HYMAN, ELLIS WALTON, tanner and entrepreneur; b. Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 1813, son of Jacob and Sarah Hyman; d. London, Ont., 12 April 1878.
Ellis Walton Hyman, the son of a builder of German descent, was trained as a tanner and currier, and emigrated to London, Upper Canada, in 1834. He became a British subject in 1850, “when political feeling ran high” following the movement in favour of annexation, along with Elijah Leonard*, the younger, and other Americans.
In 1835 Hyman established a tannery in partnership with David O. Marsh, and about 1838 they obtained the boot contract for the new British garrison at London. Marsh retired in 1845. Hyman’s tannery was not reopened after a boiler explosion in 1873, but in 1867 he had built a second tannery which was later expanded. In 1874 he began a shoe factory in partnership with his son Charles Smith, and in 1877 a pork-packing plant in London East (now in London) for the English export trade. He sometimes operated the firms in partnership and, at different times, had branches in Tillsonburg, in Centreville, Oxford County, and in Hamilton, where he and John McPherson operated a wholesale shoe business. In 1876 the total value of his London businesses was estimated at between $200,000 and $250,000; when he died there were 75 employees. The tannery remained in the family until 1947, and in operation until 1970.
A leading member of the small group of entrepreneurs under whose aegis London developed from an administrative centre into the economic metropolis of western Ontario, Hyman was an incorporator of the Board of Trade in 1857, a member of its council through most of the 1860s, and a founder of the Chamber of Commerce in 1875. He was instrumental in establishing the Huron and Erie Savings and Loan Society (now the Huron and Erie Mortgage Corporation), was its vice-president, 1864–67, president, 1867–71, and a director until 1876. He was also one of the incorporators of the London and Port Stanley Railway in 1853, of the City of London Oil Company in 1866, of the London, Huron and Bruce Railway (of which he was treasurer in 1871–73), of the Bank of Hamilton (in which he was a provisional director in 1872), and of the London Life Insurance Company (in which he was a director from 1873 until his death). In a different field, he set up the first Music Hall in the town in 1866. A few years after his death it was averred that “everything he touched seemed to turn to gold”; except for his participation in the unsuccessful first Tecumseh Hotel syndicate in 1854, this claim would appear to hold true.
In politics Hyman was a Reformer, acting as organizer in London for Elijah Leonard in the 1862 election. Hyman himself was an alderman in 1853–54 and later was active in establishing a public water supply for London; he and Tory John Carling* were jointly elected first water commissioners in 1878. He attended St Paul’s Anglican Cathedral and was an active freemason.
Hyman married, first, Frances L. Kingsley of New York, who died in 1848, and by whom he had one son. In 1850, he married Annie Maria Niles (1824–1901), daughter of William Niles; two of their sons succeeded Hyman in the businesses: Charles Smith, later federal minister of public works, and Jesse Willett. Ellis Hyman’s mansion, “Elliston,” was later owned by Adam Beck* and has long been a London landmark.
Middlesex County Registry Office (London, Ont.), Joint Stock Company register, Liber A (1851–66), 10–11. PAC, RG 31, A1, 1871, district 10, sub-district London, ward 1; RG 68, 1. Bradstreet’s reports of the Dominion of Canada, February 1, 1876 (New York, 1876), 246. London Advertiser, 17 Jan. 1878. London Free Press, 8 Feb., 5 March 1856; 13 April 1878; 28 July 1938; 22 Aug. 1947. The Honourable Elijah Leonard, a memoir (London, Ont., ), 43. Can. biog. dict., I, 673–74. City of London and county of Middlesex general directory, for 1868–9 . . . , ed. James Sutherland (Toronto, 1868), 283–84. Dom. ann. reg., 1878, 353–54. [Archie Bremner ], City of London, Ontario, Canada; the pioneer period and the London of today (London, Ont., 1897), 84, 87, 90, 91; (2nd ed., London, Ont., 1900), 32, 34, 116. C. T. Campbell, Pioneer days in London; some account of men and things in London before it became a city (London, Ont., 1921), 6. History of the county of Middlesex, 362, 365, 374. J. E. Middleton and Fred Landon, The province of Ontario: a history, 1615–1927 (5v., Toronto, [1927–28]), III, 18–20. Ross and Trigge, History of the Canadian Bank of Commerce, III, 67–68. “London, its manufactures and general progress,” Western Ontario History Nuggets (London, Ont.), no. 13 (1947), 13–14.