From a broader perspective, this slip of paper captures the high regard of one historically significant Canadian for another. Notice that Hendrie’s message, dated March 5th, 1891, mentions “Victory” and “Great rejoicing.” And notice how, on this page from his second wife Mary Murray Hendrie’s scrapbook, the telegram is accompanied by a photograph captioned “Dominion Elections 1891.” The figure in the photo? Sir John A. Macdonald, who on that date was reelected Prime Minister of the Dominion of Canada.
As a businessman, William Hendrie (1831-1906) was successful on a large scale, and his pursuits as a horse breeder were likewise monumental. He made his fortune in railway cartage, providing transportation of goods to and from railway stations. The growth of his cartage business led Hendrie into horse breeding, and he supplied horses not only to his own business but also to the British army and for horse racing. His breeding and racing endeavours were focused in and around Hamilton, Ontario, where he was president of Hamilton Bridge & Tool Company, which supplied iron and steel for the construction of railways, bridges and buildings. At the time of his death, William Hendrie’s estate was worth $2.3 million.
Seeing the cartage and metal magnate’s name share a scrapbook page with the Prime Minister’s portrait, one can’t but ponder the parallels between the two men, including the powerful positions they occupied in an increasingly industrialized milieu.
John A. was born in Glasgow, Scotland in 1815; William Hendrie, in the same city sixteen years later. Both began working as law clerks at age fifteen, Macdonald in Kingston, Upper Canada, and Hendrie while still in Glasgow. The latter didn’t immigrate to Upper Canada until his late teens, when he had already made a career move to railway freight operations. In fact both men depended for success on the railroad. Hendrie’s cartage business served the Great Western and Grand Trunk railways, and he strove to remain their exclusive provider. Macdonald’s protectionist National Policy, which returned his Conservatives to power in 1878 and ensured his final reelection in 1891, required that domestic manufacturers from coast to coast be connected by the transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railway.
Against the grain of the National Policy, Hendrie’s business interests extended south of the border, and he belonged to the syndicate favoured by the opposing Liberal party to build the CPR, but he remained loyal to Macdonald’s Conservatives. Both men were twice married, and they died at roughly the same age: Sir John A. at seventy-six; William Hendrie at seventy-five, fifteen years later.
Archives of Ontario | The Scrapbook of Mary Murray Hendrie: http://www.archives.gov.on.ca/en/explore/gallery/hendrie.aspx
Dictionary of Canadian Biography | Hendrie, William: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hendrie_william_13E.html
Sir John A. Macdonald Library | Political Life | Final Campaign: http://www.sirjohnamacdonaldlibrary.ca/library/political_career/final_campaign/index.shtml