Freiman’s becomes The Bay

24 November 1971

The A. J. Freiman Department Store was an Ottawa retailing institution that dated back to the end of the nineteenth century. Its founder was Archibald (Archie) Jacob Freiman who had immigrated to Canada as a child with his family in the late 19th century from Lithuania. Coming to Ottawa from Hamilton in 1899, the nineteen-year old Freiman and his partner Moses Cramer started the Canadian Home Furnishing Company at 223 Rideau Street close to Cumberland Street. The company sold carpets, oilcloth and other types of household furnishings. The following year, the firm expanded, moving into next door 221 Rideau as well. In 1902, the firm moved into still larger quarters at 73 Rideau Street.

Freiman logo 1911-10-23 TOJ

Freiman’s logo after Archie Freiman bought out his father’s interest in the company, 23 October 1911, The Ottawa Journal

Despite the company’s success, the Freiman-Cramer partnership foundered when Freiman announced his intention of opening a credit department which would permit customers to purchase goods on installment. This was just too risky for the conservative-minded Cramer. Fortunately, Frieman’s father, Hersh, stepped in, becoming young Archie’s partner. In 1911, Archie was ready to go it alone, and he bought out his father’s share of the business. Over time, the name of the store morphed from The Canadian Home Furnishing Company, A.J. Freiman, Proprietor, to A. J. Freiman Ltd. Ottawa residents knew it simply as Frieman’s. In part, the change in name reflected the shift in the nature of the firm’s business. In a 1925 interview, Freiman said that he had always been interested in the possibilities of a general store.

Freiman 1920-11-12 TOJ

Freiman’s logo, 12 November 1920, The Ottawa Journal

Consequently, he added a men’s and women’s clothing to his line of products, thus setting the stage for the development of a department store. He also indicated that beyond hard work, the secret of his success was advertising.

In 1944, Archie died suddenly after he had unveiled a plaque in the Adath Jeshurun Synagogue on King Edward Street in honour of his friend, the synagogue’s cantor. Archie’s son, Lawrence, took over the family business.

Freimans 1939royalvisitMikkan4169781

Freiman’s Department Store, Rideau Street, decorated for the 1939 Royal Visit, Library and Archives Canada, Mikkan 4169781.

Under Lawrence Freiman’s direction, the retail company continued to thrive and expand, always keeping up with the times. Freiman’s was one of the first Ottawa stores to have an escalator, and as markets moved and changed, the company moved and changed with them. When people began settling in the suburbs after World War II, Freiman’s followed, opening a branch store in Ottawa’s first mall, the Westgate Shopping Centre on Carling Avenue in 1955. Freiman’s was also quick to introduce basement discount outlets for the budget conscious and in-house boutiques for the fashion minded. As well, it offered a phone-in service called Freiman’s Buy-Line. With its Charge-a-Plate, customers could also put things “on their account.”

Freimans1946fashionshowOffice National du Film du CanadaLACMikkan4310145

Freiman’s first fashion shop after the War, April 1946, National Film Board of Canada/Library and Archives Canada, Mikkan 4310145.

However, by the late 1960s, it was increasingly difficult for the firm to compete successfully. Lawrence Freiman’s health began to fail. He starting spending several months each year in Palm Springs, California or Palm Beach, Florida; his doctors felt the warm weather would do him good. He also had other interests. He was a two-term President of the Zionist Organization of Canada and was the Chairman of the Board of the new National Arts Centre. Of necessity, the direction of the company passed to the next generation—A. J. Freiman II and son-in-law Gordon Roston. While the two were capable young men, the company lacked depth. Lawrence feared that Freiman’s didn’t have the calibre of senior management necessary for both the present and the future.

Freimans 1946-10-05 TOJ

Freiman’s art deco logo from the 1940s, 5 Ocotber 1946, The Ottawa Journal

Family-owned, quality department stores also found it difficult to attract the talent needed to compete with the larger, nation-wide chain stores that offered better career possibilities. Expansion also required vast sums of money that family-owned business, like Freiman’s, simply didn’t have.

As well, the Ottawa market was becoming increasingly competitive with no less than eight new department stores under construction or under consideration during the summer of 1971 says Lawrence Freiman in his autobiography. Simpson-Sears had gone into Carlingwood Mall when it opened in the late 1950s, and had moved into the St. Laurent Shopping Centre in 1967 and was about to take over the former Murphy-Gamble store on Sparks Street. Eaton’s was also entering the Ottawa market with an anchor store in the new Bayshore Shopping Centre scheduled to open in 1973. The Hudson’s Bay Company of Winnipeg was also eager to have an Ottawa presence. In August 1971, the firm approached Lawrence Freiman about a friendly take-over.

Freimans logo 1965-04-02 TOJ

Freiman’s logo, early 1960s, 2 April 1965, The Ottawa Journal

It was an opportunity that the ailing Lawrence couldn’t refuse. Although he had hoped to leave Freiman’s to the next generation, neither his son nor his son-in-law were interested in running the company as they would not have a controlling interest. With the family’s shareholding becoming increasingly dispersed over time, they would be at the mercy of people with no direct involvement in the firm’s operations. As Lawrence said in his autobiography, his son and son-in-law wanted to be “their own people.” The clincher of the deal was the Bay’s promise to honour Freiman’s pension commitments to staff. Lawrence himself was to receive an annual pension of $35,000.

Freimans logo 1967-03-22

Freiman’s logo, late 1960s, 22 March 1967, The Ottawa Journal

On 24 November 1971, the news broke in both Ottawa and Winnipeg: The Hudson Bay Company was to buy Freiman’s Department Store on Rideau Street, its two branch stores located in the Westgate Shopping Centre and on St. Laurent Boulevard and its two discount “Freimart” outlets. It was virtually a “done deal.” The Freiman family had already agreed to sell their 70 per cent share of the publicly–traded company for $6 per share, a mark-up of $1.25 over the last trading price on the Toronto Stock Exchange. The deal valued the company at $4.59 million.

That day, staff crowded into Lawrence Freiman’s office on Rideau Street to hear the news. Also present was Don McGiverin, the Managing Director of the Bay’s 200 retail outlets across Canada. Freiman and McGiverin reassured employees that their futures in the company was secure and that their pension rights had been preserved. McGiverin added that Freiman staff could “aspire” to any position in the Canada-wide company.

The investment dealer community was surprised by the comparatively low price put on Freiman’s shares. Even though the company’s profitability had slipped somewhat during the first half of 1971 to $86,626 from $101,274 over the same period the previous year on sales of almost $14 million, the company was in sound financial shape. According to one broker, Freiman’s book value was greater than $9 per share—but still down from the $9.75 per share price the company had been valued at when it had gone public roughly ten years earlier. The company’s shares had traded as high as $13 some months earlier, but their value had fallen in tandem with a broad sell-off in the Canadian stock market. Another dealer thought the $6 price was deceptive. As the Freiman’s pension plan was unfunded, the Bay’s all-included cost of purchasing the company was roughly $8 per share if one included the cost of the Bay assuming the firm’s pension liabilities.

News of the take-over was greeted with sorrow and concern in some quarters. The company had a reputation of being a good employer. A letter to the Editor of the Ottawa Citizen appeared shortly after the announcement. Written by Mansab Ali Khan, the letter read: “The magnanimity and generosity [of Freiman’s] toward colored people is very well known. Any qualified person from Asia or Africa who applied for a job in that company was never refused employment because of color or nationality.” Mr. Ali Khan hoped that the new owners would “follow in the footsteps of A.J. Freiman.” The Citizen opined that it was “not a surprise to see Freiman’s go,” but Ottawa “won’t be quite the same.”

Freimans Bayman26-6-73 TOC

The Arrival of “Bayman,” 26 June 1973, The Ottawa Citizen

The Bay officially took control of Freiman’s shortly before Christmas 1971 and began operating under the name Freiman-Hudson Bay Company. Freiman’s shareholders received one last dividend of 5 cents per share, payable in mid-January 1972. Gordon Roston, Lawrence Freiman’s son-in-law was appointed Vice-President and General Manager. A senior HBC executive was appointed Assistant General Manager. A.J. Freiman II remained on the company’s Board of Directors.

In June 1973, Freiman’s was subsumed completely within the Bay, and the Freiman name disappeared from Ottawa retailing. To mark the event, there was a one-day celebration at the Rideau Street, Westgate and St. Laurent stores. Models showed fashions worn by people over the Bay’s 300-year history. The store also launched “Bayman,” a superhero who fought inflation with Bay Day flyers “full of top quality merchandise at great savings,”

Lawrence Freiman died in 1986. The eponymous Lawrence Freiman Lane that runs behind the National Arts Centre recognizes Lawrence’s contribution to the arts in Ottawa. An arcade enclosed within the Hudson Bay Company between Rideau Street and George Street is officially known as the Freiman Mall. This passage had previously been known as Freiman Street, and before that as Mosgrove Street. When the Rideau Centre was constructed at the beginning of the 1980s, the City of Ottawa closed the street and leased it to the Bay on the proviso that the company enclosed the space and allowed through access to the Byward Market. A plaque in the Mall unveiled by Mayor Marion Dewer in 1983 honours Freiman’s Department Store and the Freiman family. The pedestrian bridge that links the Rideau Centre to the Hudson Bay Company above Rideau Street is also officially known as the Freiman Bridge.

Sources:

Figler, Bernard, 1959. Lillian and Archie Freiman, Biographies, Northern Printing and Lithography Co.: Montreal.

Freiman, Lawrence, 1978. Don’t Fall Off The Rocking Horse: An Autobiography of Lawrence Freiman, McClellan and Stewart: Toronto.

Ottawa Citizen (The), “Bay buying Freiman’s Company offering $6/shr.” 24 November.

————————-, 1971. “A.J. Freiman Sales Higher,” 8 October.

——————, 1971, “Freiman sale surprises financial community,” 25 November.

——————, 1971. “Freiman terms out,” 9 December.

——————, 1971. “Brocker backs Freiman deal, 10 December.

——————, 1971. “New Freiman top brass includes present hands,” 15 December.

——————, 1971. “Open to all,” 17 December.

——————, 1973. “Big store chains learning capital a strong market,” 21 July.

——————, 2015. “Council approves Freiman bridge deal,” 13 May.

Ottawa Journal (The), 1971. “Hudson’s Bay buying Freiman’s,” 24 November

————————–, 1971. “Enter The Giants,” 25 November.

————————–, 1971. “The Bay takes over Freiman’s Dec. 20,” 15 December.

————————–, 1973. “Freiman’s Becomes The Bay,” 25 June.

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Eugène Ysaÿe, the Tsar of the Violin

6 March 1905

To draw up a list of the top violinists of all time acceptable to everybody would be a nigh impossible task. Selection criteria and their appropriate weights would be open to debate. Recency bias, where we put disproportionate weight on more recent events or observations, could lead us to favour living artists over the dead, especially those whose careers preceded sound recordings. Regardless of such difficulties, on any list purporting to represent the best would appear such virtuosos as Yehudi Menuhin, George Enescu, Fritz Kreisler and Isaac Stern. Of early masters, Niccolo Paganini, who was active in the early 19th century and was the composer of the fiendishly complex 24 caprices for solo violin, would also be on everybody’s list.  Of those currently playing, Itzhak Pearlman, Viktoria Mullova and Pinchas Zucherman, the Musical Director of the National Arts Centre in Ottawa from 1999-2015, stand in the highest regard.

Another master, though one less known outside of music circles today, who would be a candidate for the world’s finest list is the Belgium-born violinist and composer Eugène Ysaÿe (pronounced “Ee-zah-ee).” The late, great Russian violinist, Nathen Milstein, once dubbed him the tsar of the violin. Kreisler reportedly wouldn’t play Ysaÿe compositions in the man’s presence, and said that Ysaÿe was the greatest interpreter of the Elgar Violin Concerto. This Concerto had been expressly written for Kreisler by Edward Elgar and is widely viewed as among the most difficult of a violinist’s repertoire.

ysaye san fran chronicle 21-5-1905

Eugène Ysaÿe, San Francisco Chronicle, 21 May 1905

Ysaÿe was born in 1858 in Liège. During his very early years, he and his older brother were taught the violin by their musician father who scrapped a living by playing in an orchestra in nearby Germany. He made his first public appearance as a violinist at age seven. He later studied music at the Liège Conservatory. His older brother was apparently the one who was supposed to have a musical career. But once he heard his little brother play a violin solo at age nineteen, he abandoned his career and is quoted as saying, “I shall never play again.”

As a young man, Ysaÿe’s talent was recognized by some the leading composers of the time. Ferdinand Hiller, the German-born composer and conductor, introduced Ysaÿe to Jacob Joachim, who at the time was considered one of the greatest violinists of the 19th century. On hearing Ysaÿe play, Joachim delphically said that he had never heard the violin played like that before. While it is unclear whether Joachim liked what he heard, his pronouncement illustrated the originality and freshness for which Ysaÿe was later to become famous.

At age 20, Ysaÿe came under the tutelage of the great Belgian composer and violinist Henri Vieuxtemps. (As a sidebar, Vieuxtemps owned and played a violin made by Giuseppe Guarneri in 1741 that Ysaÿe used during his early career. In recent years, that same violin, now known as the Vieuxtemps Guarneri del Gesù, was played by Pinchas Zucherman. It was sold in 2013 for more than US$13 million and is currently on lifetime loan to American violinist Anne Akiko Meyers.) Vieuxtemps enabled Ysaÿe to study music in Brussels for three years and gave him private lessons. In 1880, Ysaÿe became the leader of the Bilse’s orchestra in Berlin. In 1886, he became professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatory. He made his first trans-Atlantic tour in 1894.

Ysaye Wikipedia US Library of Congress

Eugène Ysaÿe, later in life, Wikipedia, U.S. Library of Congress.

By the early 20th century, Ysaÿe was in top form and was an international star of the first magnitude. He was described as a polar bear of a man—“huge, massive and royal,” with a broad brow and dark, flowing locks.  “Thoroughly bohemian,” he appreciated the finer pleasures of life, especially good food. He also was keen on the sporting world. However, money seemed to have come second behind his art. In an 1895 interview given in San Francisco, Ysaÿe claimed that he rather earn $80 a month working as a professor of violin at the Brussels Conservatory than take home $10,000 per year as a professor in Cincinnati. As fate would have it, he was to become conductor of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in 1919, a post he held for three years.

He also valued highly his family life, and for many years lived in near seclusion with his first wife Louise Bourdau with whom he had five children—three sons and two daughters—in the small Belgian town of Godinne, south of Namur in Wallonia. (After his first wife died in 1924, Ysaÿe married his student, the American violinist Jeanette Dincin, in 1927.) To an American journalist to whom he gave an interview in his country home in 1904, Ysaÿe said that he found inspiration in the pre-dawn hours of the morning paddling in his small boat on a creek near Godinne.

Ysaÿe owned two famous violins—a Stradivarius and a Guarneri. The Stradivarius, dubbed the “Hercules,” was made in 1734 by Antonio Stradivarius in Cremona, Italy. Ysaÿe used this violin when he practised, preferring the Guarneri for concert work as it was less “fatiguing” for him to play. The Stradivarius was stolen from Ysaÿe’s dressing room in 1908 while he was performing on-stage at the Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, Russia. It was recovered from a Paris stop in 1925. In 1972, the violinist Henryk Szeryng donated the instrument to the City of Jerusalem where it is played by the concert master of the Israel Philharmoic Orchestra.

Ysaye violin Shinichi Yokoyama Nippon Muic Foundation

Ysaÿe’s Guarneri Violin, Nippon Music Foundation, photo by Shinichi Yokoyama.

Ysaÿe’s Guarneri violin was made Bartolomeo Giuseppe, also known as Joseph, Guarneri of Cremona in 1740. The violin bears the original label of its maker—“Joseph Guarnerius, fecit Cremonae, anno 1740, I.H.S.” In 1928, Ysaÿe reportedly added a second label “Ce Del Jesus fut le fidèle compagnone [sic] de ma vie,” which means “this Del Jesus [the name of the violin] was the faithful companion of my life.” Stories about how he acquired the violin vary. One newspaper account says that he had originally purchased the instrument in Paris for 30,000 francs on behalf of man who gave it to his daughter who was a pupil of Ysaÿe. The girl insisted that Ysaÿe play the violin in concerts. When Ysaÿe found it to be the ideal instrument for his temperament, he bought the violin from the pupil’s father for the same 30,000 francs. Another account has him borrowing the violin from the woman for his first North American tour. On his return to Belgium, he traded his own violin made by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini and an additional 40,000 francs for the Guarneri. In recent years, the violin was played by Isaac Stern and Pinchas Zukerman who seems to favour instruments used by Ysaÿe. The instrument is owned by the Nippon Music Foundation and is currently played by Sergey Khachatryan.

In February 1905, Ysaÿe came to New York aboard the first super trans-Atlantic liner, the S.S. Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse of the North German Lloyd line for a massive 75 concert tour of North America with Canadian stops in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. By this time, he was the highest priced violinist in the world. His income was said to be enormous. For this North American tour, which was organized by Robert E. Johnston who managed all the great violinists of the time, he was given a $50,000 advance (equivalent to roughly $1.3 million today) before he even left Belgium.

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Advertisement for Ysaÿe’s Ottawa performance, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 4 March 1905.

Ysaÿe arrived in Ottawa on Monday, 6 March 1905 for a single performance at the Russell Theatre. Ticket prices ranged from 75 cents to $2.00. On the day of the performance, 300 rush seats were released at 50 cents each. It was a sell-out crowd. 1,400 spectators came to see Ysaÿe perform. The Ottawa Evening Journal claimed it was the largest audience ever to greet an artist. Ysaÿe was accompanied by M. Jules De Befve on the piano. De Befve was the head of the piano department at the Liège Conservatory.

Without a doubt, the performance was the social climax of the winter season. All of Ottawa’s elite was there to listen to Ysaÿe, including the Earl and Countess of Grey. The programme started with Handel’s Sonata in G minor. The Citizen’s reporter wrote “every pianissimo crescendo, fortissimo, was brought out clear as a silver bell and the audience could have listened till morning.”  Other pieces played included the Ballade et polonaise by Vieuxtemps, the Chaconne by Bach, and Saint-Saëns’ violin concerto No. 3.

The evening was a huge success. The appreciative Ottawa audience gave Ysaÿe five encores.  A local musician of considerable personal reputation called Ysaÿe’s performance “the finest example of tone production and artistic impression he had ever heard.” One observer recounted that only the presence of the Governor General and Lady Grey restrained the exuberance of the crowd. Otherwise “the men would have stood up and thrown their hats into the air.” The Evening Journal enthused that Ysaÿe began where technique left off. “The soul of Bach will sing itself away to everlasting bliss so long as giants like Ysaÿe are raised upon earth” wrote the Journal’s reporter. When the master played Abendlied by Robert Schuman, the journalist wrote that his delicate muted tones seemed to wail and sing at his command and as his face became illuminated with the beauty of the thoughts suggested to him by Schuman so the music itself took on the form of beauty and together Ysaÿe and his audience were absorbed, spell-bound, lost, nor was the spell broken when the music ceased.

The journalist feared that this might be one of the last public performances by Ysaÿe outside of Belgium as there were rumours that the master was exchanging his violin for a conductor’s baton. Fortunately, this was not the case, though over time Ysaÿe devoted an increasing amount of time to composing, teaching and conducting. In part this reflected persistent health problems that plagued the virtuoso, especially in later life. According to Canadian violinist Maurice Solway who was a pupil of Ysaÿe in the late 1920s, ill-health went a long way to explaining why Ysaÿe sometimes trembled his bow hand while playing—that and apparently his unconventional bow grip using only three or even only two of his right-hand fingers.

In 1929, afflicted by diabetes and phlebitis, Ysaÿe lost part of a leg. But he continued to work. Two months before he died, his opus magnum, the opera Peter the Miner, was played in Liège. As he was too ill to attend the debut, Queen Elisabeth of the Belgians organized a radio broadcast so Ysaÿe could listen to it from his bed.

Following his death in May 1931, Belgium gave Ysaÿe a state funeral. On a pillow in front of his coffin laid his beloved Guarneri violin.

 

Sources:

Corzio.com, 2018. Eugène Ysaÿe (b1858; d1931), Belgium, Violinist, https://web.archive.org/web/20110522002804/http://www.cozio.com/Musician.aspx?id=20.

Cumberland Evening Times, 1931. “Eugene Ysaye, Violinist, Dies In Brussels,” 12 May.

Globe (The), 1931. “Ysaye Is Mourned In Music World,” 13 May.

Globe and Mail (The), 1981. “Grateful Solway’s Memories Pay Homage to Eugene Ysaye,” 23 October.

Detroit Free Press (The), 1904. “A Day With Ysaye.” 6 November.

Ottawa Evening Journal (The), 1905. “Coming Amusements,” 6 March.

————————————-. 1905. “Ysaye, a King Among Violinists,” 7 March.

Ottawa Citizen, (The), 1905. “Ysaye’s Recital,” 7 March.

Nippon Music Foundation, 2018. Instruments, https://www.nmf.or.jp/instruments/eng.html.

Salt Lake Herald (The), 1905, “This Week In The Theatres,” 2 May, 1905.

San Francisco Call (The), 1905. “With the Players and the Music Folk,” 21 May.

San Francisco Chronicle (The), 1895. “He Talks Of His Art,” 12 May.

Smithsonian, 2018. Violins: Guarneri Family of Violin Makers, https://www.si.edu/spotlight/violins/guarneri.

Tarisio Fine Instruments and Bows, 2018. Antonio Stradivarius, Cremona, 1734, the ‘Hercules,’

Ysaye, Szeryng, Kinor David, Semel, https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/property/?ID=41564.

——————————————, 2018. Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù,’ Cremona, 1740, the Ysaÿe, https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/property/?ID=40064.

——————————————, 2018. Bartolomeo Giuseppe Guarneri ‘del Gesù,’ Cremona, 1741, the Vieuxtemps, https://tarisio.com/cozio-archive/property/?ID=40433.

Topeka State Journal, 1905. “Ysaye Is Next.” 18 February.

 

 

Ottawa’s First Newspaper

24 February 1836

Bytown independent title 24-2-1836On 24 February 1836, the first edition of the first local newspaper appeared on the streets of Bytown, the small village that was destined to become Ottawa. That newspaper was called The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate. Its banner on the front page under its name proudly read:

“Let it be impressed upon your minds, Let it be instilled in your children, that the Liberty of the Press is the Palladium of all your civil, political and religious rights.—Sumus.”

The newspaper’s proprietor and editor was James Johnson. An Irish Protestant, Johnson had come to Canada in 1815. In May 1827, he settled in Bytown, which had only been founded the previous year. Reportedly a blacksmith by trade, Johnson quickly became a man of considerable property, earning a living as a merchant and auctioneer in the rough, tough frontier community that was Bytown.

The establishment of a newspaper in the small community was no easy feat, and must have taken many months in put into effect. Johnson purchased his press in Montreal. He personally disassembled it and packed the pieces along with its moveable type in boxes for shipment to Bytown. Most likely, he sent the equipment via boat as there were no railways or good highways linking Bytown to the outside world.

The Prospectus of The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate was dated December 16, 1835, indicating that Johnson had been working on the newspaper for several months before he released its first issue. He committed to publishing the newspaper every Thursday until demand was such that a semi-weekly publication was warranted. He intended “to advocate the national character and interest of every true Briton—Irishmen and their descendants first on the list.” In addition to being the spokesman for the Irish, Johnson promised to “promote the interests and prosperity of the County of Carleton and the Province [Canada West, i.e. Ontario] in general.” However, he also promised to take “the occasional peep into the affairs of our Sister [Canada East, i.e. Quebec]” since the prosperity of the two Provinces were tightly connected.

Johnson proclaimed that on “all occasions,” the newspaper will “uphold the King, and Constitution by enforcing obedience to the laws.” “May the Union Jack of Great Britain never cease to proudly wave over the Citadel of Quebec,” he declared. However, Johnson was very clear that his allegiance did not extend to the King’s ministers and officers, many of whom he believed incompetent and who put their own self-interest ahead of that of the citizens of the two Provinces. He said that they should be “turned adrift to gain a livelihood by their own industry.” Johnson added that “at all times,” would the newspaper speak out against “any misapplication of public monies, or malefaction with which public officers may be charged.”

One thing the newspaper would not do is to wade into religious controversies, except if “a wonton attack is made upon any body of Christians.” Johnson wrote “every man should be allowed to walk in his own peaceful ways without intolerance, as he is responsible for them to God alone.”

The cost of subscribing to the newspaper, which Johnson promised to publish on “good paper” of “a fair size,” was an expensive £1 or $4 per year, exclusive of postage payable semi-annually in advance. Rates for advertising in the newspaper were set at 2 shillings and sixpence for six lines for the first insertion, with every subsequent insertion set at 7 1/2d. Rates went up for larger advertisements. From six to ten lines, the initial rate was 3s. 6d. with subsequent insertions costing 10d. For submissions of great than ten lines, the rate would be 4d. per line for the first time, and 1d. per line for subsequent insertions.

That first edition had a run of about 500 copies, four pages long, which he produced with the help of John Stewart, his compositor. Johnson tried to deliver by hand all the copies of that inaugural issue of the Bytown Independent as he didn’t want to use the Post Office. Johnson, an irascible and opinionated man, was angry at Bytown’s Deputy Post Master and didn’t want to give him the business. “We have always been ill treated by the Deputy Post Master,” he raged. “To have him enlarge his bags for five hundred copies of the Bytown Independent would be unreasonable on our part.”

Johnson requested that friends and foes alike peruse the newspaper and if they didn’t agree with the paper’s politics they could return the issue by the post. Those who retained the issue would be placed on the Subscribers’ List—an early example of what today is called unsolicited supply. Johnson also advised recipients not to keep a copy out of compassion since if necessary he would seek reforms even if they affected “our best friend.”

Johnson pledged that at the end of the year if he was satisfied with himself, he would treat himself and any well-wishers to a bottle of something that would remain nameless.

Politically, Johnson pledged himself to being neither Whig (Reform) or Tory (Conservative). However, it is evident from the newspaper’s coverage of political events that Johnson was an ardent reformer. The newspaper’s account in its first issue of the evolving Canadian political scene provides a fascinating contemporary look into the turbulent period immediately prior to the Rebellions of 1837 when radical reformers took up arms against repressive, non-representative governments in Upper and Lower Canada.

The first issue of the Bytown Independent took place against the backdrop of a change in the leadership of Upper Canada. Sir John Colborne had just been replaced by Sir Francis Bond Head as Lieutenant Governor. Colborne, a military man who had served under the Duke of Wellington during the Napoleonic War, was conservative by nature and served Upper Canada with an unostentatious style. He successively increased the population of Upper Canada through emigration from Britain and instituted a major public works programme to improve communications across the Province. However, while conscious of the need for constitutional reform, Colborne did nothing to address the provincial political grievances.  While many moderates approved of his administration, radical reformers resented his treatment of the House of Assembly, the cost of assisting immigrants, and his use of public funds without the support of the legislature.

Johnson comments on Colborne were scathing and were often close to being libelous. He wrote:

“We can speak of Sir John’s administration from our own knowledge—not from rumours afloat; and we do say this of it, that it was the most puny, partial and political Government that ever any Colony was governed by.”

As well, Johnson, who called Colborne “a scanty head,” accused the Lieutenant Governor of interference in the 1832 by-election in Carleton County. He blamed the election of Hamnet Pinney (or Pinhey), a Tory, over George Lyon, a reformer, by Colborne’s appointment of a corrupt and biased returning officer.

In the newspaper’s first issue, Johnson published the first half of a letter of instructions to Sir Francis Bond Head from Lord Glenelg, the Secretary of State for War and the Colonies in London. (The second half was to appear in the second issue of the Independent.) The instructions refer to the mammoth Seventh Report of the Select Committee, which had been chaired by William Lyon Mackenzie, on the grievances of Upper Canada’s House of Assembly. The chief grievance was the “almost unlimited extent of the patronage of the Crown,” exercised by the Colonial minister and his advisers. Lord Glenelg made it very clear that he did not favour the appointment of public officials by the legislature, or by any form of popular election. He feared that such public officials would not work for the general good and “would be virtually exempt from responsibility.” Far better for the Lieutenant Governor to appoint able men who would not promote “any narrow, exclusive or party design.” Given the explosive contents of Glenelg’s letter, it was astonishing that Head released it to the press.

A lengthy response to Glenelg’s instructions written by William Lyon Mackenzie, which originally appeared in a Toronto newspaper, was also published. Mackenzie wrote that throughout the two Canadas there was a “general feeling of disappointment and regret.” He added:

“If Sir Francis appoints to Executive Council men…known for their ability, integrity, firmness and sincere attachment to reform principles, his path will be smooth and easy…but if His Excellency shall retain in office the avowed enemies of free institutions, men whom the basest governments of England ever knew, have made use of their minions to oppress our country, it will be our duty at once to demand his recall and insist that a government which is in itself the greatest of all grievances be made suitable to our wants.”

Unfortunately, Head went on to alienate reformers—his arrogance and ignorance a disastrous combination.  Although Tories won the General Election in June 1836 owing to Head’s appeals of loyalty to the Crown, his actions against reformers led to rebellion. In late 1837, Mackenzie declared himself president of the short-lived Republic of Canada. But the insurrection quickly fizzled. Mackenzie fled to the United States while Head was recalled in disgrace. These events set the stage for the introduction of responsible government under the leadership of moderates such as Robert Baldwin and Louis-Hippolyte LaFontaine during the following decade.

In addition to giving a contemporary account of the political struggle between reformers seeking what Americans might call a “government by the people for the people,” and Tories desiring to preserve an autocracy run by the Governor, the Bytown Independent also provides a fascinating window into economic life of early 19th century Canada. During these years, it was unclear whether British North America would use pounds, shillings and pence or dollars and cents as its currency. British and America coins circulated side by side. Canadian banks, which had just began to circulate their own bank notes, issued paper money in both pounds and dollars, sometimes simultaneously in the form of dual denominated notes. This currency ambivalence can be seen by Johnson setting the price of an annual subscription to his newspaper at $4 dollars in one place and at 20 shillings (£1) in another. It wasn’t until 1857 that the Province of Canada (the two provinces of Upper and Lower Canada united in 1841) finally chose dollars and cents—economic ties with its U.S. neighbour trumped political and emotional ties with Britain.

There is also a reference in the newspaper to “bons”–a form of alterative paper scrip, usually of small denomination issued by merchants which could be used to buy goods in the issuer’s store. Bon stood for “Bon pour,” French for “Good for.”

Bytown independent 24-2-1836

During the early 19th century, promissory notes (notes of hand) were often used as currency. Endorsed on the back, the notes would pass from person to person as money. Ruglass Wright is probably Ruggles Wright, a son of Philemon Wright who founded Hull. Ruggles, a lumberman like his father, built the first timber slide to transport logs around the Chaudière Falls. In this case, Hugh McGreer is warning potential buyers of the note that he will not pay it if presented.

As well, there is a fascinating reference to “Halifax Currency.” Halifax Currency denoted a way of converting pounds into silver dollars. (It was called Halifax currency after the city where it originated.) One pound, Halifax currency, converted into four silver dollars, or 5 shillings equalled $1. The issuer of a promissory note specified Halifax currency because of the existence of other conversion ratings. For example, in York Currency, which was still in use in parts of Upper Canada in 1836, one silver dollar was worth 8 shillings. To avoid confusion and being short-changed on repayment, it was a sensible precaution to specify the type of currency being used in financial contracts.

Among the advertisements in the newspaper’s first issue are notices from the Post Office listing the times when letters destined for various communities in Upper and Lower Canada had to be received by the Post Office and when letters were delivered at Bytown from these communities. A long list of names of people with mail waiting for them at the Post Office was also provided along with the amount of postage due by them. As these were the days before postage stamps, the recipient of a letter paid the delivery fee. G.W. Baker, the Post Master, warned that unless the amounts were paid by April 5th, the letters would be sent to the dead letter box in Quebec.

Bytown independent Personal ad 24-2-1836

The first personal advertisement. Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate, 24 February 1836. One must wonder whether Daniel Murphy ever reconnected with his sisters.

In another advertisement, Mr. William Northgraves, a watch and clock maker with an office “nearly opposite the Butcher’s Shambles in Lower Bytown,” announced to Bytown residents that from long experience he had acquired “a perfect knowledge of the practical as well as the theoretical part of the science” and was ready to clean and repair all kinds of watches and clocks. Among other things, he could also repair mathematical and surgical instruments, and make all kinds of fine screws. As a side line, he bought old gold and silver.

Two advertisements were placed in the newspaper by Alexander J. Christie. The first he inserted in his capacity as Secretary of the Ottawa Lumber Association announcing a meeting to be held on March 1st at 10 am at J. Chitty’s Hotel to promote the prosperity of the lumber trade. The second was a request for tenders to clear one hundred acres of land close to Bytown.

Christie must have taken a keen liking in the newspaper. He purchased the The Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate from James Johnson after its second issue.  The sale must have surprised the small Bytown community. Christie was a Tory who had helped Hamnet Pinhey win the disputed 1832 Carleton County by-election. Dr. Christie, as he was generally known, was a medical practitioner of uncertain qualifications who had been appointed coroner in 1830 for the Bathurst District in which Bytown was situated. He was also appointed a public notary by Sir John Colborne. Consequently, he represented everything that Johnson had railed against in his newspaper.

Christie relaunched the newspaper a few months later as the Bytown Gazette, and Ottawa and Rideau Advertiser. In his prospectus, Christie claimed that “he comes forward unfettered by a blind adherence to any party.” However, the Gazette’s coverage of political events had a strong Tory bias. The Bytown Gazette folded in 1845 two years after the death of Dr. Christie.

Bytown regained a local reformist newspaper with the establishment of The Packet in 1843 by William Harris. The Packet was to be renamed The Ottawa Citizen in 1851 and remains the most prominent newspaper in the city to this day.

Sources:

Ballstadt, Carl, 2003. “Christie, Alexander James,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 7. University of Toronto/Université Laval, accessed 27 July 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/christie_alexander_james_7E.html.

Bytown Independent and Farmer’s Advocate (The), 24 February 1836.

House of Assembly of Upper Canada, 1835, The Seventh Report from the Select Committee on Grievances, chaired by W. L. Mackenzie, Esq., M. Reynolds: Toronto.

Powell, James, 2005, History of the Canadian Dollar, Bank of Canada.

Wilson, Alan, 2003. “Colborne, John, Baron Seaton,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, accessed 27 July 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/colborne_john_9E.html.

Wise, S. W., 1972. “Head, Sir Francis Bond,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval, accessed 27 July 2018, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/head_francis_bond_10E.html.

 

Archbishop Boris

10 December 1955

It was the height of the Cold War. In 1955, West Germany joined NATO—the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Shortly afterwards, the Soviet Union and its Eastern European satellites established the Warsaw Pact as a military counterweight to the Western Alliance.  In November of that year, the Soviet Union tested an inter-continental ballistic missile that could deliver a hydrogen bomb, many times more potent that the atomic bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the U.S. mainland. Tension was also rising over the future of Berlin, with Russia seeking to end four-power control of the German city. Another blockade was feared. Amidst this tense international environment, Archbishop Boris (Vik) of the Russian Orthodox Church came to Canada.

Boris

Archbishop Boris (Vik) 1906-1965, http://orthodoxcanada.ca/Metropolitan_Boris_(Vik).

Archbishop Boris was appointed Archbishop of the Aleutians and North America and Exarch of North and South America in late 1954. His Canadian visit was organized by the United Church of Canada. The trip was the result of an invitation extended by the United Church to the Russian Orthodox Church in 1952. Two other Russians accompanied Boris—Archpriest Constantine Ruzitsky, the rector of the Moscow Theological Seminary, and Anatole Gorbatchov, the lay inspector of seminaries. Bishop Paladeus of Volynack and Rovensk was also supposed to visit Canada, but he was a no-show. No reason was given. The Russians were supposed to arrive in late November. However, the visit was delayed a week owing to an unexplained “mix-up” with their passport and visa arrangements.

Boris had hoped to twin a visit to Canada with a trip to the United States. But after initially granting the Archbishop a visa, the U.S. State Department retracted it. Boris had become caught up in a tit-for-tat struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union over religious representation. After he had received his appointment in late 1954, Boris had come to the United States on a 60-day visa. However, the U.S. State Department turned down his request for the visa to be extended when it expired at the end of February 1955. U.S. authorities were afraid that the United States might become the headquarters of a Moscow-controlled faction of the Russian Orthodox Church. In response, the Russians expelled Georges Bissonnette, an American Roman Catholic priest who was administering to the religious needs of U.S. citizens living in the Soviet Union and the broader diplomatic community. According to the 1933 Roosevelt-Litvinov agreement under which the United States recognized the Soviet regime, the U.S.S.R. had agreed that Americans in Russia would have freedom of worship. While the agreement did not clearly state that officiating clergy must be American, the Russian authorities typically granted a permanent visa to an American priest as long as he did not minister to Russian citizens.

The Soviet government finally agreed to give a visa to Father Dion, a replacement for Father Bissonnette, in November 1955, and the U.S. State Department in return issued a visa for Archbishop Boris to come to the United States. However, it retracted the visa a few days later on the grounds that the exchange of clergymen was not reciprocal. Father Dion was not permitted preach to Russians whereas Archbishop Boris could preach to Americans. This impasse was not broken until the beginning of 1959 when Dion finally went to Moscow and Boris received a three-month visitors’ visa to the United States.

In the meantime, Archbishop Bois and his colleagues made do with a two-week visit at the end of 1955 to Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa and Edmonton. The Russians arrived by airplane at the Dorval Airport in early December and was met by a welcoming committee of United Church dignitaries and G.F. Popov from the Russian Embassy in Ottawa. Dr Ernest Long, Secretary of the General Council of the United Church of Canada, said that the three-fold purpose of the visit was to promote understanding, give visibility to Christian unity, and to foster goodwill between Canadian and Russian Christians.

Conspicuously absent from the welcoming party was any representative of the Russian Orthodox Church in Canada. The rector of the Orthodox St Peter and St Paul Cathedral in Montreal said that he would ignore the visit as the delegation did “not represent the true and continuing branch of the orthodox church” and that the Russian Orthodox Church had become “a mere political organ of the Soviet government.” The Russian visitors also had to sidestep a small group of about fifty demonstrators with banners who were handing out leaflets at the airport in protest of the visit. In answering questions from Canadian and American journalists, Archbishop Boris said through an interpreter that he was not a communist and did not have a personal acquaintance with either Party Secretary Khrushchev or Premier Bulgarin. He added that many Russians believed in God and practised those beliefs: there was no ban on practising religion in the Soviet Union. When asked about Canadian Orthodox churches, Boris said that there were fewer than ten Russian Orthodox churches in Canada and that they were “unfriendly” to the Russian hierarchy. As reconciliation attempts had proven unfeasible, the churches were considered to be “in schism.”

After a short stay in Montreal, Boris and his entourage took a train to Toronto. There, two Ukrainian Catholic priests presented him with a letter asking him to negotiate the release of Bishop Joseph Slipyj from a Siberian labour camp. Slipyj and eleven other Ukrainian Catholic bishops had been sent to Siberian gulags after the war. Slipyj received an eight-year sentence in 1946 for alleged collaboration with the Nazis and for his refusal to accept the forced take-over of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church by the Russian Orthodox Church. (Constatine Ruzitsky, one of Boris’ travelling companions, was reportedly one of the masterminds behind this takeover.) Despite the conclusion of his sentence, Slipyj remained in custody. Archbishop Boris promised to place the request before the Synod of the Russian Orthodox Church on his return to Moscow. If Boris did anything, it was not effective. Slipyj remained in a Soviet prison for another eight years, and was only released through the intervention of President Kennedy and Pope John XXIII in 1963. Expelled from Russia, the Pope made Slipyj a cardinal in 1965.

While in Toronto, Archbishop Boris visited the large department stores, took a side trip to Niagara Falls, and officiated at a service at the Timothy Eaton Memorial United Church dressed in full Orthodox regalia including a golden mitre studded with precious stones, a purple robe banded with scarlet and white, a lavender stole, two large golden crosses, one around his neck and another in his hand, and a glittering bracelet on his left wrist. When a newspaper reporter took pictures in a gallery, Anatole Gorbachov followed him and asked if he had permission to take pictures. When the journalist said no, Gorbachov told him to go. This put paid to the notion that none of the Russians spoke English.

Archbishop Boris, Archpriest Ruzitsky and Anatole Gorbatchov arrived by train at Union Station in Ottawa at 8.30 am on Saturday, 10 December 1955.  An Ottawa Citizen article described Boris as a “huge man” with a “long ginger-coloured beard flowing over the front of his long black cloak,” carrying a silver-topped staff. Rev. Frank Fidler of Toronto and Rev. Herman Neufeld of the United Church College in Winnipeg accompanied the Russians. As they were being welcomed by United Church dignitaries, Lydia Szarwarkowska of 325 Laurier Avenue pushed ahead of the greeters to plead for help from the Russian prelate. In tears, she asked in Russian for his intercession on her behalf with the Soviet government for an exit permit for her 70-year old mother who lived alone, the rest of her family having been killed in the War.

After checking into the Château Laurier Hotel, the Russians were taken on a tour of the capital, visited the Russian Embassy on Charlotte Street (the embassy was to burn down three weeks later on New Year’s Day 1956), and was taken out to dine at a restaurant by the Ottawa Presbytery of the United Church. Apparently, the Archbishop spent the evening relaxing and watching Russian movies.

Boris The Ottawa Journal 10-12-1955

Advertising a church service with Archbishop Boris, The Ottawa Journal, 10 December 1955

The next day, the Russian delegation joined the congregations of the Greek Orthodox Church on Albert Street and St Elijah’s Syrian Orthodox Church on Lyon Street for Sunday services. The Russians were also given a tour of the Parliament buildings—the Archbishop was surprised there was a Liberal government in power. Boris, a big man weighing close to 300 pounds, reportedly “beamed” when he was told that Jack Garland, the Liberal member for Nippising, tipped the scales at 400 pounds. The group also went to the National Galley. While Boris was not impressed with a modern Henry Moore sculpture, he liked art made by Canada’s native peoples. That evening, the Russians attended a candlelit service at the Dominion United Church for the Canadian Girls in Training. Archbishop Boris, wearing a cross of thirty two diamonds, sat behind the pulpit with the Rt Rev. George Dorey, the Moderator of the United Church and the Rev. J. Lorne Graham, minister and Presbytery Chairman. Boris spoke at the service, urging Christian unity and told the girls the Russian legend of the Christmas tree. Moderator Dorey warned against western propaganda that religion was non-existent in the Soviet Union. Meanwhile, a dozen men, apparently immigrants from Communist-ruled Eastern Europe, handed out anti-Russian pamphlets.

The following day, a luncheon was held in Archbishop Boris’ honour attended by senior representatives of the United Church, the Anglican Church, the Presbyterian Church and the Baptist Church, as well as a representative of Canada’s External Affairs. Afterwards, Archbishop Boris, accompanied by George Dorey, the United Church Moderator and Lorne Graham, the Presbytery Chairman, held a press conference. Boris, dressed in flowing black robes spoke of his experience so far in Canada, saying he found Canadians to be “hospitable and hard-working.” He was also impressed with the church services. Boris also took this opportunity to denounce the U.S. decision to rescind his visa. He said it amounted to “pressure on religion.” In contrast, he said that although communists were unbelievers, he knew that some came to his church. Moreover, he had seen with his own eyes the good work the communist government was doing. He posed the rhetorical question “Is the American Government Christian?” He also insisted that there was no interference in the Russian Orthodox Church by the Soviet Government. He added that Russians were entitled to their own opinion and could practice religion. After a final service at Southminster United Church, the Russian clerics headed west, stopping first in Toronto.

Archbishop Boris did not have a good flight from Ottawa to Toronto. Leaving on a small DC-3 airplane, he was given two seats to accommodate his size. However, he had trouble buckling his seatbelt. After an attempt to use two seatbelts failed, an attendant managed to fasten him in using a cargo belt. Unfortunately, Boris’ long whiskers got caught in the strap. Reportedly, he “let out an unchurchmanlike roar,” as he, his two Russian aides, and a stewardess struggled to free him.

After a brief stay in Edmonton, the Russians returned to Montreal, before heading back to Moscow via Amsterdam.

The two-week visit was a great propaganda coup for the Russian Orthodox Church and the Soviet Union. Well covered by Canadian and American press, Boris faithfully toed the Communist party line that religion, while not encouraged, was thriving in the Soviet Union, and that Russians were free to practice without hindrance. This view was openly supported by George Dorey, the United Church Moderator. Boris also had the opportunity to literally demonize the United States for barring his entry. “I believe in God, but there is also a devil [a.k.a. the U.S. Government],” he thundered. Of course, the reality was quite different. Although there had been some thawing of government-church relations which began during the War when the Soviets sought the help of the Orthodox Church in defeating the Nazis, that window of relative tolerance was fast closing. Despite religious freedom being enshrined in law, the Soviet Union was militantly atheist. Thousands had died or had been imprisoned for their faith. Nonetheless, Boris disingenuously claimed that “the Russian government had never persecuted the church as such but only church members who had been against the government.” Also, communist toleration of religion, if you can call it that, only went so far. Persecution of believers, especially non-Orthodox practitioners, continued. Roman Catholics, given their “allegiance” to the Pope, were under particular suspicion.

The pastor of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin on Echo Drive called the United Church “tragically naïve” in arranging the visit. He added that Archbishop Boris is trusted by the Communist Party.  He likened the Russian trip to “a secret police mission.” Before inviting Archbishop to Canada, the United Church ought to have consulted the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Canada. “We have no quarrel with the United Church. But we do after all know a little more than them about Russia. We know that the Soviets executed 38 bishops of the Orthodox Church in the Ukraine alone.”

Following Archbishop Boris’s visit to Canada, Soviet oppression of religious organizations increased under Nikita Khrushchev during the late 1950s and early 1960s. Among the many anti-religious measures taken was the closure of thousands of churches and monasteries. Clergymen who criticized atheism were forcibly retired or imprisoned, while parents were forbidden to teach religion to their children.

Sources:

Bishop, Donald Gordon, 1965. The Roosevelt-Litvinov Agreements, An American View, Syracuse University Press, Syracuse, New York.

Decatur Sunday Herald and Review (The), 1955. “Delegation From The Russian Church Hits Opposition on Visit to Canada,” 25 December.

Globe and Mail (The), “U.S. Cancelled A Visa Granted To Boris 11 Days Earlier,” 15 November.

————————–, 1955. “Forbidden To Enter U.S., Moscow Prelate Due In Canada On Monday,” 22 November.

————————–, 1955. “Expect Four Russian Clerics To Arrive Sunday,” 30 November.

————————–, 1955. “Russians Pledge Action on Priests’ Requests,” 8 December.

————————–, 1955. “Satisfied With Reds,” 13 December.

Orthodox Canada, 2018. Archbishop Boris (Vik), http://orthodoxcanada.ca/Metropolitan_Boris_(Vik).

Ottawa Citizen (The), 1955. “Woman In Tears Pleads For Aid From Russ Cleric,” 10 December.

————————-, 1955. “Visiting Archbishop Tells Christmas Legend,” 12 December.

————————-, 1955. “Protest Visit of Russian Clerics Here,” 12 December.

————————-, 1955. “‘Our Only Aim to Live In Peace,’ Archbishop Affirms At Luncheon,” 13 December.

————————-, 1955. “Visiting Red Priests Called Moscow Spies,” 13 December.

Ottawa Journal, The, 1955. “Russian Churchmen Escape Demonstrators at Montreal,” 5 December.

————————-, 1955. “Russian Archbishop Shows Interest,” 7 December.

————————-, 1955. “United Moderator Says Russian Church Autonomous,” 12 December.

————————, 1955. “U.S. Bars Russian Bishop,” 12 December.

————————, 1955. “Russian Churchmen Display Keen Interest In Parliament,” 12 December.

————————, 1955. “At CGIT Service, Russian Inspector Pockets Pamphlets,” 12 December.

————————-, 1955. “Ottawa Clergyman Calls Visiting Russians Stooges,” 13 December.

————————-, 1955. “Tangled in Strap, Couldn’t Be Freed,” 13 December.

Soviet History Museum, 2018. Hydrogen Bomb, http://soviethistory.msu.edu/1954-2/hydrogen-bomb/.

Eugène Larment: The Last Man Hanged in Ottawa

27 March 1946

Shortly after midnight on 27 March 1946, after playing checkers with his guards, a composed Eugène Larment, age 24, was led from the condemned cell in the Carleton County jail on Nicholas Street to the gallows. Hopes for a last minute reprieve had been dashed when his lawyer’s request for an appeal was refused by the Office of the Secretary of State. After Pastor Gordon Porter of the Salvation Army gave the young man spiritual consolation, Larment was hanged by the neck until he was dead. It was 12.32 am. This was the third and last judicial execution carried out in Ottawa’s historic jail. The first was the famous hanging in 1869 of Patrick Whelan, convicted for the murder of Thomas D’Arcy McGee, the father of Confederation struck down by an assassin’s bullet on Sparks Street the previous year. The second was that of William Seabrooke who was executed in early 1933 for slaying Paul-Émile Lavigne, a service-station attendant.

Hanging E Larment 25-10-45 TEJ

Mug Shots of Eugène Larment, The Ottawa Journal, 25 October 1945

To paraphrase the philosopher Thomas Hobbes, Larment’s death marked the end of a life that was poor, nasty, brutish and short. Born into an impoverished family, Larment’s first brushes with the law came when he was but a child. A frequent truant from public school, Larment was sent to an industrial school in Alfred, Ontario at the tender age of twelve. Most likely it was the St Joseph’s Training School for delinquent boys run by the Christian Brothers from 1933 to the mid-1970s. Like the residential schools for indigenous children, such training schools, including St Joseph’s, became notorious for the physical, sexual and emotional abuse of their young charges. During the three years he was confined there, Larment apparently received no visitors and no mail from home. He escaped and made his way to Ottawa. Picked up by the authorities, someone reportedly told him that if he confessed to purse snatching, he wouldn’t be returned to the industrial school. Desperate to avoid going back, he did so, and was instead sent to a government reformatory. After he got out on parole, he attended the Kent Street Public School for a short time. With his family described as being “in a bad fix,” he sold junk to scrap dealers to earn a pittance. He also worked as a delivery boy. In 1938, at age 16, he was charged with vagrancy and breaking and entering, and was returned to the reformatory.

Shortly after being released in early 1940, the now eighteen-year old Larment and four friends stole a taxi on McLaren Street in downtown Ottawa and drove to Preston, Ontario where they tied up and robbed two men at gun point at a service station. They netted a meagre $27. Spotted later that night on their return to Ottawa, the young men led police on a wild chase down Bronson Street into LeBreton Flats. Gunshots were exchanged. Turning onto the Chaudière Bridge heading for Hull, the joyriders hit an oncoming car and crashed into a guard rail.  Dazed but uninjured, Larment and his companions were taken into custody. They received six-year terms in the Kingston Penitentiary for armed robbery. Larment was released from jail in late September 1945.

Less than two months after his release Larment, with Albert Henderson and Wilfrid D’Amour staged a daring robbery of the Canadian War Museum on Sussex Street (now Avenue). At about 9 pm on Monday, 22 October 1945, the trio smashed the plate glass of the front door of the museum within a few hundred feet of passersby on the sidewalk, and just a laneway away from the Government of Canada’s Laurentian Terrace girls’ hostel. The bandits made off in a stolen car with three Thompson submachine guns used in World War II, two automatic pistols and four World War I revolvers.

Hanging Bytown Inn postcard undated

Bytown Inn, Ottawa, postcard, undated

The following night, a janitor at an O’Connor Street apartment building called the police to report some men acting suspiciously. A “prowler” car manned by Detective Thomas Stoneman and Constable Russell Berndt was dispatched to investigate. The officers found three men loitering outside of the Bytown Inn. The trio split up, with two, later identified as D’Amour and Henderson, walking in opposite directions along O’Connor Street. Detective Stoneman approached the middle man who had remained between the two canopied entrances of the Inn. “I want to talk to you,” the officer said after he got out of the driver’s side of the car. “What do you want?” replied a man in a khaki trench coat. Without warning, the man pulled a gun from his pocket and fired at Stoneman from a distance of only six feet. Stoneman was struck in the chest and fell to the ground grievously wounded.

His partner, Constable Berndt, who had just returned to the police force after 3 ½ years in the navy, ducked when the gunman subsequently aimed at him. Trading shots, the bandit fled through a maze of laneways and alleys, pursued by Berndt who disconcerting found himself followed by D’Amour. Fortunately, another police cruiser arrived on the scene. Constables Thomas Walsh and John Hardon joined the chase for Stoneman’s assailant, while Flight Lieutenant Appleby, a decorated pilot who had accompanied the police officers, tackled D’Amour. Meanwhile, the shooter, Eugène Larment, who had run out of ammunition, was chased into the arms of beat policeman, Constable René Grenville, at the corner of Metcalfe and Slater Streets. The third man of the trio, Albert Henderson, managed to evade immediate capture but was picked up at his home on Albert Street a few hours later. Back at Larment’s family home on Wellington Street and in an abandoned building next door, police discovered the missing weapons stolen from the War Museum.

Hanging Thomas Stoneman Canadian Police and Peace Officers' Memorial

Detective Thomas Stoneman, Canadian Police and Peace Officers’ Memorial

Initially, the men were charged with attempted murder. But the charges were upgraded to murder when Detective Stoneman died a few days later. The fifteen-year veteran policeman with the Ottawa Police Force, aged 37, born in Mortlach Saskatchewan, left a wife Lois (Cleary) and one-year old twins, Richard Thomas and Jill Lois. Stoneman was accorded a civic funeral. Uniformed policemen from the Ottawa and Hull municipal police, the RCMP, the Ontario and Quebec Provincial Police Forces, the RCAF service police and the naval shore patrol marched in the funeral cortege. The slain policeman was buried in the Beechwood Cemetery.

Even while in jail, the charges against Larment, D’Amour and Henderson continued to mount. In early January, the threesome tried to break out of the country jail. Before being recaptured, they brutally beat up Percy Hyndman, a prison guard. A blow to the head from a heavy broom opened a nasty gash in Hyndman’s scalp requiring five stiches to close.

The trial of the trio for the murder of Detective Stoneman began in mid-January 1946 in front of Justice F. H. Barlow of the Ontario High Court. Deputy Attorney General Cecil L. Snyder, who had an outstanding record of 37 convictions in 38 murder cases, was the special Crown prosecutor. For the defence was lawyer W. Edward Haughton, K.C. who represented the trio pro bono; there was no legal aid at this time. The trial lasted roughly a week. Throughout the proceedings the courtroom’s hard wooden benches were packed with people eager to witness the unfolding drama.

Snyder, the Crown prosecutor, quickly established that the gun that fired the fatal bullet was a revolver stolen in the War Museum heist. There was also no doubt that Larment was the shooter. Larment admitted to firing the weapon “from the hip” in two statements that he made to the police, the first, hours after being apprehended, and the second, a couple of days later. One of the jurors, Thomas Bradley, worried about police procedures in obtaining these statements, was permitted by Justice Barlow to question the police witness. Bradley enquired whether Larment had been asked if he wanted a lawyer before he made his statements. The detective answered no, though he added that Larment had been free to ask for one. Apparently, the detective had pursued standard Canadian police procedures of the time. Justice Barlow ruled that the statements were admissible in court, saying he was satisfied they had been obtained “in the proper manner.”

With the identity of the shooter determined, Snyder focused on whether Larment, D’Amour and Henderson had “a common intent to commit crime,” the test necessary to convict all three for murder. He argued that the three men had robbed the Museum together and had armed themselves with weapons the night that Stoneman died, even though Larment’s weapon was the only one loaded (with three bullets). He also noted evidence from D’Amour that the trio had tried to steal a car shortly before the shooting. Although the accused men had been drinking heavily before the shooting, a pathologist at the Ottawa Civic Hospital testified that a blood sample taken from Larment shortly after his arrest showed a “fair indication that the person was sober when it was taken.”

The trio’s lawyer stressed the deprived backgrounds of the accused. He argued that “society might very well be indicted for the death of Detective Stoneman in addition to Eugène Larment.” He also noted that the trio’s ability to reason had been impaired by alcohol. By one account, Larment had drunk as many as fifty beers (most likely the small draft glasses of beer popular in taverns at that time) at the Belmont Hotel in Ottawa and at the Avalon Club in Hull through the afternoon and evening prior to the shooting. The three had also reportedly consumed a bottle of liquor at Larment’s home. Haughton also contended that Larment was unaware that Stoneman was a policeman when Stoneman approached him. Fearing for his life, Larment had fired in self-defence. The killing was neither premeditated nor deliberate but rather was caused by a “misunderstanding” and a “genuine misconception of Stoneman’s intention.” He concluded that Larment should be acquitted of murder, or at worst found guilty of manslaughter. Finally, he asked for the acquittal of D’Amour and Henderson on the grounds that a “common intent” had not been proven. There was no evidence that they knew that Larment’s gun was loaded, they were drunk, and during the evening there had been no joint criminal venture.

In his instructions to the jury, Justice Barlow made it very clear that he thought all three defendants were guilty of murder. He rubbished the idea that Larment fired in self-defence and thought the degree of Larment’s drunkenness was “most exaggerated.” He said to the jury “gentlemen, in my opinion you ought to find Larment guilty without reasonable doubt, and in which you ought to find D’Amour and Henderson guilty beyond reasonable doubt as parties to a common design with Larment who resisted arrest by violence.”

After deliberating for 3 hours and 55 minutes, the jury returned with their verdict. Larment was found guilty of murder as charged. Notwithstanding the judge’s opinions, D’Amour and Henderson were found innocent. Some of the jury members broke down. William Bradley, the juror who asked questions during the trial, tearfully said that given the evidence he had no choice but to find Larment guilty even though he opposed the death penalty. He planned to donate his juror fees to the Ottawa Boys’ Club that worked with troubled youth. The Ottawa Journal had little sympathy for jurors’ tears, describing them as “maudlin.” If tears were to be shed “they should be shed for the widow and family of Detective Stoneman, ruthlessly murdered.”

Although Henderson and D’Amour were found innocent of murder, they were not free men. They were subsequently found guilty in Magistrates’ Court on a range of charges related to the assault of the prison guard in their abortive jail break, the theft of weapons from the War Museum, car theft and other crimes. Henderson received a 29-year sentence, while D’Amour received 27 years in the Kingston Penitentiary. These were the longest sentences ever handed down in Magistrates’ Court history.

Did the men receive a fair trial? They probably did by 1940’s standards. They were also fortunate to have been represented by an experienced trial lawyer who somehow managed to get two of them acquitted on the murder charge. But by today’s standards, the statements made by Larment and his companions would likely have been inadmissible in court. Under Section 10b of Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedoms, every person has the right to retain and instruct counsel without delay, and to be informed of that right when they are arrested or detained. Also, the expressed opinion of the presiding judge that Larment (as well as D’Amour and Henderson) were guilty of murder would represent probable grounds for an appeal today.

After his execution, Eugène Larment’s body was turned over to his family for burial. It is reported that he was interred in an unmarked pauper’s grave in Beechwood Cemetery, the same cemetery where the remains of Thomas Stoneman were laid to rest.

The last judicial executions in Canada occurred in December 1962 when Arthur Lucas and Ronald Turpin were hanged for separate murders in the Don Jail in Toronto. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976.

Sources:

CBC, 2018. “MP calls for inquiry into abuse at Alfred training school, just east of Ottawa, in the 1970s,” 30 January.

Canada, Government of, 2018. “Constitution Act, 1982, Part I, Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” Justice Law Website, http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/Const/page-15.html.

Deachman, Bruce, 2018. “True crime story: How murder in the streets led to Ottawa’s least execution, The Ottawa Citizen, 15 January.

Evening Citizen (The), 1946. “Two-Hour Plea For Accused Holds Courtroom Spellbound,” 22 January.

————————–, 1946. “Eugene Larment Pays Penalty,” 27 March.

Globe and Mail (The), 1946. “Law Of Jungle Must Be Curbed Grand Jury Told,” 15 January.

————————–, 1946. “Murder Trial Juror To Donate Fee To Ottawa Boys’ Club,” 24 January.

————————–, 1946. “27 and 29-Year Sentences Given To Two Ottawa Men,” 7 February.

————————–, 1946. “Hang Slayer of Detective,” 27 March.

National Judicial Institute, 2018. https://www.nji-inm.ca/.

Ottawa Journal (The), 1940. “Youths Arrested After Gun Duel, Charged With Armed Robbery,” 3 April.

————————-, 1940. “Six-Year Terms For Three Arrested Here,” 6 May.

————————-, 1945. “Bandits Steal ‘Tommy’ Guns From Ottawa War Museum,” 23 October.

————————-, 1945. “Hold 3 For Shooting Ottawa Detective,” 24 October.

————————-, 1945. “Thos. Stoneman’s Condition Serious After Gun Battle,” 24 October.

————————-, 1945. “Remanded On Attempted Murder Charge,” 25 October.

————————-, 1945. “Civic Funeral Being Arranged For Detective Thos. Stoneman,” 30 October.

————————, 1945. “Son Was Drunk Before Shooting, Mother Sobs,” 22 November.

————————-, 1945. “Commit Trio on Charge of Killing Ottawa Detective,” 23 November.

————————-, 1946. “Will Get Tough With Thugs –Dunbar,” 5 January.

————————-, 1946. “Larment Used Gun Stolen From War Museum Witness Tells Murder Trial Of Ottawa Trio,” 17 January.

————————-, 1946. “Trio Sought To Steal Car, D’Amour Says,” 18 January.

————————-, 1946. “Larment Remembers ‘Firing From Hip,’” 19 January.

————————-, 1946. “Juror Questions Police Methods Getting Statements,” 19 January.

————————-, 1946. “Henderson Tells Court Of Actions,” 21 October.

————————-, 1946. “Evidence Completed In Murder Trial,” 21 January.

————————-, 1946. “Crown Blames Trio For Stoneman Death,” 22 January.

————————-, 1946. “Defence Pleads For Lives Of Ottawa Men,” 22 January.

————————-, 1946. “Jury Ponders Verdict In Stoneman Case,” 23 January.

————————-, 1946. “Ottawa Men To Face Several Charges in Court Saturday,” 24 January.

————————-, 1946. “Larment Will Hang On March 27 For Stoneman Murder,” 24 January.

————————-, 1946. “Is It The Jurors Who Should Weep?” 25 January.

————————-, 1946. “D’Amour and Henderson Plead Guilty To 10 Charges,” 1 February.

————————-, 1946. “Long Terms For Henderson and D’Amour,” 6 February.

————————-, 1946. “Eugene Larment Hanged In Ottawa,” 27 March.

Winnipeg Tribune, 1946. “Murder Suspects Stage Riot in Ottawa Jail,” 5 January.

Victorian Order of Home Helpers, a.k.a. the VON

10 February 1897

By early 1897 Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee was fast approaching. Across Canada, communities and governments were trying to decide on how best to mark this historic event. On 10 February 1897, a public meeting was held under the auspices of the National Council of Women of Canada in the assembly hall of the Normal School on Elgin Street to discuss a proposal to establish the Victorian Order of Home Helpers as a means of honouring the Queen’s long reign. This idea was consistent with the Queen’s wish that celebrations be connected with efforts to alleviate the suffering of the sick and poor. The Council’s president was the Countess of Aberdeen, the wife of the Governor General. Lady Aberdeen, born Ishbel Marie Marjoribanks, was a woman of extraordinary energy and ability. An early feminist, she had founded a number of charitable organizations in her native Scotland that focused on poor women. Following her husband’s appointment as Canada’s Governor General, she founded in 1894 the National Council of Women of Canada, and was the Council’s first president.

VON Lady Aberdeen, 1898, LAC

Lady Aberdeen, 1898, Library and Archives Canada

The idea of a national organization of “Home Helpers” originated in western Canada, possibly at a meeting of the Vancouver local council of women and Lady Aberdeen. Another report suggested that the idea came from the local council of Victoria, and was later forwarded to the National Council of Women. Regardless, Lady Aberdeen was an early supporter and quickly became identified with the proposal.

The public meeting at the Normal School was well attended. With the Governor General and senior government officials present, including the Premier, Wilfrid Laurier, Lady Aberdeen addressed the assembly. She stressed the debt owed by women to Queen Victoria—“no section of Her Majesty’s subjects have more cause to sing the praises of this glorious epoch than the members of Her Majesty’s own sex.” She noted that new possibilities had opened up for women during the Queen’s reign. The Queen has demonstrated that a woman can “have an intimate knowledge and grasp of the affairs of state whilst at the same time being a model of all womanly, wifely, and motherly virtues and charms.”

Speaking about the proposed scheme, Lady Aberdeen said Home Helpers would need to have a practical knowledge of midwifery, first aid, home-keeping, simple home sanitation, and the preparation of food for invalids. She thought that a “Home Helper” would be “constantly visiting homes in need—would be giving advice, cheering the home and doing various acts of mercy and kindness.”  Successful applicants, who would have to pass an examination set by the medical profession, would be supplied with a uniform and the badge of the Order.

She estimated that $1 million was needed to ensure that funds would be available in perpetuity. Local women’s councils would undertake collections in co-operation with others. The Bank of Montreal agreed to receive subscriptions.

At the public meeting, Wilfrid Laurier, moved the following resolution, seconded by Clifford Sifton, the Minister of the Interior:

That this meeting heartily approves of the general character of the scheme described as the Victorian Order of Home Helpers as a mode of commemoration by the Dominion of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, and that a fund be opened for the carrying out thereof.

Despite governmental support, Lady’s Aberdeen’s Order of Home Helpers met mixed reviews, especially from members of the medical profession. Although doctors in Montreal, including Professor Craik, the dean of McGill’s medical school, supported the plan, it was rejected by others, including the Ontario Medical Association, as being impractical and even dangerous. Many feared that well-meaning but otherwise under-qualified women would be sent out to administer to the sick.

In part as a way to alleviate these concerns, the name of the scheme was quickly changed to the Victorian Order of Nurses (VON). The plan was also tweaked to make it clear that only highly-qualified nurses would qualify for the Order. The VON’s objectives were also clarified. They were: i) to provide skilled nurses in sparsely settled regions of the country; ii) to provide skilled nurses to attend sick poor people in their own homes; iii) to provide skilled nurses to attend cases in cities at fixed charges for persons of small incomes; iv) to provide cottage hospitals or small lying-in rooms in homes; and v) to train nurses to carry out these objectives. Nurse salaries, estimated at $400-500 per year, would be paid by the Order, with any fees collected by nurses from those who could afford them to be sent to the Order.

Despite these changes, opposition continued. Many doctors believed that it would be better if physicians and surgeons were paid bonuses to go out to frontier districts, or if funds were used to expand existing hospitals. Others doubted whether “even a very strong-minded female,” would be physically up to the rigours of a north-western winter if called out in the middle of the night.

Lady Aberdeen and other officials worked hard speaking to groups across the country to drum up support for the Victorian Order of Nurses and to dispel rumours that only minimally trained nurses would be hired. They also stressed that instead of replacing doctors, the nurses would, to the extent possible, be working under their direct supervision. This helped. In Winnipeg, the Manitoba Morning Free Press, which had been a fervent opponent to the scheme, was converted. Instead of believing that the Victorian Order of Nurses was “a well-meaning fad” that was “ill-digested, unwise and impractical,” as it had earlier opined, it concluded that “as the scheme becomes better known and its aim better understood, opposition and indifference will disappear.” The paper chided Winnipeg doctors for not attending a public meeting where details of the scheme were presented.

Some criticisms became very personal. The Halifax Herald attacked Lady Aberdeen. It wrote that the proper commemoration of Queen Victoria’s Jubilee was being “frustrated through Lady Aberdeen’s inability to mind her own business.” It was a “thoroughly quixotic scheme” and that “we expect our Governors-General to so govern their own families as to keep them out of mischief.” The New York Evening Post said that Lady Aberdeen was not popular in Canada, being “too clever and too advanced for Canadians.” Instead of paying attention to “etiquette and raiment,” she was “too much interested in ‘movements.’” Clearly the sight of an independent woman striving to make a difference in a male-dominated world was too much to stomach for some members of the public.

Given such criticisms, Lady Aberdeen must have received a much welcomed confidence boost when the British Medical Association and Lord Lister, the father of antisepsis, endorsed the Victorian Order of Nurses. She must have been similarly gratified when Florence Nightingale, the most famous nurse of all time, also came out in favour of her scheme.

VON toej 3-6-98

Newspaper clipping announcing the granting of a Royal Charter to the Victorian Order of Nurses, The Ottawa Evening Journal, 3 June 1898.

Here in Ottawa, weekly meetings were held through the spring of 1897 in the Governor General’s office in the Departmental building on Parliament Hill to get the VON up and running. A provisional management committee was established, comprised of some high-powered people, including Lady Ritchie, the wife of Canada’s Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, the Bishop of Ottawa, and Sir Henri Joly de Lotbinière, a former premier of Quebec, later to become the Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia. Four trustees were also appointed to manage the money that began to flow to the Order. Sandford Fleming, a resident of Ottawa and the father of world-wide standard time, was one of the trustees. In late April 1897, the VON was officially endorsed by Ottawa citizens at another public meeting at the Normal School. The indefatigable Lady Aberdeen presided.

Slowly the money began to roll in. Subscriptions began at 5 cents. Both the great and small contributed. Sir Donald Smith (later Lord Strathcona and Mount Royal), the president of the Bank of Montreal and the man who hammered in the last spike on the Canadian Pacific Railway, donated $5,000, and pledged another $5,000 as soon as donations of $100,000 had been made by others contributing $1,000 or more. Meanwhile, fourteen children, the oldest aged 12, at a francophone school near Ottawa sent in their allowances. Their teacher attached a letter to Lady Aberdeen saying “The children of my school cannot pass this occasion to do something for Queen Victoria. Not being rich but having the will to aid the poor, they send you the amount enclosed.” The letter listed the names and ages of the children.

Although the scheme came nowhere near reaching the goal of $1 million, a huge sum back in those days, it received enough in donations and pledges, about $250,000, for it to proceed. On Jubilee Day, 22 June 1897, Lord Aberdeen, the Governor General officially announced the formation of the Victorian Order of Nurses as a lasting tribute to Queen Victoria.

VON Charlotte MacLeod, c. 1897. LAC

Miss Charlotte MacLeod, First Chief Superintendent of the Victorian Order of Nurses, 1898, Library and Archives Canada

The VON hit the ground running. Within its first year, Lady Aberdeen had acquired the home of Alderman Davis of Ottawa at 578 Somerset Street for the Order’s headquarters. VON training homes were also established in Ottawa, Toronto, Montreal and Halifax. Miss Charlotte MacLeod, who had worked with Florence Nightingale, was named as the VON’s Chief Superintendent. In the spring of 1898, four nurses were sent to help administer to the sick in the Yukon. At this time, tens of thousands of people were travelling to the Klondike in the great gold rush.  Disease, owing to poor sanitation, was rampant. Lady and Lord Aberdeen bid the nurses au revoir with a dinner at Rideau Hall on the eve of their departure on their month-long journey to Dawson City.

In early June 1898, it was announced that the Victorian Order of Nurses had received a Royal Charter for Canada as well as a local charter for an Ottawa chapter for the counties of Carleton and Russell in Ontario, and the country of Ottawa in Quebec. Life membership in the Ottawa chapter was set at $100, with an annual membership costing $5. Quickly, Ottawa had 18 life members and 40 annual members. A meeting was also held in the committee room of the Ottawa City Hall to elect a board of management. With the now Sir Sanford Fleming in the chair, an all-woman, twelve-person board was elected. Prominent among them were Lady Laurier and Lady Ritchie.

In late 1898, Lord Aberdeen’s tour of duty as Governor General came to an end. But before the vice-regal couple left Ottawa, Lady Aberdeen received a letter from Colonel Evens, the commandant of the Yukon military contingent expressing his and his soldiers’ “sincere appreciation” for the services of the Victorian Order nurses. “The work of the Victorian Order in Dawson is a great one, and the opening of the new hospital was providential.  Their presence with the force has been invaluable…I don’t know how we should have fared without them.”

Today, the Victorian Order of Nurses has 5,000 employees and 9,000 volunteers, and provides 75 home care, support and community services in more than 1,200 Canadian communities.

Sources:

Halifax Herald (The), 1897. “A Halifax Opinion,” in The Ottawa Evening Journal, 25 May.

Manitoba Morning Free Press, 1897. “Victorian Nurses,” 23 April.

————————————-. 1897. “The Victorian Fund,” 28 May.

————————————-, 1897. “Victoria Order,” 28 May.

————————————-, 1897. “Order of Nurses,” 28 May.

————————————-, 1897. “Victorian Order Of Nurses,” 31 May.

————————————-, 1897. “The Victorian Order,” 2 June.

————————————, 1897. “The Victorian Order,” 7 June.

————————————, 1897. “The Doctors And The Victorian Order,” 8 June.

The New York Evening Post, 1897. “Victorian Order of Nurses,” in the Vancouver Daily World, 12 August.

Ottawa Evening Journal (The), 1897. “Victorian Home Helpers,” 11 February.

————————————-, 1897. “Some Explanations,” 3 March.

————————————-, 1897. “Getting Organized,” 19 March.

————————————-, 1897. “Citizens Will Meet,” 21 April.

————————————-, 1897. “Victorian Nurses,” 24 April.

————————————-, 1897. “Ottawa Is In Line,” 26 April.

————————————-, 1897. “Victorian Order of Nurses,” 14 June.

————————————-, 1897. “The Scheme Unpopular,” 13 July

————————————-, 1897. “Eager To Help, 20 July.

————————————-, 1898. “Klondike Nurses,” 28 March.

————————————-, 1898. “Music For Rideau Hall,” 31 May.

————————————-, 1898. “Victorian Order of Nurses,” 3 June.

————————————-, 1898. “Home For V.O.N.” 7 June.

————————————-, 1898. “Women’s Council,” 12 July.

————————————. 1898. “Victorian Nurses In The Klondike,” 1 October.

Vancouver Daily World, 1897. “Women Helpers,” 22 February.

—————————–, 1897. “Taking Practical Form,” 26 March.

—————————–, 1897. “Cablegram from Sir Donald Smith” 28 June 1897.

—————————–, 1897. “Victorian Order Of Nurses,” 1 October.

—————————–, 1898. “Training Home For Nurses,” 27 July.

VON Canada, 2017. http://www.von.ca/.

Wiggins’ Weather

22 September 1882

Canadians love to talk about the weather. This undoubtedly reflects the fact that we get a lot of it—four distinct seasons with a wide variability of rain, snow, wind, and temperature. In Ottawa, temperatures of plus or minus 30 degrees Celsius are not unusual. Weather-loving Canadians may also be channelling their farming forebears. During the days before the Weather Network or Environment Canada, when Canada was primarily an agricultural country, the weather really mattered. Livelihoods depended (and still do) on the right mix of sun and rain. For farmers, a reliable weather forecast might mean the difference between a good harvest and crops rotting in the fields. For fishermen, an ability to read the clouds and other signs of approaching storms literally meant life or death. Recall the adage Red sky at night, sailors’ delight. Red sky in morning, sailors take warning.

It therefore not surprising that in the years before meteorology became a serious science, famers’ almanacs, which provided detailed weather forecasts, were popular. Any guidance about weather trends, however dubious, was welcomed. The Old Farmer’s Almanac, founded in 1792, remains in print today. Based on arcane weather lore, its weather predictions are still eagerly read, if not taken seriously. Back in the 1870s, a well-respected almanac was produced by Henry George Vennor of Montreal. Vennor came to prominence when he accurately predicted a green Christmas for Montreal in 1875. The Vennor Almanac was much sought after throughout North America until Vennor’s premature death in 1884.

Wiggins march 1883 Topley StudioLAC-PA-201322

Dr E. Stone Wiggins, March 1882, Topley Studio, Library and Archives Canada, PA-201322.

As a weather prophet, Vennor was eclipsed by another Canadian, Ottawa’s Dr Ezekiel Stone Wiggins who took the weather forecasting business to a whole new level. On 22 September, 1882, he announced in the Ottawa Citizen that:

A great storm will strike this planet on the 9th of March next. It will first be felt in the Northern Pacific and will cross the meridian of Ottawa at noon (5 o’clock London time) on Sunday, March 11th, 1883. No smaller vessel than a Cunarder [a large passenger ship of the Cunard Line] will be able to live in this tempest. India, the south of Europe, England, and especially the North American continent will be the theatre of its ravages. As all the low lands on the Atlantic will be submerged, I advise ship-builders to place their prospective vessels high up on the stocks, and farmers having loose valuables as hay, cattle, etc., to remove them to a place of safety. I beg further most respectfully to appeal to the Honorable Minister of Marine, that he will peremptorily order up the storm flags on all the Canadian coast not later than the 20th February, and thus permit no vessel to leave harbor. If this is not done hundreds of lives will be lost and millions worth of property destroyed.

In November 1882, Wiggins sent a telegram to President Arthur of the United States in which the doctor reiterated his fantastic prediction. He also fine-tuned his forecast adding that the “planetary force” would especially submerge the coastal lands bordering the Gulf of Mexico and those “washed by the Gulf stream” [i.e. from Florida to the Carolinas] and that the New England States would suffer “severely from the wind and floods.” As well, there would be “universal destruction” along the east side of the Rocky Mountains, “owing to the great stratospheric pressure in those regions.” He added that the March 1883 storm would be “the greatest storm that has visited this continent since the days of your illustrious first President.” He advised President Arthur to order “all United States ships into safe harbor not later than March 5th till this storm shall have passed.”

News of Wiggins’ prophecy was picked up by American newspapers across the United States. There was little commentary about the merits of the forecast, though a few papers noted that “a Toronto press dispatch says Wiggins’ standing as scientific authority is somewhat doubtful.” Some papers gave Wiggins the benefit of that doubt. One Kansas newspaper recalled that before the biblical Flood, people had scoffed at Noah and his ark. The newspaper opined that “Wiggins and his kind deserved encouragement.” News of Wiggins’s storm also crossed the Atlantic, and was even reported in New Zealand.

Official reaction to Wiggin’s forecasts were decidedly negative. Mr Charles Carpmael, director of Canada’s meteorological service based in Toronto, told the Minister that “We have no reason to anticipate any violent disturbance between the 9th and 11th of March.” He added that “Mr Wiggins’ letter is patently absurd.” The American reaction was less restrained. General W. B. Hazen, the U.S. Chief Signal Officer, said “Too severe rebuke cannot be inflicted upon those who attempt to deceive or needlessly alarm the people by publishing such statements as that of Mr Wiggins. Their words are totally untrustworthy and the people should be so informed by those who are familiar with the subjects upon which these prophets presume to speak. Such statements fill lunatic asylums, and those who make them are enemies of society.”

Hazen noted that it is difficult to refute such predictions since there are bound to be storms in March on or about the date specified. Over the previous ten years, there had been on average a dozen March storms. He added that meteorology is in its infancy, and that nobody can forecast more than a few days ahead, at most a week. “All predictions of the weather to be expected a month or more in advance, whether based upon the position of the planets, or of the moon, or upon the number of sun spots, or upon any supposed law of periodicity of natural phenomena, or upon any hypothesis whatever which to-day has its advocates, are as unreliable as predictions of the time when the end of the world shall come.”

Despite the official rejection of Wiggins’ prophesy, many people took him seriously, or at least wanted to err on the side of caution despite the fact that Wiggins had no track record of success beyond what he himself trumpeted in the press. So who was Dr E. Stone Wiggins, and why was he so convincing?

Wiggins was born in 1839 in Queens County in central New Brunswick. His family descended from United Empire Loyalists, who had fled north from New York after the American Revolution. Settling in New Brunswick, the family became prosperous merchants. After his early education in New Brunswick, E. Stone Wiggins became a teacher in Ontario, and the author of a book on English grammar for school children. He married his cousin Susan Anna Wiggins, age 16, in 1861.

An amateur astronomer, Wiggins published at the age of only 24 a book titled The Architecture of the Heavens in which he claimed to have discovered that comets travelled through space by virtue of the positive and negative forces of electricity. In the same volume, he postulated the existence of dark planets that emitted no light. (While this might be interpreted as foreshadowing the concept of black holes, in Wiggins’ universe, planets and stars were dark if they had no atmosphere.) For this book, he was apparently awarded an honorary doctorate by some un-named school. He later took second place for a prize among 125 astronomers for an essay on comets.

In 1866, Wiggins was appointed superintendent of schools in Prince Edward County on Lake Ontario. He later attended the Philadelphia School of Medicine and Surgery, obtaining his M.D. in 1869. Returning to Canada, he was awarded a B.A. from Albert College, Ontario.  He later became principal of a school for the blind in Brantford. Returning to New Brunswick in 1874, he established a boys’ school in St John. In 1878, he unsuccessfully ran as the Conservative candidate for Queens County. Sir Leonard Tilley, who was from the same county and who became Finance Minister in the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald, gave Wiggins a post in his department in Ottawa, a position he held until retirement in1908.

Wiggins almanacWiggins’ credibility as a weather prognosticator likely derived from the fact that he was a university-educated “astronomer” working for the Canadian government. (What he actually did for the Department of Finance is unclear.) He was also likeable and articulate, and held a fervent belief in his own forecasting ability. So convinced was he of his prophecy of a storm of biblical proportions that he published the criticisms levelled at him by the Canadian and American government meteorologists in his Wiggins’ Storm Herald with Almanac, 1883, along with his warning messages to the Canadian and American authorities.

As you might imagine, the world watched with bated breath the arrival of Wiggins’ storm. Fishermen on the east coast pulled in their boats. Passengers on trans-Atlantic liners postponed voyages. The day before his predicted Armageddon, Wiggins announced that the planets were moving into alignment for the great storm. But on March 9th, the weather across Canada was reported as being exceptionally fine. Wiggins still confidently predicted that the storm would hit the following day as heavy meteor showers during the previous two days showed that “an unusual pressure may be expected on the earth.”

According to the Globe newspaper, Wiggins couldn’t sleep the five nights before the predicted date of his storm. He also had received threatening letters from people. One said that if there were no storm “he had better secure a lot in the Beechwood Cemetery.” Wiggins told friends “Uneasy lies the head that dips into the future.” Early in the morning of March 10th, a large group of women asked Wiggins where they could find safety. Wiggins assured them that Ottawa would only get the tail end of the storm. In the event, Ottawa got 18 centimetres of snow on Sunday March 11th, the day that he had predicted that the great storm was to pass the meridian of Ottawa—admittedly not a very pleasant day but hardly an event of biblical proportions. In Toronto, the Globe reported that the wind was “scarcely ruffling feathers in ladies’ hats.” There was no flooding of the eastern seaboard. No lives were lost at sea, and there were no financial losses.

Wiggins Devlin 13-3-83

J. Devlin, retailer, known for his funny advertisements, mocks Wiggins, The Ottawa Daily Citizen, 13 March 1883.

Newspapers denounced Wiggins as a fake and a charlatan. One paper called him “a contemptible nincompoop who…has produced a commotion more injurious to the human family than the kick of Mrs O’Leary’s cow [that caused the Chicago fire].” Another American newspaper said “Some philanthropic Canadian woman should send Mr Wiggins a thimble in which to soak his head.”

Wiggin’s responded: “It is evident from the failure of my predictions that something is wrong with the solar system if not with the Cosmos.” He hypothesized that there was a dark moon “the invisibility of which may account for its never having been discovered, while its mere existence as a satellite of the earth will explain the apparent failure of my best-predicted storms.”

Notwithstanding his failure, Wiggins continued to issue weather forecasts. However, he became discouraged. In early 1886, he despondently told an Ottawa Journal reporter that although he had foreseen the big storm of the previous October and had been on the way to the press to warn people, he had turned back—“too much mental wear and tear to make these predictions even when you know you are right.”

Instead of the weather, Wiggins turned to predicting earthquakes, which he believed were also caused by celestial forces. Following the major Charleston earthquake that struck at the end of August 1886, Wiggins predicted an even larger tremor would hit the southern United States a month later. Despite his failure to predict the Charleston quake and efforts of newspapers and experts to allay concerns, people became terrified. On the day of his predicted tremor, many people in Atlanta spent the night in churches praying. Shops didn’t open, schools remained deserted, and high buildings were emptied of their occupants. When no shock materialized there was a “widespread feeling of relief in the community” along with widespread condemnation of Wiggins. The Moncton Transcript opined that “It is about time Wiggins as a prophet was suppressed and compelled to attend the work for which the country pays him.”

Oddly, when Ottawa experienced a minor earthquake in January 1888, Wiggins, the prophet, slept through it. When asked, Wiggins attributed the tremor to “the sun which was near the tropic of Capricorn.” He added that there would be no serious disturbance for many years, but North America should watch out after August 19th 1904. (The great San Francisco earthquake struck in April 1906.)

Wiggins Arbour

Plaque erected by the City of Ottawa on Arbour House, Britannia, built by E. Stone and Susan Wiggins in 1892-93, Wikipedia.

Wiggins had many other interesting and entertaining ideas. He thought the world was solid and if you dug to its centre, temperatures would drop. Similarly, he believed the closer one got to the sum the lower the temperature. He had little sympathy with “the prejudices of the old school men [who] persist in declaring that our moon is a dead planet and is not possessed of an atmosphere.” He also believed that plesiosaurs, an extinct marine reptile of the Jurassic Period, existed in Rice Lake, Ontario and in the North Atlantic. When a meteor fell in upstate New York in 1897, Wiggins thought it contained hieroglyphs that were a message from Martians. At one time, he asserted that there would come a time when “generals on the battlefield would converse with each other by merely striking their swords into the ground.” Things he did get right include his forecast that one day a traveller would be able “to converse with his family while trudging his weary way to the northern pole.” Hinting at global warming to come, Wiggins claimed that “every man and animal … is a stove to raise the temperature.” He anticipated that some day one would be able to grown oranges in Canada.

Wiggins and his wife lived on Daly Street for much of their lives in Ottawa. In the early 1890s, the couple built Arbour House in the then summer resort town of Britannia where they were pillars of the community. Wiggins was the commodore of the Britannia Yacht Club in 1899. He died at their summer cottage in 1910. Wiggins was buried in Queens County, New Brunswick at St Luke’s Anglican Church at Youngs Cove. The memorial on his grave reads Professor E. Stone Wiggins B.A., M.A., M.D., L.L.D. Canada’s Distinguished Scientist and Scholar. DEC. 3 1839-AUG. 14 1910. His wife Susie. In 1994, the City of Ottawa designated Arbour House as a heritage property.

Sources:

With thanks to Dr John D. Reid who described Wiggins’ contributions to weather lore in a wonderful presentation on Ottawa weather history at the Historical Society of Ottawa, 27 October 2017.

Billings Herald (Montana), 1883. “Wiggins and his Storm,” 15 March.

Brooklyn Eagle, 1899. “Questions Answered,” 11 June

Chicago Tribune, 1883. “Wiggins Nothing But An Astrologer And A Copier of Popular English Almanac-Makers,” 8 March.

Fort Wayne Daily Gazette, 1884. “Wiggins’ Dark Moon,” 6 July.

Globe, 1883. “Prof. Wiggins’ Storm,” 10 March.

——-, 1907. “Two Moons In Sky Says Prof. Wiggins,” 30 May.

Memphis Daily Appeal, 1883. “Wicked Wiggins,” 12 March.

New York Times, 1883, “Wiggins A False Prophet,” 10 March.

——————-, 1897. “Wiggins on the Aerolite,” 17 November.

Ottawa Daily Citizen, 1883. “Freaks of the Storm,” 13 March.

Ottawa Evening Journal, 1886. “Wiggins Claims the Storm,” 18 January.

—————————–, 1886. “The Shaken South,” 1 October.

—————————–, 1888. “Just a Wee Shake,” 11 January.

—————————–, 1910. “Astronomer Passes Away,” 15 August.

Ottawa Free Press, 1883 in Greensboro Watchman (Alabama), 1883. “Predicting Storms,” 15 February.

Rose, Geo. Maclean, 1888. A Cyclopaedia of Canadian Biography, Toronto: Rose Publishing Company.

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