Like many others who have made their mark in Canada, the subject of our sketch, Mr. Warring Kennedy, is an Irishman, having been born in the County Down, in 1827. When young in years Warring Kennedy was taken to Londonderry, and placed in a school, where he received an ordinary education sufficient to qualify him for a business career. He commenced life in a dry goods store in the town of Kilrea, but at the expiration of his apprenticeship he went to Belfast, where he lived many years, earning for himself a reputation second to none for intelligence, undivided application to, and thorough knowledge of business, and enjoying such an exemplary character that several positions of trust were conferred upon him.
Finding that the harvest was not plenteous, and that the laborers were far from few, Mr. Warring Kennedy’s natural inclinations, animated as they were by the laudable ambition of securing a prize in the race of life, prompted him in 1857 to immigrate to Canada. The young man arrived in Toronto at a time when not only the Dominion itself, but the neighboring States were passing through a crisis of unparallelled distress, and the prospects of employment for a stranger were far from cheering. To one of Warring Kennedy’s stamp, however, the greater the difficulties, the stronger was his determination not only to surmount, but completely overcome them. We find him, therefore, at the earliest moment, accepting a situation by no means commensurable either in salary or position with what his business qualifications fairly entitled him to expect, The opportunity thus seized has never been lost, and Mr. Kennedy’s subsequent career has been one unbroken success. “Doing with all his might what his hand has found to do,” “never putting off till tomorrow what he could do today,” he has more than fulfilled the promise of his early youth. His indomitable energy, his untiring industry, his exemplary character, his devoted attention to, knowledge of and regularity in his business, his abnegation of self in his studious zeal for the interests of those whom he served, soon attracted the notice of commercial men, His services were eagerly sought for, and he received rapid advancement, passing in succession from one employer to amore lucrative appointment under another, until at last we hear of him promoted to a yearly salary of four thousand dollars. Having climbed to the top of the ladder in the subordinate grades, Mr. Warring Kennedy, in 1809, secured the cooperation and partnership of two of his former fellow workers (in the store of John Macdonald and Co.), and with them established in Toronto a wholesale business, known as the firm of Messrs. Samson, Kennedy and Gemmel, and such is the estimation it is held in, and so great the confidence reposed in its management by retail merchants that in less than ten years the annual sales amounted to nearly one million dollars, a result as unprecedented as it is well merited.
In politics, Mr. Warring Kennedy has identified himself with the party of Reform; he has also been a candidate for civic honors, and been repeatedly solicited to accept nomination to a seat in Parliament. He was elected Alderman in 1871, and unsuccessfully contested the mayoralty in January, 1877. The unsolicited requisition to allow himself to be put in nomination, and the amount of support he received, clearly indicate the public opinion entertained of the man.
High as Mr. Kennedy’s position is in the business world, he occupies no less a conspicuous place in the circle of religion, for, irrespective of being a leading member of the Methodist Church, he is also a local preacher, sabbath school superintendent, class-leader, and trustee therein. He is also on several conference committees, and was a delegate in. 1874, and again in 1878, from the Toronto district to the General Conference of the Methodist Church in Canada, and took a prominent part in the debates of that important legislative body.
He was, in 1872, appointed President of the Irish Protestant Benevolent Association; in 1873, on the organization of the Canada Commercial Travelers’ Association, he was chosen as its first president, a position to which he was for several years subsequently elected. He is also a trustee of the Necropolis and Mount Pleasant Cemetery, a Director of the Upper Canada Bible Society, and a director on the Board of the Real Estate Loan and Debenture Company.
Mr. Kennedy married the daughter of his first employer, the late Mr. James Macaw. Being only in his 53rd year, he is a comparatively young man; a long period of vigor and usefulness is, we trust, still before him, and should he decide on entering the political arena of public life, and turn his attention to matters of “state,” it is not too much to expect for him a success equal to that he has already achieved in the ” church ” Methodist, and the “world” of commerce.
In a condensed sketch it is impossible to do adequate justice to, or point out the many lessons to be learnt from a study of the character of a man of Mr. Warring Kennedy’s calibre, suffice it to say that his name and example will ever shine forth to the emigrants, salesmen, shop boys, and young men of the future as a brilliant beacon, towering high above and always before them in their voyage through life, warning them by the brightness of its light to give a wide berth to the ” rocks” of “idleness,” the “shoals” of “procrastination,” and the ” troubled waters” of “dishonesty,” encouraging them to steer through the calm seas of industry, diligence, perseverance and integrity, a continuance on which course will, after carrying them safely past all dangers, guide them at length, as surely as it has him, into the haven of success.
In a biography of self made men, Mr. Kennedy fully deserves a distinguished place; he may truly be said to have been ” the architect of his own fortune; ” gratifying as this reflection must be to him, it pales before the consciousness he enjoys that through the whole of his career he has carried himself sans reproch and the knowledge he possesses that among Toronto’s many worthy citizens no one today stands more deservedly honored, respected and esteemed by his fellow men than the whilom young apprentice boy of a dry goods store in an obscure Irish town.