Big Cities, New Horizons

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Academic gown, mortarboard and hood
Avant 1864, 19th century
Gift from Mrs. John Wightman
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Academic gown (1)
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Keys to History

In 1800, there were no universities in Canada. A hundred years later, there were over thirty. McGill was the first university to be set up in 1829. In the wake of this development, a new figure appeared: the university professor. Definitely not researchers or specialists, the first professors were dilettantes, recruited for the most part from the ranks of the liberal professions. Doctors, lawyers and notaries benefited fully from the introduction of universities. In the middle of the century, these professionals joined together to form associations with the purpose of controlling the access to their profession or the practise of their art. The next step would then be to make university education a prerequisite for training in medicine and law. At the end of the century, the majority of young doctors, as well as new notaries and lawyers, would have attended a faculty of medicine or law.

  • What

    Photograph of a black gown with a red stole worn by university professors. Respect for the profession of university professor has been established for a long time. The gown is the ceremonial dress of this "aristocracy of the spirit".

  • Where

    Professors and administrators wore gowns especially during the important ceremonies that marked university life, such as convocation.

  • When

    This gown dates back to the 19th century at a time when the first Canadian universities were established. It resembles those still worn today.

  • Who

    This gown was worn by professors or by university administrators such as deans and rectors.