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Memorable Manitobans: William Henry Fenton (1872-1974)

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W. H. Fenton
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Educator, businessman, phonographer.

Born at Birmingham, England on 5 June 1872, he studied at the Birmingham Municipal Technical School, London University, and became an Associate of the College of Preceptors, attaining a degree of Licentiate (1904). He acquired 10 Board of Education teaching diplomas spanning theoretical and practical education, logic, mental science, physiology, mathematics, history, geography, English, Latin, French, and also held a Senior Bookkeeping Certification from the Royal Society of Arts.

Rising to prominence in the business education and phonographic communities, he was a Revising Member of Sir Isaac Pitmans Examining Board of Great Britain, a seven-year Secretary of Society of Certified Teachers of Shorthand, as well as a Fellow of the Association of Bookkeeping Teachers and British Institute of Commerce. He also taught Esperanto, himself an Esperantist. Prior to moving to Canada, he resided at Aberdare, where he held position as Senior Master of the Aberdare County School’s Civil Service and Commercial Departments.

In March 1914, he became an Incorporated Member of the Dominion Business College Limited (DBCL) of Winnipeg, immigrated to Canada later that year, and traveled to Winnipeg where he was Principal of the School and Director of General Studies (1914-1915) at the DBCL, though originally intended as a three-year term. While in Winnipeg, he was a founding member of the Pitman Writers’ Society of Winnipeg (1915) and President of the Pitman Shorthand Writers Association of Winnipeg (1915) before ending his Principalship to move to Sperling where he took the role as Principal of Sperling School (1915-1918). He remained active with the DBCL, being in charge of their Shorthand Department into 1916 before ceasing instructional involvement. He moved to British Columbia in 1918.

He settled at Vancouver and was a Commercial Teacher at a New Westminster High School (1915-?). Having earned a $29 monthly pension, he partially retired from the Magee High School at Vancouver in 1938. Soon after, he founded his own school at Kerrisdale, overseeing operations for a further ten years, before fully retiring at the age of 75. An active and long-standing Freemason, he favoured recreation with Indian clubs and was Honourary President of the King George V High School Literary Society of Vancouver (1920).

He was predeceased by his wife Edith Mabel Fryer (1875-1952). On his 98th birthday, he was paid out his life insurance death benefit, having exceeded the 12,000:1 fixed life expectancy odds used by his insurance company. He died at Victoria a few years later, on 25 March 1974 in the May Haven Rest Home.


Death registrations, British Columbia Vital Statistics.

“Eminent business college expert coming to city,” Winnipeg Tribune, 29 August 1914, page 2.

“Departure of Mr. W. H. Fenton,” Winnipeg Tribune, 26 September 1914, page 3.

“The Dominion Business College,” Winnipeg Tribune, 19 December 1914, page 2.

“New companies are Gazetted,” Manitoba Free Press, 27 March 1915, page 4.

“Pitman Writers’ Society formed,” Manitoba Free Press, 13 December 1915, page 5.

“The Dominion Business College, Ltd.,” Winnipeg Tribune, 28 February 1916, page 2.

“Appoint new teachers for New Westminster,” Vancouver Daily World, 12 July 1918, page 15.

“Vancouver teacher is appointed specialist,” Vancouver Daily World, 20 July 1918, page 17.

“Interesting debate,” Vancouver Daily World, 2 December 1920, page 6.

“Retired teacher featured,” Winnipeg Free Press, 25 August 1971, page 15.

This page was prepared by Nathan Kramer.

Page revised: 21 February 2015

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