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John Wardrop Ross Fonds (P217)

Advertising poster of the Canadian Patriotic Fund (detail), about 1914. Gift of Mr. John Wardrop Ross, John Wardrop Ross Fonds P217, P217/A4,2.1

Those left behind

"If you can't fight you can pay - Your loyal talk won't beat Germany - Men and Money will - Enlist or pay to-day - Subscribe Now to the Canadian Patriotic Fund"

Canadian stories about the Great War rarely mention the families of the soldiers who went overseas to fight with the Allies. However, these forgotten figures of military history experienced hardship because the meagre incomes of soldiers were usually insufficient to support the loved ones back home.

To give these families financial and social assistance (and even moral guidance), the Canadian Patriotic Fund (originally created in 1900) was re-established in 1914, thanks to the efforts of Montreal businessman, politician and social reformer Sir Herbert Brown Ames.

The Fund's fundraising campaigns featured rather eye-catching advertising. Employing images of forsaken families and provocative slogans, the ads tried to stimulate the Canadian public's sense of patriotism, solidarity and, frankly, guilt: "How can you cheer for the boys when they come home if you have neither fought nor paid? Dad's on the line busy fighting - What are you doing for those he left behind?"

Despite some criticism of the Fund's enforcement of "morality" when disbursing funds, it continued to raise money until 1919.

P217 John Wardrop Ross Fonds. - [1899-1951]. - 160 cm of textual records. - 16 photographs.

Biographical Sketch

John Wardrop Ross was born in Montreal in 1870. He studied at the Montreal Business College and then travelled in Europe before settling permanently in Montreal, where he became a partner in the prestigious accounting firm of P.S. Ross & Sons. The firm was run by his father, Philip Simpson Ross, who was also president and co-founder of the Association of Accountants of Montreal (which later became the Ordre des comptables agréés du Québec). In 1896, John Wardrop Ross also began working for the Association, serving as secretary-treasurer from 1899 to 1901 and as president in 1905 and 1906. He was elected a Fellow of the Dominion Association of Chartered Accountants in 1902.

During a career lasting over 50 years, Ross held directorships in a number of organizations and was elected president of the Montreal Board of Trade in 1923, 1932 and 1933. He was also involved in a number of charitable organizations, notably the Canadian Patriotic Fund, the Montreal YMCA and Canada's Victory Loan campaign, holding key positions usually associated with fiscal management.

An amateur photographer, Ross was a founding member of the YMCA Camera Club in 1898 and served as the first vice-president.

He died in Montreal in 1946.

Scope and Content

This fonds covers the various charities, social organizations and aid campaigns in which John Wardrop Ross was involved, mainly as an accountant. A significant contribution to the social history of Montreal and Canada, these archives primarily document Ross' activities at the Canadian Patriotic Fund, the YMCA and Canada's Victory Loan campaign, three organizations that played an important role in the mutual aid movement of the First World War. Various administrative documents and minutes, correspondence, financial statements, lists of employees, committees and subscribers, activity reports, promotional documents and scrapbooks trace the administration of these organizations, their fiscal management and their fundraising campaigns.

The fonds also chronicles the fundraising campaigns of various Montreal hospitals and charities through correspondence, lists of contributors and subscribers, promotional documents, communications plans, activity reports and press clippings.

Photographs illustrating fundraising campaigns, posters and billboards complete this collection.

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

Conservation: Some fragile press clippings have been photocopied.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was donated to the McCord Museum by John Wardrop Ross.

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

Finding aids: An inventory was produced in 2014.

Associated material:

Concordia University: YMCA of Montreal Fonds (P145)

LAC: Canadian Patriotic Fund Association Fonds (R2848-0-4-E / Former archival reference no. MG28-15)

Archives of Ontario: War posters series (C 233-2)

The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries and files:

  • P217/A Canadian Patriotic Fund
    • P217/A1 Administration
    • P217/A2 Finances
    • P217/A3 Fundraising activities
      • P217/A3,1 Patriotic campaign in Montreal. - 1917. - 7.5 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02
      • Scope and Content: This file covers the 1917 fundraising campaign organized by the Montreal branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund. It contains lists of employees, volunteers and subscribers, balance sheets and correspondence.

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

        Language: The documents are in English.

      • P217/A3,2 Other fundraising activities (1914-1919)
    • P217/A4 Communications. - 1914-1924. - 43.5 cm of textual records.
    • Scope and Content: This subseries chronicles the Canadian Patriotic Fund's administration and fundraising activities, the promotional efforts and advertising associated with its fundraising campaigns, as well as the organization's media coverage. It contains scrapbooks, advertising posters, press clippings and correspondence.

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

      Language: The documents are in English.

      • P217/A4,1 Correspondence. - 1915-1924. - 10 cm of textual records
        Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02

        Scope and Content:
        This file chronicles the re-establishment of the Canadian Patriotic Fund (CPF) during the First World War. This fund was used to provide assistance to the families of Canadian soldiers who went to fight with the Allies in Europe. More specifically, it documents the administration, financial management and fundraising activities of the Montreal branch of this federally incorporated pan-Canadian organization, and the involvement of John Wardrop Ross, its honorary treasurer. The file is composed primarily of correspondence, as well as financial and accounting records (statements, extracts of books of account, etc.), memos, excerpts from minutes, a print copy of a piece of legislation, and an amendment. The correspondence includes typewritten copies of letters written by John Wardrop Ross, along with copies and originals of letters from various correspondents, chiefly members of various CPF committees and branches, the accounting firm of Creak, Crushing & Hodgson, and the Bank of Montreal. A button with the CPF insignia is pinned on a letter from T. P. Tansey, a supplier of fundraising materials. There are also telegrams, cards, subscription forms and receipts. The file covers much of the Montreal CPF branch's existence, during and after the war, and even goes beyond its dissolution in 1923, encompassing the period January 14, 1915, to November 14, 1924.

        The documents in the file reveal the internal organization of the Montreal CPF branch, which was included a finance committee, in charge of fundraising, a relief committee, for supporting families, and a Franco-Belgian subcommittee. The file chronicles the CPF's fundraising campaigns, including the one undertaken jointly with the Red Cross in 1917. Several communications are about the donations received, some of which were in the form of bonds. A few missives discuss the challenges that sometimes arise when trying to collect the promised funds. The correspondence also documents the connections between the Montreal branch and the organization's head office in Ottawa and other local branches, notably in the form of periodic financial reports. Some communications refer to discussions between the head office and the Montreal branch with regard to the local redistribution of the funds collected from Montreal donors. Helen R. Y. Reid, who was very active in the Montreal relief committee, expresses differing views from the Hamilton branch with regard to the question of how much to allocate to soldiers' wives who work. In fact, the Hamilton branch encouraged these women to work, while the Montreal branch advised them to stay home to care for their young children. Much of the file chronicles the Montreal CPF branch's post-war activities in its capacity as the Federal Emergency Appropriation Department, which was in charge of providing assistance to former servicemen who were unable to obtain employment. Finally, several communications document the administrative and financial operations related to dissolving the Montreal CPF branch.

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

        Language: The documents are in English, with the exception of one in French.

      • P217/A4,2 Advertising posters. - [1915-1918]. - 0.5 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents

        Scope and Content:
        This file chronicles the advertising strategies carried out by the Canadian Patriotic Fund (CPF) during the First World War to support its fundraising campaigns. It is composed of ten advertising posters. Originally established in 1900 during the Boer War, the CPF was re-established in 1914 to provide assistance to the families of soldiers sent overseas. Its mission was to raise funds and pay allowances to soldiers' dependents. The CPF also performed a social or even moral role, via a group of women volunteers who would visit families, to both offer advice and verify their eligibility for the program. Among the key figures in the Montreal CPF branch were businessman and politician Sir Herbert Brown Ames, Helen R. Y. Reid, and accountant John Wardrop Ross, who was the organization's honorary treasurer. Three fundraising campaigns were held in 1914, 1916, and 1917. The last one was conducted jointly with the Red Cross. Although the CPF could rely on major contributions from banks, municipal organizations and big businesses for its funding, it also wanted to rally support from the public.

        The posters in this file illustrate the strategies used by the CPF to encourage Canadian citizens to donate to the war effort, since they had not enlisted. Some posters appealed to citizens' sense of solidarity and guilt with the help of slogans like "If you can't fight you can pay," "Some women are sending their men. Some men are giving their lives. What are you doing for the cause of freedom?" "How can you cheer for the boys when they come home if you have neither fought nor paid?" and "Will your subscription mean to your family a sacrifice equal to that of the soldier's family? Does our common cause not demand as much?" Others tried to stimulate a sense of patriotism among Canadians, particularly those of British origin, by appealing to their loyalty to the motherland: "If you were a German aged 18-50 you would be fighting for the Kaiser! What are you doing for the King?" and "Are you one of those who at this crisis in our history are neither fighting nor paying that others may fight and are still enjoying the protection of the Union Jack?" Several posters also displayed the British flag, including one where it is featured side by side with the Canadian Red Ensign.

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

        Language: The documents are in English.

      • P217/A4,3 Press clippings
        Digitized documents

      • P217/A4,4 Scrapbooks. - 1905-[1923], in particular 1914-1917. - 33 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04 - Part 05 - Part 06 - Part 07 - Part 08 - Part 09 - Part 10 - Part 11 - Part 12 - Part 13

        Scope and Content:
        This file is composed of six scrapbooks and some loose records. The various documents in the file chronicle the three fundraising campaigns conducted by the Montreal branch of the Canadian Patriotic Fund (CPF) during the First World War. The first scrapbook focusses on the charitable organization's first campaign, conducted from September 14 to 18, 1914. The following three scrapbooks cover the second campaign, which took place from January 24 to 28, 1916. The final two scrapbooks document the last fundraising campaign, held September 14 to 16, 1917. Two of the three scrapbooks on the 1916 campaign are virtually identical, largely presenting the same documents in the same order.

        These compilations are essentially organized the same way, and hold the same types of documents for each campaign. They are composed primarily of copies of the print fundraising materials. For example, there are subscription cards, deposit envelopes, promotional cards, instructions for the fundraising team leaders, and forms to report the amounts collected. The scrapbooks also contain sample letters, like reminders and thank-yous, receipts, communications aimed at team leaders and their team members, and sample letters for business owners to encourage them to promote the "One Day's Pay" program with their employees. In addition, there are other types of correspondence, menus, and administrative documents (lists of donors and their contact information, lists of fundraising team members and their contact information, lists of volunteers and paid employees, reports, statements of expenses, and instructions for stenographers and bank tellers). Documents from the 1917 campaign, which was conducted jointly with the Red Cross, are very similar, but most are headed by the joint designation "Montreal Patriotic Campaign." The scrapbooks include many press clippings from English-language and French-language newspapers, such as The Montreal Daily Star, The Gazette, The Montreal Daily Mail, The Evening News, The Montreal Herald and The Daily Telegraph, Beck's Weekly, The McGill Daily, La Presse, Le Canada, Le Devoir and La Patrie. These clippings report on the three campaigns, describing the various forms of support they received, their organization, the make-up of the fundraising teams, the fundraising activities and events held, the daily evolution of the monies collected, and the primary donors. They illustrate the media coverage of the three campaigns and the public's reaction. There are also copies of the many advertisements published by the CPF. Several articles mention more controversial topics, such as questions about how the funds were administered and how the monies were distributed to soldiers' families. A few press clippings chronicle the activities pursued by the Montreal CPF branch after the war. Finally, the file includes some printed activity reports and publications.

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

        Language: The documents are in English and French. One document in English contains an excerpt in the Cree language.

  • P217/B YMCA
    • P217/B1 Administration
    • P217/B2 Finances
    • P217/B3 Fundraising activities. - 1914-1949. - 6 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02
    • Scope and Content: This subseries focusses on various community assistance projects and fundraising activities conducted by the Canadian YMCA, notably during the First World War and when the YMCA of Montreal raised funds to renovate and expand (1928). It contains administrative documents (including several activity reports), lists of subscribers, publications, handbills and brochures, and correspondence.

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

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P217/B4 Communications
      • P217/B4,1 Correspondence
      • P217/B4,2 Promotional documents and publications. - 1918-1950. - 1 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents
      • Scope and Content: This file documents the means by which the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) disseminated and promoted its principles, mission, objectives and fundraising and community support activities to interest groups and the public at large. It is composed of official publications, brochures, flyers, handbills and newsletters published by the Canadian and American national federations and by the Montreal and Toronto local associations. Two publications concern the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA), the women's branch of the Y.

        Several documents chronicle the Y's role during the First World War, focussing primarily on its activities to support soldiers: canteen services, promotion of physical fitness, shows, and social and cultural activities. The publication entitled Blue Triangle Y.W.C.A. Hostess Houses describes the places that were set up near Canadian military training camps to accommodate wives and mothers who came to visit soldiers before they were deployed overseas. Through touching stories, the author recounts the activities organized in these houses that offered couples separated by war a place to say good-bye and servicemen a warm, homey atmosphere in which to take comfort and socialize. Other documents note that the end of the war was seen as a crucial time, given the anticipated challenges faced by returning soldiers. For this reason, the Y created specific initiatives to support recently demobilized men.

        Generally speaking, the promotional documents in this file highlight the Y's foundations and areas of activity. For example, in its 1936-1937 fundraising campaign, which took place during the Depression of the 1930s, the YMCA of Montreal used the occasion to promote the importance of providing a stable environment for young men of the next generation who were dealing with high unemployment and changing values. The documents also reveal the Christian roots of the organization, whose activities sometimes bordered on proselytizing. However, it is clear that, overall, the Y promotes physical, intellectual, social and spiritual well-being by making sports facilities available to young men and boys and by providing opportunities for social, cultural and peer support activities. Finally, the file includes several issues of the YMCA of Montreal newsletter, entitled Y's Acres, which provide progress reports on the April 1927 fundraising campaign. There is also a copy of the Quebec edition of the Red Triangle News, the newsletter of the Canadian federation of YMCAs, which mentions John Wardrop Ross as a member of the provincial committee and the leader of the May 1919 Montreal fundraising campaign.

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

        Language: The documents are in English.

      • P217/B4,3 Press clippings
      • P217/B4,4 Scrapbooks

  • P217/C Victory Loans

  • P217/D Hospitals. - [1913-1951]. - 11 cm of textual records.
    Digitized documents: Part 01 - Part 02 - Part 03 - Part 04
  • Scope and Content: This series covers the fundraising campaigns conducted by various Montreal hospitals, including the Montreal General Hospital and the Children's Memorial Hospital, along with John Wardrop Ross' involvement in these organizations. It contains a communications plan, a financial statement, lists of subscribers, promotional flyers, correspondence and press clippings.

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

    Language: The documents are in English.

  • P217/E Other Charitable and Not-for-Profit Organizations

  • P217/F Philanthropy

  • P217/G Photographs


Last update: February 25, 2019