Redpath Library

Left: Interior Peter Redpath Library, McGill University, Montreal, QC. 1893 (?)

Right: Redpath Hall, McGill University, Monreal, QC. After notman (VIEW-2677) taken on november 17th 1999 at 11:20 a.m.

Photographers: Left: William Notman, Right: Andrzej Maciejewski
McCord Museum of Canadian History

© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Date: November 17, 1999, 11:20 a.m.

A very distinct shadow from the railing on the upper level told me the precise time and date of Notman's photograph. The people are hardly visible because he also used a long exposure time. As with many of the interior shots in this series, the old photograph is visually richer than the new one. However, today the Redpath library has been converted into a concert hall. On the day I scouted for my photograph an organ lesson was taking place. It was a great pleasure listening to the organ music while I examined the room for evidence of the past.
Date: November 17, 1999, 11:20 a.m.

A very distinct shadow from the railing on the upper level told me the precise time and date of Notman's photograph. The people are hardly visible because he also used a long exposure time. As with many of the interior shots in this series, the old photograph is visually richer than the new one. However, today the Redpath library has been converted into a concert hall. On the day I scouted for my photograph an organ lesson was taking place. It was a great pleasure listening to the organ music while I examined the room for evidence of the past.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Map

This Map of Montreal depicts the location where the photographs by Notman and Maciejewski were taken.

McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Founded in 1821 thanks to a legacy from James McGill, a merchant who amassed a huge fortune in the fur-trade, McGill University was established on his estate at the foot of Mount Royal.

The students for a long time were in the image of the founder. They were mostly the children of the upper and upper middle classes who had access to university studies. But class membership was not the only obstacle that had to be overcome. For many years, even the women of the elite were excluded from university programs. At first admitted only to the McGill Normal School, which gave them a distinct and inferior education that did not lead to a real degree, women students were only allowed to enrol in undergraduate programs in 1884. But equality had still not really been achieved, because women were kept segregated for many more years.
Founded in 1821 thanks to a legacy from James McGill, a merchant who amassed a huge fortune in the fur-trade, McGill University was established on his estate at the foot of Mount Royal.

The students for a long time were in the image of the founder. They were mostly the children of the upper and upper middle classes who had access to university studies. But class membership was not the only obstacle that had to be overcome. For many years, even the women of the elite were excluded from university programs. At first admitted only to the McGill Normal School, which gave them a distinct and inferior education that did not lead to a real degree, women students were only allowed to enrol in undergraduate programs in 1884. But equality had still not really been achieved, because women were kept segregated for many more years.
Printed Documents
  • Ainley, Marianne Gosztonyi (ed.). 1990. Despite the Odds : Essays on Canadian Women and Science. Montreal: Vehicule Press.
  • Frost, Stanley Brice. 1980. McGill University for the Advancement of Learning. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
  • Gillett, Margaret. 1981. We Walked Very Warily : a History of Women at McGill. Montreal: Eden Press Women's Publications.
  • Neville, Terry. 1994. The Royal Vic : The Story of Montreal's Royal Victoria Hospital : 1894-1994. Montreal: McGill-Queen's University Press.
  • Prentice, Alison, and al. 1996. Canadian Women : A History, 2nd ed. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Donalda Group

The first women students at McGill were nicknamed the Donaldas, in recognition of the businessman Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, whose financial generosity made it possible, in 1884, to overcome the resistance of McGill administrators. In 1898, Lord Strathcona again contributed to the promotion of education for women. He was also the main donor for Royal Victoria College, which was at once a residence, a teaching institution and an intellectual centre for women at the university.

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
c. 1898
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
II-123244
© McCord Museum


Anatomy Study

These McGill medical students put on a show for the photographer by "having fun" dissecting one of their classmates. In addition to the ghoulish sense of humour of these future doctors, the scene also shows one of the motivations for excluding women from the practice of medicine. Indeed, how could the requirements of the medical profession be reconciled with feminine modesty?

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
c. 1884
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
II-73328
© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Quiet... people are studying!

The only sounds tolerated are those of pages turning and of pens scribbling notes under patches of lamplight. Concentration is key, and hope stirs in every breast. But will effort be rewarded?

One can easily imagine the atmosphere at McGill University's Peter Redpath Library in the 19th century. The library, a Mecca of learning, was inaugurated with great ceremony in 1893, in a building which, at the time, was considered to be innovative and extremely functional.
Quiet... people are studying!

The only sounds tolerated are those of pages turning and of pens scribbling notes under patches of lamplight. Concentration is key, and hope stirs in every breast. But will effort be rewarded?

One can easily imagine the atmosphere at McGill University's Peter Redpath Library in the 19th century. The library, a Mecca of learning, was inaugurated with great ceremony in 1893, in a building which, at the time, was considered to be innovative and extremely functional.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Lamp

This student lamp is made of brass and has an iron rod, a clear glass chimney and white glass shade. Stamped on the burner of this lamp are the original patent date, March 10, 1863, and the reissue date, December 30, 1873; the oil tank is stamped with the patent date December 1, 1874.

McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mrs. H. C. Roberts
c. 1875
54.6 x 29.3 x 18.4 cm
M967.51.1
© McCord Museum


This student lamp has the oil or kerosene reserve separated from the wick tube to increase the draft and thereby create a brighter flame - to benefit late-night readers. The lamp was popular in the late 1800s because it claimed to cast little to no shadow beneath the lampshade onto the reading table.

The invention of kerosene revolutionized lighting in Canada. In 1846, Abraham Gesner (1797-1864), a physician and geologist, gave the first public demonstration in Prince Edward Island of a lighting fuel he called kerosene. Obtained initially from coal and later from petroleum, kerosene was inexpensive, clean, relatively safe and could be found in abundance. It rapidly replaced whale oil as the preferred lamp fuel in Canadian homes, then was itself replaced by electric power, which by 1906, was widely dispersed to major towns and cities across the country.
This student lamp has the oil or kerosene reserve separated from the wick tube to increase the draft and thereby create a brighter flame - to benefit late-night readers. The lamp was popular in the late 1800s because it claimed to cast little to no shadow beneath the lampshade onto the reading table.

The invention of kerosene revolutionized lighting in Canada. In 1846, Abraham Gesner (1797-1864), a physician and geologist, gave the first public demonstration in Prince Edward Island of a lighting fuel he called kerosene. Obtained initially from coal and later from petroleum, kerosene was inexpensive, clean, relatively safe and could be found in abundance. It rapidly replaced whale oil as the preferred lamp fuel in Canadian homes, then was itself replaced by electric power, which by 1906, was widely dispersed to major towns and cities across the country.

© McCord Museum

Opening ceremony, Redpath Library

The opening ceremony for Redpath Library took place in the autumn of 1893. The architect Sir Andrew Taylor (1850-1937), much in demand in the late 19th century, designed the Redpath Library and six other buildings for McGill University.

Anonymous
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mr. Stanley G.Triggs

© McCord Museum


McGill University expanded rapidly in the 1890s. Among the buildings constructed for the growing community was the Redpath Library, which was completed in 1893. Peter Redpath (1821-1894), president of the Redpath sugar refinery in Montreal, was a generous benefactor to the university, and he supplied the funds for the building.

This photograph shows the inauguration of the Redpath Library in 1893. The library had a separate wing for book stacks (the stacks are still in use today) and was designed with glass floors to make it fireproof. The interior was a large, dark reading-room filled with rows of long tables and green-shaded lamps. The beamed ceiling was high and arched; at the end of the beams, carved creatures protruded into the air.

The Redpath Library remained the sole library at McGill for 60 years. Now called Redpath Hall, the building serves the university as a ceremonial hall.
McGill University expanded rapidly in the 1890s. Among the buildings constructed for the growing community was the Redpath Library, which was completed in 1893. Peter Redpath (1821-1894), president of the Redpath sugar refinery in Montreal, was a generous benefactor to the university, and he supplied the funds for the building.

This photograph shows the inauguration of the Redpath Library in 1893. The library had a separate wing for book stacks (the stacks are still in use today) and was designed with glass floors to make it fireproof. The interior was a large, dark reading-room filled with rows of long tables and green-shaded lamps. The beamed ceiling was high and arched; at the end of the beams, carved creatures protruded into the air.

The Redpath Library remained the sole library at McGill for 60 years. Now called Redpath Hall, the building serves the university as a ceremonial hall.

© McCord Museum

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the changes that were operated within Canadian society over two decades (territory, population, economy, etc.);
  • Describe in details changes that he/she is able to observe;
  • Explain and speculate about the reasons that could justify these changes;
  • Make connections between the differences and similarities of the two eras.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans