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Joseph E. Seagram

Joseph E. Seagram
Joseph Emm Seagram (c.1880)
Born April 15, 1841
Fisher's Mills, Ontario, Canada
Died August 18, 1919
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada
Resting place Mount Hope Cemetery, Waterloo
Occupation Businessman:
Distiller, Polictian, 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 (1875-195?)
4) Norman (1879-1963)
5) Thomas William (1887-1965)
Parents Octavius Augustus Seagram &
Amelia Stiles
Awards Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame (1976)

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

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 a business college in Buffalo, New York, then returned home where he worked for a time as a bookkeeper at a grist mill.

Offered the opportunity to manage a flour mill in Waterloo, Ontario, he learned about the distilling process, a small aside to the 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, then in 1883 became the one hundred percent owner 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 and North America's oldest thoroughbred horse race. 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

Joseph E. Seagram served as a Waterloo town councilor from 1879 to 1886. In the Canadian federal election, 1896, he was elected to the Canadian House of Commons 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.

Joseph E. Seagram 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.[1]

Joseph Emm Seagram died in Waterloo in 1919. His heirs sold the company to Samuel Bronfman in 1928.


Seagram Family fonds | Archives and Manuscripts | Special Collections | Library | University of Waterloo at

Parliament of Canada


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