Kenneth D. Taylor

Fonds number:
Title: Kenneth D. Taylor
Dates of Material:
3.15 m of textual records
855 photographs : b&w and col.
38 video cassettes
8 audio cassettes
2 digital video discs (DVDs)
3 compact discs (CDs)
10 LP records
41 plaques
46 artifacts
6 posters
1 painting
Biographical sketch

Kenneth Douglas Taylor was a Canadian diplomat and businessman. Born in Calgary, Alberta, in 1934 to Richard and Nancy Taylor, he was educated at Crescent Heights High School. He received his B.A. at Victoria College in 1957, and his M.B.A. at the University of California, Berkeley in 1959. He married Patricia Taylor, née Lee, whom he met while studying for his Masters at Berkeley. They have one son, Douglas Taylor.

Upon graduation in 1959, Taylor joined the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service. During his time with the foreign service he was posted to Guatemala City, Guatemala from 1960-63 as a trade consultant; Detroit, Michigan from 1963-66 as an assistant trade commissioner and vice-consul; Karachi, Pakistan from 1966-67; and London, England from 1967-71, before returning to Ottawa. He was appointed General Director of the Canadian Trade Commissioner Service in 1974. From 1977-1980 he was posted to Tehran as the Canadian ambassador to Iran. In 1980, he became the Canadian consul-general in New York. In 1984, he retired from the diplomatic service and settled with his family in Manhattan to pursue a career in business.

Taylor was appointed Senior Vice-President of Government Affairs at Nabisco Brands in 1984 and Senior Vice-President at RJR Nabisco, Inc. in 1987 following the company's merger with R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Company, before resigning in 1989 when a takeover changed the composition of the management team. He was Chairman of the consulting firm Taylor & Ryan Inc. from 1991-1994, and he continued to serve on the boards of various agencies including the Business Council for International Understanding, the School of International Affairs at Columbia University, Vancouver-based company First City, Alberta Northeast Gas, and the Matthews Group in Toronto. Taylor was Chancellor of Victoria University from 1998-2004.

Taylor is best known for his role in the Iran hostage takeover of 1979, when he was the Canadian ambassador to Iran. In November of 1979, following a year of civil unrest, Iranian students seized the US Embassy in Tehran, taking more than 60 hostages. Four US consulate employees and two of their wives escaped capture and found sanctuary at the Canadian Embassy. With assistance from the CIA, Taylor and another Canadian diplomatic official, John Sheardown, hid the six Americans in their residences and obtained special permission to create Canadian passports and documents under false names to help them escape. The operation was known as the “Canadian Caper” and several books and films were made highlighting Taylor’s work, including the television film Escape from Iran: The Canadian Caper (1981), and the book Our Man in Tehran (2010) by Robert Wright. It also provided the inspiration for the Academy Award-winning film Argo (2012), directed by and starring Ben Affleck, in which Taylor is portrayed by Canadian actor Victor Garber.

For his involvement in the Iran hostage crisis, Taylor received numerous awards and honours, including the United States Congressional Gold Medal, the Military Order of the Mike Award, the Americas Society Gold Medal, the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Award and the Gold Medal of the Canadian Club. He also received honourary degrees from various universities and keys to several cities throughout the United States and Canada. He was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 1980.

Ken Taylor died in New York City in 2015.

Custodial history

The Crescent Heights High School records remained in the custody of Iris Sadownik, archivist at Crescent Heights High School, before they were transferred to the Victoria University Library in 2018.

The remaining records were held in storage lockers in Ken and Pat Taylor’s New York City residence.

Source of supplied title

Title based on contents of the fonds.


The fonds is stored in 62 boxes.

Immediate source of acquisition

Records were acquired from Patricia Taylor and Iris Sadownik, the archivist at Crescent Heights High School, in 2018 and 2019.

The memorial books, condolence registers, appointment books and calendars in accession 2019.13 were acquired from Cladd Stevens on behalf of Pat Taylor in November 2019.

The records in accession 2020.03 were acquired from Pat Taylor and Malcolm McKechnie in January 2020.

The oversize poster in accession 2021.04 was acquired from Cladd Stevens on behalf of Pat Taylor in November 2021.

The records in accession 2022.05 were acquired from Malcolm McKechnie in June and September 2022.

The photograph in accession 2022.06 was acquired from Jans Ottens in July 2022. Ottens purchased the photograph from Peter Bregg.

Location of originals

Originals of diplomatic records are held in Library and Archives Canada. See the description in Series 4 for more information.

Access restrictions

No restrictions on access.


Further accruals are expected.

Access points

Provenance Access Point:
Taylor, Kenneth Douglas, 1934–2015

Related resources

Argo is available at the Victoria University Library.

Our Man in Tehran is available at the Victoria University Library and in the University of Toronto Library system.