II-292610.0 | Sir Herbert Samuel Holt, copied 1929

Sir Herbert Samuel Holt, copied 1929
Anonyme - Anonymous
1929, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
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Keys to History

During the Depression, Herbert Samuel Holt (1856-1941), who was knighted in 1915 for services to the war effort, was the richest man in Canada. He was president of the Royal Bank of Canada, Montreal Light, Heat & Power, and Canada Power & Paper, among other companies, and sat on the boards of many more.

Business journalist Peter Newman (b. 1929) writes that around 1930 Montrealers complained: "We get up in the morning and switch on one of Holt's lights, cook breakfast on Holt's gas, smoke one of Holt's cigarettes, read the morning news printed on Holt's paper, ride to work on one of Holt's streetcars, sit in an office heated by Holt's coal, then at night go to a film in one of Holt's theatres." (Newman)

Some of Holt's business ventures came to grief in the Depression. However, his fortune was barely dented.

  • What

    During Holt's presidency of the Royal Bank of Canada (1907-1934), its assets increased 15-fold. The Royal became Canada's largest bank in 1941.

  • Where

    Born in Ireland, Holt emigrated to Canada, aged 19, after graduating from Trinity College, Dublin. He went to work as a civil engineer, constructing a railway in Ontario.

  • When

    In September 1941, Holt's death was announced between innings during a minor-league baseball game in Montreal. The crowd was hushed for a moment, then cheered.

  • Who

    Holt's closest associate was Sévère Godin (1889-?), his private secretary for 37 years. Godin later became one of French Canada's richest businessmen.