Vincent Massey Top Hat, Lock & Co., Hatters, St. James Street, London c.1940
Born in Toronto in 1887, Massey served as Governor General from 1952 to 1959, and was responsible for initiating the tradition that all Governor Generals henceforth must be Canadian citizens.
Travelling across the country to promote the values of cultural diversity and the need to speak both French and English, Massey used his position of sovereign representative to strengthen Canadian identity and unity. His most lasting achievement was his unwavering support for the arts and sciences alike, establishing and endorsing numerous awards, institutions, festivals and exhibitions, all of which are received with great prestige today. As Canada was gaining greater confidence in its academic pursuits, social reform, geographic discovery and its own artistic sense of self, Vincent Massey’s encouragement went a long way in helping to foster this positive cultural identity.
Massey’s top hat, a luxurious black beaver pelt complete with buffing pillow and leather carrying case, would have been as recognizable as his many socio-cultural initiatives.
Massey confirmed and bolstered the relationship between the Crown and Canada. His term as Governor General was extended twice by two different Prime Ministers and he was awarded the prestigious Royal Victorian Chain in 1960 by the Queen for his sovereign achievements. Massey’s contribution to Canadian aspirations is most strongly felt in the Massey Lectures, a five-part series that allows a noted scholar from around the world the opportunity to speak about a subject of their choosing, giving the floor for socio-political discussion, critical analysis and historical self-reflection.