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Original title:  Photograph Anson McKim's office, Montreal, QC, 1903 Wm. Notman & Son 1903, 20th century Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process 20 x 25 cm Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd. II-145305 © McCord Museum Description Keywords:  A. McKim (1) , architecture (335) , card file (1) , clerical (1) , commercial (84) , figure (1849) , group (644) , interior (40) , Montreal (404) , Occupation (1110) , office (7) , Photograph (77678) , roll-top desk (1) , typewriter (1) , work (389) , work (126)

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McKIM, ANSON, advertising executive, publisher, and businessman; b. 2 May 1855 in Ernestown Township, Upper Canada, son of John Nelson McKim and Jane Shibley; m. 1 Oct. 1884 Bessie True, daughter of George W. True of Portland, Maine, and they had one daughter; d. 26 Jan. 1917 in an accident at the railway station in Coteau Jonction (Coteau-Station), Que.

Anson McKim grew up on the family farm in Ernestown Township. He must have left school early, since he was on the staff of the Conservative Toronto newspaper, the Mail, when still a young man. His duties there are not known, but he may have had an opportunity to try his hand at journalism, as is sometimes suggested. Perhaps he was assigned various clerical tasks before he became involved in the sale of subscriptions and advertisements. He was employed in that area on 22 May 1879, the day the Mail announced he had just been transferred to its Montreal offices, which were located in the Star building on Rue Saint-Jacques. He was to head its bureau there as the person in charge of advertisements and subscriptions for the daily and weekly editions of the paper. Almost every day, the Mail carried a column entitled “Montreal News,” and later “Montreal Affairs,” which was a sort of society gossip column, with added items about political, commercial, and financial events. The paper also printed excerpts from the Montreal Gazette.

McKim gradually came to realize the commercial potential of newspaper advertising [see Thomas Winning Dyas*]. If he could place the same advertisement in a large number of dailies across Canada, the economic impact would be exponential. And so it occurred to him to follow the American example and compile a collection of information about Canadian newspapers, their titles, place of publication, readership, and rates. It was difficult to accumulate this data, however, since McKim was identified with his own paper and was seen by many as a competitor. In 1884 the Mail published the Canadian newspaper directory in Toronto, but McKim’s role in its compilation is not known. The venture must have proved a failure since the paper abandoned it. The standard reference again became the American newspaper annual and directory, which had been published in Philadelphia by N. W. Ayer and Son since 1868.

In January 1889, after ten years with the Mail in Montreal, McKim founded his own advertising agency, A. McKim and Company. He set out to develop the tools the agency needed for finding out about newspapers and also the markets connected with them. To that end, in 1892 he published The Canadian newspaper directory, which listed more than 1,000 periodicals by province and then by city, town, or village. It provided information about the population, commerce, and industries of these places, and about telephone and telegraph communication, railway transportation, mail service, and customs duties. The desired effect was slow in coming, however, and the second edition of the directory did not appear until seven years later, in 1899. There would be 32 editions before it ceased publication in 1941.

During the first decade of the 20th century, McKim’s advertising agency was recognized as the foremost among the 19 such operations in Montreal. It was a model not only in its standards and working methods, but also in its precision and diligence. McKim now knew how to bring buyers and advertisers together. He had convinced both groups that the trade mark was more important than the product itself. An advertising campaign went through a series of stages which combined a thorough knowledge of the product’s specifics with an understanding of the areas served by the newspapers, their readership, and the buying habits there. At the technical level, the services offered by the firm included graphics, typesetting, proofreading, quality control, and accounting.

In 1905 A. McKim and Company had 150 large corporate clients in Canada and the United States, including the Bank of Montreal, Henry Birks and Sons (Montreal), Chase and Sanborn (Boston), the T. Eaton Company Limited (Toronto), the International Stock Food Company (Minneapolis), Labatt and Company (London, Ottawa, and Montreal), and Henry Morgan and Company (Montreal). In 1907, aware of the competition that was growing year by year, McKim went into partnership with three investors – his brother John Nelson McKim, W. B. Somerset, and Henry Edward Stephenson – to form the A. McKim Advertising Agency Limited and thus increase the firm’s capitalization and maintain its preeminent place in the market. In 1911 the agency had 65 employees in Montreal and about 10 in Toronto, as well as correspondents in New York, Boston, and London, England. Its capital shares increased from $200,000 in 1907 to $500,000 in 1912.

On the morning of 26 Jan. 1917, McKim left his home at 25 McGregor (Avenue du Docteur-Penfield) to get the train for Ottawa. Seating himself in a railway car at Bonaventure Station, he realized once it began rolling that he had taken the train for Toronto by mistake. At Coteau Jonction he rushed out to catch the Ottawa one, but was struck by another train en route for Chicago. Neither the engineer nor the brakeman had seen anyone on the tracks.

A courteous, meticulous, tactful, and hard-working man, Anson McKim belonged to the middle-class business world of Montreal. He was considered a model citizen, with his concerns about economic growth and social development, and was a member of many philanthropic and sports clubs, including the Mount Royal Club, the Montreal Racquet Club, and the Royal Montreal Golf Club. When the Canadian Association of Advertising Agencies was founded in 1915, McKim had been elected its president. In 1916 he had been second vice-president of the Montreal Board of Trade.

André Beaulieu

Anson McKim took an interest in literature and the arts, and assembled a collection of tales and legends from Ontario’s Johnstown District for eventual publication. This material is preserved in NA, MG 30, C50.

NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, Ernestown Township, Ont., div.3: 22. Globe, 27 Jan. 1917: 4. Mail (Toronto), 22 May 1879–May 1880. Montreal Daily Star, 26 Jan. 1917: 3. Napanee Star (Napanee, Ont.), 6 March 1901. Jean de Bonville, La presse québécoise de 1884 à 1914; genèse d’un média de masse (Quebec, 1988), 317–20. The Canadian newspaper directory (Montreal), 1892, 1899, 1901, 1905, 1907, 1909, 1911, 1915. [This source was consulted for prefaces and selected articles concerning the evolution of the A. McKim and Company advertising agency, esp. 1905: 17–21 (“The system and equipment of the modern newspaper advertising”), and 1909: xxi–xxiii (“A word about ourselves”).  a.b.] Encyclopedia Canadiana, ed. K. H. Pearson et al. ([rev. ed.], 10v., Toronto, 1975), 6: 282. Obituaries from Ontario’s “Christian Guardian,” 1861–1870, comp. D. A. McKenzie (Lambertville, N.J., 1988), 239. Printer and Publisher (Montreal), 26 (1917), no.2. Standard dict. of Canadian biog. (Roberts and Tunnnell). H. E. Stephenson and Carlton McNaught, The story of advertising in Canada; a chronicle of fifty years (Toronto, [1940]). The storied province of Quebec: past and present, ed. William Wood et al. (5v., Toronto, 1931–32), 3: 184. Wallace, Macmillan dict.

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Cite This Article

André Beaulieu, “McKIM, ANSON,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 15, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mckim_anson_14E.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/mckim_anson_14E.html
Author of Article:   André Beaulieu
Title of Article:   McKIM, ANSON
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 14
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1998
Year of revision:   1998
Access Date:   April 15, 2024