High Finance and Low Modernism: The Failure of the Wenner-Gren British Columbia Project, 1956-61
In 1957 Swedish financier Axel Wenner-Gren's British Columbia development project briefly made international headlines because it boasted a 650-km long monorail that promised to connect the isolated northeast corner of the province. By sketching some of the relevant contours of the financier's career, this paper suggests a motive for Wenner-Gren's puzzling investment in British Columbia. Examination of the extraordinary private correspondence of the financier with his general manager, which presents an unvarnished view of Wenner-Gren's finances, reveals an overweening confidence of the project leaders in the initial railway project that quickly pivoted to the creation of a new subsidiary hydro company to pursue what appeared to be an even more lucrative opportunity. But Wenner-Gren's illogical decision to retain majority control in this company transformed his largest investment in the province from profit to loss.