M303 | The Port of Montreal, 1830

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The Port of Montreal, 1830
Robert Auchmuty Sproule (1799-1845)
1830, 19th century
Watercolour on paper on supporting paper
23 x 35 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Painting (2229) , painting (2227) , Waterscape (2986)
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In this watercolour, the harbour of Montreal is depicted from the river looking north-east along De la Commune Street. The harbour is bustling with activity - mainly the loading of squared timber into the hold of a three-masted ship. By 1830, the timber trade had replaced the fur trade as Montreal's major source of wealth. The Napoleonic Wars had resulted in a blockade of the Scandanavian sources of timber and Great Britain was forced to turn to its North American colonies for a continous supply for shipbuilding. On the small island in midstream, timber can be seen stacked ready to be loaded onto other ships. Part of the name of the double-paddled steamboat downstream from the timber ship can just be made out : ND. HENRY. It can be identified as the Edmund Henry, a ferry that kept a regular schedule between Montreal and the south shore. By 1830, both John Molson (1763-1836) and John Torrance (1786-1870) had fleets of steamboats like this one plying the river. At this time, the construction of wharves had just been started, and there is one visible here beside the birch-bark canoe in the foreground, Ships could still not dock, however, so long gangplanks were used for boarding. This was nonetheless a significant improvement, since prior to this ships were obliged to anchor in midstream and their cargo had to be transported to shore in small flat-bottomed boats. The city is faintly outlined in the distance, with the spire of the Chapel of Bonsecours discernible. Across the river, the Union Jack can be seen flying from the fort on St. Helen's Island.