William Kidston Canada

Biography of William Kidston

William Kidston was born in Nova Scotia, and his father William was a well-known Halifax merchant. Kidston's grandfather, Richard Kidston, had emigrated from Glasgow to Maine, and moved to Nova Scotia at the outbreak of the Revolutionary War. Around 1804, William Kidston moved his family back to Glasgow and established William Kidston & Sons, a business that would thrive for half a century.

Kidston first matriculated at the University of Glasgow in 1802. Kidston received a second class prize in Junior Mathematics in 1803-1804, although he did not complete a degree. Skill in arithmetic, however, would be a boon in his future career.

By 1810, William Kidston Jr had returned to Nova Scotia, where he worked as a merchant. In 1811, he married Elizabeth Dawson and began to represent his father's firm in Halifax. By 1818, he was known as an importer of luxury goods and textiles for the North American market. In 1822, he turned to farming. He died in Halifax in 1836. Kidston's son, also called William Kidston, would serve in the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, while a grandson, William Bonar Law, became Prime Minister of Britain in 1922.


Printed Materials

  • Arthur Wentworth Hamilton Eaton, The History of Kings County Nova Scotia, (Salem, MA: The Salem Press Company, 1910), p. 721.
  • James Douglas Frost, Merchant Princes: Halifax's First Family of Finance, Ships and Steel, (Toronto: James Lorimer & Company, Ltd, 2003)
  • W Innes Addison, Prize Lists of the University of Glasgow from sesion 1777-78 to Session 1832-33. (Glasgow: Carter & Pratt, 1902), p. 102
  • W Innes Addison, The Matriculation Albums of the University of Glasgow From 1728 to 1858, (Glasgow: James Maclehose and Sons, 1913), p. 201


William Kidston
Born 22 May 1788.
Died 1836.
GU Degree: Social Sciences, 1802-1804;
University Link: Alumnus
Occupation categories: merchants
English snippet: Nova Scotia-born merchant
Record last updated: 25th Feb 2013

Country Associations

Canada Canada, Nova Scotia, Halifax
Place of Birth

University Connections

University Roles

  • Alumnus