JACOBSON, Percy and Joe

Language of Description
1907 - 1955
Level of Description
EHRI Partner

Extent and Medium

Env. 1.03 metres of textual records.

Biographical History

The Jacobson family of Westmount, Quebec was composed of Percy Jacobson, his wife May, and four children; Edith (m. Low-Beer, d. 2007), Joseph (Joe) d. 1942, Janet (m. Smith), and Peter, d. 1937, of leukemia. Born in 1886, Percy Jacobson was a businessman dealing in office equipment, as well as a writer and a leader in the writers' association PEN (Poets, Essayists and Novelists). From 1939 to 1949 Percy Jacobson typed a nearly daily diary in which he portrayed Montreal's view of the World War II era along with his comments on the news, overheard conversations, his son Joe's involvement in the armed forces, and the Holocaust. A prolific playwright, Jacobson often wrote on historical themes, and saw some of his plays published and performed. He was involved in various Jewish organizations, such as the CJC Rehabilitation Committee for war veterans. He died in 1952. Born in 1918, Joseph (Joe) Jacobson enlisted for service in the Royal Canadian Air Force in July 1940 after graduating from McGill University, where he played for the football team and was a member of a fraternity. He received his military training at Toronto, Ontario; Regina and Mossbank, Saskatchewan; and Rivers, Manitoba. In May 1941 he went overseas with the first large group of men trained under the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan and was attached to R.A.F. bomber squadron No. 106. Joe Jacobson notified his parents of his promotion from sergeant observer to Flight Sergeant only two days before he was reported missing and presumed dead on January 28, 1942. He had completed 23 operations on enemy targets. His Montreal friends Montague (Monty) Berger and Gerald Smith enlisted in the RCAF in 1941, and Herbert Rosenstein (Ross), also of Montreal, enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1942. These friends had met at McGill University in ca. 1937, and styled themselves as the 'Pony Club' in ca. September 1939. 'Pony' was an anagram for Preston, Ontario, and New York City, where club members were located during the winter of 1939-1940 when they began their correspondence. Joe's parents, Percy and May Jacobson, were made honorary members of the club in ca. late 1941.


The initial portion of the Percy Jacobson papers was donated in 1990 by Edith Jacobson Low-Beer, through Monty Berger. The Percy and Joe Jacobson papers donated in 2012 were donated by Janet Jacobson Smith and her children Jo-Anne and Peter Kwass; and the children of Edith Low-Beer, Susan and Jane Low-Beer, via Peter Usher. The digital versions of the Joe Jacobson papers, as well as a folder of Jacobson letters previously in the possesion of Monty Berger, were donated by Peter Usher. Additions to the Joe Jacobson papers were made by the family in May and October 2013, along with additional digital copies by Peter Usher. Addition was made on May 14, 2018 by Janet Smith via Peter Usher.

Scope and Content

The Percy Jacobson portion of the collection donated in 1990 consists of a typed diary covering the years 1939-1949 in Montreal, correspondence, plays and other writings (some published), legal and financial documents, McGill University Scholarships information, Canadian Authors' Association programs, minutes and reports. There are also documents relating to the sale and copyright of his plays, including contracts and information on the Copyright act. There are some publications among the papers; mostly magazines and newsletters containing articles by Percy Jacobson. There are also some newsletters and a number of newsclippings. The collection includes a portrait photo of Percy Jacobson.The Percy Jacobson papers added to this collection in 2012 includes 1 cm. of clippings about Percy Jacobson and 18 additional cm. of plays, correspondence, and various published writings by Percy Jacobson; sympathy letters and clippings about Percy Jacobson (mostly on fragile oversize scrapbook paper), one file about May Jacobson's pre-war children's bookstore, and a folder of background material clippings collected by Percy during WWII which informed his writing then.The following Percy and May Jacobson papers were donated by Janet Jacobson Smith and family in October 2013: a diary of Percy Jacobson for 1950 while in England, France and the Netherlands, on the occasion of attending a PEN conference in Edinburgh as a Canadian delegate. Two bound, handwritten diaries by May Jacobson from the years 1930 and 1950 (in one volume), and 1954; the 1930 diary covers a trip to England and Belgium with her family, and the 1950 segment covers same trip as that of her husband in 1950. The 1954 diary was written during a trip to England, the Netherlands and Scandinavia while a delegate to a NCJW conference on education in Scandinavia. One file containing 19 typed short stories by Percy Jacobson, one of which references a refugee couple who stayed with the family in 1938. A CD of all these documents in PDF format were donated by Peter Usher along with the originals.The Joe Jacobson portion of the collection includes Joe Jacobson's prewar and wartime diaries, several folders of pre-war and wartime letters, as well as 1 folder (1 cm.) of sympathy letters received by his family at the time of his death. An additional Joe Jacobson diary from 1937, and two letters by Joe Jacobson written on Twin Lake stationary in summer 1939 prior to his enlistment were donated in 2013 by Janet Jacobson Smith and family, along with digital copies made by Peter Usher.Addition 2018: 2 framed photographs: Monty Berger in military uniform, Herb Ross (nee Rosenstein) in military uniform. 17 photographs ca. 1940 with Joey Jacobson in military uniform. 1 photograph with Joey Jacobson in letterman sweater. File folder with drafts of Percy Jacobson plays: "The Road Home"/"Roundabout Road" with Monty Berger; "But for the Grace of God." Folder with Percy Jacobson play: "Not the Only Guppy (The Guppy or Rainbow Fish Devours its Own Young)." Folder with Percy Jacobson plays: "Ridiculous and Sublime," published 1948; "...And Sendeth Rain," published 1934; drafts of: "The Telephone," n.d.; "But for the Grace of God," n.d; "The Man with the Lovely Veins," n.d; "Portrait of my Grandmother," n.d.; "The Great Fear," n.d.; "Ridiculous and Sublime," n.d.


  • Alpha-numeric designations: P90/19a, P12/20, P12/22, P13/09, P13/15, P14/10, and P18/04.Availability of other formats: Almost the entire Joe Jacobson portion of this collection has been digitized and is available in PDF document format. Researchers are encouraged to consult these digital copies instead of the fragile originals.

This description is derived directly from structured data provided to EHRI by a partner institution. This collection holding institution considers this description as an accurate reflection of the archival holdings to which it refers at the moment of data transfer.