Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Louis Vallee Photographs Old Quebec

Basse-ville de Quebec - Louis-Prudent Vallee vers 1880.jpg

In 1839, Louis DaGuerre succeeded in capturing a unique image on a copper plate, named the daguerrotype.  People called it "a mirror with a memory".  The Quebec Gazette, the Toronto Patriot, and the Halifax Colonial Pearl reported on the daguerrotype and itinerant daguerrotypists set up shop in hotel rooms and stores, eager to capitalize on the new technology.  However, the process was slow and was eventually replaced with photography.

In the 1860's, Louis Prudent Vallee opened a studio in Quebec City and soon became known for his photographs of his hometown.  Vallee captured the capital before the departure of British troops in 1871 and after the demolition of military installations.  Old Quebec's walls remind us of how the city used to serve as a fort.  Vallee also documented the urban development at the end of the 1800's.  Vallee's Catalogue of Photographic Views of Quebec City and Vicinity, published in 1899, served as a good record of local history in the latter half of the 19th Century.

Louis-Prudent VallĂ©e: His work is a record of the 19th century in Quebec City. “The photograph on the stamp was taken circa 1894.”

A Quebec City street circa 1894

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Cunard Line

The Aquitania leaves Liverpool on her maiden voyage circa 1914 courtesy

Samuel Cunard, raised in Halifax, was the son of a German Quaker and an Irish Roman Catholic who fled the United States during the American Revolution, part of a large group of United Empire Loyalists.  During the War of 1812, Cunard fought on the British side with the second battalion of the Halifax Regiment.  The young man was a highly successful entrepreneur who was one of 12 people to greatly influence the affairs of Halifax.

In 1830, Cunard founded the Halifax Steamboat Company which ran a steamship between Halifax and Quebec.  Seven years later, Cunard travelled to the United Kingdom where he made a successful bid to run a trans-Atlantic mail service.  The result was Cunard Steamships Limited.  In 1840, the company's first steamship, the Britannia, sailed from Liverpool to Halifax and then on to Boston.  Cunard's ships soon earned a reputation for speed and safety.  However, that reputation came with a hefty cost; Cunard fled creditors in Halifax by 1843, unable to pay his bills.  By the following year, however, the entrepreneur started to turn a profit.

The Cunard Line has owned several famous ships over the decades.  The Carpathia (1901) came to the rescue of the Titanic when it sank in 1912.  The Lusitania (1906) was torpedoed by German U-boats and sunk in 1915.  The Aquitania (1914) served in both World War I and World War II.  The Queen Mary (1936) transported royalty, movie stars and war brides across the Atlantic.

Britannia sails from Liverpool to Halifax circa 1840 courtesy

Monday, 22 August 2016

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Sir John A Macdonald recommended the formation of a police force after Canada purchased the Northwest Territories from the Hudson's Bay Company in 1873. Prime Minister MacDonald wanted to call the force the North West Mounted Rifles, however that sounded too much like a military. Therefore, he named them the North West Mounted Police. Royal was added to the name in 1904 by King Edward VII. In 1920, the Royal North West Mounted Police merged with the Dominion Police to form the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).

 Originally, the RCMP oversaw two territories and several provinces. The police force added Newfoundland to its territory when it became a new province in 1949. Today, the RCMP oversees three territories and eight provinces. The two largest, Ontario and Quebec, have their own provincial police forces.

The RCMP is famous for its uniform, the Red Serge, which includes a high collared scarlet tunic, midnight blue breeches with yellow leg stripe, Sam Browne belt with white sidearm lanyard, oxblood riding boots (possibly with spurs), brown felt campaign hat (wide, flat brimmed) with "Montana crease" and brown gloves (with brown leather gauntlets for riders). While performing regular duties, the RCMP uses standard uniforms. However, during the Musical Ride, they wear the Red Serge (

In the past, the RCMP was heavily involved in counterintelligence, keeping a close eye on suspected radicals including the Communist Party of Canada, Ukrainian Nationalists, Chinese (under the Opium & Narcotics Drugs Act) and strikers. During the Great Depression, the RCMP was largely responsible for halting the On to Ottawa Trek by inciting the Regina Riot.

The RCMP Musical Ride, which comes to Paris, Ontario this September, courtesy

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Canadian Pulp & Paper Industry

Steps to making paper out of pulp:  1.  Harvest the trees.  2.  Cut into logs and take to the mill.  3.  Machinery turns the wood chips into pulp.  4.  Pulp is mixed with water and poured onto a long machine.  5.  The fibres bond to one another at the dry end of the machine.  6.  Researchers perform tests at each stage.  (Photo & Steps courtesy 

Egyptians made paper from papyrus, which serves as the root of the word.  Europeans used animal skins to make paper. The modern process of turning pulp into paper was first used by the Chinese.  By the 19th Century, with rising literacy rates and the proliferation of newspapers, a demand was created for a cheaper paper supply -- wood.  German paper makers developped machines to break down pulp to make paper.

The demand for paper in Canada grew as the population did.  First, Canadians imported it from the United States.  Later, the Canadian pulp and paper industry formed, based mainly in Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia.  Argenteuil paper factory, near present day Montreal, provided the newsprint for the Montreal Gazette.  Later the Canadian factories also provided book paper, printing paper, wallpaper and wrapping paper.

As the frontier moved westward, British Columbia also developped a pulp and paper industry.  In the meantime, the United States lifted its tariff on newsprint just before World War I and Canada "emerged as the world's preeminent newspaper maker".  While production sat at 65,000 tons in 1900, it grew by 65 times that within three decades.

In the mid-1920's the nature of the pulp and paper industry started to change:  once controlled by multiple family-owned enterprises it became dominated by a few "behemoths", requiring huge financial backing from the United States.  By the Great Depression, most of the Ontario mills and some of the Quebec mills declared bankruptcy.

With the advent of the Second World War, the pulp and paper industry made a come back, ushering in three and a half decades of prosperity in Canada.  Whereas production sat at 4.3 million tons in 1939, it quintupled by 1972, sitting at 23 million tons, almost a quarter of the world's capacity.

However, by 2000, with the rise of the Internet, came the fall of the newspaper industry.  Canadian paper mills lost the American market; at one point, a paper mill was closing every week.  Even so, today the pulp and paper industry remains at important part of Canada's economy.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Canadian Stamp Celebrates 60 Years of Confederation

A Toronto traffic jam circa 1928, the year that Canada produced 240,000 automobiles courtesy

The Canadian 20 cent stamp celebrates 60 years of Confederation.  The Canada of 1927 looked quite different than today.  While the country already had nine provinces (all except Newfoundland) and two territories, the population sat at just under 10 million.  Canada was on the cusp of switching from a rural to an urban based society.  The 1921 census showed that while 49% of Canadians lived in urban areas, only 51% lived in rural areas.

Transportation had played a huge role in Canada's development.  In 1885, Donald Alexander Smith had driven the last spike into the British Columbia soil marking the first transcontinental railroad in Canada.  Mail travelling by train arrived much quicker than by pony express.  In 1926, Western Canada Airways opened, providing cargo service to Northwestern Canada.  At a time before passenger flights, "airmail was the backbone of aviation" (

In 1927, the Special Delivery Stamp was issued, showing the Canada of old along side the new Canada.  The stamp featured five methods of special delivery service:  air, ship, train, horseback and dog sled.  The stamp was unique as it was the only Special Delivery stamp that doesn't have the word "delivery" and it isn't shaped horizontally.  Also, the Confederation stamp was the first to depict a dog, an airplane, an ocean liner or a horse.

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Pier 21: The London Blitz, the Baltic Ethnic Cleansing & the Hungarian Uprising

Displaced person with her infant arrives in 1948 at Pier 21 courtesy

Halifax's Deepwater Piers was built in 1880 to accommodate Canadian immigrants arriving by ocean liner.  By 1913, when Canadian immigration peeked, authorities realized that they needed a much bigger facility.  However, the First World War in 1914 and the Halifax Explosion in 1917, postponed such an endeavour.

In 1928, Pier 21 opened in Halifax's south end, a two story, 600 foot shed.  Along with the shed were freight piers, grain elevators and a train station.  Adjacent to the shed was an annex which included immigration offices, customs, railway booking office, and a telegraph office, a restaurant and immigration charities offices.

Pier 21 was the entry point for over 1 million immigrants and refugees.  In the early years of the immigration station, many Dutch and English immigrants arrived.  The Second World War slowed down the number of immigrant arrivals but increased the total of refugees.  Two thousand English children, evacuated during the London Blitz, arrived in the early 1940's.  Princess Juliana sailed into port with her family after the Nazis invaded Holland.  Even Prime Minister Winston Churchill passed through Pier 21's doors in 1943 on his way to the Quebec Conference.  In 1945 and 1946, thousands of war brides also arrived at Pier 21, many with their infant children.  In 1948, almost 350 refugees arrived from the Baltic, a result of the Soviet's ethnic cleansing program.  The Hungarian uprising of 1956 brought another flood of refugees to Canada's immigration station.  Finally, in 1970, 100 Cuban refugees passed through Pier 21, the last major group to do so.  The following year, it closed its doors forever.

Canadian stamp commemorating Pier 21, issued in 1999 courtesy