The Late 1800s

The business prospects of the west sparked heated arguments in the Merchants' Bank's boardroom: to rely only on its Maritime network or expand to the great but riskier promises of an opening continent. Into this debate was hired one of the most influential employees in the history of the bank, and in 1887 there were no doubts to the preferences of Edson Pease.

Edson Pease
Manager – Montreal
c. 1887

Edson Pease: Gentlemen, you will not regret your decision to establish an agency in Montreal. We are not forsaking the Maritimes; we're opening a door to the nation. I foresee a wealth of possibilities here, and just up the road…

Sir Wilfred Laurier's vision of the country combined the natural wealth of the frontiers with industrial revolution in the central provinces and millions of hard-working immigrants from the UK and Europe.

That confidence resonated well with Pease and the bank's directors. In calculated rapid order, growth became their goal.

Through its pivotal New York office, Merchants' Bank moved into the Cuban sugar economy and on to Latin America. It opened in the capitals of Europe, even briefly in revolutionary Russia. But just as important, the bank was quick to the boomtowns of the Canadian frontier, often with personal sacrifice from its loyal "bank boys."

Harold Wilson
Bank junior

Harold Wilson: My dear Maddy,
At last we've arrived at Bennett Lake, BC, with all the bank's cash and ledgers intact. I shall only be here two years, by which time I contemplate a salary that may allow us to marry. But there's gold fever and our affairs are very active…

The affairs of Edson Pease were also very active.

Edson Pease
General Manager
c. 1900

Edson Pease: My dear Duncan,
I saw Mr. Shaughnessy of the Canadian Pacific Railway yesterday in regard to lending money to their smelter at Trail, BC. Perhaps we should share in the patronage…

By the turn of the century, Pease's vision was well on track: with little recorded dispute, the Merchants' Bank of Halifax became the more cosmopolitan Royal Bank of Canada.