Peter Pond pistol
Peter Pond's pistol


Yet another book has been published on Peter Pond. What is that, the fourth or fifth book to come out in the last five years, the Wagner book in 1955 and before that nothing since 1930? Could this be because of me? Hmmm. Here is the publisher's info.

Harold Innis on Peter Pond
Biography, Cultural Memory, and the Continental Fur Trade
By William J. Buxton
Biography/Autobiography/Life Writing, Communication Studies, History: Canada
$39.95 CAD

A compelling study of Harold Innis's engagement with a remarkable - but largely overlooked - historical figure. "Best known for his writings on economic history and communications, Harold Innis also produced a body of biographical work that paid particular attention to cultural memory and how it is enriched by the study of neglected historical figures. In this compelling volume, William Buxton addresses Innis's engagement with the legacy of the fur trader and adventurer Peter Pond.

Harold Innis on Peter Pond comprises eight texts by Innis, including his 1930 biography of Pond as well as his writings on the explorer's myriad activities. The book also features a collection of eight letters exchanged between Innis and Florence Cannon, a descendent of Pond with a strong interest in her ancestor's life and times, and an unpublished 1932 article on Pond's 1773-75 activities as a fur trader on the upper Mississippi, written by Innis's former student R. Harvey Fleming. Situating Innis's writings on Pond in relation to his broader body of biographical work, Buxton interprets what these texts tell us about Innis's intellectual practice, historiography, and the writing of biography. The book explores how Innis's perspectives shifted with changing intellectual and political circumstances and shows that his advocacy of Pond as an unrecognized "father of confederation" challenged conventional views of Canadian nation-building.

A critical edition of previously overlooked biographical texts, Harold Innis on Peter Pond traces what these writings disclose about the biographer's character and values even as they discuss their subject." DETAILS

376 Pages, 6 x 9 ISBN 9780773558618 February 2020 Formats: Cloth, Paperback, eBook

McGill-Queen's University Press is a scholarly publisher of books that engage in public debate, current events, politics, contemporary thought, and the arts.

You might be interested in the fact the book goes for $120 in hardcover ($39.95 softcover) and is available on Amazon

As the title attests, the book is an in depth look on why Innis, an eminent Canadian economist who died in 1952 and has a college named for him at University of Toronto, was so interested in PP, one of the few Americans in the colorful 18th century Canadian fur trade. Innis wrote on the fur trade in the 1920's and 30's and believed PP, though largely unsung, was an important part of it. Innis changed his concentration to communication theory in the 1940's and wrote several books thereafter that influenced Marshall McLuhan to famously expound ("The medium is the message") in his own right.

Buxton, a PPSer and professor emeritus of communication studies at Concordia University, Montreal, has edited two works on Innis and is the author of this one. Here is a short video of him discussing Innis' life:

The most interesting part for me the correspondence between Innis and Florence Cannon, a PP descendant, in the 1930's. Buxton had letters from Cannon to Innis and with the help of some PPSers I found the letters from Innis to Cannon. After transcribing them Buxton passed them on to the Innis papers at U of T. I am mentioned several times in the book. Always glad to help PP scholarship.


I recently received an email from Kevin Swain, a senior history major at Yale. He wants to do his senior thesis on the fur trade and include PP in it. His angle is interesting as stated here:

"Dear Bill,

My name is Kevin Swain and I'm a senior History major at Yale, originally from Grand Haven, Michigan. With the help of my advisor, Jay Gitlin, I'm writing my Yale senior essay on the historical memory of the fur trade (or how society and historians have remembered it since its demise, and how that form/method of remembrance has changed over time).

The Peter Pond Society, we think, is a perfect example of how certain folks remember the fur trade. I'm wondering, then, if you'd be willing to meet up sometime for a conversation/interview about the topic, since it would be very useful for my thesis. I'd greatly appreciate any help you might be willing to offer.

Many thanks, and I hope to be in contact soon.


Jay Gitlin is a senior lecturer in history and associate director of the Howard R. Lamar Center for the Study of Frontiers and Borders. His fields of interest include Native American and American West, American Colonial and Canadian history. He is also a longtime PPSer. We all got together in Jay's office where he asked questions and Kevin took notes. Questions included: who were the most famous fur traders besides PP (Alexander Mackenzie, David Thompson, and James McGill); what were the best books on the fur trade (The Grand Portage by Walter O'Meara, Many Tender Ties by Sylvia Van Kirk, and Caesars of the Wilderness by Peter C. Newman). Sometimes I would go off on tangents talking about other fur trade topics and was gently brought back to the subject at hand by Jay. I had a great time though maybe I talked too much. At the end Kevin said he got some ideas and would send me a copy of his thesis when finished.


After talking about PP and the fur trade with the two Yalies, I decided to drop by the two libraries where valuable documents related to PP are stored. Attached are pictures of them taken with my iPhone. His journal from birth to 1775 just before departing for his glory days and thicker furs in Canada are in the Sterling Library's Manuscripts and Archives Department. A copy of one of his maps drawn by Yale President Ezra Stiles in 1790 is in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library next to Sterling.

Several Ponds through the years have graduated from Yale including Conn. Governor Charles Hobby Pond (1802) and Le Grand Cannon Jr. (1920) of Hamden, CT, Florence's son, who donated the journal in 1947. So a lot of PP is tied up in Yale. To think it all started with Stiles wanting to hear about his 17 years in Indian Country (Stiles' diary records three visits by PP and one by him to Milford) as well as copy the map.

I have tried to arrange these 4 pics:

The first page of PP's journal in his hard-to-read handwriting.
The first page of the entire journal copied by Laura Burns, Florence's daughter, who took it upon herself to make it easier to read.
The Stiles copy of the PP map that was the first to show the area west of Hudson Bay.
An inscription in the upper right corner of the map that says: "Travels of Capt. Peter Pond of Milford from 1773 to March 1790. Extracted from his own map by Ezra Stiles March 25, 1790."

It is noteworthy he copied the map on that date because that is my birthday. I will be turning 75 next month.

Au revoir,

Peter Pond Society editor Bill McDonald