M992.102.6 | Barrel

1900-1920, 20th century
70 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Newlands Coburn
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Barrel (3)
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Keys to History

Kegs and barrels are containers that were used almost universally in the 19th century. Because they were watertight, they could be used to store all kinds of products, from loose nails to flour or beer.

These containers were therefore indispensable for the transportation of goods. Loaded on board ships and trains, they were transported from port to port and from station to station and were piled up on docks and carts.

The expansion of sea trade meant there was a growing need for storage space. In the middle of the century, Montreal only had 1.5 km of stone docks. By 1877, there were nearly 7 km, extending from the Lachine Canal as far downstream as where today's Frontenac Street is. However, it was not until the 1890s that the development of port infrastructure really proceeded rapidly.

  • What

    A keg is a small barrel. With time, the barrel became an international unit of volume used to determine the capacity of a ship. It is equal to 2.83 m³.

  • Where

    A few Montreal businesses specializing in the manufacture of kegs and barrels were concentrated in the Ste. Anne district of Griffintown, the town that became the Little Burgundy neighbourhood.

  • When

    In Montreal, the cooperage industry shrank after 1871, when the big factories, such as the Redpath sugar refinery, gradually began to make their own containers.

  • Who

    The inscription "B.A. Stinson" under the keg could be the name of its manufacture, owner or recipient.