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 A Mount Allison University Archives Virtual Exhibition


Ralph Pickard Bell


A graduation portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell.

Winthrop Bell's younger brother was Ralph Pickard Bell. He was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia on March 28, 1886. He undertook his early education in Halifax and obtained a Bachelor of Arts Degree at the University of Mount Allison College in Sackville, New Brunwick in 1907. Later that same year on May 22nd he married his college sweetheart, Annie Marguerite Deinstadt, of Saint John, New Brunswick. The couple subsequently moved to the Canadian West where Ralph Bell worked for the Fairbanks Company.

Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Bell had two daughters: Dorothy (born February 20, 1908 in Winnipeg) and Helen (born January 19, 1909 in Calgary) before returning to Halifax in 1910. Bell returned to assist his father with the family business, A.M. Bell & Company, Limited. In 1913 he withdrew from the active administration of the company and became involved in public affairs as a member of the Nova Scotia Good Roads Association. He also carried out some land speculation through the development of Rosebank Park in Halifax. These activities continued until the Halifax Explosion on December 6, 1917 when he took on the responsibility of Secretary of the Halifax Relief Commission.

Thereafter, Ralph Bell became heavily involved with the timber trade and the Canadian Pulpwood Association. In 1921 he and his wife welcomed their third child, Nancy (born April 11, 1921 in Halifax).

During the 1920s he also became interested in the fishing industry and bought an interest in the Lockeport Company on the South Shore of Nova Scotia. His involvement in both timber and the fisheries continued until the outbreak of World War II when he was appointed by Ottawa to assist the federal minister of the Department of Munitions and Supplies, C.D. Howe. Ralph Bell became the Director-General for Aircraft Production in Canada holding the post between 1940-1944.

Graduation portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell, 1907

May only be reproduced with the permission of the Mount Allison University Archives.

His first wife, Marguerite Bell, died on March 17, 1943. Later that same year he was awarded with the Order of the British Empire (O.B.E.) for his war service. During 1944 he was awarded the honorary degree of Doctor of Civil Law (D.C.L.) by Mount Allison University at the May Convocation and on June 11th that same year he married Marjorie Young Smith of Shediac Cape, New Brunswick in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

Following the conclusion of World War II Ralph Bell successfully oversaw the merger of two holding companies: Smith Fisheries Ltd. and Associated Investors Ltd. which in turn represented twenty-four smaller fish processing businesses. Bell served as the first President of this new company between 1945 and 1953 that became known as National Sea Products Limited. Thereafter, he acted as President of Halifax Insurance Company from 1954-1959. This very successful entrepreneur was also a principal of the Pickard Investment Company of Halifax and served as a Vice-President of the Bank of Nova Scotia.

In 1960 Ralph Pickard Bell was installed as the first Chancellor of Mount Allison University and served in that capacity for eight years. His second wife, Marjorie Young Bell, passed away on June 27, 1964 and left a large bequest to Mount Allison University over which her husband presided. During his tenure Chancellor Bell oversaw the construction of numerous buildings on campus and was pleased when the University honoured him by naming the new library building which opened in 1971, the 'Ralph Pickard Bell Library'.

Ralph Pickard Bell passed away on March 3, 1975 at his home 'High Head' at Murder Point (see note below), Nova Scotia. He was a most generous benefactor of Mount Allison University. His gifts to the institution continue to support and enrich the work of both faculty and students to the present day.

Note: Murder Point is more commonly known today as Martins Point, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.

Source: Kimber, Stephen. Net Profits : The Story of National Sea. Halifax: Nimbus Publishing Limited, 1989.

Next topic: Hazel (Deinstadt) Bell

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This virtual exhibition project was made possible through the generous support of the Marjorie Young Bell Endowment Fund Committee, Mount Allison University.