ALTHOUGH THE HISTORY OF CANADA'S oldest adult literacy organization, Frontier College, is of great relevance to labour studies, it has been more or less ignored by this field, largely because of its links to the early 20th-century social gospel movement and because of the difficulty of studying workers' responses to the association. This article examines the first half-decade of Frontier College (known until 1919 as the Canadian Reading Camp Association) using a variety of methodologies - labour history, cultural and literary history, the history of education, and the history of reading - to understand how culture was used in the service of liberal government in the context of northern Ontario's lumber camps at the turn of the century. The association's promotion of literacy via fiction for frontier labourers signalled a new acceptance in Canada of the notion that workers might actually be improved through fiction. Alfred Fitzpatrick, the association's founder, feared a state that was failing to assume responsibility for isolated and uneducated men on the frontier, as well as working-class men who responded to their poor working conditions by succumbing to moral diseases that left them incapable of governing themselves, leading their families, or functioning as rational citizens. Fitzpatrick developed a double strategy to head off this crisis: he lobbied the state for structural change, and at the same time promoted a home-like environment for reading, as well as particular works of fiction, as a means of reminding male workers of their duty to self, family, and nation. Despite the association's apparent interest in the cultivation of the liberal individual, its reliance on the reading room and on the fiction of popular authors such as Ralph Connor as surrogates for the absent family demonstrates the centrality of the apparently private sphere to early 20th-century Canada's industrializing economy.