Coming to Canada in 1874, when this country was an industrial Siberia, the man who is now General Manager of the Canadian General Electric Company, and the backbone of many another important industry in the Dominion, spent several years in making himself familiar with the resources of the country and studying its needs. Then at the critical moment he launched himself into the work of development, and today the results of his labour stand as a lasting monument to his name.
AT Toronto Junction just at the edge of Toronto city limits, there is a large foundry, machine shop, locomotive works, structural steel works, and various other concerns. North and east from this plant, devoted to the iron industries of Canada, is a large colony of workers, many of whom have built their own homes in the suburb. The inhabitants of North Dovercourt, which is in itself a good-sized town, largely depend on the Canada Foundry Co. for work. Somewhere in that vicinity is an electric transformer, and from it run south and east the steel towers and copper Avires of the Toronto-Niagara Power Co. At the other end of the line with its hundreds of miles of copper and its tons of steel, is the mammoth power plant of the Electrical Development Co. at the Canadian Niagara. At the foot of Bathurst street, in the City of Toronto, is the shipyard of the Canadian Shipbuilding Co., where just the other day a new steamship was launched to ply next Summer between Toronto and Niagara. Nearly two thousand miles eastward are the works of the Dominion Iron & Steel Co. which have lately taken a new lease of life through a drastic reorganization policy.
And if you would find the one man to whom more than to anybody else these corelated industries, with their bridges and ships, locomotives and generators, electric transmission lines and electric railroads, blast furnaces and steel rail mills, owe their development—you must find him at 20 King Street East behind the sign “Canadian General Electric.” There, if you are able to find a few moments when the organizer of this system is not immersed in work you may see one of the most aggressive and epoch-making Canadians that ever came out of England—Mr. Frederic Nicholls, conveniently known round those offices as the “G. M.”
There is nothing spectacular about Mr. Nicholls. He is invariably neat in his attire, and well-groomed; customarily wears a small bouquet, and a!ways moves with the straight-ahead gait that bespeaks rapid energy. If he has anything to say he says it in terse unpretentious English. He greets the visitor in a most gentlemanly way; has no suspicion of posing, neither does he become confidential. For jokes in business hours he has no time. He sails into a subject with a fair wind and lands strong on the vital point. When he begins to talk of Canadian development and the industrial Canada of the twentieth century, you begin to realize that Frederic Nicholls has been in Canada just about one generation; that he knew this country when it was miles back in the woods, before there was any talk of nationalism north of the great lakes, and a few years before even the National Policy and the tall chimney got into the public imagination.
Not so very long ago, if a stranger wanted to get a working idea of what Canada was like, he pulled down a volume of poems by one or more of a group of promising writers down at Ottawa, or read through an oration of some eminent divine down at Montreal. This was the academic and religious period in Canadian development. Most young countries have such a basis. The United States had it less than a century ago in New England. In those days the Channings, the Emersons and the Longfellows had the United States by the heart-strings. They are all dead now. The great Republic may be worse or it may be better in consequence; but, if the United States had kept on producing poets and philosophers at the same ratio to population, Carnegie might have been a college president and Rockefeller a Baptist preacher.
And so in Canada we were bent on turning out good verse, fine sermons and dry histories, peering through academic fog at our dubious destiny and shuddering at almost infinite geography. Political ideas were plentiful, and orators dignified the House of Commons. And if Canada had continued in the production of poets, politicians and preachers as the main order of business—well, it’s quite likely Frederic Nicholls would have got a respectable business mediocrity and nothing more.
When the present general manager of the Canadian General Electric came to Canada in 1874 this country was an industrial Siberia. The harvest of the Reciprocity Treaty was all in and Canada was getting about as many flouts as Free Trade England is to-day. It was a poor time for anybody looking for a snap to come to Canada. Frederic Nicholls was then a youth of eighteen. As a boy in London, he had been interested in electricity, and once upon a time amused himself making an arc light by means of a Bunsen battery, largely in order to play croquet with the new white light. This was the toy period in his development, following which he went to Stuttgart for a year or two in technical training. And at the close of his Stuttgart period he came across the sea.
This was in 1874. Mr. Nicholls went to Ottawa where he spent five years mainly looking round and learning the way of the country; incidentally getting familiar with a few public questions at the Capital. In 1879 he went to Toronto which, dull as it was, seemed to be a much livelier town than Ottawa except when Parliament was sitting. He was not long in Toronto before he became acting secretary of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association whenever Mr. A.W. Wright, the secretary and present Conservative organizer, was absent. The C. M. A. was then a body with some history, having taken a leading part in developing the National Policy and founding “Tory Toronto.”
Mr. Nicholls was a young Conservative. He liked the temper of the association and he had already begun to make a hobby of the tariff on which in later years he became an expert authority. Because of his fiscal enthusiasm, Mr. Nicholls got the secretaryship of the association in 1882. He was beginning to begin, and little did any of his confreres dream what a gait this same young Englishman would strike before the close of the century. There were a few who said Nicholls would be sure to enter public life, for he had such an appetite for the tariff. And in those days lie could have easily got a constituency as a lieutenant of John A. Macdonald.
Mr. Nicholls entered public life by another route. He joined the great army of unelected parliamentarians and became an editor. In January, 1882, he bought a paper published in Ottawa and called the Industrial World. This paper he brought to Toronto and set up in business with it at 6 Wellington street west. The name didn’t suit him because it was too general. Wanting something more national, he called it the Canadian Manufacturer. This paper he made the organ of the Manufacturers’ Association, of which he remained secretary till the year 1890. So that he was the first editor in Canada to make a business of advocating a protective tariff.
This was the time during which Mr. Nicholls made a special study of economic conditions in Canada. The theme was a novelty. It fascinated him. The fiscal revolution in Canada began to seem as epochal in its day as Free Trade and Cobdenism had been a generation previous in England. Frederic Nicholls needed no tutor. He plunged into tariff problems neck deep. As editor of the Manufacturer he became perhaps the best practical authority in Canada on the tariff. In 1887 the Manufacturer contained a number of interesting cartoons. They were all of Mr. Nicholls’ invention and most of them were devoted to lambasting the Commercial Unionists, particularly Ben Butter worth, who moved the Commercial Union proposition in the United States Congress, and Erastus Wiman, his lieutenant. All through that sentimental era between '86 and ’91, when the N. P. seemed too slow for a lot of people who thought they preferred the Stars and Stripes to the Union Jack, Mr. Nicholls’ strenuous organ waved the red rag of indedependence.
In those days trade papers had a hard row to hoe. Trade was small and manufactures infantile. Advertisers were not clamoring for full -page spaces. It fell to Mr. Nicholls' lot to educate some of them along that line. He knew that merely being an organ of protection would not pay rent, cost of paper and wages of printers. The Manufacturer was not able to afford a staff of experts. Even after Mr. Nicholls was relieved of the editorial end he still continued the economic backbone of the paper. Having studied the theory of tariffs he had a fine chance to bump up against the men who needed the tariff in their business. He was his own advertising solicitor, subscription canvasser, business manager and editor. One week out of the two each issue he devoted to getting copy ready, reading proofs and attending to “makeup.” The other one he devoted to hustling out on the railroads after subscriptions and soliciting advertisements.
Some time during his early years on the Manufacturer. Mr. Nicholls became Canadian agent for the Thompson-Houston Electrical Co., an American firm just beginning to get its tentacles on Canada. He combined the selling of electrical supplies with his duties as publisher—for by this time he was able to afford help on the editorial end. The present proprietor of this paper and Mr. Nicholls' successor in the secretary ship of the C.M.A., took the editorial work.
In spite of all his experience in butting up against the public he was very shy. Once when soliciting business for his firm, he met the representative of another local trade paper.
“Well," said the other, “how do you like this kind of business anyway?"
“Like it!” echoed Mr. Nicholls. “Do you see that office down at the corner? Well, before I got my courage screwed up high enough to go in and ask the head of that firm for business, I had to walk three times around the block."
To this day Frederic Nicholls is proverbially retiring when it comes to newspaper publicity. He rarely or never appeared in public, and so far as is known was never a stump politician. His early reluctance, however, to thrusting the claims of his business on the notice of other people he has pretty well overcome. If he had not, there might have been no Canada Foundry and no Canadian General Electric to-day. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of commercial travelers, advertising solicitors and subscription canvassers in Canada to-day who have had the "three-times-around-the-block” feeling on their first trip out over the route. The chances are that many of these shrinking men develop into the very best material on the road. The young man who is so cocksure at his first “Good morning" to a prospective customer that he is able to hand out pointers how to run the business, is liable to reach a few bumps before he goes the round again. The man who has to tramp out of his nervous system the horrible shyness that gives him the three-times-round-the-block feeling is likely to be a rattling good man when he gets the feeling out of his system.
It was in 1886 that Mr. Nicholls put another spoke in his wheel. He went into the machinery business. In conjunction with Mr. Howland he opened what was known as the “Permanent Exhibition,” down on Front street, opposite the Queen’s Hotel.
It was in that year that the first electric car was ever run in Canada and, so far as is known, either the first or the second in America. That was the trolley which at the Industrial Exhibition of 1886 ran across the exhibition grounds, starting at Dufferin avenue and ending at Strachan avenue on the east.
In his office on Front street Mr. Nicholls thought out a good many things on that line. He was in the midst of wheels. This “Permanent Exhibition" was the first thing of its kind in Canada ; the first time that any one firm undertook to act as selling agents in one office and showrooms for a large number of Canadian manufacturers. There had now been eight years of National Policy, most of which had been devoted to getting protectionism grafted on to the country’s growth. This aggregation of Canadian manufacturers, presided over by Mr. Frederic Nicholls, was one of the National Policy’s first fruits.
One year before the close of that Exhibition—1890—Mr. Nicholls retired from the desk of the C.M.A. There were other possibilities looming up, and he decided to get in on the ground floor. The late ’80’s were the years during which electricity got hold of the American continent as light, and in the ’90’s as motive power. Back in the early ’80’s, however, arc lighting had come into vogue; a few lamps here and there as far back as 1884, but not enough to constitute a system.
This was the public curiosity stage of the electrical development era, when an arc light sputtering and swinging on a street corner or in a store door was as much the subject of speculation as the automobile was to the farmer four years ago. And as yet people generally had not begun to swear at trolleys, strap-holders were unknown, and most people calculated that electric cars were about five miles an hour too swift for their nerves.
All this electrical development was profoundly and particularly interesting to Frederic Nicholls. The School of Practical Science in those days was a sort of experimental side-show to the University; what some aesthetic people regarded as a red-brick eyesore in front of the ancient Norman pile in Queen’s Park. Its students were few. There were more students in one year of Arts than in all the years of the S.P.S. multiplied by two. And electricity as a form of commercial power had not yet been heavily exploited on the curriculum.
But Frederic Nicholls had the kind of brain that doesn’t wait for a college lecturer. He knew enough about electricity to believe that it was a revolutionizing power as great in the closing decades of the nineteenth century as steam had been in the days of James Watt.
It was in 1888 that Mr. Nicholls became interested in electricity from a national standpoint. In that year he organized a syndicate for the purpose of investigating, somewhat after the manner of a Royal Commission, the possibilities of electrical development in Canada. This syndicate consisted of ten men, each of whom subscribed $1,000 to a central fund for the purpose. One of the results of this enterprise was the organization of the Toronto Incandescent Light Co. The utility of the arc lamp had its limitations. It was easily seen that to make electricity a commercial and economic success for lighting purposes some more elastic method of distribution must be secured. The incandescent system was the result, and the Toronto Incandescent Co. was the first organization to exploit this system in Canada. This Teraulay street station was built in 1888 with a small equipment consisting of a couple of small engines and generators supplying a mere fraction of the service which, beginning in offices and stores, has since ramified into homes, schools, churches, halls and street cars.
The next year Mr. Nicholls took another step, following out a developmental idea and keeping in mind the central principle of consolidation. He saw that it would be an economic advantage for a company dealing in electricity to undertake its own constructional works. For this purpose the Toronto Construction and Electrical Supply Co. was formed with Mr. Nicholls at the head. This company laid the first underground system of wires ever laid in Canada. They buried their wires under the streets while the “knockers” stood around and told them they were burying their money. The underground system has since become an economic necessity.
By this time there were a number of American electrical companies beginning to exploit Canada. Chief among these was the Edison General Electric Co., which somewhere in the ’80’s built a plant at Peterboro’. Mr. Nicholls’ company entered into decidedly active competition with the Edison Co. for possession of the Canadian field. The struggle was sharp and decisive—’and what was a rare thing in those days, the Canadian company won out. In a short time the Edisons capitulated and sold their plant at Peterboro’ to the Toronto Construction and Electrical Supply Co. And this merger was the nucleus of the present Canadian General Electric with its feelers all over Canada.
The progress of the new merger was rapid. The output from the Peterboro’ plant the first year after its acquisition was under $500,000. To-day, including the business of the Canada Foundry Co., the output is more than $5,000,000, an increase in less than a decade of more than 1,000 per cent.
In 1891 Mr. Nicholls abandoned his Permanent Exhibition on Front street, which up to that time had been headquarters for all his electrical operations. In that year the Toronto Street Railway began to lay off its horses. The first trolley line was run in Toronto in 1892, a few years before Mr. Wm. Mackenzie, who at that time owned not a mile of railway anywhere, became the new president of the company. As yet, however, Mr. Nicholls was not a director of the Street Railway Co., although he was identified with the Canadian Northern enterprise at its inception.
In 1893 Mr. Nicholls decided to retire from journalism. He had fought for a protective tariff; he had boosted the Manufacturers’ Association; he had lambasted Butterworth and Erastus Wiman; he had been vice president of the old Toronto Press Club. In all this he had a distinctly national as well as personal aim.
Now, however, he began to see that his polemic days were about over. The foundation was laid. A bigger field lay before him; a field which seemed to possess boundless possibilities and called for an entire concentration of his energies on practical development. He sold his paper to its present owner and swung into the power field. In that field he was easily the most conspicuous figure. But his grasp of electrical problems was not confined to volts and amperes. There were plenty of men available for technicalities. Mr. Nicholls had other work. Once he had mastered the tariff. In half a generation the Canada of free trade and depression had passed into a land of factories and of power problems. Capital was being attracted to power investments. Canadian financiers were beginning to see that the money which makes wheels turn is developing the country; that transportation problems were no longer confined to the steam locomotive, and that factory motive power was not summed up in the steam engine.
In short, it became evident that the transmission of power contained possibilities almost as great as the generation of power. The central station idea was born—the principle that once having got a plant for the generation of power, it pays to run it with a constant and as far as possible a full load. In fact, there was a strictly commercial side to this technical problem. But between the technician’s machinery and the financier’s check-book is sometimes a big gap. This gap Mr. Nicholls, with his practical and commercial knowledge of power problems, was able to fill. He was no longer the hesitant young man who walked three times round a block before tackling a customer. He became a promoter of power problems. By his clear-headed grasp of the power situation and his perspicacity in seizing on the salient points he won the confidence of a group of capitalists who were practically waiting for a man of that stamp to arrive.
But there was yet another side and a greater possibility. Mr. Nicholls had not forgotten his earlier acquaintance with machinery. He was not merely absorbed in an electrical fad. He was not confined to the generation and transmission of power. The other member of the industrial trinity, the application of power, was quite as important. Get these three into a working partnership with a strong backing of capital and there was a chance to organize the greatest aggregation of power enterprises ever known in Canada.
That project was brought to a head in the organization of the Canada Foundry Co., of which Mr. Nicholls is the general manager and the leading motive power. In 1900 the nucleus of this mammoth organization was developed when the St. Lawrence Foundry Co. with works in Toronto was bought, becoming the property of the Canada Foundry Co., which as yet had not begun to build its present big plant at Toronto Junction.
In 1901, still following up the merger organization, the Canada Foundry acquired the Diamond Machine and Screw Co. and the Toronto Ornamental Iron and Fence Co., manufacturing finishing iron and all kinds of fence wire. The following year saw the absorption of the Northey Pump Co. In 1903 the present mammoth works of the Canada Foundry Co. were built at Toronto Junction.
By this time Frederic Nicholls was the leading industrial figure in Canada. In less than ten years since he had quit the publishing business he had climbed to what in some men’s experiences would have been a dizzy height. But there was no dizziness about Mr. Nicholls. There were other heights to climb, other organizations to promote, more consolidations to effect. He was in a world of big potential problems; a marvelous fascinating world of more practical interest than the plungings of Wall Street. Still under fifty, this man, who in the reciprocity era had come to Canada an unknown youth, had become the central figure in the vast aggregation of allied interests which stands midway between production and transportation. The country was rapidly forging ahead. In spite of political theories the epoch of Liberalism, coupled with a protective tariff, had pushed Canada on to the high road of industrial prosperity. In the big co-relation of interests that formed the Canadian General Electric and the Canada Foundry Co. there were political figures of both stripes; but they all believed in a protective tariff because it had brought the tall chimneys and the industrial wheels.
So rapidly did one enterprise after another develop in this aggressive capitalistic and industrial ring that it is scarcely possible to observe any chronology. The same year came to witness a whole group of developments. It is even now necessary to revert a few years in order to catch up with the procession.
A fresh power had come into the field. It was hydraulics, the oldest power in Canada except wind and yet, wedded to electricity, the newest and to some minds the most economic. The water powers of Canada got into the public imagination. Niagara became the focus. The Electrical Development Co. came as a result. When it did the central plain figure was once more Frederic Nicholls; the man to whom instinctively capital turned whenever it needed direction into profitable channels. It became the fashion whenever a man with a new industrial idea came to look for a field to work in Canada to tell him, “Well, you go and talk to Frederic Nicholls. If he says that project is a possibility in this country you can reckon it will go. He knows the industrial end far better than any of the financial men.”
So it, was that when Americans began to grab Niagara it was counted time for Canadians to be on hand. If there was to be an industrial Niagara it must be international. Canada must have its share. This is not saying just where electrical development companies ought to get off in the matter of harnessing the cataract ; that will probably be settled by government. But to make Niagara effective in Canada, Canadian capital must be invested there and Canadian enterprise turned in that direction. No man was so well able to pioneer this project as Frederic Nicholls. He had experience, knowledge and capital at his back. He was at the focus. The Canadian General Electric, already an empire of business interests, was ready to exploit its share of the new power and to sink into the enterprise capital, the loss of which would have ruined any private individual. The net result of this is the Electrical Development Co. with its hundred thousand horse power at the Falls.
Out of that again came the Toronto-Niagara Power Co. with its miles of copper wire and steel towers. From that also came Mr. Nicholls’ connection with the Toronto and Hamilton Railway Co.; his presidency of the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Railway Co.; his directorate on the London Electric Co. at the end of the commercial belt; his presidency of the Albion Power Co., N.Y.; his presidency of the Electrical Transmission Co., Niagara, N.Y. He was already recognized by the United States as a dominant figure, a practical though somewhat paradoxical reward for the lambasting he had given American ideas about commercial union when he was editor of the Manufacturer.
And still there are other sides. With the railway development of Canada it was only logical that Mr. Nicholls should become actively identified. His connection with railroading is not merely dilettante or academic. Ten years ago he was associated with Mackenzie and Mann when they acquired the Lake Manitoba Railway and Canal Co. and began to build the Canadian Northern, of which road he is a director. His directorship on the Toronto Street
Railway came later, as also his vice presidency of the Toronto and York Radial Railway Co. From the same quarter he got into the James Bay Railway, which is now the north and south line of the C.N.R. All told, Mr. Nicholls is an active member of twenty-eight boards of directors.
But merely sitting on boards is not Mr. Nicholls' limit. All the directorates of which he is a member are in a co-related group, and the thread that holds them in the group is Frederic Nicholls. For instance, cars must be made. It pays the organizer to be in on the ground floor of all the co-related interests. Mr. Nicholls is a director of the Imperial Rolling Stock Co., Ltd., and a director of the Canada Car Co. On the power end he has switched the Canada Foundry Co. into the manufacture of locomotives. Two years ago the first locomotive made in Toronto since 1853 was the first one of ten contracted for the C.P.R. The Canadian Northern have since placed orders for a large number. The Grand Trunk has recently followed suit with several more. The locomotive building is now an integral part part of the Canada Foundry Co. For though some people fancy that some sweet day bye and bye steam locomotives will be abolished, Mr. Nicholls understands that civilization can never get along without steam and the steam locomotive.
Again, on the construction end of the railroad game Mr. Nicholls has become a re-organizer through his well-known connection with the Dominion Iron and Steel Co. of Nova Scotia. Three years ago this eastern end of the railroad construction enterprise in Canada was in a languishing condition with a fair chance of obliteration. Again, there was no man better able than Mr. Nicholls to infuse fresh energy into the concern. For three years he worked on this project tooth and nail in association with Mr. Plummer. The result is that to-day the Dominion Iron and Steel Co. is turning out 450 tons of steel rails a day.
Could there be anything more for one man to accomplish in the development of power and transportation interests in Canada? There was still a field into which prior to 1903 Mr. Nicholls had not directed his energies. It was shipbuilding on the lakes, which up to that year had been carried on in a haphazard way through lack of consolidation. In 1903 the Canada Foundry Co. bought the Bertram Shipbuilding Co. Mr. Nicholls had already been identified with the Niagara, St. Catharines and Toronto Navigation Co. Moreover, being for years a yachtsman he knew a few things about navigation not written in books. Now he is president of the Canadian Shipbuilding Co., from whose yards in a few days now a magnificent new lake liner will be launched for the Toronto-Niagara route, and at whose offices has just been closed a contract for a new 500-foot grain propellor for upper lakes traffic, the biggest boat ever turned out of a Canadian lake marine shipyard.
And there was yet more. Not many years ago—to double back again on this many-phased career—a small group of Canadian capitalists got interested in power and traction schemes in South America. This field had been neglected by the big American capitalists busy developing their own enormous fields. Mr. Nicholls in conjunction with a handful of Canadian financiers got busy in Rio Janeiro, which to-day is setting an example to all America in civic enterprise. He is now vice-president of the Rio Janeiro Tramway Light and Power Co. as well as vice-president of the Sao Paulo Tramway Co., whose stocks have been bumping the ceiling the past year.
And so when you come to take breath and reckon it all up, what has this human dynamo accomplished? In a word, it may be summed up in this perhaps—that the small syndicate of ten men organized in 1888 to investigate the possibilities of electrical development in Canada has become a coterie of financiers controlling a vast system of co-related interests and a capitalization representing an aggregate of $150,000,000. And the chief practical figure in this industrial empire is Frederic Nicholls. Trace up all his ramified aggressions into the industrial field and you find that they amount to a huge cycle of organizations all identified with the industrial development of the country in manufacturing, electricity and transportation. It all resolves itself back to the simple, strenuous days when Frederic Nicholls studied the tariff long before he saw to what tremendous results a protective tariff would lead. It is the case of a man with almost boundless energies and powers of concentration beginning with a fundamental problem and working it out into practical results; of a man having absolute faith in the possibilities of his country. Mr. Nicholls believes in Canada first. He also believes in himself. If he did not he might to-day have been a mediocrity.
As to the lighter side of Mr. Nicholls ’ character little has yet been said. As a sportsman he is known practically all over America through his yachtsmanship. Last year with the “Temeraire” made him a yachting figure for the time being as conspicuous from a Canadian as Lipton is from a British standpoint. Mr. Nicholls did not learn yachting yesterday. Twenty-five years ago he navigated Lake Ontario in a blundering fourteen-foot lugger that would have given the cold creeps to a landlubber. He is now the foremost figure in the R.C.Y.C., has built another yacht for Lake Simcoe, and is building another cup challenger.
Some years ago, during a yacht race on the lake, Mr. Nicholls’ yacht was heading through the western gap when she was run down by a lake steamer. Mr. Nicholls was unceremoniously dumped into the gap. He picked himself up and swam ashore.
“By Jove!” said an onlooker, “I don’t know who that man is, but he ’s certainly a dead game sport.”
Mr. Nicholls has followed the rod and the gun all over Canada. In one room at his home at the head of Homewood Avenue he has a collection of trophies all, with two or three exceptions, shot or hooked by himself. These with pardonable enthusiasm he showed the writer the other evening.
“Mr. Nicholls,” I said, thinking about the multifarious interests with which he has become identified, “when did you ever get time to sleep?"
He pointed to a camp photograph in which there was a collection of dead animals and one man sprawled out on his back.
“There,” he said, laughing, “is the only time —so my friends say who took the picture—that any one ever caught me napping.”
In his home life Mr. Nicholls is peculiarly happy. He has a fine residence, one of the finest in Toronto. He has a huge conservatory in which any man might spend an hour every day of the year. Here he has rare orchids, cinerarias and palms. In every room in the big house he has his famous pictures, one of the finest collections in Toronto, his Turners, Gainsboroughs, Corots and scores of others. Frequently after the rest of the household have gone to bed he takes his habitual pipe and sits for an hour in front of a single picture. Several pianos in the house furnish him with plenty of music. He has a good collection of books, and he has read them all.
In club life Mr. Nicholls has made as many ramifications as he has in business. He is a member of every big club in Toronto except the Hunt Club. He loves a good cigar and a pipe. He enjoys travel, yachting and riding. He projects himself into a vast number of interests and surrounds himself with things in which he takes a vital interest. To see him on the street one might not take him for an extraordinary man. At close range and as a study he is a dynamo. Not yet fifty he is still in the prime of vigor and optimism. On the academic side he is a director of Bishop Ridley College and a member of the Board of Finance of Trinity University, both of which connections he prizes very highly.
As to the Canada of 1878 Mr. Nicholls remembers well what it was and can picture its melancholy depression and its stagnation of trade. Asked as to what form Canadian expansion is likely to take in the near future he unhesitatingly replied — “Railways.”
“Yes,” he said, “we are on the eve of a great railway era. For years to come we shall build railways and keep industrial prosperity. After the abnormal era of expansion has passed we ought to keep our prosperity through, the normal expansion in home trade which must inevitably follow settlement along the railways. Canada’s great need to-day is population, not only agricultural but industrial. Unless we get the balance of both, the cost of production will go beyond where it is profitable to compete with outsiders. The cost for labor will more than offset the advantages of a protective tariff. Then we shall be a dumping ground for the United States. If we get industrial population to cope with our enormous gains in agricultural immigration, we shall be able to hold our own against the world. And,” he added, energetically, “Canada ought to thank heaven for the Dingley Bill —for it made us commercially independent.”