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


Wheat Wave

“The Vancouver board of trade,” reported the Province of January 6, 1909 (Page 3), “is leading in the movement to divert the export of Alberta grain via this port. This was well demonstrated by the enthusiasm with which the subject was discussed at last night’s monthly meeting.”

The cooperation of the Calgary board would be sought without delay.

The Vancouver board’s secretary, William Skene, provided statistics that showed that Portland, which, like Vancouver, was unprovided with grain elevators, is shipping nearly as much wheat as New York. He informed the board that “wheat was shipped from Calgary to Liverpool, via Fort William [Thunder Bay today], at 40 cents per 100 pounds, while wheat was being shipped through Vancouver today for 45 cents. The railway rate from Calgary to Fort William is 15 cents, and from Calgary to Vancouver 22 1/2 cents.”

Court crowding

Member D. Von Cramer noted the backlog of cases in the local civil courts (40 cases) and urged a resolution to be brought to the attention of the provincial minister of justice. Approved.

Chinese checkers

“Dissatisfaction was expressed at the reply of the commissioner of Chinese immigration regarding the acceptance of a bond given by vessel-owners instead of a cash deposit for Chinese members of crews. Mr. O’Hara wrote that it would be difficult to recommend changes in the existing regulations.”

Our guess at the import of that reference is that there was fear on the part of the Board that Chinese crew members might “jump ship” while in Vancouver and stay here. The Province report continued: “Mr. Skene reported that the regulations in force here were not being enforced at the port of St. John, where vessel-owners were simply held responsible for the Chinese members of crews. Mr. R.H. Alexander expressed the opinion that the discrimination against this port was unjust and the subject will be again taken up with the Dominion Government.”

[We can’t help remembering that during the first civic election in Vancouver in 1886 the same R.H. Alexander was a candidate for mayor, and (unsuccessfully) led a large group of his Chinese mill workers to the polls to vote for him. They were turned back by an even larger group of white voters.]

A digression

There was a civic election campaign going on in Vancouver at the time, and one of the candidates for mayor was Board of Trade member Professor E. Odlum. On the same page of the Province as the details of the Board’s January 5, 1909 meeting was an advertisement urging a vote for Odlum. The winning candidate, however, would be Charles Stanford Douglas, 56, who had arrived in Vancouver in 1889 from Madison, Wisconsin. Douglas had been a journalist in Wisconsin, but he became a realtor here. He defeated four other candidates, including Odlum. Douglas would officiate at the opening this year of the second Granville Street Bridge, which lasted from 1909 to 1954.

This 1909 election, by the way, marked the emergence into civic politics of newspaper publisher (Vancouver World) Louis Denison Taylor, also unsuccessful in running against Douglas. But “L.D.” would come back strong in 1910 (mayoral terms were just one year long back then) and go on to become Vancouver’s most-elected mayor. See this site for more details on Vancouver’s mayors.


The Board made the front page of the Province January 9, 1909 with news that secretary William Skene had sent off, on behalf of the Board, a strongly worded letter to Prime Minister Laurier on the subject of “poaching operations carried on by American fishermen engaged in the halibut fishing industry within the three-mile limit around the Queen Charlotte islands.” The letter also urged the establishment “of a more efficient protective patrol service” in the area.

The letter will “draw attention to the fact that ten large American steam vessels and at least 40 American schooners, each equipped with from 10 to 14 fishing dories, are constantly violating the law by fishing within Canadian territorial waters.”

George Cowan, MP, was leaving on the 10th for Ottawa to attend to his legislative duties, and the Board had furnished him with all the relevant correspondence and a request to urge action from the government.

Ready! Aim! Fire Insurance!

The board of fire insurance underwriters came under a strong attack from the Board of Trade, as outlined in the Province of February 10, 1909 (Page 3). It seems the underwriters’ group (dominated, the Board said, by “foreign institutions,” with 90 per cent of the combined capital of the companies controlled from outside Canada) was calling for legislation that would require all fire insurance companies in British Columbia to make a large deposit with the government and to submit annual financial statements.

“Characterizing the measure as an attempt to maintain a monopoly and prevent business men from placing their risks at lower rates,” the Board drafted a vigorous resolution. One of the speakers at the regular monthly meeting the night before wanted the underwriters’ board prosecuted under the criminal code. President Heaps and members Fred Buscombe and Robert McLennan (the latter two themselves former Board presidents) were appointed a deputation to visit Victoria and ask the government to refuse the proposed legislation.

Members J.J. Banfield and T.J. Langlois defended the underwriters, but their arguments “failed to stay the passage of the . . . resolution.”

The effect of the resolution was that the underwriters constituted a “combine,” intended to keep small companies out; that the rates charged by the underwriters were excessive, and “based only on the principle of ‘all the traffic will bear’; that the commissions charged for insurance renewal were excessive; that companies outside the combine provided the same protection at from 15 to 40 per cent less; that the small companies were cognizant of the special features of British Columbia industry (lumber mills, etc.) and shaped their policies accordingly, whereas the combine companies dealt with their customers only in a general way, and “that the sentiment of the people and the spirit of their times is against class legislation and the countenancing of combines.”

Take that!

We liked this clause: “That newspaper reports state that this legislation is sought by the underwriters for the protection of the policy-holders, whilst this board of trade, as representing a larger amount of insurance than any other institution in the province, wish to assure the government that we have made no request of the board of underwriters to make any such recommendations on our behalf.”

And it ends: “This board therefore prays that no legislation be granted the boards of underwriters which would strengthen the grip these underwriters have on the people, or which would prevent the people of this province from purchasing their fire insurance in the lowest market at the best rates obtainable.”

Fred Buscombe said he understood that the draft bill put forth by the underwriters provided that “every fire insurance company would be required to deposit $30,000 with the Provincial Government before being permitted to do business in the province. He thought the object was to prevent outside companies from offering lower rates than the board companies, as well as to exclude special risks.” If the bill became law, Buscombe concluded, “it would establish a great monopoly.” Later, he added, “I know of an instance where a commission of $3,000 was paid at a crack on a $15,000 premium.”

Buscombe, the report went on, “vigorously arraigned the [underwriters’] board for having failed to carry out the reductions in fire insurance in this city promised three years ago on condition that the city improve its fire-fighting apparatus.” That had happened, he said, while he was mayor of Vancouver. “Today we have a dual water supply system, new hydrants, new fire apparatus, a fire warden, and yet the rates remain unchanged. The reductions were to have ranged from 17 to 21 per cent.”

Banfield strikes back!

Member J.J. Banfield—who was in the fire insurance business—struck back strongly. Speaking directly to the Board’s lumbermill executives he said, “You asked for a $2 protection on lumber a few years ago to offset American competition, and yet you placed the majority of your fire insurance in American companies after talking loyalty to Canada.”

[Go to the 1904 BizBiz file and read what Banfield had to say about fire insurance rates at the June 7 meeting. He strongly defended his industry back then, too.]

Banfield thought legislation was needed to prevent abuses of the system. “It is significant,” he said, “that certain fire insurance companies do a big business in British Columbia and yet do not write risks in the provinces where they were incorporated because they did not comply with the requirements of the home laws. The Globe Fire Insurance company placed $53,000 in risks at Fernie, but it could not pay the fire losses, having only $1,500 on hand. We have no government inspection here, and the strength of a company is not known until after a fire.

“Recently,” Banfield continued, “a survey of the business houses from the Kelly-Douglas building to the McClary building on Water street was made by the fire underwriters and sent east for comparison with corresponding risks in Montreal and Toronto. It developed that these Vancouver business men are paying from 25 to 75 per cent less for their insurance than their eastern competitors.

“We have made no money out of your lumber business,” he said to the millmen. “And what is more, we are willing to go into the figures with you who talk patriotism and yet do business with our American competitors.”

We think this one can be described as a lively meeting.

Grain News

Board president E. Heaps had returned from a fact-finding mission to Calgary to report on the grain-shipping situation, and had good news for local business people on the conference held there. “I predict that the grain will come this way. There is a surplus for export this year of 13 million bushels, of which only six million have been sent forward in competition with the wheat of other provinces. The railway has been virtually forced to seek the route via Vancouver. All that remains now is to provide facilities here for handling the grain in bulk.”

Heaps paid a special tribute to the Province for sending a representative to the conference, and added that “the reports were models of correctness.”

“It is our duty,” he told members at the February 9 meeting (which had, the newspaper reported, an “exceptionally large attendance”), “to lose no time in securing the terminal elevator facilities here. The possibilities of development it will bring in its train are almost unlimited. There will probably, with increased acreage under cultivation, be about 30 million bushels for export via Vancouver next fall. It is difficult to realize the magnitude of these figures. We are going to have competition from New Westminster, and probably from Port Moody, but there promises to be business for all. I foresee the establishment of a grain exchange here. One is already planned at Calgary, for the design of the building has been prepared.”

[For a history of the Vancouver Grain Exchange, in 1909 still some years in the future, see this site. It was the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914 that made the exchange a viable idea.]

Skene observer

Board secretary William Skene had been in Calgary, too, as the special representative of the BC provincial government. “He referred to the impression existing among the Alberta farmers that they were being swindled by the Manitoba graindealers.”

Skene enumerated the superior advantages of the short haul to Vancouver, and its advantages in enabling the cars to make many trips in the period occupied in the through haul to the Atlantic seaboard. “He also said the Vancouver route would enable English firms to buy in advance and have the wheat shipped monthly from Vancouver, thus saving large sums now paid out in storage charges.”

Board member Major C. Gardiner Johnson, a major shipping figure in Vancouver, in thanking Heaps and Skene, “declared that their report would stand on the records as the inception of a trade movement which would last for ever and which would soon assume enormous proportions.” Johnson got that right: Vancouver would eventually become a major grain-shipping port.

Our files have a note that the first export shipment of grain was made out of Vancouver on January 7, 1909. Some 50,000 bushels of wheat from the prairies went to Australia. Unfortunately, that’s all the detail we have. And it doesn’t jibe with an article from the April 1936 issue of Economic Geography. That article, Page 185 ff, by Leah Stevens, gives some good data on the growth of the grain shipment trade in Vancouver. We cite it here to add weight to Johnson’s prediction.

“Since the first commercial shipments of 500,000 bushels of grain in 1921,” Stevens writes (note no reference to 1909), “the volume has increased to 95.4 million bushels for 1928-1929 and 96.9 million bushels for the 1932-1933 crop year. Grain made up 73 per cent of the total export tonnage of Vancouver in 1932.”

Vancouver’s mayor Charles Douglas was present at this meeting, and invited the Board to send a delegation to confer with the city council in regard to harbor improvements. President Heaps would name the delegation members.

Naive request

A “unique request” came in to the Board from the Lumbermen’s Association. They wanted an endorsement of their resolution “in favor of the simplification of the legal procedure and the reduction of law costs.”

The resolution of the lumbermen, reported the Province, “made a plea for the adoption of a method whereby arbitration could be resorted to in settlement of disputes ‘without jeopardizing the financial standing of business men,’ and a system ‘by which every client could become his own lawyer.’”

The resolution’s “naive suggestions,” the newspaper’s report continued, “aroused no little amusement, and were endorsed by Mr. Heaps amidst laughter.”


The Board had discussed in the past the need for a court of appeals in Vancouver. Such a court was overdue. They got a letter from A.B. Aylesworth, the federal minister of justice, and it was read out for members at the February 9 meeting. Aylesworth blamed the delay on the provincial government. It read in part: “. . . until the Provincial Government statutes by which the court is constituted has been brought into force by the Provincial Government, then nothing can be done in the matter by the Dominion Government.”

“Routine” matters

The Province of February 18, 1909 reported that several routine matters were dealt with speedily during a meeting of the Board the night before. One of them was the naming of a delegation to Ottawa to urge on the federal government the necessity for improving Vancouver’s harbor. Fred Buscombe and W.W.B. McLanes would go. It was also suggested that a representative of the CPR’s coast steamship service could go along, and a note to the CPR asking this was approved. (The first choice was Capt. Troup, the superintendent, if he was willing and available.)

The Mountain Lumber Manufacturers’ Association, based in Nelson, wrote asking for support of their resolution “asking for protection against American rough lumber being dumped into Canada.” That was quickly and unanimously endorsed. Fred Buscombe pointed out that the lumber industry was the “only unprotected one in the Dominion, and this condition of affairs called for immediate alteration.” The Board had passed its own similar resolution in March of 1908.

Member H. Bell-Irving reported for the Board’s fisheries committee. It seems the federal government intended to build one cruiser and rent another “for the protection of British Columbia fisheries. The letters also referenced that it was now known that Hecate straits and Dixon entrance were Canadian waters. In view of this the committee wired the department of marine asking if Captain Newcomb of the Kestrel had instructions to clear American poachers from these waters, and a reply is now awaited.”

[A quick orthographical note: the style of newspapers in this era was to write “Hecate straits,”“Dixon entrance,”“Granville street,”and the like, rather than capitalize the second word. It’ll be interesting to see when the change comes.]

Ferry Tales

A letter was received from the secretary of a North Vancouver public meeting asking the Board to endorse a resolution “protesting against any ferry monopoly being granted.” The Board expressed itself in favor of keeping the waters of Burrard Inlet open to all passenger traffic.

Trade with China . . . and others

Member James Ramsay submitted a resolution asking that a trade commissioner for China be appointed, and that he should have a knowledge of BC industry. Ramsay pointed out that “some big railroads were under construction in China, and that since the death of Mr. Maclean, Canada had no trade commissioner.” His resolution received hearty support.

[Thanks to a request to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, we’re able to flesh that last reference out. From a book they cite, Canada’s Salesman to the World: the Department of Trade and Commerce 1892-1939 by O. Mary Hill, we learn that Alexander MacLean, who had been Canada’s commercial agent in Japan since 1904, was transferred to China in 1908. He was more than 70 and died very soon after his appointment. He was succeeded in 1909—obviously later than the Board’s February meeting—by J.B. Jackson, who was unsuccessful in the post and in 1911 was let go. Jackson died in Vancouver on his way back from Shanghai.]

The Port Hammond fruit growers’ association wrote asking the Board to endorse their petition for a local train, such as the Agassiz local. The fruit trade, they said, demanded a fast and efficient service. The Board had already been agitating for just such a service, and quickly endorsed the petition.

The Ladysmith board of trade wrote, saying a deputation was about to visit Richard Marpole, the local CPR executive, asking for a daily service between Ladysmith and Vancouver. They asked for someone from the Vancouver Board to attend, and President Heaps was appointed.

There was a petition from a Similkameen group asking for a road between Hope and Otter Flat, and seeking the Board’s support. They got it. The support, not the road. Today, Otter Flat is named Tulameen, and as the map indicates they still don’t have a road to Hope.

Deadman’s Island

Deadman’s Island, off Stanley Park, was back on the Board’s docket for its March 9, 1909 meeting. They had recently sent a telegram to Vancouver MP G.H. Cowan in Ottawa, reading: “The newspapers report that Mr. J.W. Weart has gone to Ottawa to get industrial concessions for Deadman’s island. This board considers that no such concessions should be granted without very careful consideration and consultation with the civic authorities.”

To which, the paper reported, Cowan replied: “Minister promises not to act until you have considered the proposals.”

Member H. Bell-Irving promptly moved this resolution: “Whereas a strong resolution was passed by this board of trade on February 20, 1899 against the leasing of Deadman’s island for a sawmill or any other purposes, and whereas strong indignation was aroused among the citizens of that time against any such lease, now therefore this board strongly endorses this previous resolution and protests against any transfer of the lease then granted to any other than the civic authorities and requests the government to make such arrangement for such transfer as soon as possible.”

[The name of Theodore Ludgate appears in this 1909 story, and it might be well to explain who he was. The detail emerges in the brief bio of Vancouver mayor James Garden (1898-1900) on this site: “Garden was literally a leader, in 1899 heading a march of citizens to Deadman's Island to stop Theodore Ludgate from logging it. The so-called Ludgate Affair began when Mayor Garden read the riot act, defying Ludgate to ‘chop that tree.’ He did, and was promptly arrested. Years of litigation followed, and eventually Ludgate's 25-year lease from the federal government was cancelled, it being determined the property was part of the federal agreement granting Stanley Park to the city in perpetuity.”]

Bell-Irving followed up his resolution with a resume of the history of the case. It makes for interesting reading.

Acrimonious dispute

“A delegate from the board of trade went to Ottawa,” Bell-Irving said, “before the lease was granted, and yet in spite of his urgent representation and that of the city the lease was granted, which led to a long and acrimonious dispute between the city and Mr. Ludgate. There was no doubt as to the general feeling in the city at that time, but nothing was done regarding it. Later when the minister came here he viewed the ground and stated that had the authorities known the facts the lease never would have been granted. Those who were against the lease had been stigmatized as the opponents of the legitimate expansion of Vancouver. That was utterly false. If there were no other sites available, it might be a different matter, but with miles of waterfrontage far better adapted for the purpose that argument would not stand. The use of the island for industrial purposes could only be characterized as unwarrantable vandalism . . . We are all keenly alive to the future development of Vancouver, but was that any reason for deliberately destroying the unrivaled artistic beauties of the city? . . . If the city makes its views known in strenuous fashion, they will not be ignored. We are wealthy enough to preserve such a spot from such disfacement.” [Disfacement is an interesting word; it’s not in our dictionaries, including even the OED, but its meaning is obvious.]

Thoroughly in Sympathy

Board president E.H. Heaps said that as far as he was aware the lease contained no condition against industrial uses on the island. But, “if this were done it must involve the building of a bridge, and that would entail the building of a channel for small craft from Coal harbor into English Bay. I am thoroughly in sympathy with the general feeling among the citizens on this matter. This is a scheme merely to benefit the purse of pocket of a few private individuals. It is not a question of getting a new industry at all.”

Member R.H. Alexander, one of Stanley Park’s first trustees, weighed in. He said, said the Province, “when the ground had been gone over originally, there was not the slightest doubt in the minds of any of them that the island was supposed to be included in the boundaries of the park. The original idea was that the squatters should be cleared off the island and a space in the centre cleaned up so that a bandstand could be put there, and a bridge connecting the island with the mainland constructed.”


The members got an unpleasant surprise. E.W. McLean informed them that the lease was to run for 25 years, and at the end of that term it was to run for another 25 years “at a rent to be determined.” [The lease holder was getting it for $500 a year.] “In fact,” said McLean, “it is a perpetual lease.”

Member C. Gardiner Johnson confirmed McLean’s statement, and added that he had tried to find Mr. Ludgate, who he believed to be in the city, but had been unable to. He suggested that “from the purely business point of view the city must bargain with Mr. Ludgate . . . Mr. Ludgate feels perfectly sure of his lease. There is only one man that can cancel it, and that is the minister, if he wants the land for military purposes.”

Well, as you read above Ludgate lost that battle, and the feds cancelled the lease. And, sure enough, Deadman’s Island is today used for military purposes, viz: HMCS Discovery.

22nd anniversary

This March 9 meeting marked the 22nd anniversary of the Board, and the outgoing president, E.H. Heaps, recounted a long list of matters that had arisen during his year in office: the new coasting regulations, the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific exhibition, a suggested Vancouver exhibition, fast cruisers for the fishery trade, lumber tariffs, transportation matters and harbor improvements, a bridge over the Second Narrows, a grain conference and the establishment of a grain exchange. Before concluding, Heaps eulogized Secretary William Skene’s work and its importance, and suggested an increase in his salary.

The Board had a balance in the bank of $2,258.56 and reported an income of $3,143.95.

New President H.A. Stone

The new Board president was H.A. Stone. We’re not sure, but we think this is the same H.A. Stone who was the manager of the Hudson’s Bay store here. The reason we’re not positive is that there are references in the mid-1930s to manager H.A. Stone, and we wonder if he held that post for more than 20 years. We’ll keep our antennae quivering for confirmation. We do know that the HBC’s Stone was the first president (1931) of the Vancouver Art Gallery Association.

Stone said that he would be pushing the necessity, during his term, for a definite program for the settlement of lands. And he also proposed that an inclined railway be built to the top of Crown Mountain. The mountain, he said, was 3,200 feet high, “which was 800 feet higher than any mountain in Great Britain. It would be an immense attraction to tourists, as well as to the citizens, and the view afforded from the top would be not only an advertisement, but also educative of the immense resources in the neighborhood of the city.”

Crown Mountain, according to this website is actually 4,934 feet (1,504 m) high. The site has a photo of the peak.


A complex story was told in the March 10, 1909 Province (Page 3) report on the Board’s meeting regarding a Port Townsend firm, Sims, Levy & Evans, alleged to be engaged in hanky-panky having to do with providing crews for local sailing vessels. It takes the paper more than 500 words to describe it. The gist of the scheme seemed to be that the company was stepping in ahead of long-established institutions that supplied crews (the Loggers’ and Sailors’ Institute is cited in the Province story) and providing the men—in return for their first month’s pay. Board member R.H. Alexander said it was a difficult subject to tackle. “There were wheels within wheels.” For researchers interested in the subject, check the newspaper, date and page number shown at the head of this item.

Another story about the same time refers to this practice as “crimping,” which we found defined as “to procure (sailors or soldiers) by trickery or coercion.”

The subject came up again at the Board’s May 4 session, reported on by the Province on May 5, Page 2. And again in that newspaper on May 11, Page 20, when a letter came to the Board from eight sailors “who claimed that after having been engaged by the captain of the ship Procyon, they had been abandoned in favor of men obtained at a foreign port through the agency of Sims, Levi & Co.” Board member Captain Worsnop stated that to him the letter had the appearance of having been “concocted and written by an interested party.” [Note that the company name is slightly different in this later report; our guess is that that was due to a careless reporter.]

Fruit Freight

The Penticton board of trade wrote, said the Province of May 5, “pointing out that the freight rate on canned fruit from Ontario was only $1, and from Penticton 71 cents. In view of the nearness of Penticton to the coast this charge is thought excessive, and cooperation with a view of obtaining relief was sought.” The Board’s freight rates committee would deal with the matter.

Daylight Saving

The Daylight Saving bill came under discussion, and member W.H. Malkin moved that the board endorse it. That was seconded and carried, “but not before Mr. R.H. Alexander opposed it, remarking that instead of workingmen and others whom the bill was supposed to affect getting more leisure time in the evenings, it would simply lead to men working more overtime.”

[This 1909 date seems to refer to a bill being discussed in Britain. In the event, Daylight Saving Time wasn’t legislated in BC until 1919, and came into effect March 30th of that year.]

Bits ‘n Pieces

The Alberni Board of Trade asked the Vancouver Board to press Ottawa to move on a proposed “railroad extension.” Secretary Skene would write.

Some Australian journalists were in town, and the Board planned to drive them around town and to visit local mills.

The Deadman’s Island committee presented its report: they had sought legal counsel, which had determined that the lease on the island which had been given to Theodore Ludgate in 1899 and amended in 1900 was given in error. Furthermore, the federal government retained the right to expropriation of the island. “Whatever the result of the legal opinion might be, the city council was urged, as guardians of the public interest, to make strong representations to the government to secure cancellation of the lease, or to transfer it to the representatives of the city, to be held by them for public purposes . . .”

Winnipeg Exposition looms

Winnipeg was planning a Canada-wide exposition in 1912 and the city’s mayor, W. Sanford Evans, spoke to the Board, asking for its cooperation and support. “We want men and capital in this country,” Evans said, “and to get them we have got to put before them some striking evidence of our resources. If we can impress the imagination of the world with the desirability of Canada as a whole then you can with some success persuade them why they should settle in Vancouver, or whatever district you are interested in.”

Other representatives from the prairie provinces were there. One of them, C.W. Bowley of Calgary, as reported in the Province (May 11, 1909, Page 20), said “if present indications were fulfilled, Vancouver Harbor would be lined with elevators by the time the exposition was opened. The natural outlet for western wheat was through Vancouver . . .”

Daly news

Another speaker, T. Mayne Daly, was quoted extensively in the paper. “One of the most marked things of our tour,” he said, “is the strong western spirit which prevails. In every city or town we have visited we have met scores of men who believe that their town and their district is the best. That is the spirit that has made the west . . . A man who does not believe that his town is the best is a knocker, and in this connection I would like to mention a conversation I had with a man on this present tour in a district where their chief industry was raising hogs.

“That man was an enthusiast and he had the Canadian spirit. He said that if all the hogs they raised were rolled into one hog it would dig out the Panama Canal in three roots, and its squeals would shake the coconuts off all the palm trees in the canal zone.” (Laughter.)

The future of Canada was bo'und up in the west, he continued, “and this exposition would give the world an opportunity of seeing the resources of a great land.

“Your land, my land, our home land!’ he concluded, and hearty applause showed that his words had gone home.”

The Board strongly endorsed the idea of the exposition, and we learned in their resolution it was to celebrate the centennial of the arrival of Lord Selkirk, “and his loyal band of settlers, on the banks of the Red River in 1812.”

Another digression

We Googled T. Mayne Daly’s name to discover he was a very distinguished gentleman, indeed: a former mayor of Brandon, a federal cabinet minister, a judge and more. There is a funny story here, in a long and interesting article on Daly, which tells of his strong physical resemblance to a well-known Calgary lawyer, Paddy Nolan, and how they once played a prank on each other based on that resemblance.

A Department of Agriculture

At its meeting of May 10, 1909 the Board decided that the growth of the province warranted establishing departments of agriculture and immigration. The province’s finance department handled those two issues at present. President H.A. Stone recommended a meeting and lunch with the premier [Richard McBride]. That idea was enthusiastically endorsed.

The Province of July 14 (Page One) reported that Premier McBride had agreed to meet with a Board delegation the next day. “The deputation will strongly urge the government to redouble its efforts to colonize the unsettled agricultural areas of the province by immigration from the older provinces and the British Isles. The government will also be asked to expedite the work of surveying all agricultural lands.” The deputation included Stone, and members Ewing Buchan, Fred Buscombe, E.H. Heaps, W.H. Malkin and Professor E. Odlum. For the government, there was Premier McBride and cabinet ministers Francis Carter-Cotton and R.G. Tatlow, and J.D. Taylor, the MP for New Westminster.

On July 16 the same newspaper (Page 2) reported on the meeting. “Emphasis [by the delegation] was laid on the fact that the province was still importing seven million dollars’ worth of farm produce yearly, and this was suggestive of the great field for the development of the agricultural industry in British Columbia, and the value of local production in keeping down prices, thus benefiting manufacturing and all industrial interests. The deputation urged that the necessity was great for energetic and practical work, combined with a strong provincial railway policy, to encourage settlement and interior development.

“The premier . . . assured the members of the deputation that their suggestions would have the ministry’s earnest consideration.

“President Stone and his associates returned by this morning’s boat from the capital.”

Agassiz train

The subject of the Agassiz train came up again (as it had in 1907 and 1908). The discontinuation of this train was causing hardship. A Vancouver company called Hood Bros. wrote to say it was interested in land “around about Whonnock. It was pointed out in the letter that the discontinuation of the train made it hard to get to and from the localities along the north bank of the Fraser River, and thereby retarded settlement. A letter to the same effect was received from the Pitt Meadows Settlers’ Association.”

A gentlemen named P.D. Roe spoke for farmers along the CPR line. The train’s discontinuation, he said, made travel into Vancouver and shipment of goods there difficult. It was decided to leave the matter in the hands of the Board’s railway and navigation committee, who would act as a delegation to the CPR’s Vancouver office.

President Stone said local railway officials were in favor of continuing the train, “but that the opposition came from Winnipeg.” He recommended that if the representations of the board to the railway company had no effect, that the matter be placed before the Railway Commission.

And speaking of that Commission, the eternal subject of freight rates was discussed again, with the committee charged with studying the subject saying they needed more time.

Dangerous Crossing

A Mr. C.F. Sprott of Burnaby wrote, drawing the attention of the Board “to the dangerous condition of the road crossing the CPR tracks near Hastings. Several members of the board testified to their own narrow escapes from sudden death at this point and it was decided to appeal to the city council to improve the crossing by running the road at this point through the park, thus doing away with the curve which shuts off the view of the tracks until the wayfarer is right upon them.” [The story didn’t specify more clearly where this was, and which park was referred to. It’s probable the “Hastings” referred to is not the street, but the townsite, which wouldn’t join Vancouver until 1911.]

New members (and old)

The applications of eight men wishing to join the Board were received at this May 10, 1909 meeting. One of them, who had allowed his membership to lapse and was applying for readmission, was listed in the paper as “George E. Trodey.”We’re willing to bet that should be “Trorey.” George Trorey ran a well-known jewelry shop at the northeast corner of Hastings and Granville (where the Royal Bank sits today), and in February, 1907 sold the shop to Henry Birks & Sons, who kept him on as manager. The famed “Trorey Clock” on the sidewalk in front of the store became the Birks Clock, which ticks away today on the southeast corner of Hastings and Granville.


No reports were retrievable for the period from June to September 1909.

The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition

Because of the lack of reports from June 1909 to September we don’t have the Board’s reaction to the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition held in Seattle. This was Seattle’s first world’s fair. The exposition opened June 1, 1909 and 79,976 visitors attended on the first day. The fair closed October 16, with more than three million visitors. The agricultural and manufacturing exhibits were mostly from North America, though large buildings were also raised for European and Pacific Rim Exhibits. We know that the Vancouver World newspaper had space there, and there would have been other Canadian representation, but, alas, we don’t have the details. There is a fascinating slide show on this unique exposition here.

Gambling? We’re shocked! Shocked!

Board members were unhappy at the October 5, 1909 meeting of the Board with racetrack betting at Richmond’s Minoru Park. “When almost every member had roundly condemned the racetrack entertainment at Minoru park,” the Province reported on October 6 (Page 3), “as ‘an undesirable business,’ and ‘anything but British sport,’ President Stone, who presided for the first time since his return from England, smiled. ‘We always like to hear both sides of a question,’ he said. ‘Is there any one who will say a word in favor of it?’

“The silence was heavy, but not unduly prolonged.”

Then followed support of the protest by the Ministerial association, “and its request to the attorney-general for a law for the suppression of the ‘imported evil,’ as the board viewed it.”


“The reservation of 500 acres of Point Grey lands as a financial aid to the provincial university,” wrote the Province, “was approved at the suggestion of Mr. R.P. McLennan, who added: ‘This will not affect the location of the university, for wherever the Provincial Government may select the site, these lands would be reserved for it.’”

McLennan said the lands granted to the University of Washington, “now valuable by reason of the growth of Seattle,” had suggested the idea.

Minty fresh

The Board went on record as favoring the minting of gold and silver coins at Ottawa, including silver dollars and nickels. [We’re vaguely puzzled by this entry. The Ottawa mint was already active; it had started in 1908. Prior to that, Canada’s currency was produced in Great Britain. There’s a very interesting Wikipedia site on our mint here.

Freight rates

“The question of freight rates east of Calgary,” said the Province, “and on the White Pass & Yukon route will be brought before the meeting of the railway commissioners at their session in Vancouver on October 27, when the board will also support the resolution of the Surrey board of trade for a better service by the Great Northern railway south of the Fraser.”

The Surrey board’s resolution was accompanied by an angry letter from Henry Thrift of Hazelmere. “I am directed to point out to your board,” Thrift wrote, “that your city is losing trade every day the present order of things continues. The apology for a service now operated between Vancouver and Cloverdale is a disgrace to any company which would impose such a thing upon the public.” The resolution—which detailed the “unsatisfactory service and want of station facilities”—had already been sent to the railway commissioners.

In its November 9, 1909 issue the Province said the Board “may adopt a resolution calling on the Provincial Government to insert in its projected agreement with the Canadian Northern Railway company a clause which shall provide that freight rates in British Columbia shall in no case exceed by more than four or five per cent those rates which prevail in other provinces.”

Make it law

Sure enough, at its November 9 session the Board did adopt such a resolution, and called on Premier McBride to make it law. A copy of the resolution was sent to all candidates seeking election in the city of Vancouver and to all other boards of trade in BC asking their cooperation and assistance. Member E.H. Heaps, one of the members of the deputation that had visited Premier McBride on this question, said the premier had told him that D.D. Mann, vice-president of the Canadian Northern, would not agree to the five per cent clause, because “with such a provision he would be unable to float his bonds in London. The difficulty appears to be that though the Canadian Northern trusts the present government, it might not be able to trust a government of the future.” Cries of ‘Hear, Hear’ from the members greeted this remark.

“The premier,” Heaps continued, “suggested that five per cent might be too little, and he mentioned 10 per cent. I have been informed that the increased cost of the operation of railways in British Columbia is about five per cent more than the cost on the prairies. We suggest that the company be permitted to charge five per cent higher rates than it charges on the prairies or in Eastern Canada.”

[The Canadian Northern Railway was incorporated in 1899, but was ultimately financially unsuccessful. In 1918 it became part of a new entity financed by the federal government called the Canadian National Railway. There is an interesting article on the Canadian Northern and the early CNR here.

Transprovincial Highway

At its October 5 meeting the Board strongly endorsed the idea of a transprovincial highway recently broached by the minister of public works, Thomas Taylor. It would connect existing roads from the coast to the Kootenays and east to Alberta.

Lord’s Day

The Reverend J. Knox Wright, representing the Lord’s Day Alliance, asked the Board on their behalf “that a resolution be passed asking the postmaster-general to order the closing of the lobby of the Vancouver postoffice during certain hours on Sundays. The board divided on this question, and a resolution along the lines asked for by the alliance was defeated.”

The Rev. Mr. Wright suggested that, because the Lord’s Day act provided that mail would be attended to on Sundays, that work at the post office [style of the day was to make that one word: postoffice] be restricted to two to three hours on that day.

R.G. Macpherson, the Vancouver postmaster, explained that many businessmen got their mail on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, “and in this mail they perhaps receive orders to ship goods on Monday mornings. The work done in the postoffice on Sundays has been reduced to the lowest possible amount. I am a strict believer in the observance of Sunday, but I do not see that the closing of the lobby would in any way reduce the amount of work done in the postoffice on that day.” He said that if the board passed a resolution in favor of partial closing, the post office would likely go along with it.

E.H. Heaps suggested that matters should be left as they are. And they were. The motion to close was defeated.

Winnipeg’s getting a good deal!

Member Robert McLennan presented some interesting statistics showing what the CPR charged for freight for roughly comparable distances on the prairies and in BC. For example, for the 225 miles between Vancouver and Nicola the CPR’s rate was 51 cents. For the 221 miles between Winnipeg and Russell the rate was 29 cents. The percentage in favor of Winnipeg: 76 per cent.

The rate for the 426 miles between Vancouver and Rogers Pass was 73 cents. For the 423 miles between Winnipeg and Port Arthur it was 40 cents. Percentage in favor of Winnipeg: 83 per cent.

And so on.

E.H. Heaps commented: “It is a matter of importance that we have equal freight rates with the cities of the east. There is discrimination in grain rates against us, and that will have to be removed before we can bring grain to the coast. If we are going to make Vancouver grow, we must make it a cheap place to live in.”

Harbor Commission

Fred Buscombe chaired a committee looking into the question of establishing a harbor commission for Vancouver. He reported that he did not see how such a commission could be a success “owing to the fact that it could not secure control of all the harbor, some of which was held by the CPR. That owned by the CPR could not be expropriated, even the Federal Government having no right to oust the railway company.”

That’s all the Province had on the subject in its November 10, 1909 story (Page 8). What action, if any, the Board took was not reported. One interesting sidelight: this was the first instance we noted where the phrase “Federal Government” was used. Heretofore it had been the “Dominion Government.”

In a December 3 story (Page 14) the Province reported that the Board had determined that the establishment of a harbor commission was “premature and inadvisable.” Much of this 97-year old story was illegible because of the condition of the page, but we could read a pungent quote from Fred Buscombe. He said that fully 90 per cent of the trade into Vancouver was controlled by the CPR, “and where would the harbor commissioners get their revenue if not allowed to expropriate the railway’s waterfront?”

The notion of a harbor commission was dropped.

New Digs?

President Stone announced at the November 9 meeting that a proposal had been made to the Board that it “lease a portion of the ground floor and basement of the proposed new building of the Terminal City club on Hastings street, next to the premises of the Vancouver club. The premises offered the board could be obtained for $200 per month, and would afford excellent offices, and the board could also rent some of the rooms. The matter was referred to the [Board’s] council to see what arrangements could be made.”

New Faces

Eleven new members were elected to the Board November 9, making the total membership 225.

Board of Control

The last 1909 meeting of the Board was held December 7, and a major topic of discussion was the Board’s opinion that a board of control should be established for the administration of the city. Former alderman James Ramsay told other members the city had had that option added to its charter privileges in 1907, “and I am surprised that it has not yet adopted it.” Another former alderman, member Walter Hepburn, said that the electors of Vancouver had expressed themselves in favor of the idea by plebiscite.

Ramsay, in speaking to his resolution, said: “I do not come here tonight to make an onslaught upon the present city council, but I do not hesitate to say that there is room for improvement. The ward system is the cause of much conflict, while it must be admitted that the aldermen have not the necessary time to devote to the management of the city’s affairs. Not can it be expected of them under the present system. Vancouver has outgrown it.”

Ramsay reviewed the proposed system, in which the board would be “composed of the mayor and three controllers to be elected by the city at large, the one receiving the highest number of votes to remain in office three years, the second highest two years, and the third, one. There would, therefore, be an annual election to the board.”

More business men

If we had a board of control, Ramsay continued, “we would have more business men in our council. I would abolish the salaries now given to the aldermen and include these in the salaries, and large salaries they would have to be, for the controllers. The system would free the heads of departments from the fear of offending aldermen . . .”

Said Board vice-president Buchan: “The business of the city is perhaps more important than any business in it. Why then should we not have it managed by trained men, paying them well for their services?” Member Jonathan Rogers favored five instead of three years as the term for the controller receiving the highest number of votes. “I do not think you will get the most capable men to accept service for so short a period,” he said, adding that he would also abolish aldermanic salaries.

The Board’s resolution, said the Province, asks the city council to submit a bylaw to the electorate in the approaching elections. It would require a 60 per cent majority. The Province’s story is very extensive, and readers who want to learn more about the subject can check the Province for December 8, 1909 (Page 7).

This subject was also cited in the Board’s April 2, 1907 meeting, described in that year’s chapter.

City Hall site

There was discussion about the site for a proposed new city hall. It was agreed a new hall was needed. Said James Ramsay: “I am ashamed to take any visitor to the city hall as we have it today.” Wrote the paper: “The courthouse site, the Central school grounds and the present situation were all favored, but no action was taken in regard to location.”

The “courthouse site” is where Victory Square is today, the “Central school grounds” were adjacent to the south of the courthouse and the “present situation” refers to a location immediately south of the Carnegie Centre on Main Street. [It appears as if the building that so embarrassed former alderman Ramsay would continue to serve until 1929 when city hall moved to the Holden Building at 11 East Hastings, where it would serve until 1936 when the present hall opened.]

Back from Oz

Member R.H. Alexander was back from a visit to Sydney, Australia, where he was a delegate from the Board to a congress of chambers of commerce of the British Empire. He said there had been an almost unanimous vote for preferential trade within the empire.

Then he held up two cans of herring packed in tomato sauce.

“These English goods, I observed, were being sold in many of the cities as a substitute for salmon, owing to the high prices of the latter. It occurred to me that as the herring are plentiful on our own coast, that salmon canneries and other fishing industries might turn their attention to this product with considerable profit, for we can grow tomatoes, too.”

What else was happening locally in 1909?

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

Next: 1910 »














A still from a 1909 film called A Corner in Wheat (image:
A still from a 1909 film called
A Corner in Wheat











































































































































































































































Tlameen Map























































































































































































































































Official Emblem of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909 (image:
Official Emblem of the Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition of 1909











































Premier Richard McBride (photo: BC Archives)
Premier Richard McBride
[Photo: BC Archives]




























































































































A herring . . . without the tomato sauce