TROOP, HOWARD DOUGLAS, businessman; b. 10 July 1839 in Granville Ferry, N.S., son of Jacob Valentine Troop* and Catherine Fellows; m. 21 Aug. 1862 Mary Ann McLauchlan (d. 1906) in Saint John, and they had four daughters and three sons; d. there 1 April 1912.
In 1840 Jacob V. Troop took his family to Saint John, where he opened a flour and general provisions store. Seven years later, having purchased a half-interest in a 60-ton schooner, he began to trade with the West Indies. His subsequent early vessels were small brigantines, but after the West Indies trade became less lucrative in the 1860s he switched to vessels of larger tonnage for transoceanic voyages. In 1860 Howard joined the firm – the Howard, launched that year, commemorated the event – and in 1864 he became a partner in Troop and Son. The firm was noted for its superior class of vessel and its able masters; each master was given a small interest in the ships he commanded. When Jacob died in 1881, Howard took over the firm and he would continue its management until his death in 1912.
Unlike most New Brunswick shipowners in the 1880s and 1890s Troop attempted to update his fleet. He was among the first Canadian owners to buy an iron vessel, the Troop in 1884, and the first New Brunswicker to own a steel barque, the Nellie Troop, acquired in 1889. He had also attempted to initiate a steamer service between Saint John and Liverpool, England, with the Cedar Grove in 1881. However, these bold steps were offset by financial losses; between 1881 and 1900, 46 of Troop and Son’s ships were lost. Since they were often uninsured, the firm endured extreme financial hardships. The Cedar Grove, for example, was lost just a year after it was purchased. In 1891 the loss of the new steel ship Josephine Troop almost forced the failure of the company. Troop offered his creditors 25 cents on the dollar. Family stories suggest that bankruptcy was averted only because a son-in-law invested heavily in the firm.
Troop had a number of related business interests. In 1871 he had become a partner with Charles H. Wright as a ship chandler and commission merchant on Water Street. By 1875 C. H. Wright and Company was grossing $100,000 annually. The same partners also set up the firm of Troop and Wright at the Custom-House Wharf. They imported common and refined iron, bolt and sheathing metal, anchors, chains, and spikes, as well as other goods. Although in competition with several older firms, the firm then had “a leading position in their line of business.” Nevertheless, the partnership seems to have been dissolved shortly thereafter. By 1877 Troop was a partner with his brother-in-law Charles McLauchlan in Troop and McLauchlan, ship chandlers on Water Street. The firm was burned out in the great fire of that year but was rebuilt and survived for almost 20 years. In 1882 Troop was a director, and in 1883 vice-president and managing director, of the short-lived New Brunswick Steamship Company Limited. In the early 1890s he was president of the Bay of Fundy Steamship Company Limited. This firm, which had begun a regular service between Saint John and Digby, N.S., in 1881, went out of business in 1899 or 1900.
In 1870 Troop had been one of a group of businessmen who incorporated the Victoria Hotel Company of the City of Saint John. The hotel, described as the best in Canada, was destroyed in the fire of 1877. Among Troop’s other interests over the years were four insurance companies, two dry dock companies, the Saint John Gymnasium Company, the International Hotel Company of the City of Saint John, the International Telegraph Company, and the Telegraph Publishing Company of Saint John. Despite the fact that he seldom insured his ships, three of the companies dealt in marine insurance. He was also a shareholder in the Maritime Bank of the Dominion of Canada, which failed in 1887.
Troop was active in several civic organizations. He was almost certainly the H. D. Troop, clerk, who was listed as a gunner in the New Brunswick Regiment of Artillery in 1866. A member of Centenary Methodist Church, he sang in its choir, as had his father, and served on the musical committee. His interest in both music and business is reflected in his being an incorporator of the Saint John Academy of Music in 1870. During the celebration of Queen Victoria’s jubilee in 1887, he sat on the city’s general and regatta committees. He also served as chairman of the Saint John Pilot Commission from 1879 to 1910 and was a life member of the Saint John Protestant Orphan Asylum. He and his wife were socially active as well, and were known as elegant and generous entertainers in their Second Empire brick home at 70 Orange Street.
In the 1890s Troop and Son had continued on a reduced scale. The firm’s last ship, the Howard D. Troop, a four-masted, 2,165-ton steel vessel built in Scotland, was completed in 1892. Economic conditions continued to deteriorate, however. Writing in 1904 to the widow of David Lynch, who had built many ships in the Troop fleet, Troop noted that “the vessels under our management in which your late husband was interested are making a very poor showing in addition to the fact they were getting old.” “I have seen tough times with ships,” he continued “and have passed through some very hard experiences, but never any approaching the present, and fail to see where there is a possibility of improvement.” It was in these circumstances that Troop sold his remaining vessels, retaining only his namesake, the Howard D. Troop. After his death the vessel was sold to a firm in San Francisco. Laid up in 1921, it was broken up in 1934. Its figurehead, a representation of Troop, is now on exhibit in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park aboard the Balclutha.
Troop has been described as “the admiral of the greatest fleet ever sent out of a Canadian port.” From 1860 the flag of the Troop fleet, a red T within a white diamond on a blue ground, had flown from 96 vessels in all. The company ceased to exist in 1912, and all corporate records were destroyed. In 1967 Troop’s descendants placed a plaque on the firm’s former building at 162 Prince William Street. It notes, in part, that the Troop vessels “were renowned for their excellence in design, beauty and performance in every major port throughout the world during the golden age of sail.”
Partridge Island Research Project (Saint John), Lynch family file, “List of vessels owned by David Lynch on November the 18th, 1889”; H. D. Troop to Mrs M. A. Lynch, 11 Jan. 1905; Troop family file, photograph of Troop fleet plaque; “The Troop family” (typescript nos. l–2, based on the scrapbooks of Helen G. Troop White, 1879–c. 1895). Moncton Daily Times (Moncton, N.B.), 15 Sept. 1934. Telegraph-Journal (Saint John), 3 Nov. 1967. J. E. Belliveau et al., Iceboats to superferries: an illustrated history of Marine Atlantic (St John’s, 1992). Esther Clark Wright, Saint John ships and their builders (Wolfville, N.S., ). Directory, Saint John, 1874/75–1896/97. Early Saint John Methodism and history of Centenary Methodist Church, Saint John, N.B.; a jubilee souvenir, ed. G. A. Henderson (Saint John, 1890). Historical records of the New Brunswick Regiment, Canadian Artillery, comp. J. B. M. Baxter (Saint John, 1896). George Musk, Canadian Pacific: story of the famous shipping line (Toronto, 1981). N.B., Acts, 1864–1912. Reflections of an era: portraits of 19th century New Brunswick ships, comp. R. S. Elliot and A. D. McNairn (Saint John, 1987). Souvenir of the queen’s jubilee; an account of the celebration at the city of Saint John, New Brunswick . . . (Saint John, 1887). St. John and its business: a history of St. John (Saint John, 1875). The Troop fleet in the days of sail; exhibition arranged by the department of Canadian history, the New Brunswick Museum, 1960 ([Saint John, 1960]). F. W. Wallace, The romance of a great port ([Saint John, 1935]).