The Right Honourable Vincent Massey
by Don Carter
Research and Information Services
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Charles Vincent Massey was born in Toronto February 20, 1887 and died in London, England, December 30, 1967.
Vincent Massey received a B.A. from the University of Toronto and an M.A. from Balliol College, Oxford. He was a lecturer in modern history at the University of Toronto from 1913 until 1915 and was a staff officer of Military District No. 2 (Canada) during the years 1915 to 1918.
In the early 1920s,Vincent Massey was active as an actor and director in Hart House Theatre at the University of Toronto. He served as president of the Massey family farm-implement business, the Massey-Harris Company, Toronto, from 1921 to 1925.
In September 1925, Mr. Massey joined the Liberal cabinet as minister without portfolio at the invitation of Prime Minister Mackenzie King. In the federal election of October 1925 he ran in the riding of Durham but was defeated. He served as Canada's first diplomatic representative in the United States of America from 1926 to 1930 and was high commissioner for Canada in the United Kingdom from 1935 until 1946. While in Britain, Massey served as chairman of the National Gallery, London, from 1943 to 1946. He was made a Companion of Honour (C.H.), a member of an order limited to the king and 50 others, by King George VI in 1946.
On his return to Canada, Vincent Massey was chancellor, University of Toronto from 1947 to 1953 and chairman of the National Gallery of Canada, 1948-1952.
From 1949 to 1951, Vincent Massey served effectively as chairman of the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. The Massey Commission, as it is commonly known today, held 114 public hearings across Canada and received 462 formal submissions. The historic report of the commission included important recommendations concerning broadcasting, the creation of the Canada Council, the establishment of a national library and financial aid to universities. All of the major recommendations of the report were implemented by 1957.
Vincent Massey served with distinction as Canada's first native-born governor general from 1952 until 1959. He travelled extensively in all parts of Canada.
In The Imperial Canadian, Massey's biographer, Claude Bissell notes that, in the period from 1949 to 1959, Vincent Massey " . . . made his major contribution. More than any other Canadian, he was responsible for the first major movement of the arts and letters from the periphery of national concern towards the centre. It was a notable achievement."1
Bissell, Claude T. -- The Imperial Canadian: Vincent Massey in Office. -- Toronto : University of Toronto Press, 1986. -- 361 p.
Bissell, Claude T. -- The Young Vincent Massey. -- Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1981. -- 270 p.
Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. -- Report. -- Ottawa: King's Printer, 1951. -- 517 p.
Canada. Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. -- Royal Commission Studies: A Selection of Essays Prepared for the Royal Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences. -- Ottawa: King's Printer, 1951. -- 430 p.
Massey, Vincent. -- What's Past Is Prologue : The Memoirs of the Right Honourable Vincent Massey, C.H. -- Toronto: Macmillan, 1963. -- 540 p.