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© McCord Museum
Donald Smith, later Lord Strathcona, Montreal, QC, 1871
William Notman (1826-1891)
1871, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Wet collodion process
17 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

When this photograph was taken in 1871, Donald Smith was in his early fifties, and had just performed his first important service for Canada. Born in 1820 at Forres, Morayshire, Scotland, he joined the Hudson's Bay Company at the age of eighteen and worked for many years on the Labrador Coast. By 1870 he was chief commissioner for the company. In 1869 he went to the Red River colony (now Winnipeg) to negotiate on Canada's behalf with the Métis leader Louis Riel, and helped negotiate the settlement that saw Manitoba enter Confederation the next year. He earned Prime Minister Macdonald's gratitude, but when, as Member of Parliament for Selkirk, Manitoba, he failed to support Macdonald during the Pacific scandal, he fell out of favour, and his participation in the CPR syndicate had to be kept a secret from the prime minister.


This photograph shows Donald Smith at the age of fifty-one.


Smith could have been photographed anywhere in the broad territories controlled by the Hudson's Bay Company, but this image was probably made in eastern Canada.


The photograph was taken in 1871, at the time when Smith was becoming a national figure.


Smith was Chief Commissioner of the Hudson's Bay Company and Member of Parliament for Selkirk, Manitoba, at this time. He later became a director of the CPR.

© Musée McCord Museum