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Sir William Maxwell Aitken (Lord Beaverbrook)
Sir William Maxwell Aitken, better known as Lord Beaverbrook, was a well-known international businessman. Aitken was born in 1879 in Maple, Ontario, to humble beginnings. Shortly after Aitken’s birth, the family moved to Newcastle (now Miramichi), New Brunswick, and it was there that the mischievous and clever “Max” spent his childhood.
In the early 20th century, Aitken established himself as a leading but controversial Canadian financier. He began in 1900 selling utility bonds. He soon turned his energy to promoting new businesses and merging old ones. Several major mergers soon made Aitken a very rich man, but they also fed his reputation as an aggressive and, in some circles, scheming figure.
In 1910, Aitken and his family relocated to London, England. There, he delved into politics and became linked with numerous powerful figures including several future British prime ministers. He was knighted in 1911 and was granted peerage in 1916, becoming 1st Baron Beaverbrook. He later wielded considerable power on the international stage as the owner of a British newspaper empire and as an outspoken press baron.
Beaverbrook was prominent in both world wars. In the First World War, he was the Canadian troops’ chief publicist, and had a great impact on how the Canadian war effort was perceived. He created the Canadian War Records Office, which safeguarded the official Canadian war record, and the Canadian War Memorials Fund, which commissioned the work of artists at the front and left Canadians with a rich legacy of war art.
In the Second World War, he again played an important role, this time as Britain's Minister of Aircraft Production, where he drove the manufacture of the Spitfire planes that were key to winning the Battle of Britain. He was also appointed to Churchill’s war cabinet, and was one of the few men to serve on the war cabinet in both the First and Second World Wars.
In the years following the Second World War, Beaverbrook visited his home province of New Brunswick more often. His generosity to Canada is evident in New Brunswick where he was a leading benefactor to the University of New Brunswick and the founder and the sponsor of the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Beaverbrook died in 1964.
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Source of the Image: Collections Canada, Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 3212336
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