STAMP, EDWARD, master mariner and industrialist; b. Alnwick, Northumberland, Eng., 5 Nov. 1814; d. at Turnham Green, Middlesex, 20 Jan. 1872.
Edward Stamp obtained his master’s certificate in 1851. In 1854, during the Crimean War, he was captain of the steam transport Emeu and succeeded in bringing her undamaged through the great storm off Balaklava in November of that year, in which 18 ships were lost and 12 others dismasted. He first visited the north Pacific coast in 1857, when the ship he commanded came to Puget Sound to load lumber for Australia. Later he returned to purchase spars, ship-timbers, and lumber for two London firms, Thomas Bilbe and Company and James Thomson and Company. Some of the spars were used to make masts and yards for the steamer Great Eastern. When the Fraser River gold rush began in 1858, Stamp established a commission and importing business in Victoria. He also made “considerable purchases of land in Vancouver Island, Victoria & Langley,” not, he explained, as a speculator, but with a view to providing for his sons.
Stamp seems always to have been interested in a variety of enterprises, and in 1859, while in England, he tried to secure a contract for a steamer service between Victoria and San Francisco. When success seemed near he was thwarted by a change of government in Britain which so delayed negotiations that he had to return to Victoria without securing an agreement. While in London, Stamp had formed a syndicate to establish an export lumber mill either on Puget Sound or on Vancouver Island; James Thomson and Company was the major shareholder. This firm later became Anderson, Anderson and Company; in 1859 it was already controlled by the Anderson family, and the mill Stamp built was popularly known as the Anderson mill.
When Stamp returned to Victoria, he opened negotiations with Governor James Douglas and agreed finally to place the mill on the Alberni Canal (now Alberni Inlet), on a site now within the city of Port Alberni. He was granted 2,000 acres for his mill and settlement, as well as timber limits that totalled 15,000 acres. Construction began in the summer of 1860 and the mill was completed in May 1861. The initial export shipment was to Peru. Stamp seems to have been a somewhat difficult character, and he resigned from the management of the mill in January 1863. Its future was then in doubt; in spite of the wealth of timber in the district, much of it was so large that with the equipment then available only trees close to the water could be brought to the mill, and it was running out of logs. It finally ceased operation about the end of 1864, having produced in all about 35,000,000 board feet of lumber.
Stamp now turned for a time to mining and prospecting for copper along Alberni Inlet and on Tzartus and other islands in Barkley Sound; but he soon returned to lumbering. He had a crew cutting spars at Port Neville in 1864, and in 1865, in England, he was instrumental in forming the British Columbia and Vancouver Island Spar, Lumber and Saw Mill Company, with a capital of £100,000, for the purpose of acquiring timber limits and building a sawmill on Burrard Inlet. The first site chosen was in what is now Stanley Park, but the strong currents at that point made it hazardous to dock sailing ships and the mill was actually built farther east, on the south side of the inlet. Its timber limits included many of the fine stands that then occupied the site of the city of Vancouver. When the machinery for the mill was shipped from Glasgow one box was left behind, and as a result operations could not begin until June 1867. In the interval Stamp exported spars. In the next year or two, lumber shipments were made to San Francisco, Mexico, Peru, China, and Australia. All seemed to be going well, but Stamp again had differences with his principals and he ceased to be manager on 2 Jan. 1869. Lawsuits followed and he received a judgement for $14,000. The company itself soon went into liquidation, and in February 1870 the mill was sold for a tithe of its value. Under new ownership it developed into the famous Hastings Mill, and became the nucleus around which the city of Vancouver grew up in the 1880s.
As usual, Stamp had other irons in the fire. In 1866 he had completed an office building in Victoria and he had a ship-chandlery there. He was once again interested in a steamer service to San Francisco and also in the building of a graving-dock; finances for both ventures were promised under the terms of union by which British Columbia entered confederation. In 1871 Stamp leased buildings at New Westminster that had been used formerly by the Royal Engineers and established a fish curing business. Convinced that fish packing had a promising future, he left for England in November to organize a company that would finance salmon packing on a large scale. It was while he was on this mission that he died suddenly of a heart attack.
Stamp served as a member of the Legislative Council of British Columbia in 1867 and 1868 as representative of the Lillooet District, but he does not seem to have taken a very active part in politics. His interests centred upon shipping and manufacturing, and he deserves to rank as British Columbia’s first industrialist. The mill at Alberni was the first large export mill in British Columbia and his second mill on Burrard Inlet was for many years the leading industry there.
Stamp was survived by his wife, Maria, and by four sons and a daughter. Several geographical features in the vicinity of Alberni have been named after him, including Stamp Falls Provincial Park which surrounds the falls on the Stamp River.
PABC, Edward Stamp correspondence. Somerset House (London), Principal Probate Registry, 1872, will of Edward Stamp. Colonist (Victoria), 1858–72. Times (London), November–December 1854. Walbran, B.C. coast names, 469. F. W. Howay, “Early shipping in Burrard Inlet, 1863–1870,” BCHQ, I (1937), 4–20. “Journal of Arthur Thomas Bushby” (Blakey Smith), Biographical appendix, 194. W. K. Lamb, “Early lumbering on Vancouver Island. Part II: 1855–1866,” BCHQ, II (1938), 95–121.