG 1022-1

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30 cm of textual records

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(1789-approximately 1861)

Biographical history

James Dawson was a Scottish immigrant to Pictou, Nova Scotia. Born in 1789 in Overtown, Banffshire, Scotland, he emigrated to Canada in 1811. He married Mary Rankine over Lonerig, Scotland, in 1818. Their son, John William (called William) became a well-known Canadian geologist and McGill University principal. At one time a successful merchant, shipowner, stationer, and shopkeeper, James Dawson found himself in severe financial difficulty due to a depression in the mid-1820s and accidents to several of his boats. Archival records attest to several investment attempts. Despite his failure as an investor, James Dawson re-established himself as a successful bookseller, stationer, and printer by the 1840s. A devout Presbyterian, James Dawson was involved with various Bible and Christian missionary societies, as well as the temperance movement.

Custodial history

8 cm of James Dawson's papers transferred from McGill Library Rare Books and Special Collections: these materials largely relate to Dawson's business correspondence concerning his Lloyd's agency and his book and stationery shop, as well as some private correspondence including letters from two nieces, Agnes Stewart and Jane Morrison.

Scope and content

The series contains some letters from family and friends in Scotland, and later, some correspondence with his son John William and his grandson George, but the bulk of his correspondence is concerned with his business interests and legal affairs. This includes deeds to land in Pictou, Nova Scotia, authorizations, copies of wills, and other legal documents; correspondence concerning publishing ventures and other money-making schemes, as well as government economic policy; and finally, bills, invoices with books titles and receipts from his book and stationery store. The series also contains correspondence, reports, and notes on Dawson's involvement in Bible and missionary societies. James Dawson also wrote two autobiographical works: a narrative diary from 1838-1861, and the more formal "Incidents of a Life," around approximately 1859.

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