TODD, ALBERT EDWARD, businessman, motoring and tourism promoter, and politician; b. 5 Aug. 1878 in Victoria, son of Jacob Hunter Todd* and Rosanna Wigley; m. 16 March 1910 Ada Beatrice Elvira Seabrook (d. 1968) in Los Angeles, and they had two sons; d. 26 Oct. 1928 in Seattle, Wash.
Bert Todd was born into a privileged situation as the child of a successful wholesale merchant in Victoria. Sent in 1890 to Upper Canada College in Toronto to complete his education, he returned to Victoria four years later to enter the family business, J. H. Todd and Sons, by then an important salmon-canning firm. He remained a principal of the company after his father’s death in 1899, but apparently played only a secondary role.
From 1899 to 1904 Todd was a gunner in the No.5 (British Columbia) Garrison Artillery, a militia unit, but this enthusiasm seems to have lost out to the new one of motor tourism. His interest in motoring had started in 1903, when he took his recently purchased White steam car on a day trip over primitive roads to Shawnigan Lake. A founder of the Victoria Motor Club in 1905, he served in 1905–6 as vice-president and in 1912 as president. At various times during the remainder of his life he would be a member or officer of clubs such as the Automobile Club of Southern California, the Victoria Automobile Association, the Island Automobile Association, and the British Columbia Automobile Association.
In 1910 Todd retired from the family firm. Living on income from various assets, he devoted himself to the promotion of highways and tourism, and to civic politics. He initiated a new apartment and commercial development in Victoria, which he would retain until his death. Then he travelled to Los Angeles for his marriage in March to a vivacious 19-year-old, Ada Seabrook, the daughter of a car dealer formerly from Victoria. Before leaving, he requested support from Premier Richard McBride* for the construction of a “Trans-Provincial Highway,” but received a non-committal response. The newly-weds set out in a 30-horsepower Cadillac, south to Tijuana, Mexico, and then north to Vancouver on reconnaissance for the proposed Pacific Highway. The story of the trip was submitted to various publications to excite interest in the idea. Later that year Todd was a founder and vice-president of the Seattle-based Pacific Highway Association. He travelled extensively over the next decade to promote the highway and connecting routes from the east, making speeches, lobbying governments, and writing articles. His vision of a unified tourism strategy based on automobile travel in the Pacific northwest and British Columbia led to his promotion in 1915 of the Georgian Circuit route, circling the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, and to the formation of the Pacific Northwest Tourist Association in 1917. When the Pacific Highway connecting Vancouver and Tijuana was officially opened in 1923, he was acknowledged as its creator. Todd also promoted the development of Canadian highways, such as the Island Highway connecting Victoria to Nanaimo and points north. He offered cash prizes and medals for various accomplishments in automobile travel on Canadian roads. In 1911 he had been a founder of the Canadian Highway Association, which lobbied governments to construct a transcontinental road. He was also a long-term member and, in 1915, director of the Canadian Good Roads Association.
Todd’s promotion of tourism in Victoria and the surrounding region had led to pressure that he enter civic politics. He served as an alderman in 1914–16. In 1914–15 he was the police commissioner and in 1917–18, mayor of Victoria. As alderman and mayor, he advocated lower taxes and balanced budgets, inter-municipal cooperation, and the promotion of industry and tourism. When he rejoined city council in 1920, he concentrated on the Greater Victoria committee, as well as on utilities, particularly the water system. After running unsuccessfully in Victoria City for the Provincial party of Alexander Duncan McRae* in the provincial election of 1924, he remained an alderman until defeated in the civic election of December 1925. Subsequently, he was employed by the city as an industrial commissioner and water consultant until he became ill in 1927.
Active in many boosting organizations in Victoria, Todd had served as vice-president of the local Board of Trade in 1910–11 and he held office later as president of the Associated Boards of Trade of Vancouver Island. He was a director of the Chamber of Commerce in the early 1920s and a central figure in the Victoria and Island Development Association until he resigned in April 1923 (a month after the association was renamed the Victoria and Island Publicity Bureau). A member of Victoria’s elite, he belonged to the appropriate clubs, including the Union Club, Pacific Club, Vancouver Club, and Victoria Golf Club, and he was a director of the James Bay Athletic Association. In addition to motoring and tourism, his recreational interests included shooting and fishing. He worshipped in the Church of England.
After his death in Seattle, where he had undergone surgery for a brain tumour, Todd was most recognized in the local press as “Good Roads” Todd for his central role in the development of various highways. This was just one aspect of his enthusiastic vision for Victoria and Vancouver Island. He had also encouraged cooperative strategies of municipal management and promotion. Despite the fact that his social position derived from his family’s successful resource-extractive business, he had directed his efforts at building a post-industrial economy for the region based foremost on tourism. His initiatives seem prescient in the Victoria of the early 21st century.
Albert Edward Todd may have played a role in the preparation of promotional brochures for the organizations in which he was involved. Many of these brochures are available in the library of the BCA. In addition, he wrote numerous letters concerning roads, Victoria’s politics, and the promotion of the city and region to the editors of local newspapers. He is also the author of “Good roads and the automobile: Mr. A. E. Todd’s Pacific coast international tour,” Pacific Monthly (Portland, Oreg.), 25 (May 1911): 565–77; an address, The Pacific Highway . . . (Seattle, Wash., 1913; copy at BCA); and “British Columbia faces the reconstruction period with confidence,” Industrial Progress and Commercial Record (Vancouver), 7 (December 1918): 216.
BCA, A/E/G41/T56.2; A/E/G41/T562; E/D/T56; E/D/T56.1 (A. E. Todd clippings file, 1920–25); E/D/T56.1 (A. E. Todd scrapbook, 1910–24); GR-1052, file 16740; GR-1304, files 288/1928–330/1928. City of Victoria Arch., News clippings, A. E. Todd; PR 115 (Todd family coll.). Daily Colonist (Victoria), 1909–28. Victoria Daily Times, 1909–28. “Alderman Todd,” Sunshine (Victoria), 17 April 1916: 1–2. Valerie Green, Excelsior!: the story of the Todd family (Victoria, 1990); “Good Roads Todd,” British Columbia Hist. News (Victoria), 24 (1990–91), no.4: 5–7; No ordinary people: Victoria’s mayors since 1862 (Victoria, 1992). G. W. Taylor, The automobile saga of British Columbia, 1864–1914 (Victoria, 1984). Victoria Motor Club, Articles of association and by-laws . . . (Victoria, [1907?]).