|Lord Mount Stephen (George Stephen) (2002)
George Stephen was born in Dufftown, Scotland, in 1829. He has been described by many as the person most responsible for the early success of the Canadian Pacific Railway.
Stephen, son of a carpenter, immigrated to Canada at the age of 21. His strong work ethic resulted in his success as a business entrepreneur in the dry goods, wool, and cotton industries. His interests led to banking and financing, becoming a director of the Bank of Montreal in 1873, and president of the bank from 1876 to 1881.
Together with his cousin Donald Smith, James J. Hill, and Richard B. Angus, Stephen was part of a syndicate that purchased the Saint Paul, Minneapolis, and Manitoba Railway in 1873, of which he became president. This same syndicate signed the contract with the Government of Canada for construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1880. Stephen became the first president of the CPR, a post he held through 1888.
Stephen’s wealth and personal contribution were of enormous importance to the early financing and construction of the CPR. He believed that the new railway would bring western wheat to the world through the ports of the St. Lawrence and take settlers and goods back to the prairies. His vision was aligned with the political tide of the day, and was used to gain capital investment from both government and private sources that was essential for the completion of the railway.
Stephen was created a baronet in 1886 and was raised to the peerage as Baron Mount Stephen in 1891. He died in Hatfield, England in 1921.