Monday, 28 May 2012


Saturday Musings
Spectator August 30, 1902
        If you want to enjoy a delightful bit of scenery go out to Dundurn Park on any of these bright afternoons and you will see a picture of beauty that it would be hard to duplicate. The land is just rolling enough to add to the attraction, and the old forest trees, many of them with an age record before Hamilton became even a struggling village, set off the rare beauty of the scene. Sir Allan Macnab had an eye had an eye for harmonious effects when he selected Dundurn for his home and built in it his castle and watchtowers. The buildings should be permanently preserved as part of the ancient landmarks of the city – not to perpetuate the memory of the former owner. For after all that Hamilton did for Sir Allan, he left nothing for the public to hold him in grateful remembrance. Hamilton’s public men have never been in danger of dying from enlargement of the heart so far as benefactions to the city are concerned. It remained for private individuals, who had no axes to grind, nor with any expectancy of reward from a grateful people, to make the only benefactions in Hamilton worthy of note, the latest being John Billings’ addition to the city hospital buildings and Mrs. William Hendrie’s handsome home for hospital nurse. Their names will not be forgotten, for the buildings will be a lasting monument to their memory.


          But our musing was about parks. Adjoining Dundurn is Harvey Park, the gift of the Hon. Samuel Mills, one of the early settlers of Hamilton. Unfortunately, his name is hardly known in connection with the gift, save by the old stagers, for in a burst of patriotic sentiment, it was called after Col. John Harvey, who encamped on or near the grounds with his command during the War of 1812. Col. Harvey was the hero of the battle of Stoney Creek. The name of Samuel Mills should be linked with the gift of Harvey park, that future generations might be reminded that now and then some public-spirited citizen thought of Hamilton in his benefactions The Beasleys at one time owned Dundurn and all the land in that neighbourhood. There is no more delightful view to be had anywhere around Hamilton than from Harvey Park and Dundurn. Being at the head of nthe bay, a charming picture is presented of the entire bay and its surroundings and out into Lake Ontario as far as the eye can reach. When the city bought Dundurn for $50,000, it secured for future generations a park such as few Canadian cities have.


          Victoria Park is the playground for boys and young men, and because of this little effort is made to beautify it with beds of flowers, or is it possible to cultivate a green sward. It is well to have one large breathing spot in this city where the boys are not forever reminded that they are trespassers by signs as “Keep off the grass.” In the good time that is coming, the building lots fronting Victoria Park will become much more valuable than they are now, for the nabobs will want them for palatial residences.


          A thing of beauty is a joy forever. When George Hamilton donated to the city a strip of land on King street from James to Mary, known as the Gore, her never dreamed that it would one day become the most charming spot in the city. The strip of land represents a wedge. For many long years, the Gore was only a mud hole, and was anything but creditable to a city that claimed the title of “Ambitious.” The old stagers will retain a picture of it in their memories and of the famous town pump on the west end of the Gore. The water was always cool and pure, and nearly everyone who passed it drank from the old iron dipper that was suspended from the pump by a chain. It was the public watering hole for man and beast. Along in the early sixties, art triumphed over nature and the unsightly mud hole was changed into a beautiful park. The Bank of British North America contributed the fine fountain in the centre of the park, and nature has been lavish in the growth of trees and shrubbery.


          Don’t you remember what a time the City Council had some three or four years ago when the question was being discussed to extend the park from Hughson to John street? The cab men were against the change because they would have to find some other place for a cab stand; the military wanted it left open for the occasional drills, and many of the societies argued that to plant grass and flowers there would deprive them of the only place they had to form their occasional processions. The council was betwixt the devil and the deep sea, for many of the advocates for the park extension were threatened with the terrors of the ballot box when they would present themselves for aldermanic honours. To the credit of the members of the council, it was decided to change the unsightly cab stand into grass and flowers, and today the man who would dare to suggest that it should return to what it formerly was would be strung up high on the skeleton flagstaff that ornaments the centre of the park.


          And speaking of the flagstaff reminds us that a couple of years ago, the Spectator advocated the idea of using the top of it from which to suspend two or three arc lamps to brighten up King street at night. It would add but little cost to the city to pay for the extra lamps, and the change in the lighting of the Gore, from James to Mary, one of the poorest lighted streets in the city, would be appreciated by the merchants and those who are in the street, especially on Saturday night. A prominent alderman says the lamps would have been put up before this if the electric light company had not been unreasonable in its price for running the necessary wires to the top of the tower. As the Cataract company substantially owns the streets of the city and forty or fifty feet up in the air, it might let go its hold for a moment and be satisfied with a reasonable compensation for wiring the flagstaff.


          At the corner of King and Wellington streets is a neat little park, covering about half a square; and opposite are the well-kept grounds of First Methodist Church. Together they make quite a breathing place. There are some fine building spots facing the park, which some citizens of taste will buy and erect homes for their families. If there were more such parks scattered in the residence part they would pay for themselves in the added beauty to the city.


          Down in the northeast end of the city is Woodland park; that is yet in a state of nature. When the park commissioners are able to reach it, it can be made a beautiful spot. It is a natural bit of woodland, with native forest trees, and the land just rolling enough to make a ideal spot for a landscape gardener to exercise his taste and skill. Old stagers will remember when Land’s woods and Huckleberry point were far beyond the city limits, and it was considered quite an outing to spend the day picnicking down on the banks of the bay. There were no electric cars to whirl one there in a few minutes, but the young folks used to hire the hotel omnibuses to carry them down. Ecclestone, the confectioner, was the caterer for all such occasions, and George Steele’s orchestra made the woods ring again as they played the old-fashioned tunes for the merry dancers. The whirligig of time has changed all this; big factories and the stock yards and packing houses cover the ground that was devoted to rural pleasure-making. The young folks of the present day may think they are enjoying life, but they know nothing of the pleasures of the old boys and girls had when Hamilton was but little more than a village and Wellington street was the eastern boundary of the city.


          Up on the mountain side, at the head of Cherry street, the city owns a bit of land which stands on the official records as a park. Old Corktown will in time become a fashionable part of the city, and the mountain side will take its place with the other parks.


Saturday Musings
Spectator August 16, 1902
        A good political education might be obtained by an investigation and study of the industries in Hamilton, and indeed in all Canada, that have been made possible because of the protective policy that was incorporated into the laws of the Dominion by that wise statesman and patriot, Sir John A. Macdonald. One of the object lessons is the cotton industry in Hamilton, which gives employment to some 1,300 operatives besides the well-paid office force necessary to manage the details of the business. There are three large cotton mills and two knitting factories which send their product to nearly all parts of the civilized world. The Ontario mill, on James street north, covers a whole block, and gives employment to the largest number of hands. This mill manufactures tickings, sheetings and denims, and its principal market is in Australia and New Zealand. The Hamilton Cotton Company is a close second in number of operatives employed, and its product is cottoandes, denims, yards and webbing, all of which finds a market within the Dominion. The Imperial mill, for the manufacture of duck and twines, which is in the east end of the city, and has only been in operation about one year, gives employment to as many operatives as either of the other mills. What an army of men, women and boys are dependent upon the success and prosperity of these three cotton mills? The Ontario mill is owned by the Canada Cotton Mills company, while the other two are independent and under control of local capital and management. The three mills are run at their full capacity at all times, and occasionally have to do overtime to fill their orders. The aggregate capacity of the three mills is 83 carding machines, 699 looms and 27, 746 spindles. Over 900 operatives are employed, the average wages running from $8 to $10 for men, and $5.50 to $6 for women. A number of boys are employed at $2.50 per week, while many of the experts in the mills have salaries ranging from $20 to $25. The wages paid in the mills in Hamilton compare favourably with what are paid in the best mills in the United States, and far better than the same class of operatives receive in the cotton mills in England and other European countries. During the past year, the three mills used 12,563 bales of cotton, and the value of output of manufactured goods was $1,285,000. The raw cotton comes from the southern states, and is admitted free of duty, and the mill owners have such favourable shipping rates from the south that, in point of cost on freight, they are about on an equality with the New England cotton mills. While the duty on cotton goods ranges from 25 to 35 per cent, yet the keen competition among the Canadian manufacturers tends to keep prices down. Take off the duty and every cotton mill in Canada would be closed down so quick as one would say scat! That the industry is a blessing to Hamilton will be heartily endorsed by the 600 and more operatives who are secured steady employment and at a scale of wages equal to any other branch of labour where the same talent is required.


But Hamilton only gets its share of the prosperity that comes from the cotton industry. In the Dominion there are thirty mills, some larger and many smaller than any of the three in this city. Fifteen of the mills are located in Ontario, and give employment to 2,500 operatives; eight are located in the province of Quebec, and seven more in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia. Outside of Ontario, not less than 10,000 operatives are employed in the mills.


An American company engaged in the knit goods business opened a branch in this city last May for the manufacture of fine cotton lisle and worsted hosery. As a starter, it employs fifty operatives whose wages range from lisle to $2 per week. The girls and women are unskilled at the work now, but when they become expert they will be able to earn more money. Thirty-seven knitting machines, 19 ribbers, and 12 loppers are now being operated and the product is 250 dozen of hosery and the company has been very fortunate in finding a good market for its output, the goods being attractive in appearance and well-made. This is another industry that protection has forced into Hamilton, and it is able to compete with the German and English hosiery that now controls the Canadian market.


        There are 70 cotton and woolen knitting factories in the Dominion of Canada, and all seem to be prospering. They give employment to a large army of women at fair wages. In this city, the Eagle Knitting company employs 300 operatives, and has in service 150 knitting and 125 sewing machines. It manufactures children’s flat, fleeced and ribbed underwear, and the demand for its product requires the hands to add to their wages by working overtime during the busy seasons of the year.


        All the good things of this life are coming Hamilton way. It is less than three months ago that a bylaw was defeated that was to give a bonus to secure the location of the Deering Harvester works in this city. It was a close call for an industry that now promises to be one of the largest in the city. The council acted wisely in the matter, and while it could not vote a money bonus, it had the power to give certain privileges that will fully equal the amount asked for in the bonus bylaw. The Deering company bought a tract of 35 acres of land, and is now erecting workshops that will cost $95,000. And this is not all. This week the International Harvester company with a capital of $120,000,000, of which $95,000,000 is in cash, for a working capital, has been incorporated. The five leading corporations in the United States engaged in the manufacture of agricultural implements and farm machinery of every description, have united their interest, and the Deering company, being one of the five, will make Hamilton its headquarters for the manufacture of all classes of farm machinery. Instead of 300 or 400 hands, which the Deering company expected to employ in this city, the demand for skilled labour may run up much higher in the hundreds, and probably, in the thousands. The Deerings are already planning to enlarge their shops at once, so as to have plenty of room for the new lines of implements that will be manufactured here. The establishment of the headquarters of the International Harvester company is another triumph for the protective policy. Could the Deerings and McCormacks, and all the other agricultural implement companies, have sold their goods without having to pay duty at the border, not one of those large corporations would think for a moment of building a manufactory in this country. The market would be theirs without extra cost.


        The Otis Elevator company, one of the leading concerns in that line in the United States, saw the possibilities of a large business in Canada. The Dominion government had wisely provided that the men in Canada, who could build elevators, should at least have a fair chance for the trade. The Otis company had plenty of capital, and wanted to branch out into new territory, so the directors decided to buy out the Leitch and Turnbull company and locate in Hamilton, because of its great facilities for shipments and in electric power. The company is now building a large factory in this city, and fitting it up with the most approved machinery.


        The Norton Manufacturing company, with Col. W. C. Breckenridge as its local manager, is planning greater things to meet the demands of its Canadian customers. The company is now negotiating for the purchase of the plant at the foot of Emerald street, that was built for the National Cycle and Automobile company. Col. Breckenbridge needs more room for the annual increase in trade, and possibly some new lines in the manufacture of tin ware may be added when the factory is moved into its new quarters.


        The Hamilton Steel and Iron company keeps on adding to its large plant with increasing demand for steel and iron in Canada. This week the company has paid a six per cent dividend on its capital stock, added a good slice of the profits of the past year to its surplus account and decided to spend $200,000 at once in new and improved machinery.


        But the best of the wine is left for the last of the feast of a few of the great manufacturing industries of Hamilton. Some wealthy American capitalists are now looking over the field with a view of building a large tin plate factory in Hamilton. All the tin now used in Canada comes from England or the United States. Each year the demand for tin plate is increasing, and these Americans with money to spare see no good reason why a tin plate factory in Hamilton would not pay a profitable interest on the investment. There are some things to be considered, and if the difficulties that now present themselves can be overcome a tin plate factory in Hamilton will be one of the great industries in the near future. The enlargement of the facilities of the Hamilton Steel and Iron company is an indication that one great difficulty – an abundant supply of steel billets – is in a fair way of being removed. The other points may be as easily settled. The gentleman the Hamilton end of the enterprise feels hopeful of speedy results.