Memorable Manitobans: Samuel Bronfman (1889-1971)
Born in Russia on 1 March 1889, son of Mindel Almar (1859-1918) and Ekiel Bronfman (1852-1919), brother of Rose Rady, he emigrated with his family to Wapella, Saskatchewan, soon moving to Brandon where his brother Allan Bronfman was born. He later moved to Port Arthur [now Thunder Bay], Ontario where, in partnership with a brother, he bought a hotel established there by Frank Mariaggi.
In 1912, he bought the Bell Hotel at Winnipeg and operated it successfully for five years. He got into the liquor business when he started selling it by mail order, a common practice in the early 20th century. He moved to Montreal, Quebec in 1924 where he established the Distillers Corporation. After his purchase of Joseph E. Seagram and Sons Limited, the firm became the Seagram Company, eventually becoming the world’s largest liquor distilling firm that owned 38 distilleries in 13 countries, as well as interests in wineries in France and elsewhere. He served as its President for 47 years.
On 20 June 1922, he married Saidye Rosner (1896-1995, daughter of Samuel Rosner) at Winnipeg. They had four children: sons Edgar Bronfman and Charles Bronfman, and daughters Minda Bronfman and Phyllis Bronfman.
He served as President of the Canadian Jewish Congress from 1938 to 1962 and was Honorary Vice-President of the World Jewish Congress at the time of his death. During the Second World War, he was a member of the war technical board of the National Research Council. He also served on the Boards of the Canadian Association for Latin America, Quebec Heart Association, Canadian Mental Health Association, and the Rehabilitation Institute of Montreal.
Active in philanthropy, he supported agricultural research and establishing arts centres and museums in Canada, the USA, and Israel. In recognition for his community works, he was inducted into the Order of Canada (1967) and the Manitoba Order of the Buffalo Hunt (1968), and he received an honorary doctorate from Brandon University (1969). He was inducted posthumously into the Manitoba Business Hall of Fame (2013).
He died at Montreal, Quebec on 10 July 1971.
1901 Canada census, Automated Genealogy.
“Three Winnipeg hotels are sold,” Manitoba Free Press, 17 July 1912, page 28.
Marriage registration, Manitoba Vital Statistics.
“Distillery magnate dies,” Winnipeg Free Press, 12 July 1971, page 1.
We thank Darryl Resch for providing additional information used here.
This page was prepared by Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 22 January 2023