Fonds F0319 - John D. Harbron family fonds

Title and statement of responsibility area

Title proper

John D. Harbron family fonds

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  • Textual record
  • Graphic material
  • Sound recording
  • Object

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Physical description area

Physical description

5.6 m of textual material
450 photographs : b&w and col. ; 20 x 30 or smaller
1 photograph : sepia ; 20 cm x 100 cm
ca. 300 photographs : b&w and col. slides ; 35 mm
2 photographs : negatives ; 12 x 9 cm
56 audio cassettes
7 audio reels
1 video cassette (1 hr.) : VHS, EP
1 film reel (ca. 4 min) : col. ; 8 mm
3 objects : pennants and flag

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Name of creator


Biographical history

John Davison Harbron (1924- ) is a journalist, author, a founding professor of York University's Atkinson College, and former lieutenant commander in the Royal Canadian Navy. Harbron was born and raised in Toronto. He completed his graduate studies at the University of Havana and returned to further his studies at the University of Toronto, receiving an M.A. in history in 1948. After teaching at the Canadian Services College, Royal Roads, Victoria (1948-1951), he served in the Canadian Navy in the Korean War. Harbron worked for several business and daily newspapers including service as the Canadian editor of Business week (1956-1960), Canadian correspondent for The Miami Herald (1976-1999), editor of Executive magazine (1961-1966), associate editor of the Toronto Telegram, (1966-1971), and foreign analyst for Thomson Newspapers (1972-1990). He was a founder and first vice president of the Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies (1976-1990) and became a senior research associate there in 1990. Harbron is the author of several books including Communist ships and shipping (1963), This is Trudeau (1968), Canada without Quebec (1977), C.D. Howe (1980), Spanish foreign policy since Franco (1984), The longest battle, the Royal Canadian Navy in the Atlantic: 1939-1945 (1993), Canadian yesterdays (2001), and Trafalgar and the Spanish Navy: the Spanish achievement at sea (2004). Harbron is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (London) and has received a number of honours, including the Spanish Order of Isabella the Catholic (1969), the Maria Moors Cabot Medal for Latin American Journalism (1970) from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, New York, the Queen's Silver Jubilee Medal (1977), and an honorary D.Litt from York University for his contributions to Atkinson College as well as his academic work in Latin American studies.

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Biographical history

In 1950, Harbron married Sheila E. Harbron (1926-2005), a resident of Toronto and a descendent of the United Empire Loyalists (Joseph Ryerson) and of John Pritchard (one of the original settlers in Rupert's Land).

Sheila E. Harbron (1926-2005), married John D. Harbron in 1950. Born in Toronto, she was a descendent of the United Empire Loyalists (Joseph Ryerson) and of John Pritchard (one of the original settlers in Rupert's Land). Her mother, Letitia Matheson Lester (1896-1982), was the daughter of Rev. John R. and Dr. Elizabeth B. Matheson. Her father was Egerton H.H. Lester. Sheila Harbron graduated from the University of Toronto with a B.A. in 1948 and a B.Ed. in 1976. She was a teacher and a researcher with a particular interest in local history and genealogy. In 1998 she was awarded the Volunteer Service Award for her fifteen years' work for the Governor Simcoe Branch United Empire Loyalists.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Tom Harbon, an administrative medical officer, joined RAMC in Darlington in northern England in 1909. He immigrated to Toronto from Britain in 1912. Despite never completing high school, he joined the local militia, the 13th Cavalry Field Ambulance, and in 1916, he was promoted from non-commissioned rank to quartermaster becoming one of the very few World War I medical corps officers who was not a doctor or surgeon.

As a part of the Canadian Army Medical Corps, he was in charge of administering the military hospitals in the large Toronto Military District of 1917-1919. In 1919, Tom officially enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Givens Street Barracks in Toronto, retaining his rank of Captain and still being based at the Training depot. He remained there until demobilisation in July 1920.

In 1921, he married Sarah Lilliane Peace whom he met in 1917 at Knox College building on Spadina Avenue which was converted into a military hospital. The same year, he bought a defunct company called Diamond Cleaners and Soaps Ltd. and ran the business which manufactured and sold industrial cleaning material in bulk to hospitals and other institutions.

Name of creator


Biographical history

Sarah Lilliane Harbron, dietician, graduated from Lillian Massey in 1912 and was a pupil of Ms Violet M. Riley. She was one of the first college-trained dietitians (University of Toronto) in Ontario. She served as an organizing dietitian during the First World War in the Soldiers’ Civil Re-establishment Commission, Department of Militia, for returned and crippled soldiers in military hospitals. Harbron also supervised the menus for all of the Military Hospitals Commission’s western Canadian units.

In 1917, Harbron opened the first working women’s cafeteria in Toronto in the old YWCA building in downtown Toronto which was used by young business women. In mid-1918 she established the YWCA’s national working camps for women workers on farms. In 1921, she married Tom Harbron who she met in 1917 at Knox College building on Spadina Avenue which had been converted into a military hospital.

During the Second World War, she was the Director of the National Board of the YWCA and helped the organization of the Farm Service Force camps for teenage girls who were harvesting crops in the Niagara Peninsula. She continued to be an active member of the North Toronto YWCA Board.

Harbron also served as the first woman alternate delegate to the Toronto Synod of the church of England and in 1954 she was vice chairman of the advisory council.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records created and accumulated by John D. Harbron, his wife Sheila E. Harbron, and some other members of their extended family. The collection mainly consists of John D. Harbron's correspondence, newspaper articles, and his personal, professional, and academic research and writings about Cuba and Latin America. The files also include essays and speeches by Harbron, as well as correspondence with editors and dignitaries, both national and international. The fonds also includes a large number of articles written by John D. Harbron for Canadian and international publications. The files belonging to Sheila Harbron contain personal records as well as genealogical research files, which include records and photographs tracing the Buck, Harbron, Hardy, Lester, Matheson, and Ryerson families.

Additionally, John D. Harbron's Cuban and Latin American book and pamphlet collection has been added to the Special Collections.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by John D. Harbron between 1990-2010.


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

Location of originals

Availability of other formats

Restrictions on access

No restrictions on access.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

File lists available for 1990-015, 1995-001, 1995-014, 1997-015, 2010-024, and 2016-043. No further accruals are expected.

Generated finding aid

Associated materials

Another John D. Harbron fonds is also available at Library and Archives Canada. For other Thomson columns, please see Naval and Latin American files.

Related materials


The fonds comprises the following accessions: 1990-015, 1995-001, 1995-014, 1997-015, 2010-024.

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

2002/04/04 Jizi Chen:. (Creation)
2002/04/04 Awaiting review by the Data Collection Archivist
2003/04/29 Shannon MacDonald. Added URL for online finding aid. Updated wording in accruals, access restrictions. Removed note re: supplied title.
2012/04/04 Updates for new accession
2012/04/04 Rachel Lebkovich. updates
2015/02/18. Last date of revision in ESS.
2017/04/21 KCP. Migrated series level descriptions from ESS and added immediate source of acquisition.
2018/04/04 KCP. Cleaned up metadata at fonds level
2018/06/05 KCP. Migrated accessions to AtoM.
2017/08/15 KCP. Added 2016-043 description.
2020/03/26 KCP, N. Somerset. Added subject access points.

Language of description

  • English


Accession area