MSS 134, PC 142, TC 91
Title: Arthur Phelps fonds
Extent: 8.22 m of textual records and other material
Biographical Sketch: Arthur Leonard Phelps was born on December
1, 1887 in Columbus, Ontario. He graduated with a B.A. from Victoria
College, Toronto in 1913 before furthering his religious training.
By 1915 he was an ordained minister and was married to the former
Lila Irene Nicholls. He already possessed a literary and artistic
flare publishing several poems, some illustrated and wildlife articles
for the local Toronto newspaper and publications like The Christian
Guardian and Canadian Courier. A chance encounter during
a speaking engagement led to Phelps being offered a teaching position
within the English Department at Cornell College in Iowa in 1920.
The following year Phelps embarked on a twenty-five year tenure
at Wesley College at the University of Manitoba where he soon became
the Chair of the English Department. Phelps published only two thin
books of poetry, Poems in 1921 and Bobcaygeon in 1922.
In 1941, material from his C.B.C. radio broadcasts were published
as This Canada and These United States. In 1951 he published
the critically acclaimed Canadian Writers with McClelland
and Stewart. In a career that spanned over forty years on the air
as both a radio and television journalist, Phelps came to be regarded
as the foremost cultural critic of the era. Beginning with a series
of University on the Air debates produced locally in Winnipeg in
the late 1920s, Phelps quickly moved over to a fledgling Canadian
Boradcasting Corporation. In the early 1940s he hosted the Canadian
Pattern expounding on the theory that Canada needed its own National
Arts Board to stimulate the country's artistic community. For seven
years he broadcast "Letter to Scotland" over the B.B.C.
He wrote and delivered a monthly editorial comment for Trans Canada
Matinee as well as serving as the host for the long running Sunday
morning series the Neighbourly News. Phelps was something of a pioneer
in television as well, acting as a moderator on three shows during
the 1960s: "It's Debatable", "Students Themselves",
and "Canadian Question Bee". In 1945 Phelps left United
College (formerly Wesley College) to become the General Supervisor
of the International Service, a position he held for two years before
returning to academia. From 1947-1953 Phelps was a professor of
English at McGill University. It was during this time that A.S.P.
Woodhouse proposed him for entry into the Royal Society as a Man
of Letters. Subsequent academic postings followed well into his
retirement. He was a Special Lecturer at U.B.C. in 1954-1955, a
Special Lecturer at University of Toronto, 1956-1958 and taught
Summer School at Queen's in 1959. In 1965 Phelps' wife Lila died.
He re-married Margaret Duncan in 1968 and died in 1970.
Scope and Content: The Arthur Phelps fonds contains correspondence tracing
the family history back to 1883 up until his death in 1970. The fonds is particularly
strong in relation to Phelps' broadcast career with scripts, series two, covering
most of his radio broadcasts and television series. Series three has a strong
component of speeches given during his prolific career as a public speaker as
well as several published and unpublished essays. There are scrapbooks containing
copies of published and unpublished poetry dating back to 1905. Phelps course
notes, series four, provide an interesting glimpse into what it would have been
like to take one of his English courses. Series five consists of literary material
sent to Phelps for his opinion. The final series, consists of photocopies of
newspaper articles about Phelps and some biographical information about Ann
Phelps Hamilton and her husband, John David Hamilton. The photo collection is
not very elaborate but does include some shots of Phelps during various stages
of his academic career and some C.B.C. publicity shots. The tape collection
is an excellent cross section of Phelps' radio and television shows.
Custodial History: The Arthur Phelps fonds was purchased from Phelps'
granddaughters, Meg and Kate Hamilton in 1997. Hugh Anson Cartwright, who brokered
the Phelps Collection for the Hamilton sisters, donated two E.J. Pratt typescripts,
A.97-75 that had been given to Phelps by his friend Pratt.
Restrictions: There are no restrictions governing the fonds however
some material deemed sensitive has been marked confidential.
Accrual: No further accruals are expected.
Finding aid available: