Friday, 4 December 2015


Spectator February 25, 1905


        History repeats itself almost every day in Hamilton. In looking over an old copy of the Spectator, we find that 51 years ago tonight, the City Council held a meeting to fix salaries of city officials for the year 1854.  As this question of salaries is now before the council and Ald. Witton is preparing a scale for the current year, it may be interesting to the present generation of Hamiltonians to know how small the emolument of city officers were half a century ago. The council was then composed of aldermen and councilors, and all but three or four have crossed the river of death. Robert McElroy was mayor, having been elected for a third term. The aldermen were Patterson, Mullin, Mitchell, Murison, Davis, Chisholm, William Edgar, Magill and Crawford; councilors, Armstrong, Copp, Nicholson, Quimby, Tuckett, Fitzpatrick, Matthews and Charlton. On motion of Councillor, Copp, seconded by Ald. Edgar, the salary list for 1854 was passed, as follows:

          Chamberlain                                                                   $1,000

          Clerk, for do                                                                              450

          City Clerk                                                                                 1,000

          Clerk, for do                                                                           300  

          Police Magistrate                                                                 1,000

          Manager for Waterworks                                                         1,000     

          Clerk for Waterworks                                                               300

          Collector for Waterworks                                                         200

          High Bailiff, with house, fuel, etc.                                                         400

          Chief of police, with house, fuel, etc.                                        500

          Deputy chief, with free house                                                   350

          Six policemen, each $200                                                    $1,200

          Machinist                                                                                   100

          Inspector of Weights and Measures                                            50

          License Inspector                                                                       400

          City Messenger                                                                          250

          Hospital Physician                                                                        400

          Hospital Superintendent                                                             250               

          Hospital Matron                                                                            90       

          House of Refuge Superintendent                                               200

          Foreman Waterworks                                                                 400

          Engineer Waterworks                                                                 250

          Fireman Waterworks                                                                  250

          Keeper of Reservoir                                                                    200

          Keeper  of Filtering Basin                                                            200

          Keeper of Prisoners at jail                                                           250

          It was very evident that the council of 1854 was living up to the precepts of an old-time Methodist congregation that did not believe in making their pastor purse-proud by giving him too much salary, so the official board fervently prayed that the Lord would keep him humble and the congregation would keep him poor. Probably one reason may be given for the small amounts voted to some of the officials was that at the time the city exchequer was in a very low condition, and the creditors of the city were clamoring for their money. At that time, there was what was known as the Municipal Loan Fund, from which municipalities in financial difficulties could borrow money from the government to help them pull through. Sir Issac Buchanan, who then represented Hamilton in the provincial parliament, made application, on behalf of the city, for a loan from this fund, and he was told by Sandfield McDonald that there was no such fund; yet, George Brown, editor of the Globe, secured a gift of $13,000, to help pay the cost of building the Toronto jail. The Globe was always hostile to Hamilton.




          A story is told by one of the largest grain buyers in Hamilton, which happened early in the 50s. He prided himself on his smartness, and when he got the worst of it in a grain transaction, the other buyers made considerable sport of him. The grain buyer got stuck on 200 bushels of barley by a cute farmer, who had one bag of splendid grain, which he showed as a sample, but when the buyer examined the lot after it was dumped in the warehouse bins he discovered that he had been duped by the farmer. However, he determined to quietly pocket his loss and sold the damaged barley in one of the city brewing establishments at a low figure. When the brewer examined the barley, after it had been delivered at the brewery, he concluded he could do better with it by converting it into malt, and he had it dried and fixed up for market. The brewer hired a farmer to haul the barley to the Gore, which was then the grain market, and as barley was scarce in the market and there was a good demand for it, there was brisk competition among the buyers. The buyer who sold it to the brewer bid the highest, and he got back his own barley at 34 cents a bushel, twice the sum for which he had sold it to the brewer. The joke was too good to keep and the brewer and the other buyers had the laugh on John. For years afterward John would get swearing mad at anyone who would ask him, “how is barley?”






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