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.
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
citys 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 Bodwells 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 citys 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 McLagans 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, McLaganthe editor and publisher of
The Vancouver Worlddied this same year. (His widow,
Sara Ann McLagan, took over and became the first woman publisher
of a daily newspaper in Canada.)
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, youll 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 Washingtonwhere the industry was thrivinghad
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
(theyd had a fire). The industry, facing increases in wages
and the cost of supplies, was still struggling. Andshades
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 Vancouvers 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 Harveywho happened,
incidentally, to be a metallurgistthe assay office had been
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.
A Mister Alexander Morton of Tasmaniastill
a colony of Australia when Morton visited, Tasmania became a state
later this same yearspoke of the great desire in the colony
for good quality canned salmon. The stuff they had been getting
(he didnt name the source) was of low quality, and the thousands
of miners in Tasmania, which had the worlds 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 its
a salt water fish and not very popular for eating, more of a sport
fish or used for bait. Maybe thats the kind Morton was referring
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
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 Provinces
December 4 account of the Boards 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 »