The early mink ranchers operated in a vacuum as far as husbandry information was concerned. Thus, it is not strange, that the first provincial organizations were formed to pool information gained by practical experience. Later most of these organizations put on live mink and pelt shows, so that qualified fur trade people could judge a man's stock and point out by comparison where improvement could be made. All the Associations were based on education and over the years, did an excellent job. They provided a much needed forum for those with expertise to share.
It is our purpose to introduce these provincial organizations in the order in which they appeared on the mink ranching scene. We will provide excerpts from their sometimes lengthy reports in the magazines to show their thoughts, aims and direction; as well as recording the names of these early leaders in the mink industry.
Prince Edward Island was the first province to have a mink breeders' association. In the February 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal of Canada, we read "A highly representative body of mink breeders met in Summerside on November 27th, 1929 and after a prolonged and harmonious discussion inaugurated themselves into the Prince Edward Island Mink Breeders' Association." The officers were President, J. R. Forbes, Vice President, Roy Duggan, Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. L. M. Callbeck; Directors: Nelson Sheen, Ed (E. A.) Ferguson, George E. Brown, L. B. Crue and John E. Cousens.
In the August 1931 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, under the heading Mink Breeders hold Meeting at Summerside, "much enthusiasm was shown at the Second Annual Meeting of the Prince Edward Island Mink Breeders' Association. Mr. J. A. Forbes presided and opened the meeting by expressing his pleasure to see so many members present and the continued interest shown in the business."
The Secretary reported as follows: "This organization is accountable for much of the protection which the mink industry of Prince Edward Island has been justly accorded. We were the first of the nine provinces to organize an association and now nearly all the other provinces have their mink associations. We have been able to meet all our liabilities and show a credit balance. This association, through its publicity has become widely known and numerous inquiries from Europe have reached us by letter and cable in regard to our mink.
"It was disclosed at the meeting that a representative of Lampson's of New York, visited an Island ranch and was delighted with the appearance of the mink raised. It was suggested that the business should be written up and advertised in the press and fur trade journals. It was moved by Mr. L. B. Crue and seconded by Mr. Roy Duggan that the Association purchase ten picked skins to be placed on the Montreal market, as specimens of the Island ranched mink. A motion was passed that the levy on kittens be placed in the hands of the directors.
"Mr. L. M. MacNeil addressed the meeting and expressed the opinion that there were great possibilities in the collective marketing of pelts, as has been demonstrated by the fox industry. Buyers are not interested unless there is a sufficient quantity to be marketed. Careful organization and the manner in which they are marketed are the chief factors in getting the best results.
"A resolution was passed on the motion of Mr. J. L. Saunders, seconded by Mr. L. B. Crue that a letter of regret be sent to Mr. John E. Cousens that he was not able to be present through illness, and expressed appreciation of his work for the association at the time of its inception, and sympathy for his present illness. Mr. Crue resigned his position as Director of the Association and at a meeting of the directors two new members were appointed.
"The officers for the ensuing year are as follows: President, J. R. Forbes, Bedeque; Vice President, Roy Duggan, Seaview; Secretary-Treasurer, Dr. L. M. Callbeck, Crapaud; Directors, H. K. McLeod, Kensington; Frank McNutt, Malpeque; J. L. Saunders, Kensington; Nelson Sheen, Tyne Valley; E. A. Ferguson, Charlottetown; George E. Brown, Margate. "There is no further mention of this Association in subsequent magazines, some time after this meeting it became another victim of the black thirties.
The Quebec Mink Breeders' Association was formed in 1930, we quote from the July issue of the Fur Trade Journal, "A meeting of a mink breeders committee of the province of Quebec, which had been selected by ballot from the mink breeders of the province of Quebec, met in Montreal on June 4th, at 10:00 a.m. in the government building under the auspices of the Deputy Minister of the Department of Colonization, Mr. L. A. Richard.
"The eleven breeders chosen previously by the remaining breeders of the province to represent their interests were present. Major L. D. McClintock, Knowlton; Mr. J. N. McKim, Westmount; Mr. R. C. Morrison, Cowansville; Dr. J. H. O. Armstrong, Knowlton; Mr. A. N. Schoch, Chicoutimi; Dr. J. E. Laforest, Quebec City; Mr. R. H. Bernadet, Loretteville; Mr. Alfred Taylor, Knowlton; Mr. Frank Safford, Sutton; Mr. P. N. April, B.S.A., Ste Martine.
"After a brief outline by Mr. Richard of the idea which prompted him to call the mink breeders together, Major McClintock was appointed Chairman of the meeting and Mr. Schoch, Secretary.
"The Chairman opened the meeting by thanking Mr. Richard for his interest in the mink industry and his effort to help the new organization. Major McClintock gave them a personal account of his experiences in mink ranching, showing how the need of co-operation was urgent and beneficial to all mink breeders, outlining the most essential points that should be studied by the Association.
"Mr. L. A. Richard promised the newly born organization that an experimental farm would be created in the near future, with fur experts trained to help the mink ranchers, keep an accurate check on all mink kept in captivity, kits born, losses through sickness or accidents, sale and exchange of live minks.
"The Chairman went on urging the Government and the Association to 97 protect the good name of Quebec minks, study ways and means to stop at once the fraudulent game practised by several people, who buy cheap western minks and resell them as Quebec minks, to control if possible, the import and export of minks from the province by means of shipping permits.
"A permanent committee of the eleven members present was suggested by Mr. Richard, subject to approval by the general meeting which was fixed for August 16th, 10:00 a.m. at Knowlton, Quebec.
The General Meeting of the Mink Breeders of Quebec was held as scheduled and the following report appeared in the September 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal. "There was held in Knowlton, Quebec on Saturday, August 16th a meeting of mink breeders from the different parts of the province. Mr. L. A. Richard, Deputy Minister of Colonization and Fisheries who for years past has shown a keen interest in the fur industry was present as a guest. His wise advice and assurances of support on the part of the Government to the reasonable requests of the mink breeders of Quebec were greatly appreciated.
"After considerable discussion it was decided to adopt the following general policy as regards the mink raising industry in the Province of Quebec: To have a mink breeders committee consisting of five directors representative of each of the four main districts where mink ranching is at present being carried on, and a fifth representative to act as chairman of the mink committee, the personnel of which are as follows: Mr. A. N. Schoch of Chicoutimi district; Mr. P. N. April of Montreal district; Mr. R. H. Bernadet of Quebec district; Major L. D. McClintock of Eastern Townships district; Dr. J. E. Laforest, President. It will be the duty of the mink committee to study the interests of mink breeders, and to serve on the Executive of the General Fur Breeders Association of the Province of Quebec. Among the projects of greatest and immediate importance is to add the support of the mink breeders toward the request of all fur breeders of the Quebec Province to have the Government establish an experimental fur farm and fur animal research department."
It may come as a surprise to you, as it did to me, that there was a Yukon Mink Breeders Association with headquarters at Whitehorse in the Yukon. Their monthly ads in 1930 stated, "an Association of breeders formed for the purpose of propagating high grade breeding stock and shipping only mink individually inspected." In the July, 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, this undated report was published. "At the residence of E. H. Johnson on Saturday evening a very important step in the affairs of Yukon was taken when the Yukon Mink Breeders Association was formed.
Those present at the organization meeting were Capt. P. Martin, John Brown, Alfred Dickson, Matthew Watson, Johnnie Johns, A. R. Auston and E. H. Johnson. The first officers are Alfred Dickson, President; Matthew Watson, Vice President; E. H. Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer; Capt. P. Martin, E. H. Johnson and J. E. Geary, Directors.
"Yukon has established an enviable reputation for high class ranch bred mink, but the advantages of this high quality have not been going to the breeders. This co-operative move is not only going to be of great benefit to the individual breeder, but it is also going to reflect in the general prosperity of the territory, for the mink industry is rapidly becoming a very important industry."
In the August 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, the editor notes the undated origin of the British Columbia Fox and Fur Farmers Association. "We have recently been notified through the receipt of the constitution and by-laws of the B.C. Fox & Fur Farmers Association that the Fur Trade Journal of Canada has been adopted as the official organ of the Association. In view of the fact that we have been nominated on the merits of the Fur Trade Journal it speaks well for our efforts to build up a real industry in raising fur bearing animals. We shall have later news to give you of this new Association."
1930 was a vintage year for mink organizations. In the November 1930 issue of the Fur Trade Journal, we read of another new mink association "A meeting of mink breeders was called together by Mr. N. A. Frood of the Slave Lake Fur Farm Limited in the office of John B. Gillies, Edmonton, Alberta, Saturday evening, September 13th for the purpose of organizing a mink breeders association. Dr. J. G. Roberts acted as Chairman for the meeting.
"As a number of fur farmers in attendance were raising foxes as well as mink and a few were raising muskrat, it was decided to make the organization open to the breeding of any fur bearing animals. The association was named the Alberta Fur Breeders' Association. Mr. Earl Tredway was elected President, Mr. J. J. Burr was elected Vice President and John B. Gillies was elected Secretary-Treasurer in addition to which there are three directors, Mr. Harry L. Caine, Mr. N. A. Frood and Dr. F. A. Keillor.
"Mr. Frood addressed the meeting at some length describing the work that had been accomplished by other fur associations in other parts of Canada. Some of the things named being collective advertising, registration, scoring and inspection of mink and other fur bearing animals, opposing of adverse legislation and securing beneficial measures for the development of the fur trade and the co-operation of these associations with the Government experimental fur farms.
"It was decided to hold a regular meeting of the Association on the 3rd Wednesday of each month, the members present thought that with proper soliciting, the attendance at the next meeting should be over one hundred. The next meeting to be October 15th. Any fur farmer desirous of joining this organization should make his application to any of the officials named. A vote of thanks was extended to Dr. Roberts for the way he conducted the meeting and launching this new association for the encouragement and development of the fur breeding business."
On May 17th, 1934, the Ontario Fur Farmers Association, which later became the Ontario Fur Breeders Association, was formed. This was to be a new concept in provincial organizations. It was better known for what it did than what it was. No better way to explain this, than to quote the Secretary H. M. Hartley in his report on the first eight months of this aggressive association that appeared in the February 1935 issue of the Canadian Silver Fox & Fur "The individual is prone to ask `just what do I get out of this organization?' The Ontario Fur Farmers Association has already given a good satisfactory answer to that question by the program it has carried out in the first eight months of its existence. Organized last May, at a meeting in Toronto called by Mr. J. E. Patte, now the President, there has not been a single month since in which something of distinct value to some large number of fur farmers has not been done. Let's look over the record starting with the short course held at Guelph, June 20 to 22nd, 1934.
"The idea of an annual three day conference between the fur farmers and the experts employed by various departments of government engaged in research and various problems related to fur animal production has already been proved an excellent thing by past experience. But when the provincial fox breeders organization broke down a couple of years ago, the short course was lost too. The Departments of Game & Fisheries and of Agriculture rightfully felt that if the fur farmers would not support a representative organization of their own, there was no need to spoon feed them. When the Ontario Fur Farmers Association was set up as an evidence of co-operative spirit and initiative, the government showed only a little hesitation about the considerable costs involved in again extending this service.
"The short course was held at the Ontario Veterinary College, and everyone who attended agreed it was the best of its kind ever held. For one thing, two years have passed during which the Ontario Government Experimental Fur Farm had had little chance to pass along its findings to any large numbers of fur farmers. Publication of research results in the usual bulletin form had been halted by a zeal for economy, that lightning that runs through government departments during political storms and strikes whenever there is no strong organization prepared to register an effective protest. The staff had made discoveries of the greatest practical importance for the fur farmer, and the short course gave the Director, Dr. R. G. Law about the first chance he had to explain them in every day terms to the man depending on farm raised furs for his living. Effective simple control of hookworm in foxes, causes of infertility in male foxes, and of acidosis and nursing disease in mink were some chief bugbears of fur farming for which he had organized victorious counter attacks ready for the hands of the intelligent fur farmer. Those who attended are using these new methods quietly at home this year and many will be at least a year ahead in securing the better results possible by knowing the new methods in full detail.
"The staff of the Ontario Veterinary College reviewed the various phases of scientific knowledge which are vital to the success of any substantial fur farm undertaking. Both Dr. H. E. Batt and Dr. A. A. Kingscote have a splendid backing of real experience as well as laboratory practice with which to reinforce their observations on the diseases and parasite problems of our branch of livestock breeding.
"Attendance at this short course was free to everyone and nearly one hundred fur farmers took advantage of it. Still the Association felt that the information given there was so important that it should be placed within the very easiest reach of every fur grower in the province. A plan to hold several little short courses or local meetings in the leading fur breeding sections was set going to accomplish this.
"The first such local meeting was held in the Norfolk-Haldimand district where there are a larger number of new small men in the business than in any other equal area of the province, as well as several large well established ranches. The lead was taken by Mr. M. B. Wiedrick and the local meeting was held at the Townsend Fox and Fur Farms, second largest fox and mink ranch unit in the province. The experience gained at this meeting was the foundation of a very successful program for the following gatherings in other sections.
"In August a most successful affair was staged at Barrie directed by Mr. H. F. Morren, Vice President of the Association. It drew an attendance of forty-eight in a district where there are about seventy engaged in the business and was voted a thoroughly enjoyable and profitable day of lectures, discussions, dining and local ranch viewing.
"In September the late Mr. J. M. MacGillivray invited his many friends in the fox business to Priceville. Though we did not know it at the time of course, this was the last opportunity afforded many to meet this grand old man of Ontario fox breeding. Many came from great distances to enjoy this particularly fine day with the local men of the Owen Sound-Grey County district.
"A totally new venture in the program of Ontario co-operation was inaugurated in the proposal to hold a local meeting at the eastern end of the province. It was decided to hold this at the town of Arnprior where there were twenty breeders of fox and mink. President Patte assisted the Eastern Ontario Director, Mrs. George Gillies in making the arrangements and ensuring the attendance of local breeders. The Western Ontario Directors made the long trip in a body to attend this great get together which was held October 17th. The attendance was over sixty and every detail of the arrangements were perfect. Several of the most interesting addresses given at local meetings in the western districts were given again here. Dr. E. A. Watson, Chief Pathologist of the Health of Animals Branch, Dominion Department of Agriculture, made his first public announcement of the welcome news that an effective remedy for epidemic distemper is now available from the Laboratory at Hull.
"The Directors held a meeting while at Arnprior to plan the Raw Fur Exhibition that the fur farmers had almost unanimously favoured at the general meeting in June. Since the objective was to have a show where the commercial product was on display and up for judgement, rather than to continue judging the individual foxes and mink with which the breeder hoped to produce an acceptable commercial commodity, it was decided that it would be necessary to not only have the judging done on a strictly market basis by recognized fur breeders, but to also put the pelts up for sale at auction to secure the judgment of the fur trade `the man who backs his judgment with his money'. Since it was necessary to make all such arrangements in a simple and easily understood form the first year, the selling of the pelts from the first annual show was offered to Canadian Fur Auction Sales Company, Montreal who accepted that responsibility.
"The Raw Fur Exhibition was held at the Carls-Rite Hotel Toronto, December 18th to 20th. Very far seeing and adequate arrangements had been made by Lt. Col. G. B. Cousens show manager and Mr. O. W. Thompson chairman of the show management committee, and both deserve credit for the fact there was never a hitch in any detail of the show. The financial question was greatly assisted by the ready purchase of space in the prize list, and hearty co-operation from a number of concerns who deal extensively with the fur farmer. Indeed the total costs of the entire show were no greater than, it had been reported, the out of pocket expenses of some single exhibitors at live fox shows of previous years, and the whole plan fitted into the economics of the present times."
Orville Griffin in his report on early Saskatchewan mink history says "Saskatchewan Fur Breeders Association was formed in 1927 by the fox men of the day". There is no mention of when mink men first joined this group and the first recorded mink connection was the field-day which was held on the Archie Campbell ranch at Saskatoon in 1936.
In the March 1938 issue of the Canadian Silver Fox & Fur, Central Nova Scotia Mink Breeders' Club announced its birth "A meeting was called by Mr. Donald White, Agricultural Representative for the purpose of organizing the mink breeders in the Lawrencetown, Nova Scotia district into an association. On February 17th, twenty breeders from Aylesford to Annapolis gathered at the Demonstration Building in Lawrencetown and after some discussion it was decided that a club should be formed. The following officers were elected: President, M. P. Neily, Spa Springs; 1st Vice President, E. O. Simon, South Milford; 2nd Vice President, Spurgeon Messenger, Centrelea; Secretary-Treasurer, G. O. Armour, Middleton; Directors, Wilfred Baker, Spa Springs; J. C. Benson, West Paradise; C. F. Whitman, Round Hill; R. J. Hiltz, Aylesford.
"The name adopted for the club is Central Nova Scotia Mink Breeders' Club with an annual fee for the members of $1.00. The purpose of this club is to foster better mink breeding among the members, in securing every market advantage and also giving assistance to the members producing better quality minks. It is hoped to stimulate interest of the members by holding annual mink shows together with regular meetings. The club will also, through its executive, bring any matter of importance which they feel may be of assistance to mink breeders to the attention of provincial authorities in an effort to secure their support and if necessary, have it supplemented by legislation. It is hoped the provincial government will see fit to have an expert in this industry attached to the Department of Agriculture in line with the other provinces."
Eighteen months later in the September 1939 issue of Canadian Silver Fox and Fur, they reported on their operations and announced a name change "The First Annual Meeting of the Central Nova Scotia Mink Breeders' Club was held at Lawrenctown on August 14th, 1939. The financial statement of the fiscal year ended June 30th was presented by the Secretary-Treasurer and adopted. This report showed the Club had operated successfully during the past year and, despite some heavy expense, boasted a bank balance.
"President M. P. Neily reviewed the activities of the Club for the past year and stressed the fact that after starting from scratch, something really concrete had been accomplished in putting on a successful mink show last November. The Club, however, was not going to rest on its laurels, for a bigger and better show was being planned for this November, which, incidentally was being thrown open to mink ranchers of Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
"One of the chief business items was a notice of motion changing the name of the Club. The motion read by the President `moved that this Club's name be changed from Central Nova Scotia Mink Breeders' Club to Nova Scotia Mink Breeders' Association' was discussed, voted upon, and passed.
"The following officers were elected to hold office during the ensuing year: President, M. P. Neily, Middleton; 1st Vice President, E. O. Simon, South Milford; 2nd Vice President, R. S. MacKay, Albany; Secretary-Treasurer, G. O. Armour, Middleton; Directors, C. F. Whitman, Round Hill; W. L. Baker, Spa Springs; W. T. Powers, Lunenberg; Reg Melvin, Melvern Square."
The Western Canada Fur Breeders' Association, a Manitoba group whose principal purpose was the organization of the annual Winnipeg Fox and Mink Shows from 1933 on was re-organized in 1938. The December 5th issue of the Winnipeg Free Press said "Sven Klintberg, Manager of Winnipeg's Silver Fox Company Limited, Bird's Hill was elected President of the Manitoba Fur Breeders' Association at a meeting of the new directors held following the Association's Annual Meeting. Formerly the Western Canada Fur Breeders' Association, the Association adopted its new name at the Annual Meeting in September. Other officers are W. O. Douglas, Vice-President, J. D. McVickar, Treasurer, C. D. Lang, Secretary, J. R. Young, Auditor and the following directors: A. Hole, A. M. Doyle, G. W. Horne, O. K. Thomassen, Col. Hunter Young and M. B. Pirt."
The next was New Brunswick "The New Brunswick Fox Breeders' Association passed out of existence on January 25th, 1939 and the New Brunswick Fur Farmers Association took its place. The change was made so that breeders of other kinds of fur could be taken into the organization.
"The new group decided to affiliate with the Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders' Association and the Dominion Council. This new Association is expected to bring the fur farmers closer together.
"J. E. Connolly and Russell Colpitts were appointed delegates to the Council. C. F. Bailey said the Dominion Council would try to promote the sale of higher class pelts and attempt to secure wider markets through style influence and by other means. Pelts would be branded as to quality. He expected that Dominion Government grades would be established for fox pelts."