William Maxwell Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook, 1st Baron) fonds

fonds MG H 156
1928 - 1964, predominant 1946 - 1964

20 m textual records

Record consists of

Administrative history or biographical sketch

William Maxwell Aitken was born in Maple, Ontario, on 25 May 1879,but spent his childhood in Newcastle, New Brunswick. His father was a Scottish Presbyterian Minister, the Rev. William Aitken, and his mother, Jane Noble, was the daughter of a prosperous Canadian farmer. Max Aitken was the middle child of nine surviving children.

Soon after his 21st birthday Max Aitken moved to Halifax where he met financier J.F. Stairs who in 1903 set Aitken at the head of a new company, the Royal Securities Corporation, the first bond-selling company in Eastern Canada. Within seven years, Aitken had succeeded in transforming the Corporation into an international investment bank. In 1906 Max Aitken married Gladys Drury, the daughter of General Charles Drury. They moved to Montreal where by 1910 Aitken's financial dealings had made him a multi-millionaire. The Aitkens had three children: Janet, Max, and Peter.

In December 1910, sponsored by Bonar Law, Aitken ventured into British politics where he was elected as a Liberal M.P. Thereafter, the Aitkens settled permanently in Britain where Aitken was offered a knighthood. Immediately after his election victory, Aitken became involved in the press industry. The Daily Express was his first investment, and by 1916 he was the controlling shareholder.

In 1914, on the outbreak of the First World War, Beaverbrook returned to Canada on a recruitment mission. Beaverbrook also wrote many reports from the front which he later published in his first book, Canada in Flanders, and started a daily newspaper for Canadian troops called The Canadian Daily Record. In January 1917 Max Aitken was created Baron Beaverbrook. He continued with his war efforts, publishing three further volumes of Canada in Flanders. In 1918, Beaverbrook was appointed Minister of Information but, after many disputes, Beaverbrook resigned on 19 October 1918, a few weeks before the end of the war.

Once the war was over, Max Aitken was able to devote more time to his newspaper, the Daily Express. In 1918 he acquired the Sunday Express, and in 1923 the Evening Standard. Under the company name Beaverbrook Newspapers, Aitken became one of the three "press lords", (Northcliffe and Rothermere being the other two) of the 20th-century, and made a substantial fortune.

In 1927 tragedy hit Beaverbrook when his wife Gladys died of a brain tumor. He turned his attentions on two main political campaigns during the 1930s: higher wages, and isolation and appeasement.

With the Second World War in progress, Churchill appointed Beaverbrook as Minister of Aircraft Production, and later that year as the Minister of Supply. In 1943, Beaverbrook was appointed Lord Privy Seal giving him the responsibility of post-war planning and organization of civil air transport.

After the war, Beaverbrook returned to writing. Among his works were: Men and Power, published 1956; Friends (memoirs of R.B. Bennett), published 1959; Courage (memoirs of Sir James Dunn), 1961; The Divine Propagandist (an interpretation of the life of Christ), published 1962; The Decline and Fall of Lloyd George, published 1963; My Early Life (an autobiography), posthumously published 1964; The Abdication of Edward VIII, published 1966 after Beaverbrook's death.

Post-war he proceeded to bestow generous endowments on his native province, including a students' residence for the University of New Brunswick (Lady Beaverbrook Residence) completed in 1929, a library, and many scholarships. Other endowments followed, including a skating rink, theatre, town hall and public library in Newcastle, a civic centre in Chatham and a theatre and art gallery in Fredericton. In 1951 he formally renounced his United Kingdom citizenship. He set up two charitable organizations in 1954, the First and Second Beaverbrook Foundations (later amalgamated to form the Beaverbrook Foundation Trust) to which he transferred all his United Kingdom assets, including his shares in Beaverbrook Newspapers. The trust deed stipulated that all the income of the Foundation was to be devoted to charities, including scholarships to the University of New Brunswick, hospitals in the United Kingdom, the Presbyterian Church of Scotland, England and Wales, libraries and art galleries and to promote such other charitable purposes as the trustees might think fit. Lord Beaverbrook was appointed Chancellor of the University of New Brunswick in 1947.

On 7 June 1963 Beaverbrook married his second wife, Marcia Christoforides (Lady Dunn), widow of his friend Sir James Dunn. A few weeks after his 85th birthday, Beaverbrook died on 9 June 1964 in Cherkeley, England. His son Sir Max Aitken took over the running of the newspapers and the Canadian and British Beaverbrook Foundations.


Beaverbrook, William Maxwell Aitken, Baron, 1879-1964.

Custodial history
After Beaverbrook's death, his papers were held in the Beaverbrook Library in London, England, where they were made available for research purposes. In 1975, due to economic pressures, the Beaverbrook Library was forced to close, and most of the contents, including the Beaverbrook Papers, were transferred to the House of Lords Record Office. At that time, some of the Canadian correspondence, especially that related to New Brunswick, or projects in which UNB was involved, as well as a significant portion of Beaverbrook's Canadian correspondence, 1946 - 1964, was separated and transferred to the UNB Archives. The remainder of the Canadian correspondence was retained by the PRO and is catalogued as "Series A - Canadian Correspondence, 1903 - 1954".

Scope and content
This fonds reflects Lord Beaverbrook's ongoing involvement with Canada, primarily post Second World War, until his death in 1964. A large portion of the fonds is devoted to his many projects in New Brunswick. In particular, there is documentation for his personal and extensive involvement with the University of New Brunswick, especially in the areas of scholarships, buildings and the library collections. Apart from UNB, there is detailed material on the creation of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery (Fredericton, NB), and numerous smaller projects such as skating rinks in Fredericton, Newcastle and Saint John. There is substantial documentation for Beaverbrook's continued interest in Newcastle, NB(and the Miramichi area), his boyhood home. Schools and churches throughout New Brunswick were recipients of his philanthropy. One of his many projects, for which there is considerable record, was the establishment of a Presbyterian Ministers' Pension Fund. Letters, soundscribers, order form, lists, photographs and pamphlet relating primarily to J. Russell Harper's work for Lord Beaverbrook in connection with the proposed Archives in Fredericton and the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Topics discussed surrounding Archives include: Harper's search for manuscripts, books and maps pertaining to early New Brunswick history (material uncovered or acquired included: microfilm copies of a factum by Boishebert, French commander on the Miramichi in 1750s and a factum prepared shortly after 1700 setting out in detail all of the French land grants in Acadia, items relating to Indians of the St. John River, Colonial Office Records for Nova Scotia, pamphlet describing Sir William Phipps' capture of Port Royal in 1690, N.B. Fenian stamp, Edmund Walker Head letters, letter from Sir Howard Douglas to Sir Walter Scott describing plans for setting up UNB, House of Lords Blue Books, shipping records and a copy of a letter written by sieur de La Tour in 1644 from the mouth of the River St. John (91013-015); microfilming of the N.B. Customs Records 1815-1850 and the House of Lords Manuscripts; Sir Leonard Tilley and Nicholas Denys papers; Calvin-Knox Collection and Bruce McKeen's work on an annotated bibliography of the book collection; purchase of the Duke of Kent papers; shipment of the Bonar Law papers to UNB; binding of the Winslow papers; suggestions for a site for the archives building; terms of Harper's employment including salary and his decision to accept an archaeological position at Port Royal, N.S. Topics relating to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery include: printing of a catalogue for the Art Gallery; paintings - shipping, cleaning, framing, hanging, photographing and insuring; moving of paintings stored at Bonar Law Bennett Library to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery; arrival of DalĂ­'s Santiago El Grande arrival of works by Krieghoff from M.J. Boylen; offer of several miniature paintings from Beatrice Welling and the possibility of exhibiting works by the Canadian Group of Painters at the gallery. Also included in the file is a list of manuscript material and books to go in the Archives, a list of material owned by Mr. H.C. Drayton, a biographical sketch of artist Frederick Albert Pickett, a copy of the introduction to the Art Gallery Catalogue and a pamphlet on the exhibition of paintings by J. Russell Harper held at the Art Centre of UNB. This fonds is composed primarily of correspondence although photographs, blueprints and plans, soundscriber tapes, catalogues, financial statements, speeches, memorabilia and an assortment of published material are interspersed with the correspondence.

Source of supplied title
Title is based on the name of the creator.

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer
Transferred from the Public Records Office (PRO) in 1975.

Finding aids
In 1990, the UNB Archives received a SSHRC grant to catalogue the Beaverbrook Canadian Correspondence. Description was prepared at file level and entered.

Related groups of records in different fonds
See also MG H 96, R.B. Bennett fonds, Box 945 - three files of Beaverbrook Correspondence 1910-1946; n.d.; and UA RG 145 - Correspondence relating to UNB Library materials. Biographical information on Lord Beaverbrook and the Aitken Family can be found in UA Case 138.

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