Massey family. Toronto family, manufacturers of farm equipment and active patrons of the arts. The Massey Manufacturing Co was founded in 1847 at Newcastle, Ont, by Daniel Massey (1798-1856). In 1855 sole ownership of the company was assumed by Daniel's son Hart (1823-96). Hart remained in charge until 1870, when ill health forced him to retire. Responsibility for the business passed thereafter to Hart's children and grandchildren, though after 1926 no Massey has headed the firm.
In 1881 the Massey Manufacturing Co moved to Toronto, where the family was to make its greatest contribution to musical life. Late in the 19th century the Masseys took part in the Methodist Chautauquas situated near Lake Erie and purchased a number of organs for Methodist chapels in Toronto. Hart's sons Charles (1848-84) and Frederick Victor (1867-90) displayed musical abilities, the former as a church organist, the latter as an amateur flutist. Carrying this interest into the family business, Charles founded the Massey Cornet Band and oversaw the construction of company facilities for an employees' orchestra and glee club. Massey's Illustrated, a magazine begun in the early 1880s, published poems, short stories, and music. In memory of Charles, his father built Toronto's Massey Music Hall (Massey Hall), which opened in June 1894.
Hart Massey died in 1896, and his will decreed that the greater part of his estate be disposed of by 1916 for the benefit of various public institutions and causes. However, the trustees (family members) determined to establish the Massey Foundation. Incorporated in 1918, the foundation was the first trust of its kind in Canada. It was set up to create projects, not to maintain existing ones. Besides funding the completion of Hart House (begun in 1911 with Massey estate funds and named for Hart Massey) the foundation financed the Hart House Theatre 1919-46, established and provided the support for the Hart House String Quartet, made possible the purchase of the Hart House Viols (see Instrument collections), and in 1933 undertook the renovation of Massey Hall. The foundation also built and endowed Massey College at the University of Toronto in 1962. The trustees of the Massey Foundation were family members, including Hart's son Chester (1850-1926) and Chester's son Vincent (1887-1967); Chester and Vincent also served as trustees of Massey Hall.
Chester Massey presented Metropolitan United Church in Toronto with a carillon in memory of his wife, Anna; it was the first carillon in North America (see Carillon). Vincent Massey, the first Canadian-born Governor General (1952-9), was president 1920-1 of the Arts and Letters Club, chairman 1931-4 of the TSO Board, and chairman of the Commission on National Development in the Arts, Letters and Sciences (1949-51), more commonly known as the Massey Commission. Vincent's younger brother, Raymond Massey, won fame as an actor.
In 1978 the Massey family was the subject of a two-part CBC TV documentary, 'The Masseys: Chronicles of a Canadian Family,' produced by Vincent Tovell (a grandson of Walter Massey), with music by Louis Applebaum.