ELLIOT, WILLIAM, farmer and businessman; b. 22 Dec. 1812 in Hammersmith (London), England; m. Mary Oliphant, and they had four daughters and a son; d. 3 June 1893 in Toronto.
William Elliot was educated at a boarding-school in London. His family immigrated to Dundas, Upper Canada, and he followed when he had completed his schooling at the age of 15. In 1834 he took up land near the town and started farming. He married Mary Oliphant and their first child, Robert Watt*, was born in 1835. Some time during his stay in Dundas Elliot converted from the Anglican to the Baptist faith. Farming did not satisfy him, although he is reputed to have been reasonably successful. He joined the Dundas office of Lesslie and Sons, a large drug and stationery firm that also had stores in Toronto and Kingston [see James Lesslie*]. In 1846 Elliot and a partner, a Mr Thornton, took over the Dundas operation and their firm prospered.
There are limits to the size of a retail firm’s operation in a small community, no matter how well run it is. By the early 1850s Elliot appears to have exhausted the commercial possibilities of Dundas. He sold out his interest and moved to Toronto to try the wholesale side of the drug business, becoming in 1855 a partner of Benjamin Lyman* in Lyman, Elliot and Company. Again Elliot prospered. He joined the group of capitalists associated with William Pearce Howland* and William McMaster*, and participated in many of its promotions. For example, he was a founding director in 1867 of McMaster’s Canadian Bank of Commerce (he served as vice-president from 1879 to 1887) and was a vice-president along with McMaster of the Confederation Life Association. In 1882 Elliot, McMaster, and others established the Standard Publishing Company, which published the Canadian Baptist. Both businessmen were founders of Jarvis Street Baptist Church, completed in 1875, and Elliot later served as a deacon and trustee.
The 1860s saw the organization of the pharmacy profession in Canada. Elliot and an associate, Edward Buckingham Shuttleworth*, manager of a drug-manufacturing subsidiary of Lyman, Elliot, were among the organizers in 1867 of the Toronto Chemists’ and Druggists’ Association, which was expanded later that year to become the Canadian Pharmaceutical Society. Elliot was its second president. He worked for the pharmacy bill that went before the Ontario legislature in 1868, without passage, and for the Pharmacy Act of 1871, which established the Ontario College of Pharmacy and generally regulated the profession in the province. He was the college’s first president and served a second term in 1877–79.
In April 1870 Elliot had withdrawn from his partnership in Lyman, Elliot. With his son he formed Elliot and Company and purchased the business of Dunspaugh and Watson on Front Street. In a separate transaction, in company with a son-in-law, Elliot bought the building occupied by that wholesale business. Elliot and Company became the leader in the wholesale pharmaceutical trade in Ontario and the west. The firm’s factory, on Beverley Street, manufactured various drugs and pharmaceutical preparations and such other chemical products as colorants and linseed oil. In his other business interests, Elliot was president of the Toronto Board of Trade (1870–71); a director of the Northern Railway, the Toronto General Trusts Company, and the Freehold Permanent Building Society; and president of the People’s Loan and Savings Company. After fire completely destroyed Elliot and Company’s premises on Front Street in 1886, Elliot retired, selling his interest to his son.
William Elliot died in 1893 from an attack of grippe following a lingering illness. His final days were clouded most by the tragic death of his grandson, Howard, of peritonitis at the age of 25. Howard had been an outstanding student in pharmacy and seemed destined to lead the Elliot firm to greater success. William Elliot died wealthy. The probate of his estate revealed assets of more than $100,000, with substantial interests in the United States.
Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal (Toronto), 26 (1892–93): 173–74, 190–91. Empire (Toronto), 5 June 1893. Toronto Daily Mail, 5 June 1893. Dominion annual reg., 1882: 373. Emile Holowachuk, “Biography of William Elliot” (undergraduate essay, Faculty of Pharmacy, Univ. of Toronto, n.d.). E. W. Stieb, “Edward Buckingham Shuttleworth, 1842–1934,” Pharmacy in Hist. (Madison, Wis.), 12 (1970): 91–116.