Floyd Sherman Chalmers, CC, O Ont, journalist, editor, publisher, administrator, philanthropist (born 14 September 1898 in Chicago, IL; died 26 April 1993 in Toronto, ON). One of Canada’s premier patrons of the arts, Floyd Chalmers was a dedicated journalist and publisher who rose to the top of his field, and used his wealth and administrative acumen to provide generous support to the arts in Canada. A Companion of the Order of Canada and an appointee to the Order of Ontario, he received the first Special Award of the Canadian Music Council, the Diplôme d'honneur from the Canadian Conference of the Arts and the first Medal of Appreciation from the Ontario Arts Council.
Early Years and Career
After his mother died when he was six years old, Chalmers lived with his grandparents in Potsdam, New York, for several years before his Canadian father brought him to Ontario, where he grew up in Orillia and Toronto. He started working at the Bank of Nova Scotia at age 16, and began his career in publishing at 17 as a reporter with the Toronto News and the Toronto World. While he was overseas with the 1st Canadian Tank Battalion during the First World War, he edited the Battalion News. Following his military service he joined the Financial Post in 1919, becoming Montréal editor in 1923 and editor-in-chief at age 27 in 1925.
In 1942, he was appointed executive vice-president of Maclean Hunter Ltd., the largest publisher of magazines and periodicals in Canada, including the Financial Post and Maclean’s magazine. He served as president of Maclean Hunter from 1950 to 1964 and chairman of the board of directors from 1964 to 1968. He was named honorary chairman in 1978, and also served as chancellor of York University in Toronto from 1968 to 1973.
Chalmers and his wife, Jean, first became patrons of the arts in the 1930s. Their contributions made possible the formation of the Canadian Opera Company. Chalmers also raised the money to build the Stratford Festival Theatre. The Chalmers family eventually acquired 22 per cent of the Maclean Hunter stock, which bolstered the means for their contributions to the arts.
In 1962, Chalmers established the Floyd S. Chalmers Foundation (now the Chalmers Fund) to assist young artists and to support innovative projects. It also commissioned such important compositions as the opera Louis Riel by Harry Somers, which Chalmers intended as a centennial gift to Canada. He was also a significant supporter of the Toronto Conservatory of Music (now the Royal Conservatory of Music), the National Ballet, the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the St Lawrence Centre for the Arts and numerous other organizations.
Chalmers was instrumental in the creation of the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada, first coming up with the idea after reading John Beckwith's critical essay, “About Canadian Music: The PR Failure” (Musicanada, July–August 1969). After consulting with several experts, Chalmers initiated the EMC project, assembling a board of governors, appointing a triumvirate of editors and providing (both personally and through the Chalmers Foundation) some $435,000 towards the preparation of its manuscript.
Chalmers also established numerous awards for promising young artists, musicians and journalists, and provided scholarships for writers, directors and performers. In 1979, he transferred the assets and administration of the Chalmers Foundation to the Ontario Arts Council (OAC), which represented the OAC's first major capital holding. In 1984, through a bequest of $1 million, Chalmers and his wife established the Jean A. Chalmers Chair in Canadian Music and the Institute for Canadian Music at the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Music. In 1989, Chalmers gifted $10 million dollars-worth of Maclean Hunter shares to 16 arts and educational institutions, to be retained or sold by the recipients at their discretion.
A director of numerous organizations, Chalmers was founder and president of the Ticker Club (1929–30), president of the Canadian Club of Toronto (1932–33), president of the Periodical Press Association of Canada (1947–49), president (1957–61) and later honorary director (1969–72) of the Canadian Opera Company, and president and later senator of the Stratford Shakespearean Festival Foundation of Canada (1965–67). He was appointed to the board of the Toronto Conservatory of Music in 1935 and served as vice-chairman for nearly 20 years.
Honours and Legacy
Chalmers was accorded many honours for his various endeavours. In 1957, he was named a Liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Stationers and Newspaper Makers, England, a Freeman of the City of London, and a Fellow of the International Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1983, on Chalmers' 85th birthday, the future permanent home of the Canadian Music Centre was dedicated as Chalmers House in recognition of his contribution to music in Canada. In 1988, on his 90th birthday, a tribute to Floyd and Jean Chalmers was held in the Bluma Appel Theatre at the St Lawrence Centre in Toronto. His papers are held in the Floyd S. Chalmers Fonds at the Archives of Ontario.
A version of this entry originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada.
Honorary Degree, LLD, Waterloo Lutheran Seminary (1963)
Officer, Order of Canada (1967)
Honorary Degree, D Litt, Trent University (1968)
Special Award, Canadian Music Council (1972)
Honorary Degree, BFA, York University (1973)
Diplôme d'honneur, Canadian Conference of the Arts (1974)
Medal of Appreciation, Ontario Arts Council (1982)
Companion, Order of Canada (1984)
Appointee, Order of Ontario (1988)
A Gentleman of the Press (Doubleday, 1969).
Both Sides of the Street: One Man’s Life in Business and the Arts in Canada (MacMillan of Canada, 1983).