Merchant Princes

Halifax's First Family of Finance, Ships and Steel

by James D. Frost

It began in 1810. William Stairs opened a small general store on the Halifax waterfront. The Stairs saga includes sugar refining, banking, steel making and skate manufacturing. Frost comments on Nova Scotia's economic and political past through one family's history.

This book tells the story of an extraordinary family of merchants and entrepreneurs. It begins in 1810, when William Stairs opened a small general store on the Halifax waterfront. Over the next 150 years, successive generations of businessmen were engaged in a surprising range of mercantile and industrial activity. The Stairs family saga includes sugar refining, banking, steel making, a mammoth and highly successful rope manufacturing plant, and a company that for a time was the world's leading manufacturer of skates.

The Stairs family were also active in politics, starting with William who was a long-time, loyal and influential backer of Nova Scotia's pre-eminent reformer Joseph Howe. The Stairs have been involved in many of the major issues in Nova Scotia politics, and this book often offers surprising information on what was going on in back rooms over the past two centuries.

Through this family history, author James Frost sheds new light on many aspects of Nova Scotia's business and political history. The story of the Stairs family -- their readiness to accept risk, their commitment to industrial development, their interest in manufacturing -- challenges many of the stereotypes often used to explain Nova Scotia's economic decline after Confederation. Frost's many years of research and his unparalleled access to family records for this book have produced a major new book.

About the Author

James D. Frost

James D. Frost
JAMES D. FROST, a specialist in marine transportation, works as a researcher and a consultant. Educated at McGill University, Queens University and Saint Mary's University he is an acknowledged authority on the business and economic history of the Maritime provinces. He is a Research Associate at Gorsebrook Research Institute. He lives in Halifax.'

Subjects (BISAC)

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