John Molson, brewer, banker, steamship builder (b at Spalding, Eng 28 Dec 1763; d at Île Ste-Marguerite, Qué 11 Jan 1836). Orphaned as a child, he attended private boarding schools, immigrated to Canada in 1782, and in 1786 used his parents' legacy to become sole owner of a small brewery in Montréal. He had the business sense to exploit Montréal's growth as entrepôt in the fur trade and commercial base for developing the hinterland of Upper Canada. In 1816 he took his 3 sons into partnership, including John MOLSON
, Jr, as John Molson and Sons. He used cash payments from brewing to finance banking activities and build a steamboat line operating between Montréal and Québec City. In 1809 he had his own steamboat, the ACCOMMODATION
, built at Montréal with an engine constructed at the Forges St-Maurice.
He also entered the lumber business during the building boom of the early 1800s, built a hotel and in 1821 established the colony's first distillery and financed the CHAMPLAIN AND SAINT LAWRENCE RAILROAD, the first railway in Canada. Molson introduced the early steam engine to Montréal industry and became a close friend of James Watt, Sr. He sat in the House of Assembly of Lower Canada 1816-20, became president of the Bank of Montreal in 1826, and in 1832 was appointed a member of the Legislative Council of Lower Canada, where he upheld the interests of English-speaking businessmen amid the emerging discontent of French Canadians. Molson must be counted among the most prominent entrepreneurs in Canada during the first third of the 19th century.
An orphan from Lincolnshire, England, John Molson settled in Montreal in 1782. By 1786, the young entrepreneur had established a small brewery in Montreal that is today one of Canada's oldest companies (National Archives of Canada).
M. Denison, The Barley and the Stream (1955); S.E. Woods, Jr, The Molson Saga 1763-1983 (1983).
Links to Other Sites
A profile of John Molson, founder of Molson Breweries. From Library and Archives Canada.