Trent University Library & Archives continues to offer electronic collections and virtual services. As part of the University’s limited and reduced campus presence, Bata Library and the Durham GTA Campus Library & Learning Centre are closed and physical collections are unavailable. Virtual services and support are available by contacting Check for updates regularly on our COVID-19 Alert Page.

Curbside Pickup for Faculty & Graduate Students is available starting June 23rd.

Finding Aid:

Search the Archives

Fonds Level Description

Accession Number: 70-004


Sidney Smith fonds. -- 1839-1864. -- 5 cm of textual records.

Biography / History

Sidney Smith was born October 16, 1823 at Port Hope, Upper Canada, to John David Smith and Augusta Louisa Smith. John David Smith sat in the House of Assembly of Upper Canada of Durham from 1828 to 1830. Sidney Smith was the grandson of Elias Smith. Elias was a successful merchant and trader, who left New York to settle in Upper Canada and who founded Port Hope in 1792. Sidney Smith studied law in the office of his brother, John Shuter Smith, and was admitted to the bar in 1844. Smith married Mary Ann Bennett of Cobourg, Upper Canada, on January 21, 1845. He continued to practice law throughout his life, first in Cobourg and later acted as solictor for the Commercial Bank of the Midland District, the Bank of Montreal, the Midland Railway of Canada, the town of Cobourg, and then in Peterborough. In 1853 he was elected a municipal councillor for both Cobourg and the township of Hamilton, and was the warden for Northumberland and Durham. In 1854, Smith was elected as a Reformer to the Legislative Assembly for Northumberland West and was re-elected in 1857. From February 2, 1858 until the government's defeat on the Militia Bill in May 1862, Smith was the postmaster general in the cabinet of John A. Macdonald and George-Etienne Cartier and was also a member of the Board of Railway Commissioners. Also in 1858, Smith introduced the Upper Canada Jurors' Act and carried it through the assembly. Smith's most notable accomplishment while in office occurred in 1859 when he concluded arrangements with the United States, Britain, France, Belgium, and Prussia for mail services to Canada and the United States. By 1860, he gained abolition of Sunday labour in the Post Offices of Canada West. Smith was defeated in the general election of 1861 by James Cockburn but he was elected to the Legislative Council for Trent in the same year and was able to retain his portfolio of postmaster general. In 1863, he resigned his seat in the Upper House, sought election to the assembly of the constituency of Victoria, was defeated and resigned from politics permanently. He returned to full-time law practice in Peterborough and also served in the militia as captain of the Peterborough Infantry Company No. 2. In 1866 he was appointed inspector of registry offices for Canada West, and continued in that position for the province of Ontario after Confederation. Sidney Smith died September 27, 1889 in Cobourg, Ontario.

Custodial History

The items in the fonds remained in the posession of descendants of Sydney Smith, including the Honourable Chief Justice S. Bruce Smith, grandson of Sidney Smith. They were donated to the Trent University Archives by Professor Denis Smith, a great grandson of Sidney Smith, in 1964.

Scope and Content

The fonds consists of textual records including articles of clerkship (September 19, 1839), indenture (January 25, 1851), requisitions and petitions (February 2,1860 - August 7, 1863), and correspondence. The fonds also includes transcripts on miscellaneous family historical items and two articles from the Globe, July 6 and 7, 1859, on the Ploughboy incident in Lake Huron.


Title based on the creator of the fonds.

The fonds was donated by S.G. Denis Smith, Professor at Trent University in February 1964.

The fonds has been arranged into two series comprised of transcripts and articles, and original materials. Both of the series have been organized chronologically.

Restrictions: N

Finding aids: Y

Other materials relating to Sidney Smith can be found at the National Archives of Canada (MG 24) and at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.

Finding Aid

Box 1


1. transcripts of articles
a) Peterborough Examiner reprint 20 Oct, 1864
b) Sketches of Celebrated Canadian, by Henry J.Morgan, 1862
c) an account of the "Bluestone" house in Port Hope
d) Globe reprint of 1859
e) Globe articles, 5-6 July, 1859, on Ploughboy accident in Lake Huron
f) genealogical information on Elias Smith and his descendants
g) transcript from Poole's History of Peterborough 1867 dealing with volunteer fire company membership

2. originals
a) articles of Clerkship of Sidney Smith, 19 Sept, 1839
b) indenture of J.S. Smith and Sidney Smith, 25 Jan 1851
c) Trent Division Catholic campaign literature,1860?
d) requisition (on Smith's return from overseas "postal" mission, 2 Feb 1860)
e) letter from W.H. Draper, friendly and newsy, 9Dec 1862
f) petitions requesting Smith not to move to Peterborough, 7 Aug 1863; two petitions
g) letter from Arthur Maclean relating to thepetitions, 26 Sept, 1863