Memorable Manitobans: Wesley McCurdy (1881-1961)
Businessman, publisher, community activist.
Born near Winnipeg on 2 April 1881, son of Alexander McCurdy and Isabella Downey, he occupied high positions in the publishing and advertising business in Winnipeg over a 48-year career. Educated at Wesley College, he graduated with a BA from the University of Manitoba in 1900. As a student, he received awards in the areas of mathematics, Latin, and chemistry.
In 1901, he began working with the Winnipeg Free Press becoming Advertising Manager four years later. He was briefly employed by the Grain Growers’ Guide before leaving this organization to work with the McPherson-McCurdy Advertising Agency, a firm he organized with R. J. McPherson. In 1913, he left this firm to return to the Free Press as director, secretary-treasurer and assistant to the general manager. This professional relationship ended in July 1924 when he became Business Manager of the Winnipeg Tribune. In January 1936, he was appointed Vice-President and Managing Director of the Tribune Newspaper Company Limited, eventually taking on the title of Publisher. In 1942, he was elected Vice-President of the Southam Company Limited, a position he continued to serve after his retirement in 1948.
McCurdy was Director of the Canadian Press (1936-1941, 1942-1943, 1944-1945) and served as Director, Vice-President (1941-1942), and President (1942-1944) of the Canadian Daily Newspapers’ Association. In addition to his association with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, he also held a number of offices on the Winnipeg Board of Trade that included a period as President (1932-1935).
Interested in the development of tourism, he was one of the founders of the Manitoba Tourist and Convention Bureau, serving as its president in 1935. He was known to be the originator of the Pine to Palm Tour (1926), a motorcade that traveled from Winnipeg to New Orleans. A keen sportsman, McCurdy was also president of the St. Charles Country Club (1944 and 1945).
Other organizations to which he donated his time included the Aviation League of Manitoba, the Winnipeg Auditorium Commission (member and chairman), the Back-to-the-Land Assistance Association, the Greater Winnipeg Housing and Planning Association, the Community Chest, and the Board of Regents at United College. In 1946, he was given an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws by the University of Manitoba.
He died at Victoria, British Columbia on 15 September 1961. He is commemorated by McCurdy Street in Winnipeg.
“Members of air tour guests at social function,” Winnipeg Free Press, 14 September 1932, page 5.
“M’Curdy elected head Winnipeg Board of Trade,” Winnipeg Free Press, 1 April 1933, page 16.
“Delegates arrive here for Chamber of Commerce meet,” Winnipeg Free Press, 10 September 1934, page 5.
Obituary, Winnipeg Free Press, 18 September 1961, page 17.
We thank Nathan Kramer for providing additional information used here.
Page revised: 28 June 2014
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