Fonds 1413 - Harold Innis fonds

Identity area

Reference code

UTA 1413


Harold Innis fonds


  • 1906-1970 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

10.27 m of textual and graphic records, and artifacts (80 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Harold Adams Innis was born on November 5, 1894 near Otterville in Ontario's Oxford County, the eldest son of William Anson and Mary Adams Innis. He attended Woodstock Collegiate Institute, received his B.A.(1916) and M.A. (1918) from McMaster University in Toronto, and completed his Ph.D. at the University of Chicago in 1920. From 1916 to 1917 Innis served as a signaller with the Fourth Battery of the Canadian Expeditionary Force in Western Europe. Innis joined the staff of the University of Toronto's Department of Political Economy in 1927, rising to the post of Head of the Department by 1937. Under his direction, economic history grew to a position of respected importance. As a teacher of economic staples theory, Innis interpreted Canadian history through the perspective of the fur trade, the fisheries, and the wheat and lumber economies. His interest in railways and transportation spawned studies of communication and the history of information technology.

From 1947 until his death in 1952, Innis assumed the additional responsibility of Dean of the School of Graduate Studies. Beyond his academic duties, he participated in such professional organizations as the Royal Society of Canada, the American Economic Association, the Canadian Social Science Research Council and the National Conference of Canadian Universities. Innis' concern for continuing education found him chairing the Workers' Educational Association of Canada. Recognition of his professional expertise earned Innis respected advisory positions on numerous royal commissions of economic inquiry.

Innis' international reputation as an economist took him on the lecture circuit. The most prestigious of these was the British tour in 1948 of the Beit, Cust and Stamp lecture series in Oxford, Nottingham and the University of London respectively. As well, Innis was a featured participant in conferences at home and abroad. In Tune of 1945 he traveled to Russia on a special invita¬tion to join the 220th Anniversary meeting of the Academy of Sciences in U.S.S.R.

In May of 1920 Harold Innis married Mary Quayle. They had four children: Donald, Mary Ellan, Hugh and Anne. Innis died on November 8, 1952 at the age of 58, after a prolonged battle with cancer.

Archival history

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Content and structure area

Scope and content

Fonds consists of biographical and personal records, family and professional correspondence, tributes, field notes, interviews, research notes, subject notes, unpublished and published manuscripts including versions of "History of Communication" manuscript. Correspondence, briefs, reports and other material relating to the Nova Scotia Royal Commission on Provincial Economic Inquiry, 1934, and assembled by Harold Adams Innis who was a member of the Commission. The mimeographed copies of the hearings and the final report are in Government Publications, Robarts Library. Also includes records relating to administrative activities at the for the Department of Political Economy and School of Graduate Studies at the University of Toronto, Arctic research, Canadian Radio-Television Commission, the Royal Society of Canada, Workers' Educational Association, Canadian Social Science Research Council, professional correspondence, photographs, maps and other records on and by Harold Innis. Records of Mary Quayle Innis relating to Innis' career including bibliography card file.

Photonegatives, photoprints and slides taken during Harold Innis' research trips to Fort Prince of Wales; Repulse Bay; Churchill, Manitoba; Newfoundland; Northern Bay; Saint John, New Brunswick. Innis family photoprints and negatives; military photoprints of Harold Innis during World War I; graduation portraits of Innis from McMaster University; photoprints taken while Innis was on holiday on the MacKenzie River, in Churchill, Manitoba, and in Russia; group photoprint of the staff of the Dept. of Political Economy; passport photos of Harold Innis; various unidentified photoprints. Artifacts include academic gown and cap worn for conferring of doctorate in 1920.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access


Conditions governing reproduction

Publication restrictions; please consult the Archives for further information.

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Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Finding aids for accessions B1972-0003 and B1972-0025.

Uploaded finding aid

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

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Notes area


Bulk of the records are found in accessions B1972-0003 and B1972-0025.

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Dates of creation revision deletion

Added to AtoM by E. Sommers, Feb. 2017




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