July 6, 1934
Daniel Ryan was born in 1851, the son of Michael Ryan and Mary Ellen Fleming and was at the time of his death on July 6, 1934 considered one of the wealthiest men in Newfoundland. The other person of considerable financial wealth was his brother James.
Dan and his older brother James established a salt fish firm at King’s Cove in 1875 under the masthead, James Ryan & Company. Dan moved there to manage the operation and eventually became sole proprietor. James also established a separate firm at Trinity in 1906 in partnership with Dan known as Ryan Brothers. The firm’s chief goal was to profit from supplying Trinity involved in the Labrador fishery.
In 1895 the two firms known as James Ryan, Bonavista, and James Ryan and Company, King’s Cove, exported nearly 100,000 quintals of codfish, approximately ten percent of Newfoundland’s total exports for the year.
Dan Ryan’s wealth has given rise to the Newfoundland expression “more money than Dan Ryan” or some variation.
Over the years fishing methods changed and ways of preserving the catch improved. As the quick freezing of fish became more popular in the 20th century, the salt fish trade declined. In the years following the Second World War, the Ryan family continued to take fish, but decided to put more emphasis on other aspects of their business, primarily the retail store. The company took its last salt fish in 1952 and eventually closed its doors in 1978, ending an era.
In St. John’s, the Ryan Brother’s are remembered for the construction of a property known simply as “The House,” built between 1909 -1911. It was considered to be the most extravagant and modern for its time, theRyan Mansion featured the first telephone switchboard system, a fresh air exchange system, a main floor kitchen, and a carriage house built to house the first motor vehicle inSt. John’s. Oral tradition has it that this motor vehicle contraption arrived 3 months before there was fuel in the city to power it so James and family would sit in the vehicle while neighbours looked on.
Dan Ryan who left a portion of his estate to the Roman Catholic Church has his memory preserved on a column in the west transept in the Basilica Cathedral of St. John the Baptist. A tablet to the memory of the Hon. Daniel A. Ryan.
The inscription reads as follows:
to the memory of
Hon. Daniel A. Ryan
Knight Commander, Order of St. Gregory
A Benefactor of the Cathedral
Died July 6, 1934
Requiescat in Pace
Recommended Archival Collection: James Ryan Limited (Bonavista) fonds, Maritime History Archive, Memorial University of Newfoundland.
Architectural History: Ryan Premises National Historic Site of Canada, Bonavista; Lester-Garland Premises Provincial Historic Site, Trinity, purchased in 1906 by the Ryan Brothers from the Lester-Garlands. http://www.newfoundlandlabrador.com/PlacesToGo/RyanPremisesNationalHistoricSite
Architectural History: For more information on The House: http://www.heritage.nf.ca/society/rhs/rs_listing/196.html