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N. & M. SMITH LIMITED
Nathaniel and Martin Smith were brothers, originally from Yankeetown, Hammonds Plains, Halifax County. Descendants of British Empire Loyalists from Maryland, they moved to Halifax, Nathaniel around 1865 and Martin following in 1870, to attend to growing business interests, establishing a branch cooperage and forming N. & M. Smith Limited.
Martin Smith died in 1889 at age 54. In 1904 the section of the Halifax waterfront with N. & M. Smith wharves and buildings – Lower Water Street between Sackville and Prince Streets – was completely destroyed by fire. This property was rebuilt, and N. & M. Smith Limited returned to it in 1905; however, in the interim they purchased and used a property on Upper Water Street known as Cronan Wharf, which was later leased and subsequently sold.
The original business of a cooperage expanded to the export of salted fish and the import of fishery salt. N. & M. Smith underwent voluntary liquidation in about 1915; Martin Smith’s widow and two sons Howard H. and Albert Martin (“Bert”) retained the premises. A.M. Smith Company Limited was formed in 1917, and in 1920 the company became incorporated and known as A.M. Smith and Company Limited.
A.M. SMITH AND COMPANY
Howard H. Smith died in the early 1920s and his interest in the company was acquired by his brother, Albert Martin Smith. Albert Martin’s sons Albert Martin Smith, Jr. (“Ad”) and Fletcher S. Smith entered the company business after graduating from Dalhousie University in 1929, the third generation of brothers to do so. Upon declaration of war, A.M. Smith, Jr., a lieutenant in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve, entered active service and spent eighteen months on a Canadian destroyer before being transferred to Halifax as a Staff Officer in the Executive Branch, with the rank of Commander. A. Martin Smith, son of “Ad,” was also in the business for a year or so, before leaving to establish his own law practice. Ad Smith died in 1970.
Under the management of Ad Smith and Fletcher S. Smith, the company embraced three main departments – Export, Import, and Domestic. The Smiths were the largest exporters of dry and picked salted fish products in the Maritime Provinces, benefiting from the science of the Atlantic Fisheries Experimental Station which adjoined the plant. Smith’s specialized in pickled mackerel and herring, which was sold in national and international markets.
The Import Department dealt in Fishery Salt, of which A.M. Smith and Company was the largest importer in Eastern Canada, bringing in cargo lots from world production centers. The Domestic Department was responsible for the creation of the “Sea-Nymph” brand of boneless codfish, and later kippered herring, which put bulk salt fish back on grocer’s shelves. The “Sea-Nymph” brand was packed by Smith Canneries, associates of A.M. Smith and Company.
By 1970, A.M. Smith and Company was almost wholly dependent on Newfoundland for supplies such as salted cod. Subsequently, when the Federal Salt Fish Act (Bill C175) was passed, and resulted in the creation of a state-owned company with a complete monopoly over all phases of the cured fish business, A.M. Smith and Company became redundant. The government refused to compensate redundant firms, and thus A.M. Smith and Company Limited were obliged to discontinue their waterfront business, and their property was sold on November 15, 1973. Fletcher S. Smith died in 1987.
The area formerly occupied by A.M. Smith and Company is now part of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on Lower Water Street, Halifax, NS.
Acadia Fisheries had a plant at Mulgrave, Nova Scotia, where it was for a time the largest employer in the area, with over 400 people on staff. The company purchased the Old Loggie Fish Plant in 1952, and used it as a base for the harvesting and processing of fish. The plant burned to the ground in the 1970s and was not rebuilt. The company was associated with A.M. Smith and Co.
Smith Canneries existed with virtually the same shareholders and directorate as A.M. Smith and Company, but with canning operations principally confined to Prince Edward Island. Fish for the plant was caught off the coast of Prince Edward Island, and subsequently packed under the “Sea-Nymph” brand, which included herring, salt herring, Dutch-style herring, mackerel, codfish, boneless salt cod, and ling. Smith Canneries also has use of the “Sea Nymph 1” dragger, a ship operated by A.M. Smith and Company for the salted and fresh fish trade.
Records were acquired in seven documented accessions. The first in May 1971 (acc. #1971-074) was donated by Fletcher S. Smith and consisted of A.M. Smith business records, N.M. Smith and Company records, ledgers, journals, agreements, financial statements, and other miscellaneous materials. Subsequent donations from Fletcher Smith include financial statements donated in July 1972 (acc. #1972-047); correspondence, ledgers, export orders, and code books donated on November 16, 1973 (acc. #1973-072); ledger cards, correspondence, vessel papers, and insurance documents donated on July 8, 1980 (acc. #1980-043); and papers, correspondence, letter books, and printed material donated in November 1980 (acc. #1980-119).
The sixth donation by Alexandra E. Carter (connection unknown) came on June 7, 1983 and consisted of papers, leases, and deeds regarding A.M. Smith and properties (acc. #1983-039). The final recorded donation was received in November 1987 from Mrs. Fletcher Smith, and consisted of wood cuts, photographs, and miscellaneous papers and drawings (acc. #1987-079). It is possible that some records were acquired through accessions that were inadequately documented.
Scope and content
The fonds consists of administrative papers, blueprints, business and personal correspondence, cable code books and other reference works, export orders and papers, financial documents, insurance papers, legal documents, packaging samples, photographs, plans, printed material, reports, and vessels papers. The material spans 176 years and illustrates a family company passed through two incarnations and through several generations of administration, along with its related off-shoots companies and associations. The material deals with late 19th and early 20 century shipping, as well as the 20th century business of packing and exporting salt fish.
The fonds also contains papers of associated small companies including L.W. Vatcher Limited, and subsidiaries Acadia Fisheries and Smith Canneries, as well as papers from various investment dealings made by Fletcher S. Smith, including Parkdale Realty, Southern Realties, and Fenpark Realties, and agencies with which the Smiths were involved. Finally, the fonds includes various items from small companies including Dan Dauphiney Company Limited, Earle-Smith Partnership, Eastern Fisheries Limited, Fudge Shipping Company, Georgian Limited, Scotia Corporations, Sea Nymph Fisheries, and Smith/Romkey. These papers include correspondence, administrative documents, legal contracts and agreements, financial statements, journals and ledgers.
The records of the fonds demonstrate the organizational structure, management, and operations of A.M. Smith and Company and related organizations, and provide insight into the business of salt fish, from fishing and processing to packing and exportation. The material provides a comprehensive picture of a significant 20th century Nova Scotian enterprise.
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Dalhousie University Archives and Special Collections hold the records of several early Nova Scotia businesses, some of which interacted with A.M. Smith and Company, such as Adams & Knickle (MS-4-27).
Two ornamental office doors from the Smith fish plant and a fish barrel are among artifacts held by the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Nova Scotia.