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    Postal workers toil all Christmas eve to deliver mail

    December 8th, 2013

    In 1920, Montreal postal workers were on the job all night on Christmas eve, so that carriers could deliver the last of the Christmas mail on Christmas morning, Read the rest of this entry »


    Guarding Canada’s treasury from greedy hordes

    December 7th, 2013

    The early years of Confederation both appalled and titillated Canadians with perhaps the country’s most sensational—or sensationalized—political corruption and scandals. Read the rest of this entry »


    Sodom and Gomorrah in Upper Canada

    December 5th, 2013

    Canadian Freeman, York (Toronto), Upper Canada, May 26, 1831 rails against the town’s countless whore houses, one in a house controlled by a police magistrate. Read the rest of this entry »


    Sunday school class learns 10,538 Bible versus

    December 4th, 2013

    Pupils at the Sunday School of the Presbyterian Society in York, Upper Canada, “learned” 10,583 Bible verses and 4,534 hymns in 1828, says the Society’s annual report, published in the Colonial Advocate, January 29, 1829. Excerpt: Read the rest of this entry »


    Marriage prospects killed by free trade

    December 3rd, 2013

    Free trade is a bit like religion: economists now agree that it would be a good thing, if it were practiced as much as it is preached. In the nineteenth century, there was as much preaching against free trade as for it. Read the rest of this entry »


    Gold rush miners pine for Sunday preachers

    December 2nd, 2013

    The Hollywood image of the old west gold mining camps as lawless, lustful and licentious doesn’t apply to peaceful, law-abiding Canada Read the rest of this entry »


    Flies help make Montreal Canada’s deadliest city

    December 1st, 2013

    In the past two blogs we explored the fatal effects of bad milk and unsanitary slums. Add flies to the list. Flies were seen by the Montreal Star in 1910 as another cause of an infant mortality rate so high that Montreal was described by later historians as “one of the deadliest cities in the world.” Read the rest of this entry »


    Haiyan, climate change, death toll and the bleating of deniers

    December 1st, 2013

    Yesterday, November 30, the official death count from typhoon Haiyan passed 5,600, with more than 1,700 people still missing. Yet growing louder we hear the voice of those claiming that climate change poses no risk—sounding as credible as the bleating of an earlier generation of deniers who kept repeating that smoking tobacco was harmless.

    How many more tens of thousands of people must die before we learn the lessons of Haiyan?

    How many millions more left homeless before we learn that we must cut back on burning coal, oil and natural gas, as fast as possible?

    Haiyan is tragic confirmation that climate change is hurting now, not at some time in the distant future. And it’s getting worse. Weather disasters— storms, floods, droughts, heat waves and Read the rest of this entry »


    Bad milk makes Montreal’s child mortality world’s worst

    November 30th, 2013

    “Out of every three children born in Montreal two die before they reach the age of five,” Read the rest of this entry »


    Toronto’s slums had chickens in living rooms, leaky roofs, wet basements and cellars, overflowing outdoor privies, and high rents

    November 29th, 2013

    Chickens in the living room, nine children crowded in a single rag-covered bed, one outdoor water tap for 16 houses; these were among Toronto 1910 slum housing conditions described by Medical Director Dr. Charles Hasting in a talk to the Irish Benevolent Society. Six month’s later, Hastings spelled out more excruciating detail in a groundbreaking report. Read the rest of this entry »


    No dole for slackers, wastrels and undesirables

    November 27th, 2013

    When some of the men who received municipal relief during a recession were termed “undesirable,” the Regina Leader endorsed the controversial term, and urged no dole for Read the rest of this entry »


    The threshers and the farm wife

    November 26th, 2013

    When the threshing crew arrived it was a time of busy work and worry for an Alberta farm wife, but 1925 yielded a good crop. The economic depression of 1920-1921 was now just an unpleasant memory, but bleak hunger of the Great Depression years that devastated prairie farm life would follow soon enough. Nina Moore Jamieson—1885-1932, author, poet, newspaper writer and farm wife— describes how it was when the threshers arrived, in this syndicated article from the Regina Leader, January 13, 1926. Read the rest of this entry »


    The sad decline of little towns

    November 24th, 2013

    The railroads and industrialization began more than a century ago to shift Canada’s population from rural farm areas to the big cities. Read the rest of this entry »


    Farm women want law to cover bare-naked knees

    November 23rd, 2013

    The 1920s were the Roaring Twenties, the decade of flappers, the Charleston, and bootleg booze, when women joined men in smoking in public and daring fashions revealed bare-naked knees. Older women were shocked. Read the rest of this entry »


    Joyous winter sleigh ride to Porcupine gold mines

    November 21st, 2013

    Development of mines that would make the Porcupine Lake area of northern Ontario one of the world’s great gold-producing areas was still in its infancy in 1910 when the Montreal Star described winter travel to a  new mining camp. Excerpts from the Montreal Star, January 31, 1910.

    Read the rest of this entry »


    Police wink at gambling in the Great North West

    November 20th, 2013

    At the start of the twentieth century, gambling was prohibited in all “civilized countries,” but winked at by the police in the Great North West, Read the rest of this entry »


    Dawson City prostitutes and pimps lure men to ruin and suicide

    November 19th, 2013

    The determination of Judge Dugas of Dawson City and Commissioner Ross of the North West Mounted Police to rid the Yukon of “percentage women” who lured young men to ruin and suicide and the “macs” or pimps who ran them in the days of the Klondike gold rush, met with the stern approval of the White Horse Star in this item published February 12, 1902. Read the rest of this entry »


    Britain’s fallen women not wanted here

    November 17th, 2013

    Sam Hughes—teacher, journalist, soldier and Conservative politician—blasts the plan of Salvation Army founder General William Booth to help Britain’s “fallen women” transform their lives and prospects by emigrating to Canada and the United States Read the rest of this entry »


    Calgary goes from cow town to tame town

    November 16th, 2013

    Calgary’s sudden transformation from wild cow town to tame city is noted in this item from The Globe, Toronto, October 3, 1903. Read the rest of this entry »


    Slashing and bashing lacrosse, Canada’s national game

    November 14th, 2013

    Sports fans 90 years ago were “proud of the fact that lacrosse is Canada’s national game,” and occasional violence on the field did nothing to dampen the enthusiasm. Read the rest of this entry »