MACKINTOSH, JAMES CROSSKILL, banker, stockbroker, and politician; b. 1 Feb. 1839 in Halifax, son of John Mackintosh and Mary Catherine Crosskill; brother of Kate Mackintosh; m. there 15 April 1869 Emma Isabel Grant, and they had two daughters and two sons; d. there 8 May 1924.
J. C. Mackintosh’s father emigrated from Inverness, Scotland, and became one of Halifax’s best-known Scotsmen – no small feat in a city full of successful Scottish immigrants. Although a native Nova Scotian, his mother was also of Scottish descent, and Mackintosh had a strict Presbyterian upbringing, attending St John’s School and the Free Church Academy. In later life he would devote much of his spare time to religious pursuits. He became first president of the Halifax Young Men’s Christian Association as well as a member of the board of management of the Presbyterian College. In addition, he was one of the founders in 1871 of Fort Massey Presbyterian Church, where he served as elder, clerk of session, chairman of the managing committee, trustee, secretary-treasurer, and member of the choir. One of the church’s volunteer teachers, he was also superintendent of its Sunday school for a time.
After leaving school at 16, Mackintosh had joined the Bank of Nova Scotia as a senior clerk and begun his apprenticeship as an accountant. Two years later, in 1857, he in fact became the bank’s official accountant – the first person to hold such a title in the organization – and his annual salary was raised from £100 to £125. Mackintosh remained at the bank for the next 18 years, during which time he developed a reputation for superior workmanship. In 1870 he alerted President Mather Byles Almon* and the board of directors to a defalcation by the bank’s cashier (general manager), James Forman*, of some $315,000, an enormous amount of money at the time. Soon afterwards, he was promoted to deputy cashier. Although no descriptions of Mackintosh are available from this period, he appears to have been a serious and hard-working young man with a strict, perhaps even ascetic, Presbyterian ethos.
In 1873 Mackintosh left the Bank of Nova Scotia to set up his own business with Mather Byles Almon, son and namesake of the bank’s past president. Styled as bankers, brokers, and financial agents, the firm went into the retailing of securities, a line of business that had only recently opened up. According to one early description, Almon and Mackintosh was organized “on the same principles as a chartered Bank” in that deposits were taken and interest paid, loans and promissory notes negotiated, and drafts drawn against shipments of merchandise. But the main activity was the buying and selling of local as well as national and American stocks and bonds.
The firm seemed to do well but the partners soon split up, Almon going into life insurance and Mackintosh continuing the brokerage and banking business under the title of J. C. Mackintosh and Company. Now on his own, he pushed into the relatively new business of selling the securities of local industrial and utility firms in addition to well-accepted government, railway, and municipal bonds. From its head office in Halifax, the firm eventually set up branches in Fredericton, Saint John, New Glasgow, N.S., and Montreal. Stocks and bonds were purchased on all the major exchanges, including the Montreal Stock Exchange, where Mackintosh was a full member, and were resold to customers throughout eastern Canada.
By at least 1912 J. C. Mackintosh and Company was enough of a presence to begin distributing an annual multi-page Investor’s manual for the Maritime provinces of Canada. Judging by this publication, Mackintosh catered to the more conservative of the region’s investors, providing good if unremarkable returns on solid investments. He avoided the inherently riskier business of sponsoring new issues or providing capital to brand-new enterprises. He was, in other words, a stockbroker rather than an investment banker. In fact, he very much disliked the flamboyant and “get-rich-quick” style, to say nothing of the more speculative tendency, of younger financiers such as William Maxwell Aitken*. In one infamous incident he tried to push Aitken out of his privileged position in John Fitzwilliam Stairs*’s funeral procession, presumably incensed by the young man’s standing with both Stairs and his immediate family.
As busy as Mackintosh must have been in building up his business, he nonetheless found time for civic duties. In 1878 he was elected to Halifax City Council, and he remained an alderman until 1884 when he was elected mayor. During three annual terms as mayor he spearheaded major public works projects including a dry dock and a regular ferry service between Dartmouth and Halifax. He also completely reformed Halifax’s antiquated tax system, moving from a tax on residents to a tax on property.
In politics Mackintosh was an ardent Conservative and imperialist. He supported the National Policy and promoted the concept of imperial federation as a member of the Navy League. Proud of his Scottish heritage, he was active in the North British Society. First elected to it in 1859, he filled a number of roles including secretary, senior assistant, and president. In 1895 he was made a “Perpetual Member.” By the time of his death he had set a new record for length of membership in the society – 66 years.
Mackintosh was also a Victorian moralist who felt it was his God-given responsibility to volunteer dozens of hours each week to worthy causes. Aside from his Sunday-school and YMCA involvement, he was an active member and eventually president of the Nova Scotia Society for the Prevention of Cruelty [see John Naylor*], one of the first organizations in Canada to promote child-protection legislation and to shelter wives from abusive husbands. In addition, he served for a time as vice-president of the Halifax School for the Blind [see Sir Charles Frederick Fraser], a member of the executive committee of the Moral Reform Association, and treasurer of the Children’s Aid Society. He also sat on the board of governors of Dalhousie University from 1905 to 1919. His wife was active in the Halifax Local Council of Women, of which she was first president, and in such benevolent institutions as the Halifax Infants’ Home and the Home for the Aged.
Despite failing health Mackintosh clung to his business until 1922 when he was forced to turn over the reins to his son Alexander Forrester and his son-in-law John E. Wood, both of whom worked as brokers in the firm. His sincere hope was that the company would carry on after his death. It was not to be. Mackintosh succumbed to old age and illness on 8 May 1924 and the firm he had worked so hard to build was sold to a Montreal-based investment broker before the end of the year.
Halifax County Court of Probate (Halifax), Estate papers, no.10722. NSARM, MG 1, 1731. British Colonist (Halifax), 17 April 1869. Evening Echo (Halifax), 9 May 1924. Presbyterian Witness (Halifax), 21 March 1857: 42–43. Annals, North British Society of Halifax, 1924–1949 (Halifax, 1949), 10–11. Canada Gazette, 29 Nov. 1924: 1603–4. Canadian men and women of the time (Morgan; 1912). Dalhousie College and Univ., Calendar (Halifax), 1905/6. Dalhousie Univ., President’s report (Halifax), 1918/19. History of the Bank of Nova Scotia, 1832–1900, together with copies of annual statements ([Halifax, 1901]). J. C. Mackintosh and Company, The investor’s manual for the Maritime provinces of Canada (Halifax), 1912 (copy in NSARM, Library, Vert. file). G. P. Marchildon, Profits and politics: Beaverbrook and the Gilded Age of Canadian finance (Toronto, 1996). Joseph Schull and J. D. Gibson, The Scotiabank story: a history of the Bank of Nova Scotia, 1832–1982 (Toronto, 1982). D. M. Sinclair, Fort Massey Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia, 1871–1971: a century of witness ([Halifax, 1971]). G. A. White, Halifax and its business . . . ([Halifax, 1876]).