Beck, Adam


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(1857–1925), manufacturer, civil servant, public power advocate. Born into a prosperous, entrepreneurial family in Waterloo County, Canada West, Beck received some secondary education at nearby private academies, but he did not excel and instead entered the family manufacturing business. In the 1880s he started his own firm manufacturing cigar boxes in Galt, then London, Ontario; its success soon raised him to prominence in London. In 1902 he was elected mayor and local MPP. Once in public life, Beck was drawn into the movement for publicly supplied electric power. With him as leader, the idea of a public commission to distribute hydroelectricity, at cost, to the province's municipalities gained both popular (fairly easily) and political (not so easily) support. When Ontario created its Hydro-Electric Power Commission in 1906, Beck was named chairman, a post he held the rest of his life. The commission was opposed by Toronto's big industrial capitalists, but Beck stood his ground and for doing so became something of a legend. By the 1920s, after some well-publicized financial irregularities, his noble commission had lost its shine, but upon his death Beck was still a hero, and his name was soon memorialized throughout the region.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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