about to delete

I am going to delete this blog (or at least the majority of posts) within the next few days. Cheers.


Sunday Vintage Inspiration: Georgian Bay


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pictures-r-956 PLoughboy off lonely island Georgian Bay Armstrong William 1912 TPL

Armstrong, William, 1912. Ploughboy off Lonely Island, Georgian Bay. Toronto Public Library

Following last week’s Great Lakes inspiration (Lake Superior), I thought I’d continue the theme, also because Georgian Bay is equal to Lake Superior in my memory and esteem. Georgian Bay is the large body of water that joins Lake Huron, sometimes referred to as the sixth Great Lake, and completely within Canadian territory. On its own it resembles an inland sea, despite not being anywhere near as large as Lake Superior, at 190 km in length and 80 km in width, with a maximum depth of 165 m.

HJ Browne Georgian Bay and vicinity

Browne, H.J., The Georgian Bay & Vicinity, Province of Ontario, Canada, Pub: James Bath and Sons, Toronto. Found via Project Gutenberg, Hamilton, James Cleland, 1893

At the time of European contact, the eastern, northern and western shorelines of the bay were occupied by the Anishinaabeg peoples, with the Huron peoples to the south. The bay is sheltered to the west by the Bruce Peninsula, separating it from Lake Huron, and Manitoulin Island to the north.

Print | Champlain on Georgian Bay | M993.154.314

Kelly, John David, 1895-1900. Champlain on Georgian Bay. Notman Archives, McCord Museum, Montreal, Qc.

The French explorer Samuel de Champlain reached the south-eastern shoreline of the Bay in 1615, following visits by the French interpreter to the Algonquian First Nations, Étienne Brûlé, and possibly one other. Brûlé travelled to the area with an Ottawan Algonquian people, who overwintered with the Huron at the south end of Georgian Bay. Jesuit missionaries followed, with Jean de Brébeuf and Jérôme Lalemant establishing a mission at what is today Midland.

As a school girl I visited the historic site of the Huronia mission known as Ste. Marie among the Hurons, which is still operated by the provincial government as a historic site. The story of its burning and the martyrdom of the various Jesuit priests made a huge impression on me as a child. Brébeuf and several others were tortured and killed in raids by the Iroquois, a rival nation to the Huron, at another mission, in 1649, although he is buried at Midland. He was canonized as a Saint by the Catholic Church in 1930, for his stoicism during his torture.

During the European missions to Huronia some Huron were converted to Christianity, but many more died of the diseases the Europeans carried with them, such as smallpox, as they lacked natural immunity. Following intensification of the Huron-Iroquois strife, a Huron group resettled at Lorette, Quebec around 1650.

Photograph | Huron-Wendat group from Wendake (Lorette) at Spencerwood, Quebec City, QC, 1880 | MP-0000.223

Huron-Wendat group from Wendake (Lorette) at Spencerwood, Quebec City, QC, 1880. Notman photo archives, McCord Museum, Montreal, Qc.

Photograph | Huron-Wendat group, Wendake (Lorette), QC, about 1875 | M12833

Parks, James, George. Huron-Wendat group, Wendake (Lorette), Qc, about 1875. Notman photo archives, McCord Museum, Montreal, Qc.

Following the English conquest of New France in 1760 and the establishment and growth of burgeoning English settlements in what is now Ontario, the first Lieutenant Governor of what was then known as Upper Canada, John Graves Simcoe, developed Penetanguishene on the southern end of the bay as a naval base in the late 18th century. In fact, one battle of the War of 1812 with the Americans was fought on Georgian Bay waters, near Wasaga Beach on the southern end of the bay.

Georgian Bay was technically named Georgian Bay in 1822 after King George IV, by Henry Wolsey Bayfield (Royal Navy), who mapped it comprehensively, although I prefer perhaps to think of it as it was described by Samuel Champlain: “la mer douce” (the calm sea, or the freshwater sea).

pictures-r-850 sketch of penetanguishine barracks Gilmour Mary Hallen 1855 TPL

Gilmour, Mary Hallen, Sketch of Penetanguishene barracks, 1855. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

pictures-r-481 Georgian bay near meaford TPL White, George Harlow 1874

White, George Harlow, 1874. Georgian bay near Meaford. Photo source: Toronto Public Library.

The Niagara Escarpment,  which is essentially a rugged limestone ridge, runs up the Bruce Peninsula on the western side of the bay to Tobermory. The Georgian Bay shoreline just south of Tobermory is a lovely area for camping, with surprising features such as grottos that resemble those found in warmer areas of the world.

pcr-1617Flower pots near Tobermory Bruce Peninsula Ont 1910 TPL

Flower Pots near Tobermory, Ontario, 1910. Valentine and Sons Publishing Co. Photo Source: Toronto Public Library

The eastern shoreline of Georgian Bay is still noted for its cottaging, although its shipping function is also noted. Parry Sound, which I mentioned in a recent post, is the deepest freshwater port in the world. There still are a few resorts of the type in the following photo in the region to the east of Georgian Bay, Muskoka, although their heyday was generally in the first half of the twentieth century, when city dwellers were able to reach these holiday locations by train from Toronto.

pcr-2108 The Belvidere Parry Sound Canada 1910 Valentine and Sons pub co TPL

The Belvedere, Parry Sound, 1910. Valentine and Sons Publishing Co. Photo Source: Toronto Public Library

“Belvidere” on the photo above is a typo. Belvedere is derived from Latin. In Italian (and likewise in French) belvedere or belvédère signifies a beautiful view (vedere is the Italian verb “to see”).) The hotel was torn down in 1961 but a park exists in its place.

Leisure travel was also possible by Great Lakes steamer, from Georgian Bay, across Lake Huron to the beginning of Lake Superior:
Photograph, glass lantern slide | Great Lakes steamer

Great Lakes Steamer “Assiniboia”, Canadian Pacific Line, ON, about 1923. Notman photo archives, Montreal, Qc. In two days one could travel from Parry Sound through the North Channel to Sault Ste. Marie.

It’s the wild places that inspire, as well as the lands to the north. Manitoulin Island is the very large island at the top end of Georgian Bay, separated from the north shore by the North Channel shipping route. It is traditional territory of the Anishinaabe and its inhabitants remain at least in part aboriginal to this day. Those who know something of their mythology will recognize the name’s origin from Gitchi Manitou, the Great Spirit. The island is reachable by ferry from the Bruce Peninisula.

Downloadable from Project Gutenberg Canada (one of my favourite projects in the whole world, making books in the public domain available for free) is this interesting work by James Cleland Hamilton, dating to 1893. The title, “The Georgian Bay. An account of its position, inhabitants, mineral interests, fish, timber and other resources” (Papers read before the Canadian Institute) is typical of papers of scientific inquiry of the time. The work contains some wonderful illustrations by Anna Brownell Jameson as well.

Most fascinating to me is the table of First Nations populations included in the document, derived from the Census. My understanding is that Ontario still has the greatest diversity of First Nations of any province in Canada and they are more geographically dispersed, though I can’t immediately find a reference to support this assertion.

ONTARIO. 1867 1891
Chippewas and Munceys of the Thames 588 637
Moravians of the Thames 254 309
Chippewas, Pottawatomies and Ottawas of Walpole Island 748 852
Wyandots of Anderdon 71 98
Chippewas of Snake Island 130 127
Chippewas of Rama 265 226
Chippewas of Christian Island 186 357
Missisaugas of Rice, Mud, and Scugog Lakes 282 283
Mohawks of the Bay of Quinté 664 1,120
Missisaugas of Alnwick 212 243
Ojibways of Sandy Island 174
Chippewas of Saugeen 280 579
Chippewas of Cape Croker 352 396
Christian Island Band on Manitoulin Island 71
Six Nations of Grand River 2,779 3,474
Missisaugas of the Credit 204 253
Chippewas of Lake Superior 1,263 2,051
Chippewas of Lake Huron 1,748 3,177
Manitoulin Island Indians 1,498 1,915
Golden Lake Indians 164 367
Chippewas of Sarnia 479
Pottawatomies of Sarnia 34
Oneidas of the Thames 726

Summarizing their voyage of scientific inquiry, Hamilton writes this elegiac passage:

However interesting such themes may be, it is on other topics that our memories will most kindly dwell as we recall the happy days and nights spent on the “White Squall.” We will remember the majesty of forests and granite shores. We will hear the scream of gulls and see the flash of great fish struggling in the nets. We will see in fancy the jolly fishermen steering merrily among the rocks. We will hear their songs and stories, as each sat, with brown, weather-beaten, friendly face, on a pile of nets or on a box in our camp. There still rises to our ears the gay laugh of the Indian boys about the wigwams. We will not forget the beauty displayed in winding, glassy coves among the islands, in flowers and verdure in sunny nooks, the Aurora* dancing each clear night in the north, the kindly courtesy of our little company, the chaff of the camp fires and the songs we sung, of which the following is one, composed ‘mong the Isles of the Georgian Bay


Some sing old Ocean’s praise
Where wild winds the billows raise,
And the whale and the porpoise play,
Some vaunt famed Biscay’s Bay;
And the fair for the South wind sigh.
But give to me that shore,
Where the North star shines most clear,
And our devious course we steer
‘Mong the Isles of the Georgian Bay.
Oh give to me, etc.
Of the Genöese Captain**, in quest
Of new lands in the far sunny West,
Of De. Champlain, with fleur-de-lis spread;
Of the brave Arctic hero***, who sped
O’er these waters, pray tell us great Pines,
Ye whose heads the clouds piercing, arise;
Ye too, surely remember the cries
Of the Mohawk and Huron at strife
‘Mong the Isles of the Georgian Bay.
Oh give to me, etc.
At eve, with sun-set beams,
La Cloche’s gray rock gleams,
With bright spirits from Algic skies,
See, the swift Aurora flies.
O’er the pines the pale moon smiles.
All enwrapped in the beauty of night,
We look on, by the camp-fire’s light;
Great Manito seeming near,
‘Mong the Isles of the Georgian Bay.
Oh give to me, etc.


*refers to the Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights

** refers to Columbus

***refers to Franklin

le lac supérieur; Thunder Bay, a brief pictorial tour


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pictures-r-865 Landing at Sault Ste Marie red river expedition Armstrong William 1913

Armstrong, William, 1913. Landing at Sault Ste. Marie on the Red River Expedition. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

pictures-r-1285 Armstrong william 1882 Otter Head watercolour touches of gouache over pencil TPL

Armstrong, William, 1882, Otter Head. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

pictures-r-1151 Johnson William Arthur 1873 Jesuit mission immaculate conception Thunder Bay on the Karninistiqua River McKays mountain in the distance

Johnson, William Arthur, 1873, Jesuit mission Immaculate Conception on the Kaministiqua River. Photo source: Toronto Public Library.

I have a great love of the north shore of Lake Superior, the lake originally known as gichigami by the Ojibwe, or le lac supérieur by the French (“the upper lake”). It’s generally known as the largest freshwater lake in the world, by surface area, and third largest by volume; it presents as a great inland sea. The shoreline is awe-inspiring in its rugged beauty and the frigid waters terrifying during a storm. I have memories of pastel sunsets reflected perfectly on the still, frigid waters, imposing granite cliffs, and most of all an intense sense of smallness and aloneness in a powerful natural space.

912-71v134 Vaugondy Robert de Didier 1753 Lake Superior map TPL

Vaugondy Robert de Didier, 1753. Map including a scrunched version of Lake Superior in the northwest quandrant. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

During the seventeenth through nineteenth centuries, fur trading posts were established on the northernmost shore of the lake, at the start of great canoe routes into western Canada. One of these posts was founded at the entrance of the Kaministiqua River to Lake Superior and today forms a part of the modern city of Thunder Bay. Originally established as a French trading post in the late 17th century, and later abandoned by the French around the time of the English conquest of New France (1760), an English post on the site was established by the North West Company in 1803, as a midway trans-shipping point between their outlying posts and Montreal. This post, later named Fort William, lost its importance when the North West Company merged with the Hudson’s Bay Company in the 1820s, with major trade shifting to Hudson’s Bay to the north, although it remained a trading post.

pictures-r-943 Fleming John arnot 1857 pencil touches of watercolour scraping out, on graduated light blue tinted paper TPL Fort William from Lake Superior

Fleming, John Arnot, 1857. Fort William from Lake Superior. Pencil with touches of water colour scraping out, on graduated light blue tinted paper. Photo source: Toronto Public Library.

pictures-r-2530 Fleming John Arnot 1857 ship Colingwood on rock near Michipoicoten Island watercolour TPL

Fleming, John Arnot, 1857. The Collingwood on a rock near Michipoicoten Island. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

Wrecked ships under water are still being discovered in the lake.

pictures-r-1406 Frances Hopkins 1873 TPL engraved by Charles MOttram Canoes in a fog lake superior 1869 watercolour and oil painting in Glenbow collection

Engraving by Charles Mottram, 1873, after an oil painting by Frances Hopkins, 1869 (now in the Glenbow collection, Calgary). Canoes disappearing into mist on Lake Superior. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

Frances Hopkins, an English painter, was married to a Hudson’s Bay Company official. She accompanied him on several canoe trips and became a well-known painter of canoe scenes depicting the final period of the fur trade. She lived in Canada following her marriage in 1858, mostly in Montreal, and returned to England permanently in 1870 where she died in 1919. She showed frequently in England, including with the Royal Academy in London from 1869.

Despite the decline of the fur trade, Fort William’s growth was reinvigorated in 1870s when it was selected to be the eastern terminus of the Canadian Pacific Railway line to Winnipeg to the west. It was incorporated in 1907 and amalgamated with the adjacent town of Port Arthur in 1970. Port Arthur had been founded in the 1870s as a depot of the Department of Public Works of the newly confederated Canada, which had the aim of developing land transportation to a developing Western Canada. Port Arthur’s growth was stimulated by a silver mining boom in the 1880s and later on as a transshipment grain handling port for the Canadian Northern Railway line to and from Winnipeg.

pictures-r-1407 Johnson William Arthur 1873 Thuder Cape or Sleeping Giant

Johnson, William Arthur, 1873. Thunder Cape, with the Sleeping Giant visible in the background. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

pictures-r-927White George Harlow 1876 entrance to Thunder Bay

White, George Harlow, 1876. Entrance to Thunder Bay. Photo source: Toronto Public Library

na-2856-2 Temporary bridge over Pic River Lake Superior Ont 1884

Temporary bridge over Pic River, Lake Superior, 1884. Glenbow Archives, Calgary, AB

souv_pic-r-295 The CPR hotel Fort WilliamThe Kaministiquia Hotel JL Meikle pub photo by Evans

The Kaministiqua or Canadian Pacific Railway Hotel, Fort William, 1900. Photo credit: Evans. Publisher: JL Meikle. Photo source: Toronto Public Library.

Northern hotel Port arthur 1900 JL Meikle pub TPL

Northern Hotel, Port Arthur, 1900, “Overlooking one of the most magnificent scenes in the world, the glorious Thunder Bay, which has been compared to the Bay of Naples.” Photo: Evans. Publisher: JL. Meikle. Photo source: Toronto Public Library.

souv_pic-r-289the twin towns of port arthur and Fort william 1900 JL Meikle pub TPL

Panoramic view of Port Arthur, 1900, “showing Northern Hotel at Thunder Bay on the right.” Photo: Evans. Publisher: JL. Meikle. Photo source: Toronto Public Library.


Ten years later, Rockwell Kent and I would discuss the glamour of a north shore, how everything opens and clears there, sky, various winds, water; how light lingers long after it should in summer, as if trying to announce something vital that has been overlooked or refused.

~ Jane Urquhart, The Underpainter

pictures-r-1184 Robillard Albert 1871-1934 1900 watercolour canoeing on Lake Superior TPL

Albert Robillard, 1900. Canoeing on Lake Superior (?). Photo source: Toronto Public Library



Vintage photo(s): General Election, 1908, Ontario



pictures-r-4814 elections ontario 1908 crowd outside Telegram building Melinda st

Election, Ontario, 1908. Crowd in front of Telegraph Building, Melinda St.  Toronto Public Library photo archive

It’s election night in Ontario, so as I listen to the results come in over the radio, I am thinking a little bit about what elections and voting must have been like in the past. Completely abstracting from the fact that women did not have the franchise in 1908 and were not yet declared persons, I’m still keen on imagining the process of waiting for the newspaper to come out to see the results!

I can understand what is going on in the photo above, but I’m not sure what the crowds were waiting for here, meaning what kind of a presentation they might have expected:

pictures-r-4813elections ontario 1908 looking towards melinda st telegraph building

The photo is apparently from the same location, by the Telegraph Building on Melinda Street. Source: Toronto Public Library.

Incidentally, I had no idea who won the 1908 election before writing this. It turns out that it was the Ontario Conservative Party. Tonight it seems to be going the other way. No comment on politics, however! I will mention though that the Premier-elect is a woman.

Update: If you’re interested in knowing a little bit about when women got the right to vote in Canada here’s a brief article. I hadn’t realized that women had campaigned for suffrage over such a long period in Ontario (the vote was finally gained in 1917 after forty years of struggle). It was 1918 when most women gained the vote federally, although it was many years later that suffrage included some women, including aboriginal women (1960).



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ice column, ottawa winter carnival 1922 Chateau Laurier Mikan3301072

Credit: Henry Joseph Woodside. Ice column in front of the Chateau Laurier, Ottawa, 1922. Ottawa Winter Carnival. Library and Archives Canada, Topley Collection. Mikan number: 3301072

ice column in front of the old post office Ottawa winter carnival 1922. Mikan 3384979

Credit: Samuel J. Jarvis. Ice column in front of the old post office, 1922. Ottawa Winter Carnival. Library and Archives Canada. Mikan number: 3384979

The Ottawa Winter Carnival was apparently the precursor to today’s Winterlude festival, of which I wrote last Sunday.

Yesterday saw the start of the ice sculpture competition. As the weather is sufficiently cold but much milder than the weather we have had in recent weeks (fortunate sculptors!), I slipped out of the office yesterday afternoon for a half an hour and hobbled over to the park to take a peek.

A “quickie” competition was held yesterday morning and produced the smaller sculptures around the fountain (the disco person is my sentimental favourite!), while the other mountains of ice reflect the beginnings of designs for the overnight competition to finish today I believe. Good luck to all of the competitors from near and far away!

IMG_1529 (1024x683) IMG_1533 (1024x683)

With apologies to the sculptor of this lovely design, as I failed to capture the plaque associated with it. (Will update when I have the name!)

IMG_1534 (1024x683) IMG_1546 (1024x683)

I did not see an attribution of these bears to anyone. They were at the entrance to the park.

Designs and early-stage sculptures:

IMG_1541 (1024x683) IMG_1552 (1024x683) IMG_1553 (1024x683)

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IMG_1554 (1024x683) IMG_1559 (1024x683) IMG_1560 (1024x683)

Something I am very sorry to have missed for not having been alive and participating in the carnival in the 1920s (!) is the toboggan chute that there apparently once was. Frankly, however, with my injury history on ice, perhaps it is best that I missed this opportunity! My fond memories of careening downhill on a wooden toboggan with my brothers when I was little are going to have to suffice for now.

Rideau locks 1922 Toboggan chute, Winter Carnival, Chateau Laurier Mikan number 3301073

Credit: Henry Joseph Woodside. Rideau Locks, toboggan chute, Chateau Laurier, Ottawa Winter Carnival 1922. Library and Archives Canada. Mikan number: 3301073