VIEW-7023.0 | Men destroying coffer dam crib, Victoria Bridge, Montreal, QC, 1859

 
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Photograph
Men destroying coffer dam crib, Victoria Bridge, Montreal, QC, 1859
William Notman (1826-1891)
1971, 20th century
Silver salts on film (safety) - Gelatin silver process
10 x 12 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
VIEW-7023.0
© McCord Museum
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Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , bridge (558) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

Urban labour was extremely important to manufacturers and contractors. Immigrants and French Canadian habitants were two sources of labour. Irish workers were known for their rebelliousness and strikes, while French Canadian workers formed new working class communities in areas such as Point St. Charles. Politicians had to contend carefully with the needs of these constituencies.

Source : Confederation: The Creation of Canada [Web tour], by Brian J. Young, McGill University (see Links)

  • What

    Work on the bridge was dangerous, cold and windy. While ironworkers worked on the bridge itself, hundreds of other men worked in the cribs built to support it.

  • Where

    Of the 26 construction-related deaths that occurred, almost all were by drowning. Although most men could swim, the river ran fast at the bridge site and the currents drew away from shore.

  • When

    Construction began in earnest in 1854 and was completed in 1859. After completion of the Victoria Bridge, men moved on to other construction sites in Canada or the United States.

  • Who

    Workers at the bridge included stone cutters, masons, carpenters and ironworkers, as well as labourers. Many of the men were accompanied by their wives and children, so schools and clubs formed part of the communities around bridge construction sites.