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Montreal Hunt Club fonds (P161)

1830-1998. - 4.85 m of textual records and other documents.

Administrative History - Biographical Sketch:

Founded in 1826, the Montreal Hunt is the oldest North American hunt club in continuous existence. For two decades after 1850 the club was virtually an annex of the local British Army garrison, and its members were mainly military personnel. The years after Confederation were relatively quiet; the club lost many of its members with the removal of military units to the United Kingdom and of civil servants to the newly established capitals of Ottawa and Québec City.

The leadership of the club then passed to two prominent businessmen who paved the way for the club's golden era: the financier John Crawford and the shipping magnate Andrew Allan. They organized steeplechases at the Logan Farm (Montréal) and in Outremont and Verdun that helped refinance and stabilize the club. Other meets were held at the Bel Air racecourse in Dorval (built in 1874 and later known as the Forest and Stream Club), thus creating strong ties between the Montreal Hunt and the Bel Air Jockey Club.

The period 1880 to1900 was a glorious one for Canada, and the principal beneficiary was its metropolis, Montréal. With its members growing more and more prosperous, the club also benefited. Previously known as either the Montreal Fox Hounds or the Montreal Hunt, in 1880 the latter became its official name. Under the dynamic 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 during this period that Baumgarten built and donated an imposing brick clubhouse and kennels on DeLorimier Street, near Parthenais Street. By 1890 the Montreal Hunt had become the most prestigious social club in the city, bringing together prominent political, business and social leaders. In 1891 Sir Hugh Montagu Allan was elected Master of the Foxhounds (MFH), and he put the club on a firm financial footing.

By the end of the 19th century, what was then known as the East End of Montréal (near today's Papineau métro station) was rapidly becoming industrialized. A new clubhouse and kennels were built in Côte-des-Neiges in 1898, where the club remained for 40 years. Its horse shows and competitions were hugely popular.

A large number of documents belonging to the club were lost in the fire that damaged the Montreal Board of Trade building in January 1901, but the club was finally incorporated and given an official constitution in 1903.

The Great War of 1914-1918 severely curtailed its activities because many members left to serve overseas. In 1920 the kennels were moved north of Montréal to Fresnière in the region of Sainte-Scholastique. This area became the main hunting grounds for the club, though the clubhouse remained in Côte-des-Neiges until a fire in 1938 damaged it, hastening the transfer of all activities to Fresnière, away from encroaching urbanization. During the Second World War, the club came to a virtual standstill and many of its possessions were stored at members' homes or lent to military units in and around Montréal.

The first post-war hunt was held in 1947 at a time when many old members were retiring from the club. This helped pave the way for the emergence of a new mainly Francophone membership. By the mid-1960s the club was predominantly French- speaking, and the documents in the fonds reflect this evolution. Its first French Canadian MFH, Roland Désourdy, was elected in 1963. He was the impetus behind the opening of new hunting grounds in the Eastern Townships that which became known as the Hunt South.

The Montreal Hunt celebrated its 150th anniversary in 1976 with pomp and circumstance. The club had however lost much of its former prestige, despite being closely associated with the Olympic equestrian events. In 1983 the Montreal Hunt became officially known as the "Club de chasse à courre Montréal Hunt" and acquired the status of a non-profit organization.

For additional information see: John Irwin Cooper, The History of the Montreal Hunt 1826-1953 (Montréal, Montreal Hunt, 1953).

Scope and Content:

The documents in the fonds illustrate the history of the social and equestrian activities of the Montreal Hunt from the mid-19th century to the early 1990s. To paraphrase Cooper, it is the fascinating story of a long succession of prominent Montrealers who were highly representative of the age in which they lived. The fonds contains manuscript and printed material, maps, architectural plans and photographs. More precisely, the records of the Montreal Hunt comprise: constitution and by-laws, 1890-1941; minutes, 1870-1948; letterbook, 1882-1889; general correspondence of the secretary, 1878-1953; membership lists and correspondence, 1859-1947; scrapbooks, 1883-1940; and lists of hounds, 1877-1938. Also included are a minute book, 1906-1908, and correspondence, 1877-1914 concerning the Montreal Hunt steeplechase. The financial records include annual statements, 1881-1941, account books, 1879-1941, and property records, 1886-1941. Also included are minutes, 1882-1885, membership lists, 1881-1889, and rules, 1888-1889, of the Montreal Tandem Club.

The fonds is divided into the following series :

  • P161/A: Administrative affairs
  • P161/B: Legal affairs
  • P161/C: Human resources
  • P161/D: Financial resources
  • P161/E: Equipment and real estate
  • P161/F: Information resources
  • P161/G: Communications
  • P161/H: Member services
  • P161/I: Montreal Tandem Club
  • P161/J: Montreal Tennis & Country Club
  • P161/K: Related events
  • P161/L: Photographs
  • P161/M: Printed material