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A nice letter from the 1st Baron of Shaughnessy and third President of the Canadian Pacific Railroad to Edward Giffard, Lord Halsbury, three time Lord High Chancellor of England. Lord Halsbury and his wife were about to take the Canadian Pacific Railroad across Canada and Baron Shaughnessy writes: "Dear Mr. Giffard, I am sure that you and Lady Evelyn will find your trip to the Pacific Coast over our lines interesting and enjoyable. If occasion should require it this letter will serve as an introduction to any of out officers or agents, Yours very truly T.G. Shaughnessy, President." A nice autograph letter signed by Baron Thomas George Shaughnessy on Canadian Pacific Stationary from the Office of the President to one of the major political figures of the Edwardian Age.

Historical Note


Thomas George Shaughnessy, 1st Baron Shaughnessy (1853–1923) was an American-born railway administrator who rose from modest beginnings as a clerk and bookkeeper for the Milwaukee and St. Paul Railroad to become the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway, serving in that capacity from 1899 – 1918. In recognition of his stewardship of the CPR and its contributions to the war effort during the Great War, Shaughnessy was elevated to the Peerage of the United Kingdom on 1 January 1916, becoming Baron Shaughnessy.

Thomas G. Shaughnessy, the son of Irish Catholic immigrants, was educated in public schools and at the Jesuits’ St Aloysius Academy in Milwaukee. He also studied for several months at the Spencerian Business College in that city before entering the service of the Milwaukee and St Paul Railroad at age 16. He served first as a clerk in the purchasing department and then as a bookkeeper in the supply division. In 1874 the railroad extended its service to Chicago and was renamed the Chicago, Milwaukee and St Paul, but popularly it was known simply as the Milwaukee Road.  In 1880 William Cornelius Van Horne* became the general superintendent of the Milwaukee Road and he was soon favourably impressed by Shaughnessy’s meticulous but, until then, unspectacular work in the stores department. Van Horne promoted Shaughnessy to the position of purchasing agent. Van Horne left the Milwaukee Road to become general manager of the fledgling Canadian Pacific Railway on 2 Jan. 1882 and offered Shaughnessy the position of purchasing agent for the entire CPR system.  One of Shaughnessy’s greatest accomplishments was to reduce costs as much as possible. He introduced a tight system of controls and accounting procedures in the ordering and allocation of supplies and he scrutinized all expenditures.

After 1888 the fortunes of the company improved and Van Horne became president that year. He and the directors named Shaughnessy assistant president in September 1889. In 1891 Shaughnessy became a director and was elected vice-president. Van Horne gradually assigned almost all administrative responsibilities to Shaughnessy, who succeeded him as president in 1899. The company went on to achieve remarkable success, thanks in part to good management, but mainly to the rapid settlement of the Canadian prairies. Shaughnessy was a brilliant administrator who ran one of Canada’s largest and most efficient businesses in an effective, but cautious way. During his administration the CPR, more than any other company, contributed to the building of Canada as a nation. One of the most important services the CPR provided was the transportation of prairie wheat to export markets. The main line made this possible, but it was the massive construction of branch lines and the significant reductions in freight rates during the Shaughnessy years that allowed prairie homesteaders far from the main line to establish successful farms. The railway brought in the coal with which the farmers heated their homes, but it also carried manufactured products and supplies of all kinds, dramatically expanding the economy of western Canada and connecting it with that of central Canada.

Shaughnessy was also intimately involved in the development of the Canadian Pacific’s steamship service. During his presidency newer and larger ships, tugs, barges, and ferries were acquired for service on the Great Lakes, the inland waterways of British Columbia, and the Pacific coast. A profitable steamship service from Vancouver to the Orient had been established in 1891 with three ships forming the Empress Line. This service was significantly improved during the Shaughnessy era by the construction of new Empress ships, which were then the fastest and best equipped on the Pacific. In 1902 Shaughnessy decided the company should establish its own Atlantic service. He took part in the acquisition by the CPR of two Atlantic shipping companies – the Beaver Line and the Allan Line in 1903 and 1909 respectively – and in the addition of new ships, including some of the most modern design. The Atlantic service earned only modest profits, but it made the CPR one of the world’s major shipowners.

Thomas G. Shaughnessy had been made a knight bachelor on 17 Sept. 1901, created a K.C.V.O. in 1907, and elevated to the peerage of the United Kingdom as Baron Shaughnessy on 1 Jan. 1916. He suffered a massive heart attack on 9 Dec. 1923 and died the following day. At the pinnacle of his career his identity and that of the CPR seemed inseparable. His achievement did not lie in the conception of grand designs but in the management and execution of an administrative system which carried the CPR to its greatest business success as the country’s most important and profitable multifaceted business empire.

Document Specifications:
 This is a handwritten autographed letter by George Thomas Shaughnessy dated September 26th, 1912 and addressed to Edward Giffard - Lord Halsbury, the three time Lord High Chancellor of England. The letter is four pages on one folded sheet on unwatermarked linen wove paper. Letter is on one page and a pencil docketing notation "Sir Thomas Shaughnessy, Ld Shaughnessy, President C P Ry" on the back page. Each page measures approximately 5" wide by 8" tall (130mm x 205mm). Condition is Very Fine with one horizontal fold.

Offered by Berryhill & Sturgeon, Ltd.

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