Robin, Jones, and Whitman Ltd.

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Robin, Jones, and Whitman Ltd.

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Robin, Jones and Whitman Ltd., originally known as The Robin, Pipon Company,was established in 1765 at Arichat, Nova Scotia by John Robin of Jersey, England. With his brother Charles, John obtained the grant for the southwest half of Cheticamp Island, then secured the rest of the island shortly after establishing a second trading post there in 1767, known as La Pointe. It was here that the truck system of credit came into use in Cape Breton, as the Robins gave some fishermen goods on credit which would be paid off the next year in fish.

Manpower was one of the major issues that the Robins encountered as they worked to establish their trading posts, and so they made steps to increase the permanent population of the area. By 1774, the business was being handled by two separate companies; the Robin, Pipon Company was operating out of Gaspe while Robin and Company was operating out of Cape Breton. The three Robin brothers, John, Charles, and Philip, each had equal shares in the two firms and they were very prosperous.

The American War of Independence in 1776, however, would almost bankrupt the company. The Gut of Canso was raided by the notorious American naval officer, John Paul Jones, and the Robins had a great deal of capital invested in their ships which were not armed and thus easily captured by Jones. The loss of the ships' cargoes was equally unfortunate, especially because, due to the fact that attacks happened on land and not sea, only one third of the loss was covered by insurance.

Jones had not touched any of the Robin buildings or shallops at Arichat, however, and the company resumed its operations again in 1777, sending out new ships with the guaranteed protection of the Royal Navy. The Robins had suffered great loss but were able to maintain their establishments in North America due to their investment in one of the most successful privateering ships of the war, the Sprightly, which captured a prize worth 35,000 pounds.

In the 1780s, Robin and Company was renamed the Philip Robin Company (PRC) with Philip, John, Charles and an outside investor, John Fiott, each holding one-quarter shares in the company. The day to day operations of the company were put in the hands of an agent on Cape Breton Island.

During the 1870s, the small fishing and trading establishments at Arichat and Cheticamp merged with the Charles Robin Company in Gaspé. By 1877 they reported having 15 posts in three provinces exporting a combined 90 000 to 100 000 quintals of fish every year. In addition, the company owned 14 sea-going vessels, and directly employed over 200 men. At that time, Charles Robin Company was directed by Raulin Robin (Naples) who owned 63% of the company. In January 1886, however, the Jersey Banking Company failed and the Robin family was forced into liquidation. As a result, the Robins ceased honouring their credit obligations in Gaspé, causing great distress among the fishing population dependent upon them. The crisis was resolved when three Jersey men agreed to take over the firm and meet all of its debts and obligations. On March, 1886 the Robin family terminated its involvement with the company founded over 120 years earlier.

The Company, then under the management of Elias Collas, became limited as Charles Robin Collas and Company. The new proprietors carried on the business as before. In 1910, however, Collas and his partners sold out of Nova Scotian interests and the firm underwent another name change, becoming Robin, Jones, and Whitman Ltd. with headquarters in Halifax. In 1984 the Robin Company still existed but no longer dealt in fish, operating instead as a chain of general stores with headquarters at Paspebiac, Quebec. The company closed its doors for the last time in 2006 due to financial strains.


Cheticamp (N.S.)
Grand Etang (N.S.)
Arichat (N.S.)

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