Beyond The Last Spike
Cona takes its name from Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, the most successful oilman in Canadian history: pioneer of the oil industry’s globalization business model, discoverer of a major new oil producing region, founder of a supermajor.
Lord Strathcona was the preeminent Canadian business leader of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, with vast business interests. Among his many accomplishments, Lord Strathcona was a major shareholder and Governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company, president of the Bank of Montreal, a Member of Parliament, Canada’s High Commissioner to London and co-founder of the Canadian Pacific Railway. It is in this last respect that he is most well-known, as he drove the historic last spike to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885, immortalized in the famous photo by Alexander Ross. He was also Canada’s largest philanthropist of the time, donating to a variety of causes across Canada.
Beyond these incredible accomplishments, Lord Strathcona late in his career had unrivaled achievements in the oil industry. In July of 1907, Lord Strathcona, at the age of 87, was an innovator as one of the first businessmen to view opportunities in the oil industry on a global basis. As chairman of the Burma Oil Company, he purchased the Darcy Concession in Iran from an oil company which had stumbled after a series of dry holes. Shortly thereafter, his company drilled what would become the first successful oil well in the Middle East, so prolific it would go on to produce over a billion barrels of oil. Using his contacts in the British government, Lord Strathcona then negotiated a strategic 20-year offtake agreement with Winston Churchill to supply oil to the British navy, renaming his company the Anglo-Persian Oil Company. Following his death, the British government, realizing the strategic significance of the reserves, purchased a controlling interest in the company and renamed it British Petroleum – one of the world’s first supermajors.
We at Cona hope to honor Lord Strathcona, by pursuing innovation an excellence in everything we do and supporting our local community.