22 August 2014

Alphonse Desjardins in Lévis, Québec

Alphonse Desjardins (1854–1920) was born in Lévis, Québec. He began a career in journalism, working for L'Écho de Lévis from 1872 to 1876, then spent three years with Le Canadien before eleven years editing discussions for the Legislative Assembly (now the National Assembly) of Québec. Then at thirty-five he founded the daily newspaper L'Union Canadienne, which only lasted three months.

But Desjardins is most known as the founder, with his wife Dorimène, of the first credit union (caisse populaire) in North America, which began in 1900 at his home in Lévis. In the years before this, Desjardins had been concerned with small borrowers' lack of access to banks and their vulnerability to usurers. He discovered Henry William Wolff's book People's Banks (1893), got in contact with him, and through Wolff established contact with European directors of credit cooperatives.

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins (the one on the left here) is now a museum dedicated to Desjardin's life and work. Entrance is via the house on the right, which is full of information about the man.

'Sculpture d'Alphonse Desjardins en noyer cendré, realisée en 1990 
par Benoi Deschênes.

Don de Richard Fortin et de Lucie Bégin-Fortin, de Noble-Art, à la Société historique Alphonse-Desjardins.

Sculpture of Alphonse Desjardins, in butternut, created by Benoi Deschênes in 1990.

Donated to Société historique Alphonse-Desjardins by Richard Fortin and Lucie Bégin-Fortin of Noble-Art.'

The Maison Alphonse-Desjardins as represented in La Fresque Desjardins de Lévis.

The Mouvement des caisses Desjardins is the biggest group of credit unions in North America.


Anonymous said...

Hi, just a simple correction: Alphonse Desjardins started the caisse populaire in 1900, not 1901. The first deposit was done on january 23 1900.

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thanks for pointing this out – I've now corrected it.