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.
The president of the Board for 1905 was A.B. Erskine.
He will serve as president in 1912, too.
Commercial Travelers, and a novel idea
On February 25, 1905 the Board held a special meeting at which
it decided to request the provincial government not to make the
Commercial Travelers License Act applicable to travelers from
points outside the province. Readers anxious to know more of the
details of this now obscure matter should check Page 11 of the February
27, 1905 Province.
But the commercial travelers question was still
fresh in the minds of members at its July 4, 1905 meeting, and prompted
what the Province of July 5 (Page 11) called a rather
novel idea intended to make clear the Boards displeasure
over the lack of duties upon the import of American lumber. A motion
was passed that if the Dominion Government requests the provincial
Government to consider the withdrawal of the statute imposing a
tax upon commercial travelers, the provincial Government refuse
the same until the Dominion Government shall have placed a duty
upon lumber and shingles, which has so often and justly been asked
for, that our chief industry may benefit by interprovincial trade
as the Act of Confederation intended; which the present policy of
the Dominion Government, in admitting lumber and shingles free,
prevents, and is an unjust discrimination against the interests
of this province.
(Incidentally, the capitalization of words in the preceding paragraph
exactly reproduces the newspapers style of the time.)
Irritation with federal policy regarding lumber tariffsor,
more accurately, the absence of such tariffswas evident in
the Boards discussion of the topic. Member H.A. Stone said
that policy was costing British Columbia three or four million dollars
Mr. Von Cramer, the Provinces
account continued, said that a few days ago he was conversing
with lumbermen from the other side of the line, and they stated
that were a duty imposed on lumber they were all ready to come to
British Columbia and start manufacturing here. They had anticipated
a duty this year.
Fire Insurance rates
The regular monthly meeting of the Board on June
6, 1905 began with a discussion of fire insurance rates. Their reduction
in Vancouver to the maximum amount of 25 per cent, which came
into effect on May 27, while appreciated by the Board as a step
in the right direction, does not leave the rates as low as the board
would wish. (See our June 7, 1904 entry for an earlier and
somewhat surprising discussion on this subject.)
The Board felt the rates should be even lower, and struck a committee
to pursue the matter. As to why the rates had been lowered, it was
felt that was largely because of the recent announcement by the
Vancouver branch of the Hudsons Bay Company that if rates
were not lowered it would withdraw all its insurance placed through
There was more in the June 7, 1905 report on Page
2 of the Province: In the matter of fire rates an almost
outrageous injustice had been inflicted by the Board of [Fire] Underwriters
on the insuring public was the expressed opinion of Mr. C.M. Beecher.
He said the rates are so high as to be prohibitive as far as the
sawmilling industry is concerned. He stated that as a consequence
of the high tariff the mill at Barnet had withdrawn its insurance
and carried its own risk. Other mills had been forced to reduce
the amount of insurance they carried.
They charge us extra for the mill on account
of the boiler-house, said Mr. Beecher, and they charge
us extra for the boiler-house because of the drykiln; extra for
the drykiln because of the planing-mill, and extra for the planing-mill
because of the drykiln, and so on they compound us back and forth.
Beecher also noted that he and other mill operators
had been told that local rates would be the same as those applied
on Puget Sound (i.e., Washington State.) We called attention
to the fact that we were competing with mills on Puget Sound, and
we were assured that the rates in British Columbia and on the Sound
would be equal. As a matter of fact they are not equal, and the
mills on the Sound have the same rate now as they had three years
ago. I may say that we will stop insuring if this thing is not adjusted
satisfactorily and justice done.
The committee struck to look into this matter would continue its
A digression (to illustrate there was life outside the Board for
its members): C.M. Beechers wife was one of the founders and
the first president of the Vancouver Womans Musical Club,
still active today as the Vancouver Womens Musical Society.
Mr. Beecher himself was first vice-president of the Vancouver Camera
Club, organized in 1897.
Something fishy . . . and soapy . . . and floury
Member H.O. Bell-Irving charged that salmon packed
at Rivers Inlet had been falsely labeled and palmed off
on the Australian market as Skeena River fish. He wished the Board
to use its influence to put a stop to the practice. The salmon
business in Australia, Bell-Irving said, has been mainly
built up on the reputation of the Skeena River fish. Resolution
In discussing how to improve trade between Canada and Japan member
F.T. Schooleya soap manufacturersaid that Japan gave
preference to other countries to the disadvantage of Canada. In
his own case that preference was harming his attempts to sell soap
to that country. He asked that the question be referred to the Boards
standing committee on trade and commerce. He was asked to provide
facts and figures for the committee to study. He agreed.
Mr. P. Fewster appeared before the Board to inform them he was
making plans for a flouring-mill in Vancouver. That was referred
to the trade and commerce committee.
A letter was read to the July 4 meeting from J.
Buntzen, managing director of the British Columbia Electric Railway
Company, asking the board to cooperate in calling the attention
of industrial concerns to the fact that cheap power was now available
in this city. Buntzen went on to say that he would be pleased
to receive suggestions about which industries might be induced to
come to BC. The company was going to advertise in industrial, manufacturing
and trade journals. This was referred to the council of the Board,
with the thought that everything possible should be done to encourage
industries. The installation of the large plant at Lake Buntzen
had cost a considerable sum of money, and the enterprise was such
as would meet with the cordial approval of every member of the board.
Note: that name Buntzen will ring a bell for many.
From a brief web history of the BCER: "The first hydro-electric
plant on the mainland was the Lake Buntzen plant. It was put into
production December 17, 1903. The plant was named for Johannes E.
E. Buntzen, a Dane. Buntzen had been appointed as general manager
in April of 1898, as managing director in April of 1905. He has
been called the grandfather of electricity in British Columbia.
You can read more here.
Key meetings loom
The September 5, 1905 meeting of the Board dealt with the upcoming
visit to Vancouver of the recently appointed Tariff Commissionappointed,
member C.M. Beecher reminded other members, only after many petitions
asking for it. Believing that it was an important matter to those
engaged in the manufacture of lumber and shingles and allied industries,
a committee was formed to meet with the Commission when it arrived
in late September.
City alderman E.H. Heaps wrote to the Board in his
capacity as chairman of the civic Committee for the Promotion of
New Industries. Member F.R. McD. Russell, speaking to a motion to
meet with Heaps group, said that he had recently been in the
States, and found that in Seattle every man, woman and child
tried to advertise his or her city, and he thought Vancouver should
do the same.
A Royal Commission on Transportation was coming to Vancouver, and
the Boards committee on trade and commerce was encouraged
to attend its meeting . . . which would be held in the Boards
An allegation that smuggling is going on across
the border from Blaine to Sumas, on a wholesale scale, was the somewhat
startling charge made by several prominent merchants at the regular
monthly meeting of the Vancouver Board of Trade last evening.
Thats how the November 8, 1905 Province (page 7) led
its coverage of Board activities. A strong resolution was
passed," the report continued, "to have the matter brought
to the immediate attention of the Dominion Government.
Member R.P. McLennan (Robert McLennan of McLennan,
McFeely & Prior) said that whole wagonloads of goods are
constantly being brought across the line without paying a cent of
duty . . . I think the Government should instruct the Customs officials
there to enforce the law strictly. I was told of one man who built
a house on the Canadian side of the line near Blaine, and who not
only purchased the lumber and material for the house in the United
States, but all the furnishings. Yet nothing was said of the matter.
It has also been stated that at Blaine it is a common practice to
have goods which are sent over to the Canadian side billed at half
the cost. Such a proceeding, it is unnecessary for me to say, is
a very immoral one and punishable by a heavy fine.
A resolution was passed unanimously to inform the Dominion Government
of the situation, and to ask that more inspectors be appointed.
Among the applications for membership to the Board was one from
Jonathan Rogers. It was approved. Were surprised that Rogersa
prominent businessman and the first man to step down onto the platform
from the first train into Vancouver in1887, 18 years earlierwas
not already a member. (The Rogers Building, the handsome white terra
cotta building at the northeast corner of Granville and Pender,
was built by him.)
There was a problem raised at the November 7, 1905
meeting: the too-easy sale and transfer of stock-in-trade
by tradesmen, particularly small retailers, without in any way safeguarding
the interest of their creditors. Board president Erskine said
those in the wholesale trade were aware that a number of transfers
of stock [referring here to merchandise, not invested capital] had
taken place during the past year without having been brought to
the notice of the wholesaler who supplied them . . . There
was nothing in the present Bills of Sales Act to prevent a retail
merchant selling his goods, putting the money in his pocket and
leaving the city. A suggestion had been made by the Winnipeg
Board of Trade that the Vancouver board act in conjunction with
the boards of the other western provinces so that corrective legislation
might be passed at the same time in all of the provinces. Referred
to the committee on legislation and trade and commerce.
The question of available land in the province came
up again during the November 7 meeting. (It was one of the subjects
of the Boards April 5, 1904 session.) Member Frank Baynes
said he knew of almost daily instances of the province losing good
settlers who were told that no lands were available. Member D. Von
Cramer said hed spoken to the Chief Commissioner of Lands
and Works, who told him the government was handicapped by a lack
of means. As soon as funds were available, some definite policy
would be adopted to have full information of available lands.
In what sounds like a sarcastic aside, member R. McLennan thought
that if there were provincial lands, the sooner the Government found
out something about them the better.
Herring on the Track!
Member McLennan was chairman of the Boards
special freight rates committee, and reported November 7 on a meeting
hed had with the CPRs B.W. Greer about freight rates.
Greer had asked for a 30 day extension for a response. It
is the same old story, McLennan said, of pulling a herring
across the track. The result has been wholly unsatisfactory.
The same question dominated a December 12 special
meeting of the Board. The December 13 story in the Province
(headlined TO CONTINUE FIGHTING CPR) referred to an ongoing boycott
of the railway by Vancouver merchants. Alderman E.H. Heaps said
that if the boycott was continued the lumbermen of the coast
would be hard hit by reason of the fact that a car shortage would
result . . . and the mills would not be able to obtain sufficient
for their eastbound shipments.
Member W.J. McMillan said he had been notified that
the railway was willing to treat with the Vancouver merchants on
the question of rates eastbound from Vancouver on oriental merchandise.
The company had announced that if it could be shown that these rates
were unfair to Vancouver merchants a readjustment might be made.
The freight rates committee would meet with the CPR and report
to the next meeting of the board.
McMillan later commented that it was a fact that
freight can be shipped from Montreal to Vancouver via Liverpool
cheaper than the CPR carries it across the continent from Montreal
to Vancouver. Further, oriental goods were hauled by the railway
from Vancouver to Winnipeg, and then from Winnipeg back to Fernie
at a cheaper rate than Vancouver merchants paid to ship the goods
direct from Vancouver to Fernie!
This reply of the CPR, McMillan continued,
I consider a most wishy-washy thing to submit to a commission
composed of sensible men. It almost appears to me that the CPR takes
the Railway Commissioners to be a lot of nincompoops who will believe
anything the Railway Company says. A resolution to place the
response of the Board to the railway before the Commission was approved.
Member A.G. Thynne weighed in in reference
to the allegations that the CPR is granting cheaper rates eastward
from Vancouver than are given from Seattle by American railways,
I can state that I can pick out points on the Great Northern where
the rates are a great deal lower than those of the CPR for the same
Thynne was just warming up.
We would be better off today, he said,
if we had not gone into the Union [Confederation]if
we had built a railway of our own to serve our own country. The
CPR simply says that it has got such a pull that it will not allow
sailing vessels or tramp steamers to bring freight from England
to Vancouver in competition with the liners of the CPR from England
to Montreal. This reply of the CPR is the greatest amount of balderdash
any company could think any body of reasonably minded men could
peruse without laughing at it.
I was talking today to a lawyer closely connected
with the CPR, and he said that there was no argument at all in the
CPR reply, and that if it went before the Railway Commission it
would be turned down straight, and that is what we want the merchants
of Vancouver to doturn the railway down straight.
What else was
happening locally in 1905?
For a once-over-lightly look at the history of The
Vancouver Board of Trade, go here.
Next: 1906 »