Fonds PR-2210 - Charles Victor Brennan fonds

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Charles Victor Brennan fonds

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  • textual record
  • cartographic material
  • graphic material
  • multiple media

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  • Source of title proper: Title based on contents of the fonds.

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  • 1887-1961 (Creation)
    Brennan, Charles Victor, 1887-1961

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29 m of textual records, 75 cm of maps and 26 cm of photographs

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Biographical history

Charles Victor Brennan (called Victor by all his family and associates) was born January 31, 1887, at Summerside, Prince Edward Island, the second child of William Arthur and Rosara Lefurgey Brennan. He attended preparatory school at Phillips Academy, Andover, Mass., and later McGill University, from which he received a BSc. Degree in engineering in 1908. For eighteen months in 1908 and 1909 he was the superintendent of the Oldham Sterling Gold Mine, a family property at Oldham, Nova Scotia. He demonstrated his managerial talents early by supervising a workforce of 80 to 120 men and successfully consolidating a number of Oldham properties to avoid a lawsuit. He spent several months at the Consolidated Mining and Smelting Company plant at Trail, BC in 1909 and 1910, and was later in charge of construction work at one of their mines. From 1911 to 1916 Brennan worked under R.H. Channing, Jr., and Fred Cowans of the Utah Consolidated Mining Co. For three of those years he was in charge of all underground work at their mine at Bingham, Utah. He also served as Chief Engineer for the company properties with duties including geological work, exploration and estimation of ore reserves. Some of his work took him to prospects in Virginia and Cuba. On January 7, 1913, Victor Brennan married Alice Graeme (or Graham) McMynn at Christ Church Cathedral, Vancouver. Alice McMynn was the only child of William Graham and Mary Turner McMynn. Alice's father was the first warden of Oakalla Prison, then Superintendent of the British Columbia Provincial Police, and again warden of Oakalla until his retirement in 1929. Victor Brennan enjoyed a warm relationship with his father-in-law probably partly due to their collaboration in small mining ventures in the Boundary country, where McMynn had spent the early part of his career in the Provincial Police. The Brennan's first two children, Alice Mary and Charles Victor Jr. (“Dickie”), were born at Bingham, Utah, in 1913 and 1915 respectively. When Victor's father died in 1916, he quit Utah Consolidated and moved his family to Summerside, so he could manage the family businesses in the Maritimes in the absence of his older brother Arthur, who was serving with the Canadian Army. In addition to managing the Journal Publishing Company in Summerside, he carried out mine exploration and consulting in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Even before Arthur returned home, Brennan moved his family to British Columbia in 1918. He was hired by Granby Consolidated Mining, Smelting & Power Company as superintendent of their Dolly Varden operation, but when this purchase fell through, he helped design a 3000-ton-per-day shaft layout and equipment at Anyox. The Brennans' third child, Dorothy Jeanne (Bonnie) was born during their short stay on the North Coast. In 1919 the Brennan family moved from Anyox to Victoria, where Victor established himself as an independent consultant in mine exploration and engineering. During this period he prepared a report on mining taxation for British Columbia Minister of Finance John Hart. On March 31, 1924, Victor Brennan joined Britannia Mining and Smelting Company. His rise was rapid: Assistant Mine Manager in 1926; Assistant Mine Superintendent in 1927; negotiated the purchase of Lake Chelan Copper Company in 1928; Chief Engineer in the Exploration Department, 1928-1930; supervised the mill at Britannia for a short period in 1930; Assistant General Manager, Howe Sound Company, Chelan Division, 1930-1939; and Assistant General Manager of the Britannia Operation from 1930-1941. At Britannia he worked closely with General Manager C.P. Browning. He also corresponded frequently with the President of the parent Howe Sound Company W.J. Quigley and later H.H. Sharp. In January 1935 the United States Bureau of Mines published Brennan's monograph Mining Operations at the Property of the Britannia Mining & Smelting Co., Lt., Britannia Beach, British Columbia. While written in technical language for mining people, its clear description of the mines at Britannia will reward the reader with a better understanding of the layout of the mines and the ore extraction processes. The Brennans lived in a company house at Britannia and took part in most of the recreational and social activitites available to the residents of the community. Early in their stay at Britannia, in 1925, their fourth and last child Elizabeth Anne Fletcher (Betty) was born. In 1941 Howe Sound Company placed him in charge of exploration in western Canada and the United States. In order to be better located for the frequent field trips he had to make, the Brennans moved to Seattle, their last home. In 1946 Victor Brennan suffered a stroke, and his ability to work was considerably impaired thereafter. Although he carried on some activity for Howe Sound Company, he was essentially retired. The company had no pension plan, but they continued to pay Brennan a modest monthly salary, in appreciation of his work in increasing the firm’s ore reserves. In his semi-retirement he continued his interest in mining as owner and president of the Index Mining Company, a small property in Washington.

Victor Brennan was active in professional organizations. He joined the new Association of Professional Engineers of the Province of British Columbia (APEBC) in 1921. He served on the APEBC Council from 1932 to 1936, was Vice President in 1937, President in 1938 and a member of Council as Past President in 1939. He was also an active member of the Canadian Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (CIMM), for which he was a councillor from 1937 to 1939. In 1939 and 1940 he was CIMM Vice President for British Columbia and Chairman of the Western Division. Brennan was also a member of the Mining Association of British Columbia, the American Institute of Mining and Metallurgical Engineers, the Mining and Metallurgical Society of America and the West Coast Mineral Association.

He joined a number of social and fraternal organizations but was evidently not very active in any of them. He was a Shriner, and therefore a Mason, as early as 1915 and belonged to the Canadian Club in Vancouver and the Union Club in Victoria.

Victor Brennan was a keen investor, and, from a prosperous beginning, he developed his family’s fortune by investing the surplus from his substantial salary in stocks, bonds, mining properties and real estate. He lived comfortably in the style of a middle-class professional and was able to send three of his children through university.

He valued home life greatly and enjoyed close and warm relations with his wife and children. He kept in frequent contact by letter, telegram and telephone with his mother, brother and sister and could probably be said to be the lynch-pin that connected the families he was part of.

Custodial history

The records were purchased by the BC Archives in 1987 from Charles Apfelbaum of Charles Apfelbaum Rare Books and Collections, New York. Charles Apfelbaum purchased the records from Shorey Books of Seattle.

Scope and content

The fonds consist of the personal and business papers of Charles Victor Brennan. The papers document the man's family, professional and social life in great depth. While success in his profession and his family life is evident through the papers he left, he was a hopelessly inefficient record keeper. It appears that he rarely discarded anything he received through the mail or any notes he scribbled on any scrap of paper available, but his efforts at organization were infrequent and soon sabotaged. The papers purchased by the Archives show family papers and correspondence thoroughly mixed with official Britannia materials, family financial papers and personal investment records. It is possible that the papers had become disordered during his later life or after his death, but that seems to be an unlikely or, at least, unimportant cause for their state. In so many instances, papers have been dropped one on top of another much in the manner of a kitchen midden. Subsequent handling may, however, be one cause for the almost total absence of papers after 1952. There are other possible explanations for this lack - Brennan's growing infirmity or a change in his wife's activity as semi-official secretary. The C.V. Brennan papers will be useful in documenting the life of a middle class professional who reached the upper executive ranks of a major British Columbia mining and milling company. His activities for Britannia Mining and Smelting are revealed in the extensive company records he retained. His exploration records for Britannia and the parent Howe Sound Company should prove especially useful as they document the long and difficult process of examining and evaluating ore bodies and bringing promising ones into productions. Even the health consequences of his professional life can be traced here. Researchers should also find the personal financial records of use. The records of domestic finances and personal investments to support his family's lifestyle are quite full, though not always complete. As a professional in a sometimes precarious industry, Brennan assumed a great deal of individual responsibility for maintaining his family's continued prosperity. The extensive correspondence found in these papers also document family relations: between spouses; between father and children; between son and mother; and between brother and siblings. The papers have been divided into a number of groups. C.V. Brennan's own group makes up the major part of the unit, but papers created or received by other family members make up other small groups. Victor Brennan's own group is divided into a number of subgroups and series.

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Archives code(s): 91-8368 boxes 1-78. MS-2838; Briefly known as AAAA0836.

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Accession number(s): 91-8368

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