Shirley Temple and the 7th Victory Bond Campaign

21 October 1944

Canada was in its fifth year of war and Canadians could finally see light at the end of that long, black tunnel. In June 1944, Allied forces had landed on the beaches of Normandy and had successfully breached the Nazi defences of Festung Europa. By October, American forces were fighting on German territory around the Rhineland city of Aachen. The liberation of the Netherlands was underway by the 1st Canadian Army and other Allied units. In the east, Soviet forces had occupied Romania and Bulgaria and were on the outskirts of Warsaw (where they temporarily stopped, waiting for the Nazis to put down the Warsaw Uprising led by the Polish underground Home Army). While Hitler’s so-called thousand-year Reich was in its death throes, there was still much fighting and misery to endure.

Shirley Temple and 7th Victory loan

Certificate that could be framed and hung in a business that met their Victory bond sales objective, November 1944

In late September 1944, Finance Minister Ilsley announced Canada would raise a minimum of $1.3 billion in the Seventh Victory Bond—$700 million from large corporate investors, and $600 million from individuals. This was an increase of $100 million from the minimum set for the Sixth Victory Bond campaign earlier that year. (The Sixth campaign actually raised slightly over $1.4 billion.) The interest rate was 3 per cent on the long-term bonds, maturing in 1962. There was also a series of shorter term bonds issued at 1.75 per cent with a maturity of 4 years. The slogan for the Seventh Victory Bond was Invest in Victory. Its logo was the flaming sword patch of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force, in France.

The Victory Bond programme had begun in 1941, following two “Victory Loans” in 1939 and 1940, respectively, which netted the government roughly $550 million. Small investors could also buy War Savings Certificates on the payroll plan. The Victory loans, bonds and certificates were used to finance the war effort and to soak up the cash that was going into the pockets of Canadians. Despite price controls and high wartime taxes, there was a justifiable fear that with the economy operating flat out, inflationary pressures would rise unless Canadians saved.

Following their introduction in 1941, Victory Bonds were sold every six months with as much hoopla and razzmatazz as possible to generate interest. Sales teams were organized in communities across the country with objectives for general and payroll sales. To help raise their profile, Hollywood stars were also enlisted through the Hollywood Victory Committee. Film stars such as Spencer Tracy, Charles Boyer, Walter Pidgeon and Joan Fontaine made appearances in Canadian cities to help boost bond sales in between movie shoots. Percy Faith, the Toronto-born but U.S. based conductor, handled the music for Victory Bond campaigns.

Shirley T and surrender

Advertising poster for the 7th Victory Bonds Campaign, October 1944

On announcing the terms for the Seventh Victory Loan in late September 1944, Finance Minister Ilsley said that the government’s increased borrowing needs reflected “the intense activity on all battlefronts.” Graham Towers, Governor of the Bank of Canada and Chairman of the National War Finance Committee, explained that in earlier years, just the navy and air force had been fully engaged. Now, all of Canada’s armed forces had been committed “to the struggle at sea, on land and in the air.” As well, war supplies were being used up faster than expected. “The tremendous operations which have begun so successfully on the continent of Europe must not be limited, nor men be sacrificed, for lack of firepower, equipment, or other supplies.”  Concerns about inflation were also strong. “Canadians have been told, over and over again, that all-out war production is possible only if they give maximum support to Victory Loans. And, this is very true. Without this support we would be in the grip of inflation” leading to “despair, discontent and social turmoil sweeping the land.” He warned that even after the war, inflation will remain a concern as soldiers are demobilized and industry is converted to peacetime operations.

To help launch the 7th Victory Bond campaign came Shirley Temple to Ottawa, accompanied by her parents, Gertrude and George Temple. Shirley, born in 1928, had been a child film star from the age of four when she appeared in Baby Burlesks in 1932. She hit the big time two years later when she starred in the film Bright Eyes, the story of a bachelor aviator (James Dunn) and his relationship with his orphaned goddaughter (Shirley Temple). The film was specially made to showcase her talents. Her musical number On the Good Ship Lollipop became hugely popular. In 1935, she won a special Juvenile Academy Award for her contributions to cinema. Also that year, in The Little Colonel, Temple performs the staircase dance with the legendary Bill “Bojangles” Robinson in the first inter-racial dance number. Little Shirley Temple’s dimples and smiles were the needed tonic for a Depression-weary nation. She became the top box-office draw in North America for four years in a row.

By 1944, Shirley Temple was no longer the ringleted little girl of her early movies. She was now 16, and was making the transition from a child actor to an adult performer. On contract with producer David O. Selznick, Temple wasn’t allowed to sing or dance in order to provide some distance from her earlier screen persona. In July 1944, the movie Since You Went Away was released by Selznick International Pictures. A war-time drama set on the U.S. home front, Temple plays the adolescent daughter of a mid-western housewife (Claudette Colbert). Jennifer Jones plays Temple’s older sister. The movie garnered eight Academy award nominations and won one for best music at the 1945 Academy Awards.

Shirley T with PM LAC C-029451

Shirley Temple with Prime Minister Mackenzie King, 21 October 1944, in front of the Parliament Buildings, Library and Archives Canada

Temple arrived in Ottawa from California after stops in Toronto and Montreal to boost sales of Victory Bonds in those two cities. There, she was accompanied by an up-and-coming Canadian actor, Alexander Knox, who had made a name for himself in the Darryl F. Zanuck movie Wilson. Knox played the lead role of Woodrow Wilson in the docudrama. The movie went on to win five Oscars in the 1945 Academy Awards. In Montreal, Temple showed off her linguistic abilities by being interviewed in French.

Shortly after her arrival in Ottawa, two enterprising boys managed to get Shirley Temple’s autograph. After being stopped by Mounties from approaching her when she was at Union Station, the two darted down the tunnel to the Château Laurier Hotel. Although challenged by a porter, they managed to sweettalk their way onto an elevator. After knocking on the door of the Temple family’s suite, they talked to her father, George Temple, who introduced them to his daughter.  After a couple of frantic moments trying to find a pen with ink, the two boys obtained her autograph.

Shirley Temple movie 21-10-44 OC

Shirley Temple’s latest movie, Since You Went Away, opened at the Elgin Theatre on 23 October 1944, two days after she opened the 7th Victory Bond Campaign, Ottawa Citizen 21 October 1944.

The official launch day for the Seventh Victory Bond campaign was 21 October 1944, a chilly, overcast Saturday in Ottawa; sales of the bonds had already commenced among Canada’s servicepeople. The highly choreographed event started at 12.15pm when Shirley Temple, wearing a full-length mink coat, came out of the door of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill with Prime Minister Mackenzie King, Mayor Stanley Lewis, members of King’s Cabinet, and Graham Towers. Prior to stepping outside, Temple and Mayor Lewis had exchanged “short snorters” with each other—dollar bills with their autographs on them. She had also bantered with the Prime Minister, asking him if he had memorized his speech.

The film star and government dignitaries were greeted by a roar of thousands of spectators standing on the greensward in front of a dais set up at the base of the Peace Tower. Shirley Temple’s name was chanted and spelled out by students from five Ottawa high schools—Lisgar, Glebe, Commerce, St Patrick, and Ottawa Tech., who were assembled in roped-off areas. Each school held up a placard with its name on it. Cheerleaders jumped and cavorted, exhorting their compatriots to shout their school yells. The students were there to greet both Temple and five servicemen, one from each school, who had returned home from the battlefields abroad. Also on the dais were nine returning servicemen, one from each of Canada’s provinces.

After the programme of the afternoon’s activities had been announced, the first of the local returning servicemen was introduced—Private Bert Draper of the High School of Commerce. He was followed by Pilot Officer Peter Pennefather of St. Patrick’s and F.O. Don Cheney of Glebe Collegiate. Cheney had flown over Germany eleven times, had bailed out over enemy territory and had somehow made his way back to Britain. F.O. Lorne Frame followed. He joined in the Tech.’s school cheer. The last returnee, Lisgar’s F.O. Garn Wright was introduced over national CBC radio.

A number of short speeches followed with Prime Minister King underscoring the great financial challenges still ahead of the Canadian people. He also paid tribute to the returning servicemen and those who have long awaited their return. Finance Minister Ilsley commented that the “repats” “had experienced the grimness of war first hand” and “would be the first to warn Canadians against any idea the war would end soon.” Mayor Lewis followed saying: “We who waited and watched in safety must accept the responsibility that was placed on us to shorten the war and support the men who fight for us.” Justice Minister Louis St. Laurent provided similar sentiments in French.

Shirley T. HMS Myrmidon by Mrs CD Howe Harry Rowed National Film Board of Canada LAC

Launch of HMS Myrmidon by Mrs. C.D. Howe. The 1,000th ship built in Canada since the beginning of the war, 21 October 1944, Harry Rowed, National Film Board, Library and Archives Canada.

Then came the climax of the day’s events—the launching of nine ships from shipyards at ports across the country. The nine servicemen from each province were placed in front of a bank of microphones, where each in turn spoke over the air to a loved one—a mother, sister or sweetheart—in one of Canada’s ports. After some personal banter, the servicemen in turn gave the signal to their loved one to launch a ship. After each launch, the bells on the Peace Tower rang out.

In all, four cargo ships, a transport ferry, a maintenance ship, an ocean-going tug and two Algerine minesweepers were christened and released into the waters of the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Great Lakes. The ninth ship, one of the minesweepers, was the 1,000th ship constructed in Canada since the start of the war. It was launched into Toronto Harbour by Mrs C. D. Howe, the wife of the Canadian Munitions Minister, on the instruction of her son Lieutenant William Howe of the Royal Canadian Navy.

At the end of the elaborate ceremony, Shirley Temple’s car was mobbed by well wishers, both young and old, as it made its way slowly down the east drive on Parliament Hill towards the Château Laurier Hotel.

The Seventh Victory Bond campaign was a great success, raising $1.52 billion. There were two more Victory Bond campaigns to go, with the Ninth taking place in November 1945 after the end of the war. In total, the nine issues of Victory Bonds raised $12 billion. In 1946, the Victory Bonds were replaced by Canada Savings Bonds which remained a popular investment vehicle for small investors well into the 21st century. Sales of Canada Savings Bonds were discontinued in November 2017.

Shirley Temple made a second, successful wartime movie for David O. Selznick, called I’ll Be Seeing You released in late 1944. However, her later films fell flat. She married John Agar in 1945 at only 17 years of age. The marriage didn’t last, the couple divorcing in 1950. Temple married Charles Black that same year. On her marriage day, she announced that she was retiring from film. She was only 22 years old. This did not mean the end of Shirley Temple, however. She appeared on a number of television shows during the 1950s and 1960s. Active in the Republican Party, for which she unsuccessfully ran for Congress in 1967, she became a career diplomat. President Nixon appointed her as a delegate to the 24th General Assembly of the United Nations in 1967. She subsequently served as the US Ambassador to Ghana, Chief of Protocol in Washington D.C., and US Ambassador to Czechoslovakia, her time as ambassador coinciding with the “Velvet Revolution” in 1989. She died in 2014 at the age of 85.

 

Sources:

Fullerton, Douglas H. 1986. Graham Towers And His Times, Toronto: McClelland & Stewart.

Globe and Mail, 1944 “Nine Launchings Open Victory Loan Campaign,” 23 October.

Montreal Gazette, 1944. “Temple, Knox On Air Here,” 16 October.

Ottawa Citizen, 1944. “Ottawa Students and Shirley Temple Open 7th Loan Drive At Hill Ceremony,” 23 October.

——————, 1944. “Boys Get Autograph of Shirley Temple,” 23 October.

Ottawa Journal, 1944. “Students Introducing Repats To Shirley Temple,” 20 October.

——————, 1944. “Shirley Temple In Person,” 21 October.

Windsor Daily Star, 1944. “Towers Shows Need For Success Of Seventh Victory Loan,” 17 October.

———————–, 1944.  “Loan Started With Colorful Ceremonies,” 23 October.

 

 

 

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Ottawa’s Champion Hose Reel Team

2 October 1880

The crowds had started to gather at the train station hours ahead of the arrival of the St. Lawrence and Ottawa Railway train from Prescott, anxious to get a glimpse of their “boys.” On board was the Chaudière No. 1 Hose Reel team, the newly crowned “Champions of America” who were returning from an international meet held in the small town of Malone in upstate New York.

Arriving at 6.30 pm, the team was met by an official welcoming committee that included Fire Chief William Young, head of the Ottawa Fire Brigade. At that time, the Brigade consisted of eighteen professional fire fighters located in five stations, each equipped with a two-wheeled hose reels that could be pulled by one horse, or manually if necessary. Also present were Aldermen Lauzon, Coleman and Heney. Outside of the train station, a hook and ladder truck along with No. 1, 2 and 3 hose reels were drawn up in preparation for the parade through the streets of Ottawa. After the customary greetings, a procession formed up, starting with the team’s reel which was decorated with flags and bore a banner strung between two brooms with the word “Champion” written on it. The time being long past sunset, the parade was lit by torches. On their route to the City Hall on Elgin Street, the “boys” were cheered by crowds of Ottawa residents and supporters.

ottawa fire department

Hose Reel being drawn by horse outside of Ottawa’s No.1 Fire Station, undated, Topley Studio, Library and Archives Canada, PA-013103.

At City Hall, in the absence of the Mayor, Alderman Lauzon welcomed back the champion hose real team of America. He said that after the team’s earlier defeats at Canton and Potsdam, New York, the victory showed what perseverance can accomplish. The victory was being “hailed with pleasure throughout the Dominion.”  Alderman Coleman remarked that the win “added another to the long list of trophies won by Ottawa representatives.” Somewhat more tangibly, Alderman Heney promised that as soon as the City was in better financial shape, the fire brigade would get a pay raise.

Hose reel racing was a very popular activity during the late nineteenth century, with competitions organized among fire departments across North America.  Agricultural shows often hosted hose reel races, offering significant prize purses to attract the best teams. With serious money to be had, team members were often professionals selected for their speed or brawn to represent a particular fire hall rather than true fire fighters. Betting on these races was fierce.

In a typical hose reel race, a team of up to 18 men competed to draw a 450-pound reel cart carrying 350 feet of hose yards to a fire hydrant. They would then attach and lay 300 feet of hose, break the couplings and screw on a nozzle. Typically, a total of 400 yards would be run from start to finish. The races were timed. A good team could complete the course in a minute or less. Sometimes, two or more teams would race side by side. In early competitions, a team would push the hose reel cart along the track by hand. In later events, the men were tied to the carts, allowing them to put their entire bodies into the push, leaving their arms free. This was a dangerous sport. If a team member couldn’t keep up, he risked falling and being trampled by his team mates or run over by the hose reel cart. Serious injury could result.

Ottawa Hose Reel team 1880

The Chaudière Hose Reel Team, Champions of America, 1880, Topley Studio. Back Row: Cyrille Crappin, W. Cousens, Peter Duffy, “Boston” Ed O’Brien, W. McCullough; Middle Row: Andy Lascelles, Sam Cassidy, Chief William Young, Johnnie Shea; Front Row: J. Newton, Johnnie Raine, and Bob Raine. Missing: W. Grand, B. Leggo, W. Palen, and F. McKnight. Ottawa Citizen, 25 February 1925.

The Chaudière Hose Reel team was formed in LeBreton Flats in 1880. There were in fact at least two hose real teams in Ottawa at this time. At the Fourth Annual Fireman’s Picnic held in early August of that year, the Chaudière Hose Reel team faced the Union Company Hose Real Team which was captained by Cyrille Crappin, a legitimate fire fighter, who belonged to the “Queen Company” stationed at the Nicholas Street Station. At the Fireman’s picnic, organizers had expected that hose real teams from Prescott and Ogdensburg to compete in the same event. But at the last moment, both teams pulled out leaving only the two Ottawa teams in competition. The Chaudière team won the $75 first prize, with the Union team taking home the $30 second prize. Divided among the participants the prizes didn’t amount to much, though it was nice pocket money. This was about to change.

After that early August competition, Crappin joined the Chaudière team. Already a fast team with all its members noted runners—Peter Duffy reportedly ran the 100-yard dash in 9 4/5 seconds—the addition of Crappin took the Chaudières to a new level. He had competed in a number of professional foot races over the previous several years, invariably winning. Most famously, he had defeated a field of a dozen competitors from Montreal, Toronto and the Mohawk First Nation of Caughnawaga in a four-day racing event. Race participants ran continuously for four hours for four consecutive days. Whoever ran the furthest won the competition. The race took place in Powell’s Grove on Bank Street, opposite the Muchmor race track. The hotel located in the Grove sponsored the race. Crappin emerged the victor, having run 119 miles.

With the extra speed and endurance brought by Crappin, the Chaudière Hose Reel team was ready to take on all challengers. Chief Young of the Ottawa Fire Brigade said that he had “from $100 to $1,000 that says that Ottawa can produce a hose reel team…that can beat, and make better time than any hose reel team belonging to any part of the Dominion of Canada.” In September 1880, representatives of the St. Lawrence County Agricultural Society of Canton, New York, who had heard of the Chaudières’ prowess, came to Ottawa to invite the team to compete in Canton’s upcoming hose reel meet. The purse was US$250—a considerable sum of money in those days, equivalent to over US$6,000 today.  The Chaudières came in second at the Canton competition behind the Relief Company of Plattsburgh, New York. A few days later, at another meet in Potsdam, New York, the same thing occurred—the Chaudières fell short against the first-place Relief squad. According to hose reel race aficionados, while the team had the necessary speed to win, it lacked an expert coupler. This deficiency was filled by Johnnie Shea who became the new captain of the Chaudière Hose Reel team. Shea hailed from Burlington, Vermont where he had been the coupler for the renowned Barnes Hose Reel team. At Postdam, he asked if he could join the Chaudière team.

After their return to Ottawa with Shea, the Chaudière Hose Reel team practiced on Parliament Hill in front of a large crowd of onlookers and fans to prepare themselves for their next competition to be held in Malone, New York. This time, the purse totalled $450, of which $225 went to the winning team. The Ottawa team arrived two days ahead of the competition which was held on Friday, 1 October on the track of the Franklin County Agricultural Society. They had to borrow all their equipment—the reel from the Blake Hose Company of Swanton, NY, couplings from Chief Engineer Drew of Burlington, Vermont, and the hose from the Blake Hose Company and the Frontier Hose Company of St. Albans, Vermont.

The Ottawa team was met at the Malone train station by the Chief Engineer of the Malone Fire Department and members of the Active Hose Company of Malone. Owing to their late arrival, all the restaurants in the town were closed. Fortunately, the foreman of the Active Hose Company supplied an excellent meal to the hungry Chaudière team who stayed at Hogle House hotel. Owing to rain the next day, the team practiced indoors in a rink. Prior to their arrival, betting had strongly favoured the Relief team. However, once it was known who was on the Chaudière team, the odds shifted heavily in favour of the Ottawa team.

At 10 am Friday morning, six hose reel teams formed up in order of their turn to race—Chaudière Company No.1 of Ottawa, Blake Hose Company of Swanton, NY, the Relief Company No. 2 of Plattsburgh, NY, Washington No. 1 of St. Albans, Vermont, Chamberlin No. 1 of Canton, NY, and the Frontier No.2 of St. Albans, Vermont. The Chaudières and Reliefs came in first tied at 59¼ seconds, necessitating a tie-breaking run. The Ottawa team offered to run the tie-off as a direct race against the Relief squad instead of against the clock. But the Plattsburgh team declined. Betting odds were 2 to 1 on the Ottawa team.

There was considerable excitement among the 8,000 spectators as they waited for the drop of the umpire’s flag. As the Chaudières raced to the finish line, disaster almost happened. A boy who had been running alongside the Ottawa team was apparently pushed “violently” by one of the Relief’s team members into the way of the Ottawa team nearly tripping one of the members. The Ottawa Citizen reported that “fortunately this despicable action did not accomplish what was evidently intended.” Instead,  at the finish line, “Shea caught the coupling as it came over the reel…and broke it in a twinkling, with a team member quickly screwing the pipe on “in a masterly and satisfactory manner.” Their time was a phenomenal 58 seconds, easily out classing the Relief Company team who ran next. To great cheers, the Ottawa team drew their reel through the streets of Malone to their hotel. It was reported that the team “carried brooms to show that they had swept the day and also a rake to show the had racked in the cash.”

After their victorious return to Ottawa. Mr. Topley of Topley Studios took the team’s picture in their “full running costume.” Topley had planned to take the picture outside on Parliament Hill, the site of the practice runs. However, inclement weather forced him to take the photograph inside.

The Chaudière Hose Reel team competed the following year in Malone, and won their second American championship, again against the Relief Company of Plattsburgh, NY, taking home the $225 first prize. As a follow-up, the team was slated to race side-by-side with the Wentworth Hose Reel Team of Malone for a $100 prize. Controversially, the Malone team refused to race unless the course was shortened from 400 yards to 300 yards, citing an implicit agreement. The judges ruled against Malone. With the Wentworth Hose Reel team still refusing to run, the $100 was awarded to the Chaudière team. Subsequently, the Franklin Gazette, the Malone newspaper, reported that the Wentworth team was disbanded for their unsporting behaviour.

The success of the Chaudière Hose Reel team may have gone to members’ heads. The Montreal Gazette reported that the team was not willing to compete in any tournament where first prize money was less than $500. By 1882, the Chaudière Hose Reel team appears to have disbanded. In August of that year, Cyrille Crappin, the running star who had helped to bring victory to the Chaudière team in 1880 and 1881, was once again part of the Union Hose Reel Team that was competing in a race for a prize of only $50. There was no mention of the great coupler, Johnnie Shea.

Sources:

Franklin Gazette (Malone), as reprinted in The Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1881“Hose Reel Racing,” 8 October.

Malone Palladium, as re-printed in The Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1880. “Hose Reel Contests,” 9 October.

Montreal Gazette (The), 1880. “Dominion News, From Ottawa, 3 August.

—————————-, 1880. “Dominion News, From Ottawa,” 24 September.

—————————-, 1880. “Dominion News, From Ottawa,” 28 September.

—————————-, 1881. “Dominion News, From Ottawa,” 16 August.

Ottawa Daily Citizen (The), 1880. “The Firemen’s Picnic,” 6 August.

———————————, 1880. “A Champion Fire Brigade,” 13 August.

———————————, 1880.  “The Chaudiere Hose Reel Team,” 28 September.

———————————, 1880. “Return of the Victors,” 4 October.

———————————, 1880. “Photographed,” 5 October.

———————————, 1881. “Hose Reel Competition,” 28 September.

———————————, 1925. “These Were Champions of Champions,” 28 February.

———————————, 1925. “Cyrille Crappin Brought Home The Bacon; Wonderful Distance Runner Of Seventies; Won a Great Victory in Sixteen Hour Race,” 28 February.

———————————, 1925. “Great Pete Duffy In Action,” 25 April.

 

 

 

 

The Grand Chaudière Dam

16 October 1868

We have in our very midst unrivalled water powers, and it would argue the utmost lack of energy, the blindest fatuity, were they to remain undeveloped. “Impressions of Ottawa,” Ottawa Citizen, 6 November 1860.

The mighty Ottawa River, also known as the Kichissippi in Algonquin and the Outaouais in French, stretches more than 1,100 kilometres. Its source is Lac Capitmichigama in central Quebec from which it runs west to Lake Timiskaming before heading south to form the boundary between Ontario and Quebec, passing through the National Capital Region on its way to meet the St. Lawrence at the Lac des Deux Montagnes in Montreal. Its watershed covers an area of more than 146,000 square kilometres.

For countless generations, the Ottawa was a key transportation and trading route for the indigenous peoples of this land. Later, it became the route for European explorers and settlers into Canada’s interior. Led by native guides, Samuel de Champlain explored the Ottawa River in 1613. It subsequently became an important thoroughfare for French voyageurs and coureurs des bois trading manufactured goods with the First Nations for beaver and other pelts which were in high demand in Europe. Later still, loggers and lumbermen of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, who were exploiting the ancient forests of the Ottawa Valley, relied on the river to transport logs and square timber (logs that had been stripped of their bark and roughly squared) to markets.

With a vertical descent of 365 metres, the Ottawa River is turbulent and fast-flowing even today despite more than 50 dams and hydro facilities constructed along its main branch and tributaries.  According to the Ottawa Riverkeeper, the Ottawa is one of the most regulated rivers in Canada. Nonetheless, it remains a magnet for white-water canoers and rafters.

For nineteenth century lumbermen trying to bring rafts of logs down the Ottawa, its rapids and falls were a nightmare, posing dangers to life and limb. However, the entrepreneurs of Ottawa and Hull saw the potential for profit from those same rapids and falls if they could be harnessed to produce the motive power necessary to drive the big saws that processed the raw lumber. By damming the Ottawa, mill owners could channel the flow of water through their mills. A tamed river also meant a safer river for the log drivers.

One of the major obstacles on the Ottawa River was the Chaudière Falls, known as the Giant Kettle in English. In 1829, Ruggles Wright, the son of Philomon Wright who founded Hull, built a timber slide on the Quebec side of the river to permit logs and rafts of timber to bypass the falls. Three years later, another slide was constructed by George Buchanan on the Ontario side of the river. To build the slide, a dam was constructed that ran roughly parallel to the shore to divert water into a channel. (The dam can be seen in an 1832 plan of the first Union Bridge across the Ottawa River by Joseph Bouchette.)

Plan and elevation of Union Bridge by Burrows in Joseph Buchette, 1831, p.82 (2)

The initial 1832 dam built by George Buchanan can be seen in the middle left hand side of the map of the Chaudière Falls and Bridge from Joseph Bouchette, The British Dominions in North America, 1832.

In 1854, at the behest of the mill-owners and lumbermen of Bytown, the Department of Public Works of the Provincial Government, constructed a 640-foot dam with log booms on the south side of the Chaudière Falls. It extended from the pier built by George Buchanan at the head of his timber slide to Russell Island above the Falls. The purpose of the dam was threefold. First, it would provide a more constant supply of water during the low water summer months. Second, it would furnish a 140-acre pool of calm water for the storage of logs waiting to be processed in the adjacent mills. Previously, only a day’s worth of logs could be stored. Third, it would reduce the loss of timber inadvertently going over the Falls. It was reported that £3,000 pounds worth of logs was lost annually owing to the timber cribs getting into the wrong channel. There was no mention of the fate of the men driving the logs.

A second dam with booms was also constructed on the north side of the river to ensure a constant supply of water for the Hull mills. According to the Citizen, “There is no limit to the extent of the commerce that may be created by the mills and factories that can be put into motion by the water of the Chaudière.”

Despite the hyperbole, the newspaper was on to something. Between 1856 and 1860, the timber industry expanded rapidly with Messrs. Perley, Booth and Eddy joining timber pioneers such as Messrs. Baldwin, Bronson, Harris and Young. The millowners sought more River “improvements” to expand their capacity. Reportedly, the lumber barons, to whom the government had leased water rights, were “exceedingly irritated and annoyed” to go with out water for their mills during the low water summer months while at the same time “a mighty volume of water [was] plunging over the Falls.” With many mills forced to close for part of the year, there was a loss of profit, especially as mill owners tried to keep skilled workers on payrolls as long as possible fearing that they might leave the region if they were laid off. Even so, many found themselves temporarily unemployed during the low water months—a serious condition as there was no unemployment insurance. The Citizen opined that “fathers of families, others younger—the hope and strength of the country—[were] standing idle, in want of work…while the mighty volume of the Ottawa rushed by the silent mills uncurbed and useless to man.”

Mr. Baldwin proposed that the government build a submerged dam across the main channel a few hundred yards above (west of) the Chaudière Falls, to divert the river towards the lumber mills. However, excess water would continue to flow over the dam during periods of high water and avert spring flooding. The government was not convinced. To allay governmental concerns about potential flooding, Baldwin suggested lowering Russell Island, located at the south end of the proposed dam, by six feet to provide an additional area of discharge during periods of high water. During low water, it would stand above the waterline and would act as an auxiliary dam. He figured that the water running over the lowered island during the spring freshet would offset the obstruction caused by the proposed dam. Still unconvinced, the Department of Public Works refused to fund the project and demanded the backers of the project, should they go ahead themselves, provide bonds of indemnity to compensate landowners who might be flooded by the dam.

With the capital for the venture provided by “a large party of the leading residents of the city and others,” the project went ahead under the supervision of Mr. John O’Connor during the fall of 1868. The submerged dam was 350 feet long and 75 feet wide at the base, tapering to 24 to 48 feet wide at the top. It was built of strong crib-work filled in with stone and braced with longitudinal timbers faced with 5-inch thick planks upon which guard timbers were attached using iron bolts. Guard piers protected each end of the dam. Reportedly, workers excavated 8,000 tons of rock, presumably from Russell Island.  The project costed roughly $10,000, and was completed in five weeks using a workforce of 200 men.

The Grand Chaudière Dam was inaugurated on 16 October 1868, a day which the Citizen said would be “long remembered in the annals of the lumber interest of the valley.” The paper also praised the “enterprise of our American citizens—by whom the majority of the milling establishments at the Chaudière are owned.”

A few days later, sixty of the leading citizens of Ottawa assembled on Russell Island for a celebration to mark the completion of the dam, “and pledge a bumper to the health of the builder, and prosperity to the trade.” Chairing the gathering was Richard Scott, the Liberal member of the legislative assembly who represented Ottawa in the Ontario legislature. Other attendees included, Joseph M. Currier, the Conservative member of parliament for the City of Ottawa, Mayor Henry Friel, and a number of Dominion Government cabinet ministers despite the government’s earlier opposition to the project. Samuel Tilley, the Minister of Inland Revenue, apologized for the absence of Sir George Cartier and others who could not attend owing to important engagements elsewhere. James Skead, a prominent area businessman and senator, argued that similar works like the Chaudière dam were needed elsewhere on the Ottawa River.

Chaudiere Falls pre 1900

Map of the Chaudière area before the construction of the Chaudière Ring dam in 1908. The 1854 dam between Chaudière Island and Russell Island can be seen in the middle left of the map. The Grand Chaudière Dam is not visible.

The impact on timber production owing to the construction of the Grand Chaudière Dam was considerable. Reportedly, the small mill owned by Mr. Young increased its monthly production by 1 million feet of lumber, the product of 5,000 standard logs, during the first dry season after the completion of the dam. Extrapolating these figures to include the much larger operations of Messrs. Baldwin, Bronson, Booth and Perley, the Citizen calculated that a total of 13 million additional feet of lumber were produced every month during the dry season. With a dry season averaging three months, the value of increased production amounted to an estimated $507,000 dollars—a huge sum. As well, there was no flooding during the spring freshet as feared by the government. The expectations of the dam’s backers were more than fully met.

With the mills working at full capacity from the beginning to the end of the milling season, the Citizen wrote: The completion and successful working of the dam may be said to be the crowning point of numerous victories over great natural obstructions and difficulties. The vast water power which has for ages been conserved in the Chaudière Falls, has now been utilized to an extent which few of the last generation ever dreamt of, and which but few of the present generation, who thoroughly understood the difficulties, could, a few years ago, have supposed could be realized.

Today, the Grand Chaudière Dam, which permitted a huge expansion of the Ottawa timber business during the second half of the nineteenth century, is long gone. It was replaced by the Chaudière Ring Dam in 1908 which massively expanded the hydro-electric generating capacity of the Chaudière Falls, and provided the bulk of Ottawa’s electricity during the early twentieth century.

 

Sources:

Haxton Tim & Chubbuck, Don, 2002, Review of the historical and existing natural environment and resource uses on the Ottawa River, Ontario Power Generation, https://www.ottawariverkeeper.ca/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/tim_haxton_report.pdf.

Ottawa Citizen, 1854. “No Title,” 29 July.

——————, 1854. “Ottawa Improvements,” 7 October.

——————, 1854. “Public Works On The Ottawa,” 28 October.

——————, 1868. “Inauguration Of The Great Chaudiere Dam,” 23 October.

——————, 1869. “The Pubic Works on the Ottawa And Its Tributaries,” 12 August.

——————, 1869. “The Lumbering Interests Of Ottawa, 16 August.

Ottawa Riverkeeper, 2019. Dams, https://www.ottawariverkeeper.ca/home/explore-the-river/dams/.

 

The Shiners’ War

20 October 1835

Bytown, the future Ottawa, was a rough place to live during the early nineteenth century. The combination of French, Irish, English, and Scottish settlers was a combustible mixture, especially when combined with religious differences, historic grievances, discrimination, a rigid social structure, poverty, and alcohol. Mother Mcguinty’s Tavern, which was located in Corktown amidst the shanties that lined the Rideau Canal, and Firth’s Tavern close to the Chaudière Falls, were notorious watering holes. If those didn’t suit, there were dozens of other legal taverns as well as illegal grog houses to patronize. Drunken fights and brawls were commonplace, especially when the lumbermen and raftsmen, the workers who brought the cut logs downriver, were in town to gather supplies for the lumbering season.

Despite being co-religionists, Irish and French Canadians often duked it out on the streets of Bytown. Folklore has it that Joseph Montferrand, big Joe Mufferaw to English-speakers, fought off as many as 150 Irishmen in 1829 standing in the middle of the Union Bridge that linked Bytown in Upper Canada to Hull in Lower Canada across the Chaudière Falls. The story has it that Montferrand, a muscular lumberman of considerable proportions, dumped each Irishman who challenged him into the Ottawa River. Montferrand came to be seen as a defender of French rights.

Lumbermen, Ottawa, late 19th century, Topley Studio Library and Archives Canada PA-012605

Lumbermen in the Ottawa Valley, late 19th century, Topley Studio-Library and Archives Canada, PA-012605.

Matters only got worse after the Rideau Canal was completed in 1832 and work became scarce. Unemployed Irish canal workers looked for jobs in the lumber industry, a business hitherto dominated by French Canadians. Tempers flared and fists flew. The Irish gained the upper hand against their French Canadian neighbours when they found a champion who organized them. That leader was Peter Aylen. Of Irish extraction, he was born Peter Vallely in Liverpool, England.  He came to Canada in 1815, reportedly after jumping ship at Quebec. At some point he changed his name to Aylen. Little is known about his early years in Canada, but by the 1830s he had become prominent in the lumber business in the Ottawa Valley. Aylen hired only Irish workers, a fact that endeared him to the Irish community in Lower Bytown. He was very successful, becoming a member of the “Gatineau Privilege” who obtained a monopoly to cut timber in the Gatineau River area. He also had lumber operations in the watersheds of the Bonnechere and Madawaska Rivers. In the 1830s, Aylen built a substantial stone homestead on Richmond Road which still stands today.

Aylen’s Irish followers were called Shiners. The origins of the term is obscure. One explanation is that it’s a corruption of the French word chêneurs, or fellers of oak. Another has it that they considered themselves to be the shining ones who stood out above all others. Yet other explanations have them named for the shiny tall hats that newcomers wore, or the shiny silver half-crown coins with which they were paid. Regardless, the Shiners were hooligans who terrorized Bytown and the environs for years. Many offences were laid at their doorstep including stripping children naked in the snow, fouling wells, accosting women in the street and shattering windows. On one occasion, it is said that they broke up a funeral cortege and threw the coffin off the hearse into the street.

They were also accused of serious crimes such as assault, arson, rape and murder. On one occasion, the pregnant wife of a farmer called Hobbs, who had somehow crossed the Shiners, was attacked while driving home in a sleigh with other female members of the family. Beaten with sticks, Mrs Hobbs tried to jump to safety. But her clothing caught in the sleigh and she was dragged over the frozen ground before coming free. The Shiners cut her team of horses loose from the sleigh and ran them off. The next day, the horses managed to find their way home. Their ears and tails had been mutilated.

Aylen house 2018

Peter Aylen’s House, built circa. 1830, 150 Richmond Road, Ottawa. In 1914, the home’s substantial out-buildings were destroyed by fire. July 2018, by James Powell

According to the Capuchin priest, Father Alexis de Barbezieux, people said “Il n’y a pas de Dieu à Bytown.”  (There is no God in Bytown.) Families without news of children who had gone to Bytown to work in the lumber camps feared that they had been killed. Many years later, some believed that in the middle of the night at the Chaudière Bridge (the bridge that replaced the Union Bridge) you could hear the cries of drowned French-Canadian voyageurs and Irish Shiners, the victims of desperate fights who had fallen to their deaths into the rapids below.

In 1835, Peter Aylen stepped up his campaign to control the lumber industry. Shiners began interdicting timber rafts owned by French Canadians going down the Ottawa River to Montreal. Aylen also had bigger ideas—taking over Bytown. Beatings and intimidation increased on the town’s streets. Special constables that were supposed to keep the peace looked the other way, or were in Aylen’s pay. If pursued, hooligans simply crossed the border into Lower Canada and evaded arrest. Even if they were captured, they had to be transported to Perth for trial as there was no jail or courthouse in Bytown. Poorly paid constables were loath to make the perilous fifty-mile journey given the many opportunities for ambush along the way.

Aylen House plaque

Commemorative Plaque on Peter Aylen’s house, 150 Richmond Road.  The home was later owned by the Heney family. July 2018, by James Powell

Despite the anarchy, the community’s wealthy elite in Upper Bytown didn’t take serious action to suppress the Shiners as long as problems were confined to Lower Town. But when the Irish-French feud disrupted the all-important timber trade, and prices rose as farmers became reluctant to bring provisions to lawless Bytown, the town’s merchants woke up to the risks. In August 1835, Peter Aylen challenged the elites politically when he took over the Bathurst District Agricultural Society, the pinnacle of Bytown society life. Drunken Shiners, furnished by Aylen with the necessary one dollar membership fee, overwhelmed authentic members and voted in Aylen and his friends as directors.

With this, Aylen had gone too far. On 20 October 1835, a group of prominent Bytown householders established the Bytown Association for the Preservation of the Peace. They appealed to town magistrates for one hundred guns to arm citizens. Vigilantes made nightly patrols in an attempt to maintain order. As the army based in Barrick Hill was called out only on rare occasions to quell riots, the town formed a volunteer force, the Bytown Rifles, to combat the Shiners. However, the Rifles quickly disintegrated as nobody was willing to serve under its commander, Captain Baker, who was apparently something of a martinet.

Although the vigilantes had some success in keeping the peace, the Shiners continued to terrorize Bytown citizens. In March 1836, the community’s leading lumbermen founded the Ottawa Lumber Association as a further step in suppressing violence in their industry. However, with Aylen as one of its officers, the first act of the new organization was “to improve the movement of timber” on the Madawaska River where Aylen had operations. This likely meant protecting Aylen’s timber interests from angry French Canadians.

In early January 1837, Aylen and his gang disrupted the election of councillors to the Nepean Township Council held in John Stanley’s Tavern in Bytown. While Aylen was elected as one of the three councillors, he demanded that the other two positions be filled with his cronies. A gang of 40-60 of his men, many of whom had arrived at the tavern walking behind a sleigh bearing a portrait of St Patrick, stormed the meeting room, some entering via a broken window. Several of Aylen’s opponents, including James Johnson the founder of The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate, Bytown’s first newspaper, were violently beaten with sticks and horse whips in the meeting room and in the tavern’s courtyard. Protests that Aylen’s supporters were not Bytown property owners and hence were ineligible to vote went unheeded. The meeting ended in disarray with legitimate attendees fleeing in panic, and the provincial statutes and other important papers destroyed. Order was only restored by intervention of the military.

An official inquiry into the riot was held ten days later by four Bytown magistrates.  Most of the dozen or so witnesses who testified blamed Aylen for the affray. Aylen and his cronies did not testify. The magistrates concluded that vigorous measures needed to be adopted to prevent a recurrence of a similar breach of the Peace. They recommended the establishment of a municipal police force and the building of a courthouse and jail in Bytown.

The Bytown Gazette didn’t comment on what it called the “disturbances” until almost eight weeks after the riot at Stanley’s tavern, and only did so with “a good deal of reluctance.” The newspaper cautiously concluded that “our more intelligent readers will doubtless perceive, that a subject of this nature will be viewed in many different lights by different men, that no detail of occurrences with satisfy every one.” It thought there was enough blame to be shared around. “[A]lthough the disturbances have in general been attributed to the Lumbermen, under the cognomen of shiners, there have been instances in which our yeomanry have been the aggressors.”  The newspaper also opined that Bytown was being maligned due to the circulation of untrue or exaggerated stories.

Like the magistrates who held the inquiry, the Gazette thought that part of the problem was the lack of a jail. “A wholesome dread of prompt punishment would deter them from committing [crimes].” The newspaper also argued that there were too many unlicensed “Tippling Houses” where men could obtain alcohol. Legal tavern keepers should form an association to stop illegal drinking establishments. This would be an “effectual means of suppressing these hordes of vice from whence so large a portion of these disorders proceed.”

The Gazette stiffened its resolve against the Shiners when in early March 1837 armed men went to the house of James Johnson who had been beaten in the January riot on the pretense of searching for a man. Shots were fired into the upstairs rooms. Fortunately, nobody was hurt. The Gazette fumed that it was “high time measures were adopted to check them.” Poor James Johnson was to suffer yet another attempt on this life a short time later. This time, his three assailants armed with guns and whips nearly succeeded. Ambushed on Sappers’ bridge that linked Upper Town to Lower Town, Johnson had to jump into deep snow to save himself. He was rescued by passersby, but suffered a fractured skull. Fortunately, he recovered.

Unlike in the past when the Shiners could act with impunity, the three men who committed the outrage were captured and taken to Perth to stand trial. Although Aylen broke them out of jail, they were subsequently recaptured in late 1837 and served three years with hard labour in a penitentiary for attempted murder.

By this time, the age of the Shiners was fading. Bytown citizens were themselves becoming better organized and less likely to be cowed. Aylen, who had been charged with a number of offences over the years without any apparent consequence, either sold or rented out his properties on the Upper Canada side of the Ottawa River, and moved to Aylmer on the Lower Canada side. There, he continued in the lumber business. But in Aylmer, he apparently mellowed, becoming a respected member of the community. He even helped to build the area’s first church. He also became a member of the Hull Township Council in 1846, a Justice of the Peace (no joke) in 1848 and the superintendent of roads in the mid-1850s. He died peacefully in 1868.

The Shiners continued to commit acts of violence into the 1840s. But without Peter Aylen at the helm, they faded into history. Ottawa didn’t get a permanent police force until 1863. The Aylen family remained prominent in the Ottawa area. Five generations of Peter Aylen’s descendants have been lawyers, including H. Aldeous Aylen, Peter Aylen’s great grandson, who was appointed to the Supreme Court of Ontario in 1950. In the year 2000, the legal firm of Scott and Aylen, co-founded by the Aylen family almost fifty years earlier, merged with a number of other firms to create Borden Ladner Gervais LLP, now the largest and oldest law firm in Canada with roots going back almost 200 years.

Sources:

Barbezieux, Alexis de, (Father), 1897. Histoire de la Province Ecclesiastique D’Ottawa et la Colonisation dans la Vallée de l’Ottawa, Vol.1, Ottawa : La Cie d’Imprimerie.

Bytown Gazette (The), 1837. “Reported Disturbances in Bytown,” 23 February.

————————–, 1837. “Untitled,” 2 March.

Cross, Michael S, 1973. “The Shiners’ War: Social Violence in the Ottawa Valley in the 1830s,” The Canadian Historical Review, Vol. LIV, No. 1, March, pp. 1-26.

———————, 1976-2018. “Aylen (Vallely), Peter, Dictionary of Canadian Biography,” http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/aylen_peter_9E.html.

Globe and Mail (The), 2000, “Five law firms wed in cross-country mega-merger, 29 February.

House of Assembly of Upper Canada, 1837. Journal, 1st Session of the 13th Provincial Parliament, Session 1836-37, No. 52 Letter from Magistrates to Mr. Secretary Joseph on the subject of the Bytown Riots, 12 January, W.J. Coates, Printer: Toronto.

———————————————, 1837. “No. 58, Report of the Select Committee on Message of his Excellency the Lieutenant Governor and Documents relative to the Riots at Bytown.” 18 February.

Ottawa Citizen (The), 2014. “John Gordon Aylen, Obituary,” 29 December.

Ottawa Journal (The), 1936. “Christmas In Ottawa One Hundred Years Ago, 19 December.

————————–, 1950. “Name H. Aldous Aylen Supreme Court Justice,” 13 September.

The Empire’s Poet Comes To Ottawa

19 October 1907

Most people only know Rudyard Kipling as the author of The Jungle Book, the beloved tale of Mowgli, the “man-cub,” who was raised by wolves in nineteenth-century India and battled Shere Khan, the evil tiger, with help from Baloo, the bear, and the elephants. The story has been made into many movies and television shows, most notably by Walt Disney Pictures whose 2016 production went on to gross almost US$1 billion. The film was itself a remake of a 1967 animated film by the same company.

But Kipling is the author of far more—hundreds of poems, sonnets, short stories, and books. He was called the Poet of the British Empire, and won the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature. Kipling was vastly popular in his day, as much, or more so, than Shakespeare. One contemporary American author remarked that “the literateurs of the world are divided into two classes—‘Rudyard Kipling’ and the other fellows.” Kipling’s novel Kim, the story of an Irish solider on northern Indian frontier set amidst the political intrigues of the “Great Game” between Britain and Russia, is ranked among the top English-language novels of the twentieth century. His classic children’s stories, including such tales as The Elephant Child, How the Leopard got his Spots, and Rikki-Tikki-Tavi, the adventures of a mongoose, continue to be enjoyed around the world. As a youngster, I was entranced by these stories as were my children a generation later. I also remember having to memorize in school his poem A Smuggler’s Song. Fifty years later, I can still recall it—“If you wake at midnight, and hear a horse’s feet, Don’t go drawing back the blind, or looking in the street, Them that asks no questions isn’t told a lie. Watch the wall my darling as the gentlemen go by.”

Rudyard Kipling by John Palmer 1895

Rudyard Kipling by John Palmer, 1895

However, Kipling’s reputation and legacy are ambiguous and controversial. While many of his stories have stood the test of time, and expressions he coined have entered the English language, he held views that are today either outdated, or unacceptable, or both. An imperialist, he was an ardent supporter of the British Empire. He was most likely a racist, a failing rampant at the time. He was the author of the expression “the white man’s burden,” the title of a poem in which Kipling urged the United States in 1899 to take over the Philippines in order to bring civilization to “Your newly caught sullen peoples, Half devil, half child.” On the other hand, he could admire other peoples. In his Ballad of East and West he wrote: “…there is neither East nor West, Border, nor Breed, nor Birth, When two strong men stand face to face, tho’ they come from the ends of the earth!” Just six years after his death, George Orwell called Kipling “a jingo imperialist” who was “morally insensitive and aesthetically disgusting.” Today, a veritable cottage industry has developed parsing the racism explicit and implicit in The Jungle Book. There is also an ongoing debate over the degree to which Kipling was sexist. He was author of the expression “the female of the species is more deadly than the male.”

Kipling was born in Bombay in British India in 1865. His father, Lockwood Kipling was professor of architectural sculpture at the Sir Jamsetjee Jeejeboy School of Art. His mother was Alice McDonald. Home was a house on the school grounds. “Kipling House” still stands on the campus grounds of Sir J.J. School of Art, now affiliated with the University of Mumbai. As a young child, Kipling was sent to England to live with a foster family. He was terribly unhappy there. Taken out of the home, he later attended the United Services College at Westwood Ho!, a quirkily named village in Devon. As a teenager, he returned to India, where he worked as a journalist in Lahore. It was here that he began to write stories about soldiers’ lives in British India, and attracted attention as an author. He returned to England in 1889, via the Pacific and North America, with several stops in Canada, including Victoria, Vancouver, Calgary, Medicine Hat and Toronto. Three years later, he returned to Canada with his new wife Carrie (née Balestier) after a honeymoon trip to Japan. Kipling purchased property in Vancouver, attracted by its harbour, its laid-back lifestyle and its economic prospects. Kipling also found the city to be comfortably familiar.  The British flag flew over its buildings, and, in his estimation, the locals spoke proper English. However, they never lived there. Instead, the Kiplings settled down for several years in Vermont in the community where his American-born wife was raised. It was in Vermont that Kipling wrote The Jungle Book stories.

Rudyard Kipling and family returned to England for good in 1896 owing to discord with his brother-in-law who was also Kipling’s neighbour, and political tensions between the United States and Britain over British Guiana. After living for a time on the southwestern coast of England in Dorset, they bought an old manor house in Sussex in 1902.

Kipling was an inveterate traveller, with multiple voyages throughout Asia, Australia, South Africa, Europe, and North America. He had a great affection for Canada which he viewed as the eldest sister of Mother England’s Dominions that could one day provide leadership to the Empire. He described Canada as a country that has “a hard, tough, bracing climate that puts iron and grit into men’s bones, and that if things don’t move so fast as in the States they are safer.” However, he apparently also thought that Canada was “constipating,” and that when he spoke to Canadians, he needed to speak in short sentences since Canadians couldn’t “carry anything more than three and a half lines in their busy heads.” In turn, many Canadians resented his characterization of Canada as “Our Lady of Snows” as it might put off potential immigrants.

In the autumn of 1907, Kipling, now at the height of his popularity, made a cross-country tour of Canada, in part to see how the west had changed, especially Calgary and Medicine Hat, since his visit eighteen years earlier. He made the trip in luxury, on a private train carriage provided to him by Sir William Horne, the President of the Canadian Pacific Railway.  In cities along his route, he stopped to visit the sights. He was invariably invited to speak. He later commented that in Canada “there is a crafty network of business men called Canadian Clubs. They catch people who look interesting, assemble their members during the mid-day lunch hour, and, tying their victim to a steak, bid him discourse on anything that he thinks he knows.”

He briefly passed through Ottawa at the end of September on his way west before returning to the capital for a weekend stay on Saturday, 19 October as the guest of Lord and Lady Grey at Rideau Hall. The Governor General’s Secretary, Colonel (later Major-General Sir) John Hanbury-Williams, was an old friend of Kipling. He was greeted at the train station early in the morning by the Governor General’s staff. That afternoon, Kipling met the press at Rideau Hall. The interview was a love-in. One journalist reported that Kipling was “in every way interesting and interested,” and was a “fresh and vigorous personality.” Kipling focused his remarks on immigration and trade, the hot topics of the time—not so different from today! These were subjects to which he returned in his Monday’s address to the Ottawa Canadian Club after taking the Sunday off to relax with Lord and Lady Grey and their friends. Also on that Saturday afternoon, Kipling met with representatives of the South African Veterans’ Association.

Rudyard Kiping 9 may 1908 toj

Advertisement for Kipling’s Book, Letters to the Family, on his reflections about Canada, The Ottawa Journal, 9 May 1908.

Kipling’s Monday luncheon speech to the Canadian Club was held in the railway committee room of the House of Commons owing to the large number of people eager to hear the Poet of the Empire speak. More than three hundred men were in attendance, including Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. At the lunch, Laurier commented that not all Canadians took offence at Kipling’s characterization of Canada as “our Lady of Snows.” Laurier opined, that “the Canadian winter is one of the best of the blessings with which nature has dowered the Dominion.”

In his speech, Kipling despaired of Britain: “Sometimes one can only look out the window and pray, and say nothing.” His fears reflected the Mother Country’s blasé attitude towards its overseas dominions, including its unwillingness to support imperial trade preference as a means of helping to cement the Empire together. Britain had pursued a free trading policy since the mid nineteenth century. Consequently, it treated all trading partners alike regardless of whether they were part of the Empire or not. In contrast, Kipling praised Canada, which maintained tariffs to protect its industries, for instituting an imperial preference for British and subsequently Empire-made goods that had led to steamships trading regularly between New Zealand and South Africa and Canada. In parenthesis, a few years later Kipling waded into the 1911 Canadian political debate on the merits of reciprocity [a.k.a. free trade] with the United States, sending a letter that was widely printed in Canadian newspapers that Canada risked “its soul” should reciprocity be introduced. “Once that soul is pawned for any consideration Canada must inevitably conform to the commercial, legal, financial, social, and ethical standards which will be imposed upon her by the sheer admitted weight of the United States.” The reciprocity supporting Liberal Party lost the general election. Decades later, the very same sentiments were expressed during the 1980s when the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement was being negotiated by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney.

Immigration was the other hot topic that Kipling addressed. In British Columbia, there had been an influx of migrants from China, Japan and India that had led to an anti-immigrant riot. The Oriental Exclusion League based in British Columbia circulated a petition urging the Canadian government to prohibit all “Oriental immigration.” The petition said that British Columbia “has been in the past, and will continue to be, the dumping ground of Oriental laborers, notably Hindoos, Japanese and Chinese; that at present there are 30,000 Orientals of the foregoing races in British Columbia; that the Orientals enter into competition with white men, whom they have largely displaced in fishing and lumbering industries and have usurped the places amongst unskilled laborers that would otherwise be filled by white men; that the Orientals are not capable of assimilation with the white races of Canada…” The Oriental Exclusion League threatened “measures to prevent the debarkation of Orientals in Vancouver” if its demands were not met. The League was not some crank organization expressing racist views. Robert Borden (later Sir), leader of the opposition Conservative Party, said in Vancouver that British Columbia “must remain a British and Canadian province, inhabited and dominated by men in whose veins runs the blood of those great pioneering races which built up and developed not only Western, but Eastern Canada.”

Rudyard Kipling by Elliott & Fry

Rudyard Kipling by Elliot & Fry, circa 1935

Kipling responded to these events by saying British Columbia’s underlying problem was a shortage of labour rather than too much Asian immigration. And, “…if you won’t have yellow labor, you must have white.” He argued that Canada should fill up with white immigrants from Britain, with government assistance if necessary, so that “you will not notice the Orientals.” He added that “If you wait for your country to be settled with your own stock or carefully chosen immigrants it would be all right, but it is only a question of time until the ring breaks in the old lands and the flood seeps to Canada. There are many hungry people wandering around the world, and Canada must prepare to receive them.”

Kipling left Ottawa following his Canadian Club speech for Montreal where he was given an honorary degree by McGill University. The next year he published Letters to the Family about his trip across Canada. In it he expressed a number of fascinating opinions about Canada and Ottawa. On Canada’s bilingual nature, he thought that “There are strong objections to any non-fusible, bi-lingual community within a nation.” However, French Canada’s “unconcerned cathedrals, schools and convents,” and “the spirit that breathes from them, make for good.” English and French together make “a good blend in a new land.” He was also impressed with Canadian cities’ “austere Northern dignity.” He thought that “Montreal, of the black-frocked priests and the French notices had it” as did “Ottawa, of the grey stone palaces and the St. Petersburg-like shining water frontages” and Toronto that was “consummately commercial.”

Rudyard Kipling died in January 1936 at the age of 71.

 

Sources:

Experimental Wifery, 2017. “The Female of the Species Is More Deadly Than The Male,” https://experimentalwifery.com/tag/rudyard-kipling/.

History of Metropolitan Vancouver (The), 2017. Rudyard Kipling in Vancouver, http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/archives_kipling.htm.

Kipling, Rudyard, 1908. Letters to the Family, Macmillan Company of Canada: Toronto.

———————, 1930s. “Sound recording of Kipling speaking on Canadian writers and poets,” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QDcdKA4_KBM.

Kipling Society (The), 2017, http://www.kiplingsociety.co.uk/index.htm.

Lycett, Andrew, 1999. Rudyard Kipling, Weidenfeld & Nicolson: London.

Orwell, George, 1942. Rudyard Kipling, http://orwell.ru/library/reviews/kipling/english/e_rkip.

Ottawa Citizen (The), 1907. “Mr. Borden And Asiatic Immigration,” 1 October.

————————-, 1907. “Kipling Arrives,” 19 October.

————————-, 1907. “Famous Author Is In Ottawa,” 19 October.

Ottawa Journal (The), 1899. “Personal And Pertinent,” 25 April.

————————–, 1907. “Petitioning The Premier,” 30 September.

————————–, 1907. “Kipling Off To The West,” 1 October.

————————-, 1907. “Kipling Will Be Here Saturday,” 17 October.

————————-, 1907. “Unrestricted Immigration,” 17 October.

————————-, 1907. “Rudyard Kipling; the Man and his Work,” 17 October.

————————-, 1907. “Kipling Will Speak Monday,” 18 October.

————————-, 1907. “Fill Canada With Whites, Asiatics Will Disappear,” 21 October.

————————-, 1907. “Great Reception To Mr. Kipling,” 21 October.

————————-, 1907. “Mr. Kipling and Veteran Officers,” 21 October.

————————-, 1907. “Kipling’s Message,” 21 October.

————————-, 1936. “Nation’s Bard, Kipling, Loses Gallant Fight Against Death,” 18 January.

Price, John, 2007. “Orienting the Empire: Mackenzie King and the Aftermath of the 1907 Race Riots,” BC Studies, no. 156, Winter 2007/08.

Ricketts, Harry, 1999. Rudyard Kipling, A Life,” Carroll & Graf Publishers, Inc.: New York.

Sikov, Ed, 2016. “Are ‘The Jungle Books’ Racist or Not? And Why You Should Read Them Either Way,” Lit Reactor, https://litreactor.com/columns/are-the-jungle-books-racist-or-not-andwhy-you-should-read-them-either-way.

Trendacosta, Katharine, 2016. “Reminder: Rudyard Kipling Was a Racist Fuck and the Jungle Book is Imperialist Garbage,” io9.Gizmondo, http://io9.gizmodo.com/reminder-rudyard-kipling-was-a-racist-fuck-and-the-jun-1771044121.

 

The Russell Theatre

15 October 1897

On the site of the National Arts Centre (NAC) there once stood an earlier playhouse called The Russell Theatre with its front entrance on Queen Street. On hundred years ago, it was the centre of arts and culture in Ottawa just as the NAC is today. The three-storey structure, which cost $100,000 to build, was owned by The Russell Company, the proprietor of the adjacent Russell House Hotel, which was itself the city’s leading hotel prior to the building of the Château Laurier. Work on the site began at the end of March 1897 when labourers tore down the old “Leader Hotel,” also known as the “Walsh building,” on Queen Street. The Russell Company, seeking the finest that money could buy, hired the New York theatrical architectural firm of J. B. McElfatrick and Son that had built theatres across the United States. Michigan native Fuller Claflin was the on-site architect. The general contractor for the project was Mr “Ed” C. Horne of New York, with whom Claflin had worked on many similar assignments. Imported talent, mostly from the United States, also made the stage decorations, the tile mosaics, the papier maché work, as well as the ornamental paintings and frescos. Even the masons and bricklayers employed on the job came principally from New York. Dr W. A. Drowne, who had been the manager of the Plattsburgh theatre in Plattsburgh, New York, was hired to manage the new Russell Theatre.

Russell Theatre cross sectio 2-10-97

Cross section of The Russell Theatre, The Evening Journal, 2 October 1897.

The theatre, which was built in the Italian renaissance style, was a marvel of late nineteenth century technology, and was judged second to none among North American theatres. It seated roughly 1,500 patrons on three floors and in ten boxes. On the balcony, there was a large room where light refreshments were served during intermissions and after performances. A ladies’ parlour (a.k.a. bathroom) was to be found on the first floor, with the gentlemen’s toilets on the balcony level. In the gallery, there was a smoking lounge for gentlemen. The steam-heated building was equipped with the latest stage apparatus and a modern electrical lighting system, with the wires carefully run through brass tubing to deter fires. In the case of fire, it had a fire pump with ten water outlets each equipped with fire hoses distributed throughout the building. The ground floor was laid in concrete, and the stairwells were separated from the auditorium by brick walls. The proscenium opening was protected by an asbestos curtain. Asbestos was also used in the plaster to retard burning. In an act of hubris suitable for a Greek tragedy, The Evening Journal said the theatre was “practically fireproof.”

On 15 October 1897, the Russell Theatre officially opened its door to the general public. Seats for the premiere had been auctioned off a few days earlier, with the proceeds in excess of the established ticket prices donated to the Prescott and Russell Fire Relief Fund. Roughly $200 were raised to help victims of a massive bush fire that had earlier destroyed three villages in eastern Ontario—Casselman, South Indian and Cheney’s—killing at least six people and leaving hundreds homeless.

Russell Theatre, Kismet 16-Oct-97

Advertisement for Kismet, the Premiere Production at The Russell Theatre, The Evening Journal, 15 October, 1897.

The gala opening featured Kismet or Two Tangled Turks, a comic opera in two acts by the German-born Broadway composer Gustave Kirker, with the libretto by Richard F. Carroll. Unfortunately, the play “was not altogether a success” opined The Evening Journal. The performance lacked “snap and vim” and was judged “dull” for long periods. The problem seemed to lie more with the play than with the theatrical company. The newspaper said that Miss Minerva Dorr, who played the role of the Sultan (sic) of Turkey, had a commanding presence and an exquisite voice while Mr John Saunders was very humorous as the Grand Vizier.  The dancers “of the Odalisques” were also judged to be quite pleasing. In general, the theatrical company was considered to have been good, but would have done better with a better play.

If the play was lacklustre, the theatre wowed Ottawa’s elite. Prior to the beginning of the performance, coloured lights played over the stage curtain that was painted with a scene of the loops of the Selkirk River of Manitoba. Being the première, people turned out in their finest with the newspaper giving a detailed account of the outfits of prominent Ottawa women. A Miss Davis wore “a dainty dress of dresden muslin-de-soie over cream silk, the trimming of cream lace and nile green satin ribbons forming a bolero and full front bodice. Diamond and pearl ornaments.”

It seems the Journal’s judgement of the Russell’s first theatrical production was an accurate assessment of the theatre’s first seasons—second-rate. In a letter to the editor, a theatre-goer in 1899 moaned that the Russell Theatre had claimed that it had been unable to book first-rate theatrical companies since they had already been contracted to play in Toronto and Montreal. He thought that while the excuse might have been a fiction, the result was “painful.” Another angry theatre patron complained that if Ottawa had to put up with second-rate attractions, at least the prices charged shouldn’t be higher than those charged in Montreal.

Fire put an end to the complaints. On 9 April 1901, roughly two hours after the last patrons had left a production of The Belle of New York, a musical comedy written by Hugh Morton with music again by Gustave Kirker, a fire broke out behind the Russell’s stage. Despite the asbestos curtain and other fire retarding measures, the theatre was quickly gutted, its wooden interior fixtures burning like tinder. The alarm was raised by the theatre’s caretaker who had an apartment close to the stage. He had just fallen asleep when he was woken by a loud rushing sound, with his room filling with smoke. Almost naked, he rushed out of the theatre to the nearby police station to bring help. Dr Drowne, the Russell’s manager, and Mrs Drowne who also lived in the theatre, barely escaped with their lives. They fled with only the clothes on their backs. All their possessions, valued at $2,000, were lost.

By the time Fire Chief Provost and his men got to the Russell Theatre, flames were already shooting through the roof. But firefighters were able to bring the blaze under control by plying water streams onto the structure from the Free Press Building at the corner of Queen and Elgin Streets. While the theatre was a write-off, the firemen were able to save surrounding buildings, including the Russell House Hotel. Aiding them was the weather—wet with the wind blowing away from the hotel.

The cause of the blaze was never ascertained. The caretaker thought it started in the furnace room. Others believed it had been caused by a wayward cigarette dropped by one of the players. However, Dr Drowne disagreed, saying he was very strict with smoking around the stage. Also, he had passed through the theatre after The Belle of New York troupe had left, and had checked on every room before retiring for the night.

The next day, Ottawa residents woke up to the realization that only by chance had a great tragedy been avoided. Had the fire broken out just two hours earlier, many men, women and children might have been trampled in a rush for the doors. Despite the considerable fire precautions taken in its construction, the consensus was that the theatre had not been safe due to insufficient exits, especially from the dress circle and balcony levels. Many considered the theatre to have been a “death trap.”

Speculation also began on whether the theatre would be rebuilt. The initial assessment was not favourable. Fire losses were estimated at $100,000, with insurance covering only $63,000. Also, the theatre had not been profitable; no dividends had been paid since the day it was opened. But at a meeting of directors four days after the fire, management announced that an arrangement had been reached to rebuild the Russell Theatre between the owners of the theatre and the Ambrose J. Small Company of Toronto, a theatre management company that had leased the Russell. Apparently, the Ambrose J. Small Company had already booked engagements for two-thirds of the coming season.

As an aside, many years later in 1919, Ambrose J. Small, who was a major Canadian theatre mogul who owned or operated theatres in several Ontario cities, was to disappear under circumstances worthy of a paperback thriller. After receiving $1.7 million from the sale of his theatre operations, it was alleged that he was murdered by his wife and her lover, with his body incinerated in the furnace of the Grand Opera Theatre in London, Ontario. The allegations were never proven. At one point, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the author of the Sherlock Holmes stories, was approached for assistance in solving the case. While interested, Sir Arthur declined to help. Never solved, the police closed the case in 1960.

Russell Theatre interior, 1928 Mikan 7821743 government

Interior of the new Russell Theatre before its demolition in 1928, Library and Archives Canada, Mikan 7821743.

The new Russell Theatre reopened on 7 October 1901, almost four years to the day after its first debut. Although rebuilt along similar lines to the original theatre and finished as before in old gold, ivory and red, with shades of blue under the galleries, there were significant differences. Capacity has increased to 1,900 seats from 1,500, with 590 on the ground floor, 500 in the balcony, 700 in the gallery, with the remainder accommodated in twelve boxes. There were other differences too. Most importantly, there were a lot more exits, including four on the gallery and three on the balcony. Frederick Challener, a distinguished Canadian artist, had also been commissioned to paint three murals on the ceiling, depicting the “Triumph of Drama,” “Love” and “Hate.”

Russell Theatre ceiling 1928, Mikan 4821747 Government

Ceiling of the new Russell Theatre showing “The Triumph of Drama” by Frederick Challener, RCA, 1928, Library and Archives Caanda, Mikan 4821747.

The re-opening play was a production of Dolly Varden, a comic opera by the Broadway composer Julian Edwards based on the character Dolly Varden from the Charles Dickens’ book Barnaby Rudge. Miss Lulu Glaser played the lead role. This debut fared better than the first. The Journal’s review described the production as “bright and clever entertainment, while Miss Glaser was “vivacious and dainty.” Unlike Kismet in 1897, Dolly Varden had the necessary “vim.” The newspaper was particularly impressed by a chorus by the entire company performed a cappella. The costumes were also deemed to have been gorgeous.

During that first week, Dolly Varden played for two nights. This was followed by two nights of vaudeville by Shea’s Vaudeville from the Garden Theatre in Buffalo. The week was rounded out by a performance by Louis Morrison in The New Faust on the Friday, followed by Madame Modjeska and Louis James in productions of Mary Stuart and Henry VIII on the Saturday.

The curtain fell for the last time at the Russell Theatre on 14 April 1928. The theatre, along with the now empty Russell House Hotel and other properties on the Russell Block bordered by Sparks, Queen and Elgin Streets and the Canal had been acquired by the Federal District Commission (FDC). All were slated for demolition as part of the Commission’s plan to beautify Ottawa. On that last night, The Dumbells performed in “Bubbling Over,” a series of eleven comedic and musical acts, to a capacity crowd. Led by Captain Merton Plunkett, the troupe was a prominent and extremely popular Canadian vaudeville group that had been formed during World War I by members of Canada’s Third Division. The company took their name from the dumbbell emblem of the Third Division.  At the end of their performance, Captain Plunkett told the audience that it was fitting that a strictly Canadian company should be the last to appear at the Russell.

As The Dumbells were loading their props and other equipment onto a horse-drawn cart after their show, the derelict Russell House Hotel caught fire. Although firemen were able to save the adjacent Russell Theatre from the flames, nothing could save it from the FDC. Three months later, it was demolished. Fortunately, on hearing of the existence of the beautiful ceiling murals by Frederick Challener, Canada’s National Gallery asked that they be saved. The murals now reside at the Gallery. In 1985, the Gallery also obtained Challener’s preliminary scale model of the main mural, Triumph of Drama. See Maquette of Triumph of Drama. 

Sources:

Alberti, Louis-Gèrard, 2015. “The Russell Theatre,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/russell-theatre-emc/.

Bordman, Gerald with Norton, Richard, 2010. American Musical Theatre, A Chronicle, 4th Edition, Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York.

Evening Journal (The), 1897. “Ottawa’s New Theatre,” 30 March.

—————————, 1897. “Down Comes The Wall,” 30 March.

—————————, 1897. “The Russell House Company,” 7 June.

————————–, 1897. “Opera House Decorations,” 14 July.

————————–, 1897. “At Work On The Scenery,” 18 August.

————————–, 1897. “With The Labor Men,” 21 August.

————————-, 1897. “An Up To Date Theatre,” 2 October.

————————-, 1897. “The Russell Offer,” 9 October.

————————-, 1897. “$200 For Fire Sufferers.”

————————-, 1897. “Up Goes The Curtain,” 16 October.

————————-, 1899. “The Russell Theatre,” 18 September.

————————-, 1899. “The Russell Theatre,” 23 September.

————————-, 1901. “The Theatre Fire,” 9 April.

————————-, 1901. “Russell Theatre A Ruin Today,” 9 April.

————————-, 1901. “Opposed To Rebuilding,” 9 April.

————————-, 1901. “Did Not Pay,” 10 April.

————————-, 1901. “Music And Her Devotees,” 13 April.

————————-, 1901. “Theatre To Be Rebuilt,” 13 April.

————————-, 1901. “Russell Will Open Oct. 7,” 25 September.

————————-, 1901. “The Theatre Is Completed,” 4 October.

————————-, 1901. “At The Theatre, Opening Of The Russell,” 8 October.

————————-, 1928. “Dumbells’ Review ‘Bubbling Over,’ A Delight In Music And Comedy,” 10 April.

————————-, 1928. “Five Firemen Hurt When Russell Block Is Prey To Flames,” 16 April.

————————-, 1928, “To Salvage Murals, Russell Theatre,” 22 June.

————————-, 1928. “Strip The Russell, Movable Objects,” 6 July.

Moogk, Edward and Kellman, Helmut, 2014, “The Dumbells,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/the-dumbells-emc/.

NGC Magazine, 2013. “Artists, Architects and Artisans Photo Gallery, 5 November, http://www.ngcmagazine.ca/exhibitions/artists-architects-and-artisans-photo-gallery/Maquette-for-the-Triumph-of-the-Drama-Russell-Theatre-Ottawa.

Ottawa Citizen (The), 1901. “Theatre To Be Rebuilt, “13 April.

————————-, 1901. “The Russell Theatre, A Suggestion,” 12 April.

Crowfoot: Chief, Diplomat, Peacemaker

8 October 1886

During the late nineteenth century, the most influential indigenous leader in Canada was Crowfoot (Isapo-muxika), Chief of the Blackfoot First Nation (Siksika) whose ancestral territory encompassed much of southern Alberta and northern Montana in the United States.  A fierce warrior in his youth, he was highly respected by both the Plains First Nations and white settlers. He recognized that the arrival of the white man heralded the end of his people’s traditional way of life. But when many sought war, he counselled peace. When the Riel Rebellion broke, he refused to join the rebels, believing that conflict would be disastrous for his people. In 1886, Crowfoot and other Plains chiefs came east on the invitation of Sir John A. Macdonald to attend the dedication of a statue in Brantford of Joseph Brant (Thayendanegea), the Mohawk leader who fought alongside the British during the American Revolution. Before going to Brantford, the chiefs passed through Ottawa where they were greeted by Sir John and Lady Macdonald, and Ottawa’s Mayor McDougal.

crowfoot-at-earnscliffe

Plains First Nations Chiefs at Earnscliffe, home of Sir John A. Macdonald, 9 October 1886. Front Row (L to R): North Axe (Piegan), One Spot (Blood); Middle Row (L to R): Three Bulls (Blackfoot), Crowfoot (Blackfoot), Red Cloud (Blood); Rear Row (L to R): Father Lacombe, John L’Heureux, Library and Archives Canada, PA-045666.

Crowfoot was born into the Blood First Nation (Kainai) in about 1830. The Bloods, while distinct from the Blackfoot, were part of the Blackfoot Confederacy (Niitsitapi), meaning the “Real People.”  They, along with the Piegans (Piikani), shared a common Algonquian language, and were close allies. Initially known as Short Close (Astexomi), Crowfoot, at age five, joined the Blackfoot Nation when his widowed mother married a Blackfoot warrior. At this time, the Blackfoot civilization was at its peak. On horseback, the Real People followed the massive herds of buffalo (bison) that roamed freely over the North American Plains. The buffalo, essential to their way of life, provided them with most of their needs. The Blackfoot protected their hunting grounds from incursions from the Cree Nation to the north and east and the Crow Nation to the south.

As was common practice, Short Close received a new Blackfoot name Bear Ghost (Kyiah-sta-ah), when he became a Blackfoot. Following his first raid, he took a man’s name, Packs A Knife (Istowun-eh’pata), the name of his dead father. Following many acts of valour, he later took the name Crow Indian’s Big Foot, which was later shortened to Crowfoot by interpreters. By his early twenties, Crowfoot had been in nineteen battles, and had been wounded many times.

Even before Crowfoot had become a man, the Blackfoot way of life was under threat. Although few white men, other than a handful of traders, had reached their territory by mid-century, the diseases that they carried spread before them. Smallpox devastated the Real People. Without any immunity, an outbreak in the late 1830s killed two thirds of the Blackfoot people.

By the mid-1860s, Crowfoot had become recognized as one of the important up and coming leaders of the Blackfoot. About this time, he met the Oblate priest Albert Lacombe who had been sent to bring Christianity to the Cree and Blackfoot Nations. Saved by Crowfoot during a Cree raid on a Blackfoot camp, the two became close friends. Lacombe’s accounts of Crowfoot are the reason why we know so much of his life. In 1869, another serious smallpox outbreak stuck killing thousands, including Three Suns, the chief of the Blackfoot Nation. Crowfoot took his place as chief.

In 1870, the new Dominion of Canada took over control (at least in white men’s eyes) of Prince Rupert’s Land, which extended from northern Quebec to southern Alberta, from the Hudson Bay Company (HBC). When the HBC administered the territory, it also policed it, enforcing laws against the selling of alcohol. However, when the Dominion ostensibly assumed control of the territory, now called the North-West Territories, it had no boots on the ground. Into this vacuum moved unscrupulous American traders who set up illegal settlements from which they sold whisky to the Plains First Nations in exchange for buffalo pelts. The most notorious of such “whisky forts” was “Fort Whoop-Up,” built near present-day Lethbridge. Concerned about maintaining Canadian sovereignty over the territory and re-establishing law and order in the west, the government created the North-West Mounted Police (NWMP) in 1873.

The arrival of the NWMP was welcomed by Crowfoot who had witnessed the impoverishment and degradation of the Blackfoot Nation as a result of whisky brought in by the American traders. He also was encouraged that the police applied the law equally to white settlers and indigenous peoples. This was in stark contrast with law enforcement practices south of the international border. A strong bond of trust consequently developed between the Blackfoot chief and Colonel Macleod, the commander of the NWMP. Crowfoot willingly co-operated with the police, and discouraged younger warriors from raiding camps of rival tribes. For a time, harmony on the plains was restored, and the Blackfoot Nation began to recover.

The trust that developed between the police and Crowfoot made Treaty 7 possible in 1877. This treaty was the seventh of its kind between the Plains First Nations and the government following its takeover of Prince Rupert’s Land. Recognizing that the buffalo had all but disappeared, and that white settlers in the south and Métis and Cree in the east were encroaching on Blackfoot territory, Crowfoot sought protection for his people and a sustainable livelihood. For its part, the government wanted land for settlers and for the construction of a trans-Canadian railway.

The Real People who lived in the south and had witnessed the U.S. government break newly-signed treaties were reluctant to sign a treaty with the Canadian government. But Crowfoot was persuasive. Putting his faith in his friend Colonel Macleod, he signed. The other chiefs followed suit. Along with Colonel Macleod, David Laird, the Lieutenant Governor of the North-West Territories, signed for the government. While retaining their hunting rights, the Blackfoot surrendered much of their territory for “as long as the sun shines and the rivers run” in exchange for a reserve of one square mile of land for each family of five. The government also promised certain cash payments, cattle for live-stock rearing, farming implements, money to buy ammunition each year, and funds to pay for education.

Things did not work out as Crowfoot had wanted. The Blackfoot chiefs, who had a very different sense of land ownership than white settlers, most likely didn’t fully appreciate what they had signed. The buffalo disappeared quicker than expected, and the few that remained were only to be found deep inside U.S. territory. The Blackfoot Nation headed south into Montana in search of the herds, only to find starvation. They also encountered worried white settlers who feared the reputation of the Blackfoot and the possibility that they might join up with Sioux who had just defeated General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. Sick and starving, the Blackfoot returned to Canada to find new, uncaring administrators in charge of the Indian Department who cheated and humiliated them. Discontentment grew. But Crowfoot’s diplomatic skills combined with the appointment of new territorial leaders who had a better understanding of the Blackfoot’s plight prevented outright conflict.

In 1885, Crowfoot’s diplomatic skills were tested again when representatives of the Métis and Cree peoples of Manitoba sought Blackfoot aid in the Riel Rebellion. Crowfoot, who knew Riel, was sympathetic, but was wary about joining the rebellion as he could perceive no benefit for his people—his first priority—from going to war. After seeking the counsel of other Blackfoot chiefs, and speaking with white leaders whom Crowfoot considered friends, he stayed out of the conflict. From Blackfoot Crossing near Gleichen, Alberta, he sent a message to Sir John A. Macdonald. It read:

On behalf of myself and people, I wish to send through you to the Great Mother the words I have given to the Governor [of the North West Territories]at a council held at which all my minor chiefs and young men were present. We are agreed and determined to remain loyal to the Queen… Should any Indian come to our reserve and ask us to join them in war we shall turn them away.

With the Riel Rebellion quickly supressed, Crowfoot’s decision undoubtedly saved many lives.

In July 1886, the Blackfoot leader met Sir John and Lady Macdonald at the Gleichen rail stop in present-day southern Alberta, when the couple crossed the country on the newly completed Canadian Pacific Railway. During the short meeting, Crowfoot expressed an interest in visiting the Premier in Ottawa. Just two months later, Crowfoot along with his foster brother, Three Bulls, were invited east by the government, accompanied by Father Lacombe. Red Crow of the Bloods, and North Axe of the Piegans followed later with the interpreter Jean L’Heureux.  A group of Cree chiefs also travelled east. The ostensible reason for the visits was the dedication of the memorial to Joseph Brant in Brantford. Another unspoken reason was to impress upon the First Nations’ chiefs the power of the Canadian government.

After stops in Montreal and Quebec City, Crowfoot, Three Bulls and Father Lacombe arrived at noon in Ottawa on 8 October 1886 where they met up with the other Blackfoot chiefs. They were lodged in comfortable rooms on the second floor of the Grand Union Hotel. That afternoon, they met a reporter from the Ottawa Evening Journal. Father Lacombe acted as interpreter. The reporter described Crowfoot as being of medium height, with a “stolid dignity of his race.” He wore “gaudy” flannel pants covered with a fringe, a blue shirt with a vest, and colourful blanket around his waist. Covering his iron-grey, shoulder-length hair was a stiff white hat with gold lace and “gorgeous white plumes.” Around his neck was a silver Treaty medal. Through Father Lacombe, Crowfoot commented that he was delighted to visit the home of kristamonion, his brother-in-law, Sir John A. Macdonald. He also expressed pleasure on how he was being treated.

Unfortunately, the journalist couldn’t resist reporting that Crowfoot and Three Bulls received him with a “series of ughs,” a stereotypical expression that he repeated in subsequent stories. Indeed, the general tone of the news coverage of the Blackfoot leaders was often condescending; their trip appears to have been seen by many as an exotic, carnival sideshow.

The next morning, after reportedly sleeping on the floor instead of a comfortable spring bed, Crowfoot and Three Bulls had a “hearty breakfast,” after which the chiefs returned to Crowfoot’s room pulled out tobacco pipes and settled down for a smoke surrounded by curious on-lookers. At 10am, they were driven in barouches through Lower Town, with a stop in the market. The chiefs were suitably impressed by the commerce underway; a market was something that that Crowfoot wanted established back home.

Afterwards, Crowfoot and the other chiefs headed for Earnscliffe, the home of Sir John and Lady Macdonald. (Earnscliffe is now the home of the British High Commissioner.) Lady Macdonald, who Crowfoot called Asaskit-sipappi, the “good-hearted woman,” came outside to greet the chiefs as they pulled up to the front of the house. They were then taken to the parlour where they met Sir John. With Father Lacombe acting as interpreter, Crowfoot asked for the Premier’s help in starting farms and establishing a market since the buffalo had all gone with the coming of the white man.

Sir John gave each chief $25 and promised to send more presents and clothing to the Blackfoot people. He urged the chiefs to remain peaceful and to be patient if “time elapsed before all their demands were granted.” He added that Edgar Dewdney, the then Lieutenant-Governor of the North-West Territories, would take care of them, and promised to find a market for their surplus production. Sir John also granted Crowfoot’s request to return home right away instead of going to Brantford for the unveiling of the Joseph Brant memorial. The Blackfoot leader was unwell and was pining for his people. After the interview, the chiefs were conducted outside for a photograph in the garden.

crowfoot-at-city-hall

Plains First Nations Chiefs at City Hall, Ottawa, 11 October 1886. Front Row (L to R): City Clerk W.P. Lett, Mayor McDougal, One Spot, Three Bulls, Crowfoot, Red Cloud, North Axe, Father Lacombe, Ald. F.R.E. Campeau. Library and Archives Canada, PA-066624.

The following day, the chiefs attended high mass in the Basilica, occupying seats where they would be seen by the entire congregation while Father Lacombe conducted the service. Later, Father Lacombe gave a lecture at the Ottawa College on “The North-West Indians.” Mr F.R.E. Campeau of the Institut Canadien chaired the meeting. During Father Lacombe’s address, the Blackfoot chiefs smoked tobacco, passing a long pipe from one the other. Afterwards, Campeau presented a purse to Crowfoot, who in turn gave the money to his compatriots.

On their final day in Ottawa, the Blackfoot chiefs met with officials of the Indian Department. At the Department, they met up with the Cree chiefs who were also to attend the unveiling of the Joseph Brant memorial. Later in the afternoon, Crowfoot and the other Blackfoot chiefs visited City Hall. Escorted into the Council Chamber by Mayor McDougal, Crowfoot sat in the Mayor’s chair, while City Clerk W.P. Lett read out a letter of welcome. The City presented the chiefs “with the wampum belt of friendship,” offered “the pipe of peace” and gave them money that Crowfoot distributed to the other chiefs.

Exhausted, Crowfoot returned immediately by train to Blackfoot Crossing. He died four years later on 25 April 1890, surrounded by his friends, including Father Lacombe. His grave, marked by a cross, is located near Blackfoot Crossing National Park.

Treaty Seven never lived up to Crowfoot’s expectations. Promised payments and support were not provided. The First Nations that signed the treaty are now represented by the Treaty 7 Management Corporation and are involved in negotiations with the federal government over various aspects of the Treaty.

Sources:

Blackfoot Crossing Historical Park, 2016, http://www.blackfootcrossing.ca/index.html.

Canada (Government of), Indigenous and Northern Affairs, 2016. Treaty Research Report – Treaty 7, https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/1100100028789/1100100028791.

Canadian History Workshop, 2016. Treaty 7, https://canadianhistoryworkshop.wordpress.com/treaties/treaty-seven/.

Commons, House of, 1885. “The Disturbance in the North-West,” Commons Debates, p. 1088, 13 April.

Dempsey, Hugh, 1972. Crowfoot, Chief of the Blackfeet, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Hurtig Publishers, Edmonton.

Dictionary of Canadian Biography, 2016. Isapo-muxica (Crowfoot), http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/isapo_muxika_11E.html.

Glenbow Museum, 2016. Niitsitapiisini, http://www.glenbow.org/blackfoot/#.

Hacker, Carlotta, 1999. Crowfoot, The Canadians Continuing Series, Fitzhenry & Whiteside Ltd, Markham.

Lacombe, Albert, 1890. “Crowfoot, Great Chief of the Blackfeet,” Our Future, Our Past, The Alberta Heritage Digitization Project, http://www.ourfutureourpast.ca/loc_hist/page.aspx?id=245933.

Lethbridge, Daily Herald (The), 1925. “Crowfoot – Chief of Chiefs,” 4 July.

New Federation House, 2016. Native Leaders of Canada, http://www.newfederation.org/Native_Leaders/Bios/Crowfoot.htm.

Ottawa Evening Journal (The), 1886. “The Indian Chiefs,” 8 October.

————————————-, 1886. “The Chiefs,” 9 October.

————————————-, 1886. “Jottings About Town,” 9 October.

————————————-, 1886. “The North-West Indians,” 11 October.

————————————-, 1886. “Father Lacombe’s Views,” 11 October.

————————————-, 1886. “The City and the Chiefs,” 11 October.

————————————-, 1886. “At the Department,” 11 October.

Tesar, Alex, 2016. “Treaty 7,” The Canadian Encyclopedia, http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/treaty-7/.