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Feature of the week: Portrait of Egerton Ryerson

Ryerson University is the recent recipient of a wonderful, early portrait of Egerton Ryerson, believed to have been painted by William Gush, a noted British portrait painter who painted many Methodist Ministers in Canada and the UK.

Gush, William. Egerton Ryerson. C. 1840. Ryerson Library Archives.

The painting, currently on display in the Archives, was generously donated by Chris Maybee Ryerson at a reception held in the Archives on February 11th.  A graduate of Electrical Engineering Technology at Ryerson University, Chris is also the great-great-grandson of Egerton Ryerson himself.  The family maintains a close connection to the University, not only are Chris and his wife, Michele Fransett, both graduates of the university but their daughter is currently a student, following in her mother’s footsteps and attending the Theatre School.

The University is the namesake of Egerton (pronounced Edge-erton) Ryerson, Methodist Minister and Chief Superintendent of Education for Upper Canada. Ryerson was appointed by the Governor-General (Sir Charles Metcalfe) in 1844 and made huge and far-reaching modifications to the education system in Upper Canada, which resulted in establishment of the public school system that we are familiar with today.  Ontario’s high standards for teacher training, curriculum and resources can be traced directly to Ryerson’s commitment to public education.  His crowning achievement was the opening of the “Normal School”; a state of the art teacher training college, complete with a model school for in-class instructor training. This complex was situated on what was once St. James Square (see our post from February 8th) and the façade of this building is still standing in the quad, as the entrance to the Ryerson Recreation and Athletics Centre.

Egerton Ryerson’s beliefs about education for Aboriginal children influenced , in part, the establishment of what became Indian Residential Schools. In 2010 the university acknowledged that role and issued a public statement with the support of Ryerson’s Aboriginal community.

For more information on Egerton Ryerson, drop by the third floor to learn more and see the painting in person.

Also, check out these resources in the library:

Egerton Ryerson and his times / edited by Neil McDonald and Alf Chaiton. Publisher Toronto : Macmillan of Canada, c1978.

Putman, J. Harold (John Harold), 1866-1940. Title Egerton Ryerson and education in Upper Canada / by J. Harold Putman. Publisher Toronto, Ont. : W. Briggs, 1912.

Hodgins, J. George (John George), 1821-1912. Title The Rev. Egerton Ryerson, D.D., LL.D. [electronic resource] / by J. George Hodgins. Publisher [Toronto? : s.n., 1882?]


Helmore, Dee. “William Gush.” The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies: The School of Family History. The Institute of Heraldic and Genealogical Studies, n.d. Accessed 23 Feb. 2011.

Doucet, Claude W. “Egerton Ryerson, 1803-1882.” Archives + Special Collections, Ryerson University Library. Ryerson University, June, 2002. Accessed 23 Feb. 2011.

5 thoughts on “Feature of the week: Portrait of Egerton Ryerson

  1. Are we forgetting that Egerton Ryerson was also responsible for the residential school system, in light and contrast to the “normal” school system? Let us not erase important parts of history in order to justify some sort of celebration in the name of certain groups of people. He made great achievements. But he also played a huge role in shaping the experience of racialized communities, specifically Aboriginal peoples. I would ask that this be acknowledged for it is just as much a part of my history, his history, and your history as it is everyone’s history. It is Canadian history.

  2. He actually wasn’t responsible for that, he simple looked at the documents as per the Gov. General’s request to make recomendations. His recomendation was to give Aboriginals the same education as everyone else. This is a commonly overlooked fact.

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