Fonds 1706 - Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. Office of the Camp Wardens fonds

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Reference code

UTA 1706


Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer. Office of the Camp Wardens fonds


  • 1919-2014 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.86 m of textual and graphic records, artifacts and publications (31 boxes)

Context area

Name of creator

Administrative history

The Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, also known as the Kipling Ritual, or the Iron Ring Ceremony, is a private ceremony to initiate newly qualified engineers to the social and ethical responsibilities of the profession. The text for the ceremony was written by Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) in 1922, at the request of Professor Herbert Edward Terrick Haultain (1869-1961), and was adapted in consultation with several past-presidents of the Engineering Institute of Canada (EIC) for use in the first ceremonies held in Montreal and Toronto in 1925. Integral to the Ritual is the wearing of the iron ring, which is worn on the little finger of the writing hand, as a reminder of the engineer’s sworn professional obligation.

The issue of creating a graduation ritual for new engineers was first presented at the 36th annual meeting of the EIC, held 25 January 1922, in Montreal, Quebec. As the luncheon speaker at the meeting, Professor Haultain gave a talk entitled “The Romance of Engineering”, after which he suggested the development of an oath, in the form of the Hippocratic Oath, but for engineers. The idea was an extension of Haultain’s involvement with the transformation of the Canadian Society for Civil Engineers into the EIC in 1918, a transformation that sought to formalize the licensing process of engineers, while increasing their professional and public standing.

The difficulty of drafting an appropriate ritual led Haultain to correspond with Kipling for help with authoring a text. Kipling showed considerable interest in the idea and drafted the initial ceremony, which was formalized, after considerable consultation between Haultain and the seven past presidents of the EIC. These seven would ultimately become co-opted as the original Corporation of Seven Wardens by the authority of their seniority in the profession. They were John Morrice Roger Fairbairn (1873-1954), George Herrick Duggan (1862-1946), Phelps Johnson (1849-1926), George Alphonso Mountain (1861-1927), Robert Alexander Ross (d.1936), William Francis Tye (1861-1932) and Henry Hague Vaughan (1868-1942). Fairbairn was the original chairman, or Chief Warden, of this governing body.

The first “ceremony”, also referred to as a “preliminary rehearsal”, was held on 25 April 1925, in Montreal. Ross, acting as the Senior Supervising Engineer (SSE), administered the obligation to himself and Fairbairn, as well as Harold Rolph, Norman M. Lash, Jim M. Robertson and John Chalmers, all graduates of the class of 1893 from the University of Toronto. In Toronto on 1 May 1925, fourteen officers of the University of Toronto Alumni Association were obligated in the Senate Chambers of the University of Toronto by the newly obligated senior engineers from Montreal. This ceremony was followed on the same day by another in which the University’s graduating class of 107 engineering students was obligated.

Kipling envisoned a camp ritual, a gathering in the spirit of camaraderie. The original Wardens of Camp One subsequently established a formal structure to administer the Ritual in Toronto. This was confirmed on 22 February 1926, by correspondence between Fairbairn and Robert John Marshall (1884-1970). The original Camp Wardens were Haultain, Marshall, William D. Black (d.1961), Arthur D’Orr LePan (1885-1976), Charles E. MacDonald, Thomas H. Hogg, and William A. Burke. The full names of the original Wardens of the first nine Camps are listed following the Administrative history.

Camp One’s authority to administer the Ritual was confirmed when it was issued the Book of Authority by Fairbairn in 1927; it included the full text of the Kipling Ritual. Although the Ritual could be said to have originated with Haultain, he took no more than an informal role in the ceremonies because of his conviction that the ceremony should be conducted by working engineers. Students should not associate the ceremonies with the awarding of academic credentials. From its inception, attendance at the Ritual has been voluntary and does not confer any professional qualifications on the wearer of the ring.

The iron rings were initially made from puddled wrought iron, sometimes called cold iron, hand-hammered by convalescing First World War veterans at the Christie Street Military Hospital, under the care of the Military Hospitals Commission which became the Department of Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment (DSCR). Haultain had a longstanding association with the DSCR; he arranged for the rings to be manufactured and delivered to the various camps. After 1948 the responsibility for their manufacture was taken over by the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, based in Montreal. Camp One continued to manufacture its own rings, considering them to be Ancient Landmarks. While many members still wear a rough iron ring, most of the rings manufactured today are made from stainless steel.

Kipling regarded the ring as a symbol. It is rough, not smoothed, and hammered by hand as, in the words of Kipling, “the young have all their hammering coming to them.” The ring has no beginning or end. Kipling’s use of cold iron as a symbolic metal for the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer stems from his interest in iron as a metal of power and a symbol of human innovation. Likewise, the Ancient Landmarks upon which the obligation is taken are made of cold iron of “honourable tradition” without inscription. Landmarks have typically included anvils, chains and hammers. A frequently circulated myth about the iron rings is that they were made from the pieces of the collapsed Pont de Quebec Bridge that killed 76 people in 1907. The rings, however, have always been made from commercial sources. While the Ritual is not a secret initiation, tradition has called for the ceremony to be private and has been solemnized by its not being publicized. The ceremony is conducted at each university by obligated engineers for students who are about to graduated from an accredited engineering program. In Camp One only family members and friends who themselves are obligated may attend and participate as ring presenters. Persons with foreign education who are professional engineers in Canada may apply to be obligated at a special ceremony known as the “Seniors Ceremony”.

The Kipling Ritual was registered in Ottawa on 5 June 1926, under copyright number 6831. Obligation certificates have been printed and given out at or after the ceremony since 1927. The “Hymn of Breaking Strain”, a poem written by Rudyard Kipling, was at times recited as a homily at the end of the Ritual to be delivered by the SSE. Kipling had intended the Wardens to own the copyright of the poem but that plan proved legally impractical and instead it was assigned to himself and published in The Engineer in 1935 to secure the rights. Kipling’s poem “The Sons of Martha” was written in 1907 and has also been recited as a homily. The Corporation of the Seven Wardens was incorporated as the custodial organization and administrative body of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer, under federal letters patent on 18 March 1938. The Ritual was officially registered in the United States in 1941. Miniature obligation cards were given to obligating engineers as portable keepsakes in 1943, at the suggestion of Harold Johnston, the secretary of Camp Seven in Halifax. The trademark for the ring design was registered in 1961 in Canada and 1965 in the United States.

Attempts have been made to make the Ritual available outside of Canada. Some Wardens felt that the Ritual to be extended to engineers in Commonwealth countries and in the United States. Some wardens have rejected numerous attempts to adapt the ceremony for other jurisdictions outside of Canada. Nonetheless, certain highly distinguished foreign engineers have taken the obligation in Canada, upon the invitation of the Chief Warden.

Kipling was opposed to such extension. He wrote “I did it for the Canadians and with the Canadians I wish it to remain.” Within Canada, the Iron Ring Ceremony has become immensely popular. By 2007 twenty-five camps located in every region of the country serving the needs of thirty-eight university campuses. The text of the Ritual has been translated into French as “L’engagement de l’ingenieur”, as have the poems “The Sons of Martha” and the “Hymn of Breaking Strain”, both of which are included in the French ceremony as in the English. Camp One has expanded its reach beyond the University of Toronto, so that it now serves Ryerson University (added in 1992), York University and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (both added in 2007).

The Order of the Engineer in the United States has modelled an obligation ceremony on the Canadian Ritual. The U.S. camps are called “Links”. Candidates wear plain stainless steel rings to show that they have been obligated. This programme was approved by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 2003 and has been condoned by the Corporation of the Seven Wardens. Though the ceremony bears little resemblance to the Kipling Ritual, the American ceremony clearly acknowledges its Canadian origin.


Camp 1 (1925): William D. Black, William A. Bucke, Herbert E.T. Haultain, Thomas H. Hogg, Arthur D'Orr LePan, Charles A. MacDonald, Robert J. Marshall

Camp 2 (1926): DeGaspé Beaubien, F.B. Brown, N.M. Campbell, F.S. Keith, J.C. Kemp, J.J. Ross, F.P. Shearwood

Camp 3 (1927): John M. Campbell, William Casey, John Donnelly, Stanley N. Graham, Thomas A. McGinnis, Edward J.C. Schmidlin, Henry L. Sherwood

Camp 4 (1928): R.N. Blackburn, H.S. Carpenter, A.C. Garner, A.M. MacGillibray, J.R.C. Macredie, C.J. Mackenzie, L.A. Thornton

Camp 5 (1930): E. Carpenter, E.A. Cleveland, Victor Dolmage, A.E. Foreman, W.H. Powell, G.A. Walkem, A.E. Wheatley

Camp 6 (1930): R.B. Baxter, L.C. Charlesworth, W.J. Cunningham, J.B. de Hart, A.W. Haddow, S.G. Porter, B.L. Thorne

Camp 7 (1930): H.F. Bennett, W.P. Copp, H.W.L. Doane, A.F. Dyer, J.B. Hayes, H.S. Johnston, J.H. Winfield

Camp 8 (1930): C.H. Attwood, Donald J. Birse, George E. Cole, J.S. DeLury, H.B. Lumsden, J.W. Sanger, Fred V. Seibert

Camp 9 (1934): J.R. Freeman, A. Gray, C.C. Kirby, Gilbert G. Murdock, Geoffrey Stead, G.H. Thurber, G.A. Vandervoort

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds originated in Haultain’s office in the Department of Mining Engineering at the University of Toronto, in his capacity as one of the Ritual’s proponents and as a key player in its creation. Although he did not attend any obligation ceremony except his own, Haultain served in numerous official capacities: as Secretary of the Seven Wardens (1930-1939); and as a Warden of Camp One (1926-1961), for which he was also the first chairman. He was also co-opted as a Corporate Warden (1939-1961). It is difficult to draw too fine a distinction between the records of the Kipling Ritual as a whole and those pertinent to Camp One as a subsidiary body of the Corporation of the Seven Wardens. In effect, the documents of the fonds are Haultain’s records of the Ritual first and then gradually emerge as the records for Camp One.

The research value of the records is significant regarding the origin of the Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer and the social interaction between the major figures responsible for its implementation and enfranchisement in Canada. The fonds includes substantial documentation about Haultain, Kipling, Fairbairn, Ross, and most of the major figures in the EIC. Also the records offer a fairly comprehensive portrait of the interactions between mining and engineering professionals between 1920 and 1950. The material is primarily of historical value and spans the creation of the Ritual, the development of the Camps and the efforts of the Wardens to control the text and dissemination of the Ritual. The material after the 1950s concerns mainly the day to day administration of the Ritual, the ordering of rings and the preparation of ceremonies in the Camps.

Most of the routine administrative documentation has been arranged in the first four series of the fonds, all of which also include some correspondence. Series 1 contains legal documents pertaining to the copyright and incorporation of the Ritual and the Wardens; Series 2 is for documents related to the drafting of the Book of Authority; Series 3 includes extensive meeting minutes for the Camp Wardens and for the Corporate Wardens; and Series 4 includes detailed financial reports and accounts. The correspondence in Series 5 includes a large number of copies and often conveys both outgoing and incoming mail. Series 6 contains primarily informal lists, ceremonial documents and various forms or texts used in actual ceremonies. Series 7 and 9 include documents that are primarily external to the main operations of Camp One, such as collected publications concerning the Ritual and correspondence with other camps. Series 8 contains the documentary record of the various attempts at historicizing the Kipling Ritual undertaken by the Camp and Corporate Wardens for the information of the obligated engineering community (see Note on arrangement).

Records after 1950 tend to be more related to the activities of Camp One than to the intricacies of the Corporation of Seven Wardens. Newer accessions are also less delineated than those of the first accession B1982-0023. Generally, most files created after 1965 will be found in Series 5. These more recent files often include minutes and other material rightfully belonging to other series, which, however, have been arranged in Series 5 to preserve the original chronological file order of the Camp One records and because there are typically many fewer records in these later accessions. The exception to this trend is in Accession B2009-0029, which includes comprehensive meeting minutes arranged as part of Series 3.

The fonds does not include the original Kipling letters, which were returned to the Kipling estate in 1960 at the request of Kipling’s daughter Elise Bambridge (1896-1976). The letters were added to the Wimpole Archive, which was deposited with the University of Sussex Library in 1978 on behalf of the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (UK). The ancient landmarks are kept by the individual universities affiliated with Camp One, as are the official obligation lists. The Book of Authority for Camp One is in Series 2. All of the ancient landmarks have historical origins. The original anvil for Camp One was donated by Fairbairn, but was lost in a fire in the Sandford Fleming Building at the University of Toronto in 1977. The current anvil used at the ceremonies at the University of Toronto has a cutting attached taken from the hatch coverfrom the sunken Ocean Ranger drilling platform. The 1935 ‘Peter Wright’ anvil used at the Ryerson University ceremonies have a sheared rivel attached taken from the failed Pont de Quebec. At the University of Ontario Institute of Technology the landmarks are a five-decades anvil from Windfields Farm and a chain from the Darlington Nuclear Generating Station.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


System of arrangement

In 1948 the Wardens of Camp One employed Edith Brickett to organize the files of the camp and to prepare a history of the Ritual on the basis of their content. At that time several modes of arrangement seem to have been imposed on the records. Many new copies of original correspondence were made and the records were rearranged, at times in order to correspond with the subject categories of the history Brickett was assembling. Originals and copies were often stapled together into topically themed booklets, often in reverse chronological order. Other records—predominantly correspondence files—were ordered chronologically, some were put into miscellaneous files and still others were arranged in a quasi-alphabetical system under group headings for records pertaining to the Corporation of the Seven Wardens, Camps Two through Ten, and finally those deemed related to Professor Haultain’s personal activity as Secretary to the Camp Wardens, as a Camp warden and as a Warden of the Corporation. Following the production of Brickett’s historical summary, the records again reverted to a haphazard quasi-alphabetical order and no effort seems to have been taken to maintain her ordering system. Wherever possible the file contents have been left in the order in which they arrived at the University of Toronto Archives and miscellaneous files have been reconciled within chronological series arrangements. Researchers interested in Brickett’s ordering system for the Camp One records will find copies of her index both in the case file for accession B1982-0023 and in Series 8.

Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

All records are closed for 25 years from the date of creation. Requests for access to the restricted material are to be referred to the Secretary, Camp One. Only persons authorized in writing by the Secretary, Camp One shall be permitted to have access to the restricted material during the period of restricted access and such access shall be on the conditions set out in the Secretary’s authorization.

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Finding aids

Attached finding aid covers accessions B1982-0023, B1995-0040, B1997-0008, B2009-0029.

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Acknowledgements: The production of this finding aid was made possible by a generous gift from the Office of the Wardens, Camp One, Ritual of the Calling of an Engineer.

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