Wednesday, 17 August 2011

1905-11-25 Saturday Musings

Looking back at the newspapers published in Hamilton seventy years ago, with their twenty short columns of reading matter and advertisements, and compare them with last Saturday’s Spectator of 160 columns of up-to-date matter and advertisements, one must conclude that the world has moved onward at a rapid pace. Take the Hamilton Free Press, published in 1836, price per single copy five pence, as a sample of the old way, and the Spectator at one cent. The principal advertising in the Free Press was the sale of clergy reserve lands, which filled about three short columns. Thos. Brown, merchant tailor, advertised that he had removed from his old stand to the shop adjoining W. McDonald’s, on King street, where he kept a very extensive assortment of cloths, cassimeres, vestings and trimmings, which would be made into garments of the most modern and fashionable style at the shortest notice. He laid special stress on the fact that he would sell low for cash. In those days, money was a scarce article, and tailors, and every other class of tradesmen, had to sell on long credit; and they were fortunate if they got their money before the clothes were worn out. R. Witmer was another fashionable tailor who advertised for his share of the Hamilton trade. His shop was in a building lately erected by Alexander Carpenter, one door north of King street. If there were any more tailors in Hamilton, they failed to let the fact be known through the columns of the Free Press. There were two other papers printed in the city at the time – the Gazette and the Express. They may have been more fortunate in getting the patronage of the tailors.


        Alexander Carpenter informed his friends and the public that he had commenced business in the new shop on King street, next door to Mr. Jackson’s tin factory, where he would keep on hand a general assortment of the most approved patent cook and box stoves, door and open Franklin ditto, brass and tinware, stovepipes, wagon boxes and all kinds of hollow ware. Also, that he had just received an assortment of patent pails, tubs and joiners’ bench screws, which would be sold cheap for cash. Ten years later Alexander Carpenter became a partner with the Gurneys in the foundry business. In the meantime, he erected the building on John street, now occupied by W. G. Marshall, the horse shoer.


        The splendid steamboat Hamilton, Capt. Mills advertised that during the season of 1836 (Sunday excepted) it would ply between Toronto and Hamilton, leaving Hamilton at two o’clock in the afternoon and Toronto at seven o’clock in the morning, touching at Port Credit, Oakville and Burlington bay anal on the way up and down. All baggage and small parcels at the risk of the owner, unless booked and paid for Cabin passage 10 shillings, deck passage, 5 shillings. Passengers requested to be on board in due time, as the boat would leave H. Vallance’s wharf at Hamilton and A. Macdonald’s at Toronto precisely at the hours above stated. This was signed by the agent, Nathaniel Hughson Jr. It took the Hamilton more than four hours to make the trip from Hamilton to Toronto, and passengers going down on business had to spend the night in Toronto as there was no return boat. However, the old-timers were never in a hurry, and they probably did not make the trip more than once or twice a year, it was always an event in their lives. Nowadays it requires seven round trips a day on the railways for those who are in a hurry, and these boats and cars are crowded.


        Smith & Mills, proprietors of the Hamilton rifle factory, respectfully announced to the public that they had established themselves in Hamilton, on Main street, a few doors below Chatfield’s tavern, where they would manufacture to order, and keep on hand for sale, every variety of rifles, shotguns and other articles belonging to their business. They were determined to sell for ready pay as low as the Buffalo prices, and much lower than the same articles had ever been offered in this section of the province.


        G. Huffman announced that he had taken over the Hamilton Exchange, Main street, lately occupied by Benjamin Johnson, and fitted it up in a style of neatness and convenience not surpassed by any similar house in the province; and he assured those who might favor him with their custom that every exertion would be made to render them comfortable. His house would always be supplied with the best the markets afforded, and the charges moderate. An elegant could and four would leave the Hamilton Exchange on the arrival and departure of the steamboats for the accommodation of passengers. Travellers booked for the various stages and were taken up at the Hamilton exchange.

        The old stagers of half a century and more ago will remember when the leading hotels owned their own omnibuses and carried passengers to and from the steamboat wharves for a York shilling, and if guests for the hotel, for free. It did not take many buses or hacks to carry the passengers who came by boat; and the majority walked as York shillings were not as plentiful as now in these days of prosperity when wages are good and every man gets cash for his week’s work.


        Wm. Burge had a most substantial and well built framed dwelling house, calculated for a tavern or a store. It was located at Indiana, on the Grand river, on the main road from Dunnville to York. One of the inducements  was that the property commanded a fine view of the Grand river lock and canal and the air was salubrious. Thomas Pearson, proprietor of the Mansion House hotel at Brantford, informed the traveling public that his table was always provided with the best the town could supply and that he had laid in a stock of superior wines and liquors.
        The above covers all the local advertising that appeared in the columns of the Free Press.


        The first effort made by Hamilton to fight fires was in 1836 when Alexander Carpenter was appointed captain of the Hamilton Police Hook and Ladder company. The citizens evidently were not kindly disposed to rolling out of their warm beds on a cold winter night to pass buckets of icy water along a line to quench a fire, and Capt. Carpenter was much discouraged. In his appeal he said : “I have been endeavoring for some time past to induce persons who have to put down their names as members to come forward and equip according to rules and regulations, but hitherto have failed to arouse you to a sense of duty. The greatest indifference prevails particularly among certain of you who are most deeply in rendering our company efficient – persons who are owners of valuable town property and who should be the first to step forward and by their influence and example do all I their power to accomplish a successful organization of the company. I feel anxious that those who have been engaged in it should come forward spiritedly and unite in making the company what it should be, a credit to the town, or else say they take no interest in its success, withdraw their names, let the company be disbanded, and the members no longer claim exemptions from doing military duty, sitting as jurors, etc.


        Hamilton had aspirations evening its youth to become a great city. Being located at the headwaters of Lake Ontario, it had a canal cut through the sandy beach that divided the bay from the lake, and the commerce of eastern Canada was handled through its port. It was the first town in Canada and it was then but little more than a hamlet then – to talk of building a railway across the country from here to Detroit. It was about the year 1833 that a few enterprising citizens began to discuss the question, and it finally culminated in a board of directors being organized, with Sir Allan Macnab at the head. In 1836 another company was organized, having in its view the building of what was called the London and Gore railway, the object being to build a line from Hamilton through Paris, Woodstock, Ingersoll, and on to London. The following advertisement, which we copy from the Hamilton Free Press, dated August, 1836, will better explain the pretext.
        Pursuant to a resolution passed by the directors on the 11th inst., notice is hereby given that five per cent upon the stock subscribed is required to be paid – two and one half per cent on or before the 21st of August next, and two and one half per cent on or before the 21st of September next – to the following gentlemen :
                        D. Moore, London
                        Peter Carroll, Ingersoll
                        Edmund Deeds, Esq., Oxford
                        Robert Riddle, Esq., Zorra
                        Mr. Samuel Mills, Hamilton
Dated this 12th day of June, 1836.
                                        SAMUEL MILLS, Secretary.


        It was not until the end of the ‘40’s that things began to take shape and the dream of twenty years before was about to be realized. Hamilton had a few men in business sixty years ago who were always looking forward to the millennium period when the city of their birth or adoption would become the trade centre of Western Canada. They were not figuring on increased population, nor did they give to the future of manufacturing industries: their dream was to make it a great commercial city of large wholesale warehouses for every line of mercantile business. With lake navigation for cheap transportation from the seaboard to the head of the inland sea, some other means of carrying freight than by wagons was necessary for an outlet to the great west. They gave their time and their money and in the end, through much tribulation, saw their final triumph when the Great Western road was opened in 1854 from Niagara to the Detroit river. The final results did not turn out as was hoped for in the long ago, for from the time the Great Western road was opened down to the present the wholesale trade of Hamilton dwindled away. The first city in Canada that the means of building a great iron highway across a stretch of 200 miles was the first to be discriminated against by the railroad companies it had fostered and built up. In the matter of freight rates, Hamilton has always had the worst of it.

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