ELLIOT, ROBERT WATT, pharmacist and businessman; b. 26 July 1835 in Eramosa Township, Upper Canada, son of William Elliot* and Mary Oliphant; m. Catherine Ann Scott (1834–1921), originally from Dundee, Scotland, and they had two sons and two daughters; d. 12 Nov. 1905 in Toronto.
Robert Watt Elliot was apprenticed as a pharmacist in his father’s practice, Elliot and Thornton, in Dundas, Upper Canada; the company operated from 1846 to 1853, until he and his father became partners in Lyman, Elliot and Company, located at the St Lawrence Market in Toronto. According to the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, this establishment, under his father’s “active and judicious management, became one of the largest wholesale drug businesses in the country.” The partnership with Benjamin Lyman* lasted until 1870, when Robert and his father bought the wholesale drug company of Dunspaugh and Watson and founded Elliot and Company. Elliot’s father retired in 1886, leaving him the firm. The company continued to prosper under Elliot’s direction, both as a wholesaler and as a manufacturer of a wide variety of pharmaceuticals, veterinary supplies, confections, perfumes, and sundries. Both of Robert’s sons, Howard and William Scott, were to be trained as pharmacists and associated with the family business. William Scott would take control of the firm after Robert’s death.
Robert and his father played an active role in the founding and development of the early institutions of pharmacy in Ontario. Both joined the Toronto Chemists’ and Druggists’ Association in July 1867, within days of its establishment. They remained actively associated with that organization when it became the Canadian Pharmaceutical Society (August 1867) and then the Ontario College of Pharmacy (1870). The record shows that Robert took a major part in drafting the legislation that became the first Ontario Pharmacy Act (1871). The act formally established the OCP as the official provincial body of pharmacy for regulation, association, and education. The work of the Elliots and of like-minded colleagues laid a good institutional foundation, and the OCP continues, under the name Ontario College of Pharmacists (from 1975), to fulfil that function today. Robert was a member of the CPhS council (1869–70) and of the OCP council (1883–88), and he served as the latter’s vice-president (1885–87) and president (1887–88).
Elliot played an important role in the OCP over a long period of time. He helped to found and edit its publication, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, established in 1868, and was the author of several articles on medical botany and related topics. The journal continues to the present time, although in the 20th century it has become the official voice of the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association (no relation to the earlier CPhS). He contributed generously to the OCP’s library and museum, sometimes donating samples of medicinal plants and oils collected during his extensive travels in Europe, and he gave one of the early prizes awarded by the society for collections of medicinal plant specimens. He also served the OCP as an examiner, helped shape its educational program (the original school, established in 1882, would become in 1953 the present faculty of pharmacy at the University of Toronto), and was involved in building the college’s first permanent home, on prestigious St James Square. Elliot’s participation in the field of professional pharmacy in Ontario prompted one colleague to write: “Mr. Elliot was so well known and his life so closely connected with the Organizations of Pharmacy in Ontario that he can be considered as one of the Fathers of the Craft, and during all the years of his business career he was one of the staunchest and truest friends of legitimate Pharmacy.”
The success of his association with Lyman, Elliot and Company and with Elliot and Company, his other interests and activities in Toronto, and the experience he gained from his travels abroad led to recognition beyond pharmaceutical circles. In public affairs no less than in the professional sphere, Elliot often joined institutions with which his father had also been connected. For instance, he was one of the first members of the Toronto Board of Trade and served as its vice-president in 1878 and president the following year. Elliot was known as “an energetic and able advocate of a policy of adequate protection for Canadian industries,” so it is not surprising that during his presidency the board promoted a change in the dominion’s tariff policy. His influence with the board continued until his final illness, likely heart disease, prevented attendance. He also led efforts to urge the government to appoint a railway commission.
Elliot’s association with railways was extensive, beginning with the Toronto and Nipissing line, of which he was president, and the Credit Valley line, which he joined following a visit to Norway in 1869, during one of his European journeys, to study and report to the government on the railway system there. He was also associated at various times in the capacity of president or as a director of the Toronto, Grey and Bruce Railway, the Irondale, Bancroft and Ottawa Railway, and the Owen Sound Steamship Company.
Elliot further demonstrated public-spiritedness and broad horizons as the first president of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association, member of the Toronto Harbour Trust, director for some years of the Toronto Industrial Exhibition, and president of the Toronto Rowing Club and of the St George’s Society. He also belonged to the National Club, a large, continuing luncheon club that was a bastion of the new Liberals (Reform party), whom he supported. “A strong believer in mutual fire insurance,” Elliot served among the officers of the Fire Insurance Exchange Corporation. He and his family were active members of Jarvis Street Baptist Church, referred to in a contemporary guide as “the chief Baptist basilica” in Toronto.
Robert Watt Elliot is exemplary of those professionals and business persons who consider it their responsibility to serve not only their families and chosen occupation but also their communities and country. The breadth of his personal involvement over a lifetime was truly remarkable.
An article by Robert Watt Elliot, “The commerce of Marseilles,” appears in the Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal (Toronto), 2 (1869): 95–97.
Toronto Necropolis and Crematorium, Burial records and Elliot family monument, lots VNG-46–47. Daily Mail and Empire, 13 Nov. 1905: 6. Globe, 13 Nov. 1905: 12. Monetary Times, 17 Nov. 1905: 638. News (Toronto), 13 Nov. 1905: 4. Canadian Druggist (Toronto), 17 (1905): 355, 499, 546, 555. Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal, 1 (1868)–24 (1890–91), proc. of meetings of the Ontario College of Pharmacy and its lineal predecessors, the Toronto Chemists’ and Druggists’ Assoc. and the Canadian Pharmaceutical Soc.; 3 (1870): 41, 61, 63–64, 81; 39 (1905–6): 182, 221. Directory, Toronto, 1867–80. Ontario College of Pharmacy, Annual announcement (Toronto), 1890–1925. E. W. Stieb, “A century of formal pharmaceutical education in Ontario,” Canadian Pharmaceutical Journal (Ottawa), 116 (1983): 104–7, 153–57; “One hundred years of organized pharmacy,” One hundred years of pharmacy in Canada, 1867–1967, [ed. E. W. Stieb] (Toronto, 1969), 11–24.
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Cite This Article
Ernst W. Stieb, “ELLIOT, ROBERT WATT,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 1, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/elliot_robert_watt_13E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Ernst W. Stieb|
|Title of Article:||ELLIOT, ROBERT WATT|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1994|
|Year of revision:||1994|
|Access Date:||April 1, 2023|