Sir James Hamet Dunn

(1874—1956) financier

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(1874–1956), financier and steel magnate. Born in humble circumstances on New Brunswick's North Shore, young Dunn forsook the declining fortunes of Atlantic Canada, taking with him only a strong Presbyterian will to succeed. Like childhood friends Max Aitken and Richard Bennett, Dunn discerned that power emanated from the metropolitan centres that oversaw Canada's economic successes in the Laurier years. A Dalhousie law degree (1898) opened the way to the art of business promotion, first in Edmonton, then in Canada's financial capital, Montreal. Marriage into the lumber-rich Price family and a seat on the Montreal Stock Exchange positioned Dunn on the threshold of finance capitalism with lavish profits skimmed off heady industrial development. Dunn flourished in the cutthroat world of transatlantic finance and was by 1906 a merchant banker in London. Adept at arbitrage and market manipulation, he was soon a millionaire and a prince of promotion, underwriting cutting-edge technologies ranging from ‘artificial silk’ to hydroelectric power. Sybaritic social and sexual indulgence, political influence, and a wartime baronetcy followed. When the Depression undermined finance capitalism, Dunn returned home and unscrupulously gained control of Algoma Steel, Canada's second-largest steelmaker, in Sault Ste Marie. From 1935 to his death, he dictatorially ruled Algoma, using the hothouse economy of war and post-war boom to modernize its plant and expand its wares. Although much favoured by C. D. Howe, Dunn was a last breath of Carnegie-style capitalism in Canada—flinty and religiously laissez-faire. Thrice married, Dunn left an estate of $70 million, duties on which were used to establish the Canada Council.

From The Oxford Companion to Canadian History in Oxford Reference.

Subjects: History of the Americas.

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