Thursday, 31 December 2015


From now till the summer suns come again, Hamilton horses will walk and stand on slippery places. The inventors of asphalt pavements certainly did not take into consideration the danger to horses, and even to pedestrians, that beset them. It is bad enough during the street-watering   with the danger to horses from slipping on slimy, wet pavements, but how much worse is it in the fall when the pavement is almost constantly wet or icy? Even well-shod horses are as much in danger as are the smooth-shod. There is no question but that an asphalt pavement always looks well, but that is all there is to it. It is no more serviceable than the old-fashioned tar macadam roadways that were in Hamilton fifteen and twenty years ago, and costs twice as much to make and keep in repair. Then the tar macadam road has the advantage of furnishing a sure foothold for the horses. Some years ago, when the writer was in London, England, the asphalt pavements on the principal streets were being replaced by block pavements because of the danger to horses; and here we might also state that never did we see a watering cart on the streets in daytime; the streets were swept and flushed during the night and in the daytime an army of boys was employed with brushes and dust pans to gather the horse droppings. As a result the streets of London were proverbial for their cleanliness and safety for horses travelling them. Here in the streets of Hamilton, it is no uncommon thing for horses to slip and fall down, even in dry weather. Then, how much more the danger when the pavements are wet, or icy ?




          As a matter of economy, then, and comfort for the poor horses, Hamilton should get back to the days of tar macadam.

          (At this point the original of the Hamilton Spectator had a rip which left the microfilm copy of this article incomplete – I will try to summarize what I can determine before returning to the Old Muser’s own words)

          Muser notes that “according to recent estimates … asphalt is an expensive luxury for road-making” Muser question conditions on Catharine street where residents are still paying sewer rates for privilege of connecting with one of the first north-south sewer lines laid in the city, and Muser notes Catharine street is fashionable in certain parts of it but it has never been a major street. John street was a “neglected street” which “back in the days” was “prominent” Muser claims that “wire-pulling” determined which street got asphalt. John street got some asphalt, Catharine nothing. Muser then reminisces about competition between James and John street for improvement back in 1840s)

          (in old days, ca 1840s) John street had the advantage as far as location was concerned, being the main street leading from the mountain top, and the farmers had to use the John street road to get into town. Then it had another advantage in the way of business, especially in taverns, fo nearly every other house sold booze. James street, however, triumphed and Robert Laurie, the street inspector, was instructed to macadamize James street. There was great rejoicing for the James streetives (Ibid) over their victory, and a corresponding depression on John street. Early next morning, Paola Brown visited John street with a blanketful of grass seed suspended from his neck, and went up and down the street ringing his bell and scattering the seed along the highway. Everybody was alarmed, and asked Paola what he was seeding the street for. “The town has no more use for John street as a roadway and I am seeding it down to grass to graze the cows.” For more than half a century, John street was neglected till recently, and now they have it asphalted  part of the way. The town cows had a good thing of it at the old haymarket, even though the seed that Paola sowed never yielded a crop of grass. The money spent asphalting John street would have laid two tar macadam roadways and Catherine street could have come in for a decent road. The same rule might be extended over the city and two good roadways built, instead of one for the same amount of money.




          About fifteen years ago, Hamilton became famous, not only in the United States butin foreign countries, through a report written by the American consul in this city to his government in Washington, setting forth the virtues of tar macadam as a road builder. The report was published by the government and sent to parties interested in road-making, and, as a result for more than a year, delegations from United States cities and counties visited Hamilton to get some practical lessons as to its real value. The city solicitor and Tom Povee, who had charge of the construction gangs, gave all the information needed, and the visitors went away pleased and profited by their research. By and by Hamilton began to put on dude airs, and nothing but asphalt was good enough for them to rest their eyes upon. The macadam was too common, even though it lasted just as long, and then it was too cheap, costing less than half what the asphalt cost. And the asphalt has been costly enough and requiring an army of repair men almost constantly at work patching up the holes. No good business man would spend two dollars to asphalt a square yard of roadway when he could get the same results for one dollar in tar macadam. And then the tar macadam has the advantage in making a dustless roadway, thus saving thousands of dollars to the taxpayers every year. Certainly the expense of asphalting upper John street was money thrown away, for the road is always dangerous to horses, especially in winter, and numerous plans have been suggested as a rememdy, but nothing yet has made the road any better. In the end the asphalt coating will have to be removed and probably tar macadam substituted.




          Hamilton was the fourth city in America to adopt the system of sewage disposal works, and delegations used to come from other cities to see how it worked. It was perfect as far as it went, but the pit at the disposal works was not large enough to take of the sewage at certain seasons of the year when the surface water in the streets went down in torrents to the bay. Then the floodgates are opened and the sewage, instead of passing through the regular channels for purification are run untreated into the bay. But this does not often occur. Sewage engineers other plans than the one originally adopted by Hamilton, which are more costly, but the question is suggested, do they do the work any better, and are they as economical in construction and cost of upkeep? There is one thing certain, and that is the original system adopted by Hamilton did not cost near as much as the later system that are being experimented with, and the latest systems are not doing the work any better, if the occasional reports in the city dailies are to be relied on.




          A Hamilton manufacturing firm was fortunate in receiving a sub-contract for war materials for the government which required about 25 per cent nickel in their construction. Hamilton is not more than 200 miles from the largest supply of nickel for its use in fulfilling its contract in the country of its production. There is but one other known supply of nickel in the world, and that is in New Caledonia, a French convict colony about 14,000 miles from this city. The government of France mines its nickel itself and refines it for its own use and for French industries. It is estimated that Sudbury furnishes at least 90 per cent of the nickel of the world, and yet Hamilton, only 200 miles from the source of this supply, cannot buy a sufficient quantity to fill a government contract. There was a time when Canada owned all this wealth of nickel, but its moneyed men did not look upon it as an attractive investment, and outside capital swooped down and bought the mining property. Originally the nickel mines were owned by four Canadian companies, who sold out in 1902 to the International Nickel company of New Jersey. The first important ore body of nickel was exposed in 1884 on the right of way of the Canadian Pacific railway, when that road was being built through Sudbury. Mining operations were first undertaken by the Canadian Copper company in the summer of 1885, and in January, 1886, the company was organized, with a capital of $2,000,000, to operate three other mines. The first three years – 1886-87-88 – the final value of the nickel produced was only $1,138,160, and ten years later the production was worth$9,535, 806. Its value in the meantime had been discovered in the manufacture of steel, and in what is known as German silver. Another company was organized in England, partly with German capital, called the Mond Nickel company, and between the two foreign corporations, the one in New Jersey and the other in England, Canada sold its birthright of one among the most valuable mining properties. But the Canadian capitalists were to blame, they had not sufficient confidence in the undeveloped wealth of their own country. It is said that one Canadian bank lost several million dollars in investments in a foreign country. Had the managers invested the money in nickel mines, Canada would have had the mines and the money. AS it was the money was sunk and the mines are owned by  foreign countries, and Canada owns neither. However, the war now in progress may teach Canadian capitalists a lesson, for when idle factories take up the manufacture of goods formerly known as “made in Germany,” then will Canada take its place as one of the industrial centers, and instead of soup kitchens and relief associations, there will be fewer stoppages of machinery in Hamilton, and both companies and skilled labor will be enjoying the luxury of listening to the wheels go round.




          There was a Hamilton girl who was quite sure that when it came her turn to marry she could not live in a house any smaller than her father’s. Love in a cottage was not her idea . Scores of girls who are now in the old maid list used to talk that way, though it is doubtful if they ever seriously meant it; if it was bluff, but if an opportunity had offered of almost any kind of man they were were open to conviction. Cupid, she thought, needed plenty of room to flap his wings and to practice his archery; he could not pine in a bird cage. So she must have an immense library with a fireplace that would take a six-foot log; a drawing-room with a parquetry flooring and thick rugs; the dining-room would have to be large and spacious, able to seat a large company, with an imposing bowl of flowers on the center of the table. This young lady had extravagant ideas. She had forgotten how her father and mother began life in Hamilton, how they had to toil early and late for the comforts with which they were able to surround their children. Probably her mother’s favorite instrument was a washboard, while this young dreamer amused herself on a piano. Times have changed in that home, and the father, by industry and economy, was now able to indulge in the luxuries of life and give his dear old wife the comforts that were denied both of them when they came across the sea and settled in Hamilton before the days of railroads and motor cars. Their children had fared better. The boys were ambitious and began work as soon as their school days were over, but the girls were raised in luxurious ease, and the oldest one, of who we are writing, did not take kindly to the idea of love in a cottage with a man she loved; but rather dreamed of some wealthy old fellow falling in love with her and giving her a home among the 100.




          Dreamers sometimes have a very pleasant awakening. Our Hamilton girl had sense enough to change her mind, as the sequel will show. About eighteen months after she married, a girl friend paid her a visit, and found her in a little frame house on a side street, ridiculously happy with her husband and her baby. Hamilton had not then grown to any large proportions, but it was a little better than when her father and mother first located in a humble cottage down by the sad sea waves of the bay. The back yard was just about big enough to hold a clothes-line and a narrow flowerbed against the fence; the front verandah was only large enough for a little hammock for baby and a couple of chairs for the happy young mother and father; and they were happy listening to the cooing of the little mite in the hammock; the largest room, which was a parlor and living room was about the size of the vestibule of the bride’s girlhood home. “I know what you are thinking,’” laughed the proud little housekeeper to her guest, as she fondled baby to her heart. “You’re wondering how I could have made up my mind to live in this tiny piano-box. Love is to be found in a cottage, and John and the baby are two kings that rule over it. I’ve found that it isn’t the size of the house that matters; it’s the size of the heart, and the biggest hearts can live in the littlest houses.” That was many years ago. Today, John and his family occupy a larger house than the little piano-box by the bay side, but it goes without saying that love in a cottage can always expand as the house grows larger. The queen of the household always smiles when she hears some young girl dreaming as she did half a century ago.




          As soon as a man begins to climb the ladder of success, there comes a lot of whipper-snappers growling at his heels and trying to drag him back. We see that in business and politics every day. He may be a good fellow with his associates in the workshop till his merits as a workman bring him to foremanship, and though there may be no change in his manner toward his old shop mates, yet there are generally a snarling few to stab him in the back. It is but one of the unfortunate phases of life, but it may be expected till humanity is made over. John Allan, when but little more than a boy, left Hamilton with only his bricklayer’s trowel as his passport to earn a living that was not attainable in the land of his birth on account of dull times in the building trade.  He was able and willing to work and to such a job is nearly alays open. For years he toiled at his trade, and during those years he was an active member of the bricklayers’ union; and after he became a contractor on his own account his sympathies for his fellow workmen kept him in touch with them. John Allan prospered in his new home, as hundreds and thousands of young Canadians have done who were compelled to seek work  in a strange land, and when the years began to count on him, he returned to his native land and the city he left long ago with only his bricklayer’s trowel as his passport. His yearning days were over, for he had been prudent and industrious during the years he was away.

Back on his old stamping ground, where he worked as a boy and man at the bricklayer’s trade, John Allan’s neighbors began to take notice of his business ability and suggestions, and the people of the ward thought they could make no mistake in having such a man to represent them in the city council. He discharged his duty as an alderman to the best interests of the city, and then the whole people called him to controllership. Here again he proved his ability to manage the affairs of the city; and then he was called still higher and for nearly two terms, he has filled the office of mayor. In every position of trust he has satisfied the people of Hamilton of his worth as an honest official.


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