Education for All, Frontier College 1899-1999

Posted on Sept. 24, 1999 by CPO in Latest Stamps

Founded in 1899 as the Canadian Reading Camp Movement, Frontier College brought education to thousands of labourers in remote northern logging, mining and railway camps. Today, while educating migrant farm workers strengthens its country roots, Frontier College has also evolved into a powerful urban force for literacy.

Canada Post, another strong supporter of literacy in Canada, joins in celebrating the 100th anniversary of this historic institution with the release of an evocative new domestic-rate stamp. A product of Toronto's Q30 Design Inc., under the art direction of Peter Scott and Glenda Rissman, the Frontier College issue will be featured on a pane of 16 and, as always, on Official First Day Covers.

A University in Overalls

Frontier College began as the brainchild of Presbyterian minister Alfred Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick brought education to adults in isolated regions of Canada. University-educated instructors established reading tents and used everyday items such as newspapers and magazines as instructional resources.

In 1903, with 24 reading rooms already in operation, Frontier College suddenly took on a more active role in adult education. Teacher Angus Gray grew restless waiting for men to drop in at the end of the day. Joining them in their work, he initiated the concept of the labourer-teacher.

On the eve of the First World War, 79 instructors were serving in eight provinces, and in 1919 the Reading Camp Association took on the name Frontier College. By 1922, Fitzpatrick had obtained degree-granting powers for his "university in overalls," but this concept was abandoned following Fitzpatrick's retirement in 1933. He died three years later.

The isolated unemployment-relief camps of the Great Depression and the flood of immigrants following World War II created fertile ground for Frontier College. Working the highways, mines and forests of the north again returned the College to its traditional role.

Bugs and Bad Food

"I can offer you hard work, low pay, blackflies, mosquitoes, dirt, bad food and a chance to help your fellow man," said the Reverend Dr. Edmund Bradwin, the college's second leader. Many answered the call in their youth, including doctors Norman Bethune, Benjamin Spock and Margaret Strang, United Church moderator James Mutchmor and Ontario Chief Justice Roy McMurtry.

Today, with funding from government, federal agencies, foundations, and both corporate and individual donors, Frontier College continues its grass-roots literacy crusade in urban and rural settings across Canada.

Quality by Design

Art director Peter Scott comments on the challenges presented by this stamp's design. "The letter 'A' you see in the plow ­ reinforcing the college's literacy role and its teacher-labourer approach ­ provides a good example. We had to achieve instant recognition ­ because most people only see a stamp at a glance ­ while conveying information in a very small space."

Stamp Specifications

  • Denomination: 1 x 46¢
  • Design: Q30 Design Inc.
  • Dimensions: 40 mm x 30 mm (horizontal)
  • Gum Type: P.V.A.
  • Illustration: Alain Massicotte
  • Perforations: 13+
  • Printer: Canadian Bank Note
  • Printing Process: Lithography (five colours)
  • Tagging: General, four sides
  • Quantity: 6,000,000
  • : Tullis Russell Coatings
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