Canadian History for Kids!

Canadian History for Kids: Lord Beaverbrook

June 9, 1964 – Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook dies in London.

This Canadian History for Kids exclusive looks at New Brunswick-born financier, politician and newspaper owner, Lord Beaverbrook.

Sir William Maxwell “Max” Aitken was born in Maple, Ontario in 1879. Raised in Newcastle, New Brunswick, he was the sixth in a family of ten children. A political figure and newspaper tycoon, Aitken got his first taste of the publishing industry at age 14 when he published his own newspaper, The Leader.

Upon moving to Halifax, Nova Scotia as a young man, Aitken met his future mentor and friend, John F. Stairs, who hired him and trained him in finance. Although Aitken had very little formal schooling, he became general manager of Stairs’ Royal Securities Corporation in 1904, quickly establishing himself as a gifted dealmaker. Stairs died that same year, leaving Aitken control of the company that he would eventually sell in 1919.

Max Aitken married in 1906, and moved to Montreal, the financial center of Canada at the time, where Aitken acquired a seat on the Montreal Stock Exchange and made his first million before the age of 30.

The family moved to England in 1910, at which time Aitken struck up a profitable friendship with Bonar Law, the only Canadian to ever become Prime Minister of Great Britain. Max also became friends with many people such as Winston Churchill and Lloyd George. Elected to England’s parliament, Aitken served until 1916. Knighted in 1911, he later was made a Baronet. In 1917 Max took his title, First Baron Beaverbrook, from a stream called Beaver Brook that he swam in as a youth.

During World War I Aitken created the Canadian War Records Office in London, and ensured that Canada’s contributions to the War were printed in Canadian and British newspapers alike. Aitken also published a number of books on the topic; 1916’s Canada in Flanders heralds the achievements of Canadian soldiers on the battlefields.

He began building his publishing empire by acquiring the London Daily Express and Sunday Times, founding the Sunday Express in 1918. After World War II, the Daily Express became the largest selling newspaper in the world, with a circulation of 3,706,000.

Max Aitken was admired for his amazing energy and ability for hard work. A generous sponsor to New Brunswick, he provided additions to the University of New Brunswick, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel and many other projects. His financial genius was demonstrated throughout his long and varied career, and he remains a both a key and debated figure in our nation’s history.

He was inducted into Canada’s Walk of Fame, and in 1998, he became a Member of the Order of Canada.

And that’s this week’s Canadian History for Kids, exclusive!

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