Fonds LA.SC048 - J.S. McLean fonds

Identity area

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J.S. McLean fonds


  • 1936-1956 (Creation)

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Extent and medium

27 cm of textual records 12 photographs

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

James Stanley McLean (1876-1954), Toronto business executive and art collector, was president of Canada Packers and founder of the J.S. McLean Collection of Canadian art. He was born in Clarke Township, Durham County, Ontario. Having graduated from the University of Toronto in 1896, McLean became an employee of the Harris Abattoir Company in Toronto in 1901, rising to become president in the 1920s. He achieved a merger of his firm with three others in 1927, forming Canada Packers Limited — of which he was president until his death. J.S. McLean was a founder-member of the Art Gallery of Toronto and a member of its executive from 1934 until his death. He was a patron of Canadian art himself and started collecting in 1934. In 1939 he began to buy Canadian artworks of art to hang in the offices and other areas of Canada Packers’ plants across the country. The result was a significant collection amassed at a time when such art was not widely sought after. Among the creators of modern art in Canada, he focused especially on the work of A.Y. Jackson, Carl Schaefer, Paraskeva Clark and David Milne. In 1952 the collection was the subject of an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada, Paintings and Drawings from the Collection of J.S. McLean. Many of the works lent for this exhibition were subsequently donated to the Art Gallery of Ontario. J.S. McLean died in Toronto in 1954.

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Administrative history

Canada Packers, Inc. (now Maple Leaf Foods, Inc.) was a Toronto-based meat packing and processing company.

The company was formed out of a succession of mergers with predecessor companies. These include the William Davies Company, Ltd. (est. 1854), the Canadian Packing Company, Ltd. (est. 1868 as the George Matthews Company), Gunns Ltd. (est. 1876), and the Harris Abattoir Company, Ltd. (est. 1896). These firms merged in 1927 to form Canada Packers, Ltd., which became Canada Packers Inc. in 1980. In 1990 Canada Packers Inc. merged with British based Maple Leaf Mills, Ltd. to form Maple Leaf Foods, Inc.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Most of the material now constituting the J.S. McLean fonds was donated by his son W. F. McLean in 1992. W.F. McLean had previously (1991) donated the files that now constitute series 4 of this fonds: Art Gallery of Toronto papers.

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Scope and content

Fonds consists of correspondence, photographs and other material related to the J.S. McLean Collection (including the Canada Packers collection) and to J.S. McLean’s position as a vice-president of the Art Gallery of Toronto. Fonds is comprised of the following series: J.S. McLean Collection documentation Photographs Tom Thomson sketches correspondence Art Gallery of Toronto papers

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No further accruals are expected.

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Conditions governing reproduction

Copyright is held by the creator or his heirs. Copyright belonging to other parties, such as that of photographs, may still rest with the creator of these items. It is the researcher’s responsibility to obtain permission to publish any part of the fonds.

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Previously known as the J.S. McLean Papers.


Biographical source: Anna Hudson, A collector’s vision: J.S. McLean and modern painting in Canada (Toronto: Art Gallery of Ontario, 1999).

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Archivist's note

Prepared by Amy Marshall, with assistance from Gary Fitzgibbon, 2003.
Uploaded and adapted by Nirvana Chainani, 2019.

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