Fonds P023 - Alex Robertson fonds

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Alex Robertson fonds

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  • Textual record
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  • Sound recording

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on the content of the fonds.
  • Variations in title: Previously known as the Alex Robertson collection

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Physical description

1,252 sound recordings
7.5 m of textual records
15 photographs

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Alexander Robertson was born in 1907 in Thorburn, Nova Scotia. He married Angela Julie Baccanale of Montreal in 1943. They had four children: Jennie, James, Anthony, and Alexandra. He died September 10, 1986 in Montreal.

At age 18 he travelled to Vancouver, where he graduated from business college. Through the 1930s he worked as expediter, foreman, and service and production manager, first in Halifax, and from 1935 in Montreal. In 1941, he enlisted in the naval reserve at HMCS Donnacona Montreal RCNVR and left the next year for the regular Navy as a Petty Officer Writer, stationed at Stadacona, Halifax. In 1943 he was drafted on a destroyer leading a convoy to Ireland. After the war he returned to Truro, Nova Scotia. He moved to Montreal in 1949, and worked in the textile industry. He worked in the payroll department of Royal Victoria Hospital from 1967. He retired in 1972 and then did two more years of volunteer work in the hospital's credit union. After that he devoted most of his time to his hobbies.

As a child he had piano and violin lessons, and as a teenager he played banjo and organized an orchestra that played at school dances and socials. During the time he was in the Navy, Alex became interested in jazz and started what was to become a major collection of jazz recordings. His research in Montreal newspapers led to a chronology of musical performances, including jazz, in Montreal between 1913 and 1970. For four decades he researched the record industry, specializing in American jazz recorded in Canada. He compiled the Canadian Compo Numericals, the Apex 8000 Numerical, the Canadian Gennett Series 9000 with the history of the Starr-Gennett recording company, and the Rare Canadian Aurora Label from Victor Masters. It and the Gennet series discographies were published in Record Research . By compiling the company discographies he was able to determine the origin of the recordings in his collection, distinguishing those recorded in the studio in Montreal from those pressed from master tapes recorded in the United States. Thus he identified well known American musicians who recorded in Montreal using pseudonyms. The Discophile Society called Alex Robertson a discographical scientist.

Custodial history

The fonds was transferred from Concordia University's Records Management and Archives Department to Concordia University Libraries' Special Collections March 9, 2016, and March 15-17, 2016, April 21, 2016, April 26-28, 2016, May 3, 2016, and May 10, 2016.

Scope and content

Between 1940 and 1986, Alex Robertson collected records. Most of the recordings in the fonds are 78 rpm's pressed in Montreal by Berliner and Compo: Berliner was the first Canadian company to produce records, and Compo was the first to record Canadian Black musicians. The fonds contains a large number of sound recordings that have never had commercial or widespread distribution. The fonds includes about 3,000 pieces of sheet music of various genres, dating from ca 1885 to 1970; about 1,000 pieces have Canadian content. The fonds includes numerous catalogues and promotional pamphlets from record and sheet-music publishing companies, dealers, clubs, and radio stations. Also included are books annotated by Alex Robertson in the course of his disco-graphical research. Alex Robertson's research materials on record labels and series, as well as on Montreal musical activity between 1913 and 1970 are included in the fonds. His extensive correspondence and related newsletters are included. The fonds includes photographs of Alex Robertson with his family; there is also a photograph of Alex Robertson with jazz author George Martin, and several of a reception held in his honor in the Concordia University Archives reading room in 1988.

The fonds is organized into the following series:
P0023/A Correspondence
P0023/B Research on record labels and series
P0023/C Research on Montreal music activity
P0023/D Photographs

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Immediate source of acquisition

Alex Robertson donated the documents to the Concordia University Archives shortly before he died in 1986.


The material was already separated when it arrived in the Concordia University Archives. The series were determined according to the collector's divisions.

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Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Reproduction for scholarly purposes is permitted in most cases.
Use of material in a publication may only be done with permission of the copyright owner.

Finding aids

An inventory of the Alex Robertson collection P0023 is available for consultation at the Concordia University Archives.

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No further accruals expected.


Copyright belongs to the creator(s).


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