Thomas Cantley fonds

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Thomas Cantley fonds

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Reference code

MG 1 volumes 167-171, Microfilm reel 14,979; MG 9 volume 215; Graphic 31.4.7

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  • [1873?]-1921 (Creation)
    Cantley, Thomas, 1857-1945

Physical description area

Physical description

0.9 m of textual records

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Name of creator


Biographical history

Hon. Col. Thomas Cantley was born at New Glasgow, N.S. on 19 April 1857, the son of Charles and Catherine (Fraser) Cantley. He attended the public schools of New Glasgow and worked several odd jobs beginning as messenger for Western Union Telegraph Co. In 1878 he opened a crockery store, Thomas Cantley and Company, on Provost Street which he operated for seven years with silent partner James D. MacGregor. He joined the Nova Scotia Steel Company Ltd. (later BESCO) in 1885 as a general sales agent and was elected to the board of directors in 1901, followed by president and general manager on 13 July 1915. Between 1895 and 1919, he travelled extensively throughout Europe where he successfully marketed Wabana iron ore and coal. He was also instrumental in introducing the manufacture of ammunition for Great Britain during the First World War. Cantley served as MP for Pictou from 1925 until his appointment to the Senate on 20 July 1935. He was active in several professional and civic organizations including: founder, trustee, and president of the Aberdeen Hospital; first member, Canadian Shell Committee; president, Canadian Manufacturers' Association; Chairman, Canadian Munition Resources Commission; and president, Nova Scotia Mining Society. He was honoured with the degree of LLD from Dalhousie (1919) and appointed a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts of Great Britain. In 1893 he married Maria Jane Fraser of Pictou. The couple had five children: Charles Lang, Howard, Donald, Helen and Marian. He died at New Glasgow at his residence, "Bonniebrae", on 24 February 1945.

Custodial history

Scope and content

Fonds consists of records mostly relating to Cantley's business activities with the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Co., including letter books and loose correspondence, some personal, 1903-1911; Bluenose Gold Mining company letter book, 1899-1913; legal and financial records, some concerning the consolidation of the British Empire Steel Corporation Limited (BESCO); correspondence, press clippings, reports and other items regarding the Canadian Shell Committee and the Canadian Northern Railway; newspaper clippings and articles pertaining to Cantley and the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Co.; photocopy of his journal and notes on his trips to Europe, 1908, 1909, 1913, 1915, 1916, 1919; some speeches and articles written by Cantley and other miscellaneous items; and bound scrapbooks, one containing ca. sixty photographs, plans, and descriptions of company operations and facilities. Photographs depict miner's homes, collieries, and steel plants.

Notes area

Physical condition

Scrapbook fragile.

Immediate source of acquisition

Donated by Cantley's daughter, Mrs. Marion Hayden of New Glasgow, in 1970.


Language of material

Script of material

Location of originals

MG 1 volume 1309 (scrapbook).

Availability of other formats

Copy photos of photographs in scrapbook also available.

Restrictions on access

Use microfilm copy of scrapbook to protect fragile original.

Terms governing use, reproduction, and publication

Finding aids

An index to the photographs and photocopy of photographs contained in scrapbook (MG 1 vol. 1309) with detailed descriptions and captions available.

Associated materials

Related records found in the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Corporation fonds.

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