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History of the Bank of Nova Scotia 1832-1900

THE Hon. M. B. Almon resigned the Presidency on 17th September, 1870. Two days later Mr. James Donaldson, who, as Vice President, had been acting for him for some months, was chosen to fill his place, serving until the annual meeting of March, 1871, when Mr. John Doull was elected. On 25th August, 1871, Mr. A. M. Uniacke was elected Vice-President, and in March, 1872, was chosen President, with Mr. J. S. Maclean, Vice-President.

The new management infused fresh vigor into the institution, the resulting profits enabling the Directors to report to the Shareholders in March, 1872, that both as respects its finances and credit it may now be said to have recovered from the effects of the loss by its late “Cashier.”

After 1870 the Bank closed its books on 31st December instead of a month later, and at the annual meeting on 6th March, 1872, a new set of Bye-laws was adopted in accordance with the general banking law of Canada, which had taken the place of its charter. By those regulations the number of Directors was reduced to seven, and the stock qualification of a Director raised to three thousand dollars. In February, 1873, the accumulated earnings were sufficient to allow a transfer from Reserve Fund to Capital Account of $55,066.67, which restored the latter to the figure at which it stood prior to October, 1871, viz.: $560,000, Old Nova Scotia Currency, and the Directors were empowered to withdraw from the profits to be earned in 1873, whenever they saw fit, the sum of $14,933.33, so as to raise the capital to $560,000 Canada Currency. In the summer of 1873 the capital was increased to $750,000 by public sale of new stock—the prices averaging about $242 per share of $200.

Mr. J. S. Maclean became President and Mr. John Doull Vice President in 1874.

About this time the work of opening Agencies began in earnest. North Sydney had been opened in November, 1867. Kentville Agency commenced operations in July, 1870; Amherst in June, 1871. In June, 1874, an Agency was opened at St. John, N. B., in the Maritime Bank Building, over the Bank of Montreal offices ; and on the 6th May, 1875, Mr. Thomas Fyshe, to whom much of the Bank’s subsequent progress is due, there entered the service of the Bank as Agent. The Cushing Building on Prince William Street was bought and occupied the year following and until it was burned in the great fire of June, 1877. Two months later the Board had accepted plans and specifications for the present building, which stands on the same site. The lot adjoining the Banking House at Halifax had been purchased in 1874, and a building with sandstone front erected. An Agency was opened at Annapolis for the second time in December, 1876; Bridgetown and Digby were started as Sub-Agencies to it early the next year. Liverpool was opened (for the second time) in June, 1879.

At the annual meeting in February, 1876, the number of Directors was changed from seven to five—Messrs. Donaldson and Uniacke having resigned their seats during the preceding year.

Mr. Menzies, who had been granted an extended furlough on account of declining health, resigned the position of Cashier in March, 1876, being then in France; and died shortly afterward.

Mr. Thomas Fyshe, who had been acting in that capacity, was appointed Cashier on 5th April, and a thorough systemizing of the Bank’s growing business was begun.

The first visit of Barnum’s circus to Halifax was the means of introducing the Bank of Nova Scotia to a new adversary, the sneak thief. On 1st August, 1876, the Cashier being out of town on an inspecting trip, the entire staff, unable to resist the temptation to gratify their curiosity, quitted their posts and stood on the doorsteps, to see the passing show. They of course barred the public entrance, but a man of decent appearance applied to the janitor’s wife at the north door for permission to go into the cellar to search for some article which he said he had dropped through the iron grating in the sidewalk. Being at once admitted, he descended the janitor’s stair, crossed the cellar, gained the banking room by its stair, helped himself to all the money he could conveniently hide about his person, $21,597.51, and went back by the way he had come. Two men were arrested on suspicion that night at Bedford—a few miles from town—but, after two trials, acquitted, sufficient evidence to convict not being obtainable. These two men have since “served time” for other thefts; and the principal actor has recounted to a detective how this robbery had been planned and carried out.

The general depression resulting from the collapse of the industry which principally had brought Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island before the world—that of wooden shipbuilding—was beginning to be' felt about 1877. Failures became the order of the day, bringing heavy losses to the banks. Indeed, so severe was the depression and so considerable the losses that the operations of the banks of these provinces, taken in the aggregate, produced a net return for the ten years ending with 1886, of only about four per cent, per annum on the total capital employed. With three exceptions—the Bank of Nova Scotia being one — no Bank in the Maritime Provinces earned enough to pay the dividends declared: so that the banking capital was somewhat less in 1886 than in 1874.

The Bank of Liverpool (N. S.) went into liquidation in June, 1879, the Bank of Nova Scotia being the principal creditor. The latter Bank, in the person of its Cashier, was afterwards appointed assignee, and after much litigation wound up the affairs of the former.

In May, 1881, the Bank made a free grant to the City of Halifax of a considerable piece of land, which it owned, to help in establishing Point Pleasant Park.

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