Strathcona and Mount Royal, Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron

Strathcona and Mount Royal, Donald Alexander Smith, 1st Baron străthkōˈnə [key], 1820–1914, Canadian fur trader, financier, and railroad builder, b. Scotland. Coming to Canada in 1838, he was hired by the Hudson's Bay Company, of which he later was governor (1889–1914). Smith's skill in finance was early apparent. He came into public notice in 1869 when he was sent by the government to deal with Louis Riel, leader of the Red River Rebellion. From 1871 to 1880 and from 1887 to 1896 Smith sat in the dominion Parliament. His break with John Macdonald at the height of the Pacific scandal (1873) was in part responsible for the downfall of Macdonald's administration. With associates he gained control of the Great Northern lines in 1878 and later was a leading force in the company that completed (1885) the Canadian Pacific Railway. In 1886 he was knighted, and while serving (1896–1914) as Canadian high commissioner in England he was created baron (1897). Out of the great fortune that he amassed, he gave large sums to charitable and educational enterprises. A highly controversial figure, Strathcona was characterized by his enemies as a conniving self-seeker and by his admirers as a vigorous empire builder.

See biography by J. Macnaughton (1926).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Canadian History: Biographies