LEBLANC, ÉTIENNE, businessman and office holder; b. 25 Nov. 1839 in Saint-Hyacinthe, Lower Canada; m. first before 1866 Melina— at Quebec; m. secondly Emilie—; he had a son and four daughters; d. 30 Sept. 1897 in Ottawa.
Étienne Leblanc left no surviving personal or company records so that little is known of him. Migrating to Ottawa in his mid twenties, he worked as a clerk in a merchant house. In 1873 he joined with Tertullier Lemay, a dry-goods merchant, to open a men’s clothing store, Leblanc and Lemay. The business, which specialized in ready-to-wear apparel, soon expanded from a home-based operation to a concern that occupied a large property at 445–47 Sussex Street. When Leblanc died in 1897, his share of the business, one of the city’s leading clothing stores, was bequeathed to Lemay. In addition to running this business, Leblanc had worked for the city as licence commissioner (1889–97) and as commissioner of parks (1893–97).
Outside of business, Leblanc was known as one of Ottawa’s foremost supporters of the Liberal party. During the final decades of the century, he was vice-president of the local Reform Association and a long-time member and president of its French branch, the Liberal Association. He was also a member of the National Club and of the Independent Order of Foresters, and he was a lifelong member and president (1877–78) of the Union Saint-Joseph d’Ottawa [see Jacques Dufresne].
Leblanc’s social and political memberships, his local reputation for integrity in matters of business, and his charitable work made him one of Ottawa’s most popular and prominent citizens. When he was fatally struck down by a heart attack, following an eloquent speech against political patronage during a meeting of the Reform Association, the entire city mourned his passing. According to Le Temps, political fighting among Ottawa’s daily newspapers was temporarily halted out of respect for Leblanc. Stores and streets were draped in black crêpe as his funeral procession, reputedly the largest in Ottawa to that time, made its way from his home on St Patrick Street to Notre-Dame Basilica. Several hundred prominent figures from the worlds of politics and business crowded into the church to pay their respects to one of Franco-Ontario’s more influential but lesser-known historical figures.
AO, RG 22, ser.224, reg.H (1892–94), no.3057. City of Ottawa Arch., Council minutes, 16 Jan. 1893. CRCCF, C.20/V73. NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, Ottawa. Globe, 1 Oct. 1897. Ottawa Citizen, 1 Oct. 1897. Ottawa Evening Journal, 1–2 Oct. 1897. Le Temps (Ottawa), 1, 4 oct. 1897. Ottawa directory, 1868–97.