1999.346 | John Penhale and his workers at Asbestos Corporation Limited, Black Lake (?), QC, about 1900

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John Penhale and his workers at Asbestos Corporation Limited, Black Lake (?), QC, about 1900
About 1900, 19th century or 20th century
Silver salts on paper
23.5 x 26.2 cm
Gift of Mr. Alfred Penhale Estate
This artefact belongs to :© Musée minéralogique et minier de Thetford Mines
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Keys to History

In the late 19th century in Thetford Mines, employer-employee relations could be quite friendly. Although the bosses spoke English and were almost all Protestant, the Catholic clergy described them as "generous benefactors, indispensable providers of employment and donations." Of course, the employees of some mines were strongly encouraged to spend their pay in company stores.

It had been legal in Canada to form a labour union since 1872, but no one thought of unionizing workers in the asbestos region.

  • What

    The workers, whose names are almost all written at the bottom of the photograph, are probably posing outside an ore-processing shed at Black Lake.

  • Where

    It was in the mines belonging to Scottish Canadian Asbestos and American Asbestos at Black Lake that engineer John J. Penhale developed his asbestos-milling technique in 1888.

  • When

    John J. Penhale was associated with asbestos mining in the Black Lake area from the 1880s on. This photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century.

  • Who

    Engineer John J. Penhale is standing on the far left. This highly sought-after advisor to the asbestos industry led an eventful life. Among other things, he managed Ling Asbestos in East Broughton before serving as a lieutenant-colonel in the First World War. Back in mining, he died in 1926 at the age of 61, assistant manager of the Asbestos Corporation of Canada.