TAYLOR, HENRY, businessman; b. 14 Oct. 1841 in London, England, son of Daniel Taylor and Sarah —; m. 25 Dec. 1863 Charlotte Hunter, and they had a son and two daughters; d. 28 April 1893 in London, Ont.
Henry Taylor immigrated to Canada in 1862, at which time he was attached to the British commissariat. Retiring the following year, he opened a banking firm in London, known successively as Taylor’s Bank and the Banking House of Henry Taylor. As one of the most visible of London’s late 19th-century entrepreneurs, Taylor involved himself in a variety of local, regional, and international ventures. He was simultaneously a banker; a director of the Macfie, Taylor, and Sifton Oil Refining Company; an agent for both the Allan steamship line [see Sir Hugh Allan*] and the Great Western Railway; and a correspondent for the English firm of McCulloch and Company, the Merchant’s Bank of New York, the Merchants’ Bank of Canada, and the Molsons Bank. In 1872 he helped establish the Dominion Savings and Investment Society and eight years later the Ontario Investment Association, of which he was managing director until 1887. Taylor purchased the Bennett Furniture Factory in 1884 and a year later he was elected a director of the Carling Brewing and Malting Company, a position he held until 1887. In 1886, with several local businessmen, he organized the London and Petrolia Barrel Company. Concurrent with these endeavours, he served as a director of the Stevens, Turner, and Burns Manufacturing Company, the British America Fire and Life Assurance Company in Toronto, and the Huron and Lambton Mortgage Company.
Despite his varied associations, London’s business community probably best remembered Taylor for his presidency of the Bank of London in Canada, which was incorporated in 1883 after Taylor had closed out his own banking firm. For some time the Bank of London, which shared offices with the Ontario Investment Association, enjoyed the patronage of prominent local people. Those who knew Taylor by his reputation as an astute financier and those who shared in his entrepreneurial endeavours gave their business to the bank.
By August 1887, partially because of over-speculation during the 1880s, the bank appeared to be in some difficulty and the directors agreed to negotiate a transfer of its assets to the Bank of Toronto. In the midst of negotiations, Taylor travelled to Toronto on 12 August, ostensibly to complete the arrangements. From there he wired to his associates in London that he was resigning as president of the bank and continuing on to Alexandria Bay, N. Y., on his doctor’s advice for a much-needed vacation. One week later, the bank suspended payment and, owing to questions regarding the bank’s solvency, the sheriff seized Taylor’s books for auditing.
Although Londoners speculated that his creditors had promised Taylor immunity from arrest should he return to unravel the affair, evidence suggests that, threatened with prosecution as a debtor in New York State, he chose rather to return to London. He arrived on 27 August and was arrested on 2 September under a capias issued at the request of Richard Martin Meredith, a director of the Ontario Investment Association. Meredith initiated civil proceedings against him, charging that he had reneged on a contract to purchase Meredith’s stock in the association. On 16 Jan. 1888 the Court of Queen’s Bench awarded Meredith $15,337 and costs.
Despite the reluctance of many shareholders, Meredith and Newenham P. Graydon had also precipitated criminal action against Taylor. The indictment alleged that, during the time that Taylor had occupied executive posts in both the Ontario Investment Association and the Bank of London, he had falsified loans and written cheques on the account of the former, totalling $15,000. These funds were deposited to private accounts. The crown attorney, however, admitted that Taylor may have been guilty more of irregular business habits than of embezzlement. Although the charges were dismissed at the spring assizes in 1888, Taylor, who had been bankrupted by bad investments and was thus unable to honour the civil judgement, spent a year in debtor’s prison. After his release he returned for a short time to the banking business with a former partner, Henry Sifton. Taylor died in 1893.
Henry Taylor, perhaps, exemplified the dangers of over-speculation in a period of economic flux. The Bank of London was one of a number of small Ontario banks to fail during the financial crisis of the 1880s as a result of the manipulation of bank stock, a flurry of land sales and uncontrolled speculations, and the consequent instability of the banking system. The failure of the London bank, coupled with the severe sanctions against visibly questionable business Practices imposed by the contemporary commercial community, accounts for Henry Taylor’s failure to secure for himself a permanent place in London’s entrepreneurial élite.
London City Registry Office (London, Ont.), Co-partnership reg., no.1068, 23 Feb. 1889, and original docs. Ont., Office of the Registrar General (Toronto), Deaths, registration no.1893-05–342578. UWOL, Regional Coll., Bank of London in Canada papers, W. N. Clarke and J. G. Esler, “The Bank of London in Canada” (n.d.); D. W. Shales, “The Bank of London in Canada” (1936); Middlesex County, Ont., Chancery Court records, cases, 1888–89; Clerk of the Peace, Criminal Court records, brief of Charles Hutchinson, spring 1888; examinations of witnesses at police magistrate’s court, January 1888; letter of gaol surgeon to Hutchinson regarding Taylor’s health, January 1888; recognizances; High Court of Justice, procedure book, 1886–88. London Advertiser, 1 Aug. 1887–30 May 1888, 29 April 1893. London Free Press, 1 Aug. 1887–30 May 1888. Hist. of Middlesex.