Smith, Donald Alexander, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal
Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron Strathcona and Mount Royal, fur trader, railroad financier, diplomat (b at Forres, Scot 6 Aug 1820; d at London, Eng 21 Jan 1914). The son of a tradesman, Smith joined the HUDSON'S BAY COMPANY
in 1838 and worked his way through the ranks from apprentice clerk to become chief commissioner in 1871. By 1883 he was a director of the company and, through careful investments, its largest shareholder. In 1889 he was chosen governor, or chief executive officer, of the company. Smith came to public attention in 1869 when sent to Fort Garry to assist in settling the terms of union between Louis RIEL
's provisional government and Canada. The mission was successful and Smith began a political career, representing Winnipeg-St John in the Manitoba legislature 1870-74 and Selkirk in the House of Commons 1871-78. In 1874, when dual representation was abolished, he elected to sit in the Dominion Parliament. A Conservative, he voted against the Macdonald government in the PACIFIC SCANDAL
, and thereafter relations between Macdonald and Smith were cool. After a 9-year absence Smith returned to Parliament, representing Montréal West 1887-96. In 1873-74 Smith joined his cousin George STEPHEN
, J.J. HILL
and others in acquiring the depreciated bonds of the St Paul, Minneapolis and Manitoba Railway, a line running through Minnesota to the Canadian border. He was an enthusiastic supporter of the CANADIAN PACIFIC RAILWAY
, and his financial backing was essential to its progress. He was therefore invited to drive the last spike when the railway was completed in 1885. Smith was a principal shareholder and, in 1887, president of the BANK OF MONTREAL
, which was closely associated with the CPR. In April 1896 Sir Mackenzie BOWELL
appointed Smith high commissioner for Canada in the UK, a post he held, along with the HBC governorship, until his death. He became prominent in British public affairs and spokesman in London for the self-governing colonies. During the SOUTH AFRICAN WAR
he personally maintained Strathcona's Horse, a regiment of over 500 mounted riflemen which later became Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians). He was elevated to the peerage in 1897 and served as chancellor of McGill, where he founded Royal Victoria College for women in 1896.
Donald Alexander Smith, railroad financier
Smith was an enthusiastic supporter of the Canadian Pacific Railway, and his financial backing was essential to its progress (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-3841).
Links to Other Sites
Canadian Pacific Railway
The CP Rail website features information about the company's extensive services and operations. Click on "General Public" to access the multimedia "Our History" section.
Dictionary of Canadian Biography
A searchable collection of detailed biographies of prominent figures in Canadian history. Produced by the University of Toronto, the Université Laval and the National Archives of Canada.