Saturday, August 12, 2017


From the big scrapbook of time, here’s a look at Canada in 1919.

January – Eaton’s marks the 50th anniversary of its Queen Street store in Toronto.  Sir John Eaton announces that the workweek will be reduced from six days to five-and-a—half days.

January 13: Igor Gouzenko is born in the Soviet Union. He will shock the world when he defects to Canada from the Soviet Embassy in 1945 and reveals Soviet spy secrets. He will be given a new identity to preserve his anonymity. Gouzenko will die of a heart attack in Mississauga, Ontario in 1982.

January 30: Major General Sir Samuel Steele is dead at the age of seventy. He was the third officer to be sworn in as a Mountie and led a very exciting career including Red River Rebellion, the Northwest Rebellion, the Klondike Gold Rush and the Boer War in South Africa. Steele contracted the Spanish flu. He will be buried in Winnipeg.

Some 50,000 mourners crowded the streets to pay their respects at the Prime Minister's funeral.

February 17:  Sir Wilfred Laurier died of a heart attack at his home this afternoon in Ottawa. The Liberal leader was the nation’s seventh Prime Minister, serving from 1896 to 1911. Canada’s first Francophone PM will be remembered for the construction of a second continental railway and for promoting immigration.

February 27: Robert Harris is dead in Montreal. The artist will be best remembered for his painting, The Fathers of Confederation. 

  • Aviation pioneer William Boeing and pilot Eddie Hubbard fly 60 letters from Vancouver, BC, to Seattle in Boeing’s Model C-700.
March 3: The first international airmail is delivered between Canada and the United States as a flight from Vancouver lands in Seattle. 

Artist David Milne captures conditions of Canadian troops in Kinmel Park. 
March 5: Nearly 800 Canadian soldiers riot at a camp in Kinmel Park, England. They are angry because four months after the war’s end they are still stuck in Britain and unable to get home. Troops are ordered to fire on their own. Five are killed and another 23 are wounded. Altogether 78 soldiers have been arrested for mutiny.

March 29: The Stanley Cup playoffs are suspended after five games because of the Spanish Influenza epidemic. Some 50,000 Canadians will die of the Spanish Flu.

April 17: Women in New Brunswick are given the right to vote. They may not, however, stand for election in the Picture Province.

April 28: In the belief that there must never be another war, Canada joins 41 other nations gathered in Geneva, Switzerland to sign the Covenant of the League of Nations.

May 3: Women in the Yukon Territory may vote in elections.

Labour unrest will soon lead to 30,000 unhappy workers walking off the job.
May 2: The Citizens Committee in Winnipeg publishes a newspaper that claims the Winnipeg General Strike is a Bolshevik conspiracy and will lead to a revolution.

May 3: Electricians and waterworks employees in Winnipeg walk out of work in sympathy with the city’s light and power department employees who went on strike yesterday when their demands for a wage increase was denied.

May 8: Members of the Building Trade Council have won a 20-percent wage increase and their workday is reduced to only height hours.

May 13: The Fowler Amendment is passed by Winnipeg City Council to keep workers from striking. 

May 15: A general strike is organized in Winnipeg. Manitoba’s capital is paralyzed as an workers walk off the job at eleven o’clock in the morning in support of men in the building and metal trades who have already hit the picket lines.

May 16: Winnipeg is without telephone service as operators join the growing number of workers on strike and refuse to work their switchboards.

May 17: To counter the general strike, politicians, bankers and factory owners in Winnipeg form a coalition of 1,000 members. The newly formed Citizens Committee claims the workers are Communist inspired.

May 19: Home delivery of milk and bread are permitted in Winnipeg despite the city being paralyzed by the General Strike.

May 21: Some 4,000 railway workers walk off the job in Winnipeg swelling the number of people walking picket lines to an estimated 30,000. 

May 22: The Nickle Resolution passes in Parliament. When it receives royal assent, the new law will forbid Canadians from accepting knighthoods, peerages and other titles of honour from Britain.

May 27: Streetcars grind to a halt and many hotels and restaurants are firmly shuttered in Calgary as workers show their solidarity for the General Strike in Winnipeg.

June 5: The House of Assembly in St. John’s passes the Aerial Mail Service Act and the Dominion government signs acontract with a British concern, Aircraft Manufacturing Company, to establish airmail, freight and passenger service. 

June 6: Ottawa has bailed out a number of shaky railroad companies and folded them into one crown corporation to be called Canadian National Railways. The new entity starts life $49 million in the red but the railroad has assets that stretch from Halifax to Winnipeg. 

June 14: Prime Minister Borden is of the opinion that the Winnipeg General Strike is a plot to “overthrow the government of the country.” He will not meet with leaders of the Strike Committee.

June 14: Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown taxi down the runway at Lester’s Field near St. John’s, Newfoundland, in a modified Vimy IV aeroplane. They will prove that it is possible to fly from the New World to the old. After flying through dense icy fog, unable to see the sun, moon or stars for much of the trip. The plane is often covered with ice as they are forced to fly only 100 metres above the ocean’s surface.  A total of 16 hours and 12 minutes and 3,186 kilometres pass before they land safely in an Irish bog. The two carry letters from the Newfoundland Post—the first international air mail. The heroes claim the 10,000-pound sterling prize for being the first two cross the Atlantic by air and are knighted by the king for their stunning achievement.

June 21: In Winnipeg, the mayor reads the Riot Act and a peaceful demonstration turns violent as the Royal Northwest Mounted Police attack a group of unarmed strikers who are marching in a parade. Two are dead and 30 injured in what will be forever remembered as Bloody Sunday.

June 26: having won important concessions for workers, the Central Strike Committee declares the Winnipeg General Strike to be over. At eleven o’clock, workers return to their jobs. They have been on strike for 41 days. 

Sir Robert Borden is honoured on this 1976 hundred-dollar bill.
June 28: The treaty of Versailles is signed in Paris, formally ending the Great War.  The Right Honourable Prime Minister Borden signs for Canada, completely separately from the British delegation.

Related image
June 30:  Charged with sedition for leading out in the Winnipeg General Strike, J.S. Woodworth says, “The atmosphere is a religious revival.” He will later found the CCF, forerunner to the New Democratic Party.

July 7: Parliament passes a bill that outlaws change brought about by force. It is aimed at quelling the Winnipeg General Strike.

A typical one-room schoolhouse. 

July 12: The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation is incorporated. Within weeks 178 teachers will walk off the job in Victoria in a bid for better wages. They want to earn $1,600 a year. It is the first teachers’ strike anywhere in the British Empire.

The Spanish flu has killed an estimated 50,000 Canadians. Based on the Model TT truck chassis, this 1919 custom-built Ford hearse was built by Canadian Commercial Body Company Limited of Windsor, Ontario. A total of 17,649 Ford trucks will be produced in Canada during the calendar year. 

July 31: Ford of Canada reports it has 2,730 employees on its payroll.

Prime Minister King will be honoured on the $50 bill in 2013.

August 7: Gathered in Ottawa, the Liberals hold a leadership convention. They choose William Lyon Mackenzie King to be party leader.

August 18: Joseph Emm Seagram is dead at the age of 78 in Waterloo, Ontario. The founder of the Seagram’s Distillery made VO whisky the most popular brand worldwide. He also bred racehorses and his stables won the King/Queen’s Plate fifteen times.

September 9:  Alexander Graham Bell and Casey Baldwin set a world record with their HD-4 hydrofoil. The boat is clocked at 114 kilometres an hour in time trials held in Nova Scotia.

September 12:  Some 60,000 Canadians gave their lives for King and Country on the battlefields. Members of Parliament in Ottawa vote unanimously to sign the Treaty of Versailles. Canada will join the League of Nations, an organization designed to prevent another war. 

September 15; The Manitoba legal system is backlogged with divorce cases. The Court of the King’s Bench has had to hire six new judges to hear the 1,100 petitions, most filed by soldiers who have returned home to find their spouses have been unfaithful. The average cost of a divorce is a whopping $200. 

A Curtiss JN-4.

September 24: The first airmail delivery is established in the Maritimes as Captain L.E.D. Stevens climbs into his Curtiss JN-4, nicknamed “Jenny” and takes off from Truro, Nova Scotia. On board the fabric-covered plywood aeroplane are 200 letters to be delivered to the post office in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. It is noted that the craft is capable of reaching speeds of  185 kilometres per hour.

October 18: It’s a boy for Joseph-Emile Trudeau and his wife Grace Elliot. Joseph Philippe  Pierre Yves Elliot Trudeau is born in Montreal. He will grow up to be Canada’s 15th Prime Minister, leading the country from 1968 to 1979 and then again from 1980 to 1984. Always colourful and sometimes irreverent, he will be responsible for bringing home the BNA Act and establishing the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Mr. Trudeau will die in 2000.

December 20: Liquor once again flows freely as Ottawa rescinds many wartime restrictions on consumer products. Parliament votes to  pardon men who avoided conscription. 

December 24: Labour leader Robert Boyd Russell is sentenced to two years in prison for his role in the General Strike. He is convicted of seditious conspiracy. 

Johns Hopkin Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland USA is one of the world's leading medical research centres.

December 29: Sir William Osler is dead at the age of 70 in Oxford, England. Born in Tecumseh, Ontario, he was a world famous physician—the first physician-in-chief at John Hopkins. His medical textbook, Principles and Practice of Medicine was the standard text for medical students for more than 30 years.

The 1919 Studebaker Light Six is built in Walkerville (Windsor), Ontario. These fast cars will be popular with rum runners and police alike as prohibition is ushered in-- in eight of the nine provinces.

Copyright to James C. Mays 2017

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