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© McCord Museum
Harbour from examining warehouse, Montreal, QC, about 1890
Wm. Notman & Son
About 1890, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Sir Hugh Allan had a view of the port and the vessels belonging to his shipping company, Montreal Ocean Steamship, from the tower of his house overlooking the city.

Between 1868 and 1891, the company used 37 ships and established eight different lines between North America and the United Kingdom. It had exclusive rights to transport immigrants and other passengers and to carry trans-Atlantic mail.

The advent of steamships in the 19th century forced the Port of Montreal to make a whole series of changes to adapt to the new requirements of this type of vessel. The port eventually became bigger than that of Quebec City.

Sir Hugh was a pioneer in the shipping business. His constant technical improvements were largely responsible for his company's prosperity.


Sir Hugh's company commissioned the first steel-hulled trans-Atlantic steamer and the first two turbine-equipped passenger liners.


From November to May, when the Port of Montreal was inaccessible, Allan Line ships out of Liverpool, England, headed for Portland, Maine.


Ocean-going sailing ships were really put out of business by steamers in 1872.


In the latter half of the 19th century, thousands of longshoremen, carters, labourers and seamen found work at the Port of Montreal, which was always very active thanks to the arrival of trans-Atlantic ocean liners.

© Musée McCord Museum