Sunday, September 4, 2011

Lord Strathcona's Terrifying Eyebrows

Sir Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, Montreal, QC, 1895
Wm. Notman & Son II-110266.0
© McCord Museum
Donald Smith seems to be everywhere in Canadian history.  Notorious for betraying Sir John A Macdonald during the Pacific Scandal, Pierre Berton wrote that "If, in 1878, the Member for Selkirk had risen in the House to support motherhood, it is concievable that Macdonald and his followers would have been strongly tempted to opt for matricide." Getting his start in the Hudson Bay Company, Smith eventually became one of the primary shareholders in the Canadian Pacific Railroad, was accepted into the peerage as Lord Strathcona, and organized a regiment of cavalry for service in the Boer War.  How did he become so powerful?  Perhaps, as Pierre Berton wrote in The National Dream, it was something in his face.

Manitoba Historical Society

"There was something a little frightening about Donald A. Smith. Perhaps it was the eyebrows - those bristling, tangled tufts that jutted out to mask the cold, uncommunicative grey eyes and provide their owner with a perpetual frown. At fifty-eight, his face leathered by the hard glare of the Labrador snows, his sandy locks and flowing beard frosted by the years, Smith had the look of a Biblical patriarch."
Glenbow Museum Archives NA-2597-13
 Lord Strathcona and Father Lacombe, Edmonton, Alberta. September 7, 1909 Photographer/Illustrator: Byron-May Company Limited, Edmonton, Alberta

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