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Seagram Museum collection

Creation: 1682-1996 Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1990
Accession: 2173


The Seagram Museum in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada was the city's final operational remnant of the world-renowned distillery founded by Waterloo entrepreneur Joseph E. Seagram in the mid-nineteenth century. The collection consists of the Bronfman family papers, official Seagram Company records, and other materials collected or created to document the history of the Bronfman family, the Seagram Company, Ltd., and its products.


  • Creation: 1682-1996
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1930-1990



170 Linear Feet

Historical Note

The Seagram Museum was built on the site of the original Joseph E. Seagram distillery in Waterloo, Ontario, which was purchased by the Bronfman family in 1927. Opened May 16, 1984, the museum was the vision of Charles Bronfman, Co-Chairman of the Board of The Seagram Company, Ltd. Plans for the museum were announced in January, 1981 and construction began that spring. Architects for the building, which adapted a late 19th century rack warehouse, were Barton Myers Associates. The entire project was overseen by Peter Swann, “consultant to Seagram on matters of culture and the arts.” Swann later became the museum's first director.

The Seagram Museum was conceived to serve four goals. First, to preserve historic distillery buildings dating to the 1890s. Second, to make a social, cultural, and economic contribution at the regional and national levels. Third, to interpret the history of distilling, and the company. And fourth, to create a centralized archive of the company and distilling industry. Once in operation, the museum was “devoted to the history and technology of wine and spirits” and interpreted the history of The Seagram Company, the distilling industry and related industries. In addition to developing their collections, the museum mounted temporary and permanent exhibits, and hosted many special events and celebrations.

On March 27, 1997, the Seagram Museum closed. In 1998, the City of Waterloo purchased the museum building and portions of the Seagram distillery complex for $4 million. Today the former museum houses the Waterloo Maple, a software development company that is part of Canada's booming “technology triangle”.

Scope and Content

The Seagram Museum collection consists of Bronfman family papers, official Seagram Company records (after 1928), and other materials collected or created to document the history of the Bronfman family, the Seagram Company, Ltd., and its products.

Series I. Bronfman Family contains two subseries.

Subseries A. Research Materials for Samuel Bronfman: The Life and Times of Seagram's Mr. Sam by Michael Marrus; The core of these records was created by John Scott, who was hired by the family to write a biography of their patriarch Samuel Bronfman. The remaining records in this subseries were created by Marrus when researching Samuel Bronfman: The Life and Times of Seagram's Mr. Sam.

Subseries B. Bronfman Family Papers; contains documents such as births, deaths, and marriages of some of the Bronfman family and relatives; correspondence, and newspaper clippings.

Series II. Corporate Operations is comprised of six subseries.

Subseries A. Corporate Documentation; mainly includes articles of association, by-laws, minutes, agreements, financial reports, canceled stock certificates and registers, and related documents regarding Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Limited, The Seagram Company, Ltd. and subsidiaries. The records also document selected acquisitions.

Subseries B. Financial Records; this subseries contains six volumes of Distillers Corporation-Seagrams Limited payroll registers (1933-1945); and miscellaneous fragmentary financial records for Atlantic Distilling Company Limited (1927-1929), Distillers Corporation Limited (1927-1941, 1971), Premartin y Ca. (1853-1871; in Spanish), and unidentified companies (1917-1928).

Subseries C. Legal Records; includes agreement files pertaining to the company's early years and provide insights into its development, especially capital projects. Financial statements for D.C.-S.L. and selected subsidiaries.Government regulation in regards to customs and excise regulation; the Food and Drugs Act; labeling approvals and regulation; liquor control; taxation; trade agreements; and the wartime prices and trade board. Included in these documents is a large collection of bottle label registrations. Trademark records include trademark registrations, renewals and assignments. Royal Warrants from Canada, Denmark, England, Greece, India, Netherlands and Sweden.

Subseries D. Plants and Manufacturing Processes; this subseries contains records pertaining to manufacturing plants in Canada, the U.S., Puerto Rico, and Mexico and include plans, agreements, histories, payroll, clippings, and staffing records. The materials are arranged by plant location. Production and Processes records document manufacturing, machinery, packaging, cooperage, and warehousing.

Subseries E. Real Estate; This subseries contains records documenting the Seagram Building (375 Park Avenue); 1410 Peel Street, Montreal (Canadian headquarters); Bronfman investment-property Harrison Hot Springs Hotel Company, Limited (B.C.); the Seagram Stadium (Waterloo, Ontario); and the Seagram Tower (Niagara Falls, Ontario).

Subseries F. Agriculture and Research Records; This subseries documents Seagram research on distilling; fertilizers; corn; yeast; enzymes; and grain development including triticale. The tritcale and grain research was supported by the Rosner Chair in Agronomy at the University of Manitoba, which was endowed by the Bronfman family in honor of Saidye's father Samuel Rosner.

Series III. Promotions, Sales and External Affairs contains eleven subseries.

Subseries A. Museum, Information Centre and Library; Museum materials pertain to the collections and collections management, administration, and exhibits of the Seagram Museum. Records include the “memorabilia collection” of the Museum's archives. This material, most of which appears to have been acquired by purchase, includes eighteenth and nineteenth century laws from Canada, U.K., U.S., and France (extracted from bound books); distilling instructions, procedures and recipes; correspondence; licenses; shipping documents; and eighteenth to twentieth century ephemera.

Subseries B. Philanthropy and Sponsored Events; The materials in this subseries regard the events and organizations that were formed by or benefitted from the philanthropic endeavors of Seagram or the Bronfman family. Records include press kits, correspondence, photocopied photographs, speeches, telegrams, articles, pamphlets, reports, news releases, magazines, brochures, advertising, and programs.

Subseries C. Advertising; Tearsheets and proofs (some photocopies) promote Aquavit; American whiskey; beer; brandy and Cognac; Canadian whisky; coolers; gin; institutional and family advertising, which publicize a “family” of products or the company as a whole; Irish whisky; liqueurs and cordials; rum; sake; scotch; tequila; vodka; wines; and miscellaneous other alcoholic beverages.

Subseries D. Marketing; This subseries contains a 1966 manual for marketing representatives of The House of Seagram, Ltd.; and a few marketing studies mostly regarding Canada.

Subseries E. Miscellaneous Promotions; This subseries contains company and product promotions in the form of bartending guides, brand indexes, broadsides, calendars, coasters, commemorative stamps, gift catalogs, hospitality and recipe guides, lithographs, matchbooks, point-of-purchase displays, posters, promotional price lists, public service books, songbooks, sporting guides, tent cards, and other miscellaneous items.

Subseries F. Profiles; This subseries is based on vertical files created by the Seagram Museum Archives and contains profiles of brands; companies, including Seagram, its' subsidiaries and a few competitors; Seagram personnel; and products. The brand profiles contain advertisements; correspondence; press releases; newsletters; clippings; articles; promotional materials; and other records documenting many of Seagram's brands. These records are arranged by product type. Company profiles include histories; booklets; brochures; correspondence; newsletters; maps; press kits and releases; and some original records and copies from company archives.

Profiles of Seagram personnel regard executive and managerial appointments, promotions, and retirements. Product profiles provide general information about specific types of liquor or liquor from a certain region through promotional guides, sponsored by distillers, trade associations, or government regulatory bodies.

Subseries G. Sales; This subseries includes various sales reports for the years 1929-1987; reports from sales conferences and symposia; sales manuals (1937-1977); market analyses; and fragmentary records of the Seagram Family Achievement Association. Noteworthy sales manuals include: “Mr. C. Gram's Diary”, a comic strip about a novice Seagram salesman (1941-1943) and Seagram's Book of Facts (1937).

Subseries H. General Frank R. Schwengel; Frank R. Schwengel was a decorated World War I veteran who worked in marketing and advertising in the 1920s and 1930s. Samuel Bronfman hired Schwengel as his national sales director in 1933. At the time of Schwengel's retirement in the 1950s, he was serving as President of Joseph E. Seagram & Sons, Inc. This series includes speeches given by Schwengel; articles about him; and documentation of his 65th birthday celebration in 1950.

Subseries I. Packaging; This subseries contains correspondence of Packaging Director B.J. Bolter regarding packaging changes and production schedules, mechanical drawings of bottle designs, artwork, photostats, and label samples; and an extensive collection of bottle labels from alcoholic beverage brands from Seagram and many other companies.

Subseries J. Seagram Publications; this subseries contains materials used in the preparation of Distillations the company's monthly magazine (1973-1982); selected issues on employee newsletters (1978-1982); and various other materials published by Seagram.

Subseries K. Press Releases; this subseries contains selected press releases and accompanying publicity photographs (1971-1987) for Browne Vitners Company, Calvert Distillers Company, Chateau & Estate Wines Company, Four Roses Distillers Company, General Wine & Spirits Company, Gold Seal Vineyards/Gold Seal Wine Company, and Seagram Distillers Company.

Series IV. Miscellany is comprised of five subseries.

Subseries A. Trade Association Literature; These magazines, newspapers, pamphlets, reports, articles, and addresses pertain to alcoholism, bootlegging, and economics.

Subseries B. Seagram War Effort; This small subseries documents Seagram's poster and advertising campaigns in support of the war effort and the conversion of their distilleries to war production during World War II.

Subseries C. J. E. Frowde Seagram Family; This small subseries contains clippings, articles, histories and other materials documenting J.E. Frowde Seagram, Joseph Emm Seagram and their family.

Subseries D. Vertical File; This subseries contains book reviews and excerpts; publications and clippings about the beverage alcohol industry, The Seagram Company, Ltd. and the Bronfmans; press releases; and miscellany.

Subseries E. Ephemera and Artifacts; The subseries includes plaques, awards, paperweights, printing plates, and a few other artifacts.

Use Restrictions

Copyright restrictions may apply.

Access Restrictions

Internal records are subject to 25-year time seal.

Related Material

Seagram Company, Ltd. records (Accession 2126), Manuscripts and Archives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

The Seagram Spotlight photograph collection (Accession 1996.310), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Seagram Museum collection of graphics and audiovisual material (Accession 2000.202), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

The Seagram Museum's rare book and archival collections reside in the Doris Lewis Rare Book Room in the Porter Library at the University of Waterloo.

The Seagram Museum collections were dispersed to a number of institutions, including The City of Waterloo, Community, Culture and Recreation Services (the major recipient of artifacts), Wilfrid Laurier University (prints, paintings, lithographs and art works on paper), and Brock University (wine-related library, artifacts and historic wine bottles).

Company records were returned to the official repository for the Seagram Company.

Language of Materials


Additional Description


Gift of the Seagram Museum, 1997

Separated Material

Seagram Museum collection of audiovisual materials (Accession 2000.202), Audiovisual Collections and Digital Initiatives Department, Hagley Museum and Library

Related Names


Finding Aid & Administrative Information

Seagram Museum collection
Ellen Morfei
Description rules:
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description:
Script of description:

Repository Details

Repository Details

Part of the Manuscripts and Archives Repository

PO Box 3630
Wilmington Delaware 19807 USA