II-105590 | Machinery and coal tower, Montreal, QC, 1894

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Machinery and coal tower, Montreal, QC, 1894
Wm. Notman & Son
1894, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
25 x 20 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , industrial (826) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

The Kingman Brown & Co. coal towers seen here were part of the Montreal skyline in the late 1800s. At the time of Confederation (1867), coal accounted for less than 10% of the country's total energy production, but by the turn of the century, it had replaced wood as the primary power source. Coal was used to fuel steam engines and to power the production of iron and steel, both of which were key to Canada's industrialization.

Source : Disasters and Calamities [Web tour], by Nathalie Lampron (see Links)

  • What

    19th-century Canada was powered by coal, for light, heating and operating the all-important steam engine. Montreal's strategic positioning as an import-export hub led many coal shippers and wholesalers to set up business there.

  • Where

    Canadian coal depots were usually located near a port or a railway to facilitate distribution of the fuel.

  • When

    During World War I (1914-1918), rationing sent coal prices soaring, accelerating the conversion to electricity in Montreal factories.

  • Who

    Until 1875, producers in Nova Scotia and Great Britain shipped coal to Ontario via Montreal. For the following 60 or so years, that vital fuel came from the U.S., especially Pennsylvania.