HEDLEY, JAMES ALEXANDER, journalist; b. 4 Dec. 1842 in Prestonpans, Scotland, son of Jonathan W. Hedley, a customs officer; m. before 1870 Emma MacLeod, and they had three daughters; d. 23 Dec. 1916 in Toronto.
In 1845, sometime after the death of his father, James Hedley came to Upper Canada with his grandmother and elder brother William. They settled in Amherstburg, where James attended common school and was later employed in his brother’s store. He next worked as a telegraph operator, most likely for the Montreal Telegraph Company, and became friends with fellow operators George Albertus Cox and Harvey Prentice Dwight, whom he would later join as a director in the Great North Western Telegraph Company of Canada.
In 1863 Hedley entered the Toronto office of the mercantile reporting firm of R. G. Dun and Company [see Erastus Wiman*]; by 1867 he was manager. He stayed with Dun for another six years, finishing in Montreal and Glasgow. After returning to Montreal, he attempted to establish a career in commerce. In 1876 he became editor of a Toronto weekly devoted to business, the Monetary Times, which he described as “a vehicle for the views and feelings of Canadians, aiming to be self-governed, patriotically ambitious, resenting dictation and pedantic methods in either government or commerce.” For the 30 years Hedley was editor, it did just that, becoming in the process one of Canada’s leading commercial journals, alongside Montreal’s Journal of Commerce, Finance and Insurance Review and Le Moniteur du commerce [see Charles Savary*].
Well written and laid out despite the unwieldiness of many of its listings, the Monetary Times presented news from all regions of the country, including failures, and such standard fare as current prices and advertising. Official reports and surveys, on banks for instance, were reproduced with editorial comment; where no report existed in an important sector, such as loans and savings, one was created, again with interpretation. Company meetings and speeches were frequently reported in full.
The editorial tone set by Hedley was assured. His personality comes through clearly: intelligent, sceptical yet kindly, opposed to cant. Under his direction the Monetary Times gained a reputation as a staid, balanced journal. Hedley was leery of vast paper profits, watered stock, the corporate scramble for municipal bonuses, and the substitution of potential for results, especially in real estate and mining. Disappointed at the financial conservatism of Canadians, he hailed genuine innovation, whether in the form of the Cuban railways of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne or the cash-only system of retailing led by Timothy Eaton* of Toronto and Charles Woodward* of Vancouver. Hedley also commented freely on developing regions, trends in finance, capitalization, and industry, and government policy. His view of northern Ontario as an industrial rather than an agricultural frontier, for example, helped shape perceptions. Normally a defender of private interest, he backed the public-power policy of Ontario premier James Pliny Whitney. At the same time he recognized the province’s impetuousity on this issue and the comic prospect of allowing a blusterer such as Henry Mill Pellatt* to defend Ontario’s credit abroad.
Hedley’s writings extended beyond the Monetary Tunes. He examined the dominion’s finance and trade for Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Review (Toronto) in 1880 and prepared a short survey of Canadian commerce in 1894; he possessed a remarkable memory and told stories well of Canada’s business pioneers. A member of the Granite and National clubs in Toronto, he produced articles on curling and bowling for the Dominion Illustrated Monthly (Montreal) and Outing (New York and London).
James Hedley retired from his editorship in 1906 but remained vice-president of the Monetary Times Printing Company; he sold his interest in 1912. After his wife’s death on 15 Oct. 1915, he faded badly and died the next year.
James Alexander Hedley’s examination of “The financial situation in Canada” was published in Rose-Belford’s Canadian Monthly and National Rev. (Toronto), 5 (July–December 1880): 84–87, and he was the editor of Canada and her commerce: from the time of the first settler to that of the representative men of to-day, who have shaped the destiny of our country . . . (Montreal, 1894). Hedley’s publications also include two travel accounts, Notes of a coaching trip through the Connecticut valley and among the Green Mountains by the Dwight-Wiman Club, June, 1883 . . . (Toronto, [1883?]) and Notes of a hunting trip with the Dwight-Wiman Club in the Muskoka district, Canada ([Toronto], 1884), as well as a feature article on “The Toronto Granite Club” in Outing (New York and London), 15 (October 1889–March 1890): 28–39.
AO, RG 22-305, no.33166; RG 80-8-0-550, no.5789; RG 80-8-0-584, no.7444. NA, RG 31, C1, 1901, Toronto, Ward 3, div.37: 7 (mfm. at North York Public Library, Canadiana Coll., North York, Ont.). Globe, 25 Dec. 1916. Monetary Times (Toronto), 1876–1906, 29 Dec. 1916. Toronto Daily Star, 26 Dec. 1916. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). Dominion annual reg., 1885: 260–61. Nelles, Politics of development. Toronto, Board of Trade, “A souvenir”: a history of the growth of the Queen City and its board of trade, with biographical sketches of the principal members thereof (Montreal and Toronto, 1893).