Morris Norman: Our Great Donor of Canadiana

Submitted by libbairdca on
Filed under Library News:  Archives & Research Collections

Many of us are collectors. We collect buttons, stamps, baseball cards, art, comic books–the possibilities are seemingly endless. But do any of us ever think that one day we will be recognized for our efforts and that our collections will end up in the archives of an academic institution like McMaster?

Morris Norman is well known as one of the world’s foremost collectors of Canadian ephemera.  By profession Mr. Norman is a chartered accountant and a primary partner of Norman, Goldberg & Co. LLP, a large accounting firm in Toronto.
At the age of 15, Mr. Norman started collecting baseball and hockey cards. When he turned 21, he was captivated by historical documents about the Hudson Bay Company, and a couple years later, he became interested in antiquarian material about Toronto. There was no stopping him−collecting became a passion and a way of life. Although his assiduous collecting is usually focused thematically on Canadian materials (telephone books, railroads, the Riel Rebellion, aviation, etc.), his collecting is often eclectic in nature, depending on what is available on the market at a given time.

During the summer of 2009 Mr. Norman donated 5,354 historic postcards to McMaster University Library (3,615 Canadian cards and 1,739 foreign cards, created between the 1880s and 1950s). Mr. Norman’s most recent donation runs riot in terms of range and richness:

    •    Judaica (including 2 posters issued by the Canadian Jewish Congress in 1941 in reference to the plight of European Jews)
    •    small archives, including the Israel Moise (Isy) Esses fonds (the company archives of the Unico Trading Company), the Frank Norman Walker fonds (a Toronto doctor, politician, and amateur historian), and the Kilmaster family fonds (invitations to balls, banquets, and clubs, providing a fascinating vista on the vibrant social life in Brantford, Ont.)
    •    the Walter M. Lowney Company of Canada collection with photographs and catalogues of this premier chocolate company
    •    more than 30 vintage posters of circuses and Wild West shows and other posters of many different kinds
    •    photographs of politicians (Wilfrid Laurier, Sir John A. MacDonald) and people photographed by Norman and others
    •    pamphlets and journals about tourism, sports, and entertainment
    •    and Canadian company catalogues.

These extraordinary, diverse collections illustrate the complexity of Canada’s social, political and business past. And there is the promise of many more donations from Mr. Norman’s vast vault of treasures. We thank and salute him for his generosity.

by Carl Spadoni