Fonds F 0170 - Jack Miner collection

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Jack Miner collection

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F 0170

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2.5cm textual records

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Biographical history

John Thomas “Jack” Miner (1865-1944) was a self-taught naturalist and deeply religious man who became one of North America’s most influential conservationists, internationally celebrated during his lifetime and ever since. Born in Dover Center (now Westlake), Ohio, USA to British-born parents, Jack was the fifth of ten children. The thirteen-year-old Miner moved with his family to Gosfield South Township (near Kingsville), Ontario, in 1878. As a young boy he had been deemed “not suited for school” and only had three months of formal instruction, instead spending his youth studying wildlife and waterfowl in local creeks and woods. (Later in life this made him skeptical of university-trained “wildlife managers” with little or no field experience. The scientific community felt much the same about him, in return.) By the 1880s Miner was supplementing his family’s income from brick and tile manufacturing as a professional trapper and market hunter.
In 1888 Jack Miner married fellow churchgoer Laona Wigle (1867-1951). They had five children together: Carl Lesslie (1891-1904), Mary Pearl (1893-1897), Manly Forest (1897-1985), William Edward (1900-1970), and Jasper Wilson (1910-1987). Jack became a sought-after guide for sport hunters and led annual fall hunting trips for the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was drawn to wildlife conservation by 1900, as his Methodist faith and his observations of declining wildlife populations dovetailed in a concern for living creatures. In that year he formed the Essex County Game Protective Association, an early example of such organizations, to influence local hunters’ behaviour.
In 1904 Miner established the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary near Kingsville, for the conservation of migrating Canada geese and wild ducks. In 1909 he began banding migrating waterfowl; the recovery data was instrumental in the establishment of the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1916 between the United States of America and Canada, which placed the first-ever restrictions on hunting, giving consideration to waterfowl populations for the future. He often included Bible verses on his tags and refused to switch to the standardized Canadian tag after 1920, nor to expand the type and amount of data he recorded, when he tagged.
In 1910 Miner began a 30 year career as a popular lecturer on the subject of wildlife conservation and the need to establish wildlife sanctuaries and refuges, dispensed with his trademark homespun wit and sentiment. His unshakeable antipathy to wild predators was controversial (and ultimately misguided), but he opened many people’s eyes to the need for conservation, and his lecture fees helped pay to feed the sanctuary’s geese each year. He published his first book, Jack Miner and the Birds, in 1923, and in 1927 became a charter member of Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA). Miner became the first Canadian to win the Outdoor Life Gold Medal for “the Greatest Achievement in Wildlife Conservation on the Continent” in 1929, and in 1943 received the Order of the British Empire (OBE) from George VI for “the greatest achievement in conservation in the British Empire.”
The Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation (a charitable organization) was established in 1931 in the United States and in 1936 in Canada to continue Miner’s legacy. Since 1947 the week of Miner’s April 10 birth has been recognized by the Canadian government as National Wildlife Week, with the dual purpose of commemorating Miner’s life and educating Canadians about the need for wildlife conservation. His autobiography Wild Goose Jack was posthumously published in 1969, and in 2003 his house was donated to the Southwestern Ontario Heritage Village for restoration. His Ohio birthplace bears a historic marker, and as of the time of writing (2021) the Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary in Kingsville remains open to the public for house tours, trail-walking, and seasonal viewings of massive flocks of migratory waterfowl.

Sources: “About Us,” on The Jack Miner Migratory Bird Foundation website, ; McNicholl, Martin K., and Erin James-Abra, “Jack Miner,” in The Canadian Encyclopedia (Historica Canada: published 18 December 2007; last edited 26 February 2019), ; Bodsworth, Fred, “Billy Sunday of the Birds,” Maclean’s 11 May 1952, ; “Manly Forest Miner,” ; (all accessed 18 March 2021); and contents of this fonds.

Scope and content

This fonds consists of a single file containing promotional publications related to celebrated Canadian conservationist Jack Miner, his work, ideas, and legacy. Many show the involvement of his son Manly, and touch on his migratory bird sanctuary near Kingsville, Ontario.

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  • English

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Associated materials

Archives of Ontario, F 1109 (Jack Miner Migratory Bird
Foundation collection)

Library and Archives Canada, photographs of Jack Miner in R3133 (Ronny Jaques fonds); 1930s and 1940s correspondence re: Jack Miner Migratory Bird Sanctuary and/or Foundation in MG26-J1 (William Lyon Mackenzie King fonds) and MG26-K (R.B. Bennett fonds)

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No further accruals are expected.

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