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    Quebec farm families stick to their roots

    July 30th, 2013

    Two examples of the tenacity with which French Canadian were said to cling to the soil of family farms and homes are cited in news reports. The Montreal Herald, February 10, 1863 tells about the family that had farmed the same soil at Ancienne Lorette, a village and later a suburb that was merged with Quebec City in 2002. Read the rest of this entry »


    To the Klondike, with valet, chef and band

    July 28th, 2013

    “Six young British millionaires” planned to take their “valets and chefs as well as an orchestra” on their journey to the Klondike gold rush, the Daily Mail and Empire reported January 21, 1898. They were on their way from Liverpool to Victoria on the steam yacht Irene, seeking, it was said, “the excitement of miners life,” more than gold.

    TAGS Klondike Gold Rush, Travel, Luxury, British aristocracy, Adventure, Excitement, Indulgence


    Busy Bugger Billy Bishop and the air aces who shot down the Red Baron

    July 26th, 2013

    “You have been a busy bugger, haven’t you?” King George V, on awarding the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest military award, to Billy (William Avery) Bishop (1894-1956), Canadian First World War flying ace, July 1917.

    Bishop is officially credited with destroying 72 German aircraft, exceeded among allied pilots in the First World War only by French aviator Rene Fonck, who shot down 75.

    Not all Bishop’s victories were witnessed, Read the rest of this entry »


    Trouble with wolves

    July 25th, 2013

    Stories of encounters with bears and wolves were numerous in Canadian newspapers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Here are two wolf stories.  Read the rest of this entry »


    Lamp fire kills 50 in Quebec theatre

    July 23rd, 2013

    Camphene, an explosive mixture of alcohol and redistilled turpentine, was a popular but dangerous lamp fuel in mid-nineteenth century. Whale oil had been the universal lamp fuel for decades, but it had become expensive as whales were hunted almost to extinction. Read the rest of this entry »


    Why it pays to be polite

    July 20th, 2013

    Ernest E. Thompson explain why politeness pay, in a letter in The Week, Toronto, April 26, 1905.

    Does it not strike you that the finest manners always prevail in countries where duelling is in vogue? While living among the wild Texan cowboys, I was much struck by their politeness. I made a remark to this effect to one of them. He merely rejoined, “Yes, it’s safer.”

    TAGS Manners, Politeness, Duelling, Safety, Cowboys, Texas


    Last of the saddleback preachers

    July 18th, 2013

    The passing of the  fiery itinerant preachers, who galloped by horse throughout Canada,  from hamlet to hamlet, to spread the gospel in the backwoods of the  nineteenth century, is foretold by Toronto Saturday Night, June 15, 1901. Read the rest of this entry »


    In praise of washerwomen

    July 14th, 2013

    Lillie Langtry (nee Emille Charlotte Breton, 1853-1929) was considered one of the stunning beauties of her time. An actress, she attracted the attention of Britain’s King Edward VII and became his mistress. But on a visit to Toronto, she failed to impress the editor of The Week magazine, who professed a greater attraction to hard-working washerwomen. From The Week, April 12, 1895.

    Mrs. Langtry’s portrait as plastered around the city on walls and boards seems to be an admirable presentation of the characteristics of that much talked of woman. But I have seen many washerwomen whose faces were far pleasanter to the discerning eye. Why don’t we plaster drawings of these on our vacant spaces? I stand up for the good old, hard-working washerwoman.

    TAGS Lillie Langtry, King Edward VII, Mistresses, Washerwomen, Perception, Pulchritude


    “Mad dogs” threaten life in early Canada

    July 11th, 2013

    Human rabies—once called hydrophobia—is now rare in Canada, but packs of “mad dogs,” some of them rabid, menaced the lives of people and livestock in towns and farms during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Read the rest of this entry »


    Sober Macdonald and drunk reporter?

    July 9th, 2013

    Newspapers still provided the only published reports of debates in the House of Commons when the Toronto Globe opposed a proposed Hansard, in which the words of members of Parliament would be published after officially recorded in shorthand by Parliamentary reporters. Read the rest of this entry »


    In Ottawa, it’s all talk, talk, talk

    July 7th, 2013

    The Ottawa Journal notes the political penchant for prolixity, in this item published October 23, 1899.

    Sir Charles Tupper’s speech the other day contained about 25,000 words. Mr. Foster’s three-hour effort held about 17,000, or about as many as the gospel of St. John, which revolutionized the world. It will be observed that some of our political leaders talk many dozens of times as much matter every year as there is not merely in St. John, but in the whole New Testament, yet don’t revolutionize anything.

    TAGS: Politicians, Parliament, Talk, Prolxity, Loquacity, Bible


    Victoria’s secret: new capital for Canada

    July 5th, 2013

    On the last day of 1857, Queen Victoria, in London, chose a new capital for Canada. Five cities had fought fiercely for the honour and economic benefits. Four—Toronto, Kingston, Montreal and Quebec City—had at one time or another served as the capital in what was then called Canada East (Quebec) and Canada West (Ontario). Only forest-shrouded Ottawa, the newest, smallest and most remote, had never been a capital city. Read the rest of this entry »