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The CPR Presidents

 

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Early presidents of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company.
 
 
 
 Link to top   Introduction

In 1946 the Canadian Pacific Railway published a book named "Canadian Pacific Facts and Figures". It contained many short stories and articles dealing with the company during that period. This month's article is from that book, "The Presidents", compiled and edited by the Department of Public Relations, and reprinted here for your enjoyment with the addition of some appropriate images.
 

 Link to top   The Story - 1946

Since its incorporation in 1881 the C.P.R. has had five presidents. Lord Mount Stephen was President from 1881 to 1888 (remaining as a Director only, from 1888 until 1893), Sir William Van Horne, from 1888 to 1899 (becoming the first Chairman in 1899, and, retaining this office only, until 1910), Lord Shaughnessy, from 1899 to 1918 (being the first Chairman and President from 1910 to 1918 and remaining as Chairman only, from 1918 until his death in 1923), Sir Edward Beatty, from 1918 to 1942 (becoming Chairman and President in 1924 and remaining as Chairman only, from 1942 until his death in 1943), and D.C. Coleman, LL.D., D.C.L., from May, 1942, as President, and from 5 May 1943, as Chairman and President, to the present (1946).
 
A great national enterprise like the Canadian Pacific, which has countless contacts with the public each day, must inevitably reflect the ideals of the men who are responsible for its policies. The brief facts given in this summary concerning the men who have shaped, and are shaping, these policies, as presidents of the Company, should be supplemented by a consideration of the character and extent of the influence which the Company, under their direction, has exerted for more than 60 years upon the economic and social life of the people of Canada.
 
In broad retrospect the careers of the presidents who have passed on are characterized by Lord Mount Stephen being called the organizer, Sir William Van Horne the builder, Lord Shaughnessy the expander, and Sir Edward Beatty the modernizer. Each in his own way added much to the great tradition of the C.P.R., which now, with Mr. Coleman, is in the keeping of a man whose career started five months after Lord Shaughnessy succeeded Sir William Van Horne as President, was named Vice-President of Western Lines eight days after Sir Edward Beatty's election to the presidency and gave eight years of brilliant service as second-in-command at Montreal in the office of Vice-President of the Company, Director and Member of the Executive Committee.
 
Briefly, the story of the presidents is:
 

 Link to top   Lord Mount Stephen, G.C.V.O.

 Photo George Stephen was born on 5 Jun 1829, at Dufftown, Banffshire, Scotland, the son of William Stephen, a carpenter, and Elizabeth Smith, natives of Glenrinnes, Murtloch, Scotland. As a boy he attended the parish school and in 1850, at the age of 21, emigrated to Canada. Securing employment in Montreal with a relative, William Stephen, of the firm of William Stephen & Co., manufacturers of woollen goods, he later bought a controlling interest in the business. From merchandising he turned to banking, being elected a director of the Bank of Montreal in 1873 and became president of the bank in 1876, an office he held until 1881.
 
With four other Canadians, his cousin, Donald A. Smith, who later became Lord Strathcona, R.B. Angus, James J. Hill, and Norman W. Kittson, he bought control of the bankrupt St. Paul and Manitoba Railway in 1877 and made it a great financial success. When the efforts of the Macdonald Government to interest English capital in a railway to the Pacific failed, Stephen reluctantly undertook the work of building the confederation line across Canada. He was President of the C.P.R. from 1881 until 1888 and the commercial conception of the road was his. In providing the money for its construction he performed one of the greatest financing feats in its way that the world had seen. Retiring as president in 1888 he went to England to live, although he remained as a Director of the Company until 1893, after which he devoted most of his time and energy to philanthropic work until his death at Bracket Hill, Hatfield, Hertfordshire, on 29 Nov 1921.
 
In recognition of his services to the Empire in connection with the building and operation of the C.P.R. he was made a baronet of the United Kingdom in 1886, elevated to the peerage in 1891, with the title of Baron Mount Stephen, from a mountain of that name in the Canadian Rockies, along the route of the C.P.R., which was named after him when he was made president of the Company in 1881, and was created a Knight Grand Cross of the Royal Victorian Order in 1905.
 
Sixty-one years after he had left Scotland as a poor, unknown boy, he was made a Doctor of Laws of Aberdeen University.
 

 Link to top   Sir William C. Van Horne, K.C.M.G.

 Photo William Cornelius Van Horne was born in Will County, Illinois, U.S.A., on 3 Feb 1843, the son of Cornelius Coverhoven Van Horne, a pioneer lawyer and the first mayor of Joliet, Illinois. His father died when his son was 11 years old, leaving his widow to support a younger sister as well as the future builder of the C.P.R. When he was 14 young Van Horne left the common school of the state, which he had attended until then, to help support his mother.
 
Office boy in a railway station in 1857 was his first job. Step by step he rose from there until at the age of 26 he became Superintendent of the Chicago and Alton Railroad. After serving with that and other railways, and gaining recognition through the vitality his methods breathed into various dying roads, he became General Superintendent of the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul in 1879.
 
On New Year's Day of 1882 he took over at Winnipeg as General Manager of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to embark on the phenomenal construction programme which pushed through the line to the Pacific Ocean, and made Canadian Confederation an actuality. He became Vice-President on 20 May 1884, President on 7 Aug 1888, resigned the presidency in 1899 but continued with the Company as the first Chairman, an office he retained until 1910, when he resigned.
 
Van Horne kept the line in Canada, around the north shore of Lake Superior, condemning the proposal of James J. Hill (his sponsor and the director who invited him to Canada) to go through the United States from Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, to a connection with the St. Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway. He chose the site and name for Vancouver, inaugurated the steamship service to the Orient, built the Chateau Frontenac and even took time out to design the red and white checkered house flag of company steamships. His feat of transporting troops to the West in 1885 during the Northwest Rebellion, in fewer days than it had taken of months for the Wolseley Expedition to get there during the first Riel Rebellion, was the dramatic proof of the road's value which helped to ease its financial problems. The Rocky Mountain barrier which Capt. Palliser, the English explorer, had called impenetrable, was forced to yield before this human dynamo, whose answer to calamity criers once, was simply:  "I am going through to the Pacific, get the work done right and send the bills to Stephen and Shaughnessy."
 
In 1894 he was created a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Michael and St. George. He died in Montreal on 11 Sep 1915.
 

 Link to top   Lord Shaughnessy, K.C.V.O.

 Photo Thomas George Shaughnessy was born on 6 Oct 1853, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, U.S.A., the son of Irish emigrant parents, his father being Lt. Tom Shaughnessy, a Milwaukee detective. He attended public school in Milwaukee, then went to St. Gall's School and a business college.
 
He went to work in 1869 for the Chicago, Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad at the age of 15 as a clerk in the purchasing department. Becoming interested in politics he was elected an alderman in the Third Ward and was named president of the common council.
 
In his work with the Milwaukee Road he had risen to being Agent in 1882 when Van Horne persuaded him to join the new Canadian Pacific Railway Company. From there his record was:  1884 Assistant General Manager, 1891 Vice-President, 1899 President, 1910 Chairman and President, 1918 resigned the presidency and remained as Chairman until his death in Montreal on 10 Dec 1923. His great contribution to the building of the road was as a provider of supplies. At times, prior to the use of the C.P.R. to get troops to the West to crush the Northwest Rebellion, and before the financial aid which followed this move, it was mainly the brilliance and marvellous resourcefulness of Shaughnessy which kept the work going as he staved off impatient creditors and "seemed to make a thousand dollars grow where there was only one before". He had met every test when, in 1899, he was selected by Van Horne to fill the chief office of the C.P.R. of which Van Horne said, "the best thing I ever did for it (the C.P.R.) was to put Shaughnessy into it."
 
During the Shaughnessy regime more than $600,000,000 was expended for double tracking, for the purchase of an Atlantic fleet to match the Orient service (with the Beaver Line first, then four ships the company built and finally the Allan Line as the original nucleus), for the erection of palatial hotels in a countrywide chain, for supplanting the snowsheds of the Rockies with tunnels, for vast irrigation works, and many other projects which made the company the greatest travel system in the world.
 
In 1901 he was created Knight Bachelor, in 1907 was made a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order, and in 1916 was raised to the peerage as Baron Shaughnessy. The first message he sent when informed he had been knighted was to his mother and it was in honour of her birthplace that he named his private car "Killarney". His honourary degrees were Doctor of Civil Laws, Trinity College, Dublin, and Doctor of Laws, Dartmouth University, Hanover, New Hampshire, and McGill University, Montreal.
 

 Link to top   Sir Edward Beatty, G.B.E., K.C., LL.D., D.C.L.

 Photo Edward Wentworth Beatty was born on 16 Oct 1877, at Thorold, Ontario, the son of Henry Beatty and Harriet M. Powell. His father was the Canadian Pacific Railway Company's manager of lake transportation in the early days, after the Northwest Transportation Company, a steamer service on the Great Lakes in which Henry Beatty was one of the chief partners, was taken over by the C.P.R.
 
The Beatty family moved to Toronto when the lad who was to become the Company's first Canadian-born Chairman and President was 10 years old and it was in the Ontario capital that he was educated at Upper Canada College, Model School, Harbord Collegiate Institute, University of Toronto, from which he graduated as a Bachelor of Arts in 1898, and Osgoode Hall Law School. He read law in the office of McCarthy, Osler, Hoskin & Creelman, Toronto, and was called to the Ontario bar in June, 1901.
 
His first position with the Company was as assistant in the law department in Montreal, starting 1 Jul 1901, and the rest of his record was:  1905 assistant solicitor, January 1910 General Solicitor, 1 Jul 1913 General Counsel, 4 Dec 1914 Vice-President and General Counsel, 1916 elected Director (January) and elected Member of the Executive Committee (October) serving as Vice-President and General Counsel, 10 Oct 1918 elected President, May 1924 elected Chairman and President, May 1942 resigned as President but continued as Chairman until his death in Montreal on 23 Mar 1943.
 
Guidance of the Company was his responsibility through a most difficult period which embraced the post-Great War depression, followed by the world's greatest business boom and its worst depression, and then the hard years of recovery, and the first 32 months of World War II. Symbolic of the great changes made when he was at the helm were the commissioning of the Empress of Britain, the building of the Royal York Hotel, and the incorporation of Canadian Pacific Air Lines. During these years he was a hard-hitting and brilliant champion of "unification for operation", with regard to the Company and the Canadian National Railways, and led a spirited campaign in addresses before various groups across Canada and in testimony before the special committee of the Canadian Senate which inquired into the Dominion's railway problem.
 
He had the Company "fighting fit" at the outbreak of war in 1939, when he placed its full resources at the disposal of the country and the British Empire, and it delivered for democracy right from the very start. War work in which he personally led included two years service, from 1939 until September of 1941, as Canadian representative for the Ministry of War Transport of the United Kingdom, charged with getting supplies to the battle zones. Later, under his direction, Canadian Pacific Air Services was organized to initiate the transatlantic ferrying of bombers to Great Britain, a service taken over later by the Royal Air Force, first under Ferry Command, and then under Transport Command.
 
King George V made him a Knight Grand Cross of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire on 23 Jun 1935, and in the same year he was made Honourary Bencher of the Middle Temple, London. Other honours which came to him included:  1924 Knight Commander First Class of the Order of St. Olaf (Norway), 1934 Knight of Grace the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem, 1915 King's Counsel (Ontario, April) and (Dominion of Canada June).
 
Chancellor of McGill University from 1921 until his death, he had been chancellor of Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario, from 1919 until 1923 a member of the Corporation of Bishop's University, Lennoxville, Quebec, from 1927 a governor of Lower Canada College in Montreal and chairman of the Rhodes Scholarship selection committee for the Province of Quebec.
 
Canada's navy honoured him with the first honourary rank it ever created, a commission as honourary captain, Montreal division, Royal Canadian Naval Volunteer Reserve, in 1937.
 
In 1935 Lord Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scout movement, presented him with the Order of the Silver Wolf, highest honourary award possible, on behalf of the Boy Scouts' Association of Canada, which he served as president.
 
In 1943 the "Distinguished Civic Service Award" for 1942 in Montreal was presented posthumously to him by the City Improvement League of Montreal, one of the many projects for city betterment to which Sir Edward gave so generously of his time and talents.
 
For many years he was President of the Boys' Farm and Training School at Shawbridge, Quebec, and fulfilled a similar office for the British Empire Games Association at the 1930 games in Hamilton, Ontario, and with Canada's National Committee for Mental Hygiene.
 
Four Canadian municipalities made him Freeman of the City on different occasions with this honour extended by Vancouver, London, Saint John, New Brunswick, and Cranbrook, British Columbia
 
Honourary degrees were conferred on him by leading colleges in Canada, Ireland, Scotland, and the United States with this recognition of his work in the field of education coming from McGill University, University of Toronto, Bishop's University, McMaster University, University of Western Ontario, University of New Brunswick, Queen's University, and University of Alberta in Canada, New York University and Dartmouth University in the United States, Trinity in Dublin, and St. Andrew's in Scotland.
 

 Link to top   D.C. Coleman, LL.D., D.C.L.

 Photo D'Alton Corry Coleman was born on 9 Jul 1879, at Carleton Place, Ontario, the son of James Coleman and Mary Jane Doherty. He was one of a family of seven, one girl and six boys, all of whom have achieved marked success.
 
Ontario schools provided his formal education, public school in Braeside, high school in Arnprior, and business college in Belleville.
 
Before joining the Canadian Pacific Railway Company he was tallyman in a Braeside lumber yard during summer vacations and later was full-time stocktaker in the same yard, wrote shorthand for Hon. George A. Cox and E.R. Wood at Central Canada Loan and Savings Company, Toronto, was editor of the Belleville Daily Intelligences, and on the editorial staff of the Port Huron (Michigan) Daily Times.
 
His first job with the C.P.R. was in Fort William, Ontario (now Thunder Bay), where he began as clerk to an assistant engineer there on 4 Nov 1899. The record of his rise to the top is:  1899 to 1907 chief clerk and accountant in Winnipeg, Cranbrook, and North Bay, 1907 superintendent Kootenay Division Nelson, B.C., 1908 superintendent Vancouver and superintendent of car service Winnipeg, 1912 General Superintendent Winnipeg, 1913 General Superintendent Calgary, 1915 Assistant General Manager Winnipeg, 1918 Vice-President Western Lines Winnipeg, 1934 elected Vice-President of the Company, and, on 9 Oct 1934 Director and Member of the Executive Committee Montreal, 1942 (May) elected President, 1943 (May 5) elected Chairman and President.
 
During his administration of Western Lines, the Company built and placed in operation in the prairie provinces 2,250 miles of railway. All of the new territory served was traversed and examined by him before construction was undertaken.
 
A wealth of railway knowledge gained in actual operation, outstanding ability in his chosen field, and infinite devotion to the best interests of the nation and of the Company were the qualifications which fitted him to be chief officer of the Company in the critical period of the greatest war the world has known.
 
During World War II, Mr. Coleman completed the arrangements with the Canadian Government under which the Company undertook a heavy programme of munitions work at Angus and at Ogden shops, as a result of which the mechanical organization of the Company, headed by H.B. Bowen, was enabled to make a contribution to the war effort, which elicited the commendation of the Canadian Minister of Munitions and Supply, of the Soviet Government, and of the overseas representatives of the Government of the United Kingdom.
 
It was with him that the Government of Canada negotiated to take over the Chateau Frontenac in Quebec City for the historic Quebec Conferences in 1943 and 1944, when this famous hostelry was the work centre for the sixth and eighth wartime meetings between President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Prime Minister Winston Churchill, with Prime Minister W.L. Mackenzie King as the host. Mr. Coleman's direction of the taking over of the hotel in its entirety and the way the heavy Conference travel was handled was the most positive proof of the flexibility of the system he headed as chief officer. Something well out of the ordinary transpired in the arrangements for the Chateau Frontenac when it was a brother-to-brother conference, for Mr. Coleman's dealings with the Government of Canada were through his younger brother, Dr. E.H. Coleman, C.M.G., K.C., Canada's Under-Secretary of State. Of the preliminary negotiations, Dr. Coleman said in an interview that his brother didn't wish to be told any state secret about the reason the Government wanted the hotel, but added "he is a pretty shrewd fellow." The fact is that, without being told any state secret, the hotel was completely ready when the delegates arrived for the momentous conference.
 
Among the spectacular Company contributions to the war effort which he directed as "the Chief," over and above the excellent discharge of the primary job of rail transportation, and the service of sacrifice performed by Company ships under Admiralty charter, were the initiation of a comprehensive new shipbuilding and ship reconditioning programme to replace Canadian Pacific tonnage lost by enemy action, and the establishment at Angus Shops in Montreal of one of the first private blood donors' clinics in Canada working in conjunction with the Red Cross.
 
High honours have come his way. University of Manitoba at Winnipeg conferred upon him the honourary degree of Doctor of Laws in 1932, and in 1937 University of Bishop's College made him a Doctor of Civil Laws. His great encouragement to first aid and home nursing in Canada was recognized in October of 1943 when he was invested with the rank of Knight of Grace in the Venerable Order of St. John of Jerusalem at Government House in Ottawa by the Governor General, the Earl of Athlone, Knight Commander of the Order.
 
In 1945 he became chairman of the Canadian Committee of The Newcomers Society of England.
 
On 17 Jul 1944, he was inducted into blood brotherhood with members of the Piapot tribe of the Qu'Appele Indians with the title Chief of the Iron Trails when in Regina to open the 62nd annual Saskatchewan Exhibition.
 
Mr. Coleman has taken an active interest in educational, philanthropic, and welfare organizations. In 1932, he was asked by the Government of the Province of Manitoba to interest himself in the rehabilitation of the affairs of the University of Manitoba, which were then in a parlous condition, and as Chairman of the Board of Governors, he rendered service which in the words of the late Dr. John W. Dafoe, of the Winnipeg Free Press, "entitled him to the everlasting gratitude of the citizens of the Province."
 
For 10 years he was president of the Navy League of Manitoba, and during his tenure of office there was built up in Winnipeg, far from salt water, a Sea Cadet Corps described by Admiral Campbell, V.C., of "Q" Ship fame, as the "best cadet corps in the British Empire."
 
Other offices he has filled, or is filling, are Bishop's University chairman of the executive committee, McGill University Member Board of Governors, Boy Scouts' Association of Canada member, Canadian General Council Boys' Farm and Training School Shawbridge, Quebec, vice-president City Improvement League of Montreal, and Navy League of Canada honourary president, Montreal Festivals, Montreal General Hospital, Royal Victoria Hospital, and Notre Dame Hospital, governor Montreal Division Navy League of Canada, honorary president Association of Canadian Clubs of Canada, past president Winnipeg Canadian Club.
 
On 22 May 1944, the Canadian Club of Winnipeg made him a life member:  "In recognition of outstanding service and as an expression of the high regard and good wishes of the membership."
 
He serves as patron of the Canadian Pacific Branch of the Canadian Legion, British Empire Service League.
 
In sport he is a director of the Canadian Arena Company in Montreal, and vice-president of the Montreal Canadiens of the National Hockey League.
 
Contributing to his commanding position on the world transportation scene, in addition to his position as Chairman and President and Member of the Executive Committee of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company, are his offices as:  Chairman and director Canadian Pacific Steamships Limited, Canadian Pacific Air Lines Limited director, Canadian Pacific Express Company president and director, Canadian Airways Limited alternately president and vice-president, director Northern Alberta Railways Company and Toronto Terminals Railway Company, president Canadian Australasian Line Limited, vice-president Toronto Hamilton and Buffalo Railway, director Minneapolis St. Paul and Sault Ste. Marie Railroad Company.
 
Other enterprises in which he has a leading voice in connection with Company business, and the high positions he holds in them, include:  Chairman and director Associated Screen News Limited, director Chateau Frontenac Company, chairman Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company of Canada Limited, president and director Scottish Trust Company and Seigniory Club Community Association Limited, and alternately president and vice-president and director of the Vancouver Hotel Company Limited, a joint operation.
 
In business and finance he serves as a director of the Bank of Montreal, of the Royal Trust Company, of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company, of the West Kootenay Power and Light Company Limited, and of the General Theatre Corporation Limited, and as a member of the Canadian Committee of the Hudson's Bay Company.
 
Editor's Note:  D'Alton Corry Coleman was Chairman and President of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company from 1942 to 1947. He died in Montreal in 1956, after a lengthy illness.
 
 
 Link to top   Bibliography

Gilbert, Heather
Awakening Continent
Aberdeen University Press Farmers Hall Aberdeen UK AB9 1FX
1965
Hard cover
5.75 x 8.75 inches 14.5 x 22 5 centimetres
314 pages 1 photo 0 drawings 0 maps
$27.50
Biography of Lord Mount Stephen Volume 1. $40.00 last known price.

Gilbert, Heather
End of the Road, The
Aberdeen University Press Farmers Hall Aberdeen UK AB9 1FX
1977
Hard cover
5.75 x 8.75 inches 14.5 x 22.5 centimetres
442 pages 8 photos 0 drawings 0 maps
$27.50
Biography of Lord Mount Stephen Volume 2. Very little additional information about Stephen.

Vaughan, Walter
Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne, The
Century Co. New York NY USA
1920
Hard cover
6.25 x 9 inches 16 x 23 centimetres
388 pages 12 photos 0 drawings 0 maps
$25.00
Biography of this renown figure of CPR history. $30.00 last known price.

Mayles, Stephen
William Van Horne
Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd. 195 Allstate Parkway Markham ON L3R 4T8
1976
Soft cover
6.5 x 8.5 inches 16.5 x 21.5 centimetres
61 pages 32 photos 10 drawings 3 maps
$4.25
School booklet.

Pierson, Jan Lodewijk
Sir William Van Horne en de Canadian Pacific Spoorweg
E.J. Brill Publishing Company Leiden Netherlands
1925
Hard cover
6 1/2 x 9 3/4 inches 16.5 x 25 centimetres
135 pages 12 photos 1 drawing 2 maps
$35.00
Published in Dutch only.

Miller-Barstow, D.H.
Beatty of the C.P.R.
McClelland & Stewart 900-481 University Ave. Toronto ON M5G 2E9
1951
Hard cover
6.25 x 9.25 inches 16 x 23 centimetres
187 pages 16 photos 0 drawings 0 maps
$10.00
Biography of Sir Edward Wentworth Beatty Chairman and President of the CPR.
 
 
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Canadian Pacific Railway
 
Canadian Pacific Railway Archives
 
Canadian Pacific Historical Association
 

 


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