Joseph E. Seagram

Joseph E. Seagram
Joseph Emm Seagram

April 15, 1841
Died August 18, 1919(1919-08-18) (aged 78)
Resting place Mount Hope Cemetery, Waterloo
Occupation Businessman:
Distiller, Politician, Racehorse owner/breeder
Known for Seagram Distilleries
Political party Conservative
Spouse(s) Stephanie Urbs
Children 1) Alexandrine (1871–1919)
2) Edward Frowde (1873–1937)
3) Joseph Hamilton (1875–1956)
4) Norman (1879–1963)
5) Thomas William (1887–1965)
Parent(s) Octavius Augustus Seagram
and Amelia Stiles
Awards Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1976)

Joseph Emm Seagram (April 15, 1841 – August 18, 1919) was a Canadian distillery founder, politician, philanthropist, and major owner of thoroughbred racehorses.


Early life

Son of Octavius Augustus Seagram and Amelia Stiles, who emigrated to Canada from Wiltshire, England in 1837, Joseph was born at Fisher's Mills, now part of Cambridge, Ontario. His parents died when he was in his teens and for several years, Joseph lived at William Tassie's boarding school (now Galt Collegiate Institute and Vocational School) in the city of Galt (also now part of Cambridge). He studied for a year at Bryant & Stratton College business college in Buffalo, New York.


He returned home where he worked for a time as a bookkeeper at a grist mill.

Later, offered the opportunity to manage a flour mill (Granite Mills) in Waterloo, Ontario, he learned about the distilling process at Waterloo Distillery, a small aside to the George Randall Company's flour business, using extra grain stocks to make alcoholic beverages. In 1869, five years after joining the company, Joseph Seagram bought out one of the firm's three partners (George Randall[1]) to become Seagram and Roos, then in 1883 became the one hundred percent owner(buying out William Hespeler and William Roos)and renamed it Seagram. Making whisky became the most important part of the business and Seagram built it into one of the country's most successful of its kind. His 1907 creation, Seagram's VO whisky, became the largest-selling Canadian whisky in the world.

Thoroughbred horse racing

A lover of racehorses, he founded Seagram Stables in 1888, building its bloodlines by importing mares in foal from English sires. Between 1891 and 1898, his stables won eight consecutive Queen's Plates, Canada's most prestigious horse racing event. In total, during his lifetime Joseph Seagram won the race fifteen times, plus his heirs who took over the stable won it another five times. Joseph Seagram also served as president of the Ontario Jockey Club from 1906 to 1917 and in 1908 helped found the Canadian Racing Association.

On its formation in 1976, the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame inducted Joseph E. Seagram as part of its inaugural class in the builders category.

Political life

He served as a Waterloo town councilor from 1879 to 1886. In the Canadian federal election, 1896, he was elected to the House of Commons of Canada as the Conservative Party member for Waterloo North. In the 1900 election he was acclaimed and was reelected in 1904, serving until September 1908 when he chose not to seek another term.

He was a benefactor to the City of Waterloo. Among his donations to the community was a 13-acre (53,000 m2) parcel of land occupied today by the Grand River Hospital. His gift specified that the property was to be used solely for hospital services and open to everyone regardless of race, colour or creed.[2]


He died in Waterloo in 1919. His heirs sold the company to Samuel Bronfman in 1928.


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