Arthur P. Coleman

Fonds number:
Title: Arthur P. Coleman
Dates of Material:
1.22 m of textual records
1168 photographs: b&w (2 framed)
2 photographs: 4x5 inch b&w negatives
2 photographs: 17.5x12 cm and 15x9 cm b&w negatives
755 watercolour paintings
4 sketchbooks and 69 pen and pencil drawings (1 framed)
51 postcards
11 maps
4 artifacts
8 calling card sketches
2 prints
Biographical sketch

Arthur Philemon Coleman (1852–1939) was a geologist and an academic. He was born in Lachute, Quebec (Canada East), the son of Rev. Francis Coleman and Emmeline Maria Adams, who was a descendant of John Quincy Adams. He was the brother of Albert Evander and Helena Jane Coleman, Lucius Quincy Coleman and Rufus Adams Coleman. He died, unmarried, in Toronto.

Coleman was educated at many public schools in Ontario (his father was an itinerant Methodist minister and the family moved often). He attended Cobourg Collegiate Institute, Cobourg, Ontario, and received his B.A. (1876) and M.A. (1880) at Victoria College in Cobourg, Ontario. He received a Ph.D. at the University of Breslau in Germany in 1881.

Coleman was appointed Professor of Geology and Natural History at Victoria College in 1882 (renamed Victoria University in 1884). He was Professor of Geology (in Assaying and Metallurgy) at the School of Practical Science, Toronto (1891–1901), Geologist at the Bureau of Mines, Government of Ontario (1893–1909), Professor of Geology at the University of Toronto (1901–1922), Dean of the Faculty of Arts at the University of Toronto (1919–1922), and Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto (1922). In 1914 he was appointed Director of the Royal Ontario Museum of Geology in Toronto. From 1931 to 1934 he was employed as Geologist by the Department of Mines, Government of Ontario.

Coleman was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada in 1900 and became its President in 1921. He was awarded the Society’s Flavelle Medal in 1928. He was elected President of the Royal Canadian Institute in 1902, and a Fellow of the Royal Society of London, England, in 1910, and won its Murchison Medal for distinguished research in geology. In 1915 he served as President of the Geological Society of America and was awarded its Penrose Medal in 1936. He also served as a Councilor of the Canadian Institute, and as President of the Alpine Club of Canada.

Coleman received LL.D.s from Queen’s University in 1913 and from the University of Western Ontario in 1922. He also received a D.Sc. from the University of Toronto in 1922, a honourary degree from the University of Adelaide, Australia in 1928, and the Victoria Medal from the Royal Geographical Society in 1933. A mountain in Banff National Park (Alb.) was named “Mount Coleman” in honour of his geological discoveries.

Coleman published three major works on geology between 1911 and 1926.

Custodial history

The material contained in Boxes 13–18, 20 and 21 was originally held in Victoria University Library, but transferred to Victoria University Archives at an unknown date.
The custodial history of the material acquired from Peter Allen is unknown.
Peter E. Odell received the watercolours he donated from his grandfather, N.E. Odell of Clare College, Cambridge, England, upon his death in 1987. Prior custodial history is unknown.

The photographs acquired from the AGO were donated by Mr. John A. Osbaldeston in 1969 who received them from Miss M. Glenn.

The maps acquired from the Archives of Ontario were received from Richard McKibbon in 2015.

The calling card sketches and print were donated by Paul Gilbert, a member of the Coleman family, in 2021.

The 2022.02 watercolour paintings, sketches and photographs were donated by Paul Gilbert, obtained from other members in the Coleman family, in 2022.

Scope and content

The fonds consists of A.P. Coleman’s records pertaining to his activities as a geologist and to his personal life. It consists of the following series:

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.


The fonds is stored in 42 boxes.

Immediate source of acquisition

More than three hundred sketches and paintings were acquired from Helena Coleman in 1941. See for more information files 120 and 143 in the Helena Coleman fonds which contain correspondence relating to this acquisition. A large number of the remaining documents are also likely to have been acquired from Helena Coleman following the death of A.P Coleman. The material contained in boxes 13–18, 20 and 21 was acquired from Victoria University Archives in 1988; the sketchbooks, photographs and watercolours in box 19 from Professor Peter Allen, Innis College, University of Toronto, in 1986; the watercolours in box 22 from Peter E. Odell in 1988; and the watercolours in boxes 23–35 (renumbered as Watercolour Boxes 1–13) from Helena Coleman. 

In 2014, the 52 photographs in Box 6, File 10 were acquired from the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Accession 2017.05, which consists of 9 geologic and topographic maps, was transferred to Special Collections from the Archives of Ontario in November 2015.

Accession 2021.02, consisting of 8 calling card sketches in pen and ink and a print of Coleman's portrait, was acquired from Paul Gilbert, a member of the Coleman family, in October 2021. Gilbert received the calling cards from his aunt, Helen Coleman.

Accession 2022.02, consisting of 17 watercolour paintings, 2 sketches, 2 photographs and 1 print, was acquired from Paul Gilbert in March 2022. Gilbert received the 10 watercolour landscape paintings and photographs from his mother, W.D. Gilbert, who received them from F.H. Gilbert, a cousin of Coleman; the 7 watercolour paintings of plants and flowers, the sketches and the print were received from his cousin, Melissa Coleman.

Language of material


Access restrictions

Restrictions on access: No restrictions on access.

Finding aids

File list available for Boxes 1–12; accession list (of files) available for Boxes 13–18; item list available for the 531 watercolours acquired from Helena Coleman.

Related material

National Archives in Ottawa: Arthur Philemon Coleman fonds (reference number: R1530-0-0-E; was: MG30-B156). Related biographical material and photographs are held at Victoria University Archives.


No further accruals are expected.

Access points

Provenance access points: Coleman, A.P. (Arthur Philemon), 1852–1939

Related special collections at Victoria University Library
Related exhibitions at Victoria University Library