When we consider the far-reaching success and resulting prominence of business people that have called Peterborough home, George Albertus Cox remains in a league of his own.
Born in Colborne, Upper Canada in May 1840, George came to Peterborough as a young man to serve as an agent for the Montreal Telegraph Company. According to historian Michael Bliss, after attaining the same position for the Canada Life Assurance Company in 1861, George vowed he would one day be its president. He did just that in 1900.
Prior to that, George became president of the Midland Railway in 1883, founded the Central Ontario Loan and Savings Company in 1884 and, in 1890, was named president of the Bank of Commerce. That was two years after he moved to Toronto as a member of a group purchasing the Toronto Globe and the Toronto Evening Star.
George died in January 1914 but not before he and fellow former city resident Edward Food founded Brazilian Light and Power, the largest utility company in South America to that point.
As impressive as his business acumen was, George’s political star was equally bright. Between 1872 and 1886, he served seven one-year terms as Peterborough’s mayor. In 1874, he served briefly as a Liberal member of the Ontario Legislature, completing the term of Thomas Fairbairn who died while in office. He was narrowly defeated when he ran for his seat the following year, meeting the same fate when he ran federally in 1987. Still, his political value was well noted as evidenced by his 1903 appointment to the Senate by Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier.
In addition to his business pursuits, George served as president of the Ontario Ladies College in Whitby, was bursar of Victoria College at the University of Toronto, and was a major supporter of the Toronto General Hospital.
Not surprisingly, George possessed a fine eye for real estate. Today, his legacy can be seen in a very tangible way on Rubidge Street in Peterborough, where the 2nd Empire Cox Terrace still stands, a designated National Historic Site.