Know Your Neighbours – Harry J. Carmichael

S1938-35-1-1 carmichael left
Carmichael centre. Photo Attribution: St. Catharines Standard Collection, S1938.35.1.1

Harry John Carmichael was born in the United States on September, 19th, 1891 to Canadian parents. He was an outstanding baseball catcher in high school and had planned to play in college but a minor injury to his throwing arm forced him to instead take work in a hardware store until 1912 when he was offered a position with McKinnon Industries, based strictly on his baseball ability and the expectation to have him play for the company team. He moved to St. Catharines and began working as a pattern maker at McKinnon’s for 30 cents per hour. He continued to play for the company team until 1924.

He rose quickly into management and when General Motors took over St. Catharines McKinnon’s plant in 1929, he was named president and General Manager, a position he held into the 1950’s. In 1936 he became VP and General Manager of GM Canada. During the Second World War, General Motors manufacturing was converted to production of war materials. Because of his experience with mass-production techniques, Harry resigned his position at GM and took a position with the Federal Government working for C.D. Howe as a $1 a year man for the Department of Munitions and Supply where he rose through the ranks to eventually become the Canadian Chairman of the Joint United States Canada War Production Board. After the war, he was involved in the reconversion of industry to peacetime production and by the end of 1945 had left Ottawa. In 1948 he was named Chairman of the Industrial Defense Board by the Federal Government.   For his efforts during the war, he was named by King George VI as a Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St. Michael and St. George and he was also awarded the United States’ Medal of Freedom.

Carmichael retired from the business in 1968 and moved to Toronto. He served as a director of many large firms including: Bank of Toronto, Abitibi Power and Paper Co. Ltd., Argus Corporation Ltd., Foster Wheeler Ltd., the Polymer Corporation, and Massey Harris Co. Ltd.

He was the owner and operator of the Garden City Stable (thoroughbred) where he bred and raced horses. He was involved in many civic activities including being chairman of the Advisory Board of the Hotel Dieu Hospital where a wing is named for him. He served as president at various times of the Victorian Order of Nurses (St. Catharines), Boy Scouts Association (St.C), St. Catharines Chamber of Commerce and general chairman of the Arena Committee in 1938. Other directorships included those of Canada Permanent Trust Co., Hiram Walker Gooderham and Worts Ltd., and Continental Can Company of Canada. He also served on the board of Ridley College.

Harry Carmichael was well known in the community for his philanthropic works and was well known for his ability as a problem solver and to getting things done by pulling groups of people to work together.

When he died on October 28th, 1979 he was survived by his wife and two sons, Donald F.H. and John B.W. Carmichael.

He is buried in Victoria Lawn Cemetery in St. Catharines.


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