Charles Meredith (banker)

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Charles Meredith
Charles Meredith.JPG
Born (1854-12-17)17 December 1854
London, Upper Canada
Died 7 January 1928(1928-01-07) (aged 73)
Montreal, Quebec
Occupation President of the Montreal Stock Exchange and C. Meredith & Co., Stock and Bond Brokers

Charles Meredith (December 17, 1854 – January 7, 1928) was a Canadian banker. He was President of the Montreal Stock Exchange and President of C. Meredith & Co., Montreal's leading Brokerage firm in the early 20th century. He was a co-founder of the Mount Royal Club, and had owned the land on which the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Montreal was built, becoming a principal shareholder with a significant influence on its image and future. His home in the Golden Square Mile, Charles Meredith House, is now part of McGill University.

Early life[edit]

He was born in 1854 at London, Upper Canada, the seventh son of John Walsingham Cooke Meredith and his wife Sarah Pegler (1818–1900). Charles and his well-known brothers were collectively known as The Eight London Merediths who included Sir William Ralph Meredith, Chief Justice Richard Martin Meredith, Sir Vincent Meredith and Thomas Graves Meredith Q.C. Meredith and his brothers were cousins of, and well known to Judge Richard Edmund Meredith, Frederick Edmund Meredith, William Archer Redmond and Judge James Creed Meredith. Charles Meredith was privately educated at home before briefly attending Hellmuth College, London, and then embarking on his business career.

C. Meredith & Co.[edit]

In 1872, Meredith started his business career with Sir Hugh Allan's Merchant’s Bank, rising to the position of manager of the Western branches at Regina and Brandon. In 1887, he came to Montreal and purchased a seat on the Montreal Stock Exchange, founding C. Meredith & Co. Ltd, Stock and Bond Brokers with offices on St.-Francois-Xavier Street. The company, which soon established itself as the leading bond house in Montreal,[1] was taken over by the United Financial Corporation Ltd. Meredith was President of both of these institutions until they amalgamated with the National City Company.[2]

When Gerald Farrell became the secretary-treasurer of Meredith's in 1908, with the expansion of the Canadian West the firm had started to engage in industrial merger promotion. By 1910, C. Meredith & Co. had opened an office in London and was acting as an issue house in England by at least 1913. After Dominion Securities of Toronto, Meredith's was the first Canadian stockbroking firm to open an office in London, enjoying excellent connections mainly through the firm's close relationship with the Bank of Montreal (of which his brother, Sir Vincent Meredith, was President), Canada's largest and most powerful commercial bank. Many of the directors of the Bank of Montreal were also directors and principal shareholders in C. Meredith & Co.[3]

In 1902, Meredith was elected President of the Montreal Stock Exchange, a position he held until 1905. In 1910, he became President of Hillcress Collieries Ltd, and was a director of Tuckett Tobacco and the British & Colonial Press Service. He also sat on the Board of Arbitration and the Montreal Board of Trade. Meredith worked on the Exchange for nearly twenty years, and at his retirement was one of its oldest members. His business was largely of an investment class and he discouraged speculative ventures on the part of his clients, grounding his reputation in financial circles as one of the highest integrity.[4] Due to failing health, Meredith was forced to retire from business life in 1924. He maintained a considerable financial interest and a friendly connection with his successors.

Ritz Carlton Hotel[edit]

Original Emblem of the Ritz-Carlton, depicting the Lion rampant that was also Charles Meredith's family crest

Charles Meredith owned a plot of land at Drummond Street and Sherbrooke Street in Montreal, valued at "one dollar, but with good and valuable considerations". In 1909, he sold the land to the recently created Carlton Hotel Company of Montreal. The principal investors for the company (led by Charles Hosmer, a personal friend of César Ritz) were Sir Charles Gordon (vice-president of C. Meredith & Co., and later President of the Bank of Montreal), Sir Montagu Allan and Sir Herbert Holt. Aside from the cursory one dollar, Meredith received $787,500 in preferred shares in the Carlton Hotel Company, of which $314,404 was paid to him in cash and the balance of $469,096 was covered by "goodwill, benefits and advantages". Meredith's share made him a principal shareholder and he had a major influence on how the Ritz-Carlton Hotel was run, and its future.[5]

Marriage[edit]

Charles Meredith House in Montreal's Golden Square Mile
Rear view of the Meredith's house

In 1893, Charles Meredith married Elspeth Hudson Angus (1858–1936), daughter of Richard Bladworth Angus, co-founder of Canadian Pacific Railway and President of the Bank of Montreal.

As a wedding present Richard Angus bought the newly-weds a house known as ‘The Gatehouse’ (which still stands as part of the McGill Faculty of Law, known as the Angus-McIntyre House) on Peel Street. In 1904, the Merediths commissioned Edward Maxwell to build them a large three-storey house at 538 Pine Avenue, which was completed a year later in the Golden Square Mile. Mrs Meredith lived there until her death, when she left it to be used as a residence for the nurses of the Royal Victoria Hospital, Montreal. In the 1970s it was bought by McGill University, and serves today as part of the McGill Faculty of Medicine, known as Charles Meredith House. Their old house on Peel Street was afterwards lived in by another of the 'Eight London Merediths', John Stanley Meredith (1843–1920), General-Manager of the Merchant's Bank, Montreal.

In 1897, the Merediths bought 'Bally Bawn', a country house built around a library in 1750 by the Sulpicians, near Fort Senneville and Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue, Quebec. They employed the architect Edward Maxwell to design some additions and alterations to the house, later added to again in 1909 by architect Robert Findlay, giving the house its present size: "An impressive country residence marked by three high gables... Hidden behind the estate's foliage, amidst many flowerbeds, was a tennis court, garages, cottages for the chauffeurs and gardeners, henhouses, greenhouses and various other auxiliary buildings." [6][7]

Private life[edit]

Mrs Elspeth (Angus) Meredith in 1886 before the Castanet Club Ball, Montreal

Like many of his brothers, Meredith shared an enthusiasm for Floriculture. His home in Montreal had a large conservatory, where on one occasion he chose to have his portrait taken. His knowledge of gardening and tree culture was said to have been "comparable to a good professional gardener".[8]

In his earlier years Mr Meredith had been "an athlete of renown".[9] He was a good rower and boxer, and very fond of outdoor exercise of all descriptions. He loved to fish and was an excellent shot too. He was a director of the Quebec Fish and Game Association and the Montreal Parks and Playgrounds Association. His clubs included the Mount Royal Club, St. James's Club, Montreal Racquet Club, Royal Montreal Golf Club, Empire Club of Canada, Montreal Jockey Club, Royal St. Lawrence Yacht Club and the Montreal Hunt.[10]

(Charles Meredith) maintained a lively interest in world events until the close of his life, becoming something of a kindly philosopher, understanding mankind as it is given few men to understand their fellows. He found the world a good place in which to live, and was at peace with things as he found them, though ever alert to make improvements where possible and wise... Meredith, ‘the popular stockbroker’, was a benefactor of Montreal in many ways, assisting in all leading movements for its betterment, and he gave liberally to the causes of charity[11]

Charles and Elspeth Meredith died without children. Mr Meredith was said to have enjoyed a relationship "like that of father and son" with long-time employee of C. Meredith & Co., Hartland MacDougall.[12] Mrs Meredith was a godmother to some of her Angus nephews and nieces as well as to "the Montreal English theatre icon", Roseanna Seaborn Todd, granddaughter of Sir Edward Clouston, 1st Baronet. Mr and Mrs Meredith are buried at Mount Royal Cemetery, next to Sir Vincent and Lady Meredith and Frederick Edmund Meredith.

References[edit]

  1. ^ Remembrance of Grandeur: the Anglo-Protestant elite of Montreal, 1900-1950. By Margaret Westley (1990)
  2. ^ Bankers Magazine: Volume 98 (1919)
  3. ^ Canadian Multinationals and International Finance (1992), Gregory P. Marchildon & Duncan McDowall
  4. ^ Storied Province of Quebec, Past and Present. 1912
  5. ^ Staying Connected - How the MacDougall Family Built a Business over 160 Years (2009) - James Ferrabee & Michael Harrison
  6. ^ McGill Centre for Architecture
  7. ^ Biographical Dictionary of Architects in Canada, 1800 to 1950 - Robert Findlay
  8. ^ The Storied Province of Quebec Past & Present. 1912
  9. ^ The Storied Province of Quebec Past & Present. 1912
  10. ^ Canadian Men & Women of the Time 1912 Archived November 6, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ The Storied Province of Quebec, Past and Present. 1915
  12. ^ Staying Connected - How the MacDougall Family Built a Business over 160 Years (2009) - James Ferrabee & Michael Harrison

Related newspaper articles[edit]