George Simpson collection

Scope and Content

The collection comprises of correspondence by Simpson relating to the search for the British Naval Northwest Passage Expedition, 1845-1848 (leader Sir John Franklin)

Administrative / Biographical History

George Simpson was born circa 1786 in the parish of Lochbroom, Scotland. Around 1800, he moved to London where he was employed by a sugar brokerage firm. In 1820, he entered the service of the Hudson's Bay Company and was sent to Canada, where he took charge of the important Athabaska fur district. After the merger of the Hudson's Bay Company with the North West Company in 1821, Simpson was appointed governor of the company's northern department (later known as Rupert's Land) before becoming governor of both the northern and southern departments in 1826. He encouraged exploration of his vast domain and he himself travelled constantly from one wilderness trading post to another, making at least one major journey every year (with the exception of three years when he was in London) during his forty years of service with the Hudson's Bay Company. Knighted in 1841, he travelled on an overland journey around the world between 1841 and 1842, publishing his narrative of the journey in 1847. Simpson gave much assistance to the Arctic expeditions of John Rae (1846-1847 and 1853-1854), and of James Anderson and James Green Stewart in 1855. During the 1840s and 1850s, he served as a director of the Bank of British North America, resigning to take up a directorship in the Bank of Montreal just before his death. He also had interests in mining concerns and acted as a director of the Montreal Mining Company from 1848 to 1849. He was a founding shareholder and director in the Montreal and Lachine Rail-road, chartered in 1846. He died on 7 September 1860 in Lachine, Lower Canada.

Published work An overland journey round the world, during years 1841 and 184 by (Sir) George Simpson, Lea & Blanchard Philadelphia (1847) SPRI Library Shelf (3)91(08)[1841-1842]


The correspondence is arranged alphabetically by recipient

Access Information

By appointment.

Some materials deposited at the Institute are NOT owned by the Institute. In such cases the archivist will advise about any requirements imposed by the owner. These may include seeking permission to read, extended closure, or other specific conditions.


Anyone wishing to consult material should ensure they note the entire MS reference and the name of the originator.

The term holograph is used when the item is wholly in the handwriting of the author. The term autograph is used when the author has signed the item.

Descriptions compiled by N. Boneham, Assistant Archivist with assistance from R. Stancombe and reference to Arctic, exploration and development c500 BC to 1915, an encyclopaedia Clive Holland, Garland Publishing, London (1994) ISBN number 0824076486 and Exploring Polar Frontiers, a historical encyclopaedia William Mills, San Diego and Oxford, 2003 and Dictionary of National Biography volume 52, Smith, Elder & Co. London (1897) Bartleby and Biographies

Other Finding Aids

Clive Holland Manuscripts in the Scott Polar Research Institute, Cambridge, England - a catalogue, Garland Publishing New York and London (1982) ISBN 0824093941.

Additional finding aids are available at the Institute.

Conditions Governing Use

Copying material by photography, electrostat, or scanning device by readers is prohibited. The Institute may be able to provide copies of some documents on request for lodgement in publicly available repositories. This is subject to conservation requirements, copyright law, and payment of fees.

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Further accessions possible

Corporate Names