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


New Gold Rush

The Vancouver Sun, on Page 4 of its June 12, 1933 edition, quoted A.J. Smith, the paper’s financial editor, in an address to the Advertising and Sales Bureau of The Vancouver Board of Trade.

“The mining industry in Bridge River, Cariboo and other mining districts of British Columbia will mean to Vancouver what the Kirkland Lake, Porcupine and Cobalt districts mean to Toronto and what the Yukon meant to Seattle,” he said. “Millions of dollars and thousands of investors are watching developments in British Columbia’s gold camps. The activities of the New York group in Pioneer, for example, gave this country advertising that could not be purchased in New York. To my own knowledge it has brought at least three major operating groups into this country...

“From the gold to the silver camps is just a step, and it is well to remember that B.C. is the principal silver-producing province of Canada.”

Silver to go to 50 cents an ounce

“Silver will return, undoubtedly,” Smith said, “to a price level comparable with that existing several years ago, probably around 50 to 60 cents an ounce. [Note: on January 7, 2007 silver was fetching about $15 an ounce Cdn.] Fifty-cent silver and dollar wheat will spell moderate prosperity to all of Canada, and those goals may be reasonably expected to be reached. On any rising price basis, this part of Canada must benefit, especially where metals are concerned. The stock market, while not a guarantee of returning prosperity, is certainly a trustworthy barometer. It points to much fairer business weather in the months to come.”

Migration to B.C.

The Daily Province, on Page 8 of its June 14, 1933 edition, quoted Dr. William Bowie, of Washington, DC, delegate to the Pacific Science Congress, in an address to the Transportation and Customs Bureau of The Board. [The 1933 Congress, the fifth, was held in Victoria from June 1 to 4, then from June 5 to 15 in Vancouver. We looked it up: one of the papers presented was by the eminent anthropologist Marius Barbeau, titled The Siberian Origin of Our Northwestern Indians.]

What Dr. Bowie was talking about was “a great trend of migration to British Columbia.” He was a senior official with the US Coast and Geodetic Survey, and was speaking on the subject of “Charting and Mapping the World to Transportation.” He said all phases of transportation depended to a large extent on maps.

“The progress of world shipping is dependent on the charting of trade lanes, while commercial aviation, highway transportation and the railroad found their origin in a fixed plan of direction and distance.” He remarked that travel by airplane in 1933 was as safe as the railroad was forty years ago, and predicted that in the near future fewer accidents would occur.

Cromie back from Russia

The Board had a luncheon on August 14, 1933 to hear from Robert Cromie, publisher of The Vancouver Sun, who was just back from nine days in Russia. “Mr. Cromie,” the paper said on Page One the same day, “told of his visits to Moscow and Leningrad, his inspections of factories and public institutions, his visits to race courses and soccer fields and his interviews with people in various walks of life. He came away impressed by the sincerity of the Russian experiment.”

The story was headlined Don’t Worry About Russia.

“If you have any respect for my eyes and my views,” Cromie told the members, “I ask you to please don’t worry any more about Russia. Russia is made; she is by nature wealthy; she has work, and she is doing that work reasonably well, and I think her education machine will guide her in adjustments that have to be made to tune her with the soundest thought of our world and its economy.”

[This was, by the way, precisely the time when Stalin was forcing collectivization on the Ukraine, the most productive agricultural area of the entire Soviet Union. Cromie wouldn’t have known that vast numbers of Ukrainians were dying because of the famine caused by this policy, which included the forced shipping out of Ukrainian grain to feed Moscow and other Russian cities. See this website for more.]


Cromie said Russia would gladly buy 100,000 Canadian cattle on reasonable terms. “Before going to Russia,” Cromie continued, “I could never get through my head what was keeping the Russian people up to the pitch of interest and endeavor. If Stalin and his group were such monsters, why did not the people turn on them? Why would they stand for it?

“A few days in Russia showed me that Russia’s whole philosophy is a positive one. Action, Action, Action—that’s the slogan of Russia . . . They were too busy with themselves to be much interested in me, and I soon took a tumble to myself and stopped asking silly questions about their alleged starving people and distressed conditions . . . Thirty years from now Russia will probably be on our standard of living.”

[It would be easy to be astonished—and dismayed—by Cromie’s views, but he was most definitely not alone in holding them in 1933. And was he getting the true picture of conditions there? “He heard stories of starvation and cannibalism in the Ukraine,” the Sun’s report concluded, “but met some young people from that district whose parents had put up money to give them a five-day visit to Moscow.”]

Off to the Cariboo

The Sun of Tuesday, August 22, 1933 told of 80 members of The Board—headed by former president T.S. Dixon—who were off on a trip to Barkerville for a whole day of inspection of mining properties. They left by Union Steamship for Squamish in the morning, would board a special PGE train there to arrive in Quesnel early the next morning, then carry on to Barkerville “in a fleet of motor cars provided by residents of the district ... Boards of Trade and other organizations throughout the Cariboo will entertain the party at luncheons and dinners. Returning stops will be made at Williams Lake, Clinton and Lillooet and the party is due back in Vancouver Saturday evening [August 26].”

What they saw

The Sun for Saturday, the 26th, reported (Page 30) on what those Board members saw. “Cariboo Gold Quartz,” wrote the paper’s financial editor, A.J. Smith, “has arrived at a stage where it holds promise of being one of the greatest gold properties in Canada. This is the opinion brought back by the Vancouver Board of Trade party, which is returning today after a five-day tour of the PGE [Pacific Great Eastern railway] and the Cariboo country ...

“Probably one thousand men are employed in mining and subsidiary industries throughout that part of the Cariboo, hundreds of thousands of dollars are being spent in supplies for the mines and the Cariboo field has entered upon a new life.”

We learned a word, ‘winze,’ new to us in this Sun article. A Google search tells us it’s “an inclined or vertical shaft or passage between levels in a mine.”

A “Treasure Chamber”

The newspaper reported that it was “the brilliant new ore discovery of the winze sunk from the main tunnel that attracted the visitors. There, 110 feet below the tunnel, the party entered upon a treasure chamber. An ore body some fifty feet wide with boundaries even yet not clearly defined meets the eye. Gold values assay around $10 over the whole surface with much of the ore face five times as valuable. This ore body is some 600 feet below the surface and is only one of the wide veins found.”

[That sentence "Gold values assay around $10 over the whole surface with much of the ore face five times as valuable" was confusing to this layman, so I contacted Jane Werniuk, editor of Canadian Mining Journal, hoping for an explanation.

Her response: “In that era, ore was valued on the value of the amount of gold that a ton of the rock contained. So the surface of the ore face in the chamber was sampled (chips of rock hammered off), and that was sent to an assay laboratory. The lab results would show that there were so many Troy ounces of gold per short ton of rock. The price of gold at that time was so many dollars (U.S.) per Troy ounce. So the assay lab would work out the value of the ore based on dollars of gold per ounce, and ounces of gold per ton, to report a value of dollars of gold value per ton of ore.

“I don’t know the value of gold at that time, but a colleague of mine says that sometime during the 1930s the value changed from US$28.50/ounce to US$35/ounce. You could probably check that out through or some sort of Google search.

“We no longer report assay results in this fashion. We now report them as gold ounces per ton of rock (oz/t Au) or gold grams per tonne (g/t Au).

“I hope this is helpful. Good luck with your book.”

Thanks, Ms. Werniuk.]

Gold was coming from the mine steadily, “another 1,000-ounce brick being due in Vancouver early next week, making the fifth shipped.” The price of gold in Canada in 1933 was, we Googled, $20.67 an ounce. So that brick was worth $20,670. “The mill, within a reasonable time,” mine officials told the Sun, “will be stepped up 500 to 1,000 tons, producing between $7,000 and $8,000 daily.”

An officer of the company told Smith “This mine will be taking out gold one hundred years from now. We have barely touched one spot in a great new gold quartz camp. Every big company in the world will be in here before the finish.” Well, they stopped mining here in 1967, making a total of 34 years. An excellent history of the mine’s working life can be found here. Its development led to the founding of the town of Wells, BC, named for prospector Fred Wells. It’s on the road between Quesnel and Barkerville.

Further exploration of the area is going on. In early March, 2007, the price of gold in Canada was about $645 an ounce.

And see the final item below for more on the Cariboo Gold Quartz company.

Other activity

The report of The Province (also August 26, 1933, Page 30 in a story by financial editor Alex Shaw) on the same Board exploration said that “sawmills are humming at various places throughout the mining area, cutting lumber for the erection of housing quarters at the different properties for the working crews and staffs . . . At every stopping place there was the familiar sound of saws and hammers as bunkhouses were being rushed up during the fine weather in preparation for the coming winter. There is a great spirit of optimism throughout the Cariboo. No word is heard in this great area of open spaces of depression.”

T.S. Dixon spoke on behalf of the Board after a dinner hosted by the mining company. He said that “the evidence of expenditure of time, money and energy in the development of the mine was fay beyond what the visitors had expected to see.” [Dixon had been president of the Board in 1928 and would be again in 1935.]

The Province reported that the Board of Trade party also visited the Lowhee place workings, Richfield Cariboo Gold operation, Newmont property on Island Mountain and the Wingdam property, about halfway between Barkerville and Quesnel “where work in extracting gold from the sands of the old bed of Lightning Creek has been under way for many years.”

Tanned and Fit

On August 28 the Province reported that the Board of Trade delegates were back, “tanned by the sun of the Cariboo, and delighted with the Cariboo and its people.”

It seems the party had stopped at Clinton on their special PGE train, not long after leaving Williams Lake, and had been met by former MLA D.A. Stoddard. He had something he wanted to discuss. “He stressed the need for some action to obtain better prices for beef in that part of the country, and asked the Board of Trade to do what it can toward some reciprocal agreement under which the cattle could get into the United States market.

Jack Boyd of the Flying U ranch asked the Vancouver people to act on the slogan, ‘Eat Cariboo Beef.’ At present prices, the raising of cattle is not profitable, he said. Freight rates are too high, the cost of shipping cattle from Clinton to Vancouver being as high as from Moose Jaw.”

Payne praised

The delegates singled out the Vancouver Board of Trade’s secretary, W.E. Payne, for the excellence of his arrangements for the trip. “Everything under Mr. Payne, said L.B. Lusby, president of the New Westminster Board of Trade, seemed to work out with clockwork exactness, and over a period of years board members had come to recognize in their secretary an ability for organization which is unsurpassed.”

The party had their special train stopped at Rainbow Lodge “where Mr. and Mrs. Alex Philip were waiting to welcome them. The stay here was short, the train leaving at 1:15 so as to connect with the boat at Squamish.”

[The Rainbow Lodge was the most well-known tourist resort west of Banff. There's an interesting history of it and Whistler here.]


In the Depression-saddled 1930s people recognized the initials NRA, not as the National Rifle Association, but as the National Recovery Administration. This was an American initiative, developed by President Franklin Roosevelt and his advisers and started June 16, 1933. A Wikipedia article on the subject says, in part, “It allowed industries to create ‘codes of fair competition,’ intended to reduce destructive competition and to help workers by setting minimum wages and maximum weekly hours. Most economic historians consider the NRA to be a resounding failure with very little positive economic success.” [In fact, former president Herbert Hoover described it as a “fascist” idea, and said it was inspired by Benito Mussolini! The U.S. Supreme Court would strike it down in 1935.]

We cite it here because the headline on Page 1 of the Province for October 18, 1933—four months after the NRA programs began—reads: CANADA HAS TURNED CORNER AND WILL NOT NEED NRA PLAN, a report on a luncheon address to his fellow members that same day by H.R. MacMillan, the president of the Vancouver Board of Trade. (Yes, he’s that H.R. MacMillan, of B.C. forest industry fame.)

Every Sympathy

“We in British Columbia and throughout Canada,” MacMillan told the members, “can view the United States’ vast social experiment of NRA with every sympathy and wish for its success . . . but there are certain encouraging Canadian indications which may render such drastic action in this country unnecessary.”

He said that Canada had “turned the corner” in the first quarter of the year. “Eastern department store sales have advanced more quickly in Canada than in the United States, and re-employment of 250,000 persons in Canada is proportionally equal to that in the US even with its NRA.” He also cited increased exports of lumber, metals, pulp and agricultural products as another indication of improving conditions. Mining development was phenomenal.

“We have still some distance to go,” MacMillan said, “but we started up the hill early this year.”

Pattullo congratulated

Said the Vancouver Sun of November 30, 1933 (Page 12): “A delegation of Vancouver business men called on Premier T.D. Pattullo [in Victoria] this morning to congratulate him on his success at the polls and assure him of their cooperation.

“Of more practical issues which they may have discussed members of the delegation were silent.

“The delegation consisted of H.R. MacMillan and W.E. Payne, president and secretary of the Vancouver Board of Trade; J.G. Robson and Hugh Dalton, chairman and secretary of the CMA [Canadian Manufacturers’ Association] in British Columbia; T.H. Wilkinson, secretary of the BC Lumber and Shingle Manufacturers.”

The Province ran the same story on Page 1, saying that the delegation “expressed their desire to co-operate with the government in the solution of British Columbia problems.”

Incidentally, the election that saw Pattullo win had been held November 2. His Liberal party took 41.7 per cent of the popular vote and 34 seats. The official opposition was the CCF (Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation) with 31.5 per cent, and seven seats, in their first entry into BC politics. The Conservatives, who had lost the election (under Premier Simon Tolmie), had become badly fractured and various factions won small chunks of the total, and a total of three seats.

Mining not Appreciated

“Vancouverites,” read a Sun story on Page 2 of its December 28, 1933 edition, “are not yet fully alive to what mining development means to the city. They should study the mining history of Ontario and find what mining has done for the city of Toronto, said Dr. W.B. Burnett, president of Cariboo Gold Quartz Ltd., at a luncheon meeting of the Mining Bureau of the Vancouver Board of Trade in the Hotel Vancouver yesterday.

“The mining areas of B.C.,” Dr. Burnett said, “are Vancouver’s most valuable hinterland. Mining development in the past year, especially in Bridge River and Cariboo, had been one of the chief factors in the general revival of business in recent months.”

He told the members that there were 3,000 people in the Barkerville area “living well off a revived mining development where there were but a few hundred two years ago.

“Farmers and ranchers of the Cariboo were hardly able to supply the new demand for their produce and much of it had to be brought in from other parts of the province.”

Mining was helping the PGE railway, too. Freight on the line in 1931 amounted to only 1,300 tons. In the first 11 months of 1933 it was 6,400 tons. Passenger traffic also had multiplied several times.

“That whole area buys its supplies and equipment from Vancouver,” Burnett said. “Vancouver business men and citizens generally should be showing more interest in mining development.”

He was thanked by A.E. Jukes, retiring bureau chairman.

What else was happening locally in 1933?

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

Next: 1935 »


































Marius Barbeau (photo:
Marius Barbeau





























































































































Jack Boyd, founder of the Flying U Guest Ranch (photo:
Jack Boyd, founder of the
Flying U Guest Ranch





















H.R. MacMillan (photo:
H.R. MacMillan

































Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine site (photo:
Cariboo Gold Quartz Mine site