I-63541.1 | Sir Hugh Allan, Montreal, QC, 1871

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Sir Hugh Allan, Montreal, QC, 1871
William Notman (1826-1891)
1871, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Albumen process
17.8 x 12.7 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

A British City with a French Heart

In 1850, Montrealers of British ancestry accounted for a majority of the city's population. But as immigration slowed and the rural exodus quickened, the demographic situation shifted: French Canadians regained their majority position around 1865, and by the turn of the century represented approximately 60% of the population. Nevertheless, the city still retained a distinctly British character, owing to its institutions, its architecture and the predominance of the English language.

The weight and influence of the Anglo-Scottish upper class were particularly noticeable. The Molsons, the Allan brothers, George Stephen, Donald Smith and William Macdonald amassed huge fortunes by investing in a number of different sectors; they controlled pan?Canadian companies and maintained close ties with Great Britain.

  • What

    Shipping magnate and financier Sir Hugh Allan (1810-82) was one of Montreal's most powerful businessmen in the second half of the 19th century. He founded the first shipping line providing regular service between Montreal and Great Britain.

  • Where

    Born in Scotland, Hugh Allan spent most of his life in Montreal. With his many companies, he helped strengthen Montreal's position as Canada's metropolis. He invested in shipping, railways, the telegraph, banking, insurance and manufacturing.

  • When

    In 1871 Hugh Allan, at age 61, was probably at the peak of his power. He lived in a magnificent home, called Ravenscrag, that he had had built between 1861 and 1864 on the slopes of Mount Royal.

  • Who

    Hugh Allan himself was the son of a Scottish shipping company owner. One of his brothers, Andrew, joined him in Montreal, but the others stayed back in Scotland. All the members of the family, on both sides of the Atlantic, were involved in running Sir Hugh's shipping line.