Frank Harrington's Kristmiss Book: 1860-1900

Description

60 pages
$19.95
ISBN 1-55128-006-X
DDC 630'.92

Publisher

Year

1993

Contributor

Photos by R.R. Sallows
Reviewed by Terry A. Crowley

Terry A. Crowley is an associate professor of history at the University
of Guelph and author of Agnes Macphail and the Politics of Equality.

Review

This book evokes a simpler, rural past that many have found appealing
since populations began to expand rapidly around 1750 and cities
burgeoned. The diary on which the book is based consists of little more
than annual entries at Christmas by a man who cleared a farm in the
wilderness of southern Ontario, won love, raised children, and rose to
become a municipal reeve despite personal vicissitudes.

While seemingly authentic, the original is probably a fake that became
a counterfeit when someone sold the spurious document to a Montreal
paper for publication 30 years ago. This reviewer has never encountered
genuine, original writing with such consistent phonetic orthography. Nor
can the unpublished version of this supposed diary be located, or its
provenance established. We do not even know if Frank Harrington was a
real person or an invention!

Evidence internal to the document also shows it to be a fake. The
author supposedly began clearing his land in 1860 with a hundred
dollars, much less than historians know to have been necessary for an
individual to begin a farm in the wilderness. Four years later,
Harrington had eighty acres freed of forest growth, but again,
historical investigations have established that a single man could clear
only two to three acres a year. The style is also contrived: one woeful
sentence is repeated three years in a row for literary effect.

The beautiful photographs by R.R. Sallows also mislead. Paid by the
Ontario Department of Agriculture to stage photographs for publicity
purposes, Sallows worked primarily from 1900 to 1930, but this book is
about the latter half of the 19th century. The illustrations are out of
period and not actual representations of life even for the years after
1900.

This edition of Frank Harrington’s Kristmiss Book is a handsome
counterfeit and a double fake.

Citation

Harrington, Frank., “Frank Harrington's Kristmiss Book: 1860-1900,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed April 22, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/13977.