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Hart Family Fonds (P013)

Excerpt from a letter to Ezekiel Hart from Ephraim Hart (detail), 1801. Gift of Gerald Hart and his family, Hart Family Fonds P013, M21359.39 © McCord Museum

Harriet "Chayah" Hart

"My Dr [Dear] Ezekiel,

Happy to find your Dr [Dear] Fanny was safely Delivered of a Daughter. Hope the allmighty [sic] god will preserve her and the rest of your children in good Health which are the sincere wishes of every individual of our family. I had your daughter Named yesterday in the Synagogue by the Hebrew name of Chayah, which denotes to Live, and in English Harriet. The above is one of my Daughter's Hebrew names."

Born in Trois-Rivières on June 10, 1801, Harriet was the third child of Ezekiel and Frances (née Lazarus) Hart. The couple had met in New York City in 1793, when Ezekiel was living there to complete part of his schooling. In addition to his future wife, the young student also made the acquaintance of Ephraim Hart, a prominent successful businessman with whom he stayed for a time. Although they had the same last name, the two men were not closely related. They nonetheless developed a close, long-lasting friendship that was definitely supported by their shared membership in the Jewish community. In fact, it was in accordance with Jewish tradition that baby Harriet was given a Hebrew name that could illustrate her character: "Chayah," which means "to live." The choice of a Hebrew name from of one of Ephraim's daughters confirms the deep friendship between the two men.

Ezekiel Hart was the first Jew elected to the Assembly of Lower Canada in 1807. The members of his family, firmly established in Trois-Rivières and later in Montreal, were businessmen, politicians and influential philanthropists. The Harts were also early activists for the rights of Jews.

P013 Hart Family Fonds. - [1760-1960]. - 71.3 cm of textual records. - 38 photographs. - 1 cartographic material.

Biographical Sketch

The Hart family members who are the focus of this fonds marked the political, legal, social and economic life of the Trois-Rivières and Montreal regions from the late 18th to the 20th century. This family was among the first in the Jewish faith to settle in the Province of Quebec, shortly after 1759. The following section presents some of its most prominent members.

Likely born in London, AARON HART (about 1724-1800) settled in Trois-Rivières around 1760, after having followed the British troops to North America. He purchased several properties in the area, including the seigneuries of Bécancour and Sainte-Marguerite. In 1768, he married his cousin from England, Dorothea Judah, with whom he had eleven children, including Moses, Ezekiel, Benjamin and Alexander (1782-1835). His involvement in the fur and retail trades, lending activities, and numerous landholdings quickly made Aaron Hart one of the richest men in Lower Canada. He bequeathed his land and assets to his sons.

MOSES HART (1768-1852), the eldest son of Aaron, was born in Trois-Rivières. He married Sarah Judah in 1799 and had three children with her, including Alexander Thomas. He also had a number of illegitimate children. Although he tried to participate in the politics of Lower Canada, he essentially made his name in finance, shipping and shipbuilding, and as a landowner.

Also born in Trois-Rivières, EZEKIEL HART (1770-1843), the brother of Moses, was a successful businessman. Elected to the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada in 1807 and again in 1809, he was unable to take his seat in the legislature because of the controversy caused by his Jewish faith. He married FRANCES LAZARUS (1768 or 1769-about 1821) in 1794. The couple had thirteen children, including Samuel Becancour, Harriet (1801-1855), Aaron Ezekiel, Caroline Athalia (1807-1883) and Ira James Henry Craig (1809-1883).

Born in Montreal, BENJAMIN HART (1779-1855) was the fourth son of Aaron Hart. He pursued a career in business but also worked as a militia officer and justice of the peace. In 1806, he married HARRIOT JUDITH (1786-1849), with whom he had sixteen children.

The legitimate son of Moses Hart, ALEXANDER THOMAS HART (1804-1852) spent most of his life in the seigneury of Courval, which he had inherited. He and his wife MIRIAM JUDAH HART (1807-1887), married in 1840, had four children.

The son of Ezekiel Hart and Frances Lazarus, SAMUEL BECANCOUR HART (1798-1859) was a lawyer. An activist who lobbied for the political and civil liberties of Jews in Lower Canada, he was instrumental in the passage of a bill that guaranteed these rights in 1832.

Samuel's brother, AARON EZEKIEL HART (1803-1857) was a renowned lawyer and the first Jew to be called to the Bar in Lower and Upper Canada. He was also a militia officer, as well as an activist working for the rights of Jews. In 1849, he married his cousin PHOEBE DAVID (1818-1903), with whom he had four daughters.

Another son of Ezekiel and Frances Hart was ADOLPHUS MORDECAI HART (1814-1879), a lawyer, author, politician and activist for Jewish rights. He married his cousin HANNAH CONSTANCE HATTON HART (1826-1898) in 1844. The couple had six children.

The son of Benjamin and Harriot Judith Hart, THEODORE JONATHAN HART (1816-1887) was a successful businessman, a member of the Montreal militia and a philanthropist. He married Frances Michaels David in 1842, then Mary Kent Bradbury in 1845. He had a total of nine children from these two marriages.

The son of Alexander Thomas Hart, LEWIS ALEXANDER HART (1847-1923) was a notary, an author, and an active participant in politics and religion. He married Fanny Elizabeth Benjamin in 1878 and the couple had five children.

GEORGE EZEKIEL HART (1846-1883) was the son of Adolphus Mordecai and Hannah Constance Hatton Hart. A notary, he married Marie Delphine Elodie Descoteaux in 1881.

George Ezekiel's brother, GERALD EPHRAIM HART (1849-1936), worked as an insurance broker, journalist, author, historian, coin collector and collector. During his life, he lived in Montreal and Jacksonville, Florida. Gerald Ephraim Hart wrote a number of works -- including several that were published -- about history, archaeology and numismatics. A member of the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal, he was also president of the Society for Historical Studies of Montreal during the 1880s. From 1913 to 1923, when he lived in Jacksonville, he was the editor of the insurance newspaper, The Southern Sun.

MIRIAM HADLEY HART (1854-1925) was Gerald Ephraim and George Ezekiel's sister. Married to Alfred Abraham Belasco in 1888, she had two children.

The son of Lewis Alexander Hart and Fanny Elizabeth Benjamin, ALAN JUDAH HART (1879-1964) married Eva Vineberg in 1879. The couple had five children.

Scope and Content

This fonds documents the personal, social, professional and financial activities of five generations of the Hart family, several of whose members were activists for the rights of Jews. By offering a unique perspective on a family that dominated the politics and economy of Trois-Rivières, these archives help document Quebec's cultural, economic and social history.

Although these records come from many members of the family, several people in particular account for a larger corpus of documents. This is true of Aaron Hart, for example, whose personal and family life, finances and management of his landholdings are illustrated by correspondence, various personal documents, a ledger, and notarial documents. Letters, personal documents, a petition presented to Parliament by the Abenaki concerning their rights in the seigneury of Bécancour, and notarial documents chronicle Ezekiel Hart's personal life, business activities, political career and administration of real estate. The personal life and political activities of Samuel Becancour Hart are documented in various personal documents, invoices and a real estate deed of sale. A petition submitted to the provincial Parliament in 1831, in which he expresses his outrage at being excluded from the Commission of the Peace because of his religion, illustrates his commitment to the rights of Jews. The fonds also contains letters and a certificate chronicling the personal and professional life of Adolphus Mordecai Hart, various invoices revealing the finances of Benjamin M. Hart, and correspondence and a manuscript by Lewis Alexander Hart about the family's history.

The most extensive series, however, is that covering Gerald Ephraim Hart's personal life, professional activities and various interests (particularly historical research). It includes various personal documents, personal and professional correspondence, along with numerous texts (notes, manuscripts, proofs and publications) documenting his research.

The fonds also holds documents that cannot be attributed to a specific member of the family, various books from the Harts' collection, and photographs of family members.

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

Physical condition: Several documents are fragile and have been damaged or torn. Given their condition, some documents have been photocopied so they may be consulted.

Immediate source of acquisition: The first documents in this fonds were given to the McCord Museum in 1935 and 1936 by Gerald Ephraim Hart. His family subsequently made other donations until the early 1960s.

Language: Most of the documents are in English, but some texts are in French, Greek, Italian, German or Latin.

Availability of other formats: Part of the fonds is also available on microfilm.

Finding aids: A detailed inventory of the individual records is available.

Associated material:

Séminaire Saint-Joseph (Trois-Rivières): Fonds de la famille Hart (FN-0009).

BAnQ: Documents about members of the Hart family are located in various BAnQ archives centres, preserved in several archival collections and fonds, notably the Fonds Jules Martel (P2), the Fonds Cour des plaidoyers communs du district de Québec (TL24) and the Collection Centre d'archives de Québec (P1000).

LAC: Documents about members of the Hart family are preserved in several LAC fonds and archival collections, including the Fonds Francis-Joseph Audet (R8017-0-X-F), the Samuel Jacobs Fonds (R7876-0-4-E) and the Haldimand Papers (R11231-0-1-E).

American Jewish Historical Society: Hart family papers (P-18).

General note: The McCord Museum's collection also includes other photographs, paintings and objects belonging to various members of the Hart family.

The fonds contains the following series, subseries, sub-subseries and files:

  • P013/A Aaron Hart
    • P013/A1 Personal life. - [1772-1865]. - 3 cm of textual records.
    • Digitized documents
    • Scope and Content: This series documents certain aspects of Aaron Hart's personal and social life. It contains a membership certificate for the Freemasons Trinity Lodge No. 4 in New York City, a letter describing the travels of his son Adolphus, a notebook primarily used as a ledger, and a will.

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

      Language: The documents are in English.

    • P013/A2 Immovable property

  • P013/B Ezekiel Hart
    • P013/B1 Personal life
      • P013/B1.1 Correspondence. - [1789-1839]. - 1.5 cm of textual records.
      • Digitized documents
      • Scope and Content: This sub-subseries documents Ezekiel Hart's relationships with certain friends and family members, including his parents, his brother Benjamin, his sister Sarah, and his friends Isaac M. Gomez and Ephraim Hart. It contains letters sent to Ezekiel Hart when he lived in New York, as well as correspondence he received after returning to settle in his home town of Trois-Rivières.

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

        Language: The documents are primarily in English, but one text is in French.

      • P013/B1.2 Other
    • P013/B2 Finances and assets
      • P013/B2.1 Immovable property
      • P013/B2.2 Correspondence. - [1793-1799] - 0.5 cm of textual records.
      • Digitized documents
      • Scope and Content: This sub-subseries chronicles the finances and business activities of Ezekiel Hart and his family, over a period of just under a decade. It contains letters from his father, Aaron Hart, which primarily discuss Ezekiel's expenditures during his stays in New York City. There is also correspondence from David David, Alexander Zuntz, Henry Judah and Ephraim Hart about certain aspects of managing the Hart family's business affairs.

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

        Language: The documents are in English.

    • P013/B3 Political activities

  • P013/C Samuel Becancour Hart

  • P013/D Adolphus Mordecai Hart

  • P013/E Benjamin M. Hart

  • P013/F George Ezekiel Hart

  • P013/G Lewis Alexander Hart

  • P013/H Gerald Ephraim Hart
    • P013/H1 Personal life
    • P013/H2 Research and Publications
      • P013/H2.1 History
      • P013/H2.2 Numismatics
        • P013/H2.2,1 Classical and Ancient Civilizations
        • P013/H2.2,2 Pre-Hispanic and Latin America
        • P013/H2.2,3 Europe and North America
        • P013/H2.2,4 Prehistoric and Historic Canada
        • P013/H2.2,5 Elephant coins
        • P013/H2.2,6 Numismatic Society (Montreal). - [1888-1931]. - 0.5 cm of textual records.
        • Digitized documents
        • Scope and Content: This file documents Gerald Ephraim Hart's research on the Numismatic and Antiquarian Society of Montreal. It primarily contains annotated typescripts and manuscripts on the history of this learned society and some of its prominent members, such as Stanley Clark Bagg, Adélard J. Boucher and Henry Mott. There is also a typewritten version of a text discussing the difference between a numismatist and a philatelist.

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

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

        • P013/H2.2,7 Science of Numismatics
      • P013/H2.3 Insurance
      • P013/H2.4 Archaeology
      • P013/H2.5 Hart Family
      • P013/H2.6 Miscellaneous
    • P013/H3 Correspondence
    • P013/H4 Collections
    • P013/H5 Public Addresses

  • P013/I Other Hart Family Members

  • P013/J Unattributed Family Papers

  • P013/K Deschambault Family

  • P013/L Collections

  • P013/M Photographs


Last update: June 6, 2018