LOGAN, ALEXANDER, businessman and politician; b. 5 Nov. 1841 in Fort Douglas (Winnipeg, Man.), son of Robert Logan* and Sarah Ingham, a widow; m. 1864 Maria Lane, and they had eight children; d. 23 June 1894 in Winnipeg.
By both birth and marriage Alexander Logan was a leading member of Winnipeg’s commercial and social élite. His father, a prominent merchant and office holder, owned the land on which the business section of early Winnipeg developed. Through his marriage in 1864, Logan became tied to the wealthy Bannatyne and McDermot families [see Andrew Graham Ballenden Bannatyne*; Andrew McDermot*]. Alex or Sandy, as he was variously known, was educated at St John’s Collegiate School, Winnipeg, and at age 16 went to work on his father’s property and in his father’s store. At age 24 he inherited his father’s “princely” estate on Point Douglas. Throughout the boom years of the 1870s and 1880s he subdivided the estate and became a millionaire through land speculation.
His wealth and interest in real estate are both important factors in any consideration of his career in civic politics. He served on the Winnipeg City Council as alderman from 1874 to 1878 and as mayor in 1879, 1880, 1882, and 1884, during one of the periods of most rapid growth in the city. He was directly involved in almost every project undertaken to promote Winnipeg’s development and prosperity in these hectic years.
The overriding issue of Logan’s first six years in politics was the railway question. In the early 1870s Winnipeggers were concerned about the route that the transcontinental railway would take. When, in April 1879, the federal minister of public works, Charles Tupper*, made it clear that the main line would not pass through Winnipeg, Logan acted swiftly. A by-law was passed to raise funds to build the Louise Bridge across the Red River, saving the federal government the expense. Further inducements offered by the city included a generous cash bonus, “exemption from taxation forever” for all property “now owned or hereafter to be owned” by the railway in the city, and free land for a passenger station. The decision eventually taken, that the main line of the Canadian Pacific Railway would pass through Winnipeg, seemed to guarantee that the city would become the hub of commercial activity in the northwest and with few exceptions the actions of Logan during 1879 and 1880 were lauded throughout Winnipeg. He was at the height of his popularity.
Logan was elected to a third term as mayor in December 1881 with a platform based on civic reform. His reputation as a “paragon of boosterism” was strongly reinforced during his 1882 term. He and his council worked to attract immigrants to the city and make it the “Port of the Northwest.” Winnipeg’s program of advertising, combined with those of the federal and provincial governments, helped achieve dramatic results: in 1882, for example, Winnipeg’s population grew from 9,000 to 14,000. Logan did not serve as mayor in 1883. Had he retired from civic politics at this juncture his enviable reputation would have remained intact. During the golden years of 1881, 1882, and part of 1883, Winnipeg experienced a real estate boom. The city’s land and building assessments rose from $4,000,000 in 1880 to $30,000,000 in 1882. As the boom came to an end in the spring of 1883 many of Logan’s own real estate deals went sour. Citizens realized that the expenditures for the CPR and “permanent improvements to the city” were out of hand and in May 1883 the Property Owners’ Association was formed “to protect the citizens from unnecessary or wasteful outlay in civic matters.” The association nominated a slate of candidates for civic office in 1884 and supported Logan’s candidacy for mayor.
He won easily. His first act, in January 1884, was to appoint “special auditors” to look into the financial condition of the city. Ready in June of that year, their report was critical of past councils, including Logan’s, as well as of that of 1884. Logan offered to run for mayor in 1885 but the Property Owners’ Association refused to nominate him. His honesty was not in doubt but many members of the association questioned his discernment and decision, his administrative ability, and his unwarranted trust in others; these characteristics had led him to allow the city’s debt to rise out of control.
In December 1884 his fourth term as mayor ended. In subsequent years he contented himself with the management of his estate and his real estate concerns. He was neither an outstanding man nor an exceptional mayor. His chief claim to fame was his personal popularity. His “boosterism” bred a strong pride in community accomplishment, and it is this facet of his career which deserves recognition.
PAM, MG 2, C23. Begg and Nursey, Ten years in Winnipeg. Winnipeg City Council, By-laws of the city of Winnipeg from the date of its incorporation in 1874 to the 8th May, 1899 . . . (Winnipeg, 1900). Daily Free Press (Winnipeg), 1872–94. Winnipeg Daily Times, 1879–85. A. F. J. Artibise, Winnipeg: a social history of urban growth, 1874–1914 (Montreal and London, 1975). R. R. Rostecki, “The growth of Winnipeg, 1870–1886” (ma thesis, Univ. of Man., Winnipeg, 1980). W. T. Thompson, The city of Winnipeg, the capital of Manitoba and the commercial, railway & financial metropolis of the northwest: past and present development and future prospects (Winnipeg, 1886). C. R. Tuttle, A history of the corporation of Winnipeg giving an account of the present civic crisis with some suggestions as to what course should now be adopted (Winnipeg, 1883). A. F. [J.] Artibise, “Mayor Alexander Logan of Winnipeg,” Beaver, outfit 304 (spring 1974): 4–12.