A new biography of Todd, Charles appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.
Charles Todd was born in 1868 at Peebles, Scotland, the eldest son of Charles Todd, who was born at Alloa, Perthshire, in 1836, being the fifth son of John Todd, a woollen manufacturer. At an early age Charles Todd senior went mining in Victoria, where he married Mary O'Sullivan at Ararat in 1858. After returning to Scotland in 1867, they arrived in New Zealand in 1870, Todd becoming manager of Murray Roberts and Co.'s fellmongery at Milton, Otago. Soon afterwards he became manager successively of the Canada Reef Mining Co. at Milton; the North of Ireland claim at Blue Spur, Tuapeka; and, in April 1878, the Cromwell Quartz Mining Co., Bendigo, Central Otago.
Young Charles attended school at Bendigo and Cromwell; then, when the family moved to Heriot, West Otago, after the closing of the mine in May 1884, he joined his father in a fellmongery business. Heriot was his home for 31 years where he carried on the business and later engaged in sheep farming there and at Lawrence. In 1895 he married Mary Hegarty and had a family of four sons and three daughters.
At an age when many men would be thinking of retirement, Charles Todd, recognising the possibilities of the motorcar, embarked on a pioneering venture in 1915. Moving to Dunedin he founded Todd Bros. Ltd., stock and station agents, acquired a leading agency, and soon established a thriving business with branches throughout Otago. In 1923 the motor franchise part of the company was formed into the Todd Motor Co., which was later incorporated as Todd Motors Ltd. The stock and station agency part of the company was sold to Dalgety and Co. in 1925, and Todd moved to Wellington in the following year. Todd Motor Industries, the motor-vehicle assembly organisation for the Todd group, was founded in 1935, and Todd Motor Corporation was formed in 1938 to act as a holding company for Todd's interests.
Perhaps Todd's greatest business achievement was the founding of the Associated Motorists Petrol Co. Ltd. in August 1931. This company, which changed its name to Europa Oil (N.Z.) Ltd. in February 1954, commenced marketing operations in March 1933, with the result that the price of petrol in New Zealand was reduced by 6d. a gallon.
Todd was a leader in Dunedin local affairs, being president of the Otago Expansion League from 1917 to 1923, president of the Dunedin Chamber of Commerce from 1920 to 1922, Mayor of St. Kilda from 1923 to 1926, and a director of the Dunedin and South Seas Exhibition (1925-26). He unsuccessfully contested Dunedin South as a Reform candidate at the 1928 parliamentary elections, and Central Otago as an Independent Reform candidate in 1931. Todd was a member of the Southern Pastoral Lands Commission 1920, which reported on leasing and on the better utilisation of Canterbury, Otago, and Southland Crown lands.
An ardent temperance worker, Todd was president of the New Zealand Alliance and of the Otago branch of the United Temperance Reform Council, and was author of a pamphlet Catholics and Prohibition. From his youth in Otago, when he was captain of the Heriot cricket and rugby teams, Charles Todd maintained a keen interest in sporting activities. He gave an aerodrome site at Green Island to the Otago Aero Club, of which he was patron from 1925 to 1932, and was president of the Otago Cricket Association for the 1927-28 season.
His public activities were continued in Wellington. He was a member of the Wellington Rotary Club, deputy chairman of the New Zealand Centennial Exhibition, member of the National Patriotic Fund Board, and chairman of the National Council for the Reclamation of Waste Materials.
Todd died in Wellington on 21 August 1942.
Charles Todd was a man of affairs who not only built up industries that have played an important part in New Zealand's economic development, but who also keenly participated in many varied fields of local and national activity.
Todd's widow, Mary (1866–1962), took a prominent part in many charitable causes. During the First World War she engaged in Red Cross work. She was generous in her support of charities, but her unostentatious giving was known only to the many causes she regularly helped. Very close to her heart were the education and welfare of youth, two particular benefactions being the Charles and Mary Todd Scholarship for the education of secondary schoolboys, and a Mary Todd Parish Trust.
by John Sidney Gully, M.A., DIP.N.Z.L.S., Assistant Chief Librarian, General Assembly Library, Wellington.
- Otago Daily Times, 22 Aug 1942 (Obit)
- Dominion, 22 Aug 1942 (Obit)
- New Zealand Financial Times, Sep 1942.