Edmund Boyd Osler (Ontario politician)

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Sir Edmund Boyd Osler in 1896

Sir Edmund Boyd Osler (20 November 1845 – August 4, 1924) was a Canadian banker and politician.

Osler was born at Tecumseh Township, Simcoe County, Canada West; he was brother of Britton Bath Osler (founder of Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt), and doctor Sir William Osler. Their father, Featherstone Lake Osler (1805–1895), the son of a shipowner at Falmouth, Cornwall, was a former Lieutenant in the Royal Navy and served on H.M.S. Victory. In 1831 Featherstone Osler was invited to serve on H.M.S. Beagle as the science officer on Charles Darwin's historic voyage to the Galápagos Islands, but he turned it down as his father was dying. As a teenager Featherstone Osler was aboard H.M.S. Sappho when it was nearly destroyed by Atlantic storms and left adrift for weeks. Serving in the Navy he was ship-wrecked off Barbados. In 1837 he retired from the Navy and emigrated to Canada, becoming a 'saddle-bag minister' in rural Upper Canada. On arriving in Canada he and his bride (Ellen Free Pickton) were nearly ship-wrecked again on Egg Island in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence. Edmund's great grandfather, Edward Osler, was variously described as either a merchant seaman or a pirate, and one of Edmund's uncles, a medical officer in the Navy, wrote the Life of Lord Exmouth and the poem The Voyage.

His career started out as a clerk at the Bank of Upper Canada, where he stayed until 1867, when the bank failed, and then as an independent financier and stockbroker with different partners. He got involved with railway projects and became president of the Ontario and Québec Railway and later also director of the Canadian Pacific Railway. He was also director of the Toronto General Trusts Company and the Canada North-West Land Company, and president of the Dominion Bank.

In 1896, Osler was elected to the Canadian House of Commons as a Conservative representative of West Toronto. He continued to serve until 1917.

Together with Byron Edmund Walker and others, Osler participated in the campaign to found an art museum in Toronto initiated by George Agnew Reid. These efforts were crowned the passing of the Royal Ontario Museum Act in 1912 and on March 19, 1914 with the opening of the Royal Ontario Museum. Osler donated a large collection of paintings by Paul Kane, which he had bought in 1903 after the death of its former owner George William Allan, to the museum already in 1912. He was knighted in 1912.

Osler lived in Toronto at Craigleigh. The family donated the estate to the City of Toronto after Osler's death; it is today the site of Craigleigh Gardens.

His grandson, Edmund Boyd Osler (1919-1987), was a Liberal member of the Canadian House of Commons for Winnipeg South Centre.


Foundation: Sir Byron Edmund Walker, 2005, has some mention of Osler and the ROM on p. 6. URL last accessed January 11, 2006.

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