He brought a carriage business into the automobile era, transformed a family business into a multi-million dollar empire, and established himself as one of the greatest entrepreneurs in Canadian history-but Sam McLaughlin didn't stop there. His overwhelming philanthropy helped countless community and national organizations.
Born in Enniskillen, Ontario, on September 8, 1871, Robert Samuel "Sam" McLaughlin began apprenticing as an upholsterer in his family's carriage factory at 16, earning a mere $3 a week ($2.50 of which went to his father for room and board). At 21, he became an official partner in the McLaughlin Carriage Works and was put in charge of designing carriages.
When automobiles first hit North American roads, Sam modernized his family company to join the "horseless-carriage" industry. The McLaughlin Motor Car Company was incorporated in 1907. When the company was sold to General Motors (GM), which celebrates its centennial in 2008, General Motors of Canada came into being with Sam as its president. Under Sam's leadership, GM became Canada's leading car exporter and a key force in one of the world's largest industries.
Sam's legacy extends far beyond cars. He established the R. Samuel McLaughlin Foundation, which donated nearly $200 million to organizations, charities and individuals across the country. And, for his involvement with the Ontario Regiment, he was named an Honourary Lieutenant-Colonel-a title that earned him the lifelong nickname, "Colonel Sam." He was appointed a Companion of the Order of Canada in 1967.
The commemorative stamp honouring Sam features a McLaughlin-Buick (circa 1912) driven by Joseph Mills (an early McLaughlin employee at the auto plant in Oshawa), alongside a photograph of a more mature Sam, projecting the vision and passion he had for his craft. Designer Tiit Telmet of Toronto's Telmet Design explains: "We used a dry-brush technique to create a more illustrative approach to the photograph." A duotone version of the image reminds us of the time period Sam revolutionized. The stamp also features the McLaughlin logo and the original motto.
Sam's former home in Oshawa, Ontario, was declared a National Historic Site in 1989 and is known as Parkwood, the R.S. McLaughlin Estate National Historic Site. Those involved with Sam's legacy are thrilled at the acknowledgement. "This year is exceptionally important to us, as it's the centennial of the first McLaughlin-Buick, the vehicle that was instrumental in launching the auto baron's remarkable life-long success," explains Samantha George, estate curator. "As time moves forward, Sam is slipping from the collective memory of Canadians, and opportunities like this stamp bring his accomplishments and legacy to the forefront once again."
Sam's granddaughter, Jocelyn Shaw, is also proud of the tribute. "I knew my grandfather well, so I know the honour he would feel to be featured on a Canadian stamp," she remarked. "He might be a bit astonished too, for he never regarded himself any more highly than his fellow entrepreneurs. But he loved and was proud of his Canada, which was expressed by his much renowned philanthropy. His motto was: 'One grade only and that the best'.
For more information on Parkwood, the R.S. McLaughlin Estate National Historic Site, please visit www.parkwoodestate.com.
- Denomination: 1 x 52¢
- Design: Tiit Telmet, Marko Barac
- Dimensions: 48 mm x 27 mm (horizontal)
- Gum Type: P.V.A.
- Paper Type: Tullis Russell
- Perforations: 13+
- Photography: Bill McKague; Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (Oshawa); General Motors of Canada Limited; Estate of Colonel R. Samuel McLaughlin
- Printer: Lowe-Martin
- Printing Process: Lithography in 7 colours
- Tagging: General, 4 sides
- Quantity: 2,000,000