Study Questions for Henry Klassen’s “Cowdry Brothers: Private Bankers in Southwestern
Shows regional development and entrepreneurial activity in frontier communities
1)What was the family background of Nathaniel and John Cowdry and, apart from the
banking business, in what other economic activities were they involved?
Their father was a physician and surgeon, practised in Toronto from 1860s to 1880s
Nathaniel was born in 1849 in Devon, England, John 1857 in Toronto. Both attended
Upper Canada College
Nate started his banking career in Royal Canadian Bank in 1866
They spent 4 years farming on a homestead near Regina
They served farmers and ranchers, brought unique perspective to customer
Nate was also a grain merchant (1888-1896)
In Fort Macleod, small community that relied on farming and ranching
2)What were the similarities and differences between the Cowdry Brothers bank and
regular chartered banks?
Similarities: Lent money to, opened despite accounts, processed cheques
Differences: Unincorporated, smaller, no note issuing privileges, no obligation to provide
financial statements, unaffected by legislative control of interest rates, capitalization, and
Cannot give low interest, cannot print currency
3)What was the relationship of the Cowdry Brothers bank with other banks?
Set up branches in Pincher Creek and Cardston, but ended up being bought by Union
Borrowed money from chartered banks
4)What were the loan practices of the Cowdry Brothers bank and what sectors of the
Alberta economy benefited from the bank’s credit?
Borrowed from chartered banks at 6 to 8 percent and loaned out at a higher rate to clients
Got a discount account from Monson’s Bank with credit of $35,000 in 1895, raised to
$60,000 in 1898, switched to Canadian Bank of Commerce in 1899, $292000 in 1904
The credits allowed them to expand their businesses
John became a local director of CBC for southern Alberta to improve relationship
Interests are from 18 to 24 percent from 1880s to early 1890, competitors were lower such
as I.G. Baker & Co. but it was bought out by HBC in 1891