NINETY-SEVEN YEARS YOUNG
JOSEPH LISTER RUTLEDGE
THERE are not many men who can look back on ninety-seven years of active life; not many who at this age can face life with an unclouded intellect, and with the enthusiasm of young manhood; but Adam Brown is of the number.
One of those who have known him for many years, remarked recently:
“I have never seen him without a flower in his buttonhole.”
Very many years ago a scourge of Yellow Fever was sweeping over one of the great cities of the south; panic was growing until the city fathers placarded the city with this advice: “Wear a smile on your face and a flower in your button-hole.” They knew, and experience proved them right, that fear and dismay and uncertainty cannot flourish with the followers of such advice. And Adam Brown still wears his smile and carries his flower on the threshold of a hundred years of life.
On the eleventh of January last Adam Brown arose at a gathering of the staff of the Canada Life Assurance Company to deliver an address in appreciation of their work during the year. He said in concluding:
“Let faith in our country’s advancement be our strong citadel. We have no use for pessimists in Canada, those men who never see a rainbow and are always quick to discover a cloud—never see the bright side of anything. Of course, this country, like every other country, will have its ups and downs. What we want here is men of energy and determination. Men bound to do what they have set out to do, ever keeping step in the onward march of prosperity.”
It was an unique occasion for the speaker was ninetysix years of age, and for more than sixty-five of those ninety odd years he had arisen before a similar gathering to.fulfill the same gracious task. He has seen in the passage of those years many changes. He has watched the business of insurance grow out of its day of small things, into a great and beneficent industry.
It is not now a particularly interesting thing to know that a man has an insurance policy, but it may, perhaps, be of interest to know that Adam Brown has a policy that has run for over sixty-five years, that its number is under the five hundreds; and that it was one of the first policies to be issued by one of the oldest insurance companies in Canada.
A New Job at Sixty-Five ADAM BROWN has carried through his almost five
score years a vast enthusiasm and interest in life,
and this backed by the superabundant energy of a big body. He was sixtyfive years of age when he was appointed postmaster of Hamilton, a post that he held for thirty years. Thirty years of active work, after an age when most men have retired, is in itself a record worthy of comment. It is worth remembering, too, that it was not a government of old ideas. He had not been trained for the work, save as a thorough business training is serviceable in any place, but he discharged his duties ably, and he held for all time the respect and admiration and affection of those who worked under him, and that without the hint* of envy.
They say of him in connection with this work, that he had a great gift for gathering about him men of inerit. And having found them, he delegated those duties for which he knew they were best equipped. And it is said of him also, that having chosen these men and found them fitted for their tasks, he let them use their own initiative without carping criticism or restrictive oversight.
For three-quarters of a century Adam Brown has heen a “salesman for Canada,” and a worker for the public weal and he’s still “on the job,” at 97.
Adam Brown himself always stood as the link between the office and the people. No matter what the question, what the complaint, nor whom the complainant, there was always ready access to the postmaster. The latchstring of his office wds always out, and through his long tenure he built about that office a bulwark of good feeling.
During the long years of war when anxious mothers and sweethearts were sending their parcels to their own particular Bill or John or Harry at the Front, Adam Brown was there to help and advise. He didn’t forget to ask for Bill and Harry, he knew them and remembered, and his kindliness is still a very present memory with a multitude of people.
It was as a little Scotch lad of seven years that Adam Brown landed with his parents at Montreal after the long weeks of journey. It was there that his early youth was spent, in training first at Dr. Black’s Academy, a famous school of the time, until at the age of fourteen he entered the wholesale drygoods business at the first rung of the ladder.
Selling on Sight
ONE little incident that illustrates something of the business acumen that was to mark his later years, is told of this time. Government House in Monteal, had just been renovated and was being refurnished. The firm for which Adam Brown was working dealt in carpets and was eager for the contract to carpet Government House. The head of the firm came to young Brown and told him of the opportunity.
“I think you could get that order,” he said. “Would you like to try?”
“Will you let me do it my own way?” young Brown enquired.
The manager hesitated for a moment, then agreed. “Anyway you like,” he said. “But we want that order.” Adam Brown left the warehouse, and hired one of those two-wheeled carryalls that used to grace the
streets of Montreal in the early days. \\ ith this equipage in tow, he returned to the warehouse, and proceeded to pile it high with carpets until it seemed as though he were removing the entire stock.
The manager was puzzled, but said nothing and Adam Brown drove off with his load to Government House.
No one knows just how he managed to get all that array within its doors but he did, and before long he had every room in the great house carpeted to his satisfaction. This done he called the one empowered to let the contract, and took him from room to room. They were all carpeted as they would be when the Governor moved in.
“You get the order,” said the man.
And get the order he did, all save for one room that was given as a consolation to another salesman, who had sought the contract in a less aggressive way.
All his life Adam Brown has been a believer in letting the people see for themselves. Years later when he was appointed Canadian Commissioner for the Jamaica Exposition, he adopted the same method of business, and he was as successful in drumming up trade for Canada as he had been for Gillespie, Moffatt & Co. With untiring energy and enthusiasm, he went up and down the country, preaching the advantage of West Indian trade, and urging manufacturers to send exhibits. It is to be remembered, too, that this was before the days when exhibitions had become a commonplace, and the Jamaica Exhibition was probably the first place where Canadian goods had ever been fittingly displayed.
Adam Brown’s Baker
ADAM BROWN saw in the West Indian trade a ■ great opening for Canadian millers. The West Indians could not see it that way, and the millers themselves were far from enthusiastic. The West Indians claimed that the difference of climate made Canadian flour unsuitable for their needs, and the millers sorrowfully accepted this judgment. Not so Adam Brown, and when he sailed for Jamaica it was with the fixed intention of disproving this contention. He took with him among other impedimenta, one Canadian baker, one bake oven, and a sizeable shipment of flour. W hen he landed the baker was set to baking bread from Canadian flour in Jamaica. He baked it at regular intervals under all the varieties of weather that Jamaica could produce over a period of several months. W hen he was finished with his baking and ready to return, Adam Brown and Adam Brown’s baker had thoroughly disproved the statement that Canadian flour was not suited to the W’est Indies, and from that experiment developed the substantial and evergrowing business, not only in flour, but in a multitude of other commodities.
Adam Brown has been a real salesman for Canada. While head of Brown, Gillespie & Co., wholesale grocers of Hamilton, he became interested in the fact that Canadian cheese would not sell in Great Britain. There was no fault with the cheese, that was established, for there was a sizeable trickle of it flowing over to New York state, where American dealers with commendable business judgment, if not quite so commendable ethics were remarking the boxes with New York labels and thus selling them readily as American cheese. Canadian dealers, however, had experimented with British business and had discovered a prejudice against Canadian cheese that made the venture far from profitable. It looked as though the point were decided as far as they were concerned. But it didn’t look that way to Adam Brown. He decided that those English folks needed to be shown. Continued on page 49
Continued from page 15
and that he had the necessary energy and enthusiasm to do the work of showing. So he went to England, and toured the country, preaching the virtues of Canadian cheese, and demonstrating it to the unbelievers. Enthusiasm, backed by sound judgment and a sound commodity counts; and from that visit grew the business that has made a mark for itself in Canada’s export trade.
Toward the close of the Civil War, the United States clamped an ironbound embargo on the shipment of live hogs. Not even a squeal was to be allowed to waft itself across the international boundary. Now there were a number of packing plants in Hamilton that depended in a considerable measure on the American hog to produce the bacon for the British breakfast, and Hamilton was then, and thereafter, the apple of Adam Brown’s He went to Washington, big
with a gift of speech, and he browbeat and cajoled the legislators there until they came to fear that there might be another war on their hands. So the embargo was lifted, and the squeals proceeded across the line to the Hamilton packing plants and there ended. Adam Brown had a way of getting what he went after, probably because he went after it with all his might.
By Stage from Montreal to Toronto
TT WAS in 1850 that he left Montreal A for Hamilton, at the suggestion of the Hon. Donald Mclnnes who had a wholesale dry goods establishment in Hamilton, and wanted someone to manage it. It was an eventful trip. It was made at the end of March, 1850. It is a graphic story as he tells it.
“We left Montreal in a stage sleigh
with two horses. There were eight passengers in the sleigh all bound from Montreal by the only transportation route then in existence. Sixty miles out of Montreal the sleighing gave out and the travelling became more difficult. We picked up a couple more passengers and liad a wheeled stage drawn by four horses. It was bitterly cold, but we were protected in a measure by a multitude of buffalo robes. We stopped at regular intervals at the post-house, for meals, but except for these stays kept steadily plodding along. At night we had tallow candles stuck in black bottles to throw a feeble light over the stage, and we took turns in holding these to allow our numbed hands to warm.
“There were breakdowns, of course, that caused some delay and added discomfort. As we drew toward Toronto the roads became almost impassable owing to the heavy clay, until at last the stage was entirely mired, and the passengers had to alight and trudge through the heavy mud for over five miles before they could get assistance to haul the stage out. We arrived in Toronto on Sunday morning and thankfully drew up at a resort known as the ‘Tavern,’ a building with large pillars in front, and facing on the bay somewhere between Church and Yonge streets. It was just seven nights and six days since we had left Montreal.”
Adam Brown was bound for Hamilton and the opening offered by the Hon. Donald Mclnnes and he had agreed to be there on the Monday morning following. Navigation had just opened between Toronto and Hamilton, and the steamer “Magnet” was preparing to sail, with a crowd of passengers. It looked like a providential opportunity for Adam Brown, and he decided to take the boat. It was a long sail in those days, made the longer by a stiff gale that started shortly after they were on their way. By the time they had reached Burlington the storm had increased to such proportions, that Captain Sutherland was afraid to attempt the passage of the rickety canal that then opened into Hamilton Bay. There was nothing for it, therefore, but to return to Toronto. That left Adam Brown no nearer his destination for all of his day’s travel. But he had made up his mind to get to Hamilton and that night after more than a week of steady travel, travel with the acme of discomfort, he took stage for Hamilton. The stage was crowded, which didn’t make matters more pleasant, and the road was steep in places so that the passengers had to alight frequently, but at eight o’clock the next morning it drew into Hamilton and Adam Brown was ready to keep his appointment.
For almost seventy-five years, since that day, Adam Brown has been part of the life of Hamilton. In those years, he has grown from one of its simple citizens, to one whom people think of when they think of Hamilton, and that perhaps because his adopted city was always so near to his heart. He has lived for it, worked for it, fought for it; and in his day there was no better fighter.
The Battle of the Gauges
THOSE whose memory can carry them back over better than a half century, will remember the building of the Wellington, Grey, and Bruce Railway, that resulted in a rivalry between Toronto and Hamilton that came to be described as: “The Battle of the Gauges.” And it was a battle, a battle of two cities, Hamilton and Toronto, for the dominance in the trade of these fertile counties, with their energetic and growing towns. There was not the present disparity in size between the two cities at that time and the battle was waged on fairly even terms.
Toronto was campaigning for a narrow gauge railway to tap this section. Hamilton on the other hand, wished for a wide gauge road and feared that the Toronto proposal would shut them out of these profitable markets. Therefore, there developed a very keen rivalry that resulted in the decision to build the Wellington, Grey and Bruce to connect the city with these profitable markets. Adam Brown was elected the first president of this road, and of its subsidiary, the Northern Pacific .Junction railway. There wasn’t anything to it but the title until he set out to make the title a tangible something. Bonuses had to he secured from the different municipalities through which the railway was to pass. Every move of
the originators was fiercely contested by the Toronto interests who saw their monopoly of trade slipping from them. Feelings grew bitter, often breaking into open hostilities that set section against section. Through all this furore, Adam Brown moved steadily, throwing the full weight of his tireless energy to the task of convincing these people of the benefits to be derived from the new railway. He was an orator of no mean worth, a man trained in debate in the old Athenaeum Club of Montreal, and he gathered about him a corps of young men who stumped the country in the interest of the new railway. Among them was the late Tom White, then editor and proprietor of the Hamilton Spectator.
On one occasion when they were speaking from an improvised platform on a democrat waggon, some of their opponents grasped the shafts and attempted to trundle it down a bank into the river. But opposition only whetted the ardor of their leader, and steadily his influence grew.
They tell how, after one meeting, the Reeve of the municipality went home muttering imprecations against that upstart.
“Yon Adam Brown’s a rogue,” he shouted to his help-mate as he entered the kitchen.
It was an unfortunate statement, for years before his wife had been a servant in the home of Mrs. William Brown, the mother., The wife stood with arms, akimbo, gazing at her wrathful spouse.
“If yon’s the Adam Brown I know,” she retorted with fine Scottish warmth, “he’s no a rogue.” There is no record of the further course of this domestic controversy, but the fact remains that but a short time later, this man was instrumental in swinging his municipality into line, a triumph surely for this Maggie of the Sixties.
It took four years of persistent and untiring work, but the bonuses were all voted and the railway became a fact and Adam Brown ruled for years as its executive head.
The Message to Clearville
SHORTLY after his arrival in Hamilton Adam Brown gave up the dry goods trade and espoused that of wholesale groceries. It was a different trade in those days, and among other things there was a considerable dealing in wheat. The wholesalers were accustomed to buy largely to sell again on the British market.
One day W. P. McLaren, by whom Brown was employed, came to him with a startled face. A ship had landed in New York, and by Pony Express had come the news that the bottom was out of the British wheat market. The firm had a buyer at Clearville, on Lake Erie, commissioned to buy at prices well above the present market figures.
“What are we going to do?” asked McLaren. “We’ll lose heavily if he buys at that price, and we can’t stop him in time.”
“I think I can make it,” young Brown replied. “You write a letter with later instructions.”
“But there’s no way of getting ti e letter to him even if I do write it.” “Yes, there is, I’ll take it to him.” Adam Brown went out, and arranged for the best team of horses that Mathews’ livery could provide, and for “Billy” the best driver he knew, and Saturday afternoon Billy and Adam Brown set out for London, through a country as yet untouched by rails, and of very dubious roads. They drove all that night, and all the next day and night, stopping only to change horses. They took turns in driving and there was need of care, and while one drove the other slept. By Monday morning they had reached London. There was some delay in finding a driver who knew the way to Clearville, and then off again. By noon they had reached Clearville. The letter was delivered, the wheat was secured at a better figure, and the deal resulted in a substantial profit.
Stumping for John A.
ACTIVE as he was with his own private affairs, Adam Brown always had time to spare for public services. There seemed no limit to his superabundant energies. He was a delegate to the Detroit Trade Convention in 1864, and labored with Joseph Howe, John Young, and Isaac Buchanan to obtain a
renewal of the reciprocity agreement with the United States. From that time on he became increasingly interested in politics. When John A. Macdonald went to the country, Adam Brown stumped the country on his behalf. He was a magnetic speaker, and eagerly in demand. So much was this so that he often found it impossible to meet the calls upon his time. On one occasion during the campaign he was asked to speak in Galt; unfortunately there was a conflicting engagement to speak in Brantford. When he reached his destination, however, he discovered that, because of a calamity that had befallen some of the citizens, the meeting had been withdrawn. Without a moment’s hesitation, he caught a train for Harrisburg, for Harrisburg was the gateway for Brantford in those days. There he secured a horse and carriage, and just as the Galt meeting was getting well under way, Adam Brown stepped on the platform. The speech he delivered there is still remembered as one of his supreme efforts.
Sitting in the background at that meeting was a young lad, busily taking notes. Some days later the father of the lad brought him in to see Adam Brown, to show him proudly the faultless record of his address. Mr. Morrison admitted that Eddie was eager to become a newspaper man. Adam Brown at once put on his hat and coat, and took them over to the Hamilton Spectator, where Eddie cut his newspaper teeth. Eddie is now Major-General Sir E. W. B. Morrison, of Ottawa, the famous head of the Artillery Brigade in the Great War.
His Heart Was in Hamilton
BUT interested as he always was in public affairs, Adam Brown was perhaps most interested in those that touched Hamilton. When the Hamilton waterworks system was being constructed Adam Brown was commissioner in charge of the work, and he it was who assisted a very diffident young Prince of Wales, who was later to become Edward VII, to start the machinery. That was in 1860. Sixty years later he had the privilege of greeting that prince’s grandson, the present Prince of Wales.
As a part of the ceremony, Adam Brown thought it would be an interesting thing to have the brightest pupil in Hamilton turn on the first tap in the city. He interviewed the principal of the old Central School, and the principal nominated Johnny Gibson for the honor. And Johnny Gibson, now Sir John Gibson and one-time Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, not only turned Adam Brown’s first tap but has been his close friend ever since.
Adam Brown was for some years associated with the Hamilton regiment, finally retiring with the rank of Major. He was president of the Board of Trade. He was vice-president of the St. Andrew’s Society, and it was an accepted practice for any Scot who got into difficulties from whatever cause, to call on Adam Brown. He was largely instrumental in having what was once an unsightly spot, turned into the present beautiful Gore Park. There was no public interest in Hamilton that did not receive from him a ready interest and encouragement.
Throughout his long life, he was an active member of the Church of the Ascension, for though he was born a Presbyterian, he later joined the Anglican church, and was for many years superintendent of the Sunday School, under the rectorship of the late Bishop Carmichael.
In addition to these varied interests, he found time to add many other duties and responsibilities, directorships in a number of companies, the commissionership to the World’s Fair in Chicago, and for a time the vice-consulship of Hawaii.
He had a family of nine sons and two daughters. One of his sons, Sir George McLaren Brown is the European manager of the Canadian Pacific. Two of his grandsons, Arthur William Brown, one of the most noted illustrators on the continent, and Adam Harold Brown, the author, are sons of William Evatt Brown, of Toronto, and their work has appeared frequently in MacLean’s Magazine.
The Dicky-Bird Bill
ADAM BROWN was a great lover of children and animals, and was actively interested in all those activities that tended to the betterment of their conditions.
While member for Hamilton in the parliament of ’87, he was the framer and promoter of a bill to prevent cruelty to animals. It was mainly aimed at the needless slaughter of pigeons at pigeon shoots, and the bill became colloquially known as “Adam Brown’s Dicky Bird Bill.” Once while he was speaking on this hill, a zealous opponent let loose a flock of pigeons in the chamber. Adam Brown not only spoke for his animal friends, hut when the occasion demanded he adopted more militant tactics. While a member at Ottawa, he was coming out of the Parliamentary grounds on his way to his rooms in the Bodega Chambers, when he saw a man from across the river brutally thrashing a horse, which was vainly endeavoring to pull a load beyond its strength. He promptly raised his voice in protest, whereupon the man turned a vituperative stream upon him. Adam Brown turned to a Dominion policeman who stood in the gateway behind him.
“Give me a hand with this fellow, will you?”
“Sorry, sir,” said the policeman with evident reluctance, “I can’t do anything outside these gates.” He said it with reluctance. He was Irish, and quite apart from the merits of the case the argument looked as though it might have pleasant possibilities.
Adam Brown was hampered by no limitations. He took the offender by the scruff of his neck and the seat of his pants and, despite his kicking and protesting, propelled him down Metcalfe street to Sparks street, till he found a policeman who was in his own jurisdiction and to him he handed the struggling victim, and then went back to stay by the horse till another policeman arrived to take it to the pound.
Next morning when the driver’s case came up Adam Brown arose to plead for clemency. The man had needed a lesson and had received it—no good purpose was to be served by further punishment. When the man was finally discharged he babbled his thanks in fluent French. His wife and children and himself, he protested, would always pray for Adam Brown. So Adam Brown has always gone his way making friends even of his enemies.