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Montreal Hunt Club Fonds (P161)

Seating plan (detail), 1881. Gift of the Montreal Hunt Club, Montreal Hunt Club Fonds P161, P161/F3,2.1 © McCord Museum

Montreal's "gentlemen riders"

"Montreal Fox Hounds - Dinner at the St. James's Club - February 9th 1881."

Although the names Drummond, Galarneau, McDougall and McEachran featured in this seating plan call to mind a top-level political or economic meeting, the occasion bringing together these members of the financial, liberal and landowning upper class in 1881 was actually the annual dinner of the Montreal Fox Hounds -- an organization that was renamed the Montreal Hunt Club shortly thereafter.

While hunting with hounds is now a forgotten or even prohibited pastime in many countries, it was very popular among North American and European elites during the 19th century. In keeping with the finest British tradition, the Montreal Hunt Club was founded in 1826 and extended its activities beyond fox hunting to include various equestrian meets and social events. Of all the Montreal sports and social clubs at that time, the Montreal Hunt was definitely the most prestigious. It was not surprising, therefore, to see so many eminent Montrealers at the head table presided over by Edmund Alexander Charles Campbell, the club's Master of the Fox Hounds.

The "Club de chasse à courre de Montréal" (as it is now known) is still operating today, although its practices are a little different since the foxes being chased are no longer killed. It is the oldest North American hunt club in continuous existence.

P161 Montreal Hunt Club Fonds. - [1830-1998]. - 417 cm of textual records and other documents.

Administrative History

The oldest North American hunt club in continuous existence, the Montreal Hunt Club was founded in 1826, when it was essentially an annex of the local British Army garrison. When the leadership of the club passed to businessmen John Crawford and Andrew Allan in 1867, the club entered a golden era. Steeplechases organized at Logan Farm and in Outremont and Verdun helped refinance and stabilize the club. Previously known as either the Montreal Fox Hounds or the Montreal Hunt, the club adopted the latter as its official name around 1880. Under the leadership of Captain Campbell, Ross Hutchins and especially Alfred Baumgarten, new foxhounds were imported from Ireland, British rules for fox hunting were imposed and new hunt grounds were opened in Pointe-aux-Trembles and Saint-Hilaire. It was also during this period that an imposing clubhouse and kennels were built on De Lorimier Avenue.

By 1890, the Montreal Hunt had become the most prestigious social club in the city and its members included prominent political and business leaders. Elected Master of the Foxhounds in 1891, Sir Hugh Montagu Allan put the club on a firm financial footing. In 1898, a new clubhouse and kennels were built in Côte-des-Neiges, where the club remained for 40 years. During this period, it organized horse shows and competitions on Craig Street. Many club documents were destroyed in the 1901 fire that damaged the Montreal Board of Trade building, but the club was finally incorporated and given an official constitution in 1903.

In 1920, the kennels were moved to Fresnière in the region of Sainte-Scholastique, north of Montreal. This area became the main hunting grounds for the club. When a 1938 fire damaged its Côte-des-Neiges clubhouse, the club decided to move all its activities to Fresnière, away from encroaching urbanization. During the Second World War, the club came to a virtual standstill, and did not stage its first post-war hunt until 1947. Many old members had retired from the club and new members were primarily Francophone. The first French-Canadian Master of the Foxhounds, Roland Désourdy, was elected in 1963. He was the impetus behind the opening of new hunting grounds in the Eastern Townships (known as the Hunt South).

The Montreal Hunt celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1976. Despite its close association with that year's Olympic equestrian events, the club had lost much of its former prestige. In 1983, it became officially known as the "Club de chasse à courre de Montréal" and acquired the status of a non-profit organization.

Scope and Content

The fonds chronicles the leadership of the Montreal Hunt Club, the administration of its finances and properties, and, above all, its membership and hunt activities, equestrian meets and various social events from the mid-19th century to the early 1990s.

It contains the organization's constitution and by-laws, minutes, and numerous records documenting its financial management, hunt expenses and various banking transactions. Newsletters, souvenir booklets, scrapbooks and newspaper clippings reveal how the club promoted its image and activities, as well as its relations with the press.

The most voluminous series is the one covering the club's membership and activities. It contains rule books for members, membership lists covering the period 1870 to 1992 and many letters. Hunts, equestrian activities and social events like the Hunt Ball and annual dinner are documented in the form of invitations, various books and lists of participants, correspondence, and promotional and financial documents. There are also lists of hounds, their import and pedigree documentation, and numbered bibs.

Finally, this collection includes some photographs as well as documents about the Canadian and American organizations affiliated with the Montreal Hunt Club and the various social and sports clubs and events in which it participated.

Source of title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.

Physical description: Contains 18 photographs (b&w and col.), 11 architectural drawings (96 x 6 cm and smaller), 3 maps and 10 objects (9 numbered bibs and 1 lead seal).

Immediate source of acquisition: The records came from four different donations made between 1976 and 2007.

Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

Associated material: The A.-Leo Leymarie Fonds (BM005) is preserved at the Archives of the City of Montreal.

Related groups of records: Other documents related to the Montreal Hunt Club are preserved in the Ogilvie Family Fonds (P082).

General note: Many photographs of the Montreal Hunt Club are preserved in the McCord Museum's Notman Photographic Archives.

The fonds is divided into the following series and subseries:

  • P161/A Leadership

  • P161/B Administration

  • P161/C Finances and Assets

  • P161/D Communications

  • P161/E Membership

  • P161/F Activities
    • P161/F1 Hunts and other equestrian activities. - [1877-1993]. - 53.5 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This subseries focusses on the Montreal Hunt Club's various sporting layouts and competitions, as well as its equestrian activities (primarily horse shows and steeplechases), thus illustrating the close ties between hunting with hounds and equestrian sports. It also documents the means by which the club promoted these various events. The archives cover a period of over a century and consist primarily of invitations, advertising posters, programs, registration forms, lists and records of participants and winners and evaluation sheets. In addition, there are letters, various financial records and a hunting journal kept by Edward Ogilvie from 1895 to 1908.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in English.

    • P161/F2 Hounds
    • P161/F3 Social activities. - 1881-1992. - 16.5 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This subseries documents an essential aspect of the activities organized by the Monreal Hunt Club: social events and meetings. While the majority of the documents concern the annual Hunt Ball and dinners organized between the last quarter of the 19th century and 1992, some chronicle other activities like banquets to honour distinguished members, private receptions and country soirées (which illustrate the club's more recent activities).

      The subseries contains guest lists, invitations, programs and menus, seating plans, several printed speeches, invoices, receipts and financial statements, and a guestbook.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in English and French.

    • P161/F4 Tributes and awards
    • P161/F5 Affiliated organizations
    • P161/F6 Other sports clubs and events

  • P161/G Printed Materials

  • P161/H Photographs


Last update: August 30, 2017