Fonds 1056 - Boeschenstein Family fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1056


Boeschenstein Family fonds


  • [192-]-1963 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

1.17 m of textual and graphic records (7 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

The Boeschenstein family traces its roots to the Canton of Schaffhausen in German-speaking Switzerland. B2013-0031 contains documents and records from four generations of the family. The first generation consists of the parents of Hermann Boeschenstein and Lili Schoch. The former’s parents were Hermann and Katharina Boeschenstein (née Krüse). They had three children, two of whom died before Hermann was born. The latter’s parents were Karl and Emma Schoch (née Walter). They had three children: Emmili, Elizabetha (Lili), and Karl.

Hermann, the son of Hermann and Katharina, was born May 1, 1900 in Stein am Rhein, “a charming town in the middle of the river just above Schaffhausen.”[1] Boeschenstein would later claim that all he remembered from his school days was meeting “a girl named Elisabeth Schoch from Schaffhausen.”[2] Boeschenstein began his impressive university career “at the age of nineteen near home, at the University of Zürich” before going on to “[pursue] his studies further in Munich, Berlin, Kiel, Königsberg and Rostock.”[3]

The years following Boeschenstein’s doctoral studies were eventful ones: “He served his term in the Swiss army, took a position as private tutor in Austria, explored Italy and France and then started his Wanderjahre proper with a trip to Canada.”[4] His initial stay in Canada was marked by hard labour as he paid his way across the country by working as a lumberman, farmhand and railway sectionman.[5] It was only in May, 1928 that Boeschenstein returned to Switzerland to marry Lili Schoch.[6]

The newlyweds did not remain in Switzerland for long. In August, 1928, the young couple set out for Toronto to begin the next phase of their life. In Canada, Boeschenstein befriended G.H. Needler, who was then head of the German Department at the University of Toronto.[7] “In the spring of 1930, Professor Needler offered him an appointment in the German Dept., to begin that fall.”[8] Unfortunately, Needler forgot to tell the President about the appointment and Boeschenstein did not begin teaching at the University until 1931 as a result.[9]

Between 1942 and 1946, Boeschenstein took a leave of absence from the University in order to serve as the Director of the War Prisoners’ Aid of the Y.M.C.A.[10] It was in this capacity that Boeschenstein supplied German prisons of war in Canada with up-to-date reading material.[11]

Boeschenstein was made full professor at the University of Toronto in 1948. In 1956, he became head of the Department of German, a position he held until 1967.[12] He was a prolific author throughout his career, authoring 40 articles and nine books, the latter including a two volume history of German literature titled Deutsche Gefühlskultur.[13] Not all of Boeschenstein’s publications were academic: he also published two novels (Die Mutter und der neutral Sohn and Im Roten Ochsen) as well as a collection of short stories.[14] A longtime supporter of German and Swiss clubs in Toronto [15], Boeschenstein was honoured for his work in spreading knowledge of German culture when he received the prestigious Goethe Medal in 1960.[16]

Hermann and Lili had four children together. In order from oldest to youngest, they were: Frank, Gertrude, Tom, and Bill. Hermann passed away “[q]uietly in his home on Tuesday, September 21, 1982, predeceased by his wife Lili.”[17] In addition to three of his children (Tom tragically passed away earlier), he left behind three children-in-law: Carol, Frank, and Claire. [18]

Archival history

The contents of B2013-0031 were delivered in one box. Said box contained dozens of bundles of letters. Bundles tended to be grouped by author and time period but this was not always the case.

Because approximately half the correspondence of B2013-0031 is in German (and much of that in a script that is no longer used), it was impossible to identify the author(s) and/or addressee of every letter. As a result, it proved necessary to make a number of educated guesses based on handwriting, greetings, and so on. Where it was evident that a group of letters belonged together but the addressee was unclear (as, for example, was the case with the “Mein lieben” letters), the letters were kept together to make identification easier.

Finally, the pages of a number of letters came apart prior to the Archives. Often, these pages ended up bundled together with the wrong correspondence. Consequently, it was not feasible to repatriate them to their original location. These fragments have therefore been grouped together in the “Odds and Ends” series.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of letters (1929-1962) that Gertrude Knighton's mother, Elizabeth (Lili) Louisa Boeschenstein, wrote to her mother, Emma Schoch-Walter, and her older sister, Emmeli Schoch; Lili Schoch's exercise books that she compiled to teach children [191-]; letters to her and Hermann Boeschenstein from their families in Switzerland, 1928- ca. 1947; correspondende between Hermann and Lili (1930-1955) and with their children, principally Frank and Gertrude (1944-1963). Includes a number of postcards and a few photographs. Many of the letters are written in German, and some in Old German.

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Language of material

  • English
  • German

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No finding aid.

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