15 December

Beatty Arranges for Building of C.P.R. Ships

Some salt water sailors look down on the fresh water seamen, so captains of the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company may not like to be reminded that their service started on the Great Lakes. On the C.P.R. transcontinental, one of the most costly and difficult. sections to build was along the north shore of Lake Superior. The directors decided to buy three ships which would operate from Owen Sound, Ontario, to Port Arthur's Landing, and transport supplies to the construction gangs.

The C.P.R. picked a good man for the job. He was Henry Beatty, an Ulster Scot, who had come to Canada as a young man and settled at Thorold, Ontario. Young Beatty went west in 1863 and made $40,000 in the Cariboo gold rush. Then he returned to Thorold and organized a steamship service that eventually became the Northwest Transportation Company of Sarnia.

In September 1883, it was settled that Beatty would organize a Great Lakes shipping service for the C.P.R. and on December 15, he was in Scotland arranging for the building of two ships. The Alberta and Athabasca were constructed in such a way that they could be cut in half after they sailed across the Atlantic. This enabled them to be brought through the relatively small canals, and then put together again for service on the Great Lakes. His third ship, the Algoma, was the former City of Toronto that had plied between Toronto and Hamilton.

The success of the three ships encouraged the C.P.R. to organize the transpacific and transatlantic steamship services that made the yellow funnels with red and white checkerboards, familiar sights in most harbours around the world. In fact it was as early as 1889 that the C.P.R. ordered three 6,000-ton liners: Empress of India, Empress of Japan and Empress of China. When the Empress of India made her trial runs in 1891, the cornpany's red and white checkered house flag was unfurled for the first time.

The steamship service probably saved the C.P.R. from bankruptcy between 1893 and 1895. There was a depression which caused 156 American railroads to go out of business, but the C.P.R. made a profit, thanks to the business generated by the popular steamship service.


15 December

-1818    The Provincial Agricultural Society was formed in Nova Scotia.

-1858    A railway opened between Halifax and Truro, Nova Scotia.

-1891    The first trainload of British sailors bound for China arrived at Halifax and crossed Canada by a train which was specially decorated. There were receptions at Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Calgary.

               Premier Mercier of Quebec was dismissed because public contracts were used for campaign funds. He was acquitted of the charge in November 1892.

-1896    The Canadian Northern Railway completed a line from Gladstone to Dauphin, Manitoba (see June 9).

-1902    The first official wireless message was sent across the Atlantic.

-1920    An Order-in-Council was passed so that no immigrant could enter Canada without having $250, $125 for every member of the family over eighteen, and $50 for each child.

-1925    Canada and Britain signed an agreement reducing transportation rates for immigrants.

-1960    Montreal's $30-million airport was officially opened.