Collection P190 - Jefferson Lewis Collection

Letters from his mother, Jennie Jefferson Penfield Letters, 1931 Letters, 1932 Letters, 1933 Letters, 1934

Title and statement of responsibility area

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Jefferson Lewis Collection

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of the collection.
  • Variations in title: This collection was previously known as the Penfield-Lewis Papers.

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Dates of creation area


  • [ca. 1860] – 1981; predominantly 1907-1981. (Creation)
    Lewis, H. Jefferson, 1951-

Physical description area

Physical description

5.1 m of textual records. -- ca. 300 photographs. -- 11 magnetic tape sound recordings. -- 6 cassette tapes.

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Howard Jefferson Lewis, also known as H. Jefferson Lewis, and commonly Jefferson Lewis, was born in Montreal in 1951. He was the son of Crosby Lewis and Ruth Mary Penfield Lewis, the daughter of renowned neurosurgeon Wilder Graves Penfield. Lewis was educated in Europe and the United States, and graduated with a degree in Film Studies from Queen's University in 1972. He worked as a journalist for the Ottawa Citizen, Southam News Service, and CBC Radio. Following the death of his grandfather in 1976, Lewis undertook writing a biography of Penfield, which resulted in Something Hidden: A Biography of Wilder Penfield (Toronto: Doubleday) published in 1981. The biography was later turned into a screenplay and a movie produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the National Film Board of Canada. In subsequent years, he worked as a producer and wrote and directed short dramas, whose themes frequently revolved around Canadian subjects. Lewis married Catherine Ann Keachie in 1976. The couple had one daughter, Cleo Lewis.

Custodial history

The materials in the collection were assembled by Jefferson Lewis for the purpose of writing his biography of Penfield, Something Hidden. The material belonging to Wilder Penfield was left in the care of his literary executors, Wilder Penfield Jr. and Ruthmary Penfield, who granted access to Jefferson Lewis (son of Ruthmary Penfield) to write an authorized biography of his life. Lewis gathered additional material directly from other members of the Penfield family. In the course of researching his biography he also solicited and received a small quantity of material from acquaintances of the Penfield family, which he added to the collection. When Lewis was finished with the material, he donated it together with the material he generated writing the biography to the Osler Library of the History of Medicine at McGill University in 1987.

Scope and content

This collection is divided into material either by, or about, Wilder Graves Penfield. The material was collected by Lewis in order to write his biography. The fonds also includes materials associated with Mr. Lewis' writing of the biography.

The Penfield material is organized by family member, with the largest portion belonging to Wilder Penfield and his wife Helen Penfield. This material is largely personal in nature. It consists of originals and photocopies of diaries, as well as personal correspondence between Penfield and his wife, family photographs, and ephemera from a variety of social and professional events. There is also a small selection of personal correspondence between family members.

Lewis created drafts, revisions, letters concerning the development of the screenplay, and research material. Correspondence between Lewis and the family is contained in the material covering personal family matters.

Notes area

Physical condition

Includes one bandage wrapped in paper.
Photographs are found in both albums and framed.

Immediate source of acquisition


The material was gathered by Jefferson Lewis and roughly organized to serve his needs as he researched Wilder Penfield and the Penfield family for the purpose of his book. The material has subsequently been processed before the current finding aid was produced. It is possible that Jefferson Lewis' order has been loosely preserved, since there are notes that appear related to the biography interspersed through some of the original material and the photocopies.

Language of material

  • Chinese
  • English
  • French
  • German

Script of material

Language and script note

Primarily English; some correspondence, news clippings, and other miscellany are in French, Chinese, and German.

Location of originals

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Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Items can be requested for consultation online via the Library Catalogue or by email at Advance notice is recommended.

Finding aids

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

Records reflecting the work of Wilder Penfield in founding and directing the Montreal Neurological Institute are held in the archives of the Montreal Neurological Institute.


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