Fonds F 0042 - Jules Robinet fonds

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Jules Robinet fonds

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CA ON00354 F 0042

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  • 1887-1942; 2018 (Creation)

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22 cm textual records

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Jules Robinet (1858-1942) was a successful entrepreneur, bootlegger, and pillar of the Francophone community in Sandwich, Ontario during the late-19th and early-20th centuries. Born to Pierre-Antoine and Josephine (née Pheulpin) Robinet in Rougement, France, Jules Robinet was the fifth of eight children, all of whom would eventually immigrate to Canada (as would their parents). Jules and his brother Auguste came to Sandwich in 1875, where Jules began selling a variety of goods, and opened a grocery store in Tecumseh which later expanded to hardware, dishes, and a butcher shop. In the early 1880s he transitioned out of the grocery business and set up a brickworks in Sandwich. This business would employ many fellow French immigrants in the area, supply bricks for the building of Assumption College, and financially prop up Robinet’s other businesses in difficult times.

Robinet’s chief entrepreneurial success was in the winemaking business, which he entered in 1882. Notably, he paired a modest approach to expansion with a willingness to innovate, and cultivated relationships with local authorities. As a result the Robinet winery not only outlasted other early wineries in Essex County, but thrived despite periods of war and economic depression. During the Prohibition era Robinet was a successful rumrunner, and (after selling his winery and his liquor license in his later years) continued to make bootleg wine and other liquors for personal consumption and sale up to the final year of his life.

Jules Robinet married Marie Séguin, a French-Canadian from Tecumseh, in 1880. Between 1881 and 1904 the couple produced seventeen children, of whom twelve survived infancy: Joseph, Francis, Paul, Emile, Anna, Clovis, Catherine, Marie Louise, Lucille, Julia, Antoinette, and Petit-Jules (Jules Jr.). Over the years many of the children, including the girls, worked with or for their father, or partnered with him in business ventures. Jules Robinet was a devout Catholic and active in the parish life of Assumption Church. He frequently assisted members of the local Francophone community with employment, offered financial and legal advice, and served as a focal point of the French emigrant community in the Windsor border region. He also served as a city councillor for seven years, and as a Separate School commissioner for ten years.

Sources: Contents of fonds; Jack Cecillon, “The World of Jules Robinet: Pioneer Winemaker,” Ontario History 60, 1 (2018): 9-34.

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Scope and content

This bilingual (French/English) fonds contains financial records, daily journals, and a short family history created by Jules Robinet over more than six decades of business, family, and community life in Sandwich and Tecumseh. Since Robinet employed and/or entered business partnerships with many family members and neighbours, the records document intertwined elements of both his personal and professional activities. The journals in particular capture elements of daily life within a large Franco-Ontarian family during an eventful half-century of war and economic depression. Also included is a book of biographies about notable men in Essex County, inscribed by the author to Robinet, and a modern article about Robinet’s local significance as a winemaker and Francophone community figure.

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