DCB/DBC Mobile beta


New Biographies

Minor Corrections

Biography of the Day


Responsible Government

Sir John A. Macdonald

From the Red River Settlement to Manitoba (1812–70)

Sir Wilfrid Laurier

Sir George-Étienne Cartier


The Fenians

Women in the DCB/DBC

The Charlottetown and Quebec Conferences of 1864

Introductory Essays of the DCB/DBC

The Acadians

For Educators

The War of 1812 

Canada’s Wartime Prime Ministers

The First World War

GRAHAM, HARVEY, industrialist; b. 12 Aug. 1848 in Little Harbour, Pictou County, N.S., third of the four sons of William Lowden Graham and Ann Chisholm; m. first 14 Nov. 1872 Hannah A. Fraser (d. 1887), and they had two sons and four daughters; m. secondly 1890 Emma McKay; d. 31 Oct. 1907 in New Glasgow, N.S.

Harvey Graham was born into a sailing and shipbuilding family of New Glasgow. His father did not meet with success, and the family depended largely on the income from an inn inherited and run by his mother. She may well have been the most important influence on Harvey and may have steered him away from a life at sea, which his brothers followed for all or part of their careers. Harvey began his as a junior clerk with the mercantile firm of Robert Sprott McCurdy, and he later advanced to manager.

Graham’s business association with his brother-in-law Graham Fraser* may have begun in 1881, when he became secretary of the newly established Nova Scotia Glass Company, of which Fraser was a director. Two years later he became manager and engaged members of his family such as his brother John George and a ten-year-old nephew. A conflict broke out in 1883 after American members of the Flint Glass Workers Union insisted that certain procedures be followed in the factory. Graham closed the plant and went to Europe to hire English and German-speaking Bohemian glass-blowers in a successful effort to regain control. The company was taken over in 1890 by a Montreal firm, and two years later the works closed permanently [see David Yuile].

In 1878 an inadequate supply of water in New Glasgow had forced the Nova Scotia Forge Company, founded by Fraser and George Forrest McKay, to move its operations to nearby Smelt Brook. After the company decided to build a steel mill there in 1882, Graham was heavily involved in the expansion of the village, which he renamed Trenton. He laid out and subdivided land, some of which he had acquired for himself, perhaps when he discovered that the glassworks were also to be located in Smelt Brook. His personal holdings included 68 lots and some buildings; half the lots were sold in two hours at a public auction.

In 1888 Graham became formally connected with Fraser and McKay when he was appointed secretary-treasurer of the New Glasgow Iron, Coal and Railway Company, which was to exploit the iron mines at Springville and Bridgeville. Although this company was not organized, another of the same name was incorporated in 1891; Graham became manager and sat on the board of directors with Fraser and McKay. Four years previously he had become general manager of the Black Diamond Coal Company at Westville, probably after being recruited by Fraser, but the company’s mine was a failure and it closed in 1891. The steel industry underwent several reorganizations during the 1890s, and Graham was an incorporator of the Nova Scotia Iron and Steel Company (1890) and the Nova Scotia Steel Company (1895). He became a director of the Nova Scotia Steel and Coal Company Limited when it was formed in 1901, and for three years he was manager of its coal and transportation departments. In 1904 he was made assistant general manager. At the time of Graham’s death Nova Scotia Steel and Coal owned rolling mills and a forge at Trenton, a steel mill and coalmines at Sydney Mines, and iron mines at Wabana on Bell Island, Nfld.

In the community life of New Glasgow, Graham was an elder and clerk of the sessions at James Presbyterian Church for 30 years, and superintendent of the Sunday school for a shorter period. The church elders established a branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association in 1860; Graham subsequently served the organization as president in New Glasgow and Nova Scotia and as a member of the international and dominion committees. Unlike his father and brothers, he was an advocate of temperance, and his work in this field, like that for James Church and the YMCA, aimed to provide education and the correct moral development for youth. Graham was a Liberal, but he never ran for provincial or federal office. In 1881 he served as a councillor for Ward 1 in New Glasgow, perhaps in order to watch over his real-estate ventures.

Although Harvey Graham was not one of the privileged members of the New Glasgow mercantile community, he was able to become an important secondary figure in the growth of the steel industry in Nova Scotia because of his links to its developers through marriage and business endeavours. Graham’s last major undertaking for Nova Scotia Steel and Coal was a trip to Brazil in 1907 in order to explore its potential for iron mining. He died that year after a long illness.

L. Anders Sandberg

Nova Scotia Museum (Halifax), Printed information file, Nova Scotia Glass Company, Annual report, 1882–90. PANS, MG 1, 2155. Eastern Chronicle, 12–26 Oct. 1882, 1 Nov. 1907. Morning Chronicle (Halifax), 3 Jan. 1891. Pictou Advocate (Pictou, N.S.), 1 Nov. 1907. J. M. Cameron, Industrial history of the New Glasgow district ([New Glasgow, N.S., 1960]), pt.iv: 17–18; More about New Glasgow ([New Glasgow?], 1974); The Pictonian colliers (Halifax, 1974); Ships and seamen of New Glasgow, Nova Scotia (New Glasgow, 1959). Don Cosh, Trenton, the first hundred years ([Trenton, N.S.?, 1979?]). R. H. Graham, “The story of the New Glasgow Grahams and allied families” (typescript, 1938; copy in PANS, Library). L. D. McCann, “The mercantile-industrial transition in the metals towns of Pictou County, 1857–1931,” Acadiensis (Fredericton), 10 (1980–81), no.2: 29–64. L. [D.] McCann and Jill Burnett, “Social mobility and the ironmasters of late nineteenth century New Glasgow,” People and place: studies of small town life in the Maritimes, ed. L. [D.] McCann (Fredericton and Sackville, N.B., 1987), 59–77. Nova Scotia Steel Company, Reports of directors and financial statements, 1883–1910 (bound coll. in PANS, Library). S. M. Reilly, “The Provincial Workmen’s Association of Nova Scotia, 1879–1898” (ma thesis, Dalhousie Univ., Halifax, 1979).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

L. Anders Sandberg, “GRAHAM, HARVEY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 17, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/graham_harvey_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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/graham_harvey_13E.html
Author of Article:   L. Anders Sandberg
Title of Article:   GRAHAM, HARVEY
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 13
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1994
Year of revision:   1994
Access Date:   June 17, 2024