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Our History

Frontier College is Canada's original literacy organization, with a rich and storied history dating back to our beginning in 1899. Take a tour of Frontier College through the decades. If you have photos or stories to share with us, please send them to information@frontiercollege.ca or use the

Submit Your Own Story page.

  • 1899
    Teacher and reverend Alfred Fitzpatrick founds Frontier College, sending trained individuals to logging camps, mines and railway lines. These Labourer-Teachers worked alongside the men during the day
    Alfred Fitzpatrick founds Frontier College
  • 1900
    The Rocky Mountain Reading Tent in the early 19th century. Imagine a time when Canada had few buildings!
    Reading Tent
  • 1902
    This lumber camp in Sudbury was one of Frontier College's first locations.
    Sudbury Lumber Camp
  • 1903
    Frontier College starts up in Saskatchewan--before it is even a province!
    Frontier College starts in Saskatchewan
  • 1909
    Station men clearing the muck, Northern Ontario 1909
    Station men
  • 1910
    Men hanging out in a lumber camp bunkhouse.
    Bunkhouse
  • 1910
    Men reading in a Frontier College tent, ca 1910
    Reading tent
  • 1910
    Interior reading room of Victoria Lumber in Northern Ontario
    Reading Room
  • 1910
    A workroom and bookshelves around the turn of the century.
    Workroom
  • 1910
    Four Russian workers in the sleeping quarters of a lumber camp, ca 1910
    Sleeping quarters
  • 1910
    Men in a tent classroom in the early 20th century.
    Tent classroom
  • 1911
    Norman Bethune joins the Reading Camp association and is sent to work at the Victoria Harbour Lumber Company. He went on to become a noted physician and inventor.
    Norman Bethune joins the Reading Camp
  • 1912
    Field work at Canadian National Rail (CNR) camp, 1912. Edmund Bradwin is on the right.
    CNR camp
  • 1912
    This photo shows the diversity of the workers who participated in Frontier College programs while building the country's industry. Near St John Valley, New Brunswick, 1912
    New Brunswick
  • 1915
    Instructor and class in a lumber camp, 1915
    Lumber Camp
  • 1920
    A portrait of Frontier College's founders: Edmund Bradwin, Tom Fitzpatrick (seated), Alfred Fitzpatrick
    Edmund Bradwin, Tom Fitzpatrick (seated), Alfred Fitzpatrick
  • 1925
    New Canadians outside the immigration hall in Winnipeg.
    Immigration hall
  • 1915
    Men passing on the lumber road, ca 1915
    Lumber road
  • 1920
    Jessie Lucas is hired as secretary-treasurer. Her dedication to maintaining records lead to an incredible archive of adult education resources. Today, she is remembered at the Frontier College headquarters.
    Jessie Lucas is hired
  • 1929
    Dr. Margaret Strang becomes the first woman Labourer-Teacher to participate in the homesteading program, bringing education to children in remote Northern Ontario communities.
    Margaret Strang: The First Woman Labourer-Teacher
  • 1929
    Dr. Margaret Strang becomes the first woman Labourer-Teacher to participate in the homesteading program, bringing education to children in remote Northern Ontario communities.
    First woman Labourer-Teacher
  • 1929
    The Margaret Strang Settlement House
    Settlement House
  • 1935
    An unemployed relief workers' camp in 1935.
    Relief workers
  • 1940
    Labourer-Teacher Charles Jones teaches class during the '40s.
    Charles Jones
  • 1950
    Three cooks at a Canadian Pacific Rail work site, ca 1950.
    Cooks on a work site
  • 1950s
    Workers in a classroom in the 1950s.
    Classroom
  • 1970s
    Women and couples are recruited to work in cities and rural areas. Jane Henson becomes the first woman Labourer-Teacher to work at a copper mine.
    Women and couples are recruited
  • 1970s
    Men laying down tracks in the 1970s.
    Railroad
  • 1980
    Wear safety glasses! Miners pose for a photo sometime in the 1980s.
    Miners
  • 1977
    UNESCO recognized our work in the field of adult education by awarding Frontier College with the 1977 Literacy Prize (also known as The Mohammad Reza Pahlavi Prize)
    Frontier College receives the UNESCO medal
  • 1986
    Frontier College’s national headquarters is relocated to 35 Jackes Avenue in Toronto. The beautiful house (originally owned by Robert Laidlaw) was given to us by the National Ballet of Canada in exchange for the College's earlier headquarters.
    Frontier College’s national headquarters is relocated
  • 2002
    Frontier College headquarters was named Gzowski House in honour of renowned CBC journalist and College supporter, Peter Gzowski.
    Headquarters named Gzowski House
  • 2005
    The Summer Literacy Camps program began in five First Nation communities in Northern Ontario.
    Summer Literacy Camps program begin
  • 2009
    Manitoba launches their first Aboriginal Summer Literacy Camp in Little Miskwaadesi (Turtle) Camp
    First Aboriginal Summer Literacy Camp
  • 2010
    Our Summer Literacy camps grew in size and capacity during the 2010s.
    Summer Literacy Camp
  • 2000s
    Seasonal farm workers reading a Frontier College pamphlet during class time.
    Farm Workers
  • 2015
    The Summer Literacy Camps program grows to 99 communities across Canada.
    Summer Literacy Camps program grows
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Did You Know ?

Every summer, the Governor General of Canada opens the grounds of Rideau Hall to host the Storytime Reading Tent.

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