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F.C. Cherry and the Collection in Canada

Who was F.C. Cherry and how did his books make their way to the Ontario Veterinary College? While direct evidence connecting F.C. Cherry to the Ontario Veterinary College is unknown at the time of the launch of this exhibition, there are connections to be found that inform how the collection potentially came to be in Canada.

Frederick Clifford Cherry (d. 1854) studied veterinary medicine at the Veterinary College of London (now the Royal Veterinary College), qualifying to practice sometime around 1803. He was a fairly early graduate of the college as it was founded in 1791. From there he began a career as a veterinary surgeon in the British Army, but at times it appears also practiced privately in Clapham in South West London. He published Description of a Complete Barrack Room and Field Equipment for Officers in the Army in 1818, and The Art of Shoing Horses by the Sieur de Solleysell in 1842.

Upon joining the British Army shortly after graduation, he was assigned to the 11th Light Dragoons, a cavalry regiment that saw significant action during the Napoleonic Wars. He served, for example, in the Walcheren Campaign of 1809, an unsuccessful expedition by the British Army to the Netherlands which saw the death of thousands of British troops from disease and the loss of many horses. By 1819, Cherry was placed on half-pay and was practicing in Clapham. In 1833 he was appointed to the 2nd Life Guards and in 1839 was appointed Principal Veterinary Surgeon the British Army.

In addition to his military service, Cherry was an advocate for the professionalization of veterinary medicine in Britain in the early nineteenth century. It is his involvement in this aspect of veterinary medicine that his connection to the Ontario Veterinary College is best found.

Beginning in the 1790s, discussions began at the Veterinary College of London about the ideal shape of veterinary education and practice in Great Britain. Participants in these discussions further advocated that the veterinary profession should be given formal recognition through a Royal Charter. Unfortunately, it would take nearly fifty years for a Charter to be achieved.

Enter Edward Coleman into the story. Coleman (1766-1839), a medical surgeon with no veterinary training, served as Principal of the Veterinary College of London from 1794 to 1839 and importantly, Principal Veterinary Officer of the British Army from 1796 to 1839. Outside private practice, the two most substantial employers of British veterinary graduates in this period were the army or the East India Company. As principal of London’s college and with his leadership within the military, Coleman saw that graduates of his college received qualifications that granted them access to employment in both the military and East India Company. Great Britain’s other major veterinary school in this period, William Dick’s Edinburgh Veterinary School, granted certificates from the Highland Agricultural Society of Scotland. Coleman did not recognize these certificates as sufficient for military service. This gave his graduates exclusive access to employment opportunities not afforded to Dick’s Scottish graduates. As one might imagine, conflict arose.

William Dick
(C.A.V. Barker Collection, Archival & Special Collections, University of Guelph Library)

Frederick Cherry enters the story around this time. After Coleman’s death in 1839, Cherry was appointed Principal Veterinary Officer of the British Army. Under Cherry’s leadership, he granted Edinburgh graduates the opportunity to serve in the British Army and this action most certainly put him in direct contact with William Dick.

By 1840 a large group of veterinary reformers approached the Governors of the London college about obtaining a Royal Charter. This would provide, alongside formal professional recognition, greater measure of control over unqualified practitioners and place greater regulations on student apprenticeships. The Governors rejected this request. This did not deter reformers as they approached the Privy Council and Prime Minister’s Office directly to petition for a Charter. William Dick and, presumably, Frederick Cherry were part of this group. The Charter was granted in March of 1844.

Frederick Cherry’s books somehow landed in Andrew Smith’s possession. Perhaps Cherry willed his book collection to the college in Edinburgh when he died and they somehow made their way into Smith’s hands when he was recommended by Dick to travel to Upper Canada and found what is now the OVC. We may never know exactly how this transfer occurred, but it is plausible the books came to Andrew Smith through William Dick.


Surprisingly little formal documentation about Frederick Cherry exists in historical records despite his long military career and critical role in the professionalization of veterinary medicine in Great Britain. A special thank-you to Lorna Bannister, archivist at the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons for her assistance in piecing Cherry’s life together. For further reading on the Charter and Cherry’s place in those discussions, see The creation of one body politic.