A pen portrait of Norman Holland, “busiest retired business man" and founder of the Produced-in-Canada movement


THIS statement, carelessly spoken, you may hear frequently: “That chap would rather work than eat!” Usually this is an exaggeration, but in the case of Norman Holland, archimandrite of the Produced-in-Canada movement, by long odds the busiest retired business man in this broad Dominion, the phrase is a ridiculous understatement of the facts.

Not only would Norman Holland rather work than eat. but further, he would rather work than sleep, loaf, play golf, read, pitch horseshoes, swim, go fishing, sail a yacht, ride to hounds, shoot pool, attend the races, make a fourth at bridge, listen to the radio, or gaze upon a theatrical performance. Quite sincerely, he prefers work to any other form of exercise, physical or mental, this harlequin world has to offer.

Here is the extraordinary spectacle of a man who actually works for fun. There lies upon him no necessity to toil. He quit business in 1928, when he sold the paint and varnish company which he had built from nothing in eighteen years. He has all the money he needs. Should he so desire he could pass the rest of his life in peaceful contemplation of the hurly-burly of modern existence from any preferred vantage point in the world. This man works hard because he likes it.

St. James Street gossip says he is worth a million and a half. He refuses to discuss the subject. Instead he will tell you a funny story. He has an inexhaustible fund of funny stories, some of them good, some just so-so. He says, “Any story is a new story if you haven’t heard it before.”

Trade at Home, Says He

r"P HE job at which he labors so incessantly is to convince every man, woman, and child in the Dominion that the only road to happiness, the only true righteousness, is to be found in the purchase of goods made in Canada. He is president of the Produced-in-Canada Association (Quebec)

Incorporated. Until the recent municipal elections compelled a change of administration at Montreal’s City Hall, he was also Chairman of the Montreal Industrial Commission and of the Montreal Unemployment Commission. The latter organization he founded in November, 1930, considering it a natural corollary of his Made-in-Canada enterprise.

The Holland theory is that when Canadians insist upon the purchase only of goods made in Canada, rejecting all others, existing Canadian factories will prosper and new Canadian industries will perforce be established. The more Canadian factories oix'rating to full capacity, the more employment for Canadian workers, and the less demand for unemployment relief, with all its attendant griefs.

Conclusion: Buy Canadian goods. Q.E.D.

True, a number of eminent economists do not consider the unemployment problem capable of so simple a solution; but. right or wrong, Norman Holland constantly propounds his beliefs with all the fiery zeal of a religious devotee. He toils for anywhere from twelve to eighteen hours a day to impress his convictions upon Canadians of all classes and in every corner of the Dominion. No missionary laboring in darkest Africa ever strove more earnestly to make converts than does this ardent apostle of Canada First.

Norman Holland and R. B. Bennett get along famously. In some circles he is not popular. He doesn’t care a rap. He likes publicity, but he is broadminded about it, and he would much rather be cussed at than ignored. Many contractors, especially those engaged on public works, regard him as a thundering nuisance. The number of architects who have on various occasions consigned him and his irritating activities to the remotest salt mines would, if laid end to end, undoubtedly get up at once and pass a unanimous resolution to the effect that Norman Holland is a pest. He works all day long and far into the night the year round, thinking up new ways to annoy designers of public buildings who fail to specify Canadian brick and stone, hardware and window sashes, lockers, filing cabinets and other building equipment.

livery time he enters a building he pokes around examining dcx)rknobs and locks, fixtures and furnishings, in search of the damnable imprint, “Made in Siam” or any other country outside the British Empire that you can find in the geographies. Should he discover this frightful flawhe doesn’t take the guilty offender aside in a nice polite way and start a conversation beginning, "Look here, old chap, don’t you think ...”

By no means. Instead he rushes back to his office and calls for two stenographers, a master printer and four messenger boys. Thereafter appears a scathing bulletin, in which the hide of the unhappy culprit is nailed publicly on a prominent fence so that all concerned may take notice.

Here is an exact quotation from a characteristic Holland bulletin:


“The following is typical of specifications we have read:

“ ‘Any brand of American hardware will be accepted, but preference will be given to Canadian merchandise.’

“Any Canadian architect should be ashamed to put such a clause in his specifications."

The last paragraph, of course, is Norman Holland speaking.

He Practises What He Preaches

HE IS entirely sincere in his enthusiasm. All his personal possessions, his wearing apparel, the furniture in his house and his office, are made in Canada; or, in the event that an article or its equivalent is not produced in Canada, in the British Empire. He occasionally makes life a burden to his friends by asking pointed questions concerning the origin of their socks, their shix’S and their underwear.

When he is not thus engaged in driving contractors, architects and his acquaintances into a state bordering on insanity, he puts in time urging the purchase of Canadianmade goods ujxin Rotarians, Kiwanians, Lions, and Gyros, Boards of Trade and Chambers of Commerce. Canadian Clubs and Advertising Clubs, Daughters of the Empire, Junior Leaguers, Grain Growers, and Horticultural Associations. From Cape Breton to British Columbia there is scarcely a city, town or village, which has not, at some time or another during the past four years, been afforded an opportunity to hear personally from Norman Holland on the subject of being Canada conscious. If there is, he regrets the oversight and, if notified, will take immediate steps to remedy it.

When there is no public meeting to address and no erring contractor or architect to castigate, he digs into the voluminous files, the maintenance of which keeps his office staff laboring from eight o’clock in the morning until the boss decides he will take the rest of the work home with him, in search of facts and figures for dramatic and convincing pamphlets.

He is a born pamphleteer, a stout adherent of the printed word. When, back in 1928, Major George A.'Drew wrote for Maclean's Magazine his nowfamous article “The Truth About the War,” Norman Holland promptly purchased at his own expense 12.500 reprints which he distributed to every Englishspeaking school child in the senior grades on the Island of Montreal.

He bullies, coaxes or cajoles large employers of labor into handing out to their employees with their weekly earnings, slips of paper —usually printed in black ink on an orange background, for attention value headed with striking slogans, such as:

“Are You Robbing Your Own Pay Envelope?”

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W orking Man

Con United from page 23

and containing statistical information concerning the amount of money sjxnt by Canadians in a given fiscal year for such imported commonplaces as shoes, shirts and handkerchiefs, all which, according to Norman Holland’s rigid dogma, should be Canadian made.

To a mailing list which blankets the Dominion as completely as midwinter’s snowdrifts, he sends out more complete details of our imports, proving beyond the shadow of a doubt that Canada each year s|x:nds millions of dollars on the purchase from foreign sources of such thoroughly Canadian products as canned g<xxls, preserves, fruits and vegetables, bacon and ham, gloves and cotton gixxls.

One of these broadsides is headed impressively:

"Do You Prefer Foreign Goods?”

Each paragraph, setting forth the details of a number of major im]x>rts, begins: "Do You Know That ...” followed by the figures.

Occasionally these leaflets pnxluce unexpected repercussions. There was, for example, the department store proprietor who wrote to Norman Holland from Drumheller, Alberta, and hurled back this pertinent enquiry:

“Do you know that Eastern Canada

purchased $300,000,090 worth of American coal last year?”

Norman Holland was surprised, but not in the least annoyed by this challenge. “The man is right.” he said ; “we should buy more Canadian coal than we do. That is all part of my plan. My aim is to make Canada national-minded, not parochial minded.”

“Eef I Eat You . . ”

"LJE IS one of seven brothers. His parents were English. His father, George Holland, left the Old Country in 1880. He

had been with the Great Eastern Railway and he came to Canada to join the staff of the Grand Trunk as a chief draughtsman in tiie Motive Power Department. Some of George Holland’s tracings and drawings arc in use today by the Canadian National, a fact of which Norman Holland is very proud. His faith in and respect for his father’s reputation for exactitude and accuracy is tremendous.

Norman Holland was lx>m in Point St. Charles, Montreal, on November 20, 1880, a few weeks after his parents arrived in this country. He was educated in Montreal public schools and the Montreal High School.

He wanted to be a chemist. Holland, senior, didn’t think much of the idea, because in the Old Country the Hollands for generations back had been engineers and architects. Norman, always a persistent young fellow, had his way in the end. and t(X)k a special course at Bishop’s College.

It would appear that his youthful judgment was sound, for in 1896, in his seventeenth year, he turns up as chief chemist of Canada Iron Corporation at Radnor Forges, some fourteen miles north of Three Rivers. His salary in this exalted post was forty-five dollars a month, but the incident he remembers best of this adventure was his conversation with his Erench-Canadian landlady, as they discussed terms.

“Eef I eat you,” said she, “it is twelvefifty a month, but eef you eat yourself it is seven-fifty only.”

Mr. Holland decided to permit the grxx-1 lady to eat him.

This first job he held for four years, and then went into the pulp and paper business < with the Riordan Pulp and Paper Company, j where he was chemical superintendent.

At this juncture he came under the direct observation of Dr. J. T. Donald, then Dominion Analyst with headquarters in Montreal. Dr. Donald had been his instructor in chemistry at Montreal High, and liad

kept a watchful eye on his star pupil’s subsequent career. While he was still with the Riordan Company Dr. Donald offered him a post in his laboratories. "The salary will not be high,” the great chemist said, “but the experience will be invaluable.”

"Two men have directed my course in life,” Norman Holland told me. "First my father, then Dr. Donald. Different in temperament, their fundamental characters were strikingly alike. My father’s whole philosophy was summed up in that phrase so well known to Englishmen everywhere, Play cricket. As for Dr. Donald, I have never known a man or a chemist of such flawless and complete integrity.”

After two years of hard work with Dr. Donald—he got all the dirty jobs, and it was good for his soul, he says—the still youthful Holland jumped at a chance to ! join the staff of the Vermilion Chemical Company of Niagara Falls, N.Y. This was his only venture outside his native land and it ended unhappily. Back in Montreal, through Dr. Donald’s influence, he obtained an appointment as manager for the Dougall Varnish Company. This was his first direct contact with the paint and varnish industry, and his imagination was captured by the i prospects of vast improvements in the field. He served four years with the Dougall company, then quit for two years of private research into the possibilities of paints and varnishes.

By this route he came at thirty to organize the Holland Varnish Company, Limited, which he conducted successfully until 1928, when he sold out and retired from business "for good.” Until recently he held a directorship in International Paints, but he resigned bee tuse he was "too busy with other things,” the obier things being his Produced-inCanada crusade, and his work for the City of Montreal.

Healthy Because He Works

XTOW, at fifty-two, he is sturdy, rather I 4 > below average height, with thick grey I hair and blue-grey eyes. I íe smiles often and readily, but confronted with what he conj siders stupidity he can be abrupt in manner ;and extremely outspoken. “I can forgive a ! man who makes an honest mistake,” he says, "but stupidities arising from carelessness are major crimes in my estimation.”

He dresses with scrupulous neatness, always wears a bow tie, prefers high shoes to ; Oxfords, and rather likes the buttoned top I boots because he finds them more comfortÎ able than laces. Winter and summer he j sports a flower in his coat lapel, usually a ¡ pink carnation. Always tucked away in a handy comer of his office are half a dozen apples (Canadian) and two or three bottles i of some popular soft drink, also Canadian.

He has never taken a drink of alcoholic liquor, and after a week or so he gave up smoking in his early youth for all time. Not j because he thinks either smoking or drinking is wrong, but because he found that they impaired his keen senses of taste and smell, which he says are all important to a chemist.

He keeps cigars and cigarettes for his friends. The cigars he has specially wrapped and the wrappers printed with his name. His cigarettes are similarly stamped. Often he sends in a cigar instead of a visiting card when he makes business calls.

He has a middle name, but no one outside his family knows what it is. To all the world he is Norman Holland and he likes that.

Physical exercise he abhors, yet his waistline is bulgeless, and he is considered so good an insurance risk that agents of the leading life companies are constantly parked in his waiting room. He says he is healthy because I he works all the time.

Motoring is his only recreation. He owns two cars and drives them himself. He has a tremendous respect for a good automobile because it helps him to move rapidly from place to place preaching his Produced-inCanada gospel.

He greatly dislikes pomps and ceremonies

of all kinds, especially in connection with funerals. His father was one of the first Montrealers to choose cremation. When the time comes he also will be cremated and his ashes will be scattered over the St. Lawrence River in front of Montreal.

Politics do not attract him. He thinks that if he had to play puss-in-the-comer with a political group in order to hold public office he would go crazy in a week.

His home is on the Westmount Upper Level and he has a country estate at Lancaster, Ontario. Neither of these facts endears him to the East-End ward politicians of Montreal. At Lancaster he has four acres of garden of which he is very proud, but it is Mrs. Holland who looks after it.

He holds a life membership in the Royal Montreal Golf Club and ordinary memberships in three others. Also he owns three sets of golf sticks, but has never shot a round of golf in his life. Once at the Marlborough Golf Club he borrowed a putter and played once around the clock course. Then he handed the putter back to the professional, with the remark, "I’d never have time for that.” He hasn’t touched a stick since.

Similarly he holds life memberships in the Montreal Ski Club and in the Montreal Amateur Athletic Association, although he has never worn skis and infrequently visits the M.A.A.A. Attending the opening of the Ski Club on one famous occasion, he startled the assembled members—many of them of Scandinavian origin—by urging them never to buy anything but Canadian-made skis. He belongs also to Toronto Granites and the Cliffsidc Badminton Club, nobody seems to know why. His other club affiliations include the St. George’s Society, Old Colony Club, Montreal Art Association, the National Club in Toronto, and the Transportation Club in New York.

Of all his clubs he gets the biggest kick out of the exclusive Mount Stephen Club, because he can take his friends there, dine and wine them in luxury and afterward back them in comfortable armchairs and tell them funny stories and urge them to be Canadaconscious.

He has other interests w'hich he takes more seriously. He is a life governor of three hospitals, a dispensary and a boys’ home, a Fellow' of '■.he Chemical Society of London, England, a member of the Canadian Society of Chemical Industry, of the Engineering Institute of Canada, of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, and the Montreal Board of Trade.

He is active in Rotary and a prominent mason, his masonic affiliations including the Royal Arch, Scottish Rite, Mystic Rite, and the Shrine.

An Amazing Memory

HIS memory is amazing. He makes notes all the time. His pockets are full of memorandum pads and he sleeps with a stack of them at his bedside in case of sudden inspiration in the early morning hours. In the course of a year he consumes between 2,500 and 3,000 memo pads, and makes something like a million notations.

When he is spreading the light in Halifax or Vancouver or points in between, he travels with a brief case full of telegraph blanks, and jumps off the train at frequent intervals to make long distance calls to his home office, just to make sure that the boys back in Montreal are on their toes. By no means an easy man to work for, his frank friendliness and keen sense of justice make the men in his employ—he prefers male to female help in business—intensely loyal to the man and his cause.

Norman Holland will tell you that his whole conduct of life is founded on his early training as a chemist and the teachings of his father and his other hero. Dr. Donald.

“It’s all in analysis,” he says. "Four years ago I quit the business of analyzing for keeps. Now my occupation is analyzing business.”