Smallpox and the Porter Island Isolation Hospital

2 November 1893

Be thankful that you live today and not a hundred years ago. Then, communicable diseases were rampant. Diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, and scarlet fever routinely killed babies and infants. In 1909, the infant death rate in Ottawa was a horrific 283 out of 1,000 life births. (In 2017, the rate of infant mortality in Canada was 4.5 out of 1,000.) Even if you managed to survive the so-called “childhood diseases”, you ran the gauntlet of contracting other lethal illnesses such as cholera, tuberculosis, and typhoid. Epidemics periodically swept through the fetid cities of North America killing thousands. But of all the diseases, the one that people feared the most was smallpox.

Smallpox Fox, George Henry (1886) Photographic illustrations of skin diseases (2nd ed.)

Smallpox sufferer, 1886, Fox, George Henry, Photographic Illustrations of Skin Diseases (2nd Edition), Wikipedia.

Smallpox has a long history. There is some evidence that the disease was present in ancient Egypt more than three thousand years ago. More reliably, descriptions of the disease can be found in Chinese medical texts of the 4th century AD. It was prevalent in south-west Asia by the 10th century. By the thirteenth century, people in the Middle East were practising variolation to ward off the disease by inoculating people with the live virus—liquid from a smallpox pustule was rubbed into a scratch in the skin. This was a dangerous procedure, but it conferred life-long immunity.

Smallpox is caused by the variola virus, and came in two forms: the virulent variola major strain, which had a death rate of about 30 percent, and the less severe but less common variola minor type that had a death rate of about 1 percent. The characteristic symptom of the disease was raised pustules that spread across the body, especially the extremities. Survivors of smallpox often experienced terrible disfigurement and blindness.

By the 15th century, the disease was well-established in Europe. Subsequently, European explorers and traders introduced smallpox to the Americas. Lacking resistance to the disease, indigenous populations were virtually wiped out. The fall of the Aztec and Inca civilizations in South and Central America was due far more to smallpox than the weaponry of the Spanish conquistadors. In what was to become Canada, European settlers brought the disease to eastern First Nations. Later, the Plains tribes were infected through their interaction with voyageurs and traders. The result was calamitous. Whole communities died. In just one epidemic on the Prairies in the 1830s, two-thirds of the Blackfoot First Nation perished.

A major step towards conquering the disease occurred in 1796. Noticing that dairymaids who had contracted cowpox, a mild disease, appeared to be immune from smallpox, the British scientist Edward Jenner undertook an ethically-challenged experiment. First, he inoculated a young boy with cowpox serum. As expected, the child only experienced a slight fever, a few aches, and a temporary loss of appetite. Two months later, Jennings infected him with smallpox. Fortunately, the boy had no reaction; he was immune as Jennings had hypothesised.

Although several countries enthusiastically embraced vaccination (from the Latin word vacca meaning cow)—Bavaria reportedly introduced mandatory vaccination as early as 1807—it was a hard sell elsewhere. Like today, anti-vaxxers peddled “alternative facts” and received wide press coverage. To give the anti-vaxxers their due, unclean vaccination equipment and unsanitary conditions could cause serious infection in an era long before antibiotics. Vaccinations also didn’t confer lifelong immunity and had to be repeated. However, the risks of contracting smallpox far outweighed the possible side effects of vaccination. But out of ignorance and fear, people still hesitated to get vaccinated, and epidemics continued to claim thousands of lives and maim many more.

Smallpox arrived in Ottawa as early as 1828 with the Rideau Canal workmen. Colonel By apparently averted an epidemic by organizing a speedy vaccination campaign. Fortunately, the disease did not appear to be a major health risk until later in the century. In 1860, the Ottawa Daily Citizen reported that “smallpox and throat disorders [most likely diphtheria] were very general.”  Fortunately, fatalities were comparatively rare. In 1871, an outbreak of smallpox was reported in Sandy Hill in the Stewart Street area. In a letter to the editor, “Pro Bono Publico” complained that “cow yards, hog pens, and dirty yards in such abundance as to originate, let alone the nurturing of, disease and pestilence.” Another article reported the unwillingness of civil service men to reclaim their laundry when their washerwoman came down with smallpox, necessitating them to buy new clothes.

Initially, smallpox victims were treated in isolation wards in the Protestant General Hospital located on Rideau Street. Later, such patients were segregated in an annex. In the mid-1870s, despite considerable neighbourhood opposition, the Sisters of Charity opened a second, Catholic, smallpox hospital at the rear of the Catholic cemetery in Sandy Hill. Both hospitals were extensively used in a major smallpox outbreak in 1879-1880. Mortuary statistics show that 219 died of smallpox in Ottawa during 1879.  A further 97 died before the epidemic ended by the middle of the following year out of 230 additional cases of smallpox—a mortality rate of 42 percent. (Ottawa’s population at the time was only 27,000.)

Smallpox 9-12-79 ODC

Announcement in the Ottawa Daily Citizen, 9 December 1879. All classes of people of all ages were affected by smallpox. The impact of the disease on families was devastating.

When the Protestant Hospital was deemed “dangerous and unsuitable” as an isolation facility, the City began searching for another location for a new smallpox hospital. In 1893, City Council finally chose Porter’s Island, an eight-acre, low-lying property in the Rideau River.

The major factors in favour of Porter’s Island was its relative isolation and price. Under provincial law, a smallpox hospital needed to be at least 450 yards away from inhabited areas. While a number of locations were considered, they were all deemed too expensive or not sufficiently accessible. A committee of city doctors also supported Porter’s Island on the grounds that the flowing water around the island lent itself to cleanliness. Others, however, worried that the damp, low-lying island was unhealthy, and that the island was prone to flooding. The Ottawa Clinical Society noted that there was a highwater mark nine feet above the mid-summer water level, indicating that up to a half of the island could be submerged during the spring freshet. 

Despite these misgivings, the City awarded a contract for the construction of a cottage hospital on the island to Mr. John Bruce, the low bidder, for $16,400 on 2 November 1893. Construction commenced as soon as the City formally acquired the land, the price of which was settled through arbitration. (It was set later at $6,713, costs included.) Bruce promised to build three brick hospital buildings, which could accommodate some 100 patients, and a separate administration building. Another contract was awarded to Dominion Bridge Company to construct an iron bridge linking the island to St. Patrick Street for an additional $5,000.

Work on the isolation hospital was suspended three months later after the City had spent $34,000, and with the contractor demanding another $10,000 to complete the job. A local firm of architects, which inspected the site, found shoddy workmanship—the hospital’s foundation was built above the frost line, the brickwork was a third thinner than specified and was already cracking, and the floors were sagging. The next month, with the spring run-off underway, the basement of the administration building flooded just as critics had warned.

Then, the blame game began, with some City alderman saying “I told you so.” Others went into denial. One Island apologist said the situation was “not at all bad” other than a “few blemishes.”  In April 1894, an official of the Ontario Board of Health visited Porter’s Island to assess the situation. His report dropped like a bombshell on City Council. He said the island was unfit for a hospital. He recommended against further expenditures on the island for hospital purposes, suggesting instead that the semi-constructed buildings be converted into an incinerator for garbage.

Over the next decade, City Council bickered over what to do with Porter’s Island, how they could re-coup the thousands of dollars spent, and whether the island could ever be used as the location for an isolation hospital. Nothing was resolved. Besides lawsuits, the only action taken was to fire G. F. Stalker, the project’s architect.  He died of apoplexy shortly afterwards. Meanwhile, the semi-built hospital deteriorated owing to weather and theft despite the presence of a resident caretaker.

It wasn’t until 1902 that the administration of the Mayor Cook took the bull by the horns and built a new contagious disease hospital located on Regan’s Hill at the old Rifle Range in Sandy Hill (now the location of the Sandringham Apartments). Opening in 1903, the new Strathcona Hospital was designed to treat such diseases as diphtheria and scarlet fever—not smallpox which fortunately was in abeyance. Meanwhile, Porter’s Island was used as a refuse dump. Its derelict hospital buildings were demolished in 1904.

Porter's Island c.1912 William James Topley LAC PA-009184

Smallpox Tents on Porter’s Island, undated, most likely circa 1912, William James Topley, Library and Archives Canada, PA-008184

The need for a smallpox hospital returned with a vengeance when a serious smallpox epidemic swept the city in 1910-12. In response, the Ottawa Board of Health converted the caretaker’s frame house on Porter’s Island into a makeshift isolation hospital. When the numbers of smallpox victims rose beyond the capacity of the house, the City erected large tents on the island, notwithstanding it being the middle of an Ottawa winter. The tents were heated using “Quebec heaters” whose warmth extended only a short distance. There was no running water, no modern flush lavatories, and rats abounded, a situation made worse by the continued use of the island as a refuse dump. “Nothing is to be seen apart from the smallpox camp but tin cans, ashes, dead rats, decaying vegetables and fish,” said the Ottawa Evening Journal. Many exposed to smallpox hid in fear of being forced to Porter’s Island. Guards were stationed at the bridge to stop people escaping.

In May 1911, a naval architect and his five children were stricken with smallpox and ordered to Porter’s Island. The architect, an employee of the Public Works Department, reported to the Journal that vermin had eaten through eight military blankets on his bed located in one of the tents, which itself was sited just a few feet from a filthy outhouse. He managed to catch five rats using an improvised trap. Meanwhile his dying eight-year old daughter, who was conveyed to the Island in an ambulance that lacked basic amenities such as sheets and pillows, complained of abuse from one of the nurses. After the story broke, hospital staff said the man had exaggerated, saying he had only caught one rat. As for the charge of abuse, a nurse denied it. However, she admitted to occasionally slapping a child, after all “we had over thirty children at this Island and how could we make them behave and mind them all if we did not do this occasionally.” Remember that these children were in a frightening environment, many of whom were desperately sick, and had been separated from their parents.

Hopewell Hospital, 1912, Alfred G. Pittaway, Bytown Museum P893b

Hopewell Hospital, 1912, Alfred G. Pittaway, Bytown Museum, P893b.

In November 1911, on a close 11-10 vote, with Mayor Hopewell casting the deciding ballot, City Council agreed to build a proper smallpox hospital on Porter’s Island. Architect Francis C. Sullivan was commissioned for the job. George A. Crain won the contract to build it at a cost of $30,323 which later rose to more than $45,000. To avoid being flooded in the spring, the 107’ x 37’ brick building was constructed on a raised fill platform. There was no basement. When the new Hopewell Hospital opened in late January 1913, the City burnt the old smallpox shack and tents.

The last big epidemic to hit Ottawa occurred in 1920-1921 with more than 1,000 cases. Fortunately, the infecting strain was relatively mild. There were only two deaths. For a time, the Hopewell Hospital was completely full. At one point during the outbreak, more than eighty houses in Ottawa were also under quarantine. To interdict the disease at the border, the province of Quebec quarantined Ontario. Nobody could enter Quebec, including Quebec residents, from Ontario without an up-to-date smallpox vaccination certificate. Free vaccinations were given in the CPR station in Hull. By mid-year, the epidemic had been halted by a massive vaccination campaign with 40,000 vaccinations given out in Ottawa alone.

By the early 1930s, smallpox had become very rare, and was eradicated in Canada by 1946. With the underused Hopewell Hospital now obsolete, it was converted to apartments in the mid-1940s and demolished in 1967. Its site is currently occupied by the Chartwell Rockcliffe Retirement Residence. The old bridge constructed in 1894 is still standing although it is now closed to the public.

After a concerted global vaccination campaign carried out by the World Health Organization, smallpox was eradicated with the last naturally occurring case recorded in Somalia in 1977. The following year, a medical photographer caught the disease in a laboratory accident in Britain. She died. Currently, the only known smallpox virus stocks are held in the United States and Russia.

 

Selected Sources:

Fenner, F., Henderson, D. A., Arita, I., Jezek, Z., Ladnyi, I. D., 1988. “Smallpox and Its Eradication,” World Health Organization.

McIntyre John and Houston, C. Stuart, 1999. “Smallpox and its control in Canada,” CMAJ, 14 December.

Ottawa Daily Citizen (The, 1861. “Ottawa in 1860,” 4 January.

——————————-, 1871. “Sanitary Precautions,” 13 May.

——————————-, 1871. “The Effect of Small-Pox on the C.S.” 4 December.

——————————-, 1880. “Mortuary Returns,” 9 January.

——————————-, 1881. “The Health Of The City,” 12 January

——————————-, 1933. “Were Objections When Nuns Put Up Small-pox Hospital,”

Ottawa Evening Journal (The). 1893. “Board of Health Discuss,” 29 August.

————————————. 1893. “And Now For Porter’s Island,” 3 November.

————————————. 1893. “On To Porter’s Island.” 24 November.

————————————. 1893. “The Arbitrators Award,” 29 November.

————————————. 1894. “A Bolt Falls!” 24 Apri.

————————————, 1911. “Rats, Neglect And Filth Features Of A Sojourn On Porter’s Island,” 21 June.

————————————, 1911. “Heated Denials Made By Nurses Upon Island,” 22 June.

————————————, 1913. “Handsome Structure Erected By Famous C. Sullivan, A Young Ottawa Architect,” 8 February.

———————————–, 1920. “Quebec Quarantines Ontario On Account OF Smallpox,” 6 January.

———————————–, 1921. “The Smallpox Risk,” 27 January.

———————————–, 1921. “Smallpox Now Under Control,” 16 February.

Passfield, Robert W. 2013. Military Paternalism, Labour, and the Rideau Canal Project, Bloomington: AuthorHouse.

Riedel, Stefan, 2005. “Edward Jenner and the history of smallpox and vaccination,” Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, 18 January.

Urbsite, 2014., http://urbsite.blogspot.com/2014/07/the-smallpox-hospital-porters-island.html.

Walker, Kate, 2015. “Medical Ottawa: Ottawa’s Smallpox Outbreak of 1911 And The Origins Of The Hopewell Isolation Hospital,” A Canadian Treasury of Medical History, http://canuckhm.ca/ottawas-smallpox-outbreak-of-1911-the-origins-of-the-hopewell-isolation-hospital/?doing_wp_cron=1552596495.2340080738067626953125.

 

Advertisements

Buffalo Bill Comes To Town

1 November 1880

Among the iconic figures of the U.S. Wild West, the most famous must be William Frederick Cody (1846-1917), alias “Buffalo Bill.” Cody was born in Le Claire, Iowa Territory, the son of Canadian Isaac Cody. As a young boy, he lived in Canada for several years just outside of Toronto before the family returned to the United States, this time settling in Kansas Territory. (In the 1880s, a story circulated that Buffalo Bill actually hailed from Hope River, Prince Edward Island, where he supposedly still had relatives.)

Buffalo Bill c. 1880 by Sarony Wikipedia,

William Cody, a.k.a. “Buffalo Bill” in 1880 by Sarony, Wikipedia.

Cody was only 11 when his father died and he had to go out and make a living, first riding as a messenger on a wagon train and subsequently as sort of informal scout for the U.S. army in Utah. In his autobiography, Cody claimed to have joined the Pony Express at the tender age of fourteen. However, this may have been self-promotional hype. Some researchers suggest that he was a mounted messenger boy for the company rather than a long-haul rider delivering mail across the far west. Too young to join the Union Army during the American Civil War, Cody was again a scout sometimes with Lieutenant-Colonel George Custer and was involved in the Indian Wars in the western United States where he burnished his reputation as an “Indian fighter.” After the Civil War, he shot bison (buffalo) to feed railway construction workers. He won the moniker “Buffalo Bill” for shooting 68 bison in an eight-hour competition. During his hunting career, he reportedly shot almost 5,000, doing his part to virtually exterminate the species and end the way of life of the Plains First Nations.

Buffalo Bill came into the collective consciousness when he was only in his early 20s, owing to author and publisher Ned Buntline who wrote often semi-fictious stories about Cody’s colourful life. Buntline had met Cody on a train ride in California and the two became friends. In 1872, Buntline wrote a play called Scouts of the Prairie and asked Cody to star in it, thus launching Buffalo Bill on a show business career that was to last forty years. In 1874, Cody formed the Buffalo Bill Combination where he combined stage performances with scouting in the off season. In 1883, he established Buffalo Bill’s Wild West which toured throughout North America. The show also went on four European tours during the 1880s, and performed in Britain for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. The Queen was particularly impressed when both Cody and his horse bowed to her at a command performance. Cody and his troupe, which included cowboys and native-American warriors, were a sensation everywhere they went, re-creating (in a fashion) an exotic and by now fast vanishing way of frontier life.

Buffalo Bill, who always admired native-Americans notwithstanding his reputation as an “Indian fighter,” gave a temporary home to a number of important First Nations’ chiefs, including the great Sioux leader Sitting Bull who had defeated Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1877.  Gabriel Dumont, the Métis leader who featured prominently in the North-West Rebellion with Louis Riel, similarly joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West after he had fled south into the United States after the 1885 Battle of Batoche. At an 1886 show in Staten Island NY, he was introduced as Riel’s lieutenant and “a man of ability and courage, who enlisted in what he and many others believe was a righteous cause.” Oddly given the circumstances, when interviewed by Canadian journalists, Dumont called Sir John A. Macdonald, “the greatest man of modern times.”

Buffalo Bill, Gabriel Dumont c. 1886 Orlando Scott Goff LAC archival reference number R13796-2, e010699485

Métis leader Gabriel Dumont, c. 1886, by Orlando Scott, Library and Archives Canada

On Dumont’s return to Canada after being granted amnesty, the Quebec newspaper Le Canadien called him a farceur (buffoon) for his involvement with Buffalo Bill. Dumont replied in the newspaper La Justice that he had lost everything when he escaped to the United States and that he never took direct part in the show. He invited the editor of Le Canadien to come to his hotel and call him a farceur to his face.

In 1893, Cody’s show expanded into Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World. As the name suggests, performances showcased both the American West and riders from around the world. The troupe performed throughout North America, including in Chicago on the periphery of that city’s 1893 World’s Fair. The company also went on four European tours in the early 1900s with performances before crowned heads and the Pope.

Owing to changing tastes in entertainment and rising costs, the company slowly faded, and went bankrupt in 1913. “Buffalo Bill” died four years later.

Buffalo Bill and his company made two trips to Ottawa during his show business career. The first brought him and his Wild West Combination to the Grand Opera House on Albert Street for three days, starting on Monday, 1 November 1880. Reserved seats were available for 75 cents. The price was only 25 cents for the matinee on the holiday Wednesday (Thanksgiving Day). While in Ottawa, the troupe were guests of the Russell House Hotel. On the morning of their first performance, Cody led a mounted parade of Cheyenne warriors, cowboys and his Serenade Band through the streets of the capital to promote the show.  According to the Ottawa Daily Citizen, “The red men were rigged out in their war paint and feathers, and created quite a stir.”  That evening, Buffalo Bill and his troupe put on a play called The Prairie Waif, described as a drama about frontier life. Besides Cody, the play starred Jule Kean as a very funny Dutchman who sang, danced and said witty things, and Miss Lizzine Fletcher as the heroine. The band of Cheyenne warriors performed a war dance while Cody did some trick rifle shooting. How he did this indoors is unclear.

Bufalo Bill TOC1-11-1880

Advertisement for Buffalo Bill’s First Appearance in Ottawa, 1 November 1880, The Ottawa Daily Citizen

It was standing room only at the Grand Opera House for the first performance. So packed was the theatre that many people who had bought tickets for the balcony went away to use the tickets at the following night’s performance. In attendance for the second night’s showing was the Governor General, the Marquis of Lorne, and members of the Harvard College Football team who occupied complementary boxes. The Harvard team had just played the Ottawa Football Club that afternoon on the Rideau Hall cricket grounds. Harvard won by one goal.

Buffalo Bill returned to Ottawa seventeen years later in late June 1897 for the city’s celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. This time it was Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World consisting of 600 men and more than 500 horses. Along with three bands, it created a mile-long procession through Ottawa streets. In the parade were 100 warriors from the Ogallala, Brule, Uncapappa, Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe First Nations, 50 cowboys, 30 Mexican Vaqueros and Rurales, 50 Western marksmen, 25 Bedouin Arabs, 30 Russian Cossacks, 30 South American Gauchos, and furloughed English Lancers, German Cuirassiers, and U.S. cavalry and artillery men. As well, Miss Annie Oakley, “The Peerless Lady Wing Shot,” was given prominent billing, as was Johnny Baker, “The Skilled Shooting Expert.” Also in Ottawa for the show was “the only herd of buffalo on exhibition.” How Cody obtained his buffalo was not reported. By this time, the America bison was nearly extinct. Ten years earlier, it was estimated that in the United States there were only 200 bison left in Yellowstone Park, another 150 in Texas and a few others in private herds. In Canada, there were only 68 pure-bred bison and 18 hybrids owned oddly by the warden of the Manitoba Penitentiary. Cody had tried to purchase part of this herd but had been refused.

Buffalo Bill 23-6-97 OEJ

Advertisement for Buffalo Bill’s Second Appearance in Ottawa, 28 June 1897, The Ottawa Evening Journal

Needless to say, the exhibition was held outdoors. The massive company and its equipage arrived in Ottawa from Quebec on two heavily laden trains, and set up on the Metropolitan Grounds on the western side of Elgin Street across from the Canadian Atlantic Railway Station. Stands capable of holding 20,000 spectators protected from the sun and rain by a massive, white canvas shelter were quickly erected. There were additional tents for dressing rooms, and a huge meal tent. Apparently, the hundreds of participants consumed 1,500 pounds of meat each day, as well as mountains of potatoes, vegetables and bread. The Native Americans, described as “grim-faced,” were housed in “a little encampment of teepees” on the field. For the evening performance, the grounds were lit by 2,500 electric arc lights powered by a portable power plant. Ticket prices were 50 cents for adults and 25 cents for children under 9 years of age.

Thousands of Ottawa residents came to gawk as the tents were raised at what the Ottawa Evening Journal described as “an exhibition of human nature which is only seen once in a lifetime.” The newspaper’s reporter was awed by the exhibition that had clearly lived up to its advance billing. He called it more attractive than a circus, novel, and unique. He also saw the show as educational opining that “In the hurly-burly of American life, people are too apt to forget the history of their own country. They are apt to forget the toils and sacrifices of those who laboured to redeem the great West from barbarism.”

This quote gives a big hint of the show’s character. The performance began with a covered prairie wagon drawn by mules bearing a mother and babies with older children riding outside. Suddenly, the unsuspecting pioneers are attacked by Indians. Just when things look their darkest, along come the cowboys led by Buffalo Bill who quickly disperse the marauders and save the day. (Doing this everyday, no wonder the native Americans, whose homelands had been despoiled by white immigrants, were described as “grim-faced.”)

Buffalo Bill LAC C-000249 From BB's Show

“Cowboys and Indians,” Buffalo Bill’s show, date and place unknown, Library and Archives Canada, C-000249.

After this cliché of the Wild West, which would jar modern sensibilities, the programme shifted to the Exotic East, with Arab riders doing feats of horsemanship. Next on the ticket was Johnnie Baker shooting glass balls as they were thrown in the air, while he on his head, running, and looking backwards. Following Baker came the Cossacks standing on their saddles or hanging from one foot, and cowboys lassoing horses and breaking wild broncos. (The Toronto Star later alleged that the broncos weren’t actually wild but bucked because sharp spurs were driven into their bodies.) Finally, came the armies of Europe and the United States performing cavalry drills.

Buffalo Bill may have overestimated the likely crowds in little Ottawa, which had a population of less than 100,000 in 1897. The first day’s two performances brought in a respectable 15,000-20,000 spectators, though this meant that the bleachers were only about half full at best. On the second day, attendance slipped sharply to only 3,000-4,000 guests owing to inclement weather despite spectators being protected from the weather. After its two-day appearance in Ottawa, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Congress of Rough Riders of the World rode off into the sunset, headed for Belleville.

 

Sources:

Cody Studies, 2019, https://www.codystudies.org/.

Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1880. “At The Russell,” 30 October.

————————–, 1880. “Musical and Dramatic,” 1 November.

————————-, 1880. “Musical and Drama,” 2 November.

————————-, 1880. “Parade,” 2 November.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1886. “Gabriel Dumont,” 3 July.

——————————, 1887. “Last of the Buffalo,” 8 June.

——————————, 1887. “People and Personalities,” 22 July.

——————————, 1888. “Gabriel Dumont,” 25 April.

——————————, 1897. “True Heroism,” 18 May.

——————————, 1897. “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West And Congress of Rough Riders of the World,” 23 June.

——————————, 1897. “Extensive Exhibitions,” 24 June.

——————————, 1897. “Buffalo Bill Is Here,” 28 June.

—————————–, 1897. “Buffalo Bill,” 29 June.

—————————–, 1897. “Attendance Small,” 30 June.

—————————–, 1897. “Buffalo Bill’s Broncos, 9 July.

Stillman, Deanne, 2018. “The Unlikely Alliance Between Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill,” History, https://www.history.com/news/the-unlikely-alliance-between-buffalo-bill-and-sitting-bull.

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.

 

 

 

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/.

 

Ottawa at War

3 September 1939

It was the Labour Day weekend, the last long weekend of the summer. But, instead of sleeping late or basking in the sun, Canadians were huddled around their radios, anxiously listening to news coming out of London. Shortly after 6am in Ottawa (11am London time) on Sunday, 3 September, 1939, Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister, announced over the wireless that Great Britain was at war with Germany. The ultimatum that the British ambassador had delivered to the Reich’s Foreign Ministry in response to the German invasion of Poland had gone unanswered.

The news was not unexpected. For weeks the martial drumbeat had grown louder. With Germany and the Soviet Union signing a non-aggression pact in mid-August, there was nothing stopping the Nazis from attacking Poland. With a swift victory almost assured over the antiquated Polish army, Germany no longer risked a two-front war should Britain and France honour their pledge to support Poland. At the beginning of September, German forces entered Poland.

Unlike twenty-five years earlier, there were no shouts of joy and applause at the British declaration of war. Ottawa took the news somberly. Later that Sabbath morning, families went to church to pray for divine guidance for their leaders and protection for their families and friends in the perilous times ahead. In the early afternoon, families again gathered around the radios, this time to hear the King say: “I now call my people at home and my peoples across the seas who will make our cause their own. I ask them to stand calm and firm and united in this time of trial.”  The Citizen reported that people wept hearing him speak. “It was the message of a beloved sovereign to a people with whom he and his Queen had mingled freely but a few short months ago [the 1939 Royal Visit] …It was as if His Majesty in truth had crossed the threshold of every Canadian home to bid them his good cheer in the extremity of the hour.”

Prime Minister Mackenzie King was awoken early with the news of Britain’s declaration of war. He hurried from Kingsmere, his country estate in the Gatineau Hills, to Ottawa for a 10 o’clock emergency Cabinet meeting in the Privy Council Chamber in the East Block on Parliament Hill. Meanwhile, instead of the usual Sunday quiet, Sparks Street buzzed with excitement as hundreds of anxious people milled about in front of the Citizen’s office waiting for the latest news bulletins to be posted. Extra police were laid on to control the crowd. Over that long weekend, Ottawa troops were mobilized with gunners moving into Lansdowne Park. Guards appeared on all public utilities and local dairy plants to prevent possible sabotage. Placards went up across the city saying men of military age were needed. The Cameron Highlanders announced that men should report to the Cartier Drill Hall at 9am on the Monday morning. The drum and bugle band of the Royal Canadian Army Service Corps marched through Ottawa streets, with placards saying “Recruits wanted for the RCASC, mechanics, tinsmiths, coppersmiths, clerks, turners.”

When Mackenzie King left the Cabinet meeting around 2pm Sunday afternoon, the large crowd waiting for him outside the East Block cheered.  The Prime Minister doffed his hat in acknowledgement and then paused for an official photograph to be taken by the Government Motion Picture Bureau for posterity. At 5.30pm, Mackenzie King spoke to the nation from the CBC broadcasting studio in the Château Laurier Hotel. Justice Minister Lapointe subsequently spoke in French. Mackenzie King promised that Canada would co-operate fully with the Motherland and urged Canadians to “unite in a national effort.” He added that “There is no home in Canada, no family and no individual whose fortunes and freedom are not bound up in the present struggle.” Parliament would debate the situation in Europe the following Thursday (7 September).

While both major Ottawa newspapers considered Canada to be at war, the country was actually in a strange limbo, neither officially at war nor really at peace. Since the passage of the Statute of Westminster in 1931, Canada was an autonomous Dominion within the British Empire. Consequently, unlike in 1914, a declaration of war by Britain did not automatically mean Canada was at war. Although both Australia and New Zealand had followed with their own declarations of war immediately after that of Britain, Mackenzie King held back awaiting the Parliamentary debate. The government was making a constitutional statement, underscoring Canadian autonomy. It also mattered practically. While the United States had immediately stopped all deliveries of arms to Britain (and Germany) due to its “Neutrality Act,” which forbade military sales to warring countries, it considered Canada to be neutral, thus allowing arms sales and deliveries to continue.

WWIIEllard Cummings

Pilot Officer Ellard Cummings of Ottawa, First Canadian to die in World War II, 3 September 1939. His brother, W.O.2 Kenneth Cummings, was to die piloting a bomber over enemy territory in 1944. Ottawa Citizen, 6 September 1939.

At the German Consulate located in the Victoria Building on Wellington Street, it was “business as usual” though most likely the German diplomats were busy destroying confidential documents in preparation for an imminent departure. Dr. Erich Windels, the German Consul General who had been in Ottawa since 1937, had received no instructions from the Department of External Affairs to leave the country. Guards were, however, posted at the Victoria Building and at 407 Wilbrod Street in Sandy Hill, the home of Dr. and Mrs Windels, a short walk away from Laurier House, the downtown home of their friend, the Prime Minister.

Even before Mackenzie King had spoken that evening to Canadians, Canada, and Ottawa specifically, had already sustained their first wartime casualties. Four hours after Britain’s declaration of war, RAF Pilot Officer Ellard Cummings, the son of Mr and Mrs James Cummings of 46 Spadina Avenue in Ottawa, died, along with his Scottish gunner, in an airplane accident. Based at the RAF base in Evanton, Scotland, Cummings’ Westland Wallace biplane crashed into a hillside in thick fog. Cummings was the first Canadian to die in the War. His family received the grim news the following day. Cummings, age 24, had enlisted in the RAF in 1938. He had attended Glebe Collegiate and had been a member of Parkdale United Church. His father was the superintendent of the transformer and meter department of the Ottawa Electric Company.

Just a few hours later, a German U-boat deliberately sank the SS Athenia, a 526-foot, 13,500-ton passenger liner—the first British ship lost in the war. The liner, owned by the Donaldson Atlantic Line, had left Glasgow for Montreal, with a stop in Liverpool, on 1 September, two days before the outbreak of war. On board were 1,103 passengers and 315 crew members, of whom 469 were Canadians and another 311 Americans who were trying to get back home before hostilities began. Approximately twenty-one of the Canadians either came from Ottawa or had close relatives in Ottawa. Also on board were 500 Jewish refugees as well as 72 UK residents, plus a medley of citizens from other countries. Twenty-eight German and six Austrian citizens were on the liner.

Athenia, Montreal 1933 Clifford M. Johnston LAC PA-056818

The SS Athenia in Montreal in 1933. Clifford M. Johnston, Library and Archives Canada, PA-056818.

At roughly 7.30pm in the evening of 3 September, local time (2.30pm Ottawa time), the ship, located off the western coast of Scotland, two hundred miles north of Ireland, was torpedoed by U-30 under the command of Oberleutnant Fritz-Julius Lemp. As the ship began to settle into the water, the submarine came to the surface and fired two shells at the stricken ocean liner. While there was ample time for the ship’s lifeboats to get away, there were many casualties, in part due to accidents during the rescue by two British destroyers, a Swedish yacht, the Southern Cross, a Norwegian tanker, the Knute Nelson, and an American freighter, the City of Flint. In total, 98 passengers and nineteen crew members died, including 54 Canadians and 28 Americans. Most survivors were brought into Glasgow in Scotland and Galway in Ireland. The City of Flint disembarked the people it had rescued in Halifax.

Lemp, Fritz-Julius

Fritz-Julius Lemp, commander of U-30 which sank the SS Athenia. Lemp drowned in May 1941 when his later ship U-100 was capture intact off of Iceland, its scuttling charges having failed to detonate. On board was an Enigma machine and code book which were used at Bletchley Park to decode top secret Nazi signals. U-boat.net.

The sinking of the unarmed Athenia was considered a war crime as the U-boat commander had not given the passengers and crew an opportunity to leave the ship. As well, when he realized that he had fired upon a passenger liner in error, he didn’t stay to help the survivors, but instead swore his crew to secrecy. Later, fearful that the loss of American lives might bring the United States into the war, the Nazi high command ordered Lemp to falsify his log. The Nazi newspaper Volkischer Beobacher blamed the sinking on Winston Churchill, then First Lord of the Admiralty. While nobody believed that tale, the real story of the sinking of the Athenia wasn’t revealed until the Nuremburg trials after the war.

Over the next several days, anxious Ottawa residents repeatedly called the Citizen for any news of loved ones who had been on the Athenia. For the most part the news was positive as one by one, the rescued Ottawa people were reported safe, mostly from Glasgow and Greenock in Scotland or Galway in Ireland. These included D. George Woollcombe, the former head master of Ashbury College, Miss Jean Craik, a young business college student who resided at 471 MacLeod Street, and Miss Mary Carol of 34 Noel Street, an employee at Ogilvie’s Department Store.  Mr. James Ward of the Public Works Department also received word that his wife and 12-year old son, James Jr. were safe in Galway, Ireland. Thomas Graham of 224 Primrose Street who had joined the crew of the Athenia two weeks earlier as a cook was also safe on dry land.

Jean Craik was among the first Ottawa survivors to return home. Arriving shortly before midnight on the CNR train from Halifax with two other survivors eleven days after the Athenia was torpedoed, Craik recounted a harrowing tale. She had been on deck when the ship had been torpedoed and sailors started shouting for everybody to abandon ship. On her lifeboat were 56 mostly women and children and two sailors. She sat in the stern of the lifeboat where she was given the job of holding flares. A sailor named Kammin gave her his lifebelt, an act of heroism that saved her life and lost his. In heavy seas, her lifeboat capsized. Kammin perished. Many drowned in front of her, including a mother and a baby. Craik floated in the water for six hours before the Southern Cross rescued her. Of the 56 people who made it onto the lifeboat, roughly half lost their lives through drowning. The Southern Cross transferred Craik and other survivors to the City of Flint, who took them to Halifax. There, the Red Cross gave Craik a tooth brush, tooth paste, cold cream and a pair of silk stockings. One of the first things she did in Halifax was have a hot bath. Although she had lost all her possessions, Craik somehow managed to keep her purse which she had tied to herself.  In it was one traveller’s cheque which she used to buy new clothes.

All the news was not good, however. Mr. F.H. Blair of Montreal, the uncle of Miss A.E. Brown of 415 Elgin Street, lost his life. He had given his life jacket to a woman, and subsequently drowned.

Canada joined Great Britain, Australia, New Zealand and other members of the Empire in the war against Nazi Germany on 10 September. After the Parliamentary debate, Canadian High Commissioner to London, Vincent Massey, received a cable from Ottawa recommending to King George that as King of Canada he approve Canada’s declaration of war on Germany. Massey transcribed the cable’s contents onto two ordinary sheets of foolscap paper which he took to Buckingham Palace. The King appended his signature “Approved George R.I.” Canada was officially at war.

Sources:

Boswell, Randy, 2012. “Memorial unveiled to first Canadian pilot to die in WWII,” Edmonton Journal, 6 September.

Bregha, François, 2019. “Australia House,” History of Sandy Hill, https://www.ash-acs.ca/history/australia-house/.

British Home Child Group International, 2019. “The Athenia,” http://britishhomechild.com/the-athenia/.2012.

Kemble Mike, 2013. “SS Athenia,” Merchant Navy in World War II, http://www.39-45war.com/athenia.html.

Ottawa Citizen, 1939. “Most Ottawa Folk Philosophical, But Ready To Do Duty,” 1 September.

——————, 1939. “Crowds Throng Citizen Bulletins,” 1 September.

——————, 1939. “Gunners Will Move To Lansdowne Pk For Training Duty,” 2 September.

——————, 1939. “Liner Athenia, Bound For Canada, Torpedoed, Britain And France Now At War With Germany,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Proclamation Declaring Great Britain At War Isued By Chamberlain,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “His Majesty’s Address To People Of British Empire,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “German Consulate Staff Here Ready For Word To Leave,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Crowd Cheers And Applauds Mr. King.” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Every Home In Canada Affected By Struggle Declares Prime Minister,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Effective Co-operation,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Fateful News Accepted With Determined Resignation,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “The Call To United Action,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Young Men Besiege Ottawa Recruiting Offices To Enlist,” 4 September.

—————–, 1939. “Ellard Cummings, Ottawa Airman, Is Killed In Scotland, 5 September.

—————– 1939. “Report 3 More Ottawa People Rescued At Sea,” 6 September.

—————–, 1939. “Announce 125 Still Missing From Athenia,” 6 September.

—————–, 1939. “Report Many Ottawans Among Athenia Rescued,” 6 September.

—————–, 1939. “Says Indivisibility Of Crown Theory Disproved By War,” 11 September.

—————–, 1944. “Kenneth Cummings Of Air Force Is Reported Missing,” 22 March.

Ottawa Journal, 1939. “Ottawa Girl Vividly Describes Sinking of Athenia,” 15 September.

Uboat.net 2019. “The Men – U-boat Commanders,” https://uboat.net/men/lemp.htm.

 

Ottawa’s Centenary

16 August 1926

In 2026, Ottawa will celebrate its bicentenary, marking two hundred years from when General George Ramsey, 9th Earl of Dalhousie and Governor General of British North America, wrote to Lieutenant-Colonel John By advising By of his purchase of land for the Crown that contained the site of the head locks for the proposed Rideau Canal on the Ottawa river, and the suitability of the locality for the establishment of a village or town to house canal workers. Lord Dalhousie asked Colonel By to survey the land, divide it into 2-4 acre lots and rent them to settlers, with preference to be given to half-pay officers and respectable people. The rough-hewn community, which was subsequently hacked out of a hemlock and cedar forest, was quickly dubbed Bytown. Its name was changed to Ottawa in 1855, and two years later the town was selected as the capital of the Province of Canada by Queen Victoria.

To celebrate the centenary of its founding by Col. By, the City of Ottawa had a week-long, blow-out extravaganza in the summer of 1926. Although the official opening of the celebrations was on Monday, 16 August 1926, the fun actually began two days earlier on the Saturday with a range of sporting events wide enough to please the most die-hard sports fanatic.  The Capital Swimming Club staged a centennial regatta in the Rideau Canal opposite the Exhibition Grounds—a daring event given the poor quality of Canal water. Swimmers from across Canada participated with five Dominion championships at stake. At Cartier Square on Elgin Street, four soccer teams competed for the McGiverin Cup with the Ottawa Scottish emerging the victor, beating the Sons of England with a 5-2 score in the finals. Also featured that day were track and field events, cycling, golf, baseball, tennis and a cricket match at the Rideau Hall cricket pitch.

Centenary Pipers Samuel J. Jarvis Library and Archives Canada PA-025132

Bagpipers, Ottawa Centenary Parade, August 1926, Samuel J. Jarvis/Library and Archives Canada, PA-025132.

The following day, there was a huge Garrison Church parade involving 3,000 soldiers including local regiments as well as the Queen’s Own Rifles from Toronto and the Royal 22nd Regiment from Quebec City who had been quartered in tents on the grounds of the Normal School on Elgin Street (now the Heritage Building of the Ottawa City Hall). The troops marched from downtown to Lansdowne Park where 15,000 people crowded into the stands for divine services. More than 50,000 people watched the soldiers march through the streets of Ottawa.  That evening the band of the “Van Doos” gave a concert that was broadcast from the Château Laurier hotel.

Centenary Devlin Furs Samuel J. Jarvis Library and Archives Canada PA-025130

Devlin Furs’ Float, Trades & Industry Pageant, August 1926, Samuel J. Jarvis/Library and Archives Canada, PA-025130.

The official opening ceremonies took place on the Monday morning on Parliament Hill in front of cheering thousands and “in the shadow of the nearly completed “‘Victory Tower.’” (The name for the Centre Block didn’t officially become the “Peace Tower” until the following year—the 60th anniversary of Confederation.) After much military pomp and pageantry, Sir Henry Drayton, delivered the opening speech in the absence of the Prime Minister, Arthur Meighan. He welcomed visitors to the Capital in the name of the Dominion of Canada. Mayor John Balharrie also greeted visitors and former Ottawa residents who had come home for the celebrations. To symbolized the granting to them of the “freedom” of the city, he released a coloured balloon that carried aloft a four-foot golden key. Messages of congratulations flooded into Ottawa from near and far. Three Governors General—Aberdeen, Connaught and Byng—sent telegrams, as did the Lord Mayor of London, and Jimmy Walker, the controversial and flamboyant Mayor of New York. Civic, provincial and federal politicians from across Canada did likewise.

After the official opening, sporting events occupied the rest of the day. That night, there was a military display and tattoo involving troops from all services in from of 12,000 spectators at Lansdowne Park. The chief feature of the night was the staging of a mock battle scene. As searchlights played over the field, the soldiers re-enacted the crossing of the “Hindenburg” line by Canadian troops in 1918. The mock machine gun action and field bombardment was apparently very realistic. So much so that many veterans experienced flash-backs of their time in the trenches. Also featured that night was a performance of the 1,000 voice Centenary Choir, platoon drills by the Royal 22nd Regiment, and gymnastics displays by cadets.

A highlight of Tuesday, the second day of the Centenary celebrations, was the unveiling of a stone memorial dedicated to Colonel By in a small a park located on the western side of the Rideau Canal just south of Connaught Square opposite Union Station. To the strains of Handel’s Largo, played by the band of the Governor General’s Foot Guard, the memorial, which was covered by a Union Jack, was unveiled at noon. Mayor Balharrie presided. More than 2,000 people witnessed the solemn event. The bronze plaque on the side of the stone, which was intended to be the cornerstone of a much larger memorial, bore the inscription 1826-1926 In Honour of John By, Lieutenant Colonel of the Royal Engineers. In 1826 he founded Bytown, Destined to Become the City of Ottawa, Capital of the Dominion of Canada. This memorial was unveiled in Centenary Year. (A larger memorial was never built. A statue of Colonel By sculpted by Joseph-Émile Brunet was eventually commissioned by the Historical Society of Ottawa and was erected in Mayor’s Hill Park in 1971.)

At Lansdowne Park, a multi-day western rodeo and stampede commenced with over 200 horses, 100 cattle, and dozens of cowboys from western Canada and the United States. Log rolling competitions took place on the Canal. That evening, an historical pageant was held involving 2,000 actors from service groups, theatre groups, and drama schools. The pageant began with a prologue depicting Confederation with Miss Canada seated on a throne exchanging greetings with Misses Provinces. After pledges of mutual support and loyalty, the provinces curtsied to Canada. This was followed by tableaux representing scenes from Ottawa’s history, including “The Spirit of the Chaudière,” depicting the region before the arrival of Europeans, “The Coming of the White Man,” “Pioneer Settlers,” “The Lumber Industry,” “Bytown and its Early Inhabitants,” “The First Election,” “Naming of the Capital,” “The Fathers of Confederation,” and, a finale where all joined together with the Centenary Choir to sing a closing anthem. The massed 1,000-member Choir accompanied by the G.G.F.G. band also performed a number of popular songs including, O Canada, Land of Hope and Glory, Alouette, Indian Love Song, and, of course, God Save the King.

The pageant got a mixed review. The Ottawa Citizen opined that it provided a “felicitous treatment of the historical episodes chosen for presentation,” but there was “room for improvement.” However, on balance, the pageant was “stimulating and educative.” The dancing was described as “effective.”

After the performance, street dancing was held from 11pm to 2am on O’Connor Street between Albert Street and Laurier to the tunes of two jazz orchestras. With the crush of people, there was little actual dancing though things got a bit better on subsequent nights. With massive crowds downtown, there was some minor trouble. The police arrested a number of young men for setting off firecrackers in the streets. Some had placed “torpedoes” on the street-car tracks that caused “terrific successive explosions” as the trams went over them.  Police also acted to curb dangerous driving on the crowded city thoroughfares. Reportedly, louts also molested young women. Generally speaking, however, the street partying was carried out in good humour. A dozen youths organized an impromptu game of leap frog on Sparks Street between Bank and Elgin Streets.

Wednesday, 18 August, was declared a civic holiday by Mayor Balharrie, and more commemorative plaques were unveiled. In addition to non-stop sporting events, rodeo competitions and other fun activities at the Exhibition Grounds, one thousand guests attended a garden party at Rideau Hall. Although Lord Byng had left Ottawa to return to Britain, his term of office as governor general having just ended, he had given permission for the residence to be used as the venue for the civic birthday party celebration. Mayor Balharrie provided a massive four-tier cake decorated with silver foliage and tiny silver cupids. Guests received little boxes of cake bearing the inscription “A souvenir of Ottawa’s Centenary with the compliments of Mayor J. P. Balharrie.”

Centenary Samuel J. Jarvis Library and Archives Canada PA-025127

Float of the Ottawa Electric Company, Col. By’s Home, Trades & Industry Pageant, August 1926, Samuel J. Jarvis/Library and Archives Canada, PA-025127.

That evening, Ottawa’s merchants and businesses held the second of the week’s three parades. Starting in the Byward Market and ending at Lansdowne Park, the parade highlighted milestones of Ottawa’s commercial progress over the previous one hundred years. Among the many entries, the Producers’ Dairy’s float featured a huge milk bottle and milk maids. Camping equipment in 1826 and 1926 was the theme of the Grant Holden and Graham entry. Also in the parade was the largest shoe ever manufactured in Canada with six little girls seated inside it, courtesy of Ottawa’s boot and shoe stores. Representing the Ottawa Department Stores Association, four white horses with attendants dressed in white and yellow uniforms pulled a float bearing eight young women in long gowns. Not to be outdone, the A. J. Freiman entry, which was decorated in silver and flowers, was drawn by six white horses with six attendants dressed in white and blue livery. On board were five young ladies wearing period costumes. The Ottawa Electric Company float consisted of an (inaccurate) replica of Colonel By’s house. Instead of a pioneer’s log home as depicted, the Colonel’s actual home was made of stone.

With amusements and events continuing at the Exhibition Grounds, Thursday’s highlight was an “old timers’ parade. In front of immense crowds, historical floats, three bugle bands, three brass bands and one band of bagpipers wended their way slowly from the Byward Market, along Rideau and Sparks Streets before heading down Bank Street to Lansdowne Park. Old-time vehicles on display included an 1897 Oldsmobile and penny-farthing bicycles. Firefighters dressed in the red outfits of yore pulled hand reels or drove antique horse-pulled engines including the “Conqueror,” Ottawa first fire engine. There were also historical tableaux depicting the early days of the Ottawa Valley and Bytown, including Champlain and his men, the arrival of the Jesuits, the establishment of the first white settlement in the region by Philemon Wright, and the beginning of the lumber industry.  Guests of honour in the parade included veterans from the Fenian Raids, the South African War and the Great War.

Centenary Samuel J. Jarvis Library and Archives Canada PA-025131

Ottawa Firefighters with hand reels, “Old-Time Pageant,” Ottawa Centenary, August 1926, Trades & Industry Pageant, August 1926, Samuel J. Jarvis/Library and Archives Canada, PA-025131.

Centenary celebration wound down on the weekend but not before the finals of the stampede, more street dancing, this time in Hintonburg, more sporting activities, and a “Venetian Nights” boating event held on the Rideau Canal.

For those who hadn’t had their fill of fun and games, the Central Canada Exhibition opened immediately after the official ending of the centenary fun, prolonging the excitement for another week.

Both of Ottawa’s major newspapers covered in detail highlights of Ottawa’s first hundred years and centenary events, with each publishing extended supplements. The Evening Citizen boasted that its edition of 16 August weighed in at more than two pounds. It’s rival, The Ottawa Evening Journal ran a close second. In one regard, however, the Journal went one step further by publishing a fascinating prospective view of what Ottawa might look like on its bicentenary in 2026. Some of its guesses look pretty accurate. It predicted that Ottawa would have a population of 975,000 (actual number 934,240 in 2016) and that it would annex neighbouring communities. It also correctly forecast the elimination of the above-ground, cross-city train tracks and the replacement of the tram lines with buses. It even predicted a tunnel between LeBreton Flats and downtown used by electric trains!

Not surprisingly, however, the crystal-ball gazers got a lot of things wrong. The newspaper predicted that Canada would have a population of 100 million by 2026, and that the airplane would effectively eliminate the automobile as a mode of transportation. The paper also postulated that after decades of delay the great Georgian Bay Ship Canal would finally be completed in 1982, almost eighty years after the idea was first proposed, thereby making Ottawa a deep-water port with direct access to the Atlantic Ocean. As well, given the region’s cheap hydro-electric power, the Journal envisaged a massive expansion of manufacturing in the Ottawa area, forecasting that the Capital would become the home of the largest Canadian plant for the manufacture of pleasure, commercial and air taxicabs. It also predicted the emergence of a large furniture manufacturing industry in Chelsea in West Quebec, and the construction of immense iron ore smelters in Ironside, just north of the old city of Hull, to process iron ore mined in the Laurentians.

For the Journal, the demise of manufacturing and the conversion of Ottawa into the primarily white-collar city that it is today were unimaginable.

 

Sources:

The Ottawa Evening Citizen, 1926. Various issues, 14-24 August.

The Ottawa Evening Journal, 1926. Various issues, 14-24 August.