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Leclère (Leclerc) Family Fonds (P731)

Excerpt from the anthropological chart of Pierre-Édouard Leclère (1822-1892) (detail), 1862. Gift of Mrs. Aude Nantais Picher Tremblay, Leclère Family Fonds P731, M2010. © McCord Museum

The character of Pierre-Édouard Leclère

"Constitutional tendencies to
Honesty,........................................6 Purity,............................................5
Diligence,.......................................6 Courage,........................................6
Discretion,......................................5 Command,......................................6
Education,......................................6 Public life,......................................6"

Very little is known about Pierre-Édouard Leclère, the son of the illustrious notary and police superintendent of the same name. However, this "anthropological chart" produced in 1862 by Dr. J. D. Haynes, a phrenologist and physiognomonist working in Montreal, claims to shed new light on the personality of the man from Saint-Hyacinthe. Among other things, the chart indicates that Leclère has a high propensity for benevolence, mirthfulness and combativeness; a temperament more bilious than phlegmatic; an innate talent for mathematics and politics; and an average predisposition to diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Although it now raises eyebrows, the "science" of phrenology, developed by physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), was much in vogue in Europe and North America during the first half of the 19th century. It supposes that an individual's intellectual, affective and moral faculties can be inferred from the shape of the skull, which is itself influenced by the development of certain organs of the brain. Medical advances in the second half of the 19th century gradually disproved this "science of bumps" that held a special, albeit controversial, place in the history of neuroscience.

P731 Leclère (Leclerc) Family Fonds. - [1750-1949]. - 9 cm of textual records. - 282 photographs. - 2 objects.

Biographical Sketch

The fonds focusses on the Leclère family, some of whose members were public figures in Montreal, Lower Canada, the United Province of Canada and the Province of Quebec. Most of them lived in Montreal or the surrounding area, notably in Saint-Hyacinthe.

Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père, was born February 10, 1798, in Montreal, the son of Pierre Leclère, dit Lafrenaye, and Marie-Anne Bourg. In 1820, he married Marie Josephte (or Josette) Castonguay, with whom he had 17 children, including Pierre-Édouard, fils, Charles Ambroise and Georges Samuel.

He began training as a notary in 1813, working with three influential clerks at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada: maîtres Louis Chaboillez, Jean-Marie Mondelet and André Jobin. He was commissioned in 1825 and opened an office in Montreal, where he practised until 1840.

Named Montreal's police superintendent in 1830, Pierre-Édouard Leclère was tasked with reorganizing the force at a time of growing influence of the Patriote party, whose ideas he firmly opposed. In the years that followed, he created networks of informers to infiltrate the Patriote party and played an active role in repressing the movement, pursuing rebels (real and imagined) as far as the American border. He was then made a justice of the peace and took part in the commission that examined compensation for losses suffered during the Rebellions of 1837-1838.

Pierre-Édouard Leclère became the owner of the newspaper The Canadian Spectator in 1826, and owned L'Ami du people, de l'ordre et des lois from 1832 to 1836. The latter played a key role in disseminating loyalist ideas. Leclère also founded Le Journal du commerce in 1835.

In 1840, he moved from Montreal to Saint-Hyacinthe, where he worked as a notary until at least 1859. He also held the office of stipendiary magistrate until 1843, along with that of president of the Agricultural Society of Lower Canada, and became a shareholder in the Société de navigation de la rivière Richelieu in 1845. Pierre-Édouard Leclère died in Montreal, in 1866.

Pierre-Édouard Leclère, fils, (1822-1892) married Henriette Brewer (1835-1924) in 1857. The couple lived in Saint-Hyacinthe and had two children: Pierre Édouard and Alphonse Édouard.

Charles Ambroise Leclère (1825-1870?) studied at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe during the 1840s and married Élizabeth Archambault in 1859.

Like his brother, Georges Samuel Leclère (1827-pre-1907) studied at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe during the 1840s. After marrying Corinne Turgeon (1832-1907) in 1855, he had a number of children with her, including Marie, Charles, Gustave-Louis, Georges Ovide, Eugène and Hélène. A resident of Saint-Hyacinthe, Georges Samuel Leclère was named secretary of the Agricultural Council of Quebec in August 1869.

Georges Ovide Leclère (1865-1900) was the son of Georges Samuel Leclère and Corinne Turgeon. Although he was enrolled in the Université Laval Faculty of Medicine (Montreal section) in the early 1880s, he instead pursued a career in the field of finance and commerce. In 1892, he was working at a bank when he married Yvonne Mathieu (about 1873-after 1921), the daughter of Adolphe Mathieu (about 1849-?), a lawyer, and Marie Louise Desjardins. The couple had five children. Georges Ovide Leclère also partnered with his brother Eugène in Leclère Bros., a wholesaler specializing in boots and shoes. He died prematurely in 1900s.

Scope and Content

This fonds focusses on the Leclère family and several related families, including the Mathieus and the Desjardins. It chronicles the personal lives, family lives and professional activities of members of the French-speaking upper class in the 19th century.

The professional life of Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père, is illustrated in correspondence, most of it exchanged with Édouard E. Rodier, and two speeches made in his honour in 1842 when he was appointed Montreal police magistrate. Baptismal and death certificates chronicle major events that marked his private life.
The fonds contains several texts written by Georges Samuel Leclère in 1843 to 1845, when he studied the classical curriculum at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe. These compositions were created chiefly for his classes in Humanities and Rhetoric. The correspondence between Georges Samuel Leclère and his wife Corinne Turgeon deals mainly with family topics, while several legal documents provide information about Georges Samuel's professional activities and the couple's finances and assets (especially real estate).

The archives of Pierre-Édouard Leclère, fils, include an anthropological chart created by Dr. J. D. Haynes in 1862, which describes certain personality traits and pathologies revealed by the shape of his skull and his physiognomy.

There is also a voluminous correspondence between Georges Ovide Leclère and his wife Yvonne Mathieu. The couple's personal and family lives are the focus of these letters, which chronicle their relationship, Georges Ovide's relations with his father and his brother Gustave, and Yvonne Mathieu's relations with her parents and brother-in-law. An agreement produced in August 1900 describes the terms of the partnership between Georges Ovide and Eugène Leclère in Leclère Bros., boot and shoe merchants.

The fonds includes 282 photographs that primarily depict members of later generations of the Leclère family, along with a number of unidentified individuals. There are also portraits of politicians and friends of the family. A medal bearing a photograph of Honoré Mercier and a leather frame used for cabinet cards complete the collection.

Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical condition: Several documents are fragile and cracked.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was donated to the McCord Museum by Aude Nantais Picher Tremblay in 2010.

Language: The documents are in French and English.

General note: The McCord Museum's Dress, Fashion and Textiles collection includes a set of jewellery (M2010.34.21.1-4) and a brooch (M2010.34.22) from the Leclère family.

The fonds is divided into the following series:


Last update: March 11, 2018