Aiken, William Maxwell

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William Maxwell Aitken, was born in Maple, Ont. on 25 May 1879, and died in Cherkley, Mickleham, Eng. on 9 June 1964.

He was the son of a Presbyterian minister. In 1880 his family moved to Newcastle, NB. A clever if mischievous boy, "Max" displayed a passion for money-making. He dabbled in journalism and sold insurance before becoming a clerk in a Chatham, NB, law office. There he began his lifelong friendships with R.B. Bennett and James Dunn. In 1897 he abandoned law school to follow them to Calgary, where he operated a bowling alley and then moved to Edmonton before returning to the Maritimes.

In 1900 he began selling bonds, particularly those of expanding industries and Canadian-based utilities. He joined the Royal Securities Corp as manager in 1903 and within 5 years was a millionaire. He moved to Montréal and concentrated on promoting new companies and merging old ones, his most notable creations being Stelco and Canada Cement.

In 1910 he moved to London, Eng, where he pursued his business interests and entered politics. Guided by Andrew Bonar Law, Aitken won a seat for the Conservatives in the second general election of 1910. He championed tariffs and imperial unity and was knighted in 1911. During WWI he represented the Canadian government at the front and wrote "Canada in Flanders". His aptitude for political tactics was revealed by his part in Lloyd George's accession as PM.

In 1917 he was made a peer, taking the title Beaverbrook after a village near Newcastle, N.B., his Canadian home. He was planning to take the title, "Miramichi", but Rudyard Kipling convinced him that the name Miramichi would be widely mispronounced. He became minister of information in 1918.

Churchill became a close friend and during WWII he made Beaverbrook Minister of Supply. His biggest task was to improve aircraft production famously calling on housewives to donate their aluminium pots and pans to make planes. As minister of aircraft production in Churchill's wartime government, Aiken galvanized the aircraft industry. Other wartime appointments followed, but despite his bullish determination Aiken lacked the temperament for lasting political success and left politics in 1945 and established a chain of British newspapers. He bought the Daily Express and the Evening Standard and created the Sunday Express. He also wrote books on his wartime experiences.

SOURCE: The Canadian Encyclopedia

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                                                      MAX AITKEN
                                                   Lord Beaverbrook

Max Aitken attended public school in Newcastle spent some time studying law the University of New Brunswick. Visions of wealth and power took effect in Lord Beaverbrook’s early twenties and so successful were his business ventures, that at the age of thirty, he was reported to have accumulated assets worth more than thirty million dollars.

Lord Beaverbrook entered the political arena in England in 1910 and sat in the House of Commons from 1910-16. His first honour came when he was knighted in 1911; he was created a baronet in 1916 and was raised to the Peerage in 1917 as the First Baron Beaverbrook of Beaverbrook, New Brunswick and Cherkley, Surrey, England. It is probable that the political life of Lord Beaverbrook was climaxed in his work as Minister of Aircraft Production in 1940-41 and we are proud of the part he played in paving the way for final victory. Much as Lord Beaverbrook is noted for many other activities, it is a publisher and builder of a newspaper empire that he is best remembered, and as a philanthropist whose generosity has endowed our town and, indeed, the whole of New Brunswick, with many fine buildings of culture, education and recreation.

Source: North Shore Leader – June 26, 1974 This text is available for use under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License. For more information, select the following link:


                                                           MAX AITKEN
                                           PUBLISHED HIS FIRST NEWSPAPER AT AGE 14

Through the kindness of Mr. Earle MacDonald, cadet instructor, the Advocate has received three copies of The Leader published in Newcastle in Nov. 23, Nov. 30, Dec. 9. The paper was printed on the Advocate press and was published by The Leader Publishing Co., W. Max Aitken, Manager.

The Leader was a four-page paper with four columns to a page and was bright and ambitious.

The manager and editor of The Leader, W. Max Aitken, was at the time a pupil of Harkins Academy, and is today Lord Beaverbrook, a world leader in the publishing of newspapers in the great city of London. The Leader with its few hundred circulation struggling to improve conditions in the humble town of Newcastle is now the mighty Daily Express with its circulation around two million, making and breaking Imperial governments, but still engaged in the owner’s ambition and struggle to make the British Empire something better to live in.

                                                             WE LEAD

The Leader of thirty-seven years ago had for its slogan “We Lead, Let Those Follow Who Can” and in the light of after events the slogan applies to immense daily as it applied to the small weekly. It is expressive of ambition and of confidence and of the naturally begotten issue of these two, “progress.”

In the issue of Nov. 23, it is recorded that the barque Ruby arrived the night before on its fourth voyage in the season from England and docked at the Ritchie Wharf. Throngs of people lined the banks and the “Boys Band discoursed some lively music.”

In an editorial, all and sundry readers are invited to express their views in the columns of the paper, but this invitation is impliedly only for the Harkins pupils.

Prizes of a pair of genuine Acme skates and a pearl-handled jack knife are offered for the best essays on Newcastle’s industries. These are open to pupils under the age of 15.

A hole in the sidewalk on the back road into which a belated citizen returning to his home put his foot a few nights previous and a number of rowdies around the post office are some of the things which correspondents complained of.

The issue of Nov. 30 contains a somewhat lengthy and learned article on St. Andrew’s Day. It also records the marriage on November 29th of Mr. R. H. Armstrong and Miss Minnie C. Russell. Master James Stables coasting down a hill collided with a horse and sled coming up “the sled passed over his leg” ended the paragraph without mention of the net results as far as Master James was concerned.

Willie Boltenhouse left for Quebec. Willie used to play in the Boy’s Band and has joined a similar organization in the ancient capital.

A discontinuance of the paper till after Christmas was advertised in the December 9th issue. In this issue, the editorial is on “Our Teachers,” and opens with the statement that “not all our teachers are confined in Harkins Academy,” and continues with a wise treatise on the many objects we meet in life which may be our teachers; sort of a “sermon in stones and books in running brooks” idea.

The following notice should have proved of interest to at least one of the Academy pupils:

There is in Grade 8 a little ear who can not take a hint. He is being a nuisance to one and all.”

Altogether the paper is a wonderful product for one so young as the then W. Max Aitken was, and its perusal was most interesting.

Source: North Shore Leader – May 19, 1976

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                                                         MAX AITKEN

With the CBC preparing a documentary on Lord Beaverbrook (Max Aitken) there is a renewed interest in man whose boyhood was spent in Newcastle.

At the Old Manse Library there is one copy of THE LEADER, a newspaper established and published by Max Aitken when he was 14 years old. This copy came from the Beaverbrook Library in London, England. At one time, there were copies of all three issues at the office of the Union Advocate in Newcastle. Presumably, these were lost in a fire which destroyed the Advocate building.

The files of several years of the Advocate are now in the Old Manse Library. This paper was established in 1867 and continued into the 1940s. Max Aitken was born in 1879 and published his early newspaper in 1893.

Librarian, Edith MacAllister told us what happened to cause the demise of the young entrepreneur’s first business venture.

                                                           LONG HOURS

The Harkins Student wrote the news and editorials for his paper, sold the advertising, and then sold the papers. This required long hours of work. Also, like editors before and since, he had trouble meeting a deadline. The third issue of his newspaper went to press late Saturday night.

Max’s father, who was the Presbyterian Clergyman here, had gone to bed to rest before his busy day. However, when he realized his 14-year-old son was not home at midnight, Mr. Aitken got up, dressed, and went to the printing office. Since it was after midnight, young Max was working on the Sabbath. The father promptly put a stop to boy’s first business venture.

Incidentally, The North Shore Leader, which began in 1906, was not named after Aitken’s LEADER, which had been published 13 years earlier. The North Shore Leader was established by George F. McWilliam, Mrs. MacAllister, a daughter, said her father probably hadn’t heard of the little paper published by a school boy a few years earlier.

Source: North Shore Leader – May 19, 1976

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