The Sunday Magazine

One hundred years later, a new book chronicles the tale of a missing millionaire

On Dec. 2, 1919, a wealthy theatre impresario went missing in Toronto. His last recorded action was to deposit a cheque for one million dollars and no one knew what had happened to middle-aged man. Writer Katie Daubs chronicles this perplexing mystery, which occurred at the dawn of the twentieth century.
Katie Daubs is a Toronto Star reporter and writer. Her new book The Missing Millionaire traces the disappearance of wealthy man Ambrose Small in Toronto in 1919. (Penguin Random House, Richard Lautens)

On Dec. 2, 1919, the wealthy theatre impresario Ambrose Small left his home in the Rosedale neighbourhood of Toronto. He went to the barber for a shave. 

He met his wife for lunch and then walked her to an engagement at a nearby Catholic orphanage. At some point that afternoon, he went to the bank and deposited a cheque for a million dollars. He had a quick meeting with his lawyer. 

That was the last anyone ever saw of him.  

The slight man with a walrus mustache had promised his wife he'd be home for dinner, but he never showed up. 

Was he murdered? Abducted? Or did he run off to begin a new life? A hundred years later, no-one knows, and not for want of trying. 

Ambrose Small has been a subject of literary interest before. Michael Ondaatje's award-winning In the Skin of a Lion originally centered on the missing man. This was until Ondaatje found the characters surrounding Small were more interesting to him. (Toronto Star/Knopf Random Vintage Canada )

In her new book, The Missing Millionaire: The True Story of Ambrose Small and the City Obsessed With Finding Him, Katie Daubs tells a whodunit story rife with accusations and curious coincidences. 

It is as perplexing as it is dramatic — bursting with flamboyant characters, a disgruntled wife, an ex-lover, showgirls, and a smarmy ex-cop turned private investigator. 

Click 'listen' above to hear the interview.


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