Safe Passage: Aids to Navigation on the St. Lawrence

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Creative Commons License
Montreal Fire, Life and Inland Navigation Assurance Company. Tariff of Rates of Inland Navigation Insurance.
August 28th, 1843, 19th century
Ink on paper
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  commercial (1771) , Print (10661) , Sign and symbol (2669)
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Keys to History

Reasons for the Increase in Maritime Traffic
There were thousands of new arrivals to the Upper St. Lawrence and Great Lakes regions during the 19th century. Whether Loyalists escaping the United States, immigrants from Europe, or Canadians in search of new lands, their presence changed the nature and the volume of maritime traffic on the St. Lawrence. Between 1818 and 1825, for example, approximately 5000 tons of merchandise were shipped upriver to the Great Lakes each year. By 1832, that rate had increased to 21,000 tons. That year alone, 52,000 immigrants landed in the major ports of the St. Lawrence.

The new colonists needed a variety of goods to survive: food, clothing, farming equipment, stoves, hardware, etc. For a number of intermediaries, especially insurance companies, the increase in cargo hauling meant a commercial boom.

  • What

    The insurance business has been around for a long time. From the earliest years of the St. Lawrence River transport industry, there were companies to insure the cargoes of ships sailing up and down the river, as indicated by this printed list of insurance rates. It also shows that the premium was calculated on the basis of the ship's route on the St. Lawrence.

  • Where

    The Montreal Fire, Life and Inland Navigation Assurance Company, to state its full name, set up shop on St. James Street in what is today called Old Montreal. In addition to its numerous agents in Ontario (in Prescott, Kingston and Toronto, for example), the company employed agents in several American cities, including Detroit and Cleveland.

  • When

    These were the rates in 1843, a time when more and more people and goods were being transported on the St. Lawrence. For example, when this rate list was issued (on August 28, 1843), the Lachine and Beauharnois canals were under construction. The increased traffic represented a good business opportunity, and several companies jumped at it. The Montreal Fire, Life and Inland Navigation Assurance Company was founded in 1840.

  • Who

    The rates were of interest mainly to shipowners, since the document lists the premiums for schooners, Durham boats and steamers. The document was probably given to merchants as well, so that they could determine the