Edward Wentworth Beatty

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Edward Wentworth Beatty : biography

October 16, 1877 – March 23, 1943

Sir Edward Wentworth Beatty, KC, GBE, DCL (October 16, 1877 – March 23, 1943) was the first Canadian-born President of the Canadian Pacific Railway (1918–1943). He was responsible for building the Royal York Hotel and RMS Empress of Britain. He helped establish Canadian Pacific Air Lines. During World War II, he co-ordinated Canadian shipping and rail transport before ill helath forced him to retire. He was Chancellor of Queen’s University (1919–1923) and Chancellor of McGill University (1920–1943). A lifelong philanthropist, on his death he left half of his estate to charity. He left his home in the Golden Square Mile to McGill, which is today known as Chancellor Beatty Hall.

Canadian Pacific Railway, Steamships & Air Lines

Beatty’s father’s steam line was bought out by the Canadian Pacific Railway for transportation across the Great Lakes and his vessels became the nucleus of the CPR’s trans-Atlantic steam line, Canadian Pacific Steamships. Henry Beatty remained as marine advisor to the CPR after his retirement in 1892, and it was through this connection that Edward came to the attention of the CPR and was appointed as their General Counsel in 1901. On the retirement of the CPR’s Lord Shaughnessy in 1918, Beatty was chosen to be his successor as President and Executive Chief of the world’s greatest transportation system, just before his 41st birthday. Beatty’s lifetime ambition had been to become a judge, and he at first refused the significant promotion. He was the first Canadian-born president of the CPR, a position he held until his death in 1943, and assumed the monumental task of managing the destiny of the great railway and steamship line.

Lord Mount Stephen was seen as the organizer of the CPR; Sir William Van Horne as the builder; Lord Shaughnessy as the expander, and Sir Edward Beatty as the modernizer. During his term as president, Beatty was involved in building the Royal York Hotel, the RMS Empress of Britain II and Canadian Pacific Airlines. Edward Beatty saw the CPR through peak periods as well as the depression. In the boom years the CPR spent many millions in improving its enormous and diverse property holdings. Edward Beatty was always a believer in the great future of the Canadian West, and he was an inspiration to young Canada.

Early life

Born at Thorold, Ontario, he was the son of Henry Beatty (1834–1913) and Harriet Minerva Powell (1844–1916). Beatty’s grandfather emigrated to Thorold from Ireland with his brother (a trained Land surveyor) in 1835, purchasing land on which they built a Grist mill, leather tannery and sawmill. By 1863, the Beattys had purchased the Parry Sound estate to add to the timber supplies needed for their enterprises at Thorold. In order to ship the timber between their two properties they established the Georgian Bay Transit Company, which Henry Beatty took control of in 1865, and transformed it into the Beatty Line of Steamships which later expanded to operate on the Great Lakes. Henry Beatty was described as "a man of unusual executive ability and vision",Professional Engineers of Ontario qualities that his son, Edward, inherited in no small dose.

Edward Beatty was educated at Upper Canada College and the University of Toronto, earning his law degree from the Osgoode Hall Law School in 1898. For the next three years he articled with the Toronto law firm of McCarthy, Osler, Hoskin & Creelman.

World War II

On the outbreak of World War II, Beatty had the CPR "fighting fit" and he placed it’s full resources at the disposal of the country and the British Empire, and it delivered. From 1939 until the end of 1941, Beatty was Canadian representative for the Ministry of War Transport of the United Kingdom, charged with getting supplies to the battle zones. Later, under his direction, Canadian Pacific Air Services was organized to initiate the transatlantic ferrying of Bombers to Great Britain, a service taken over later by the Royal Air Force, first under Ferry Command, and then under Transport Command.