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Winthrop Pickard Bell: Ralph Pickard Bell

A virtual exhibition that pays tribute to an illustrious alumnus of Mount Allison University.

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 Brunswick, in 1907. Later that same year on May 22 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.

The Bells 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 the Second World War 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 and 1944.

His wife Marguerite died on March 17, 1943. Later that same year he was awarded 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.  On June 11 that same year he married Marjorie Young Smith of Shediac Cape, New Brunswick, in Amherst, Nova Scotia.

Following the Second World War 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. Between 1945 and 1953 Bell served as the first President of this new company which 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.

Graduation portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell.

Graduation portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell, 1907

Mount Allison University Archives, Winthrop Pickard Bell fonds, 6501/17/4/1. May only be reproduced with permission of the Mount Allison Archives.

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, died 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.  He was pleased in 1971 when the University honoured him by naming the new library building the 'Ralph Pickard Bell Library'.

Ralph Pickard Bell died 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.

Photo gallery


Group picture of members of the hockey team in their sports uniform with additional costume props.

Mount Allison hockey team photograph, 1903-1907

Ralph Pickard Bell is seated at the far left in the third row (top).

Mount Allison University Archives. Picture Collection, 2009.23

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

Ralph and Marguerite sitting in a doorway of a cabin with their daughter on Ralph's knees

Ralph Pickard Bell with his wife Marguerite and daughter

Mount Allison University Archives. Winthrop Pickard Bell fonds, 6501/17/8/2 p. 12

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

Portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell

Portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell, ca. 1940s

Mount Allison University Archives. Ralph Pickard Bell fonds, 7636/1/6

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

Sketch of Ralph Pickard Bell

Reproduction of an original charcoal portrait of Ralph Pickard Bell, 1941

Mount Allison University Archives. Ralph Pickard Bell fonds, 7636/1/2

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

Ralph Pickard Bell in his chancellor robes.

Portrait of Mount Allison University Chancellor, Ralph Pickard Bell, 1960

Mount Allison University Archives. Ralph Pickard Bell fonds, 7636/1/12

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

Three individuals sitting at a table.

Dinner in honour of retiring Mount Allison University Chancellor Ralph Pickard Bell,13 May 1968

Mount Allison University Archives. Charles D. Seaman fonds, 2003.06/3/1

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

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.