Fonds - Anderson Family fonds

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Anderson Family fonds

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  • 1877-1999 (Creation)

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1.36 m of textual records 63 photographs : b&w and col. 4 photographs : b&w negatives 9 postcards : b&w 8 architectural drawings

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Biographical history

Since the mid 1890s, the Anderson family has been prominent in the social and commercial life of St. Thomas, Ontario, with extensive involvement in community fund raising and other philanthropic ventures, church activities, the arts, sporting events, and the operation of one of the city's iconic business establishments and principal employers, the Anderson Department Store. Robert Marshall Anderson (1860-1940) came to St. Thomas in 1896 as the junior partner in a dry goods business and manager of the department store known as Northway and Anderson. In 1906 Anderson purchased his partner John Northwayâs share in the company and established the family business known as the Anderson Department Store that dominated St. Thomas commercial life for much of the 20th century. Building on his success as a businessman, R.M. Anderson soon gained prominence in the city's social and philanthropic circles. He served as President of the Elgin Patriotic Society from the time of its founding in 1914 until its disbandment in 1919. He was active in several civic building campaigns in St. Thomas, including those supporting the construction of Memorial Hospital, new buildings for the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A., and extensions for Alma College. Mr. Anderson was also a devoted member of Knox Presbyterian Church in St. Thomas and served for many years on its board of managers. He was an avid amateur golfer and curler and was instrumental in establishing several golf clubs/courses in the St. Thomas area. He was a founding member and director of the Elgin Country Club in 1899 (later renamed Pinafore Park Golf Club), one of the few clubs formed in Ontario prior to 1900 still in existence. Also in 1899 R.M. Anderson married Katherine (Kate) Wegg, a lifelong resident of St. Thomas whose ancestors included some of the area's first settlers, the Duncombe and Wegg families of the Sparta Settlement. Their son Donald Hume Anderson was born on April 14, 1910 and quickly absorbed his fatherâs passion for the sports of curling and golf. As a student at the University of Toronto (1928-1932), he was a member of the varsity curling team, and captain of the varsity golf team during his last three years. After completing his Bachelor of Commerce degree in 1932, he entered the family business and continued his secondary career as a recreational and highly competitive amateur sportsman who was instrumental in organizing both curling and golf at local, provincial and national levels. D.H. Anderson was a sixteen-time Club Champion at the St. Thomas Golf & Country Club and served as the Club's President from 1951-1953. In 1990 he donated a portion of farmland for the construction of the Redtail Golf Course in Port Stanley, Ontario, where the Club House is named Anderson House to honour its benefactor. He served as a governor of both the Ontario Golf Association and the Canadian Seniors Golf Association. D.H. Anderson was also a founding member of The St. Thomas Curling Club (formed in 1955), later served as Club President, and led the campaign to fund and construct the St. Thomas Memorial Community Centre Arena, which opened in 1956, providing St. Thomas curlers with six additional sheets of ice. The St. Thomas Curling Club has hosted or participated in many bonspiels at local, provincial, national and international levels. In 1961 a St. Thomas Curling Club team that included D.H. Anderson won the Governor General’s Cup, a feat repeated in 1970 by a Club team featuring his son, Bob Anderson. D.H. Anderson became a Vice-President of the Ontario Curling Association in 1968, and from 1971 to 1973 served as the Association's President. Following his father's example, D.H. Anderson became an influential community leader and philanthropist. He was the founding president of the St. Thomas-Elgin Branch of the Canadian Cancer Society, the St. Thomas-Elgin Branch of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the St. Thomas Mental Health Care Association (subsequently renamed the Elgin Association for Community Living). He also served as president of the St. Thomas Board of Trade and the St. Thomas-Elgin Art Gallery Foundation, and was a director of the St. Thomas Y.M.C.A., the St. Thomas Industrial Board and the Elgin County Pioneer Museum. During the Second World War, he was Chairman of the Fundraising Committee of the St. Thomas Branch of the Canadian Red Cross Society. He was often called upon to lead important civic building campaigns, including such initiatives as the construction of a new general hospital and the Public Arts Centre. Like his father, D.H. Anderson was an extremely knowledgeable and widely respected collector of art, books, maps, furniture and other artifacts, especially those created in or relating to the local history of St. Thomas and Elgin County. His private collection was without equal in south western Ontario, and while much of the collection was sold at auction after his death in 2004, many items were donated to the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Art Centre where they remain on display. Donald Hume Anderson married Mary Morley in 1937. Their three children, Robert Morley, Mary Catherine (Kate) and Susan Elizabeth (Betsy) joined their father in running the store that bore their family's name. Donald Hume Anderson continued to serve as President of Andersons Limited until the store closed in 1988. He died on February 6, 2004 at the age of 93.

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Scope and content

Fonds consists principally of records relating to the Anderson family's many athletic, philanthropic and community development activities and is of particular interest to those seeking information on the development of social-service organizations and institutions in St. Thomas, Ontario, and to historians and researchers generally concerned with museum administration, community development fundraising, and the organisation of golf and curling as amateur sports in Ontario. Fonds also includes correspondence of Robert Marshall Anderson and Donald Hume Anderson with various soldiers from the St. Thomas area who served during the Boer War/South African War (1899-1902), the First World War (1914-1918), and the Second World War (1939-1945). These records will interest military historians and researchers concerned with how the experiences of war are described and remembered. The correspondence embodies the distinct perspectives on military service of the regular infantry soldier and the military physician. Fonds is arranged in the following series: 1. Community Service 2. Curling 3. Golf 4. Photographs 5. War Correspondence

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Access to records of the Anderson family's donations to the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Arts Centre, and personal records of applicants for the curatorship of the St. Thomas-Elgin Public Arts Centre is subject to review.

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Elgin County Archives maintains a virtual exhibit featuring the Anderson Department Store and the Anderson Family.

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