Fonds MG 598 - Ross Family Autograph Album

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Ross Family Autograph Album

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MG 598

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  • [ca. 187-?] – 1981 (inclusive); [187-?]-1915 (predominant). (Creation)

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Physical description

5 cm of textual records. Album: 110 pages, approximately 362 autographs; 5 letters; clippings and ephemera.

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Arthur Wellington Ross was born in Nairn, Ontario, on March 25, 1846; and was of Scottish ancestry. His grandfather, Arthur Ross (1776-1861), was a member of the 78th Highlanders, and served with the Duke of Wellington; likely immigrated to Canada between 1820 and 1846, and was one of the first settlers in the township of Adelaide, Middlesex County. (He also appears to have provided the inspiration for his grandson’s name). Arthur Wellington Ross began his career as a teacher, and later became inspector for public schools prior to earning a BA from the University of Toronto in 1874. Arthur married Jessie Flora Cattanach on July 30, 1873. By October of 1874, Arthur had joined his father-in-law’s firm, Crooks, Kingmill & Cattenach, as a law student. He and Jessie, together with their young son John Hugo, moved to Winnipeg in May 1877. [Jessie’s account of that trip, “Rambling Recollections,” was published in the “Women’s Edition of the Telegram”]. A second son, Donald Aynsley Ross, was born that September. Arthur joined his brother’s law firm, and was admitted to the Manitoba bar in 1878. A daughter, Gertrude, was born on May 15, 1880 but died the following year (July 8, 1881). A real estate promoter and speculator, by 1882 Ross was one of the wealthiest landowners in Winnipeg. In addition to city property, he owned most of what later became known as Fort Rouge; he speculated in Metis scrip; and owned town lots in Brandon and Edmonton, as well as rural property. He suffered financially in the 1882 real estate collapse; the Hudson’s Bay Company took him to court, and he became a topic of debate in the local press. Ross had been elected (as a Liberal) MLA in 1878, but in 1882 he resigned from the provincial legislature and was elected as a Liberal-Conservative MP for Selkirk from 1882-1896. He became involved as a defender of the CPR, and began speculating in Vancouver real estate; and effectively rebuilt his fortunes, with land holdings throughout the North-West, in various industries and resources, including mining. “In habits he was quiet, yet liberal, and very social. In all matters he was plucky and enterprising, the last two qualities being the secret of his successful career. With the public he was very popular and in social life had many warm friends.” Arthur Wellington Ross and Jessie Flora Ross divided much of their time between Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. Ross suffered a stroke while in British Columbia in 1901, and died in Toronto while seeking medical treatment, on March 25, 1901.

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Jessie Flora Cattanach was born in Laggan, Ontario, on November 10, 1839, the daughter of Donald Cattanach (1799-1883) and Flora MacKenzie (1813-1893). Her maternal grandmother, Annie MacDonald (1777-1849) emigrated from Skye, Scotland, in 1831; the Cattanach family Bible was in Gaelic. Jessie married Arthur Wellington Ross on July 30, 1873. Arthur Wellington Ross and Jessie Flora Ross divided much of their time between Ottawa, Winnipeg, and Vancouver. They had three children: John, Donald, and Gertrude. (Gertrude was born in 1880 but died the following year.) Although her husband’s career would have provided Jessie with occasion to meet many of the people who signed her album, she must have been remarkably engaging to have persuaded so many individuals to sign. Family members suggest that, a diarist herself, Jessie understood the importance of recording names of interesting people she met during those formative years of Canada’s expansion west. Moreover, she appears to have encouraged her son and his wife to do the same; and her grandson and his wife continued the practice. Donald Aynsley Ross’ son, Arthur Dwight Ross, was an Air Commodore, wounded in action during World War II; he received the George Cross. He later became Aide-de-Camp for Alexander of Tunis when he was Governor General; his career, like that of his grandfather, enabled him to meet prominent individuals of his time. Jessie Flora Ross died on December 1, 1937.

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John Hugo Ross was the eldest son of Arthur Wellington Ross and Jessie Flora (Cattanach) Ross. He was born on November 24, 1875 in Toronto, Ontario. He worked in Toronto prior to moving to Winnipeg in 1894, where he founded the Hugo Ross Realty Company, and subsequently helped found the Winnipeg Real Estate Board. John Hugo Ross was also president of an insurance agency, served as secretary-treasurer of the Winnipeg Stock Exchange, and was involved in various other companies. He died on the Titanic on April 15, 1912.

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Biographical history

Donald Aynsley Ross, the second son of Arthur Wellington Ross and Jessie Flora (Cattanach) Ross, was born in Winnipeg on September 26, 1877. He attended Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto. He became a mining engineer in British Columbia; and from 1900-1906, was a locating engineer for the Canadian Northern Railway, during which time he oversaw construction of the Pinawa Channel Dam on the Winnipeg River. In 1906, he formed an architectural partnership with Ralph B. Pratt. Ross died in Winnipeg on April 1, 1956.

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Biographical history

Arthur Dwight Ross was born in Winnipeg on March 18, 1907. He was the son of Donald Aynsley Ross. Ross was an Air Commodore, wounded in action during World War II; he received the George Cross for his bravery. After the war, he was appointed the Commandant of the RCAF Staff College in Toronto. Ross was later appointed Air Commander of the Western Atlantic Area's Canadian Atlantic sub-area of NATO's Allied Command Atlantic. He was also an Honorary Aide-de-Camp to the Governor General of Canada, Viscount Alexander of Tunis; his career, like that of his grandfather, enabled him to meet prominent individuals of his time. Ross retired from the RCAF in 1961. Ross died in 1981 in Kingston, Ontario.

Custodial history

This album was initiated Jessie Flora Ross (1839-1937) and maintained by three generations of the Ross family. Some of the entries have specific references to Donald, her son; it is his name in the frontispiece. Toward the end of her life, Jessie Ross resided with her son, Donald Aynsley Ross. With the death of both his siblings, the album was passed first to Donald Aynsley Ross and his wife, Maude Elizabeth Dwight (1880-1966); then to their son Arthur Dwight Ross (18 March 1907-22 September 1981) and daughter-in-law, Marguerite Wynn (31 December 1908-16 April 2003); and finally to their two daughters, Susan Wynn Ross and Nancy Alice Ross.

Scope and content

This album contains over 360 autographs from prominent individuals of the time, including six Prime Ministers (all those who served between 1878-1911); eight Governors-General; 25 cabinet ministers; and over 100 members of parliament, predominantly those who served in the first 10 parliaments [first sitting date to dissolution] between 1867 and 1905. Other individuals of achievement and/or fame in various fields are also represented: scientists; public officials from other countries; diplomats; religious leaders; those in the performing arts. Uniquely, the album also contains several signatures from members of the Royal Family: extremely rare in an album of this kind.

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The album and several of the documents within it are fragile. Additionally, some items have been glued or taped to the album pages.

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