Chapter I – Metropolis

– The Economy –

The city grew along the banks of the river and onto the terraces of the mountain until by 1914 more than 600,000 lived in Montreal and its adjacent suburbs.[1] The majority, 64 percent of the population, were French Canadians, including large numbers who had recently arrived from rural Quebec. They found themselves in a divided city dominated by an Anglo-Celtic elite that controlled much of the national as well as metropolitan economy. Most of the Anglo-Celtic community, 24 percent of the population, were wage earners or clerical workers sharing in the common struggle to earn a basic living. A growing number of Yiddish-speaking Jews, escaping Czarist Russia, made up the largest group of continental Europeans, 8 percent, with Italians, two percent, as the next largest immigrant community.[2]

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Locational advantage at the head of navigation, tariff protection, aggressive entrepreneurs and an abundant supply of cheap labour created a diverse, chaotic city grappling with too rapid growth, widespread poverty and an ongoing conflict between tradition and modernity. “All that was solid” did not “melt into air”[3] until the second half of the 20th century, but the transition to a modern, secular society was well underway before the outbreak of war.

Montreal’s economy was dependent on the river and the harbour. The Dominion government owned the banks and river bed for a distance of some 12 miles, administering 350 acres of land through a Harbour Commission established by an Act of Parliament. When Wilfrid Laurier[4] became Prime Minister in 1896, the importance of the port and good politics led to a Cabinet portfolio for Raymond Préfontaine,[5] the Member of Parliament for the riding of Maisonneuve, and the political boss of east-end Montreal. Préfontaine accelerated the process of extending the harbour east to Hochelaga and Maisonneuve with the construction of three new piers. The harbour railway system was expanded, and the entire working area electrified to permit work to continue into the night.

After Préfontaine’s death in 1905, Laurier appointed Louis-Philippe Brodeur[6] to the post and placed him in charge of patronage for Montreal and the Province of Quebec. Brodeur continued to encourage development of the port, funneling “great dollops of capital” to the harbour and the vital St. Lawrence Ship Canal.[7] Brodeur was the minister responsible for the Canadian Navy, created in 1910, with a commitment to build part of the fleet in Canada. It was the promise of naval construction that encouraged Vickers, the British shipbuilding firm, to establish Canadian Vickers in 1911. The Harbour Commission provided a thirty acre site and a commitment to dredge the necessary deep basin. Vickers began the construction of the shipyard and purchased a large floating dry dock, built in England and towed across the Atlantic. Canadian Vickers became a major employer in the city’s east end.[8]

Montreal Harbour by Adrien Hebert

The most dramatic and consequential developments were the construction of new elevators. The first major project, Elevator No.1 was completed in 1904, followed by No.5. A project of the Grand Trunk Railway, it was situated at the mouth of the Lachine Canal so that grain could be easily transferred from inland rail or ship to ocean-going vessels. No.2, completed in 1910 was 12 storeys high, looming over the harbour in front of Bonsecours Market. Constructed entirely of concrete, it was later featured in Le Corbusier’s ode to functionalism Vers Une Architecture.[9] All of this activity helped to divert a growing proportion of the western grain trade to Montreal, though the Buffalo-Erie Canal route still handled more Canadian grain than Montreal as late as 1914. Competition with New York and Boston was a major reason that a delegation of 1000 businessmen, 200 from Montreal, travelled to Ottawa in April 1914 to press for construction of the Georgian Bay Canal, a project that would allow ships to bypass the lower Great Lakes, using the new canal and the Ottawa River to reach Montreal. The Dominion Government preferred a plan to widen and deepen the Welland Canal.[10]

The limitations of the St Lawrence River canals offered railway builders the opportunity to compete for much of the bulk trade. Montreal had long been the “managerial and maintenance hub” of the Grand Trunk which stretched from Chicago to Portland, Maine’s ice-free harbour before the Grand Trunk Pacific was built. The Canadian Pacific Railway, organized and financed by the city’s capitalists, completed its line to Vancouver in 1885 and then built east to its own winter port at St John, New Brunswick. The CPR’s Romanesque Windsor Station, built in the 1880’s was re-imagined in 1909 with “an extension that would double the building’s ground space while increasing its floor space dramatically, exploiting a downward slope on the site that would allow for 8 floors plus a massive 15 stories tower”[11]

Windsor Station on the corner of Peel and Craig (now St. Antoine), 1933. Credit: Montreal Gazette

The CPR was also directly responsible for the one of the city’s largest entreprises, the Angus Shops. This vast 22 acre complex built on the edge of the city, created its own suburb, Rosemount, to house workers, one of the many examples of the movement of industry and housing to the urban fringe. From 1903 to 1914 the shops produced 1300 locomotives, 29,000 freight cars and 2000 passenger cars. Together with Canadian Car and Foundry Company and the Montreal Locomotive Works, a subsidiary of the American Locomotive Company, the Angus Shops accounted for almost all of Canada’s railway engine and rolling stock production.[12]

Canada’s third transcontinental railway, the Toronto-based Canadian Northern, had a smaller footprint in the city until 1910 when William Mackenzie and Donald Mann, who controlled the railway, announced plans to build a tunnel under Mount Royal to reach the centre of the city and the harbour. Before publicizing the project they acquired a large tract of land north of the mountain that was to become a new garden suburb, the Town of Mount Royal.[13] Digging the tunnel turned out to be a major project not completed until 1916.

Canadian National Railways Tunnel, Montreal, 1918. Credit: McCord Museum.

Locational advantage at the hub of the national distribution system and the national policy of tariff protection also explains the growth of Montreal’s diverse financial and manufacturing industries. Two of the three largest financial institutions, the Bank of Montreal and the Royal Bank of Canada, were based in Montreal with branches across the country. The Bank of Montreal, founded in 1827, served as the Dominion Government’s banker, preforming many of the functions of a central bank. Montreal’s insurance and investment firms made St. James Street the Wall Street of Canada. In 1914 the first stage of the Sun Life building which, with the addition of a tower, would became the largest building in the British Empire, was under construction, a symbol of Montreal’s response to Toronto’s growth as a rival financial centre.

Redpath Sugar and Oglivie Flour were household names across Canada well before the turn of the century. Molson’s Brewery, Macdonald Tobacco, Imperial Tobacco, Dominion Textile, and a long list of other firms founded in the nineteenth century were able to expand their activities in the first decades of the twentieth century. The Montreal Rolling Mills, Dominion Bridge, and other companies involved in the metal trades, relied on the harbour to import their raw materials using energy from coal-fired steam engines to shape the final product. The formation of the Steel Company of Canada in 1910 is usually associated with the primary industry in Hamilton, but the well-established Montreal firms that joined the “steel trust” provided much of the sales revenue that made the deal possible.[14]

By the turn of the century, electricity was becoming widely available to manufacturers and better off households.[15] The Royal Electric Company established in 1884 to both generate power and manufacture equipment was transformed into Montreal Light Heat and Power by Rodolphe Forget[16] and Herbert Holt, two of Montreal’s most successful entrepreneurs. General Electric, one of the many American companies jumping the tariff wall to establish breach plants in Canada bought the manufacturing side of the business while MLHP concentrated on generation and distribution of hydro-electricity. Holt and Forget also controlled the Montreal Street and Railway Company electrifying the tram lines before selling the firm to a syndicate led by E. A. Robert[17] and J. W. McConnell who created Montreal Tramways as an island-wide monopoly sparking years of controversy over the crucial means of mass transit. Montreal Light Heat and Power merged with Canada Light and Power forming an equally controversial private monopoly controlling the price of electricity. As electric motors replaced stream-driven engines in the city’s factories and workshops the monopoly proved especially lucrative.[18] After General Electric left the city in 1907 the only major equipment manufacturer was Northern Electric jointly owned by Western Electric and Bell Canada. The company’s near monopoly on telephone equipment encouraged the construction of one of the largest manufacturing establishments in Montreal completed in 1914.[19]

Paul-André Linteau, the historian who has best understood the dynamics of the city’s growth notes that while the city’s “traditional involvement in commerce was reinvigorated by the opening up Canadian West…” the most significant development was the growth of the manufacturing sector. He concludes that,

The turn of the century brought exponential growth as many existing businesses extended their premises, sometimes relocating in the suburbs, and new factories sprang up. Montreal manufacturers embraced many sectors. Light industry was dominated by footwear, textiles, garments, tobacco and food products (such as beer, meat packing, sugar, flour, biscuits). Heavy industry began with the production of iron and steel products and rolling stock and expanded in the 20th Century to include petroleum and electrical products.[20]


The Anglo-Celtic City

The economic and political power of Quebec’s Anglo-Celtic elite was evident in the negotiations leading to Confederation in 1867. The distribution of powers outlined in the British North America Act established a strong national government reflecting the views of the business and financial community. The questions of English language rights and a guarantee of educational autonomy for English-speaking Protestants were also resolved in terms fully acceptable to the minority. The new Province of Quebec was to be officially bi-lingual and Protestant schools were protected by the words of Section 93 and the passage of the Education Act of 1869 by the Quebec Legislature. The Act delegated responsibility for education to separate Committees of Public Instruction allowing Quebec’s Anglo-Protestant communities to continue to live as part of English-speaking Canada and the British Empire.[21]

The BNA Act ignored the future of Roman Catholics who spoke English in Quebec or French in Ontario and the Maritime provinces. Montreal’s Irish Catholics were easily accommodated in bi-lingual or English-language schools largely staffed by the Christian Brothers.[22] A similar situation developed in Ontario where French was used as a language of instruction in specific schools until the issue was politicized after 1910. Language of instruction did not become a political issue in Quebec because the Catholic hierarchy had no wish to include Irish Catholics in their schools. The bishops preferred to protect their flock from the perceived dangers of Irish Catholic compromises with the secular, English-speaking world creating a separate section of Catholic schools for the Irish.[23]

The Irish working class in Point St. Charles and Griffintown maintained a separate identity with their own Roman Catholic parishes, schools, and institutions. Middle and upper class Irish Catholics were, except on Sundays and St. Patrick’s Day, part of the Anglo-Celtic world.[24] The President of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR), Thomas Shaughnessy[25], and C.J. Doherty, the federal Minister of Justice, are but two examples of the Irish Catholic grandees. A small but influential number of Irish Protestants were also part of the mix, though they lacked the passionate commitment to the kind of Orangeism that plagued Toronto and much of small-town Ontario.

Montreal’s St. Patricks Church. Credit: McCord Museum.

After 1900 immigration from the British Isles brought thousands of new English-speaking residents to Montreal. The majority found work in low wage jobs, marked by seasonal and cyclical unemployment, but for many upward mobility was a realistic prospect in an economy where their language was privileged in both skilled labour and clerical jobs.[26] When the industrial efficiency movement, inspired by Frederick Taylor, reached Montreal in the first years of the century, the dominance of English was reinforced. The Angus Shops introduced scientific management based on Taylorism in 1909 with each task timed and outlined in English-language instruction cards. Other manufacturers adopted similar methods rationalizing production and de-skilling workers.[27] Clerical work in the city’s large financial, transportation and manufacturing concerns also demanded literacy as well as fluency in English. This advantage that carried over when the typewriter and changing attitudes towards the kind of work respectable young women could perform provided thousands of new jobs.[28]

French and English-speaking Montrealers lived separate lives in separate neighborhoods. After the tramway reached Notre Dame de Grace (NDG) the town was annexed to Montreal (1910) developers provided both duplexes and detached homes for English-speaking clerical workers, craftsman and professionals.[29] The city of Westmount just east of NDG retained its autonomy as a separate municipality with tree lined streets, parks and a magnificent public library. The city’s Anglo-Celtic elite population had long enjoyed access to the Mechanics Institute and Fraser-Hickson Libraries, both privately funded, but Westmount was Montreal’s first municipal public library.[30]

Westmount Library. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Most of the Anglo-Celtic community was Protestant in an era when religion appeared to matter a great deal. The non-conformist churches, Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist and Congregationalist were all involved in the struggle to reconcile doctrines emphasizing personal salvation with the reform agendas of the social gospel.[31] Even the more conservative Church of England was changing. John Farthing, Montreal’s Anglican bishop, allowed the vicar of Christ Church Cathedral, Herbert Symonds, a “Broad Church” liberal, to preach a modernist theology and become actively involved in civic reform movements.[32]

The jewel in the crown of Anglo-Celtic Montreal was McGill University. By the turn of the century McGill’s transformation into a major North American research university was nearly complete. William Osler,[33] who left Montreal in 1884, had done much to establish the reputation of the medical school and after the opening of Royal Victoria Hospital in 1893 the faculty was able to attract outstanding staff and students from across Canada and the United States.[34] Lacking an endowment or government support McGill depended on the generosity of men who had made their fortunes in the city. The most important of the many donors was Sir William Macdonald[35] who provided funds to build the Physics (1890), Engineering (1893) and Chemistry (1898) buildings as well as Macdonald College (1906) in St. Anne de Bellevue.

Sir William Macdonald.

Macdonald was Canada’s leading manufacturer of processed tobacco which, “Because of the simplicity of its ingredients and its growing popularity, owing to its addictive properties lent itself to large profits”[36] By the 1880s Macdonald lost interest in running a mature business and turned his attention to philanthropy. A native of Prince Edward Island, Macdonald left the Roman Catholic Church of his childhood after “a traumatic experience apparently during his service as choirboy or acolyte”. His “passionate aversion to the rituals and tenets of the church” extended to all organized religion and McGill, a non-sectarian institution promoting science and practical education, fitted his values perfectly.[37] Macdonald wanted McGill to become Canada’s Massachusetts Institute of Technology and he provided funds to endow chairs in both sciences and the humanities. Ernest Rutherford, who won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1908 for work done at McGill between 1888 and 1907 was the most famous Macdonald professor but others made notable contributions to their fields.[38]

McGill was by no means a leader in the education of women until Donald Smith, Lord Strathcona, donated the money to build Royal Victoria College (RVC) in 1899 providing classrooms and accommodations for women. They remained separated from men for classes upholding the prevailing gender norms of the middle class. Not every female student accepted the limits of separate spheres, socially or intellectually. For example Hariet Brooks, who graduated in 1898, joined Rutherford’s research group, gaining a Masters Degree in science developing a career in both research and as a lecturer at RVC.[39]

McGill attracted students from all across Canada becoming the country’s leading university. Stephen Leacock a political economist as well as the author of Sunshine Sketches of a Little Town and Arcadian Adventures of the Idle Rich, set in “metropolis” was the most famous professor but McGill was best known for medicine and an engineering faculty that graduated most of the country’s professional engineers.[40

The French Canadian City

Large scale immigration from Britain and continental Europe was offset by the internal immigration of French Canadians from rural Quebec to Montreal allowing French Canadians to maintain their majority status. Most lived in the east end finding work in unskilled and semi-skilled occupations but a growing number joined the ranks of salaried workers. Employment with the municipal and provincial governments or the small and medium sized commercial and manufacturing establishments owned by French Canadian businessmen provided opportunities to work in French. Wholesalers supplying the Quebec region and retailers such as the Dupuis Frères, the city’s third largest department store, required French-language clerical employees, including women in sales.[41] There was also a large French Canadian bourgeoisie composed of doctors, lawyers, notaries, businessmen, journalists, teachers and male clergy.

Much of the land on the fringes of the city was owned by French Canadians and substantial fortunes were made by landowners, speculators and developers. The town of Maisonneuve, carved out of Hochelaga in 1883, was developed by French Canadians, like Oscar Dufresne,[42] who promoted industry and the extension of the street railway to sell residential lots.[43] A second development project, the town of Montréal-Est, was the creation of Joseph Versailles who in 1910 persuaded the Quebec government to grant a charter after he purchased much of the land. His “garden city” plan did not survive the 1913 recession, but as Mayor of Montréal-Est he presided over rapid industrial growth once the economy recovered.[44]

The interior of Montreal’s Notre Dame Cathedral

French-speaking Montreal appeared to be a city of spires with sixty-four parish churches and a diverse array of clerically-owned welfare and educational institutions. The full extent of those activities is outlined in the pages of Le Canada Ecclésiatique an annual publication that includes detailed information on the clergy and specific institutions. The 1913 edition estimates the Catholic population of the diocese at 527,438 served by 765 priests. There were seven Collèges classiques, six Ecoles classiques, and 731 public and convent schools. Seventy-two hospitals and welfare institutions are enumerated as well as 164 churches and chapels.[45] The Church was heavily dependant on the thousands of women who joined Religious Orders serving as teachers, nurses, domestics and administrators. The majority of Quebec’s 15,000 nuns worked in Montreal contributing much of the productive labour that maintained and financed Diocesan institutions. Nuns employed as teachers and nurses did not earn direct wages but the state or individuals paid for their services through fees or contracted payment sent to the Mother House.[46] The Montreal branch of Laval University established in 1878, offered opportunities for graduates of the classical colleges to study theology, law, medicine, and arts as well as civil engineering and architecture in association with the Ecole Polytechnique.[47] The Poly, which later developed into one of Canada’s leading engineering schools, was small, underfunded and unappreciated in a society where the classical curriculum held sway. Most graduates were civil engineers who found jobs in the provincial civil service or municipal government.[48] The Quebec government was determined to create a second university-level institution offering practical education in the French language. The Ecole des Hautes Etudes Commercials (HEC) was established in 1907 to provide an advanced education in business and economics. Classes began in 1910 under a Belgian educator who modeled the school after similar institutions in his native country. It proved difficult to attract qualified students and only nine of the thirty-nine who formed the first class in 1910 graduated in 1913.[49] This modest attempt at creating a secular educational institution did not please the Archbishop who insisted that the HEC be placed under the authority of Laval, the city’s Catholic university. The change did not translate into greater financial support for the school nor any obvious interference with its curriculum.

Archbishop Paul Bruchesi

The Diocese was led by Archbishop Paul Bruchesi,[50] the son of an Italian father and a French Canadian mother. After studies in France and Italy, earning doctorates in theology and canon law, Bruchesi was ordained at the age of twenty-four. As one of the most promising French Canadian priests he held a series of important appointments before his elevation to succeed Archbishop Edouard-Charles Fabre in 1897. Bruchesi was determined to maintain the conservative and ultramontane traditions of French Canadian Catholicism establishing a reputation as an uncompromising opponent of all challenges, real and imagined, to the supremacy of the Church in education, social welfare and moral issues. Bruchesi believed that “philosophical errors” and “false doctrines” were undermining the faith of his people. His 1901 Pastoral Letter “The Weakening of the Christian Spirit and the Taste for the Pleasures of the World” which singled out foreign theatrical performances as a specific danger to young people was the first of many failed attempts to preserve his flock from the modern world.[51]

Bruchesi’s greatest moment came in September 1910 when Montreal hosted the Eucharistic Congress attracting leaders of the Roman Catholic Church and tens of thousands of the faithful to the city.[52] The success of the Congress reinforced the Archbishop’s determination to defend the prerogatives of the Church in Quebec particularly in the control of education, resisting all proposals that might endanger the Church’s monopoly over both public and private schools. The chief critic of the province’s education system Godfroy Langlois,[53] was the editor of Le Canada and spokesman for the Lique de l’enseignment. Langlois led a campaign for compulsory education, uniform school texts, the medical inspection of school children and a Ministry of Public Instruction.[54] Naming the pressure group after the organization that was popularly understood to have banished religion from the public schools of France was bound to produce a reaction and the Church hierarchy dug-in, refusing to accept any proposal, however constructive, that might be seen to weaken the authority of the Church. Attempts to create a centralised school board for the Island of Montreal which in 1910 had thirty separate school commissions, were vigorously opposed by local curés, and Bruchesi’s nominees on the Montreal Catholic School Commission. A Quebec Royal Commission failed to resolve the problem and further irritated the clergy who insisted that Quebec possessed the best education system in the world.[55] Critics were simply part of “la conspiration maçonnique”.


Bruchesi was determined to punish his enemies and after Langlois was outed as member of a Masonic Lodge, affiliated to the Grand Orient of France[56], he was replaced as editor of Le Canada. Wilfrid Laurier and the premier of Quebec, Lomer Gouin had tolerated Langlois as a means of keeping in touch with the Liberal Party’s radical, rouge, wing but membership in an organization known as a “declared enemy of the church” required Laurier to demand Langlois’ resignation.[57]

Bruchesi was determined to further isolate Langlois and in 1913 he issued a Mandement forbidding Catholics to read his weekly newspaper, Le Pays. When Langlois challenged Bruchesi to identify specific examples of anti-Catholic material in Le Pays the Archbishop declined to reply. Langlois was effectively removed from the scene in 1914 when Gouin, perhaps at Bruchesi’s request, offered Langlois the post of Quebec’s representative in Belgium. Le Pays survived, but without Langlois as editor it was far less influential and could be ignored.[58]

A Third Solitude

The French-English duality, the famous “two solitudes,” was altered after 1900 by the immigration of large numbers of Jews from Eastern Europe who made up eight percent of the population by 1914. Most of the newcomers were from the fringes of the Russian Empire and spoke Yiddish as their first language. They settled in the area adjacent to the existing garment factories and over the decade moved north with the industry, establishing the district know to Montrealers as “The Main.”[59] Tension between these Yiddish-speaking immigrants and the existing population was no doubt inevitable but it was complicated by outbreaks of anti-Semitism characteristic of Christian societies.

Chevra Kadisha Synagogue, Montreal, 1910-11.

Expressions of anti-Semitism predated large-scale Jewish immigration, especially during the “Dreyfus Affair.” Most French Canadian clergy, intellectuals and journalists were outspoken anti-Dreyfusards during the long, drawn-out struggle to prove that Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jew, was innocent of the charge of treason. Anti-Semitism was kept alive in journals like Le Croix, Le Nationaliste, L’Action Sociale, and Le Devoir,[60] all of which published articles by men such as Edouard Drumont, France’s most notorious anti-Semite.[61] A second, intense outburst of such prejudice occurred in 1910 after the Mayor of Rome, Ernesto Nathan, a freemason of Jewish ancestry, used the fortieth anniversary of the fall of the Papal State to deliver a provocative attack on the Pope’s “fortress of dogma” and “reign of ignorance.”[62]

Alfred Dreyfus painted for Vanity Fair, 1899.

The Pope and his Secretary of State, Rafael Merry del Val, lashed out at Nathan, urging Catholics around the world to condemn his actions. The Archbishop of Montreal willingly responded to the Pope’s request, organizing a well-advertised mass protest to take place at the Monument National. Montreal City Council became involved when a resolution criticizing Nathan was introduced despite opposition from, the Protestant Ministerial Association, and spokesmen for the Jewish community. On Sunday, 17 October, 1910, crowds estimated at 25,000 were diverted to the Champs des Mars where Bruchesi, Mayor James Guerin, and the nationalist leader Henri Bourassa[63] addressed the crowd. The Archbishop referred to Nathan as a freemason, but Bourassa’s coded reference to “an old attack which has existed since the time of Christ…the same voice of hatred against Christ, the Church and the Papacy” was in tune with cries of “a bas les juifs” from the crowd.[64] The Nathan affair together with the grotesquely anti-Semitic address of Joseph Plamondon[65] to the Quebec City branch of the Association Catholique de la Jeunesse Canadien was a low point in relations between Jews and French Canadians. Plamondon was sued for libel in a case which was finally decided, for the plaintiffs, in December 1914.[66]

Relations between the Jewish community and the city’s Anglo-Protestants were not free of difficulty or prejudice, but given the position of the Roman Catholic Church limiting school enrollment to church members, Jewish immigrants sent their children to Protestant schools. The responsibility to educate Quebec’s Jews was formally assigned to Protestant School Boards in 1903 after an agreement to have Jews pay their school taxes to the Protestant Boards was enacted. A conscience clause exempted Jews from participation in Protestant religious exercises.[67] The schools retained their Protestant character, immersing immigrant students in a secular, English-language world. The Board resisted appointing Jewish teachers until 1913 when a one-day student strike at Aberdeen School, called to protest a teacher’s derogatory comments about Jews, persuaded the trustees to change their policy for the 1914 school year. By then Jewish students made up forty percent of those attending the Protestant schools within city limits.[68]

The confessional character of Montreal’s schools created a serious problem for immigrants from Eastern Europe who belonged to one of the Orthodox Churches, Greek, Syrian or Russian. The Protestant School Board, which was under pressure to educate this “foreign element,” estimated that there were several thousand children of school age, but “practically none of them are in school.”[69] Italians, after Jews, the second largest “foreign element,” were able to send their children to either French or English Catholic Schools. Most Italian children attended classes at their parish schools, Notre Dame de la Defense and Notre Dame de Mont-Carmel where Italian was the language of instruction in the early years, then English.[70]

The Working Class Majority

It is evident that pre-war Montreal was a complex, multi-cultural metropolis unlike any other city in Canada. There was, however, a common thread that ran through the experience of two thirds of the population—workers locked into a low wage economy. The organizers of the 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit examined the wages paid to unskilled workers and found that $1.75 a day was typical. This worked out to $550.00 per year, but “to get this much…a man must have continuous work six days a week, fifty-two week a year, with no sickness, no change of jobs, and he must not waste his money on drink or dissipation. Granted all this, he can give a family of five a mere existence…in unsanitary quarters sometimes below the street level.”[71]

According to the 1911 census, adult male workers in manufacturing establishments averaged $10.55 per week, while a table entitled “Heads of Families in Specified Occupations” placed the average income of skilled building tradesmen at $13.70 per week with construction labourers earning $10.20. Trainmen, traditionally among the highest paid workers, averaged $18.67 per week. By 1914, $2.00 per day appears to have been a more typical base wage, but it is evident that if ether a modern definition of poverty—more than seventy percent of total income spent on food, clothing and shelter—or the Typical Family Budget developed by the Department of Labour in 1910 is used, then “poverty was the common experience of the majority of the population of Montreal”—unless there were additional sources of family income.[72] The average family in Montreal had 2.5 children most of whom would go to work by the age of fourteen. Girls employed in factories might earn $6.00 per week, boys a little more. Until such additional income was available, assistance from extended family members, taking in lodgers, and most importantly a wife who could improvise and manage the family economy, were essential to survival.[73]

For women in an era before effective birth control, marriage and motherhood in their late teens or early twenties was the norm. This physiological reality was no doubt reinforced by a patriarchal society that promoted an idealized version of “chaste young motherhood, spent in pure company, followed by a marriage blessed with numerous offspring.”[74] Domestic service in the homes of the wealthy, which accounted for fifteen percent of the female labour force, was a possible alternative as was entry into a religious order.  In 1911 between 2 and 2.5 percent of all women over twenty lived in religious communities working as teachers, nurses, administrators and domestics.[75]

Montreal’s industrial structure provided extensive opportunities for the employment of women in the textile mills, garment trade, and other enterprises. The large majority of women in the work force were unmarried and under 25. This reality, together with the assumption that female employment was temporary until marriage, may account for linking women with children in regulatory legislation. Both were to be protected from employment in “dangerous or unhealthy occupations.” In 1913, their work week was limited to fifty-eight hours though an exception could be made for a period “not exceeding six weeks.” Women and children in textile mills were limited to a fifty-five hour week, because conditions in the mills were “tiresome and depressing”. The minimum age for children in the work force was raised from thirteen to fourteen in 1907. Those who could not read and write were supposed to attend night school until the age of sixteen, though as Louis Guyon, the Chief Factory Inspector, pointed out: “in many cases there are no night schools and at best for boys only…is it very practical to compel a child fatigued by ten hours of assiduous labour to spend even an hour and a half at school?” Guyon proposed that a certificate of elementary education be required for factory employment. In his 1913 report, he noted that “In many countries child labour has ceased to be a problem…because every boy or girl is obliged to hand to his employer, with his age certificate, his school attendance book…”[76] This was dangerously close to advocating compulsory education, a policy explicitly rejected by the Church and the provincial legislature.

The child labour laws, Guyon added, did not apply to children who worked in shops or “the thousands of working children, errand boys and news boys…seen shivering on the street until eleven o’clock at night.” [77] Other loopholes existed. A Star reporter followed up news of underage children employed in the glass industry by visiting the Dominion Glass factory on Delormier Street, which employed 300 boys. “Entering the factory before midnight,” he found the glass blowers at work placing “white glowing glass” into moulds “where it is blown up into bottles of various shapes…At each pair of moulds sits a small boy whose duty it is to close the mould…and remove the hot bottles when they are set.” Other boys were involved in subsequent stages of the production. “Working as they do in grilling temperatures the boys wear very few clothes and the gauntness of their frames is painfully apparent…There are youngsters who by no stretch of the imagination could be over twelve years old.”

The boys worked alternate day and night weekly shifts which violated a second law forbidding night work for anyone less than eighteen years of age. When approached by a reporter Louis Guyon explained that “small boys are necessary…to get comfortably between the moulds.” They also needed to be “fairly young in order not to rebel against the necessary discipline.” Both Guyon and the works manager claimed that efforts were made to keep youngsters under the legal age out of the glass factory, but Guyon admitted that the order forbidding night work to those under eighteen would have to be held in abeyance. “There would be much hardship in the East End if these boys were thrown out of work.”[78]

The Star followed the story for several days quoting, among others, Mrs. Rose Henderson, a probation officer at the juvenile court. Henderson insisted that “factory child labour while technically under control is practically never interfered with…the law is broken every day, but there are no laws whatever to protect the street paper seller, the little shop assistant, the messenger boys and those engaged in some industry in their own homes.” Mrs. Henderson thought that solution was to have “the Government pay a certain sum to parents in need weekly for each child” so they could go to school and lead healthy lives.[79]

These ideas for a family allowance, together with proposals to raise wages, were utopian dreams for economic as well as political and ideological reasons. Revenues available to all three levels of government under existing tax regimes could not support any significant transfer payments and it is not easy to see where enough additional revenue for significant income redistribution could have come from. The inhabitants of the “Square Mile”, Montreal’s residential neighbour for the Anglophone elite, could have paid slightly higher wages and taken lower dividends, but the amounts available for redistribution suggest that very large increases in Gross National Product were required before wage incomes could be significantly increased in real terms. GDP per capita, measured in 1900 dollars, reached $246 in 1911, rose briefly from 1916-1919 and then declined sharply between 1919 and the Second World War.[80]

Bonsecours Market, 1904. Credit: McCord Museum

This basic economic reality presented trade unions and socialist activists with a major dilemma. The Montreal Trades and Labour Council (MTLC), affiliated to the Canadian Trades and Labour Congress (CTLC) and the American Federation of Labour was the major workers organization in the city. It’s President, John T. Foster[81] a bi-lingual machinist, and secretary Gustav Francq,[82] a Belgian-born printer endorsed the kind of moderate craft unionism associated with Samuel Gompers, and Alphonse Verville, the former CTLC President and Member of Parliament for Montreal-Maisonneuve.[83] Their proposals for an eight-hour work day, attempts to achieve union recognition, or striking for better living wages were unlikely to succeed in an economy flooded with immigrants with a manufacturing sector that relied upon a protective tariff to exploit a small transcontinental market. Even the best organized workers in the American Federation of Labour craft unions had very limited bargaining power. This did not mean the workers were passive. A wave of strikes in 1903 involved street railway employees, longshoremen, teamsters, electrical workers and building laborers all searching for wage increases and hoping for union recognition. Two years later the machinists strike against the Grand Trunk Railway and walkouts in the tobacco industry due to “reduction in wages and the employment of women and children” demonstrated their militancy but failed to achieve wage increases or union recognition. The growing importance of the garment industry with its piece-work rates and contracting out led to a series of strikes between 1910 and 1913 but the economic downturn and high levels of unemployment forced wage earners to settle for whatever they could get. [84] Disputes in Quebec’s cotton factories prompted the creation of a Royal Commission but the commissioners could only recommend minor changes in the conditions of employment for women and children.[85]

If the economy did not create enough wealth to overcome widespread poverty, there were certainly sufficient resources to work towards improving public health, housing and education. The correlation between poverty and ill-health was widely-discussed among medical experts and there was broad awareness that Montreal was thought to have the highest infant mortality rate in the western world. Babies born in the city’s working-class wards were four times more likely to die before their first birthday than those born in the wealthiest parts of the city, and the toll of young lives continued between the ages of one and five. Two separate but related problems were involved. During the first year of life, breast feeding would have prevented most of the premature deaths caused by gastro-enteritis. Mothers in poorer neighbourhoods were less likely to nurse infants for the first year and appear to have relied on the city’s milk suppliers for bottle feeding. The danger of this practice was demonstrated in 1914 with the publication of The Milk Supply of Montreal. Investigators from the Dominion Department of Agriculture visited all of the major dairy farms supplying milk to the city a acquire samples at the point of production. Thirty percent was grade “C,” meaning unfit for drinking but still suitable for food processing. Another twenty percent was labelled “‘D’ because it was five times worse” than grade “C” milk and unfit for any use. When the milk, shipped in ordinary, unrefrigerated freight cars reached the city’s distributors, ninety percent was unfit for human consumption by the standard in use in American cities. Less than a quarter of the milk supply was pasteurized in 1914, and only one of the six dairies offering pasteurized milk was doing it effectively.[86] By 1914 twenty-seven milk depots or Gouttes de Lait were providing pure milk to hundreds of families in the working-class wards. The milk depots had been initiated by the city’s two major women’s organizations, the Montreal Local Council of Women and le féderation nationale Saint-Jean Baptiste. By 1914 local doctors and municipal health officials had taken control with the city providing $17,420 to supply milk and counselling to the mothers of 3,101 infants. Deaths among this group was said to be 50 per thousand, one quarter of the city-wide rate.[87]

The second most important health problem in the city, tuberculosis, presented a more difficult challenge. Montreal’s mortality rate, which was in excess of 200 deaths per one-hundred thousand, was the highest in North America and the link between poverty and disease was evident in the ward by ward statistics. The campaign against the “white plague” was directed by physicians, private philanthropy, and the Catholic Church. The Royal Edward Institute, established in 1908, was initially funded by a gift from Jeffrey Burland, one of the city’s “millionaires” who was active in numerous public health campaigns.[88] Three years later the Sisters of Providence established a second hospital, L’institute Bruchesi, offering treatment for TB patients and public education. Both institutions emphasized the dispensary method of treatment, first developed in Edinburgh, which was based on the identification of the infected, followed by home visits and instruction, written and verbal, on how to manage the disease. Both hospitals also opened small sanitariums outside the city to accommodate advanced cases. These commendable efforts reached a very small part of the vulnerable population.[89]

Burland was a member of the Quebec Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, chaired by Dr. E.P. Lachapelle[90] which reported in 1910. The commissioners were surprised by “the almost general ignorance of the infectious nature of tuberculosis…,” the higher death rate among women than men, and the fact that “the death rate among our rural population too nearly equals that of the urban population.” Their recommendations dealt with ways of educating the population and various means for isolating active cases. Dr. Lachapelle believed that Pasteur’s revolutionary ideas on the transmission of infectious diseases were putting the field of hygiene “on a scientific basis,” but tuberculosis might still be spread through the air. Improved ventilation of schools and industrial establishments as well as open air schools, vacation colonies and “preventairiums” were therefore emphasized.[91] Almost all the recommendations required provincial funding as well as a considerable increase in the number of public health workers. Neither was forthcoming and both mortality and morbidity rates were unchanged to 1914.[92]

Any city experiencing rapid population growth is bound to have a serious housing problem and Montreal was no exception. The city’s housing was in poor condition before the population doubled in a decade so no one was surprised when the Board of Inquiry into the Cost of Living (1913) reported that: “Housing conditions in Montreal have degenerated and there is a decided lack of workingman’s dwellings with proper conveniences at low rentals. Rents have increased by fifty percent in the last seven years leading to doubling up of families in the same apartment or house causing overcrowding and ill health,”[93]

A typical Montreal shanty home.

Over eighty percent of the city’s residents rented their dwelling and while Montreal avoided the problem of tenement slums, the well-constructed duplexes and triplexes that would come to characterize much of the city were still a small part of the housing stock in 1913.[94] The shortage of rental housing was a frequent subject for the popular press. The Montreal Star’s survey of the situation in 1914 was typical. As people prepared for moving day, when leases expired the newspaper reported that “houses and apartments… are scarce and rent throughout the city will be raised twenty to forty percent” on May 1st. Rates varied by district but “even at the lower end flats, which rented for $15.00 a month have now increased to $19.00.”[95]

Housing, like public health, was the subject of endless debate in Montreal as elsewhere. Herbert Ames, the owner of one of the city’s largest shoe factories had introduced the notion of “philanthropy plus five percent” by building “Diamond Court” as model housing. Neither Ames nor anyone else followed up on an initiative that remained an interesting exception to the wooden or brick duplexes lining the streets of the working class wards. The Quebec Public Health Act, established a Board with regulatory powers which issued regulations on housing in 1906 but two years later the chief inspector noted that “not one of our municipalities has established an effective supervision over the construction of dwellings.”[96]

Given the limited financial resources of the municipal and provincial governments the best that could be hoped for was a comprehensive building code with realistic mechanisms for enforcement. Instead Montreal was subjected to a number of schemes to build model tenements and garden cities. The Montreal Civic Improvement League, founded in 1909, lobbied for a metropolitan planning board winning the support of Premier Lomer Gouin for an “Act to Establish the Metropolitan Parks Commission” in 1912. The commissioners seemed to possess sweeping powers to levy taxes, borrow money, expropriate property and take other necessary actions “for the establishment of public parks, squares, promenades, boulevards, thoroughfares, recreation grounds, playgrounds, streets, baths and gardens as well as improvements in “working class dwellings.””[97]

These utopian proposals were presented to the public at the 1912 Child Welfare Exhibit which related children’s health to housing conditions as well as low wages. The exhibit was well publicized and well attended but once it became clear that the Commission was seeking a five percent increase in the city’s property taxes support dwindled and the provincial government declined to allocate funds even for administrative expenses. William Van Horne[98] who chaired the Commission suggested that the members “defray, by personal contribution, the costs they had incurred and then dissolve.”[99]

The kind of tax increase sought by the Parks Commission would have been better applied to the city’s failing public schools. The fundamental problem facing both school boards was financial. With minimal support from the province schools depended on a property tax that proved inadequate to the needs of a rapidly expanding metropolis. The property tax was allocated from three panels, Corporate, Catholic, or Protestant. Corporate taxes were divided on a per capita basis but the greater wealth of the Protestant community meant that overall their Board received roughly the same amount of money as the Catholic School Commission to educate half the number of students.[100]

Both public school systems were under enormous pressure to build new schools in an expanding city. The Catholic School Commission was unable to meet “the pressing needs of existing schools” where it was difficult to find space for children who were “more and more numerous” or to build the required number of new schools. The problem of too few schools and too little room also confronted the Protestant Board which constantly struggled to provide “sufficient accommodation for those who voluntarily attend.”[101]

Charging monthly fees for those who attended school helped to close the funding gap but the consequence was that few students stayed in school beyond the early grades. In 1905 the Montreal Catholic School Commission reported that while there were 3,442 pupils in first year there were only 1,118 in fourth year and less than 500 thirteen year olds in the fifth year. As numbers increased the ratios did not improve. The provincial government resisted tax increases until 1908 when the Protestant Board successfully lobbied for a modest increase in the mill rate for the Protestant and Neutral panels. This compromise offered additional funds to the Catholic schools, from the corporate or neutral panel while providing the Protestants with the opportunity to build new schools and improve accessibility.[102]

Those who defended the Catholic system of education in Quebec pointed to the contribution of the private schools and classical colleges which were subsidized by the Church and the contributions of the nuns and brothers who taught in the public schools. Private schools were an important contribution especially to the formation of a clerical and lay elite but the Montreal Catholic School Board’s contract with the Christian Brothers called for the payment of $500.00 per teacher while female religious orders received $350 per teacher, amounts roughly equivalent to lay teacher salaries.[103]


With wage and salary earners employed six days a week there was little time for mass leisure expect on Sunday a day both Protestant and Roman Catholic clergy sought to control. In the late 19th Century the major challenges to their efforts came from public spaces such as the Parc Sohmer which opened in 1889 and the large municipal parks Mount Royal and Logan. Mount Royal was designed by Frederick Law Olmstead as an engineered natural space accessible by an inclined railway. Logan, renamed Lafontaine in 1901, provided a 160 acre green space in the east end. Parc Sohmer, included a large 7000 seat pavilion for music and other entertainment. The park came alive each summer with scenes reminiscent of an impressionist painting and Sunday was the park’s biggest day.[104] In 1906 a new amusement park located between the river and Notre Dame Street opened. Dominion Park was built at the end of the tramway line and quickly became a major attraction.


The growing popularity of team sports, especially baseball further challenged attempts to preserve the sanctity of Sundays in the city. Baseball, according to sport historian Alan Metcalfe, was the game most often played by Canadians of all backgrounds[105] and this was certainly the case in Montreal where as early as 1897 4000 fans filled the stands at Atwater Park for the Montreal Royals season opening. A 21 year old local boy, Louis Belcourt, said to be the first French Canadian to play in the Eastern League, was the winning pitcher. The Royals won the league title in 1898, a feat they were unable to duplicate in the next two decades. By 1910 the Royals were competing with a semi-professional City League as well as a number of amateur leagues. Baseball news from the American and National leagues as well as reports on the Royals and City league teams dominated the sports pages from April to September when hockey took over.

The issue of Sunday sports plagued the Royals as Atwater Park straddled the boundary between Montreal and Westmount. Both had by-laws prohibiting professional games on Sunday but Westmount actually required observance of the rules forcing the Royals to play at the National Club grounds in Maisonneuve. The City league, which included French and English teams played a regular double header on Sunday using the Shamrocks’ field on St. Denis in Mile End. When “l’element puritain” protested, the league threatened to play outside the city limits and no attempt to enforce the Sunday by-law was made.[106]

Professional hockey gradually became an obsession among Montrealers during the second decade of the 20th Century. From its Victorian beginnings at McGill where it was played as a “brutal game of rugby at high speed”[107] to the emergence of the Montreal Shamrocks who pioneered a more organized approach, hockey was transformed by the creation of professional teams playing at night in illuminated indoor ranks. By 1914 two Montreal teams, les Canadiens and the Wanderers, successors to the Shamrocks, played in the National Hockey Association, forerunner to the National Hockey League.[108] Rivalry between the teams, portrayed as representing the French and English communities, provided newspapers with the kind of stories that built circulation and since weekend games were played on Saturday there was no conflict with Sunday by-laws.

Arena’s and parks were the main places for people to gather in large numbers until the movies came to Montreal. The city’s popular vaudeville theatres remained closed on Sundays in response to pressure from the churches but when Ernest Ouimet opened his 1200 seat, air conditioned “Ouimetoscope” everything changed. Ouimet and his competitors were after large audiences and with tickets priced at five cents the crowds came, especially on Sunday. Church leaders did their best to control the new medium, persuading the city to pass a Sunday closing bylaw, but Ouimet and his rivals fought back. In 1912 the Supreme Court ruled against the city. Ouimet paid the legal costs, but it was the new “movie palaces,” showing American films that benefited. The Strand Theatre (1912), the Imperial (1913), as well as many smaller movie houses offered regular feature-length films attracting audiences estimated at 12,500 per day by 1914. The vaudeville theatres also began to show movies on Sunday and to include them in the weekly schedule. The Catholic hierarchy and the Protestant Ministerial Association were forced to accept Sunday movies seeking to establish censorship and require children under the age of fifteen to be accompanied by an adult.[109]

Montreal was an important venue for American musical theatre productions. By 1904 John Bolingbrooke Sparrow who began his theatrical career in the bill-posting business and acquired control of the city’s major live entertainment venues, the Theatre Royal, Academy of Music, Théatre Francais and His Majesty’s Theatre. As the Canadian agent of the New York Theatre Syndicate he brought Broadway shows to Montreal.[110] In the years before 1914 sixty percent of shows produced in Montreal originated in New York and most of these were popular musical comedies or Victor Herbert operettas.[111]


French speaking audiences were also drawn to musical revues which used popular tunes and street language to poke fun at daily life in Montreal. Shows such as La Belle Montréalaise and As-tu vu le R’vue drew large crowds to hear songs satirizing life in the city. The seemingly endless debate over the construction of a municipal library, the poor condition of the streets, the tramway monopoly, the red light district and much else was lampooned in patter songs.[112] The construction of a modern French Canadian culture, irrelevant audacious and quite separate from the nationalist and Catholic ideas expressed elsewhere was well underway before the outbreak of war in 1914.

Sarah Berhardt.

This attitude was particularly evident when Archbishop Bruchesi sought to prevent Catholics from attending Sarah Bernhardt’s performances in Montreal.  The “Divine Sarah”, the most famous international actress of the era visited Montreal three times in the 1890s attracting large crowds despite the warning that Catholics had “a rigorous duty to keep away from such plays”. Before her 1905 tour all Catholic newspapers were asked to refuse theatre ads and Bruchesi required his parish priests to read a letter from their pulpits denouncing Berhardt’s performances as an “enemy of our Christian doctrine”. Attendance by Catholics would be “an occasion of sin”. The authority of both the Archbishop and the Church was undermined when the Governor-General Lory Grey and his wife as well as leading figures in Montreal’s French and English society attended the performance. When the program for a 1911 tour was announced Brushesi protested the inclusion of plays titled “Sapho” and “La Sorcière” but the “largest audience in the history of this Majesty’s Theatre” flocked to performances of similar plays with less provocative titles.[113]

Church leaders who were unable to control popular forms of entertainment or prevent Sunday performances proved equally powerless when the city’s Licensing Commission and the Quebec Legislature addressed the question of restricting the number of liquor permits in Montreal. A coalition of church and temperance groups began a major effort to tackle the issue in January 1914, arguing for sharp reductions in the number of licensed premises. A proposal to cut the number of permits for hotels and restaurants from 473 to 350 and liquor shops from 548 to 350 floundered when the cost of compensating those who would lose their livelihood arose. Attention was diverted by efforts to prevent the renewal of licenses for four especially notorious “all-night cafés” where according to a prominent Anglican minister “boys and girls were sacrificed to Bacchus and Venus.” The Licensing Commission agreed that the cafés “had been guilty of grave infractions…by permitting prostitutes of both sexes to resort there with a view to immoral assignations” while “allowing vulgar and immoral dancing.” The Commission announced that licenses for the four cafés would not be renewed.[114]

The reference to “prostitutes of both sexes” points to another aspect of life in the metropolis. Montreal’s “Red Light” district, the area bounded by St Lawrence and Saint Denis, Craig and Sherbrooke streets was a long established part of the urban scene tolerated by civic authorities.[115] The obvious collusion of the police with the brothel keepers was examined in a 1904 enquiry which included a commentary on ways of dealing with “The Social Evil”. Justice Henri Taschereau condemned the policy of toleration practiced in Montreal noting that there while the police were aware of the locations of “a hundred and eighty or two hundred houses of disorder or prostitution” raids were only carried out if there was a specific complaint.[116] He recommended a policy of “war without mercy, of energetic repression and complete suppression” along with the reduction of the number of licensed restaurants and bars that infest certain sections of the city. No such war developed and five years later, the Report was reprinted with additional recommendations from the Recorder, the city municipal court judge.

The practice of tolerating heterosexual prostitution was not extended to its homosexual counterpart. After a raid on a club operated by a well-known doctor resulted in the arrest of a sixteen year old as well as men in their twenties, carefully worded newspapers accounts and further arrests kept the story of the “East End Club” and the “corruption of youth” alive.[117] One newspaper even compared the incident to the scandal surrounding the German emperor known as the “Eulenberg Affair” which had prompted transnational attention to homosexuality.[118]

Montreal was not yet an “open city” but the extraordinary range of leisure activities in the city was much commented upon. The Montreal Standard offered readers a full page graphic description of the citizen’s quest for entertainment in May 1914. Under the title “Montrealers Spend Millions on Pleasure” the newspaper estimated that 2.5 million dollars had been spent attending the city’s 67 movie theatres with a further $600,000 for tickets to Vaudeville and live theatre. Horse races at Bluebonnets and other venues cost $160,000, hockey games $100,000 and baseball $60,000. Dance halls, a particularly popular form of winter entertainment, added a further $100,000 to the total. The Standard reported that Montrealers also spent six million on liquor and beer as well as 2.5 million on smoking. Motoring, still seen as entertainment, was said to have cost $500,000 in the previous year. All of this the Standard noted despite “hard times” in the past twelve months.[119]

The contrast between life as experienced in the bars, brothels and places of entertainment and the social teachings of the Roman Catholic and Protestant churches led a prominent La Presse editor to raise questions about the importance of religion in the city. Lorenzo Prince discussed the issue in his book Montreal Old and New, published in 1914. Prince estimated that “less than one in five Montrealers” attended church on Sunday including “casual worshipers who go to church now and then.” After deducting the very old and the very young, he concluded that “two hundred thousand people…did not go to church on a particular Sunday.” Prince attributed the “declining influence of religion to a change that has “come over the world”. When men and women are asked “to flee from the wrath to come they say, save us from the misery which is present… They demand of Christianity a practiced application.”[120] Prince, a freemason active in liberal causes,[121] may have exaggerated the decline of religious feeling but it is evident that daily life in Canada’s metropolis was breaking the bounds prescribed by traditional authorities well before any disruptive effects of the war were evident.[122]


[1] Population of Montreal and Suburbs, 1891 – 1931, Robert Lewis, Manufacturing Montreal: The Making of an Industrial Landscape, 1850 to 1930 (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2000), p. 144.

[2] Jewish and Italian districts, 1914, in Lewis, Manufacturing Montreal

[3] See Marshal Berman, All That Is Solid Melts into Air: The Experience of Modernity (New York: Penguin, 1988) for an especially challenging study of “The Experience of Modernity”

[4] Reál Bélanger, Laurier, Sir Wilfrid DCB Online

[5] Michelle Brasaid and Jean Hamelin, Prefontaine, Raymond DCB Online

[6] René Castonguay, Brodeur, Louis-Phillipe DCB Online

[7] Jason Gilland, “Redimensioning Montreal: Circulation and Urban Form, 1846-1918” (PhD Thesis, McGill University, 2001), p. 75.

[8] The Canadian Engineer, 30 April 1914 p. 676

[9] N.H. Senecal, The No.5 Terminal Grain Elevator in the Port of Montreal (M.A. Thesis, Concordia University, 2001). 

[10] The Canadian Engineer, 7 May 1914, p.711.

[11] Isabelle Gournay and Franc Vanlaethem, eds., Montreal Metropolis, 1880-1930 (Toronto: Canadian Centre for Architecture : Stoddart Publishing, 1998), p. 49.

[12] Robert Lewis, Manufacturing Montreal: The Making of an Industrial Landscape 1850 – 1930, p. 193-194. Maps of Montreal Industrial Districts from Lewis and see also The Canadian Pacific Railway’s Legendary Angus Shops

[13] Ibid p. 50 – 52

[14] William Kilbourn, The Elements Combined: A History of the Steel Company of Canada (Toronto ; Vancouver: Clarke Irwin, 1960), pp. 31-32, 70-71.

[15] John H. Dales, Hydroelectricity and Industrial Development: Quebec, 1898-1940 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 1957).

[16] Jack Jedwab, Forget, Rodolphe DCB Online

[17] William Fong, J. W. McConnell (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2008), p. 150.

[18] Lewis, Manufacturing Montreal, p. 232

[19] Lewis, p. 232

[20] Paul-André Linteau, “Factors in the Development of Montreal,” in Montreal Metropolis 1880-1930, ed. Isabelle Gournay and Franc Vanlaethem (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture : Stoddart Publishing, 1998). p. 28.

[21] Roderick MacLeod and Mary Anne Poutanen, A Meeting of the People: School Boards and Protestant Communities in Quebec, 1801-1998 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2004), pp. 93-94.

[22] L’Ecole Canadienne, (Montreal 1946), p. 77-81

[23] William Ryan, The Clergy and Economic Growth in Quebec (1896-1914) (Quebec: Presses de l’Universite Laval, 1966), p. 210

[24] Matthew Barlow, The House of the Irish: Irishness, History, and Memory in Griffintown, Montreal 1868-2009 (PhD Thesis, Concordia University, 2009)

[25] Theodore D. Regehr, Shaughnessy, Thomas George, DCB Online

[26] My family was fairly typical. My maternal grandfather, James Wilson left Brighton, England for Verdun Quebec in 1907 after being recruited by the Grand Trunk Railway to work as a cabinet maker. My uncle Cecil Percy Copp arrived in Canada in 1910 obtaining work as a clerk. He enlisted in the Canadian Army in 1915, becoming a sergeant in the service corps. My father, born 1908 joined his brother in Montreal in 1924. After night school he became a draftsman employed by Bell Telephone.

[27] Robert Nuhuet, “Une Experience Canadiene La Taylorism, Les Usines Angus” (M.A. Thesis, Université du Québec à Montréal, 1984).

[28] The Montreal Star, 25 March, p. 6

[29] Walter Van Nus, “A Community of Communities,” in Montreal Metropolis 1880-1930 (Montreal: Canadian Centre for Architecture : Stoddart Publishing, 1998), pp. 59 – 70

[30] John Stephen Bryce, The Making of Westmount, Quebec 1870-1929 (M.A. Thesis, McGill 1990)

[31] David B. Marshall, Secularizing the Faith: Canadian Protestant Clergy and the Crisis of Belief, 1850-1940 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992).

[32] Richard Virr, Symonds, Herbert DCB Online.

[33] Charles G. Roland, Osler, Sir William DCB Online

[34] Joseph Hanaway, Richard L Cruess, and James Darragh, McGill Medicine, Volume 2, 1885-1936 (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2006). p. 46

[35] Stanley Brice Frost and Robert H. Michel, MacDonald, Sir William Christopher DCB Online

[36] William Fong, Sir William C. Macdonald (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2007), p. 55

[37] Fong, Sir William C. Macdonald, pp. 27-28

[38] Fong, Sir William C. Macdonald, pp. 231-233

[39] See also, Deborah L. Miller, “The Big Ladies Hotel: Gender, Residence and Middle Class Montreal. A Contextual Analysis of Royal Victoria College 1899-1931” (M.A. Thesis, McGill University, 1998).

[40] W. H. Atherton, Montreal Under British Rule (Montreal 1914) Vol. 2 pp. 331-332. 

[41]  Dupuis Frères

[42] Pauline Gill, Dufresne, Oscar DCB Online

[43] Paul-André Linteau, The Promoters’ City: Building the Industrial Town of Maisonneuve, 1883-1918 (Toronto: J. Lorimer, 1985).

[44] Lorenzo Prince, ed. Montreal: Old and New (Montreal, 1915); Ovila Fournier, Un Pionnier de l’économique Au Québec Joseph Versailles (1881-1931) Le Fondateur de Montréal-Est (Saint-Étienne de Bolton, Quebec: Les Éditions de la Libellule, 1974).

[45] Le Canada Ecclesiastique, 1913 (Montreal 1914) See also Nive Voisine and Jean Hamelin, Histoire Du Catholicisme Quebecois, Le XX Siecle 1898-1940 (Montreal: Boréal Express, 1984).

[46] Heidi MacDonald, “Who Counts?: Nuns, Work, and the Census of Canada,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 43, no. 86 (2010): 369–91See also Marta Danylewycz, Taking the Veil: An Alternative to Marriage, Motherhood and Spinsterhood in Quebec, 1840-1920 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987).

[47] William Henry Atherton, Montreal, 1535-1914, vol. 2, 2 vols. (Montreal: S. J. Clarke, 1914), pp. 347-348.

[48] L’Ecole Polytechnique de Montréal, 1873-1923:

[49] David McKeagan, “The First Fifty Years of the École Des Haut Etudes Commerciales de Montréal,” Historical Studies in Education 26, no. 1 (2014), p. 14. 

[50] Guy Laperrière, Bruchesi, Paul DCB Online

[51] Francis Primeau, “Le Libéralisme Dans La Pensée de Mgr Bruchesi,” Mens: Revue D’Histoire Intellectuelle de l’Amerique Francoise 7, no. 2 (2007): 241–77.

[52] Guy Laperrière, “Le Congrès Eucharistique de Montréal En 1910  : Une Affirmation Du Catholicisme Montréalais,” Études d’histoire Religieuse 77 (2011): 21–39

[53] Patrice Dutil, Langlois Godfroy, DCB Online

[54] Patrice Dutil, Devil’s Advocate: Godfroy Langlois and the Politics of Liberal Progressivism in Laurier’s Quebec (Montreal: R. Davies Pub., 1994).

[55] Robert Gagnon, Histoire de La Commission Des Écoles Catholiques de Montréal (Montreal: Boréal Express, 1996), p. 100. Amalgamation was deferred until 1917.

[56] Patrice Dutil, “‘Adieu, Chaste et Pure’ Godfroy Langlois et La Virage Vers La Progressisme Liberal,” in Combats Libereaux Au Tourant Du Xx Siècle, ed. Yvan Lamonde (Montreal: Fides, 1995), p. 247.

[57] Ibid.

[58] Godfroy Langlois, Still Paddling After All These Years (Montreal 1913).

[59] Michael Brown, Jew or Juif? Jews, French Canadians, and Anglo-Canadians, 1759-1914 (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1986), pp. 134-137

[60] See for example, “Redivivus, Un Article d’Edouard Drumont” Le Devoir 23 Mars 1912 p. 6. “Henri Bourassa et Edouard Drumont” Le Pays 23 Juin 1917 p. 9. Available Online.

[61] Brown, Jew or Juif, p.136. See also David Rome, Early Anti-Semitism: The Imprint of Drumont (Montreal 1985)

[62] Peter R. D’Agostino, Rome in America (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), p. 84.

[63] Réal Bélanger, Bourassa, Henri DCB Online

[64] The protest meeting was reported by all the daily newspapers. See La Patrie 17, 18 October, 1910; The Montreal Gazette 17, October, 1910; When Nathan’s appointment as Italy’s commissioner for the International Panama-Pacific Exhibition in San Francisco was announced L’Action Sociale, the unofficial voice of Cardinal Bégin joined other Catholic journals to protest his arrival in North America. The Montreal Witness reported this incident, but it was quickly forgotten. See, Montreal Witness, 31 March, 1914

[65] Sylvio Normand, Plamondon Jacques Édouard DCB Online

[66] Bernard Figler, Sam Jacobs, Member of Parliament (Harpell’s Press, 1970), p. 23-27; Joshua D. MacFadyen, “‘Nip the Noxious Growth in the Bud’: Ortenberg V. Plamdon and the Roots of the Canadian Anti-Hate Activism,” Canadian Jewish Studies 12 (2004): 73–96.

[67] Figler, pp. 22-23

[68] Roderick MacLeod and Mary Anne Poutanen, “Little Fists for Social Justice: Anti-Semitism, Community, and Montreal’s Aberdeen School Strike, 1913,” Labour/Le Travail 70 (2012): 61–99.

[69] John Terry Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty: The Conditions of the Working Class in Montreal, 1897-1929 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1974), p. 67.

[70] Robert Gagnon, Histoire de La Commission Des Écoles Catholiques de Montréal (Montreal: Boréal Express, 1996), pp. 130 – 131.

[71] Souvenir Handbook, Child Welfare Exhibit 1912 p. 32. Cited in Copp, Anatomy, p. 33.

[72] Ibid, p. 34.

[73] See Bettina Bradbury, Working Families: Age, Gender, and Daily Survival in Industrializing Montreal (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007), for a discussion of the family economy in 19th C. Montreal

[74] Andrée Levesque, Making and Breaking the Rules: Women in Quebec, 1919-1929(Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1994), p. 11.

[75] Heidi MacDonald, “Who Counts?: Nuns, Work, and the Census of Canada,” Histoire Sociale/Social History 43, no. 86 (2010): 371

[76] Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty, p 56.

[77] Ibid p.45. See also, Pete Murphy, King of the Newsboys 

[78] The Montreal Star, 17 January, 1914. P. 17.

[79] The Montreal Star, 21 January 1914, p. 3; Also see, Peter Campbell, Rose Henderson: A Women for the People (Montreal & Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2010). Rose Henderson was the English-Speaking Protestant probation officer for the Montreal juvenile court from 1912-1919. An active proponent of children’s rights and the movement for “Mother’s Pensions,” Henderson often referred to such pensions, which were proposed for widows with children, in broader terms. Rose Henderson was an important source of information leading to the passage of “An Act to Prohibit the Improper Use of Opium and Other Drugs,” claiming that the young children in Montreal were developing a “cocaine habit.” See Campbell, p. 19.

[80] Calculations of Gross National Product per capita and savings per capita have been used to track the impact of economic growth over time. See, for example, Byron Lew and Marvin McInnis, “Guns and Butter: World War I and the Canadian Economy”; and Douglas McCalla, “The Economic Impact of the Great War,” in Canada and the First World War: Essays in Honour of Robert Craig Brown, ed. David Mackenzie (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2005), pp. 138–53. This reality together with evidence on the paucity of savings deposits, $93.79 per capita in 1914 (Montreal Star 10 January 1914, p. 10) needs to be considered in any discussion of income redistribution.

[81] Jacques Rouillard, Foster, John. DCB Online

[82] Éric Leroux, “La Carrière Polyvalente de Gustave Francq” (PhD Thesis, University of Montreal, 1999).

[83] Éric Leroux, Verville, Alphonse DCB Online

[84] The summary is based on a review of strikes and lockouts in Montreal 1901-1914 originally prepared by Michael Piva for my book The Anatomy of Poverty. See Chapter Eight “Labour Unrest and Industrial Conflict.” Since then a number of studies have examined the issue using a similar source base. See for example R. P. Johal, “Responses to Change: Labour, Capital and the State. A Study of the Montreal Working Class through an Examination of Strikes and Lockouts 1901 – 1914” (M.A. Thesis, Queen’s University, 1999). The most detailed account of the history of organized labour in Montreal is Geoffrey Ewen, “The International Unions and the Worker’s Revolt in Quebec 1914-1925” (PhD Thesis, York University, 1998).

[85] Canada, Royal Commission on the Cotton Textile Industry in Quebec. See also Jacques Rouillard, Paquette, Wilfrid DCB Online

[86] Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty, p. 97

[87] For a comprehensive study of this topic, see Denyse Baillargeon, Babies for the Nation: The Medicalization of Motherhood in Quebec, 1910-1970 (Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2009).

[88] Peter Keating, Burland, Jeffrey Hale DCB Online

[89] Atherton, History of Montreal, p.447

[90] Georges Desrosiers, Benoît Gaumer, and Othmar Keel, Lachapelle, Emmanuel-Persillier DCB Online

[91] Province of Quebec, Report of the Royal Commission on Tuberculosis, 1909-1910, p.2. Available Online.

[92] See Quebec Statistical Yearbook 1915 for mortality and morbidity rates in 1914

[93] Canada, Board of Inquiry Into the Cost of Living, Ottawa 1913 p. 483

[94] Rejean Legault, “Architecture et Forme Urbaine: L’example Du Triplex à Montreal de 1870-1914,” Urban History Review 18, no. 1 (1989): 1–10.

[95] Montreal Star, 7 April 1914.

[96] Annual Report Quebec Board of Public Health 1908 – 1909 p. 10. Cited in Copp, Anatomy, p. 75.

[97] Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty p. 85

[98] T. H. Regehr, Van Horne, William DCB Online

[99] Walter Vaughan, The Life and Work of Sir William Van Horne (New York: The Century Co., 1920), p. 345. 

[100] Jean-Phillipe Croteau, “La Financement Des Écoles Publiques à Montréal et Toronto (1841-1997):  Un Baromètre Pour Mesurer Les Rapports Entre La Majorité et La Minorité,” Historical Studies in Education 24, no. 2 (2012). See Also Robert Gagnon, Histoire de La Commission Des Écoles Catholiques de Montréal (Montreal: Boréal Express, 1996), p. 42; and Copp, Anatomy of Poverty, p. 63.

[101] Protestant School Board of Greater Montreal, Annual Report 1907-08, 8, cited in Copp, Anatomy of Poverty, pp. 66- 67.

[102] Copp, The Anatomy of Poverty, p. 67.

[103] Ibid p. 63

[104] Yvan Lamonde and Raymond Montpetit, Le Parc Sohmer de Montréal, 1889-1919: Un Lieu Populaire de Culture Urbaine (Quebec: Institut Québécois de Recherche sur la Culture, 1986).

[105] Alan Metcalfe, Canada Learns to Play: The Emergence of Organized Sport, 1807-1914 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987), pp. 97-98.

[106] This account is based on Robert Harry Pearson, “The Decline of Professional Baseball in Montreal: A Case Study of the Montreal Royals and the Montreal City League 1910 – 1917” (B.A. Thesis, Concordia University, 1996). The quotation from La Presse 23 April 1910 is cited in Pearson’s thesis, p. 14. See also Robert Harry Pearson, “Montreal’s Delorimier Downs Baseball Stadium as Business and Centre of Mass Culture” (M.A. Thesis, Queen’s University, 1998). Accessed online at I wish to thank Robert Pearson for sending me a copy of his Concordia Honours B.A. Thesis.

[107] Adam Gopnik, “How Montreal Perfected Hockey” McGill News 12 August 2011.   See also, Adam Gopnik, CBC Massey Lectures

[108] Michel Vigneault, “La Naissance d’un Sport Organize Au Canada: Le Hockey à Montréal 1875 – 1917” (PhD Thesis, Laval University, 2001). Accessed at See also Michel Vigneault, “The Cultural Diffusion of Hockey in Montreal, 1890 – 1910” (M.A. Thesis, University of Windsor, 1985).

[109] Scott MacKenzie, Screening Québec : Québécois Moving Images, National Identity, and the Public Sphere (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), pp. 72-83.

[110] Mireille Barrière, Sparrow, John Bolingbrooke DCB Online

[111] Michelle Barrière, “Montréal, Microcosme Du Theatre Lyrique Nord-Américain (1893-1913),” in Québécois et Américains: La Culture Québécoise Aux XIXe et XXe Siècles, ed. Gerard Bouchard and Yvan Lamonde (Montreal: Fides, 1993), p. 373.

[112] Lacasse Germain, Massé Johanne, and Poirier Bethsabée, Le Diable En Ville. Alexandre Silvio et l’émergence de La Modernité Populaire Au Québec (Montreal: Les Presses de l’Université de Montréal, 2012), pp. 128 – 131.

[113] Ramon Hawthorn, “Sarah Bernhardt and the Bishops of Montreal and Quebec,” Canadian Catholic Historical Association 53 (1986): 97–120.

[114] See, The Montreal Star, 5 January 1914, p.5&7; 8 January 1914, p.5; 9 January 1914, p.4; 10 January 1914, p.1; 12 January 1914, p.1.

[115] Andrée Levesque, “Eteindre Le Red Light: Les Réformateurs et La Prostitution à Montréal Entre 1865 et 1925,” Urban History Review 17, no. 3 (1989), 191.

[116] Henri Taschereau, The Social Evil. Toleration Condemned (Montreal: City of Montreal, 1905). 

[117] Virginie Pineault, “Les Clubs de ‘Manches de Ligne’ et Du Dr. Geoffrion: Socialbilites Gaies, Discours, Publiques et Repression Dans La Region Du Montréal 1860-1910” (M.A. Thesis, University of Montreal, 2012). Ch. 3 

[118] Le Canada Francais 30 Oct 1908 p. 3. See also, Norman Domeier, The Eulenburg Affair: A Cultural History of Politics in the German Empire, trans. Deborah L. Schneider (Camden House, 2015).

[119] The Standard 8 May 1914

[120] Lorenzo Prince, ed., Montreal Old and New (Montreal: International Press Syndicate Publishers, 1915), 109

[121] Roger Le Moine, “Deux Loges Montréalaises Du Grand Orient de France,” Montréal Laboratoire d’urbanité 34, no. 3 (1993): 526–27.

[122] Historian Michel Gauvreau has “argues for the successful adaptation of the Protestant and Catholic churches to the Canadian urban environment particularly in the period before 1940” and “urges historians to consider the churches as dynamic social and cultural institutions in the framing of modern urban life”. Michel Gauveau, “Le Couple Religion\Urbanite: Les Trajectoires Anglocanadienne Et Quebecoise a La Lumiere De L’historiographie Internationale,” Étudies d’histoire Religieuse 72 (2006).