The Canadian Fur Farming magazines have provided us with much of our early history and have confirmed the contributions of many of our helpers in this search for mink ranching identity. It is almost impossible to overestimate the value and influence of fur magazines on the development of the mink industry. The mink rancher in P.E.I. and his counterpart in B.C. was made aware of all new improvements and research as soon as the rancher next door to the discoveries. The fur magazines made neighbours of us all; to discuss, to argue, to agree and disagree on all matters and issues about our business. New designs of pens, sheds and equipment; articles on management, genetics, nutrition and disease; reports of shows, field days and short courses on mink ranching; advertisements for breeder mink, mink feeds, vitamin and mineral products and ranch equipment such as grinders, mixers, automatic feed carts and mink netting march across the pages in a useful and seemingly endless procession.
It would be nice to report that the editors and publishers of these vital journals were amply rewarded for their zeal and effort. Unhappily this is not so. While most of the magazines made money for a while eventually circumstances forced them out of the business. Only one fur publication outlived its original editor and is still a going concern. It seems that editors, like artists, while appreciated, are seldom rewarded in their life-time. The Silver Black Fox magazine published by the Black Fox Publishing Company of St. John, N.B. and edited by Frank C. Kaye, was the first Canadian fur farming publication. The earliest copy we have seen was December 1914 and it was identified as Volume 1, number 4. The first issue was not later than September 1914 and possibly a little earlier.
The fox ranchers welcomed the magazine but didn't support it with advertising. In those days there were more buyers for breeding stock than there were silver foxes. Twenty years later, in an obituary on Frank Kaye, Robert G. Hodgson was to write "In the early days he (Frank Kaye) saw many hardships because the Islanders could not easily be convinced to part with their money, even for a publication devoted to their industry and it was to the pioneer breeders of Prince Edward Island that Mr Kaye had to look for his support. The idea of raising an animal so rare and valuable as the silver fox took like wildfire, holding out lucrative profits for all those who invested and gradually the people engaged in actually raising the animals saw the wisdom of spreading the publicity."
Unfortunately, the 'wisdom of publicity' didn't come soon enough to keep the magazine in Canada. World War I didn't help much either. But we all owe a debt of gratitude to the Silver Black Fox magazine as the only source of authentic fur farming history during these war years. The last issue we can find is October 1916. Shortly after that Frank C. Kaye gave up the losing fight and moved to what was to be a happier clime, New York City. The magazine name was changed to The Black Fox and it soon became prosperous and was a powerful influence in the fur trade for almost five decades.
The masthead of an early issue of The Black Fox magazine says "entered as second class matter February 9, 1917, at the Post Office, New York. The only magazine in the world published in the interest of the fox and fur farmer. 1400 Broadway, New York City, F. C. Kaye Publisher."
The Fur Trade Journal of Canada, began publishing in Toronto, with the September issue in 1923. The editor and publisher was Robert G. Hodgson a shy, gentle, decent man, whose fascination with furbearers, ranched and wild, gave us a valuable legacy. Bob was to write, apart from his magazine, 22 books on muskrats, beaver, marten, fisher, rabbits, nutria, chinchilla, silver foxes and mink. These books about the animals in the wild and captivity were soundly written and remain today the best authority on the lesser-known furbearers.
Bob was not content to publish a magazine with whatever advertising and articles that came along. He was a constant searcher for and encourager of competent practical ranchers who had the expertise to share with his readers. Major L. D. McClintock was his most important find. In 1926, the major was made associate editor and he wrote many articles and reports until he retired in May 1931. His place was taken in June 1931, by H. Ehrensperger PhD who produced a long series of very scientific articles. This associate editorship was terminated in February 1932, because of the business depression. From then on, until he sold the magazine to Charles M. Clay in 1965, he was the sole editor.
It comes as no surprise that a magazine that has lasted up to the present day should have as contributors and advertisers what amounts to a who's who of the mink industry. It is also of interest to note that the Fur Trade Journal eventually bought out all of its Canadian competitors at times to be recorded when we tell their stories and as well the American Fur Breeder which began in 1928 and was purchased in 1970.
There is no time or space to go into the magazine's operations in a total sense, but there are some aspects that should be recorded. Bob Hodgson was a mink owner, but never a mink rancher. He would accept live mink as payment for breeding stock advertising. Several mink ranchers bought mink from him or ranched them on shares. One mink rancher who was an artist paid at least some of his advertising with paintings.
Another artist who designed the cover of the Fur Trade Journal, first used in September 1928 and regularly until 1932, when the cover was discontinued as an economy move, was Franz Johnson one of Canada's illustrious Group of Seven. I recall Bob telling me rather ruefully that whenever Franz Johnson needed money during the depression, and that was often, he sold a painting to generous easy mark, Bob. There were no bargains, the paintings were sold at top market price. However, there must have been an ultimate profit because, when Bob's estate was probated, they had become collectors' items.
The Fur Trade Journal cover returned in 1935. This time the artwork was done by an English artist, H. E. M. Sellen. He was a very prolific and capable artist and did several portraits of various furbearers. As I write this, I am aware of his painting, above my desk, of three silver fox puppies in their den watching me as I work. In 1938, Sellen returned to England, leaving Bob a variety of fur animal paintings which he used on the covers for many years.
In 1925, Bob organized the Canadian Small Breeds Association (CS. B.A.) for marketing rabbit skins and Angora wool. Bob's name never appeared as an officer; the only name in the early years was E. S. Jacobsen, secretary. Later when the C.S.B.A. Fur pool began to sell fox and mink pelts as well as rabbit skins R. T. Corfield was in charge. There was also the C.S.B.A. mink ranch at Langstaff run by Frank Taylor which probably housed Bob's 'taken in trade' mink.
All in all, no man contributed more loyally and generously to the cause than Robert G. Hodgson. There were others more colourful but none more faithful.
he Northern Fur Trade, published in Winnipeg and edited by C. D. Lang was the next magazine to appear. The first issue came in December 1925 and it continued monthly publication until February 1931. This is the last issue we can find. Later C. D. Lang mentions that it was a victim of the depression.
It contained some mink farming content and it was here that we found the first advertisements for Yukon mink. In December 1930, issue, F. Goulter of Carmacks, Yukon Territory advertised "Norden Skydd Yukon Mink, Extremely dark and fine. My strain. None Better Anywhere, $125 per pair, Deposit now 20%. Live delivery guaranteed." The Wright Bros. of Loretta, Manitoba advertised in the February 1931 issue "Darkest, Silkiest Strain (mink) imported directly from Yukon."
The most interesting advertisement didn't concern mink. In the March 1928 issue, we found the following - "Grizzlies - If you want to get a grizzly bear this spring it will pay you to try Jack Bowman at Three Valley, B.C."
The Canadian Silver Fox News, began January 1927 and was edited by J. R. Barr of Summerside, P.E.I. Joe Barr had been the advertising manager for R. T. Holman Ltd., a general merchandising company with a large mail-order business, for some years previous. The News was the official organ of the Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders Association and this began a span of years that was to involve the News and three other fur publications.
I have a vague memory of a lot of criticism of the News, but I can't recall what caused its problems. The editorial in the June 1927 issue, is the smoke but I can't remember the fire - "In this regard let it be known that the editorial guidance of Canadian Silver Fox News is unbiased and non-sectional. The editor is not a member of the Association of which the News is the official organ; he is not connected with any ranch or ranching company and has no business connection with anyone actively interested in the industry. The salary of the editor is paid by the publishers of the magazine and not by the Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders Association." Some faction's ox was being gored. A not unusual occurrence in those lively days when few oxen went unscarred.
But there must have been other problems because, beginning in 1928, the Canadian Silver Fox News became a section in an outdoors magazine called Rod and Gun published in Woodstock, Ontario. It should be noted that the News was the first bilingual fur farm magazine. In June 1927, the issue was in both French and English and from then on it was intermittently published in both languages. J. R. Barr remained as editor until July 1931 when he wrote his last editorial. The new editor, J. J. Enman served two years from November 1931 to November 1933.
This Siamese twin of the magazine world remained the official organ of the Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders Association until January 1934, when we find the official organ status given to the Fur Trade Journal of Canada. The last issue of the News was March 1934. The Fur Trade Journal of Canada was the official organ for a year when it was somewhat brutally cut off to make way for a prestigious newcomer in the fur publication world.
Donovan Publications Ltd. of Toronto were specialists in farm livestock magazines. Their Canadian Poultry Review and Holstein-Friesian Journal of Canada were the leaders in their fields. The inducement of being the official organ of the Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders Association was extremely important. It guaranteed the Canadian Silver Fox and Fur a paid circulation for its first issue in February 1935. As you may suspect, the revenue from subscriptions is small compared to the advertising returns. However, advertisers are only interested in how the paid circulation relates to the number of prospects that are engaged, in this particular instance, in fur farming. Instant circulation meant instant advertisers and very nearly instant profits. This magazine prospered and lasted 16 years. When the silver fox industry died a lingering death it was sold to a competitor.
H. B. (Harry) Donovan Jr. owner of Donovan Publications was the editor of the Canadian Silver' Fox and Fur throughout its existence. He was a shrewd, far-seeing man having great influence in Canadian livestock circles. In his quiet, diplomatic way he offered good advice to our leaders, some of which was accepted, but most, to our ultimate sorrow, was at first ignored and then frantically applied when it was too late. I suppose we can't be criticised too severely for acting like normal human beings.
G. H. (Gerry) Donovan, nephew of the editor, was the person that the ranchers knew best. He didn't, at that time, have a title. He didn't need one, he was a friend and helper in all fur farming projects. Gerry saw that we got proper publicity for our affairs and encouraged ranchers to contribute all sorts of practical ideas on equipment and management practices. He kept after those of us who were doing research and service to provide articles on our work. No one worked harder or more efficiently than Gerry Donovan.
Ken Muir and Ernie Paul were at different times, advertising managers of Donovan Publications and took a keen interest in fur farming affairs. O. K. Thomassen of Winnipeg wrote a monthly column on the activities of Western Canadian fur farmers.
I have a complete set of all the issues of the Canadian Silver Fox and Fur and in reading them, as source information for this book, I was impressed with the professional journalism they displayed. As fur magazines go, they are in a class by themselves and are the repository of all fur farming knowledge of the period. The last issue of the Canadian Silver Fox and Fur was in May 1950. It was sold to the Fur Trade Journal of Canada and disappeared within that publication.
Fur of Canada, began publishing in Winnipeg with the September 1935 issue. It was the voice of Western Canada throughout its 33 years. It was sold to the Fur Trade Journal of Canada in 1968. Over its lifespan, it was edited by two outstanding people C. D. (Chris) Lang 1935-56 and O. K. Thomassen, who assisted Kae Lang to publish the magazine until it was sold in 1968.
Christopher Donovan Lang was born in Londonderry, Northern Ireland in 1893. He majored in literature at the university in Londonderry and came to Canada on graduation. He enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps which became the Royal Air Force and when World War I was over returned to Canada.
He worked for a time as a fur buyer and later edited the Northern Fur Trade magazine. The magazine did not survive the depression.
An old friend, Harry J. La Due, editor of the successful American Fur Breeder, encouraged Chris to publish a fur farm magazine. In 1935 Chris brought the Fur of Canada into being.
Chris Lang was one of those extraordinary people that only Ireland seems to produce. He was a gentleman and a scholar possessing the Irish attributes of wit and charm that endeared him to his legion of friends.
Of my many warm memories of Chris, the one I like the best occurred on a fishing trip into the backcountry of northwestern Ontario. There were four in the party plus two quiet and reserved Indian guides. At night around the campfire, Chris would tell us tall tales of wilderness life. Some sad and some hilarious. But the remarkable thing was the impassive guides breaking into giggles at some of Chris's descriptions. Indians are pleasant people, but laughing isn't their long suit.
Chris, the editor, was a leader in the fur farming business. His contributions were many and varied. None more valuable than his work as a goodwill ambassador to the American mink ranchers and fur trade people. His death was a great loss, but his life was a boon to the fur industry.
La Revue des Eleveurs des Renards, a French-language magazine began with the October issue in 1934. It was founded by Dr Rosaire Raiotte, a veterinarian in the Quebec Health of Animals service. It was published in St. Hyacinthe and was the official organ of L'Association des Eleveurs de Renards de la province de Quebec.
With the growing importance of mink and other furbearers, the name was changed in June 1938 to, La Revue des Producteurs de Fourrures and became the official organ of both the fox and mink associations in Quebec. The last issue under this name was published in September 1942. At that time, Dr J. E. Laforest, as president of the newly founded Quebec Fur Breeders Co-operative Association, agreed with Dr R. Raiotte to take over La Revue and it was renamed Les Pelleteries du Quebec. Les Pelleteries, was a bilingual magazine and began publishing in October 1943 and lasted until 1971. An oddity about these three magazines was that no one was ever officially named as editor. We believe that J. R. Gregoire, the secretary of the Quebec Association, acted in that capacity. But whoever was responsible for editorial policy, did a creditable job in translating research reports from other languages to French to the benefit of French-speaking ranchers.
The Maritime Fur Breeder edited by Lowell W. Hancock published its first issue in May 1939. The magazine was printed in Summerside, P.E.I. and for 27 years provided a voice for Eastern Canada. It was sold to the Fur Trade Journal in 1966.
Lowell Hancock whose history is told in the chapter on Prince Edward Island was an aggressive leader in the fur industry. He was at various times president of the P.E.I. Fur Breeders Association, The Canadian National Silver Fox Breeders Association and Canada Mink Breeders Association. He was also an excellent fly fisherman for trout and an all-around good fellow.
The Western Fur Farmer was the last fur magazine to be started in this period. Its first issue was published in October 1961 and it was sold to the Fur Trade Journal of Canada in 1967. It provided the British Columbia ranchers with good local news coverage and for its brief existence, it was edited by Henry Dick.
The only Canadian fur magazine being published at the time this history is being written in the long-lived Fur Trade Journal of Canada, whose present editor, Charles M. Clay, has been a valuable source for the dates and details of the winding up of many of the magazines. We are very grateful for the privilege he afforded us to examine and study the complete set of issues of the Fur Trade Journal for the twenties and thirties. Without this source material, this history would have suffered greatly.