GEOFFRION, LOUIS-ÉLIE, shop assistant, grocer, and businessman; b. 17 May 1853 in Varennes, Lower Canada, elder son of Élie Geoffrion, a farmer, and Marguerite Beauchamp; m. 4 Feb. 1880 Angélina Lajeunesse in Terrebonne, Que., and they had four daughters and two sons; d. 17 Aug 1923 in Carleton, Que.
Little is known about the childhood of Louis-Élie Geoffrion. He studied at the Collège Industriel de Varennes, and later may have attended a high school in New Haven, Conn. He is thought to have gone to work in 1869 for John Hutchinson, a Montreal grocer. His father died the following year, when Louis-Élie was 17. In May 1876 he joined the firm of L. Chaput, Fils et Compagnie, a leading Montreal grocer [see Charles Chaput]. Initially hired as a shop assistant, he learned the trade, was promoted, and eventually, in February 1884, became a partner in the firm which in the course of time had become a wholesaler. Geoffrion was an able and respected businessman who would spend the next 28 years working to make the company thrive. On 31 March 1898 an article in La Presse declared that “what especially helped make this company grow was its hiring of L. E. Geoffrion and later taking him on as a partner. M. Geoffrion has outstanding abilities as a businessman; he is a first-rate buyer; he is regarded as one of the leading grocers of the [city’s] west end.” The same article describes him as a thrifty manager, but one capable of taking risks. For unknown reasons, he left the company in 1912.
Geoffrion was evidently not ready to retire, however, since he remained active in the Montreal business world. Two years after leaving the company, he was running the Merchants Awning Company Limited. During World War I, the Montreal city directories listed him as a “financier.” In 1920, at the age of 67, he founded a brokerage house, Geoffrion et Compagnie, in partnership with his son Henri. According to the declaration of partnership, the partners were “to undertake and transact financial operations as members of the Montreal Stock Exchange and also as brokers in stocks and bonds and investment bankers.” Henri Geoffrion, who in 1919 had married Juliette Bienvenu, the daughter of Tancrède Bienvenu*, continued to be involved in the company until the early 1930s; his partners included Jacques Fichet (1923) and Horace Pérodeau (1926). At the time of his death, Louis-Élie was still president of Geoffrion et Compagnie; he was also in charge of the Canadian Advertising Agency Limited.
Besides his professional activities, Louis-Élie Geoffrion was very active in various Montreal associations. In 1886 he became a member of the Montreal Board of Trade, a bilingual organization in which he served as a council member in 1906. In the Chambre de Commerce du District de Montréal, which he had joined in 1890, he occupied increasingly important offices as councillor (1892–95, 1897), vice-president (1898–99), and president (1900–1). He headed its delegation to the Congress of Chambers of Commerce of the Empire in London in 1900. He was president from 1904 to 1906 of the Montreal Wholesale Grocers’ Association, an organization he had helped found, and in 1907–8 of the Dominion Wholesale Grocers’ Guild. He was also a member of the Montreal Harbour Commission in the early 1900s, and belonged to other organizations such as the Association Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Montréal and the Ligue Antialcoolique de Montréal.
Although a supporter of the Liberal party, Geoffrion never stood for election. In the early years of the 20th century he nevertheless was president of the Montreal Reform Club, the goal of which was, according to its 1904 constitution, “the promotion of the political welfare of the Liberal party of Canada.” In 1923 he served on the board of the Montreal Liberal daily newspaper Le Canada, which at that time was the organ of the moderate wing of the party.
Louis-Élie Geoffrion was a man highly respected by both the anglophone and the francophone communities in Montreal, or so at least the laudatory obituaries published at the time of his death suggest. Far from confining himself to his strictly professional activities, he had a broad conception of the businessman’s role within society and he thus made a contribution to a number of economic, sociocultural, and political associations in the Montreal region.
ANQ-M, CE601-S10, 17 mai 1853; CE606-S24, 4 févr. 1880; TP11, S2, SS20, SSS48, vol.11-O, 1er févr. 1884, no.227; vol.33-O, 1er févr. 1912, no.119; vol.45-O, 25 juin 1920, no.841. École des Hautes Études Commerciales, Service des arch. (Montréal), P003 (fonds de la Chambre de commerce du Montréal métropolitain), G; P019 (fonds du Bureau de commerce de Montréal), B. LAC, RG 31, C1, 1861, 1871, 1881, Varennes, Que. Le Canada (Montréal), 18 août 1923. Le Devoir, 18 août 1923. Gazette (Montreal), 18 Aug. 1923. Montreal Daily Star, 18 Aug. 1923. La Patrie, 1er avril 1902, 18 août 1923. La Presse, 31 mars 1898, 18 août 1923. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). Constitution and by-laws, Montreal Reform Club, organized June 17th, 1898 (Montreal, 1904). [Télesphore Saint-Pierre], Histoire du commerce canadien-français de Montréal, 1535–1893 (Montréal, 1894). Souvenir de Maisonneuve, esquisse historique de la ville de Montréal . . . (Montréal, [1894?]).