Author(s)

Publication Year

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Merchant Princes

This book tells the story of an extraordinary family of merchants and entrepreneurs. It begins in 1810, when William Stairs opened a small general store on the Halifax waterfront. Over the next 150 years, successive generations of businessmen were engaged in a surprising range of mercantile and industrial activity. The Stairs family saga includes sugar refining, banking, steel making, a mammoth and highly successful rope manufacturing plant, and a company that for a time was the world’s leading manufacturer of skates.

The Stairs family were also active in politics, starting with William who was a long-time, loyal and influential backer of Nova Scotia’s pre-eminent reformer Joseph Howe. The Stairs have been involved in many of the major issues in Nova Scotia politics, and this book often offers surprising information on what was going on in back rooms over the past two centuries.

Through this family history, author James Frost sheds new light on many aspects of Nova Scotia’s business and political history. The story of the Stairs family — their readiness to accept risk, their commitment to industrial development, their interest in manufacturing — challenges many of the stereotypes often used to explain Nova Scotia’s economic decline after Confederation. Frost’s many years of research and his unparalleled access to family records for this book have produced a major new book.

James D. Frost

JAMES D. FROST, a specialist in marine transportation, works as a researcher and a consultant. Educated at McGill University, Queens University and Saint Mary's University he is an acknowledged authority on the business and economic history of the Maritime provinces. He is a Research Associate at Gorsebrook Research Institute. He lives in Halifax.'

Chapter Title Abstract Contributors Pages Year Price

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Provides an overview of the Stairs family and its history, the preface notes an oddity and missing information from their research which has revealed a mysterious aspect to the Stairs family, the … 18 $1.80

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1730-1797. Looks at the marriage between Hannah Roe and John Steers (not Denis Stairs as was previously thought) their time in Grenada, examines Hannah’s two other marriages after … 24 $2.40

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1797-1865. Focuses on the life of William Stairs known as the patriarch of the Stairs family. The chapter looks at the fortune to be made in shipping, the struggles the family had, … 33 $3.30

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1819-1867.Traces the impact of William James (WJ) Stairs and examines his interest in politics, the expansion of the family firm, his dealings with the Confederacy during the US Civil War, … 35 $3.50

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1867-1906. Examines how the family adapted to the new canada after confederation. The ropemaking business, the final days of wood, wind and sail, their shipping agency busines, looks at the union … 36 $3.60

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1848-1887 . Examines the life of John Fitzwilliam Stairs and his entry into politics as a Tory and how he was involved in the creation of national policy. Looks at sugar refining and steel making … 34 $3.40

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1887-1897 . John F Stairs story continues into his his work as a promoter of the company, his foray back to politics, and some financial innovation 41 $4.10

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1897-1901. Examines some of John F Stair’s work as a financier with focus paid to manufacturing, industrial endeavors, and shipbuilding 26 $2.60

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1902-1910 . Looks at the partnership between John F. Stairs and William Maxwell Aitken (the future Lord Beaverbrook). The establishment of the Royal Securities Corporation, John F’s … 49 $4.90

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1910-1950. Examines the younger generations of the Stairs family and traces the family firm which was now an enterprise from prosperity to a selling off period 42 $4.20

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Traces the last years of the family companies to the eventual sale in 1973 after Arthur Stair’s death with no one ready to take over the family businesses 24 $2.40

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Gives a brief look at what happened to the family firms after the sale 8 $0.80