From: "Representative Canadians - A Cyclopedia of Canadian Biography
being chiefly men of the Time"
Ed. Geo MacLean Rose, Rose Publishing Company, Toronto, 1888
Weir, W., Banker, Montreal.—There are few better known faces on the streets of Montreal than that of the above named gentleman, head of the banking firm of W. Weir & Sons, and president of the Banque Ville Marie.
Mr. Weir was born at Greenden, near Brechlin, Scotland, on the 28th October, 1823, and came to Canada in 1842. Like a good many successful Canadians, he began life as a teacher, having taken charge of a public school before he was twenty years of age. After two years engaged in this honorable but ill remunerated occupation, during which time he devoted himself to the study of the French language, and having further improved his knowlodge of that language by a short course at St. Thérése College, Mr. Weir accepted a bookkeeper’s situation in Montreal, commencing business on his own account in 1849.
In 1856 he removed to Toronto, where he remained till 1859, when he returned to Montreal. During his stay in Toronto he published and edited the Canadian Merchants’ Magazine, a monthly periodical, the vigorous style of its editorials soon bringing their author into notice. In 1858 he took the prize of the Upper Canadian Board of Arts for the best essay on the manufactures of Canada, and contributed many articles to the local press on financial and commercial subjects. Among the early promoters of what has since become known as the National Policy, Mr. Weir was a leading spirit. At his suggestion, and largely through his exertions, the great convention of manufacturers was convened at Toronto in 1858. At this convention Mr. Weir was the secretary, and he held the same position in the “Association for the promotion of Canadian Industry” then formed. This society embraced among its members many prominent members of Parliament, and its exertions and influence secured the changes in the tariff of 1858 which gave the first great impulse to Canada’s manufacturing industries.
To the present generation, Mr. Weir is best remembered for his successful efforts to effect the removal of the “silver nuisance.” The suspension of specie’ payments in the United States, in 1862, caused a large influx into Canada of American silver coin, which, passing current in retail transactions and in payment of wages, but not being bankable, caused great loss and inconvenience to the public, who had daily to carry nearly all their receipts to the brokers’ offices, to be sold at a discount for bankable funds. For several years Mr. Weir urged upon the Government the importance of removing the evil, and at his suggestion one million dollars was exported at the public expense, he himself exporting a similar amount by contract with the leading commercial houses. In 1869, he attempted to export two millions more, but the attempt fell through owing to inadequate support. Early in 1870 (the late Hon. Sir Francis Hincks having become finance minister), Mr. Weir succeeded in obtaining the aid of the governnment to remove the whole depreciated coin from circulation. He contracted with the Government to effect its removal, and carried through that great work with complete success. Five million dollars were exported between March and July, 1870, at a cost to the Dominion ex-chequer of $118,000, the Government being recouped by assuming the one and two dollar note circulation, a measure suggested by Mr. Weir to meet the objection on the score of expense. Seventy banks and bank agencies assisted in the work, the shipments being made from every place of importance between Quebec and Sarnia. The coin was purchased at five, five and half, and six per cent discount, for half and quarter dollar pieces, the smaller coin to extent of $500,000, being exported by Mr. Weir at his own expense, making the total amount exported by him over seven million dollars, or over two hundred waggon loads.
Since 1870, Mr. Weir has taken an active part in discussing the leading financial questions of the hour. He assisted in reorganizing the Jacques Cartier Bank, of which he was vice-president when offered the presidency of the Banque VilIe Marie, a position he has held for the last six years, during which period the bank has trebled its business and strengthened its position. To the people of Cote St. Antoine and west end of Montreal, he is best known for his services and public spirit in securing the opening up of Western Avenue, destined to be the great western entrance into the city.
Mr. Weir married, in 1849, a daughter of the late John
Somerville, of Chatham, P.Q., and has five sons living, and one
son and one daughter deceased. Three sons are in business; the two youngest
are graduates of McGill University, Arthur
Weir, the youngest being already well known as talented writer both
in prose and verse.
Ed. Henry James Morgan, Toronto, William Briggs, Richmond St. W., 1898
Weir, William, banker, was born at Greenden, near Brechin, Scotland on October 28, 1823. Coming to Canada in 1842, he served for 2 years, as a public school teacher. After taking a course in French at the College at Ste. Thérése, P.Q., he commenced business as an exchange broker in Montreal, laying the foundation of the afterwards well-known firm of W. Weir & Sons.
He resided in Toronto, 1856-59, and published for some years the Canadian Merchants’ Magazine. Both in this periodical and in the daily press, he wrote marry valuable articles on financial and commercial subjects. He was an early advocate of the principle of protection to native industries. At his suggestion, and largely through his exertions, a convention of manufacturers was called in Toronto, 1858, which resulted in the formation of the “Association for the Promotion of Canadian Industry.” Of this body he was for some time the Secretary.
In 1870 his name came prominently before the public in connection with the abatement of the “American Silver Nuisance,” his services on the occasion being afterwards acknowledged by the presentation to him, on behalf of the people of Canada, of a solid silver service. In 1879 he organized the movement which resukted in changing the policy of the Jacques Cartier Bank. He became V.P.. of that institution, resigning the same, l882, to take the presidency of La Banque Ville Marie, which institution he has placed in a sound financial condition.
In 1893 Mr. Weir addressed a letter through the pubhc press to the President and members of Congress of the U. S., in which he very ably discussed the financial situation in that country, and suggested the adoption of certain remedial measures.
Mr. Weir was one of the pioneers of Westmount, the leading suburb of Montreal, where he holds considerable property. It is to his efforts that this thriving town owes “ Western Avenue.” he having contributed largely both in land and money to secure this the principal entrance to Montreal from that quarter.
He is President of the Cote St. Antoine Road Co. A member of the Anglican Church. He married in 1849, Elizabeth Somerville, youngest daughter of the late John Somerville of Chatham, P.Q. (she died April, 1896).
residence: — 4112 Western Ave., Westmount, Montreal
see also: his son Arthur Weir and his son Frank Weir