Safe Passage: Aids to Navigation on the St. Lawrence

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Creative Commons License
Design for corporate name of Richelieu and Ontario navigation company
John Henry Walker (1831-1899)
1850-1885, 19th century
Ink on paper on supporting paper - Wood engraving
8.5 x 16 cm
Gift of Mr. David Ross McCord
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  letter, word (178) , Print (10661) , Sign and symbol (2669)
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Keys to History

Consequences of the Increase in Maritime Traffic
New Business Opportunities
Numerous shipping companies were founded during the middle decades of the 19th century, and a variety of factors came together to ensure their success. The harbour at Quebec City had become a major destination for oceangoing ships. There was therefore a need for fleets of smaller boats to carry the offloaded merchandise and passengers to Montreal. Competition in shipping on the St. Lawrence was fierce, with every company trying to outdo the others in terms of safety and efficiency.

One of the best-known shipping companies on the St. Lawrence was the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company, itself the product of the amalgamation of two smaller firms. Its first president was the celebrated captain of industry, Sir Hugh Allan.

  • What

    The Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was founded in 1874 when two rival shipping firms joined forces: the Compagnie du Richelieu, which operated boats in the Quebec portion of the St. Lawrence, and the Canadian Steam Navigation Company, which operated further to the west.

  • Where

    The Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company operated its vessels on the St. Lawrence from Saguenay and Tadoussac (where the company built a hotel) to Lake Ontario, and from there to Toronto. Travelling downriver the steamers "ran" the rapids, much to the thrill of their passengers.

  • When

    Right from its beginnings in 1874, the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was a very successful inland shipping company. It took over several smaller competitors. Then, in 1913, it was amalgamated by rivals during the formation of Canada Steamship Lines.

  • Who

    The first president of the Richelieu and Ontario Navigation Company was Sir Hugh Allan, a rich industrialist who had also made a name for himself in the shipping business.