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Robert L. Ridley Fonds (P756)

P756 Robert L. Ridley Fonds. - 1888-1990. - 4.5 cm of textual records. - 951 iconographic documents.

Biographical Sketch

Born in England in 1886, Robert L. Ridley made his way to Canada before immigrating to the United States in 1914. In 1919, he married Fabiola Caisse, who was born in Canada in 1887 and accompanied him to the United States. The couple had two children: Roberta, born in 1921 and William, born in 1925.

Ridley worked in the fur trade and, in 1920, was employed by one of the Hudson's Bay Company's main competitors, the Lamson and Hubbard Canadian Company Limited. Founded in 1918, this enterprise was the Canadian subsidiary of the Lamson and Hubbard Company based in Boston. In 1930, Ridley also worked as a fur auction controller.

Scope and Content

This fonds focusses primarily on Robert L. Ridley's maritime expeditions to Hudson Bay and northern Alberta and Manitoba between 1913 and 1920, when he worked for the Lamson and Hubbard Canadian Company Limited. It chronicles the difficulties involved in setting up trading posts in Chesterfield Inlet, Baker Lake, Fort Churchill and Cape Wolstenholme. For example, it reveals the challenges associated with hiring workers from the Naskapi and Inuit communities and finding sites that did not infringe on the extensive territory already reserved for the Hudson's Bay Company. The fonds also documents other maritime expeditions undertaken by Ridley as part of his fur trade activities, specifically to the Great Whale River, Fort McMurray, York Factory, Methye Portage, Edmonton, Winnipeg and the Athabasca River.

The collection includes a logbook describing the daily activities of the crew of the SS Thetis, under the command of Captain Smith, and the routes of other ships sailing the Arctic. Ridley also mentions the invaluable assistance of Donald Baxter MacMillan, a sailor and explorer hired as a consultant by Lamson and Hubbard. In addition, the fonds contains photographs documenting this expedition, along with a detailed list of the photos taken by Robert L. Ridley and a short correspondence with MacMillan dated October 1920.

In addition, a photo album chronicles Ridley's other trips to the Arctic between 1913 and 1920. This album records how the Inuit lived on the Great Whale River as well as non-Aboriginal activities. Among the photos are shots of the SS Pelican and RMS Nascopie, and portraits of Hudson's Bay Company employees, notably Stanley Dawson Ridley.

The fonds contains a certificate listing the history of the Ridley family name and a bound notebook presenting the genealogy of Reverend François Gabriel Caisse, a Montreal priest from the parish of Verdun who was a relative of Fabiola Caisse and a supposed descendant of Abraham Martin dit L'Écossais. A letter of condolence, notes and press clippings complete this collection.

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

Dates of creation: Several documents are undated.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was donated to the McCord Museum in 2013 by Madame Justine Sentenne, the companion of William L. Ridley (1925-2012), son of Robert L. Ridley.

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

Associated material: Documents related to American explorer Donald Baxter MacMillan that chronicle the voyage of the SS Thetis are preserved in the Bowdoin College Library in Brunswick, Maine, as part of the Donald Baxter MacMillan Collection, George J. Mitchell Department of Special Collections & Archives.

The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • P756/A Genealogical Information
  • P756/B Travel
  • P756/C Photographs


Last update: September 19, 2017