McCORD, ANDREW TAYLOR, public servant and philanthropist; b. 12 July. 1805 in Belfast (Northern Ireland), son of Andrew and Margaret McCord; m. Charlotte Taylor, and they had six daughters and one son; d. 5 Sept. 1881 in Toronto, Ont.
Andrew Taylor McCord attended the Royal Belfast Academical Institution at the same time as Francis Hincks before immigrating to Upper Canada with his family at the age of 26. His sisters launched a ladies’ seminary in York (Toronto) in July 1831 and he apparently opened a dry goods business there before relocating shortly thereafter in Dundas. He returned to York and in June 1834, after failing to obtain the post of first city chamberlain (treasurer) which went to Matthew Walton, he was appointed collector for St Patrick’s Ward. Walton died of cholera in August of that year and Alderman James Lesslie, lately of Dundas, and the mayor, William Lyon Mackenzie*, nominated McCord to succeed Walton. The mayor, however, was soon bitterly opposed to McCord, apparently on no more substantial grounds than that he was “personally obnoxious to him.” Nevertheless, with support from both Tory and Reform factions on the council (Lesslie personally signed his bond of surety) McCord assumed the office he would hold for the next 40 years. Thereafter his position was relatively free from political controversy, despite his Reform sympathies. Through the years of Tory ascendancy in municipal politics, McCord stayed above factionalism by maintaining a scrupulously neutral public position. As Mayor George Monro* testified before the commission inquiring into the city administration’s conduct during the election of 1841, “The City Chamberlain would not vote for one; he did not vote at all: he still retains his situation from which he is not likely to be removed.”
The responsibilities of the city chamberlain grew substantially during McCord’s career. Originally the rate of pay for the chamberlain, anticipated to be a part-time post, was set at four per cent of the monies passing through his hands. As the volume of financial transactions increased dramatically, the terms were altered to a straight salary and by the mid 1850s McCord had become the highest paid city official except for the mayor. Feeling hampered by insufficient staff, McCord struggled to accommodate the city’s mushrooming demands. Until 1871 the office of chamberlain was charged with overseeing all municipal property and establishing the financial credit of the city for major capital ventures. It was in the area of debenture transactions that McCord served the city with the greatest distinction. In 1856, in connection with the Esplanade development, he successfully negotiated the sale of £119,000 of municipal debentures at par in London. However, in the early 1870s the increasing complexity of the city’s business and revelations of embezzlement by clerks in the chamberlain’s office prompted the appointment of a city commissioner in 1871, a board of valuators in charge of assessment in 1872, and an assessment commissioner in 1873. But while McCord’s relations with the council’s finance committee became increasingly strained between 1871 and 1873 during a controversy over the auditing of his department’s records and by two cases of embezzlement, his reputation for securing the most favourable arrangements on the London money market hardly dimmed. The resignation which he felt was forced upon him by adverse publicity was postponed until 1874 by the request of the water works commission that he be sent to London in connection with the sale of $600,000 in debentures. Later that year McCord’s political career began and ended when he ran for mayor against the incumbent Francis Henry Medcalf* and Angus Morrison. Supported by local Reformers as well the Globe and calling for economic restraint and good government, McCord ran a respectable second to Medcalf but never again stood for elective office.
As a philanthropist, McCord gave generously of his time and money to many religious and civic causes. Following his sisters, McCord, his wife, and parents left the Church of Scotland to become active members in the Zion (Congregational) Church in 1836–37. In 1847 McCord, alone, was baptized a member of Bond Street Baptist Church; he assumed a leading role in local Baptist activities and was treasurer (1851–58) and vice-president (1867–75) of the Baptist Convention of Canada. For over 30 years he was secretary and vice-president of the Upper Canada Religious Tract and Book Society, and prominent in the Upper Canada Bible Society, the Toronto City Mission, and the Toronto Temperance Reformation Society. Strenuously active during an era which relished a myriad of charitable ventures, he was a member of the managing committee of the Toronto Athenaeum; a trustee of the Toronto General Burying Grounds for 25 years; sometime president of the Irish Protestant Benevolent Society; and a director of the House of Industry, the Newsboys’ Lodging and Industrial Home, and the Home for Incurables.
At his death McCord’s reputation as a public servant and benefactor obviously remained secure since his obituaries mention a long-forgotten bankruptcy early in his career as evidence of “the sterling honesty of his character.” With the difficulties of his last years as chamberlain forgotten, his death was noted as leaving “a vacancy not readily filled” in the ranks of the city’s philanthropic and religious workers.
CTA, Toronto City Council, Minutes, 1834–58; Toronto City Council papers, 1834–96 (mfm. at AO). York County Surrogate Court (Toronto), no.4361, will of A. T. McCord, 22 Sept. 1881 (mfm. at AO). Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1841, app.S. Toronto City Council, Minutes of proc., 1859–74. Globe, 6 Sept. 1881. The Baptist year book . . . (Toronto, etc.), 1856–80. Toronto directory, 1833–69. B. D. Dyster, “Toronto 1840–1860: making it in a British Protestant town” (lv. in 2, phd thesis, Univ. of Toronto, 1970). Middleton, Municipality of Toronto.