You can support Canadian History Ehx with a donation at https://www.buymeacoffee.com/craigU
We are approaching the mid-way point of the 1890s as we move into the 20th century, so lets begin with our look at 1894!
On Jan. 1, the Town of Calgary became a city thanks to the influx of people moving to the community because of the railroad going through. The city will continue to be the largest city in Alberta for the entire 20th century, surpassing Edmonton even though the northern capital of Alberta is older and the political and academic centre of the province.
The first Quebec Winter Carnival would be held from Jan. 29 to Feb. 3, 1894.
At that first carnival, an ice palace was constructed in front of the legislature and the streets were decorated with ice sculptures and arches. The festival also featured a masquerade on ice, a canoe race on the frozen St. Lawrence and a parade. In attendance would be Lord Aberdeen, the Governor General of Canada, and his wife Lady Aberdeen.
After the carnival was finished, the Winter Carnival committee was able to return $945 to the city thanks to a surplus.
On Feb. 8, one of the most famous pilots in Canadian history was born. Billy Bishop was born in Owen Sound, Ontario where he attended Owen Sound Collegiate and Vocational Institute. He built an aircraft out of cardboard, wood crates and string at the age of 15. He tested his new plane by jumping off the third-storey roof of his home. He was soon dug out of his wreckage, unhurt, by his sister.
In 1911, he entered the Royal Military College and in 1914 joined The Mississauga Horse cavalry regiment at the outbreak of the First World War. While with the Seventh Canadian Mounted Rifles, Bishop proved his abilities with a gun by shooting targets so far away that they were only a dot.
In France in 1915, he would transfer to the Royal Flying Corps, working as an observer until a spot opened for pilots. On Sept. 1, 1915 he was able to report for elementary air instruction and his first combat mission as an observer would be in January of 1916. In November 1916, he received his wings and joined the No. 37 Squadron RFC.
On March 25, Bishop recorded his first air victory and by March 30 was a flight commander, then earned a temporary promotion to captain a few days later. Known for his no-holds-barred way of flying, he would lead pilots himself into battle over enemy territory. His run and gun method was not without danger and one mechanic counted 210 bullet holes in his plane after one patrol. In April 1917, he shot down 12 aircraft and participated in the Battle of Vimy Ridge, earning the Military Cross. The Germans began to take notice of Bishop and his blue-nosed aircraft and referred to him as Hell’s Handmaiden. On April 30, he survived a battle with The Red Baron and in May received a Distinguished Service Order for shooting down two aircraft in one day. On June 2, he flew a solo mission behind enemy lines to attack a German aerodrome, shooting down three aircraft in the process and destroying more on the ground. He would be awarded the Victoria Cross for this. By the end of the war, he would have 72 victories in the air, the most of any Canadian or British pilot and third among all pilots in the First World War.
After the war, he would spend his time running a passenger air service, lecturing on aerial warfare and by 1929 was the chairman of British Air Lines.
In 1936, he was appointed as the first Canadian air vice-marshal, becoming air marshal in the Royal Canadian Air Force at the outbreak of the Second World War. He would be instrumental in creating a system for training pilots across Canada with the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan. This would result in 167,000 airmen in Canada being trained during the war.
In 1944, he resigned due to ill health to return to private enterprise, eventually retiring in 1952. He offered to serve in a recruitment role during the Korean War but was turned down due to ill health. He would die on Sept. 11, 1956. Beyond his military awards, Bishop has been honoured in many ways around Canada. In 1967, he was inducted into the International Air and Space Hall of Fame, his home was repurposed into the Billy Bishop Home and Museum, and several movies and documentaries have been made about him. Both an airport in Owen Sound and in Toronto are named for him. Numerous roads and parks, as well as schools are named for him. Mount Bishop is also named for him.
In 1978, Billy Bishop Goes to War would premiere in Vancouver, with Eric Peterson playing Bishop and 12 other characters. It has become one of the most iconic plays in Canadian history.
On Feb. 20, the Supreme Court refuses to hear the appeal of the Manitoba francophones through the Manitoba Schools Question. This question was a political crisis for Manitoba during the latter-part of the 19th century and it involved separate schools, publicly funded, for Roman Catholics and Protestants. This issue was quite old dating back to nearly the founding of Manitoba itself in 1870. In 1890, Premier Thomas Greenway would pass the Public Schools Act, which removed funding for Catholic and Protestant schools and established tax-supported public schools. At the same time this was enacted, another act was passed removing French as an official language in Manitoba, despite it being very prominent among the Metis and others in the community. The two were not related politically but it would increase the controversy over the schools. Court cases would be conducted, with the first in 1892 when the Manitoba Queen’s Bench held that the Public School Act was valid. This would eventually go to the Supreme Court but even with the refusal to hear the appeal, this was not going to go away and it spread into federal politics, altering Canadian history.
On March 22, the Montreal Hockey Club would defeat Ottawa in the first Stanley Cup challenge. Montreal had won the first Stanley Cup in 1893 and Ottawa would take them on to win the Cup for the first time, losing 3-1. Montreal would hold onto the Cup for another year until it was won by the Winnipeg Victorias in 1896.
On April 27, the largest known landslide in Canadian history would occur, when 185 million cubic metres of rock and dirt slid, leaving a 40 metre scar that covered 4.6 million square metres. Interestingly, it does not appear anyone died despite how large it was.
On May 7, George Drew was born in Guelph, Ontario. Attending the Osgoode Hall Law School, he would serve in the First World War, becoming a Lt. Colonel during the war.
In 1920, he was called to the bar. During this time, he would also become a regular contributor to Maclean’s Magazine. His first article, printed on July 1, 1928, was titled “The Truth About The War”, which criticized the American belief that they had won the war for the Allies by entering it in 1917. It produced a flood of congratulatory telegrams from across Canada. For the next several years he would routinely write articles about the war. After a series of articles on profiteering in the armament manufacturing industry, the League of Nations Secretariat in Geneva received so many letters they called the mail “today’s attack of Drewitis.”
In 1925 was elected as mayor of Guelph, serving until 1929. In 1939, he would be elected to the Ontario Legislature, serving until 1948. In 1943, he would be elected as the Premier of Ontario, winning a minority government. This began four decades of Progressive Conservative power in the province.
Seeing the mood of the times, Drew ran on a left-wing platform that promised free dental care and universal health care. His government did not implement either of these but his platform moved the Ontario Progressive Conservative party more towards being moderate. In July 1943, Drew released the 22 Point Programme which promised to improve vocational education, cut school taxes, increase allowances for mothers, implement a house program, provide public service jobs for veterans and support fairer labour negotiations.
One thing implemented by the Drew government was the Drew Regulation, which made it a requirement that all schools in Ontario have one hour of religious instruction each week. This measure caused controversary due to the fact that the Christian faith was the religion that was taught during this hour. This led to accusation of anti-Semitism by the Ontario Jewish community.
In 1948, he would be elected to the House of Commons, serving until 1957. During that time, he was the Leader of the Opposition from 1948 to 1956.
In his resignation letter, he would write, quote:
“Although the doctors have assured me that in a few months I shall be restored to full health, they have also advised that it would be extremely unwise for me to take on the heavy strain of a session and an election campaign so soon after my illness.”
Drew’s wife, Fiorenza, would state quote:
“Today I’m just a private citizen and its heaven. He is wonderfully well. He has made wonderful improvements.”
He was succeeded by John Diefenbaker, who had been trying to gain the leadership of the party for 16 years by that point. Two years later, Diefenbaker led the Progressive Conservatives to the largest majority in Canadian history
In 1957, he would become the Canadian High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, serving until 1964. In 1965, he served as the first Chancellor of the University of Guelph until 1971. In 1967, he was awarded the Order of Canada. In 1973, he would die from heart failure.
On May 13, William Rowe was born in Hull, Iowa to Canadian parents. The family would move to Ontario at the age of two. From 1919 to 1923, he served as reeve of his township and was elected to the Ontario Legislature from 1923 to 1925. He was then elected to the House of Commons, serving until 1963, serving as the Leader of the Opposition twice, for only a few months each time in 1954 and 1956 when George Drew was too ill to do his duties as leader. In 1963, he would become the Lt. Governor of Ontario, serving until 1968. He would die on Feb. 9, 1984.
On June 4, Mary Rose-Anne Bolduc, known as Madame Bolduc, is born in Newport, Quebec to an Irish father and a French-Canadian Mi’kmaq mother. As a young woman she would begin performing Quebec folk songs, becoming one of the most popular singers in Quebec in the 1920s and into the 1930s and is called Quebec’s first singer-songwriter. During the peak of her popularity in the 1930s, she was known as the Queen of Canadian Folk Singers with her style of blending folk music of Ireland and Quebec, with upbeat and comedic songs. Following her death on Feb. 20, 1941, she would be issued a stamp in her honour in 1994 and a park in her hometown was named for her.
On June 14, Massey Hall was opened in Toronto. The idea for this hall came from Hart Massey, who wanted to build a music hall for people in Toronto to meet and enjoy choral music. He also wanted to honour his son who had passed and had loved music. It was his feeling that the hall should not be a place that made a lot of money and that it would allow for both the rich and poor to attend events. By the time it was completed, it had cost $152,000, nearly $4 million today. The hall has seen many notable performers and dignitaries. In 1901, the future King George V and Queen Mary attended an event with Sir Wilfrid Laurier. Many famous figures have given lectures and performances at the hall including the Dalai Lama, Gordon Lightfoot, Bob Dylan, Billy Joel, Oscar Peterson, Winston Churchill, Glenn Gould, Neil Young, Bob Marley, The Band, Justin Bieber, Van Halen and Jerry Seinfeld. In 1981, the hall was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
On June 26, Oliver Mowat, premier of Ontario, cruised to another victory in the Ontario election, and would continue to serve as the third premier of Ontario until 1896. The main issue during the election was the growing schools issue related to French language schools, farmer interests, women’s suffrage, and the growing temperance movement. This was the seventh consecutive victory for Mowat and his Liberals in Ontario but his support was slipping with the party losing eight seats going from 53 to 45, while the Conservatives under William Meredith saw his support fall from 34 seats to 23. The Patrons of Industry, a farmers’ organization formed in 1890 was able to get 18 members elected to the Legislature.
The Winnipeg Tribune reported quote:
“Upon the administrative side, humanly speaking, it was simply invulnerable and the people renewed their expression of confidence in it. They took the plain, common sense, business like view that the maintenance of Sir Oliver Mowat and his colleagues was the only safe course to pursue.”
On June 28, the Colonial Conference would begin and run to July 9. It continued discussions begun three years earlier regarding laying a telegraph cable at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean to create a link between Canada and Australiasia and the rest of the British Empire. Meetings were held in the Centre Block of Parliament and the Earl of Jersey was there to represent the United Kingdom. Many self-governing colonies were also invited including Newfoundland and Western Australia. The conference also looked at favouring preferential trade within the Empire.
On Sept. 3, the first Labour Day is celebrated in Canada, growing from labour movements over the previous decade and holidays celebrated locally around various provinces until it became a federal holiday.
On Sept. 25, Lt. Col. James Macleod would die. He was born in Scotland in 1836 and came to Canada with his family in 1845 when his father purchased a farm at Richmond Hill, Ontario. He would attend Upper Canada College, before gaining a law degree and practicing law from 1860 to 1870 in Bowmanville, Ontario. In 1862, he transferred to the Bowmanville Volunteer Militia Rifle Company and was promoted to captain in 1863 and major in 1866. He would be appointed to the Legislative Assembly of Northwest Territories in 1876, serving until 1881. From 1876 to 1880, he would become the Commissioner of the North-West Mounted Police, serving until 1880. Fort MacLeod and MacLeod Trail are named for him.
On Oct. 10, Charles Monck died in Ireland. Born in Ireland in 1819, he would become the Governor General of British North America in 1861 and the Governor of the Province of Canada. Under his governorship, Canada would begin to organize towards Confederation. When Canada became a country in 1867, he became the first Governor General of Canada, serving until 1868.
Overall, there was little in the Canadian papers to announce the death of the first Governor General. It was noticeable enough that C.J.I. Thomas wrote a letter to the Ottawa Journal stating quote:
“Noticing in your issue that Ottawa city is monumentally inclined, now that Lord Monck has just died, I think it would not be out of place, as he was the first governor general of the Dominion of Canada, to erect a monument in his memory at Ottawa. Now that Ottawa is in a monumental mood, I hope and trust that she will not forget to pay some tribute to honour to him that held the post of the first governor general of the Dominion of Canada.”
On Oct. 30, Honore Mercier would die. He was born in 1840 in Montreal and would be elected to the House of Commons for the first time in 1872, serving until 1874. He would then be elected to the Quebec Legislature in 1879, serving until 1894 when he died. During that time, he would serve as the ninth premier of Quebec from 1887 to 1891. He was able to rise to power by mobilizing Francophone opposition to the execution of Louis Riel and what he saw as a betrayal by John A. Macdonald’s Conservative government. He was the first Quebec premier to defend provincial autonomy in Quebec.
The Ottawa Journal wrote quote:
“Honore Mercier died this morning. The end had been expected any moment during the preceding 24 hours and hope of recovery had been given up weeks ago. After his defeat at the general elections of March 1892, his friends expressed the opinion that he had only six months to live, but by dint of adopting abstemious habits of living, he managed to prolong existence longer than had been expected.”
At the time of his death, it was stated his body was a mere skeleton, having wasted away from his 185 pounds only a few years previous.
The article finishes quote:
“He was naturally a genial man and had warm friends until the last, although many of those whom he befriended when in power knew him not in his adversity.”
On Dec. 12, Sir John Thompson would die as prime minister while in office.
At the time, he was 225 pounds and his health was poor. He had thought about resigning as prime minister but decided to stay on to the next election.
After arriving in London, the doctors there were optimistic and Thompson was able to take a three week holiday on the continent, even climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome. This was not a good decision and by the time he returned to London on Dec. 1, he was not feeling well. Then he began to attend several meetings and by Dec. 11, he was feeling better than he had in quite some time and on Dec. 12, he would go to Windsor Castle to be sworn in as the Right Honourable Sir John Thompson. After the ceremony, he sat down for lunch and fainted. He was taken to a nearby room and he would wake up and say, quote “It seems too absurd to faint like this.” He then returned to a table and before he could eat anything, he fell backwards into the arms of Sir John Watt Reid, the doctor for Queen Victoria. Thompson did not move, nor breathe, as a massive heart attack had killed him.
Following his death, Queen Victoria staged a huge funeral for him. She would also order the first Catholic mass at Windsor since the Reformation, since Thompson was our country’s first Catholic prime minister. His remains were put on the HMS Blenheim, which was painted black, and sent back to Canada, leaving amid a salute from the HMS Victory. He would be buried on Jan. 3, 1895 in Halifax.
On Dec. 13, Chester Ronning was born in China. He would come to Canada with his family as a young man and graduated from the University of Alberta in 1916. From 1922 to 1927, he would serve as a missionary in China and then came back to Canada to serve as the principal of Camrose Lutheran College, where he remained for 15 years. He would then serve from 1932 to 1935 in the Alberta Legislature and was the leader of the Alberta CCF from 1940 to 1942. Beginning after the Second World War, he would begin serving diplomatic posts around the world. He served in China from 1945 to 1951, Norway from 1954 to 1957, India from 1957 to 1964 and at the United Nations. He would take special missions to Hanoi in 1965 and 1966 to mediate the Vietnam War and in 1972 was awarded the Order of Canada. In 1983 he was inducted into the Alberta Order of Excellence. He died on Dec. 31, 1984.
On Dec. 21, Mackenzie Bowell would become prime minister.
Taking office on Dec. 21, 1894, Bowell put together his cabinet, using all the ministers from Thompson’s cabinet, with eight members keeping their previous positions.
Lady Aberdeen, the wife of the Governor General, was not a fan of Bowell, stating that he was, quote:
“Rather fussy and decidedly commonplace,” although she did add that he was quote: “a good and straight man with great ideas about the drawing together of the colonies and the empire.”
Like those before him since the death of Macdonald, he would serve only two years
Also, this year, Rondeau Provincial Park would be established, becoming the second provincial park in Ontario after the founding of Algonquin Provincial Park the year before. Regulations at the park prohibited settlement, grazing, most logging but camping was allowed. These same regulations remain today but the park is one of only two in the province with private cottage leases on publicly owned land. Today, there are roughly 285 private cottages there.
In 1894, the Africville Seasides hockey team emerged as one of the teams in the new Colored Hockey League that existed from 1894 to 1930. This league was one of the first to allow goalies to leave their feet to make a save, and it was also where the first slap shot was pioneered. As for the Africville Seasides, they would win the league championship in 1901 and 1902, led by star goaltender William Carvery.
The Women’s Enfranchisement Association of New Brunswick would be formed in 1894 to push for women’s suffrage in the province.