You’ve heard of Show Biz. This is Biz Biz, the history of business in Vancouver, told through the activities of The Vancouver Board of Trade.

1888 1889 1890 1891 1892 1893
1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
1906 1907 1908 1909 1910  
1926       1932 1933
1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940


More on the Gold Rush

The year began for the Board, said the January 9th Province, with a continuation of its efforts to improve the city’s steamship service to Skagway. A firm called Bodwell & Co. wrote the Board to say that the steamers Victorian and City of Seattle had been placed on the northern run “and that these vessels would make this city their first and last port of call up and down.” They also said that two other vessels would be added to the route in the spring “to care for the increased freight traffic likely to result.” The Board resolved to form a committee to meet with Bodwell’s local agent to secure a commitment to their pledges.

A two-man delegation (Board president Buscombe and A.O. Campbell) would go to Ottawa to “lay before the government the desirability of granting a subsidy in connection with the carrying of the Canadian mails to the north . . . At present the Canadian mails for the north are shipped from this city to Seattle and from there transported to American vessels to Skagway owing to the fact that it has been found impossible to place the carrying of them with a Canadian company or with one operating from a Canadian port and possessing the required facilities.” The delegation also planned to go to Montreal and talk about the steamship situation with CPR president Thomas Shaughnessy. [A May 5, 1902 story in the Province indicates this subsidy had recently been approved.]

False Creek, a Mint, and other weighty measures

The Board at its January 8th meeting approved a show of support for the city’s request to Ottawa for control of the False Creek tidal flats. (A parenthetical note: the Creek still extended far to the east of Main Street in 1901; that land would not be filled in until during the First World War.)

We learned that the Buscombe-Campbell delegation that had gone to Ottawa had also asked the federal government to establish a mint in Vancouver. The request had been received and filed.

The letter carriers of the city wrote the Board asking it to support their plea for a 20 per cent increase in their wages, which averaged $40 a month. A committee was appointed to look into it. (The Board approved a letter of support at its AGM March 12.) And Board member Henry Bell-Irving passed along a newspaper report of a resolution passed by the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association in Toronto "advocating the holding of a conference between Great Britain, the United States and other Anglo-Saxon people, with regard to the adoption of a universal system of weights and measures." Bell-Irving suggested Canada could lead the way, and recommended other boards of trade in the province be contacted and that they all pass along a suggestion to Ottawa that the matter be discussed in parliament. Approved. (At its April 9th meeting Bell-Irving, in a letter, again urged the Board to put itself on record as approving a switch to the metric system.)

John McLagan leaves

John McLagan’s health forced him to resign from the Board. The news truly distressed the Board, because he had been a hard-working and popular member, and it was unanimously decided to recognize his service by electing him as an honorary member for life. Sadly, McLagan—the editor and publisher of The Vancouver World—died this same year. (His widow, Sara Ann McLagan, took over and became the first woman publisher of a daily newspaper in Canada.)

Ships needed

The Board was dismayed, said the Province of March 6th, by the preference for American ports shown by Pacific coast ship owners. What was needed: more locally made and locally based ships. “Resolved that in the opinion of this board the promotion of ship-building and owning of ships in this province is of the highest importance to the future commercial prosperity and advancement of British Columbia, and that this board begs to urge upon the dominion and provincial governments the advisability of granting assistance to the industry until it is fully established.” Carried, and the secretary was instructed to send a copy of the resolution to each representative of Vancouver and the coast in both the federal and provincial houses.


The annual general meeting of the Board on March 12 heard that membership had reached 183, and that there was “a cash balance at its credit at the end of the financial year of $932.76.” Members also heard that the Board was actively seeking new offices “further removed from the noise of street traffic, where the secretary may be permanently located during business hours.” (The April 10 issue of the Province shows that they moved into the Molson Bank building.)

Incidentally, you’ll have noticed that much of the attention of the Board in these early years was directed at points well beyond Vancouver itself. One example was the concern shown over the “necessity light-ships, lighthouses, fog signals and other aids to navigation on the British Columbia coast.”


There was dismay at the low Fraser River salmon run of the past year. “The number of canneries in operation on this river was 43 and the total pack amounted to only 161,423 cases, as against 510,383 cases in 1899.” There was a strike in the industry and that led to an estimated shortage of 50,000 cases, but even so the run was very small, making the season “one of the most disastrous in the history of the salmon canning industry on the Fraser.” The northern canners did well, but it was to be regretted that the government had done very little towards the extension of salmon hatcheries. Embarrassingly, the fishery commissioner for the state of Washington—where the industry was thriving—had submitted a proposal to the B.C. canners’ association on behalf of the state government “to contribute a large sum towards the establishment of hatcheries on the Fraser for the propagation of the sockeye salmon.” Comparison was made by the Board to Ontario, where 80 million fry were distributed by their provincial government, while only five million were distributed in B.C.

Lumber up . . . and down

Lumber shipments in 1900 were up markedly over 1899, but that was largely because the Hastings Mill had resumed operations after rebuilding (they’d had a fire). The industry, facing increases in wages and the cost of supplies, was still struggling. And—shades of 2006!—there was anger and resentment over the fact that the product of Canadian lumber mills was shut out of the American market by duties (for example, $2 on every thousand board feet), while American lumber products entered this country free of duty.

Locally built ships were needed for trans-Pacific trade (with China, Japan, Australia and South America), because B.C. shippers had to use San Francisco-based vessels, which charged fees well above those they levied on Puget Sound exporters, virtually next door.

The assay office

At a special meeting May 22 the Board, announcing that the government was unwilling to make a commitment, recommended that the city and its banks establish a gold assay office. Seattle, which had such an office, was benefiting from it to Vancouver’s disadvantage. If the banks would agree to do the assay work for nothing, then miners could be paid for their gold virtually the same rates they were now paid in Seattle. Some $20,166,687 worth of gold had been purchased in Seattle in the previous year, and of that amount $16,674.433 was from the Yukon. The meeting ended with a decision to advertise to the public the need from them for a guarantee fund of $5,000 to cover the costs of establishing payments to miners equal to that offered by Seattle. (A September 11 story indicated that, largely thanks to the efforts of Board member Pellew Harvey—who happened, incidentally, to be a metallurgist—the assay office had been established.)

Victoria offered to join with Vancouver in establishing two assay offices, one in each city, but the Board recommended against that, and resolved that “. . . while appreciating the natural desire of Victoria to have an assay office there, [the Board] still considers that the most advantageous position for this is at Vancouver.”

The Board ups its rates, seeks a judge, and worries about its good name

The June 18 meeting debated and passed a resolution that the entry fee for joining the Board should be raised from $5 to $10. Agitation continued for a resident judge in the city. The provincial government was against it, and the result was that a judge of the provincial Supreme Court visited the city only a few times a year.

A clever local hotelier named Smith had named his establishment the Board of Trade, and a delegation was dispatched to suggest he choose another name, or at least put the word “Hotel” at the end of it. There was no anger at the name, in fact the Board considered it a form of “subtle flattery,” but still it was thought it might cause confusion in the minds of some, especially visitors who “in searching for the institution of which they were members . . . might drift into a wholly different place.”

A digression: an advertisement in the September 11 Province placed by Weeks & Penwill, Family Grocers and Provision Merchants at Hastings and Seymour, was offering lobster at 35 cents a jar.

Tasmanian matters

A Mister Alexander Morton of Tasmania—still a colony of Australia when Morton visited, Tasmania became a state later this same year—spoke of the great desire in the colony for good quality canned salmon. The stuff they had been getting (he didn’t name the source) was of low quality, and the thousands of miners in Tasmania, which had the world’s largest tin mine, were choosing beef instead. He would inform the Tasmanians that salmon from Vancouver was infinitely better. [Our own researches show that there is an “Australian salmon,” but it’s a salt water fish and not very popular for eating, more of a sport fish or used for bait. Maybe that’s the kind Morton was referring to.]

Conventional decision

At its December 3 meeting the Board decided to seek affiliation with the Dominion Board of Trade, “which body proposed holding a convention of representatives of affiliated boards in 1902, when the question of a policy of preferential trade between Great Britain and the colonies will be discussed.” (In September of 1902 the Board would heartily agree to take part in that convention, now to be called a congress of the Chambers of Commerce of the Empire. It was scheduled for September, 1903 in Montreal . . . “at the same time noting that the day was not far distant when Vancouver must be recognized as the most central and fitting place for such a convention.”)

Board member W. Godfrey gave notice that at the next AGM he was going to recommend that the Board meet monthly, instead of quarterly. Rather than wait until the AGM the members decided to call a special meeting for January 7, 1902, just a month away.

And this puzzling item closed the Province’s December 4 account of the Board’s session: “Mr. H. T. Lockyer brought to the notice of the meeting the inconvenience caused by the medical inspection of passengers arriving from sound points on the steamer Mainlander. He pointed out the farce the whole thing was, owing to passengers from the same points but travelling via Victoria or the railway route being allowed to enter the city without passing any inspection at all. Mr. Lockyer moved that the board communicate with the Ottawa authorities requesting that the inspections be discontinued. The motion was seconded by Mr. Alexander and carried. The meeting adjourned.”

What else was happening locally in 1901?

For a once-over-lightly look at the history of The Vancouver Board of Trade, go here.

Next: 1902 »














































































































Board of Trade Hotel on Hastings Street
Board of Trade Hotel on Hastings Street