II-196620.0 | Mr. Frederick W. Thompson in his office (before 1912), Montreal, QC, copied in 1913

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Mr. Frederick W. Thompson in his office (before 1912), Montreal, QC, copied in 1913
Anonyme - Anonymous
1913, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  male (26812) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

Nineteenth-century Canadian business was largely a localized, family affair. Only a handful of large enterprises existed, such as the venerable Hudson's Bay Company. The railway age prompted the emergence of large-scale enterprises (like the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 1880s) which required large amounts of capital and specialized management. Distant investors - in New York and London, for instance - had to be drawn to Canadian opportunities, and trained managers - engineers and accountants - hired to operate new industries as varied as textiles and metal fabrication.

The "captain of industry" or "capitalist" performed this crucial function. The captain of industry became a hero of the age, celebrated as a creator of national prosperity. Towns were named for them - e.g. Revelstoke, British Columbia after British investment banker Lord Revelstoke (1828-1892). Politicians feted them. Knighthoods were conferred on such capitalists as Sir Joseph Flavelle (1858-1939), the Toronto meat packer. In 1902 Frederick W. Thompson of Montreal joined telegraph tycoon Charles Hosmer (1851-1927) to purchase and reorganize Ogilvie Flour Mills into a huge vertically integrated milling company.

  • What

    Ogilvie followed in the footsteps of American firms like C. A. Pillsbury & Co. in capitalizing on the mechanization of milling and then applying advertising and branding to its high quality product. Graded flour - superfine, fine, coarse and bran - found a ready place in emerging domestic science, providing predictable, nutritious cooking in the urban-industrial setting.

  • Where

    Once a family-owned company, under Frederick W. Thompson's direction Ogilvie became vertically integrated, from the wheat fields in the West through storage elevators in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) to mills and finally to the retail marketing of flour.

  • When

    In the late-nineteenth century, flour milling was revolutionized by electric power and precision mechanization. Millstones were replaced by grinders, rollers and screen purifiers. The flour barrel was displaced by graded, packaged flour like Ogilvie's "Royal Household" brand, a name that capitalized on the 1913 appointment of Ogilvie as official "miller to the King." Flour exports from Canada surged, reaching 29 million bushels in 1919.

  • Who

    Frederick W. Thompson (born 1862) began as a bank clerk in Montreal, joined Ogilvie as a manager in Winnipeg and then purchased the company in 1902. As its managing director, he became an expert on western Canadian development and was invited on to the boards of many banks, insurance and power companies. Captains of industry were expected to be socially active, and thus Thompson supported hospitals, hockey clubs and charities.