Friday, 26 March 2010

Lord Beaverbrook

William Maxwell "Max" Aitken, 1st Baron Beaverbrook, Bt, PC, (25 May 1879 – 9 June 1964) was a Canadian-British buiness tycoon, politician, and writer.

Early career in Canada
Beaverbrook House, formerly the Old Manse Library, and earlier the boyhood home of Max Aitken, Lord Beaverbrook, in Newcastle, Miramichi, New Brunswick (IR Walker 1983)
Aitken was born in Maple
, Ontario, Canada, (near Keele Street and Major Mackenzie Drive) in 1879, the son of a Scottish-born Presbyterian minister. The following year, his family moved to Newcastle, New Brunswick, Canada, which he considered to be his home town. It was here, at the age of 13, that he published his first newspaper.
Although Aitken wrote the entrance examinations for Dalhousie University and registered at the Saint John Law School, he did not attend either institution. His only formal higher education came when he briefly attended the University of New Brunswick. Aitken worked for a short time as an office boy in the law office of Richard Bedford Bennett, in the town of Chatham, New Brunswick. Bennett later became Prime Minister of Canada and a business associate.
(Pictured right: Beaverbrook House, formerly the Old Manse Library, and earlier the boyhood home of Max Aitken, Loed Beaverbrook, in Newcastle, Miramichi, New Brunswick (IR Walker 1983).
As a young man, Aitken made his way to Halifax, Nova Scotia where John F Stairs, part of the city's dominant business family, gave him employment, training him in the busi
ness of finance. In 1904, when Stairs opened his newly formed Royal Securities Corporation, Aitken became a minority shareholder and the firm's general manager. Under the tutelage of Stairs, who would be his mentor and friend, Aitken engineered a number of successful business deals and was planning to do a series of bank mergers; however, Stairs' unexpected early death in late September 1904 led to Aitken acquiring control of the company. Stairs had given the untested and untrained Aitken an opportunity in business, just as Aitken would later do when he hired AJ Nesbitt, a young dry goods salesman from Saint John, New Brunswick. Because Montreal, Quebec was, at that time, the financial centre of Canada, Aitken would send Nesbitt to open the Montreal branch of Royal Securities.

On 29 January 1906, in Halifax, Aitken married Gladys Henderson Drury, daughter of Major-General Charles William Drury CBE and Mary Louise Drury (née Henderson). They had three children before her death in 1927.

Canada Cement Scandal
In 1910 Aitken acquired and he had the monopoly on the material. There were irregularities in the stock transfer resulting from the conglomeration of the cement plants. Aitken sold his shares, making a large amount of money. Aitken then left for England. Some say had he stayed in Canada, he would have been charged with securities fraud.
In 1912, A. J. Nesbitt left Aitken's employ to form the Nesbitt Thomson & Co, stockbrokerage. Aitken appointed employee Izaak Walton Killam as the new President of Royal Securities and sold the Canadian securities company to Killam in 1919.

To England
The year he moved to England, Aitken became Liberal Unionist Member of Parliament for Ashton-under-Lyne. After the death of Charles Rolls in 1910, Aitken bought his shares in Rolls-Royce, and over the next two years gradually increased his holding in the company. However, Claude Johnson, Rolls-Royce's Commercial Managing Director, resisted Aitkin's attempt to gain control of the company, and in October 1913 he sold his holding to J. B. Duke of American
Tobacco Company. Aitken began to build a London newspaper empire. He often worked closely with Andrew Bonar Law, another native of New Brunswick, who became the only Canadian to be Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In 1911, he was knighted by King George V.
During World War I, the Canadian government put Aitken in charge of creating the Canadian War Records Office in London, and he made certain that news of Canada's contribution to the War was printed in Canadian and British newspapers. Aitken also established the Canadian War Memorials Fund that evolved into a collection of war art by the premier artists and sculptors in Britain and Canada. His visits to the Western Front during World War I, during which he held the honorary rank of colonel in the Canadian Army, resulted in his 1916 book Canade in Flanders, a three-volume collection that chronicled the achievements of Canadian soldiers on the battlefields. After the War, he wrote several books including Politicians and the Press in 1925 and Politicians and the War in 1928.
Adding to his chain of newspapers, which included the London Evening Standard, he bought a controlling interest in the failing Daily Express from Lawson Johnson on 14 November 1916 for £17,500; he had been lending money to the paper and its proprietors since January 1911. He always obscured this transaction because it was at the same time as the Parliamentary crisis which replaced Asquith with Lloyd George, in which Aitken's ally and protegé Bonar Law played a great part. Aitken's friend and biographer, A.J.P. Taylor, states that this was a mere coincidence, brought on by Johnson's eagerness to be quit of the paper].
He was granted a peerage in 1917 as the 1st Baron Beaverbrook, the name "Beaverbrook" being adopted from a small community near his boyhood home. He had initially considered, but on the advice of Louise Manny, rejected "Lord Miramichi" as too difficult to pronounce. The name "Beaverbrook" also had the advantage of conveying a distinctive Canadian ring to the title.
In 1918 he became the first Minister of Information. He became responsible for allied propaganda in allied and neutral countries. Lord Northcliffe became a Director of Propaganda and control propaganda in enemy countries. During his time in office Beaverbrook had a number of clashes with Foreign Secretary Balfour over the use of intelligence material. Beaverbrook felt that intelligence should become part of his department, Balfour disagreed. Eventually the intelligence committee was assigned to Beaverbrook but they then resigned en masse to be re-employed by the Foreign office. Beaverbrook also came under attack from MP's who distrusted a press baron being employed by the state. He survived but became increasingly frustrated with his limited role and influence, and in September 1918 he resigned claiming ill health.

First baron of Fleet Street
Over time, Beaverbrook turned the dull newspaper into a glittering and witty journal, filled with an array of dramatic photo layouts and in 1918, he founded the Sunday Express. By 1934, daily circulation reached 1,708,000, generating huge profits for Beaverbrook whose wealth was already such that he never took a salary. Following World War II, the Daily Express became the largest selling newspaper in the world by far, with a circulation of 3,706,000. He would become known by some historians as the first baron of "Fleet Street" and as one of the most powerful men in Britain whose newspapers could make or break almost anyone. In the 1930s, while personally attempting to dissuade King Edward VIII from continuing his potentially ruinous affair with American divorcee, Wallis Simpson, Lord Beaverbrook's newspapers published every tidbit of the affair, especially allegations about pro-Nazi sympathies.
For a period of time Beaverbrook employed novelist Evelyn Waugh in London and abroad. Waugh later Lampooned his employer by portraying him as Lord Copper in Scoop and as Lord Monomark in both Put Out More Flags and Vile Bodies.

World War II
During World war II, his friend Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, appointed him as Minister of Aircraft Production and later Minister of Supply. Under Beaverbrook, fighter and bomber production increased so much so that Churchill declared: "His personal force and genius made this Aitken's finest hour". Beaverbrook's impact on war time production has been much debated but his innovative style certainly energised production at a time when it was desperately needed.
Beaverbrook also accompanied Churchill to several war time meetings with President Roosevelt. He also headed the British delegation to Moscow with American counterpart Averell Harriman. Throughout the war Beaverbrook remained a close confidante of Churchill. However this did not stop arguments between the two such as over the second front over which Beaverbrook resigned in 1942. Clement Attlee commented that 'Churchill often listened to Beaverbrook's advice but was too sensible to take it'
He gave his son, also Max Aitken (1910-1985), The Daily Express and The Sunday Express as a birthday present in 1931. Max Aitken Jr. became a fighter pilot with 601 Squadron, rising to Wing Commander with 16 victories.

The benefactor
After the war, Lord Beaverbrook served as Chancellor of the University of New Brunswick and became the university's greatest benefactor, fulfilling the same role for the city of Fredericton and the Province as a whole. He would provide additions to the University, scholarship funds, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, the Beaverbrook Skating Rink, the Lord Beaverbrook Hotel (profits donated to charity), The Playhouse, Louise Manny's early folklore work, and numerous other projects.
In 1957, a bronze statue of Lord Beaverbrook was erected at the centre of Officers' Square in Fredericton, New Brunswick, paid for by money raised by children throughout the province. A bust of him by Oscar Nemon stands in the park in the town square of Newcastle, New Brunswick not far from where he sold newspapers as a young boy. His ashes are in the plinth of the bust.
Beaverbrook was both admired and despised in England, sometimes at the same time: in his 1956 autobiography, David Low quotes H.G. Wells as saying of Beaverbrook: "If ever Max ever gets to Heaven, he won't last long. He will be chucked out for trying to pull off a merger between Heaven and Hell after having secured a controlling interest in key subsidiary companies in both places, of course."
In England he lived at Cherkley Court, near Leatherhead, Surrey. Beaverbrook remained a widower for many years until 1963 when he married Marcia Anastasia Christoforides (1910-1994), the widow of his friend Sir James Dunn. Lord Beaverbrook died in Surrey in 1964, aged 85. He had recently attended a birthday banquet organised by fellow-Canadian press baron Lord Thomson of Fleet, where he was determined to be seen on his usual good form, despite being riddled with painful cancer. The Beaverbrook Foundation continues his philanthropic interests.

Animal Crackers


Montepulciano, a medieval and Renaissance hill town and comune in the province of Siena in southern Tuscany, (Italy). Montepulciano, with an elevation of 605 m, sits on a high limestone ridge. By car it is 13 km E of Pienza; 70 km SE of Siena, 124 km SE of Florence, and 186 km north of Rome.
Montepulciano is a major producer of food and drink. Wine connoisseurs consider its Vino Nobile among Italy's best. However, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano should not be confused with the varietal wine (Montepulciano grape) of the same name. Montepulciano is also known for its pork, cheese, "pici" pasta (a thick, rough, chewy variant on spaghetti), lentils, and honey.
Montepulciano coat of arms

The name of Montepulciano derives from Latin Mons and Publicianus ("Mount of Publicianus"). According to legend, it was founded by the Etruscan King Porsenna of Chiusi; recent findings prove that a settlement was already in existence in the 4th-3rd centuries BC. In Roman times it was the seat of a garrison guarding the main roads of the area.
After the fall of the Western Roman empire, it developed as a religious center under the Lombards. In the 12th century it was repeatedly attacked by the Republic of Siena, which the Poliziani faced with the help of the Perugia and Orvieto, and sometimes Florence, communes. The 14th century was characterized by constant struggles between the local noble families, until the Del Pecora family became rulers of the town. From 1390, Montepulciano was a loyal ally (and later possession) of Florence and, until the mid-16th century, lived a period of splendour with architects such as Antonio da Sangallo the Elder, Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola, Baldassarre Peruzzi, Ippolito Scalza and others, building luxurious residences and other edifices here. In 1559, when Siena was conquered by Florence and Montepulciano lost its strategic role, its importance declined.
After the unification of Italy and the drying of the Val di Chiana, the town remained the most important agricultural centre in the area, while the industrial activities moved mostly next to Chiusi, which was nearer to the railroad being built in that period.
Main sights
The main street of Montepulciano stretches for 1.5 kilometers from the Porta al Prato to the Piazza Grande at the top of the hill. The city is renowned for its walkable, car-free nature. The main landmarks include:
The Palazzo Comunale, designed by Michelozzo in the tradition of the Palazzo della Signoria (Palazzo Vecchio) of Florence.
Palazzo Tarugi, attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Elder or Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola. It is entirely in travertine, with a portico which was once open to the public.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, or the Duomo of Montepulciano, constructed between 1594 and 1680, includes a masterpiece from the Sienese School, a massive Assumption of the Virgin triptych painted by Taddeo di Bartolo in 1401.
The church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (late 16th century). It has a simple Mannerist façade with a three-arcade portico. The interior has a single nave, and houses a precious terracotta altar by Andrea della Robbia. .
The Sa
nctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio is on the road to Chianciano outside the city. It is a typical 16th century Tuscan edifice, designed by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder on a pre-existing Pieve, between 1518 and 1545. (Pictured left: the Sanctuary)It has a circular (central) plan with a large dome over a terrace and a squared tambour. The exterior, with two bell towers, is built in white travertine.
The walls of the city were designed and built under the direction of Grand Duke of Florence Cosimo I d'e Medici in 1511 by Antonio da Sangallo the Elder.
Also interesting to note while walking though the town is that Montepulciano is standing in for the Volturic Stronghold of Volterra in the film adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer novel New Moon, the second book in the popular Twilight Saga.


Food for thought!


Today's Brainteaser is a musical question. Can you name the six 'Giants of Rock & Roll' who's pictures are shown below.







Good luck with this brainteaser! Answers will appear in the Journal tomorrow.