Fonds - James Ryan and Company (King's Cove, Bonavista Bay N.L.) fonds

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Title proper

James Ryan and Company (King's Cove, Bonavista Bay N.L.) fonds

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  • Textual record

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  • Source of title proper: Title is based on the contents of the fonds
  • Variations in title: Previously known as the King's Cove Diaries

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Issuing jurisdiction and denomination (philatelic)

Dates of creation area


  • 1883-1934 (Creation)
    James Ryan and Company

Physical description area

Physical description

75 cm of textual records

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Administrative history

The Ryan family of Bonavista created a mercantile empire on the northeast coast of Newfoundland that was comparable in scale to many of the Water Street merchant houses of St. John's. James Ryan and his father, Michael Ryan, founded the fishery supply and general trade business at Bonavista in 1857. During the next three decades, James, along with brothers Daniel, Edmund, Nicholas and, to lesser degrees, Patrick, Michael J., and John, expanded the business into three separate firms with branch operations and barter shops in many communities throughout Bonavista and Trinity bays and along the coast of Labrador. James Ryan soon became the leading merchant in the shore fishery around Bonavista and also began supplying the Labrador fishery.

As Bonavista lacked a suitable harbour for schooner anchorage, James and his brother Daniel established a separate firm at King's Cove in 1875. Initially operating under the masthead of James and D. A. Ryan, the company soon became known as James Ryan and Company. Daniel moved to King's Cove to manage the operation and eventually became the sole proprietor. He handled trade in King's Cove for most of his life, with the branch becoming Ryan's main base for supplying the Labrador trade.

The firm remained a dominant player in the Newfoundland salt cod trade well into the twentieth century. The family members, operating out of separate branches, continued to maintain regular contact. By the 1930s, the firm experienced significant change as the older Ryan brothers had died and the branches were managed by in-laws. While the end of the family connection affected the conduct of the business, the decline of the salt fish trade had the more significant impact on the firm's future direction.

By 1953, James Ryan and Company had completely withdrawn from the fish trade, becoming primarily a wholesale and retail business. The firm carried on in this vein for several years, but was eventually closed in 1978 following the death of James's son, Herbert Ryan.

Custodial history

Fonds was acquired by gift to the Maritime History Archive in 1987 from Joseph and Edward McGrath of Trinity.

Scope and content

Fonds consists of diaries kept most likely by John G. Hart, an accountant for Daniel Ryan at King's Cove. The diaries contain information on shipping arrivals and departures, vessel cargoes, weather, local events, births, marriages, and deaths.

Notes area

Physical condition

Immediate source of acquisition


Language of material

  • English

Script of material

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There are no restrictions on access to the material.

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Copyright is held by the creator or his/her heirs.

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Finding aid is available.

Associated materials

Ryan Brothers, Limited (Trinity), fonds; James Ryan fonds

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Dates of creation, revision and deletion

Created - May 8, 2013

Language of description

  • English

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