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Le journalier

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MP-1976.288.2
© McCord Museum
Photograph, glass lantern slide
Entrance to Lachine Canal, Montreal, QC, 1826, watercolour by unknown artist
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1910, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin silver process
6 x 8 cm
Gift of Mr. and Mrs. F. W. Cowie
MP-1976.288.2
© McCord Museum

M984.273
© McCord Museum
Painting
Lachine Canal, Lachine, QC
James Duncan (1806-1881)
About 1850, 19th century
Watercolour and graphite on paper; Lithography
19.4 x 29.3 cm
Gift of Dr. Daniel Lowe
M984.273
© McCord Museum

Description:

This view, executed near the first lock of the Lachine Canal, looks north-east into the harbour. The small building to the left of the lock served as quarters for the men who operated the floodgates. In 1844, the canal had undergone further enlargement to accommodate bigger vessels, and by 1850 - the time this watercolour was executed - the port of Montreal was receiving 222 vessels per season and the tonnage had increased to 46,000 tons. The canal was also a popular site for leisure activities. A young boy can be seen fishing from the top of the floodgate while other figures observe the scenery from the banks. Although the work is not signed, comparison of the inscription with those on other works known to be by Duncan shows it to be in the artist's hand. The people depicted in the work are also typical of this artist's handling of the human figure.

Keys to History:

This scene dates from about 1850, when the Lachine Canal was the first link in a series of canals connecting Montreal and Lake Superior.

Previously, the Lachine Rapids had stopped ships from going further upstream. The canal construction project, which was initiated by the merchants of the city before being taken over by the government, was completed in 1825. Almost 14 km long, the canal was originally designed for small flat-bottomed sailing ships, but many modifications were made in the 19th century in order to accommodate bigger and bigger vessels.

These major construction projects permitted Montreal to supplant the port of Quebec City as the main entry port to the St. Lawrence. The metropolis, which would now accommodate large ocean-going ships, became an essential port of call for inland navigation.

What:

This view shows the first lock of the canal. The port of Montreal can be seen in the background.

Where:

Beginning in the second half of the 19th century, industries were established near the canal to take advantage of the water power potential and the transportation facilities. However, as the artist suggests, people also enjoyed walking along the canal.

When:

The waterway was profitable. In 1859, the transportation of a ton of merchandise from Montreal to Toronto cost $2-3 by water and $3.50 by rail.

Who:

This anonymous painting has been attributed to the artist James Duncan (1806-1881) because of its style. Born in Ireland, Duncan immigrated to Canada in 1830, and settled in Montreal.

M15934.45
© McCord Museum
Print
Laying the Monumental stone, marking the graves of 6000 immigrants near Victoria Bridge
1860, 19th century
Ink on paper - Wood engraving
7.4 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
M15934.45
© McCord Museum

Description:

The Irish immigrants who settled in Griffintown in the 19th century were a source of cheap labour, so much so that many of them were hired to work on large-scale construction projects such as the digging of the Lachine Canal, which opened in 1825, and the construction of the Victoria Bridge, inaugurated in 1860. Still, life in Griffintown was difficult as a result of frequent floods, major fires, unsanitary housing conditions and pollution from the surrounding factories. Moreover, the quarter was struck by several epidemics. In 1846-1847, 6 000 British subjects, for the most part Irish immigrants living in Griffintown, died of typhus. In 1860, workers on the Victoria Brige erected a monument in their memory.


M20947
© McCord Museum
Print
Lachine Canal improvements, Montreal, 1877
Eugene Haberer
1877, 19th century
23.2 x 35.2 cm
Purchase from John L. Russell Reg'd
M20947
© McCord Museum

M993X.5.1529.1
© McCord Museum
Wood engraving
The government inspector's office
Anonyme - Anonymous
1850, 19th century
Ink on newsprint - Wood engraving
10.6 x 14.8 cm
M993X.5.1529.1
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

In the 19th century, large epidemics incurred terrible losses in Canada. Cholera decimated 3 500 people in Quebec City in 1832. Typhus claimed more than 5 000 victims in the single year of 1847 at the quarantine station on Grosse Île, near Quebec City. The overcrowded and unsanitary boats that brought the British immigrants to Canada were breeding grounds for epidemics. To prevent the spread of disease on the continent, cities through which immigrants passed in large numbers, such as Quebec City, made arrangements to have passengers undergo a medical exam. In Lower Canada, a Central Health Board was set up in 1854, but it did not have enough authority to effectively fight problems of public hygiene. Only at the end of the century did Ontario (1882) and Quebec (1885) set up a permanent agency for this purpose.

Source : Disasters and Calamities [Web tour], by Nathalie Lampron (see Links)

What:

The victims of the great epidemics of the 19th century were mostly Irish immigrants who had come here following the great famine caused by disastrous harvests.

Where:

From the 17th century, typhus claimed thousands of victims in Canada, but in 1847, the disease was more virulent. Cholera was introduced into the country in 1832 and claimed more victims in 1834, 1849, 1851, 1852, 1854 and 1881.

When:

The cities of Quebec, Montreal, Kingston, Toronto and St. John were affected by the great typhus epidemic of 1847, which made more than 20 000 victims.

Who:

The authorities had to set up an inspection and quarantine system so as to prevent the spread of epidemics and to reassure the anxious population who, in some cities, attacked the hospitals where contaminated people were being treated.

M985.230.5356
© McCord Museum
Print
Montreal - The Spring Floods - The Rising Water, a Sketch in Griffintown
Edward Jump
1873, 19th century
Ink on paper - Photolithography
40.5 x 27.5 cm
Gift of Mr. Colin McMichael
M985.230.5356
© McCord Museum

Keys to History:

Between the French Catholic community and the English Protestant community stood the Irish, straddling the two camps, since most of them were Catholic but spoke English; by this time, their percentage was declining, however. The small Jewish community, which was also distinctive in terms of both language and religion, made up a separate group that would soon grow with the arrival of a first wave of immigrants from Eastern Europe in the 1880s.

Despite these seemingly impervious ethnic and religious barriers, the groups and individuals were in constant interaction in the city -- in the workplace, in stores, in the street and other public spaces -- so that exchange was a fact of daily life. Coexistence in an urban environment is a dynamic process. Social differences enrich diversity, with each group having its upper class and its working class, its élite and its mass. At times, ethnic and religious solidarities took precedence; at others, social solidarities did so.

What:

This caricature shows some of the unpleasant effects of spring flooding in a working-class Montreal neighbourhood. It also conveys a number of stereotypes about the Irish population that lived there.

Where:

Griffintown was an industrial and working-class area lying west of Old Montreal, in the Ste. Anne district. Most of the people who lived there were of Irish origin.

When:

In the springtime, the St. Lawrence often overflowed its banks, flooding the lower parts of the city along the river, like Griffintown. The worst flooding occurred in 1886. The flooding problem was not solved permanently until the start of the 20th century.

Who:

In 1871 almost a quarter of Montreal's population, or 25,376 people, were of Irish origin. The Irish outnumbered both the English and the Scots combined.

© Musée McCord Museum