HARVEY, ALEXANDER, merchant; b. 2 June 1827 at Aberdeen, Scotland, eldest child of Alexander Hervey (Harvey) and Ann Charleton; m. in 1864 Margaret Stuart of Hamilton, Canada West, and they had two sons and two daughters; d. 7 March 1886 at Hamilton.
Alexander Harvey immigrated to Hamilton with his parents and younger brother John in 1854. He worked as a clerk first at Mount Healy, Canada West, and then in Hamilton, where he opened his own retail flour and feed store about 1858. R. G. Dun and Company quickly gave him a sound rating, and within two years he had doubled his worth to $4,000 and had broadened his business into wholesale groceries. In 1864 he and John Stuart, his wife’s brother, formed a partnership, Harvey, Stuart and Company. Stuart brought $12,000 into the firm which had a total estimated worth of over $25,000. In 1869, with assets of $178,000 and liabilities of only $66,000, the partnership purchased additional premises and expanded into the wholesaling of crockery.
In the early 1870s Stuart grew progressively more interested in railway development and paid less attention to the details of the business. He became involved in the capitalization of the Hamilton and Lake Erie Railway Company, and was joint security for a large amount. In 1876 Harvey decided to withdraw from the partnership, taking $40,000 as his portion. He then formed a successful business, Alexander Harvey and Company, with Robert Nicholson Sterling, who invested $3,000, as junior partner. Harvey’s assets at this time were estimated at $130,000 and included his home and two commercial buildings.
Harvey was involved in various other developments in Hamilton. He was a director of the Wellington, Grey and Bruce Railway Company, but, in connection with his brother John, was mainly concerned with insurance and financial institutions. Both brothers held directorships in the Dominion Fire and Marine Insurance Company, the Mutual Life Association of Canada, and the Hamilton Provident and Loan Society, which Alexander helped to found in 1859. In 1872 he was one of the founders of the Bank of Hamilton and became a provisional director. He was an early supporter and member of the council of the Hamilton Board of Trade and was also a director of the Commercial Travellers’ Association of Canada in Toronto.
A Presbyterian, during most of his life Harvey supported the MacNab Street (Presbyterian) Church. At his death his estate, exclusive of real estate, was valued at $61,400. The estimate of his qualities as a business man by R. G. Dun and Company at the time of the dissolution of the partnership in 1876 may well stand as his epitaph: “a very reliab[le], capable man, inexpensive & cautious & free from enta[n]glements & is believed to be quite good for anything he will undertake.”
Baker Library, R. G. Dun & Co. credit ledger, Canada, 25: 208F, 228P, 241, 299. Scottish Record Office (Edinburgh), Old Machar parish (cathedral) baptismal register, Aberdeen, 2 June 1827. Wentworth County Surrogate Court (Hamilton, Ont.), will and inventory of Alexander Harvey, 26 June 1884, 3 May 1886. Hamilton Spectator, 8 March 1886. Hamilton directory (Hamilton), 1856–73. The mercantile agency reference book for the British provinces . . . (Montreal and Toronto), I (1864): 136. V. Ross and Trigge, Hist. of Canadian Bank of Commerce, III: 64–65, 67, 152.