Thursday, 19 July 2012

1885 - Boat Launch

In 1885, Hamilton was still a location where ships were built and launched into the bay.
At the foot of Macnab street was the Robertson’s yard where, throughout the winter of 1884-1885, a ship was built for the firm of Mitchell & Thornton.
To be called the Ouida, the ship was described in the Spectator of April 27, 1885 as being a “handsome, staunchly built craft of about 60 tons burden, 70 feet long (set beam, has cabin accommodation for about 250 people, and draws about four feet of water.) She has the Clara Louise engine – 17 horse power – and a new 20 horse power boiler. Her screw is a 4 foot 6 one, and with her powerful machinery, the Ouida ought to be able to glide through the water at a surprisingly rapid rate. She was built by Mr. G. I. Cooper, of Mavel, Chatauqua lake, after a model of his.
“She was built by Mr. G. I. Cooper, of Mavel, Chatauqua lake, after a model of his. He has built several American boats on the same model, and they have been found unequalled for speed, comfort and safety.”
Intended to be a vessel to carry passengers to the Bay View resort at the far west end of the harbour, or to the Brant Inn or to the Beach Strip, the Ouida was outfitted to provide care for its passengers :
“The Ouida is handsomely finished in hard wood, and bears all over the marks of close and careful supervision in seeing that every part of the work was well and thoroughly done. Sliding glass windows will protect the cabin in stormy weather, but in times of peace upon the bay, the windows will be lowered and the cabin made an open one. Cushioned seats and benches will be added in a few days, and everything possible done to make her snug and comfortable.”
There had been no public announcement that the Ouida was to be launched during the afternoon of Saturday, April 25, 1885. However, word somehow circulated that there would be a launching at 4:30 that afternoon and an immense crowd gathered to witness the event.
The Times reporter arrived at the location a full ninety minutes before the scheduled launch and was taken aback by what he saw :
“When the Times’ representative arrived on the scene at 3 o’clock, the high bank overlooking the bay was lined with people, and a large number had congregated in the yard proper. The steamer as she stood presented an appearance which caused general exclamations of approbation from all.”
About a dozen men were hired to help launch the Ouida and they started their work promptly at 4:30.
As the ship started down her route to the water, the large crowd started to cheer, and the especially invited guests waved to those on shore excitedly, but, as described in the Times:
“Owing to one of the slides slipping off the ways, and the consequent entanglement of a chain, a delay of an hour or so resulted, but soon after six o’clock, the builder, owners and spectators had the satisfaction of seeing the staunch little steamer riding, as pretty as a picture, in the waters of the bay.”
The delay from 4:30 until the final descent of the Ouida into the bay was tortuously long for those present.
A few “gentleman” in the crowd could stand it no longer, and proceeded to take out their frustration on each.
Again as described by the Times’ representative:
“While the lake crowd were waiting for Ouida to move into the water, they, or at least several of their number, relived the monotony by pummelling each other after the most approved fashion. The fist fight was brought to a close by such a fair knockdown that the vanquished party almost disappeared in the soft much into which he fell. The crowd pulled him out.
“Another fistic encounter terminated in a gouging match while both were prostrate near the workshop. The crowd closed in so that neither could harm the other very much while on their feet, but when upon the ground some ugly abrasions were inflicted. The victor washed his bloody face in the bay; the other fellow was toted off by his friends. After the manly (?) exhibitions, the boys got up a dog fight.”
It took awhile but eventually the Ouida was riding proudly on the waters of the bay. For those gathered for the launch, the excitement of the launch might have proved less memorable than the pugilistic exhibitions.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

1886 - Market Building

On June 10, 1886, a crowd of two to three hundred people gathered on Hamilton’s Market Square to witness a cornerstone laying ceremony. The building to be erected was solely for the use of market dealers, primarily butchers.
The building had already been partially constructed and the crowd awaited the arrival of the local politicians at the speakers’ platform :
“Several aldermen were inside the walls and stood together in full view of the crowd, carefully inspecting the timbers overhead, and looking wise.”
The ceremony was scheduled to commence at 3 p.m., but, twenty minutes later, the mayor still had not arrived. As a drizzling rain was falling, the crowd began to grow impatient.
Finally, a straggling procession of civic dignitaries made their appearance, headed by City Messenger Smith carrying a silver trowel in a Moroccan case. Alderman Kenrick, chairman of the Markets, Fire and Police Committee, hurried stepped forward to put in place the box containing the documents and relics which were to be sealed within the cornerstone.
After the mortar was spread, Mayor McKay stepped forward to deliver the following address:
“A Newmarket building has for a long time been a great necessity, and this necessity is about to be met. The building will, I believe, be unexcelled in the Dominion as a place to be used exclusively for market purposes. There are other buildings used for market purpose which have cost more money than this one, but they are not used exclusively for market purposes.
“In the past, we have felt like keeping visitors away from our old market sheds; we were ashamed of them; but soon we will be able to take pride in showing strangers the place where our citizens do their marketing. Hamilton is progressing steadily and surely – not, perhaps, at as rapid a rate as some other cities; but when Hamilton takes a step forward, she never recedes from that position; she will never take an inferior position to the one she now occupies.
“This new building is a substantial proof of our progress and prosperity.
“Today is a particularly fitting day for the ceremony that I am about to perform. The first piece of ground used for market purposes in Hamilton was deeded to the city by the late Andrew Miller, and this is the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the deed.
“The land deeded was a small space between Market and MacNab streets. After half a century, we vare about to take another step forward. I hope that this building, which has been well begun, will be successfully completed and will long stand a an ornament to the city and a convenience to our citizens.”
After Mayor McKay spread the mortar, the cornerstone was lowered and fixed into position. The mayor declared the cornerstone well and truly laid.
The ceremony then continued with a speech by Alderman Carruthers, who said :
“The old building has long been a disgrace to a city of the pretentions of Hamilton. The new one will be well-adapted for the purposes of public market, and will also be an ornament to the city. It is time for the old city hall to disappear also. It is little better as a city hall than the old market sheds are as market sheds. I hope, as I shall succeed the present  mayor , to lay the cornerstone of a new city hall.”
Alderman Moore also addressed the crowd, and stated his full agreement with the previous speaker that a new city hall was badly need in Hamilton:
“We ought to have building that will adequately represent the city’s industry, prosperity and progress. I may add, also, that I would be pleased to have the honour of laying the cornerstone of a new city hall when the time comes for the erection of such a building.”
The speeches by Aldermen Carruthers and Moore touching on their aspirations for the mayor’s job provoked Alderman Tom Brick to turn his remarks into a pure political stump speech:
“There’s soon to be a political contest coming on in this city, and both political parties will try to pull the working man. But I would have the workingmen know that neither the Conservative nor the Reform party have done anything for them in this country. They’re both alike. Little Mowat down at Toronto is tarred with the same stick as John A. Both the governments are the same, both robbers.
“Aldermen Carruthers and Moore said they aspired to be mayor of this town. Well, both these gentlemen will have to get broader views before they can get there. They will have to say that the workingman is as good as a millionaire. That’s the class of men that we shouldn’t want to keep in the ditch but should try to elevate.”
Alderman Brick kept on the same vein for a few minutes longer. When his speech was concluded, he had failed to say a word about the new market building.
By the middle of December, 1886, the new market building was nearly complete and ready for occupancy. The final touches consisted mainly of each lessee adapting his stall for his own particular needs.
On December 13, 1886, a Reporter for the Hamilton Spectator was given a tour of inspection through the new market building, calling it “a credit to the city and to Mr. Edwards, the architect.”
The interior of the building presented a fine, uniform appearance. The fronts of each stall were constructed with open wood work at the top, with strong wire guards which could be raised or lowered at will, and locked to the counter when the stalls were closed.
In front of each stall, strong swinging counters were provided. Each stall holder was permitted to put their names on their stalls, but there had to be uniformity of colors and styles of lettering.
The beauty of the building’s design was augmented by stained glass windows above the doors at each end and over the side entrance.
The new market building was not completely satisfactory to the stall holders. Because the floor was concrete and no drains provided, the butchers, in particular, were loud in their complaints. One stall holder, interviewed about the situation, said “there were some men who were never satisfied with anything, and these, of course, ain’t satisfied, but the sensible men are well pleased with their new quarters.”
The new market building was formally opened for the public on Saturday December 18, 1886, just in time for the Christmas rush.
A temporary platform was erected in the centre of the building and at 8 a.m., used it to deliver some remarks. He congratulated the Market, Fire and Police committee and its chairman, Alderman Kenrick, for the successful completion of such an excellent building.
The mayor also congratulated the architect and the contractors for their first class work in designing and erecting what he felt was the best building for market purposes in the province.
The mayor also expressed his hope that the merchants who had occupied the old market sheds would be as successful in the new building as they had been in the past.
As described in the Spectator, after the building was formally opened, there were “three cheers for the market building, three for the Queen, one cheer for Brother Blake (butcher, not politician), the lessees who were standing proudly in front of their handsome new stalls joining in the cheers, and then hurrying inside to attend to their customers.”

Sunday, 1 July 2012

1885 - When I Grow Up

          The following  conversation among some Hamilton boys appeared in the Hamilton Spectator of July 24, 1885.
Some of reference made by the boys may have been well-known to Hamilton readers of the day but may need a little explanation for those not of that time or place.
Priests’ Field was a full block of then-vacant bounded by James, Young, Hughson and Forest. It had been purchased by the Roman Catholic Church as a possible location for a cathedral. .
General Grant is American Civil War General, and later United States.
President Ulysses S. Grant who have died the day before the article appeared.
“Mash one de Queen’s daughters” meant to court and marry a daughter of Queen Victoria.
General Middleton was Major-General Frederick Middleton who at the time was leading the troops in the Northwest Rebellion.
Hanlan refers to Ned Halan, a very famous athlete of the day, a rower.
Finally, the Clippers were one of Hamilton’s professional baseball teams of the day.
“When it grew too dark to see the ball, the boys who had been playing on the ‘priests’ field’ last evening, sat down on the grass nursed their feet, and talked. Said one of them, a boy in knickerbockers: “Say, it must be great to be a man like General Grant, and have such a fuss made over you when you die.”
        “Wot difference ‘ud it make to you wot dey say about you after you wuz dead?’ quiered a young red-headed philosopher.” I’d like to mash one de Queen’s daughter like dat prince feller, and marry her, an’ live widout workin’ and have a soft time.”
          “I’d like to run a candy store,” ventured very small urchin, with a very small voice. “I’d give ‘em away to the boys free.”
          Then each boy confessed what he’d like to be when he “grew up.” One said he’d like to “build houses” like his father; another that he would prefer above all things to be an ice cream manufacturer; another that he’d like to run an excursion boat; another that he would be pleased to be Governor-General; another chose Hanlan as his model, and one sturdy urchin remarked that he wanted to be “a great general like, Gen. Middleton.”
          A little apart from the group sat a bare-footed youngster with a very dirty face and unkempt hair that protruded through the broken crown of his straw hat. With a defiant air, he smoked a cigar stub that he found on the sidewalk, and had lighted with infinite difficulty. He took no part in the conversation, but sat silently pulling up the grass with his toes, and expectorating copiously through his closed teeth. At last, one of his comrades turned to him differentially and said, “Say, Slithery, what ‘ud you like to be when you grow up?”
          It was beneath Slithery’s dignity to reply at once. Without giving any token that he heard the question, he took two or three long draws at his cigar stub, blew the smoke slowly upwards, expectorated freely, and then, closely inspecting the half-inch of a stub, regretfully threw it away. During the process Slithery’s comrades watched him admiringly, and waited patiently for his answer. He was plainly an oracle among them. Their suspense was at length relieved. Slithery deigned to speak. He said, contemptuously: “Yous fellers is chumps. You don’t know nuthin’ – none of you don’t. When I grow up, I want to be manager of de Clippers or else a boss pitcher, and pitch double curves – dat’s wot I’m goin’ to be.”
          Having thus delivered himself, Slithery slid down the little slope to the sidewalk, and walked away whistling shrilly through his teeth and trailing his baseball bat behind him. And each of the boys communed with himself for awhile and silently but deeply realized that Slithery had chosen the better part.”