Montreal 1850-1896: The Industrial City
Wire-sided tram on St. Catherine Street, Montreal, QC, 1893-94
Anonyme - Anonymous
1893-1894, 19th century
Silver salts on paper mounted on paper - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 10 cm
Gift of Mr. Robert Riley
© McCord Museum
Keywords: Cityscape (3948) , Photograph (77678) , rail (370) , streetscape (1737) , Transportation (2517)
Keys to History
Some public utilities, such as public transit, were operated by private enterprise. A streetcar service was introduced in Montreal in 1861. The horse-drawn cars ran on rails in the summer and were fitted with runners for the snow and ice in winter. The system of streetcar lines expanded gradually until 1892 and then much more rapidly as much faster, more efficient electric streetcars were introduced, ushering in the real age of mass transit. This new technology contributed to urban expansion by making it easier to travel across the city.
Other public utilities were also provided by private enterprise. Natural gas had been distributed since 1836. Electricity, the first public demonstration of which was made by French-Canadian industrialist J.-A.-I. Craig in 1879, became a public utility in the 1880s and began to replace natural gas for street lighting. Telephones were introduced starting in 1877.
An electric streetcar is coupled to an old horse-drawn car. In summer many of the streetcars used in Montreal were open cars, which had to be converted for winter use when the season changed.
By 1893 Ste. Catherine was already starting to become the city's main shopping street. The streetcar system was a key factor in this development, as it provided a means of transportation for customers who lived farther out.
After a number of trials, the age of the electric streetcar began for real in 1888, in Richmond, Virginia. The adoption of this new technology in 1892 placed Montreal at the forefront of technological progress.
Financier Louis-Joseph Forget (1853-1911), who became chairman of the streetcar company in 1892, was the driving force behind the electrification of the public transit system.