When he was a young man, Alexander Jackson Forsyth was sent by his father, a Glasgow importer-exporter, to work his way around the world. For a brief time, as Alexander passed through Vancouver, he sold tickets to the gold rush miners heading for the Klondike. He then carried on, via Asia, to South Africa, where his father’s company did most of its trade. The economy in South Africa had been battered by the Boer war and Alexander decided to return to Vancouver and set up an import-export business of his own.
In 1908, Alexander began importing steel products and exporting everything from salmon to zinc. Importing steel in 1908 was no easy feat. The main steel mills were located in Europe and shipping through the Panama Canal did not start until 1914. All products had to be shipped around Cape Horn.
The First World War slowed business considerably, but it picked back up in the 1920s when Forsyth imported many of the valves and pipes used in the Vancouver water system. In 1931, A.J. Forsyth incorporated his business and instead of handling imports on a commission basis it became a supplier and opened its first warehouse. Since that time, A.J. Forsyth has grown to become a major steel distributor in British Columbia.
On October 15, 2001, the shares of the company were sold to Russel Metals Inc. and on January 1, 2002, it was amalgamated with Russel Metals and became known as A.J. Forsyth, a division of Russel Metals Inc.
Currently A.J. Forsyth employs approximately 190 people at metal service centers located in Greater Vancouver, Nanaimo, Kelowna, Langley, Prince George, Fort St. John and Prince Rupert.