Fonds MSG 216 - Lighthall Family Fonds

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Lighthall Family Fonds

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on content of fonds.

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  • 1875-1954 (Creation)
    Lighthall, W. D. (William Douw), 1857-1954

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Physical description

approximately 11 m of textual records and graphic material

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Name of creator


Biographical history

W.D. Lighthall was born in Hamilton, Ontario, and educated at McGill University (B.A. 1879, B.C.L. 1881, L.L.D. 1921). He practiced law in Montreal (K.C. 1906), and served as Mayor of Westmount, 1900-1902. He was a founder of the Canadian Union of Municipalities and served on the Metropolitan Parks Commission for Greater Montreal and the Historical Monuments Commission. He was founder of the Great War Veterans' Association which was later incorporated into the Royal Canadian Legion. In addition to his public activities, Lighthall actively engaged in historical and literary pursuits. A founder of the Chateau de Ramezay Historical Museum, he was president of the Antiquarian and Numismatic Society and played an important part in the erection of the de Maisonneuve Monument on Place d'Armes. He wrote Sights and Sounds of Montreal (1907) and Montreal After 250 Years (1892). He was a founder of the Society of Canadian Literature and published in 1889 one of the first anthologies of Canadian poetry, Songs of the Great Dominion. In 1902, he was elected to the Royal Society of Canada, and in 1917-1918 served as its president. In 19230 he was elected president of the Canadian Authors' Association. Lighthall developed his own philosophy of virtue and universal goodwill which he explained not only in treatises on ethics and politics such as Sketch of the New Utilitarianism (1887), Canada: A Modern Nation (1904), The Person of Evolution (1930), but also in his fiction including The Young Seigneur (1888), The False Chevalier (1998) and The Master of Life (1908).

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(approximately 1820-1984)

Biographical history

The Lighthall family came to Canada from New York about 1830. Douw K. Lighthall was registrar of Beauharnois, Quebec. His son William Francis married Margaret Wright, grand-daughter of Major James Wright (McIntyre). Her father's brother-in-law was Peter Rutherford, builder of Fort Lennox. By marriage, the Lighthalls were related to the Nyes who were among the claimants of the Christie estates including the Seigneury of Lacolle. W.F. Lighthall (1827-1920) practiced as a notary in Montreal except for a brief period in Hamilton, Ontario. He had two sons, William Dow (1857-1954), and George Rutherford (1861-1956) who was also a notary and a daughter, Katherine. W.D. Lighthall married Cybel Wilkes, the grand-daughter of the reverend Dr. Henry Wilkes (1805-1886), a Congregationalist minister in Montreal. They had three children: William S., Alice and Cybel. Cybel Wilkes Lighthall was one of the founders of the Canadian Guild of Handicrafts and her daughter, Alice, was to be equally active in this organization. William S. fought with the British forces in Mesopotamia in World War I and was an early member of the Flying Corps. Alice was a V.A.D. in France. George Lighthall married Anne dean, sister of Mrs. Charles Lyman. Their daughter Anne worked as a nurse in France and Belgium, ca. 1930 – ca. 1970. George was a founder of the Canadian branch of the Aerial League of the British Empire. Most members of the family were active Protestants; Anne Lighthall was a Roman Catholic.

Custodial history

The Lighthall papers are composed of two distinct accessions. The first is that of material given by W.D. Lighthall in the period between approximately 1910 and 1946. It included much of the early literary correspondence, the records of the Armenian Relief Committee, materials on the Great War Veterans' Association and the Metropolitan Parks Commission. There is about one metre of this material. The second accession is that of papers given by Alice M.S. Lighthall in 1983 and 1984, and is about 11 metres in extent. About half of the materials is that of W.D. Lighthall; the other half is material of other members of the Lighthall and allied families.

Scope and content

For purposes of arrangement, the Lighthall Papers have been treated as one unit. However, for purposes of descriptions, they have been divided into two parts: the W.D. Lighthall papers and the Lighthall Family papers.

The papers of W.D. Lighthall are divided into a number of different series: an Original Series, Letters and Papers, 1881-1946, and a New Series, Letters and Papers, 1865-1954. The greater part of the correspondence is to be found in these two series.

Although more than forty members of the Lighthall and allied families are represented in the collection, only those with significant bodies of papers are mentioned here, including Cybel Wilkes Lighthall, Alice M. S. Lighthall, Anne Dean Lighthall, W. F. Lighthall, and the Reverend Dr. Henry Wilkes, among others.

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The two Lighthall accessions have been arranged separately. The material from the earlier accession is marked "Original Series" in the inventory and will be found in c.1, c.2 / 1-13, c8. / 1-11, c.13, c. 14, c.20 / 3-8. This material includes the following which had been listed separately in many cases and always under Lighthall: three boxes labelled "Origins of the Great War Veterans' Associations"; correspondence in the Autograph Letter Collection (over 500 items); the Lighthall material designated CM22.bd216, CM23.Bd217 and CM84; the W.W. Campbell material, CM1; the C.G.D. Roberts material, CM85Bd Box VII; the D.C. Scott material, CM86.Bd Box VIII; the William Sharp material, CM83 and the Charles Sangster material, CM81 [European & American Manuscripts, 1962]. The A. MacKenzie Forbes papers have been removed to form a separate collection [MSG 217, re: Great War Veterans' Association]. The papers have been arranged into a general series of "letters and Papers" with several subject series which represent Lighthall's own arrangement.

The W.D. Lighthall material of the later accession has also been arranged into a general series of "Letters and Papers" and several subject series. These latter reproduce, more or less, the original arrangement. They also serve as a preliminary subject guide for the general series for it must be stressed that the general series contains much material relevant to the subject series. Only about 25% of the newspaper clippings have been kept; many of these are letters and articles by W.D. Lighthall.

The papers of other individuals generally have been arranged in general series of "Letters and Papers", but in some cases there are subject series as well.

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File-level inventory available.
For a more detailed description of the Lighthall Papers, see: Richard Virr, "Son of the Great Dominion : W.D. Lighthall and the Lighthall family papers". Fontanus 2, (McGill University Libraries, [Montréal, Québec]: 1989), pp. 103-109.

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