VIEW-1498 | Ice shove, Commissioners Street, Montreal, QC, about 1884

Ice shove, Commissioners Street, Montreal, QC, about 1884
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1884, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , streetscape (1737)
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Keys to History

Break-up occurred in the spring, when the river began moving and carried away large blocks of ice.

Since the river was narrow and not very deep at Montreal, spring break-up was for a long time accompanied by huge ice jams, accumulations of ice that formed veritable dams. If the ice jam did not give way quickly, the water would rise and flood part of the island. In March 1871, the weekly The Canadian Illustrated News reported that flooding in the streets of Montreal caused by spring break-up was trying the tempers of citizens.

In the 19th century, Montreal was also a rapidly expanding port that was trying to attract a growing number of commercial ships. To this end, there were all kinds of development projects on the St. Lawrence waterway and the river was gradually deepened and widened. These improvements put an end to the annual floods.

  • What

    In spite of improvements to the waterway, there would still be a risk of ice jams today if it were not for powerful icebreakers that patrol the river every winter beginning in the month of February.

  • Where

    Ice jams - dams formed by blocks of ice - form mostly in the narrow or winding sections of waterways.

  • When

    Starting in 1848, a series of canals, as well as the progressive dredging of the St. Lawrence riverbed, made the river navigable from the Atlantic to the Great Lakes.

  • Who

    The president of the Harbour Commission, John Young (1811-1878), was so active in the improvement projects for the St. Lawrence waterway that he would go down in history as the father of the port of Montreal.