Memorable Manitobans: William “Bill” Straith (1891-1947)
Born at North Keppel, Ontario on 9 November 1891, he was educated at the Owen Sound Collegiate then was employed with the Bell Telephone Company and the Owen Sound Municipal Light and Power Company until 1910 when he came to Winnipeg. From 1910 to 1914, he was with the Otis Fenson Elevator Company then, from 1914 to 1915, was mechanical superintendent for the Boyd Electric Company at Brandon. He returned to Winnipeg as a mechanical engineer with McLean and Company, staying for less than a year until taking a position with the Pioneer Motor and Elevator Company. In 1918 he formed his own firm, the Western Elevator and Motor Company.
In 1928, as Managing Director of the Canadian Aircraft Company, he designed, built and flew the first aircraft to be constructed in Winnipeg. He later put on a fireworks display from an airplane in flight, the first ever seen in Winnipeg. In 1937 he became chief pilot instructor at Trans Canada Airways after spending seven years as a pilot for Northwest Airlines in the United States. Three years later, he became district traffic manager for TCA in Winnipeg, then later that year Operations Manager of No. 5 Air Observers School in Winnipeg.
While in Winnipeg he was Vice-President of the Metal Trades Council, a member of the executive of the Prairie Division of the Manufacturers Association, and President of the Winnipeg Contractor Dealer Association. He was a member of the IOOF and the Masons.
In 1944, he was appointed President of the TACA Airway Agency in New York City. He later joined the Inter-Continental Aerial Underwriters Company. He was killed in a plane crash in New Mexico, while travelling to Mexico on business for the firm, on 4 April 1947.
Birth and marriage registrations, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Bill Straith dies in air accident,” Winnipeg Free Press, 5 April 1947, page 1.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 29 June 2015
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