by George J. Dance

Charles Belford (April 25, 1837 - December 19, 1880) was a Canadian journalist, editor, and publisher.


Belford was born in County Cork, Ireland, to Irish Protestant parents. In Ireland he was trained as a draftsman. In 1857 he immigrated to Canada with his two younger brothers, Robert J. and Alexander. Charles Belford went to work on the Toronto newspaper The Leader, published by his great-uncle, James Beattie.[1]

Belford married Jennie Thomas on November 11, 1864. He became editor-in-chief of The Leader in 1867. In 1871 The Leader ceased publication, and in March 1872 Belford became the editor of The Toronto Mail , a new newspaper founded as the "Toronto mouthpiece" of Canadian Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.[1]

Belford BrothersEdit

In 1876, Belford and his two brothers organized a publishing company, Belford Brothers, to take advantage of a loophole in Canadian copyright legislation. "The first Canadian Copyright Act of 1872 had been disallowed, but the act of 1875 made it legal to reprint in Canada any American book not coming under the imperial copyright act of 1842, which protected editions published first in the British Isles, or not registered in the Department of Agriculture, Ottawa, within 30 days of publication in the United States." Belford Brothers printed unauthorized editions of American books which did not conform to the 1875 law - including best-selling authors like Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe - and sold them by mail order to retail outlets, at prices that undercut the American editions.[1]

American publishers complained, and accused Belford Brothers of sharp practice. However, American publishers were themselves dumping pirated British books on the Canadian market, and Belford Brothers' actions were to some degree retaliation for that.[1]

Belford Brothers operated from 1876 until 1878, during which time they also published some original Canadian books, and a literary magazine, Belford's Monthly Magazine.[1]

Breakdown and deathEdit

Belford was a loyal partisan of Macdonald, and had become an "able organizer whose counsel was highly regarded by the Conservative party." Macdonald's Conservatives had lost the election of 1873, and the Liberals, with a majority government, held power for the next five years.

In the 1878 election the Conservatives worked hard to regain power; and no one worked harder than Charles Belford. On election day Macdonald was returned to power, but Charles Belford, who had worked himself into a state of exhaustion, had a physical breakdown. He had to quit both the Mail and Belford Brothers. (His brothers reorganized the company, with new partner G.M. Rose, as the Rose-Belford Publishing Company.)[1]

By the fall of 1879 Belford was able to work again, and was given an appointment as secretary to the Dominion Board of Appraisers. He died in Ottawa the next year, "survived by his wife, two sons, and four daughters."[1]

See alsoEdit


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 H.P. Gundy, "Belford, Charles," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, Web, June 21, 2011.

External linksEdit

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