History of Nova Scotia
with special attention given to
Transportation and Communications

Chapter 7
1 January 1820   to   31 December 1839

Never confuse history with nostalgia.  In its Greek origins, historia meant inquiry, and from Thucydides onward, the past has been studied to understand its connections with the present.

For all the elaborateness of modern scholarship, we still do what the Greeks and Romans did: figure out how we got from there to here.

Electronic technology is only the latest (and most potent) tool in that work.  With the arrival of the digitized archive, or the historical hypertext ...the record of the past faces a brave new future...

Traditionally, historians have come in two basic models: the hang glider and the truffle hunter, and both can be helped out by electronic technology.  Truffle hunters are excavators, resolute at extracting some small savory gobbet of truth from an improbably hidden source...

Hot-Wired History, Unplugged by Simon Schama, Old Dominion Foundation Professor of Humanities at Columbia University

1824 March 8

Birth of F.N. Gisborne

Frederic Newton Gisborne was born in Broughton, Lancashire, England, 8 March 1824.  His father was Hartley Packer Gisborne; his mother was descended from a half sister of Sir Isaac Newton.  Fred Gisborne pioneered the construction of electric telegraph systems and was responsible for the installation of one of the world's earliest underwater electric telegraph cables.  As a youth he accompanied his uncle to Tahiti and Mexico, where they attempted to grow gutta percha as insulation for electric wires.  He moved with his brother to Canada in 1845 and farmed for two years near St. Eustace, Lower Canada.

Gisborne worked as one of the first operators for the Montreal Telegraph Company, becoming its Chief Operator, then in 1847 was appointed General Manager of the British North American Electric Telegraph Association, which was formed for the purpose of connecting the Maritime provinces with Upper and Lower Canada.  From 1849-51 he held the position of Superintendent of Telegraphs in Nova Scotia.  During the early 1850s Gisborne began to study the possibility of a submerged transatlantic cable, and interested Joseph Howe and others in the subject.  Having received their permission to conduct a preliminary survey, he travelled to the United States to find investors willing to sponsor the development and installation of a submarine line.  He enlisted the support of several businessmen and was appointed Engineer of the private company that emerged as a result.  After overseeing the establishment of an overland link from Nova Scotia through New Brunswick to the United States, in 1852 he successfully laid an electric telegraph cable under Northumberland Strait, connecting Prince Edward Island with the rapidly-developing North American telegraph system.

Another step in Gisborne's original transatlantic plan had been to build a telegraph line across Newfoundland and under Cabot Strait to Nova Scotia, where it could be connected to the existing continental network.  With a small steamer and a crew of six native Indians, he had conducted a preliminary survey across Newfoundland in 1851, hiking through dense forests and surviving much hardship.  By 1853 labourers had been hired to clear a path for a cable.  Before their work could be completed, however, Gisborne's backers failed.  The project was suspended and the labourers' wages were unpaid.  Gisborne sold property of his own in an attempt to meet the company's outstanding debts, but his funds were inadequate and he was placed in debtor's prison.  To add to his grief, his young wife (Alida Ellen Starr, whom he had married in 1850) died early in 1854, leaving him with two small children to raise.

Gisborne pleaded with the Colonial Government of Newfoundland for his release, asking that he be given the opportunity to form a new company which would assume all outstanding debts and complete the telegraph line from Newfoundland to Nova Scotia.  The Government freed him and passed an act granting a loan towards the salaries of the unpaid labourers.  In the winter of 1853-54 Gisborne returned to New York, where he solicited support from Cyrus W. Field and several other investors.  The New York, Newfoundland and London Telegraph Company was soon formed, and it covered the debts of the preceding company and obtained partial financial support from the Governments of Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, and Maine.  Gisborne returned to Newfoundland in May, 1854 as Chief Engineer of the Company and Superintendent of the submarine operation.  A first attempt to lay a cable between Cape Ray, Newfoundland and Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was made in 1855 but failed.  In 1856 the effort met with success, and Gisborne was offered a permanent position as Superintendent of the new telegraph system.  He rejected the terms offered, and his connection with the company ceased.

In 1856 Cyrus Field visited England to garner support for the construction of the transatlantic telegraph system that Gisborne had envisioned earlier in the decade.  The Atlantic Telegraph Company, created as a result of Field's trip, finally linked Europe to America by cable in 1858.

Frederic Gisborne was elected President of the Mining Association of Newfoundland in 1857 and devoted himself to mining pursuits for several years, then returned to England as a mines and minerals agent for the Government of Nova Scotia.  In addition, he gave his attention to further scientific inventions (including electrical and signalling devices), for which he received several British medals.  He returned to Canada in 1869 as Chief Engineer for an English company which had investments in the coal mines of Cape Breton.  In 1879 he accepted the position of Superintendent of the Telegraph and Signal Service of the Dominion Government, where he remained for several years.  In that capacity, he was involved in the development of a cable system stretching from Canada to Australia via the Aleutian Islands, Japan and New Guinea.

Frederic Gisborne married his second wife, Henrietta Hernaman, in 1857.  They had four children, one of whom later became Superintendent of the Government Telegraph Service in Manitoba and the Northwest Province.  Another son, Francis, became a barrister in the federal Department of Justice.  Frederic Gisborne was a charter member of the Royal Society of Canada, a member of the Council of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineers, and a member of many scientific associations.  He died in Ottawa on 30 August 1892.

[Adapted from Biographical sketch: Frederick Newton Gisborne Victoria University Library (University of Toronto)

      On the evening of November 22, 1852, a small sidewheeler christened the Ellen Gisborne was preparing for one of the unique adventures in Canadian history.  The ship was a two-masted schooner of 81 feet with a breadth of slightly over 14 feet.  On its decks was a most unusual cargo — approximately 14 miles 22 km of cable capable of carrying the faltering signals of the newly created electric telegraph.  The small ship's mission was to lay this English-made cable beneath the waters of Northumberland Strait.

      The weather was not the least encouraging.  The high winds were whipping snow and sleet across the strait and the tide was running high.  Visibility, though sporadic, was, for the most part, reduced to zero.  The ship was anchored off Cape Tormentine, N.B., and one end of the cable had been taken ashore and fastened to a tree.  Only a handful of people on either side of the strait were aware of the drama that was about to unfold.  Even fewer would have knowledge of Frederick Newton Gisborne, the man whose dream of a telegraph connection between New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island was about to become a reality.

[Excerpted from Voices of the Island: History of the Telephone on Prince Edward Island by Walter C. Auld.] http://www.pei.sympatico.ca/island_tel/history.htm

1824 December 29, Wednesday

Novascotian Begins Publication

On this day, the first issue of the Novascotian newspaper was published in Halifax.  It quickly would become one of the leading newspapers in British North America.

On 27 December 1827, Joseph Howe bought the Novascotian from George Young, agreeing to pay £1050 in installments of £210 a year for five years.  From 1 January 1828, Howe was in full control of the newspaper's content.  In a letter dated 5 July 1829, Howe wrote: "I took the paper from Young, under the conviction that I would lose at least 100 subscribers the first year, as I was a stranger to them all, and perhaps might not be able to keep it up to the old standard — instead of which I have now nearly a hundred more than he ever had..."

In the issue of 1 January 1835, the Novascotian published a letter signed "The People", which alleged grave offences against the Halifax magistracy.  Its key sentences were: "I will venture to affirm, without the possibility of being contradicted by proof, that during the lapse of the last 30 years, the Magistracy and Police have, by one strategm or other, taken from the pockets of the people, in over exactions, fines, etc. etc. a sum that would exceed in the gross amount £30,000... Is it not known to every reflecting and observant man, whose business or curiosity has led him to take a view of the Municipal bustle of our Court of Sessions, that from the pockets of the poor and distressed at least £1,000 is drawn annually, and pocketed by men whose services the Country might well spare." For printing this letter, Howe was tried for libel, 2-3 March 1835.  The trial ended in his famous victory, which is widely considered to be the beginning of freedom of the press in Canada.  From the Novascotian, 5 March 1835: "...we announce to our numerous readers in the interior, and in the neighbouring Provinces, that the Press of Nova Scotia is free.  Its independence has been established, by the firmness and intelligence of twelve impartial men, on these rational and indestructible principles of reason and English Law, that our ancestors tried out and determined — and which, while they are amply sufficient to guard society against its abuse, are essential to the protection of this invaluable Institution..."

On 30 December 1841, Howe announced the Novascotian had been sold to Richard Nugent.  From May 1844 to April 1846, Howe edited the Novascotian and the Morning Chronicle. Later, the Novascotian became the property of The Halifax Chronicle. In 1949, the name Novascotian was included among the assets acquired when the Herald and Mail bought the Chronicle and the Star. In the early 1980s, the name Novascotian was revived and over the next few years appeared from time to time as a page in the Chronicle-Herald and the Mail-Star.

On 19 April 1998, it made "another debut" as a regular section in The Sunday Herald. This time, the publisher decided "to abandon the soft-feature, no-bad-news formula, and to try to take the Novascotian closer to its roots.  In Joseph Howe's day, the paper was the cultural and political voice of an awakening Nova Scotia; in fact, it was one of the leading newspapers in British North America."

[Excerpted from Volume 1 Number 1 of The Sunday Herald, Halifax, 19 April 1998, with additional information from J. Murray Beck's Joseph Howe: Voice of Nova Scotia, McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1964.]

The name Novascotian used as a section head in the Halifax Sunday Herald, 2003
The name Novascotian used as a section head
in the Halifax Sunday Herald, 12 January 2003

1825 December 29

Refugees from Nova Scotia

The United States House of Representatives, 19th Congress, 1st Session: Read the first and second time, and committed to a committee of the whole House to-morrow — A Bill To revive and continue in force an act, entitled "An Act further to provide for the refugees from the British provinces of Canada and Nova Scotia."
1825, An Act to provide for the refugees from Canada and Nova Scotia
Source: U.S. House of Representatives, 19th Congress, 1st Session
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library


Annapolis Iron Mining Company

In the village of Clementsport, Annapolis County, in the 1820s "a company was formed under the auspices of two American men, for the working of the valuable iron mines in the neighbourhood.  Smelting furnaces were constructed and coalsheds and other buildings" necessary for their business were erected.  "The beds of iron ore which they worked are situated to the southward of the village, and at a distance of about three miles five kilomteres from it." Moses Shaw (senior) of Clementsport was instrumental in setting up the Annapolis Iron Mining Company which was incorporated in 1826.  Iron ore was transported from the quarry along a railway built with maple rails, to the furnace at the mouth of the Moose River.  Stoves and iron hollow-ware (pots, kettles, etc.) were cast in the foundry nearby.  Power was provided from an undershot water wheel.  Local farmers made charcoal and sold it to the company for use in the blast furnace.  The dam wall and archway remain as part of our present-day (2000) road bridge.  The trip hammer used for crushing the ore can be seen at the parking lot by the bridge (the old village square).  Many acres of land granted to Loyalist settlers in Clements Township only about forty years earlier, in 1784, along with ungranted land were bought and used for the mining of ore and manufacturing.  L.V. Shaw, Moses Shaw's grandson, has written about this rather important and interesting episode in the history of Clements.
[Digby Courier, 14 June 2000]

The above was excerpted from a report in the Digby Courier
of a meeting of the Upper Clements Historical Society held on
May 4th, 2000.  The quotes are from The History of the County
of Annapolis,
by W.A. Calnek, published in 1897.

Annapolis Iron Mining Company monument Photographs

1827 April 23

First Steam Engine Begins Working

On this day, the first steam engine began operating in Nova Scotia.
[The Halifax Daily News, 23 April 2000]

1827 June 4

Richard Smith Arrives With Machinery

Richard Smith, of Staffordshire, England, arrived at Pictou on the brig Margaret Pelkington with a cargo of mining machinery, including boilers, cylinders, and other parts needed to assemble steam hoisting and pumping engines.  Smith was the mining engineer for the General Mining Association of London, England, which then held the rights to most of the coal in Pictou County.  The GMA was granted mineral rights in Nova Scotia in 1826, and operated coal mines in Albion Mines (now Stellarton), as well as in Sydney Mines and Joggins, until about 1900.  The business built up by the GMA became the foundation for Dominion Steel and Coal, Canada's largest industrial corporation, with a complex of coal mines, shipyards, steel plants and railways stretching from Wabana, Newfoundland, to Windsor, Ontario.

On 22 September 1999, a plaque recalling the GMA's place in the mining history of Nova Scotia was officially received by the Museum of Industry in Stellarton.  Parks Canada's Historic Sites and Monuments Board researched the company's history and arranged for the manufacture of the plaque, which will be placed near the GMA's old Cornish pumphouse on the grounds of the Museum of Industry.

[The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, 23 & 24 September 1999, and other sources.]

"Prior to the arrival of the large British company, called the General Mining Association of Nova Scotia, in the 1820s, mining in what was then a colony was on a very small scale — a modest bit of work from the surface on outcrops, but nothing that you could really label industrial, large-scale mining.  What happens in the 1820s is the General Mining Association gets control of mining leases in the colonies and it's given a monopoly over coal mining in the colony of Nova Scotia.  On the basis of that monopoly, it invests very large sums of money in the colony, developing massive coal mines using state-of-the-art technology — the Albion mines, Pictou County, and the Sydney mines in Cape Breton.  So you have almost overnight the emergence of state-of-the-art mining in Nova Scotia, and at the same time the GMA brings over its money — its capital — it also brings over British miners to operate these mammoth new mines.  It begins there; you have transplanted directly from Britain these large steam engines, surface railways, large surface works for sorting coal, and the entire system of mining including the idea of boy miners..."
Source: When Boys Mined Coal
Interview with Robert McIntosh, Ph.D., Historian
Cochran Entertainment Incorporated website

Use the Wayback Machine to view web sites from the past.

The Wayback Machine has archived copies of this document:
When Boys Mined Coal
Robert McIntosh interview

Archived: 1999 May 06

Archived: 2000 March 04

Archived: 2001 June 19

Archived: 2002 August 17

Archived: 2003 December 24

These links were accessed and found to be valid on 17 March 2010.

1827 July

Steam Ferry on the Bay of Fundy

The steamboat Saint John, made her first trip across the Bay of Fundy, to Digby and Annapolis.  Saint John usually operated under steam power, but for reserve power in case of mechanical trouble, she was schooner rigged with foresail, mainsail and jib.  For the rest of 1827, Saint John made weekly trips across the Bay.

1827 December 7

Canada's First Steam Engine Begins Operation

At Stellarton, "the very first steam engine in all Canada began puffing away": H.B. Jefferson wrote in his paper Mount Rundell, Stellarton, and the Albion Railway of 1839, read before the Nova Scotia Historical Society on 9 November 1961.

1827 December 7

Colonial Patriot Begins Publication

On this day, the first issue of the Colonial Patriot newspaper was published in Pictou, Nova Scotia.
[The Halifax Daily News, 7 December 2000]

1827 December 29

J. Howe Buys the Novascotian

On this day, Joseph Howe acquired the Novascotian, a weekly newspaper printed in Halifax, from George Young.
[The National Post, 29 December 1999]

In 2010, the name Novascotian still appears weekly in Nova Scotia, as a section of the Halifax Sunday Herald, a newspaper published by a corporate successor of the original.

1828 March

Halifax - Annapolis Stage Line

In March 1828, a number of subscribers [shareholders] who had formed themselves into a Company for the purpose of running stage coaches between Halifax and Annapolis Royal, met to choose a committee to co-operate with a committee at Kentville in the general arrangement and superintendance of the concern.  These men were James N. Shannon, John L. Starr, George W. Russell, Michael Tobin, treasurer, and J.C. Allison, secretary.  The editor of the Novascotian commented: "Although we are doubtful whether a sufficient number of passengers will be found to enable the Company to carry on the enterprise without a loss — we think the Gentlemen deserve every credit for commencing so patriotic and useful an undertaking.  Among the other advantages which our readers to the westward will derive from these stages, will be the receipt of the Novascotian, fresh from the press, instead of having to wait nearly four days for its arrival."
[The Halifax Herald, 24 March 1942]

1828 June

The Halifax - Pictou Stage Line

In 1828, Ezra Witter and Jacob Lynds were operating their stage once a week from June to the middle of November.  It left Halifax every Tuesday at 7 am, reached Truro at 7 the next morning, and Pictou at 8 that evening.  It left Pictou one hour after the arrival of the PEI packet, and reached Halifax on Saturday afternoon.  The coach took four passengers carrying up to 20 pounds 9 kg of luggage each, at a fare of £2 10s one way Halifax - Pictou.

1828 June 3

First Stage Halifax - Annapolis Royal

The first scheduled stage coach to run between Halifax and Annapolis, departed Halifax on this day.  This line was organized and operated by the Western Stage Coach Company.


First Standard Gauge Railway

In 1829, a tramway (light railway) for horse-drawn vehicles was built along the river bank from Albion Mines (now named Stellarton) to a wharf near New Glasgow, where small schooners could take on cargoes of coal.  According to noted railway historian H.B. Jefferson, "this was the very first standard gauge track in Canada, and probably in North America, and the fish-belly type rails cast for it at the nearby Albion foundry were undoubtedly the first rails of any kind cast in Canada, and very likely in North America." In 1834 this horse tramway was extended 400 yards 400m downstream to a larger wharf, to handle the increasing traffic.

The Stephenson, or "standard" gauge, is 4 feet 8½ inches 143 cm.

In railway parlance, "gauge" refers to the distance between the rails
of a railway track, as measured between the inside faces; this is the
most fundamental characteristic of any railway.  "Standard gauge"
refers to the gauge which Robert Stephenson chose for the
Stockton and Darlington Railway, the first railway in the modern
sense, opened for regular operation in England in 1825.  Over the
next century, many gauges were used to build tens of thousands
of miles of railways all over the world, but more track was built
to the Stephenson gauge than to all other gauges combined.

1829 May

Eastern Stage Coach Company

Formation of the Eastern Stage Coach Company, to operate the Halifax - Truro - Pictou route.

1830 November 23

Eastern Stage Coach Company
annual subsidy

A Coach drawn by three or more Horses, running three times each week, from the Month of May to the middle of November, and during the remainder of the year, once each week, between Halifax, Truro and Pictou...

At the General Assembly of the Province of Nova Scotia, begun and holden at Halifax, on Monday, the Eighth day of November, 1830, in the First Year of the Reign of our Sovereign Lord William the Fourth, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great-Britain and Ireland, King, Defender of the Faith, &c. &c. &c. being the First Session of the Fifteenth General Assembly, convened in the said Province.

In the time of Sir Peregrine Maitland, K.C.B. Lieutenant-Governor; S.S. Blowers, Chief Justice and President of the Council; Samuel George William Archibald, Speaker of the Assembly, William Hill, Acting Secretary of the Council; and John Whidden, Clerk of the Assembly.

CAP. I. (Chapter one)

An Act for applying certain Monies, therein mentioned, for the service of the year of Our Lord One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty, and for other Services therein specified.

(Passed the 23d day of November 1830.)

V. And be it further enacted, That the sum of £250, annually, for the years One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-One, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Two, One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Three, and One Thousand Eight Hundred and Thirty-Four, be granted and paid to the Eastern Stage Coach Company, for the encouragement of a line of Stages now running between Halifax, Truro and Pictou ; the money to be drawn from the Treasury quarterly, upon its appearing to the satisfaction of His Excellency the Lieutenant-Governor, or Commander in Chief for the time being, that the public have been accommodated during those years respectively, with a Coach drawn by three or more Horses, running three times in the week, from the Month of May to the middle of November, and during the remainder of the year, once in the week, between Halifax, Truro and Pictou.

Source:— Statutes of the Province of Nova-Scotia, volume the fourth, from A.D. 1827, 8 George IV to A.D. 1835, 5 William IV. [page 88]

The Act as printed in 1835.

Eastern Stage Coach Company
Easing the three-horse rule

At the GENERAL ASSEMBLY of the Province of Nova Scotia, begun and holden at Halifax, on Thursday, the Seventh day of February, 1833...

And whereas, the Eastern Stage Coach Company, by the terms of the Provincial Grant of the year 1829, to become entitled thereto, are bound to run their Carriages with three Horses each, and it sometimes happens that it is extremely difficult or impossible to run with three or four Horses the whole time.
V. Be it therefore enacted, That at such times as may be necessary in the Winter Season, on account of the state of the Roads, the said Company shall be at liberty to run their Carriages on such line or such part thereof, as may be requisite, with two or more Horses, without prejudice to their right to receive any Grant from the Treasury, in the same manner as if they had run their said Carriages with three or four Horses.

Source:— Statutes of the Province of Nova-Scotia, volume the fourth, from A.D. 1827, 5 George IV to A.D. 1835, 5 William IV. [page 193]


Annapolis Iron Mining Company

Act of incorporation amended

CAP. V. (Chapter five)

Whereas, it may be expedient for the Annapolis Iron Mining Company, incorporated under an Act, passed in the seventh year of His Majesty's reign, entitled, An Act to authorize the Incorporation of a Company for working certain Mines of Iron in the County of Annapolis, to borrow money upon the security of their Lands and Buildings for the purpose of completing their Works, and of carrying on their business : And whereas, doubts may be entertained, by persons willing to lend upon Mortgage of the siad Lands and Premises, of the power of the said Company to grant the security aforesaid :—

BE it therefore enacted, by the President, Council and Assembly, That it shall and and may be lawful for the said Annapolis Iron Mining Company, in such manner and form as a majority of the Directors for the time being may think proper, to grant and convey in Mortgage, any Lands, with the Buildings thereon, which they now possess, or hereafter may possess, or any part thereof, to secure payment of any money which the said Company may borrow, to enable them to enlarge or carry on their business, and for the general purposes of the said Corporation.

Source:— Statutes of the Province of Nova-Scotia, volume the fourth, from A.D. 1827, 8 George IV to A.D. 1835, 5 William IV. [page 75]

1830 December 23

Fifteen Steam Engines in Operation

On this day, the Novascotian newspaper reported that fifteen steam engines were in regular operation in Nova Scotia, just four years after the first engine began working at Albion Mines (Stellarton).  Many of these were marine engines (installed in ships).


Quebec & Halifax Steam Navigation Company

The Quebec Parliament passed an Act (chapter 33, 1831) to incorporate the Quebec & Halifax Steam Navigation Company.  The Act named 230 people, about equally divided between the two cities, who had agreed to subscribe a total of £16,000 to finance the company; most of this money went to pay for the construction of a new steamship, the Royal William, for the service.  At that time, a courier postal service operated between Halifax and Quebec, which usually took at least a week one way, and longer in winter.

1831 April 29

Royal William Launched

On this day the Royal William, the first steam-powered vessel built in Canada which was designed to go to sea, was launched from Campbell's shipyard at Wolfe's Cove, near Quebec City.  Lady Aylmer, wife of the Governor-General, christened the ship, naming it for the reigning monarch, William IV; as Prince William Henry he had been the first member of European Royalty to cross the Atlantic and visit North America.  A few days after the launch, two engines of 80 horsepower 60 kilowatts each were installed.  The total cost of the ship was £16,000 sterling.  The vessel's sea-going capability was necessary for the Halifax - Quebec route, which included 150 miles 240 kilometres on the open Atlantic between Halifax Harbour and Chedabucto Bay at the entrance to the Gut of Canso (Canso Strait).  At that time there were no weather forecasts beyond such things as "red sky at night, sailors' delight", and each trip required about 18 to 20 hours' exposure to whatever the Atlantic Ocean had to offer.

The diary of the Quebec Exchange, as published in the Montreal Gazette, shows that Royal William was launched on Friday, April 29th, 1831, in the presence of His Excellency Lord Aylmer, and named by Lady Aylmer after the reigning king, the band of the 32nd Regiment attending.  Royal William arrived at Montreal, May 2nd, 1831 and sailed from Quebec, August 24th, 1831, on her first trip to Miramichi, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Royal William finally left Quebec for the last time for London at 5am Of August 4th, 1833...
Excerpted from The History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation (book) by Henry Fry, 1896
The Ship's List (which has much more information about this noteworthy steamship)

1831 August 31

First Arrival of Royal William in Halifax

The Royal William departed Quebec on 24 August 1831, on her first voyage to Halifax, with 20 cabin passengers, 70 steerage passengers, 200 tons of cargo, and 120 tons of coal.  Cabin fare was six pounds five shillings, which included berth and meals.  Along the way, there were one-day stops at Mirimachi, New Brunswick, and Pictou, Nova Scotia.  In 1831, Royal William made three round trips between Quebec and Halifax; the engines "worked satisfactorily."

1831 November 25

First Issue of the Yarmouth Telegraph

The first issue of the Yarmouth Telegraph newspaper was published this day.


Steam Ferry to PEI Begins Operation

The General Mining Association put its steamboat Pochahantas on a daily (except Sunday) schedule between Pictou and Charlotte Town (Charlottetown), during ice-free months; this was the beginning of a transportation service that continued until 1939.


Cholera Epidemic Paralyzes Shipping

During the cholera epidemic of 1832, many governments put severe restrictions on movements of ships.  This widespread paralysis of shipping drove many shipping companies into bankruptcy, and others barely survived.  The Quebec & Halifax Steam Navigation Company had been having financial problems with Royal William's Halifax - Quebec service, and the cholera shutdown was the final straw.  In the spring of 1833, Royal William was sold at auction for £5,000.

Reference: The first epidemic of Asiatic cholera in Lower Canada, 1832


Monthly Halifax-Bermuda Mail Boat Service Begins

In 1833, the packet vessels carrying the Royal Mail from England terminated at Halifax.  Samuel Cunard of Halifax was awarded a contract by the British Admiralty to provide a monthly mail boat service between Halifax and Bermuda, as a way of providing a regular mail service between England and Bermuda.  This was his first ocean service.  It continued to Bermuda until July, 1886.

Cunard's New York - St. Thomas - Bermuda service
November 1850

In November, 1850, Samuel Cunard of Halifax introduced his steam packet service from New York to St. Thomas, with a call at Bermuda in both directions.  But the New York portion of the service was not a commercial success compared to his earlier Halifax Bermuda direct service and was canceled in May of 1854.

Cunard's Halifax - Bermuda service
May 1854

In May 1854, Cunard extended his direct Halifax Bermuda service.  This route remained in operation until January, 1880, when a number of West Indian islands replaced St. Thomas as ports of call.  The contract was finally canceled in July, 1886.

1833 March 9

Halifax Harbour Frozen Over

On this day, Halifax Harbour froze over (a very rare event).
[The Halifax Daily News, 9 March 2000]

1833 August 5

Royal William Sails from Quebec for Last Time

On this day, Steamship Royal William leaves Quebec for Pictou, Nova Scotia, en route across the North Atlantic, the first ship to cross this ocean under steam all the way.
[The National Post, 5 August 2000]


1833 August 9

First Issue of the Yarmouth Herald

The first issue of the Yarmouth Herald newspaper was published this day.  It was a single sheet 18 × 24 inches 46 × 61 cm folded to make four pages, and was published every Friday.  Alexander Lawson was the owner, publisher, editor, and reporter.  The Yarmouth Herald became one of the longest running weekly newspapers in Canada, continuing publication until 1966.

The Yarmouth Herald front page first issue, volume one, number one, 9 August 1833
The Yarmouth Herald front page first issue
volume one, number one, 9 August 1833

This was scanned directly from an original (not a microfilm copy)
that was found in a bundle of old newspaper clippings – mostly
from Yarmouth newspapers in the 1940s but including several
items  going  as far  back  as the  1830s – purchased  at an
estate auction in 2010 at a rural fire hall in Pictou County.

1833 August 18

Royal William Departs for England

Royal William, 1833 On this day (or perhaps one day earlier, on August 17th), Royal William's steam engines chuffed out of Pictou Harbour on its way to England, Captain John McDougall, with five cabin passengers, three steerage passengers, 254 tons of Pictou County coal, a crew of 36 men, and some general cargo including a harp and a "box of stuffed birds" sent by Rev. Thomas McCulloch, local pastor, to a London collector (it is believed that these stuffed birds were sent by McCulloch on behalf of one John J. Audobon, American naturalist, friend and guest of McCulloch, who was visiting Pictou at the time).  This was to be a one-way voyage; the vessel's owners were hoping to find a buyer.  On this trip, Royal William became the first vessel ever to cross the Atlantic under steam all the way.  She arrived at Cowes, Isle of Wight, 19½ days out of Pictou.  "From Cowes she went to Liverpool, and for four years she was employed between England and Ireland, when she was again put upon the Atlantic station, and crossed and recrossed repeatedly..."
The last quote is from a paper The Past, Present, and Future of Atlantic Ocean Steam Navigation by T.T. Vernon Smith, C.E. (Civil Engineer), read before the Fredericton Athenaeum, June 15, 1857.
The picture is from the National Post, 5 August 2000.

Royal William of 1833

There were two early steamers (ships powered by steam engines) named Royal William.  This article (see archive links below) is about the first, built in 1831, that crossed the North Atlantic ocean in 1833.  The second, built in 1837, crossed the Atlantic in 1838.
Royal William of 1833

The Wayback Machine
has archived copies of this webpage from the early days:
Royal William of 1833

Archived: 2001 April 18

Archived: 2002 October 20

Archived: 2003 June 25

Archived: 2004 September 13

Archived: 2005 December 18

Archived: 2006 November 27

Archived: 2008 April 18

1833 August 28

Abolition of Slavery Act Passed

In August 1833, the British Parliament passed the Bill for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Empire (including Nova Scotia).  This Act, which came into effect on 1 August 1834, gave all slaves in the British Empire their freedom — but not all at once.  All slaves under the age of six were to be freed immediately.  Slaves over the age of six were to remain part slave and part free for a further four years (which was euphemistically called the "apprenticeship period").  In that time they would have to be paid a wage for the work they did in the quarter of the week when they were "free".  To soften the blow for slave owners — and to make it easier to get the votes needed to pass the bill — the Bill included a provision for compensation to be paid by the British government to the slave owners.  The amount involved depended on the number of slaves held — one example was the 665 slaves owned by the Bishop of Exeter, for which he was paid £12,700.


Slavery Abolition Act 1833

An Act for the Abolition of Slavery throughout the British Colonies; for promoting the Industry of the manumitted Slaves; and for compensating the Persons hitherto entitled to the Services of such Slaves 28th August 1833

1833 Abolition of Slavery Act

An Act for Abolishing Slavery throughout the British Colonies
28 August 1833

After 1st August 1834, all slaves in the British colonies shall be emancipated, and slavery shall be abolished throughout the British possessions abroad.

...All and every the persons who on the said first day of August one thousand eight hundred and thirty four shall be holden in slavery within any such British colony as aforesaid, shall upon and from and after the said first day of August one thousand eight hundred and thirty-four become and be to all intents and purposes free and discharged of and from all manner of slavery, and shall be absolutely and for ever manumitted; and... the children thereafter to be born to any such persons, and the offspring of such children, shall in like manner be free from their birth; and... slavery shall be and is hereby utterly and for ever abolished and declared unlawful throughout the British colonies, plantations, and possessions abroad...


The 1825 Civil Code of Louisiana, Article 36
defines "manumitted persons" as those who,
"having been once slaves, are legally made free."
"Manumitted" is an ancient legal term, going
back at least twenty centuries to Roman law.
Under Roman law, the act of manumission
created a new relation between the manumissor
and the slave which was analogous to that
between father and son.


Currency Conversions

...The currency in New York is calculated in dollars and cents, also in shillings and pence; 100 cents is the current value of the American or Spanish dollar, and 12½ cents is equal to what is called a York shilling, and eight such shillings equal to five shillings, Halifax currency, or one dollar.  The currency in the Canadas is at the rate of five shillings to the dollar, and is called Halifax currency; at present the gold sovereign is worth twenty-four shillings, currency, in Montreal.  Many persons are deceived when hearing of the rates of wages, &c. In New York, when stated in shillings — but five shillings in Canada is equal to eight shillings in New York.  The par of exchange with England for the dollar is four shillings and sixpence sterling, the general rate, which has varied but little for years past, is about four shillings and two pence sterling, or from 7½ to 9½ per cent premium, in favour of England, but it is less now.  The risk of transport is the principal objection against carrying your specie with you to Canada, as you will generally get as high a premium for it there as in New York; and you can depend with safety on any of the Banks in Upper or Lower Canada.  Besides American Bank notes are not so current in Canada, unless at a discount, when passed in small sums, from one-half to two per cent; if possessed of a considerable amount and in large notes, you may get par, or perhaps a small premium in Montreal.  The American Bank notes most current in Canada, are those of the United States Bank, the State Bank of New York, and of the chartered Banks of the City of New York, and the Bank of North America, at Philadelphia...

[Excerpted from 1834 Emigrants Handbook Official Information for Emigrants, Arriving at New York and who are desirous of Settling in the Canadas; also, Extracts from the Instructions for Emigrants arriving at Quebec, as issued by A.C. Buchanan, Esq. His Britannic Majesty's Chief Agent for Emigration to the Canadas.  To be obtained without fee or reward, with every other assistance and advice that can benefit the Emigrant proceeding to the Canadas, from James Buchanan, Esq. His Britannic Majesty's Consul, Nassau Street, New York.  Printed at the Gazette Office, St. James Street, Montreal, 1834.

The following is excerpted from the 1834 Emigrants Handbook:

1. In transmitting home money to aid your friends to come out, or in paying for their passage in New York or the Canadas, be sure of the respectability of the persons with whom you bargain.  If in your power, be directed by the Consul at New York, the Chief Agent at Quebec, or the Government Agent at Toronto.

2. In almost every part of Upper Canada, west of Toronto, the New York Currency is more in use than the Halifax or Canada; that is, the York shilling is worth 1½d. Canada Currency; you will therefore mind the distinction in your dealings, by asking the currency meant.  Halifax Currency is, however, the currency recognised by law throughout the Canadas.

3. The American shilling varies in value in almost every State.


Birth of A.M. Mackay

Born in 1834 in Pictou, Nova Scotia, Alexander McLellan Mackay had a brief teaching career before becoming a telegrapher working in Halifax, Hamilton, and New York.
Source: Alexander McLellan Mackay

A.M. Mackay Appointed Manager of the
New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company
in Newfoundland
January 1857

When Mr. Cyrus W. Field arrived in New York in December 1856, he found the Gulf cable [underwater cable across Cabot Strait, between Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island] broken, and all the Newfoundland telegraph line in a state of disorder, the superintendent, Simpson, having abandoned the country in despair.  He put himself in communication with James Eddy and the well-known Daniel H. Craig, founder of the New York Associated Press, and asked them to select for him the best man in America to take charge of the Newfoundland lines; without communication with each other, they advised him to appoint Mr. A.M. Mackay, then twenty-two years old, the Superintendent of the Nova Scotia Telegraph.

When Mackay came here [Newfoundland] in January 1857 he found everything in confusion, not a single section of the line was in working order; he ascertained where the break was in the cable, repaired it in June 1857 with the small steamer Victoria, walked over the line from Cape Ray, organised the staff of operators and repairers, and put the whole concern in working order.

From this period until the successful laying of the transatlantic telegraph cable in 1866, the New York, Newfoundland, and London Telegraph Company in this Colony [Newfoundland] was kept in existence as a going concern by two men, Field and Mackay; a dozen times the other directors would have dropped it altogether but for Field's enthusiasm and perseverance, and Mackay's activity and careful, economical management in the Island.  The laying of the transatlantic cable of course put life into the local lines, made the worthless valuable, and from that day to this everything has gone well under the same able management...

Source: page 641 History of Newfoundland, by D.W. Prowse, published 1895 in London

1834 October 15

Yarmouth - Shelburne Stage Line

James T.C. Enslow "respectfully begs to notify the public that he has commenced running" a stage coach "once each week between Yarmouth and Shelburne, leaving Yarmouth every Wednesday afternoon precisely at 4 o'clock and Shelburne every Monday morning at 10 o'clock."
[Excerpted from Yarmouth Reminiscences, by J. Murray Lawson, 1902.]

1835 September 23

First Clockmaker Installment

On this day, the first installment of Thomas Chandler Haliburton's The Clockmaker was published in The Novascotian, a Halifax newspaper.
[The Halifax Daily News, 23 September 1999]


Annapolis County Steam Boat Company

The Act to incorporate the Annapolis County Steam Boat Company was passed by the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1836.

1836 June

Digby - Yarmouth Stage Coach Line
Begins Operation

A new weekly stage coach service between Yarmouth and Digby began operation.  The schedule called for a coach to depart Yarmouth each Sunday at 6am and arrive in Digby at noon Monday.  It left Digby on Tuesday "immediately after the arrival of the steamboat from Annapolis," and reached Yarmouth at 4pm Wednesday.

1836 December 1

Avon River Bridge Opened

On this day, the new bridge across the Avon River at Windsor was opened for traffic.  It was built by the Avon Bridge Company, and charged tolls to pay for the cost of building and maintaining the bridge.  The company's records of toll payments are an excellent source of reliable statistics on traffic in those early days, and some of these statistics survive today.
[The Halifax Daily News, 1 December 1999, and other sources.]

1837 June

Seventeen Shillings per Chaldron

"The Mining Association is now selling coals in Pictou County at 17s per chaldron, same price at the mines [in Stellarton] and at the loading ground [New Glasgow] 6 or 7 miles below."
[The Yarmouth Herald, 16 June 1837]

"Coals" was the term then used for what we now call "coal".  In those days, coal was often sold by the "chaldron", a unit of measure often encountered in the old records but nowadays almost completely forgotten.

The World of Measurements, by H. Arthur Klein, Simon & Schuster, 1974, (an excellent reference book) states that the chaldron is equal to 32 dry bushels, which is the same as 71,018 cubic inches.  Klein uses an inch equal to 2.540,005 cm.

Thus one chaldron is equal to 1,163,800 cubic centimetres.

That is, one chaldron is nearly equal to 1,160 litres, or 1.16 cubic metres.

1837 July 17 - August 4

Nova Scotia Exports to St. John
19 Days in 1837

Between July 17th and August 4th, 1837, coasting vessels carried from Nova Scotia — "almost wholly from the shores of the Bay of Fundy, to the city of St. John, New Brunswick: 733,500 feet deals; 1,192 tons plaister; 4,323 dozen eggs; 2,260 boxes smoked herrings; 98 barrels pickled herrings; 187 boxes cherries; 4,074 lbs. butter; 5,902 lbs. cheese; 603 bushels potatoes; 236,000 staves; 55,000 shingles; 10 horses; 951 sheep and lambs; 16 oxen; 5 cows; 25 calves; 1,000 gallons oil; 88,000 feet boards; 67 flagging stones; 1 barrel shad; 2 barrels codfish; 60 bushels oats; 4 barrels and 58 bottles fir balsam; 34,000 bricks; 1520 quintals dry fish; 1 qtl. scaled fish; 900 lbs. hops; 55 sides leather; 20 empty barrels; 28 cords wood; 7 barrels tongues and sounds; 2 barrels pork; 24 chairs; 840 lbs. ham; 7000 feet lumber; 456 lbs. smoked meat; 22,000 feet scantling; 27,800 feet hardwood boards and lumber.  On a rough calculation we conclude that the value of these articles is about £7500." Export business has been this brisk "every month for years past."

[The Acadian Recorder, Halifax]
[Reprinted in the Yarmouth Herald, 18 August 1837]

The quintal (pronounced KEN-tul) was and is a measure of weight,
widely used in western Europe in the tenth to fifteenth centuries,
and in the North Atlantic fishing industry in the 1700s and 1800s.

The quintal continued in regular commercial use along Canada's
Atlantic coast, in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland, into the 1950s.

One quintal   =   112 pounds   =   50.8 kilograms

In the early 1900s, Porto Rico consumed 200,000 quintals of Lunenburg
fish per year.  One Lunenburg quintal equaled 112 pounds of salt fish.

In the 1942 season, a fleet of 21 schooners landed 69,000 quintals at
Lunenburg, and another 5,000 quintals were purchased green from
Newfoundland craft, making a grand total of 74,000 quintals.  The prices
ranged from eleven to twelve dollars per quintal, according to size.

A quintal being a unit of 100 US pounds or 112 British pounds of dried salt codfish...
53rd Annual Blessing of the Fleet: Provincetown Portuguese Festival 2000
Provincetown, Massachusetts

1837 October

Steamship Victoria Under Construction

British and American Steam Navigation Company The extraordinary ship Victoria, now building at the dock-yards of Messrs. Curling & Young, of Limehouse, for the above enterprising company, is altogether unparalleled in beauty of architecture and immensity of size.  The following are her dimensions: Length from figure-head to taffrail 274 feet 83.5 metres; Breadth of hull 40 feet 12.2 metres; Breadth to outside of paddle cases 64 feet 19.5 metres; Depth from the floor timbers to the upper deck 26 feet 7.9 metres. "The estimated tonnage falls very little short of 2,000 tons!"

It is believed that this is the longest ship ever constructed for navigating the ocean... Victoria's "timbers are of solid English oak, the principal planking of African oak, and that of stem and stern of Dantzic fir, which has been preferred on account of its lightness.  The top-sides are of Havanna cedar.  Her ribs are strongly knit together with massive diagonal trussings of iron, and every means appear to have been devised to prevent her straining in a heavy sea.  Much of her planking is cogged to the timbers, and various other modes of security adopted, which the advanced progress of the hull now renders invisible ...

She is to be propelled by engines of 500 horse-power 370 kilowatts, and is expected to make the passage from England to New York in eighteen days, and from New York to England in the short space of fourteen! With regard to her fittings-up for passengers, she will evidently float unrivalled, there being full six feet 180 cm between decks... She is expected to maintain an average speed, in all weathers, of 200 miles 370 kilometres a day.  The distance from Portsmouth or Liverpool to New York is about 3000 nautical miles 5600 kilometres; hence, if she only averages 150 miles 280 km per day, the passage will not exceed 20 days; 175 miles 325 km per day will give a passage of 17 days; 200 miles 370 km per day, 15 days; and 215 miles 400 km per day will bring her to her destination in a fortnight! The average passage of the present packet ships exceeds 29 days, or nearly a month! ...

After deducting her engine-room, she will have ample accomodation for 500 passengers, 25 days' fuel, and 800 tons measurement goods, exclusive of luggage, provisions, and stores!... It is expected that the launch will take place about the middle of November, and that she will be ready for sea very shortly after..."

[Excerpted from an article which appeared in The Yarmouth Herald of 13 October 1837, which was reprinted from a London newspaper.]

1837 November 27

Steamship Nova Scotia Begins Operating

Steamer Nova Scotia "This commodious new steam boat commenced her first trip on Monday last (27 November 1837); she performed the voyage to St. Andrews (New Brunswick) and back to Saint John in excellent style, and promises to be a swift and safe boat.  Large and extensive accomodations are made for cabin passengers, and every thing that can render comfort and convenience to those on board have been liberally furnished by the enterprising owners.  On her return from St. Andrews to Eastport (Maine) on Tuesday morning, she performed the distance, about 16 miles 26 km in one hour and four minutes, and from Eastport to Partridge Island, against a strong head wind, in five hours and twenty minutes.

It is expected that during the summer months she will perform her voyage from Saint John to Annapolis (Nova Scotia), and return the same day; so likewise to and from Eastport in one day.  With such arrangements, there can be no possible doubt of the boat's succeeding advantageously for the proprietors.

The Nova Scotia is 136 feet 41.5 metres long; her extreme breadth 37 feet 11.3 metres, and is about 250 tons 250 tonnes burthen.  The gentlemen's after cabin is 36 feet 11.0 metres long, and contains 24 berths, is very neatly painted in imitation of rose and satin wood, the berths panelled, with rosewood pilastres between each length, surmounted by a bronze Ionic capital, giving the cabin a light and elegant appearance.  The ladies' cabin on the main deck is 36 feet 11.0 metres long, contains also 24 berths, and is finished in a similar style of neatness, in mahogany and satin wood.  The gentlemen's forward cabin contains 12 berths, is 13 feet 4.0 metres long, and is also finished in a like style in marble and satin wood.  In addition to the above, there is a State Room abaft the main cabin, containing 4 berths; one forward having 4 berths, and one adjacent to the ladies' cabin; affording to private parties every accomodation that could be desired.  Passengers in this boat have also the luxury of a promenade deck about 100 feet 30 metres long, affording a comfortable shelter in wet or boisterous weather to those who would not wish to be confined to the cabins, and in fine weather a beautiful promenade.

The engines of 45 horsepower 34 kilowatts each, from the manufactory of Messrs. Fawcett, Preston, & Company of Liverpool (England), are of an improved construction, and we think we may safely say, they are not surpassed, if equalled, on this side of the Atlantic; the setting of those engines in the boat, and the more than satisfactory manner in which they performed their duty on her first trip (having by far exceeded the speed they were intended to work at) reflects much credit on the gentleman who came with the engines for the purpose of setting them up.  The cylinders are 39 inches 99 cm diameter, and 3 feet 6 inches 107 cm stroke; and make 35 strokes per minute [35 revolutions per minute of the crank shaft and paddle wheels].  Some alteration is contemplated in the construction of the floats, which, by reducing the speed of the engines, it is expected will increase that of the boat.

The Nova Scotia is commanded by our old and favourite commander, Capt. Thomas Reed, whose abilities and character are so universally known that it would be useless for us to offer a word of eulogy.

[This item, here quoted whole, appeared in The Yarmouth Herald of 1 December 1837; it was reprinted from the Chronicle of Saint John, New Brunswick.]

1838 April 26

Brig Tyrian Sails from Halifax

Among the passengers on board as Tyrian sailed out of Halifax Harbour, were Joseph Howe, then 33 years old and editor and owner of the Novascotian, a weekly newspaper, and Judge Thomas Chandler Haliburton, author of Sam Slick, a book that was selling very well.  Half way across the Atlantic, Tyrian was overtaken by the steamship Sirius, which had departed from New York on 1 May 1838.

Tyrian sailed out of Halifax with six days' head start on a much shorter route, but Sirius was powered by steam, and could move at normal speed even when there was no wind.  Lt. Commander Jennings of Tyrian had important mail on board which was destined for the British Government, and, when Sirius pulled abreast of Tyrian, he hailed Sirius and arranged a mid-ocean transfer to the faster ship.

Joseph Howe, always a journalist alert for a story, got into the boat making the mail transfer, and clambered aboard Sirius to have a look.  Howe "took a glass of champagne with the Captain," looked at the sumptious quarters on Sirius, and decided to stay; one of his fellow passengers was James Gordon Bennett, founder, owner, and editor of the New York Herald. On the return of the ship's boat, Tyrian passengers watched in frustration as Sirius' paddlewheels began turning, and the steamer quickly pulled ahead and disappeared over the horizon, while Tyrian's sails flapped listlessly in a near calm breeze.

To Howe and Haliburton, this was a convincing demonstration that steam was the future of North Atlantic shipping.

On 24 August 1838, a memorandum prepared by Howe, Haliburton, and several others, was presented to Lord Glenelg, Her Majesty's Secretary of State for the Colonies; the recent experience at sea was described in strong terms, and it was represented that the 1837 rebellion in Canada likely would have been avoided if there had been faster and more reliable communication between the authorities at Westminster (London, England) and York (Toronto).

[Excerpted from the book First Things in Acadia by John Quinpool, published in Halifax in 1936, and other sources.]

The voyage across the Atlantic was accomplished by two steam-powered ships in the year 1838.  These were Sirius, a ship of 700 tons and of 250 horsepower, and Great Western, of 1,340 tons and 450 horsepower. Great Western was built for this service, and was a large ship for that time, measuring 236 feet in length.  Her paddle wheels, one on each side, were 28 feet in diameter, and 10 feet in breadth of face. Sirius sailed from Cork April 4th, 1838, and Great Western from Bristol April 8th, both arriving at New York on the same day, April 23rd, Sirius in the morning, and Great Western in the afternoon.

Great Western carried out of Bristol 660 tons of coal.  Seven passengers chose to take advantage of the opportunity, and made the voyage in one half the time usually occupied by the sailing packets of that day.  Throughout the voyage the wind and sea were nearly ahead, and the two vessels pursued the same course, under very similar conditions.  Arriving at New York, they were received with the greatest possible enthusiasm.  They were saluted by the forts and the men-of-war in the harbor; the merchant-vessels dipped their flags, and the citizens assembled on the Battery, and, coming to meet them in boats of all kinds and sizes, cheered heartily.  The newspapers of the time were filled with the story of the voyage and with descriptions of the steamers themselves and of their machinery.

A few days later the two steamers started on their return to Great Britain, Sirius reaching Falmouth safely in 18 days [having met Tyrian in midocean, as described above] and Great Western making the voyage to Bristol in 15 days, the latter meeting with head winds and working, during a part of the time, against a heavy gale and in a high sea, at the rate of but two knots.  Sirius was thought too small for this long and boisterous route, and was withdrawn and replaced on the line between London and Cork, where the ship had previously been employed.  Great Western continued several years in the transatlantic trade.

Thus these two voyages inaugurated a transoceanic steam service.  During the succeeding six years Great Western made 70 passages across the Atlantic, completing the westward voyages in an average of 15.5 days, and eastward 13.  The quickest passage westward to New York was made in May, 1842, in 12 days and 18 hours.  The fastest steaming was logged 12 months earlier, when the eastward voyage from New York was made in 12 days and 7 hours.

The form of steam engine in most general use at this time, on transatlantic steamers, was that known as the "side-lever engine." It was first given the standard form by Messrs. Maudsley & Co., of London, about 1835, and was built by them for steamers supplied to the British Government for general mail service.

[Excerpted from A History of the Growth of the Steam Engine by Robert H. Thurston, D. Appleton and Company, New York, 1878.
Chapter V, The Modern (1878) Steam Engine Applied to Ship Propulsion]

1838 September 13

Steam Rumour Reaches Halifax

"We have heard, and from good authority, that the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty have recommended to the Treasury Board the employment of Steam Vessels in the early part of next year, for the conveyance of Mails from Falmouth (England) to this Port (Halifax)."
[This item, here quoted whole, appeared in The Yarmouth Herald of 24 September 1838; it was reprinted from the Halifax Gazette of 13 September 1838.]

1838 September 14

Whitehall Gets the Message

The Tyrian episode (above) made a strong impression.  On this day, a formal announcement from Whitehall included this: "He is deeply impressed with the importance of the subject and His Lordship hopes that an arrangement may be effected at an early period, by which the desired improvements in communication between this country (Great Britain) and British North American Provinces will be accomplished." In November 1838 the British Admiralty advertised in the London Times for tenders to operate a monthly regular mail service across the Atlantic by steamships of not less than 300 horsepower 230 kilowatts each, to operate between England, Halifax, and New York.  Judge Haliburton immediately sent this news to Samuel Cunard in Halifax, who boldly seized the opportunity.
[Excerpted from the book First Things in Acadia by John Quinpool, published in Halifax in 1936.]

1838 November - December

Royal William on the North Alantic

In the issue dated 12 November 1838, The Yarmouth Herald printed the following: "The Quebec papers state, that goods ordered by the steamer Royal William, that departed New York on the 4th August, were received at Quebec on the 4th October, only nine weeks from the time when the orders had been sent out." — In the issue dated 10 December 1838, of the Yarmouth Herald: "The steam ship Royal William arrived at Liverpool (England) on the 5th November.  She left New York on the 20th October (1838)."


British and North American Royal Mail
Steam Packet Company

The Beginning of the Cunard Line

In 1839, Samuel Cunard of Halifax established the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company — usually known as the Cunard Line — principally to carry the Royal Mail to Canada and the USA.  Cunard's company operated independently and continuously for 131 years, until 1971, when it was taken over by Trafalgar House PLC.  In 1996, Trafalgar House, parent company of Cunard, was bought by the Norwegian business group Kvaerner for £850,000,000.  In 1998, it was taken over by Carnival Cruise Lines.
Source: Chronology of the Cunard Steamship Company

The Cunard Steamship Company

For a moment, let's fast forward 160 years
into the far future

Cunard Unveils Plans for the Largest Ship Ever

November, 1999: Details of Cunard Line's anticipated new vessel dubbed Project Queen Mary have been completed and the company expects to name the vessel and the builder in a few weeks.
    Expected to be approximately 1,100 feet long, the new vessel will surpass in length the current title holder, Royal Caribbean's Voyager of the Seas, by about 25 metres.  She is expected to be in service in 2003.
    Her hull will be painted a nonreflecting matte black in keeping with Cunard tradition that dates back to the mid-1800's.  Her giant single stack will be painted in the historic Cunard Red with black bands and it will tower more than 20 decks above her keel.
    With engines generating 140,000 horsepower, her power plant will produce enough electricity to light up the city of Southampton, England; and her great whistle will be heard from a distance of 15 kilometres.

Source: http://www.seaview.co.uk/cruiselines/cunard/queenmary.html

Cunard Plans the World's Longest, Largest Passenger Ship

Signs Letter of Intent for Queen Mary 2

$700,000,000 Liner Will Be the Fastest Cruise Liner Since QE2

Cunard Line is one of the world's most recognized brand names

March 9, 2000   Cunard Line announced today that the company has signed a letter of intent to build its super-liner Queen Mary 2 at the Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire, France.  The liner is expected to be launched in the last quarter of 2003.  Once launched, Queen Mary 2 is intended to fly the British flag, with her homeport being Southampton, England.

"QM2 will measure over 1,130 feet in length," said Cunard Line President and CEO Larry Pimentel, "That's just 117 feet shorter than the Empire State Building is tall.  She'll tower nearly 21 stories in height from keel to masthead, with a gross registered tonnage of nearly 150,000 tons." Pimentel stated that QM2 is expected to carry just 2,800 guests, which is a very small complement for a ship of this size, and a guest-to-crew ratio of about 2-to-1 will enable a superb service standard.  "But aside from her sheer size," said Pimentel, "She is a marvel of innovative features, specifically designed for her.  For instance, she will be propelled by the world's first four-pod ship propulsion system, utilizing two fixed and two rotating propulsion pods that will enable her to cruise at nearly 30 knots.  Inside, she'll have all the dramatic features and grand scale that marked the great liners of the past, enhanced by the latest technology for comfort and convenience.  The combination of all of these elements will produce the most luxurious ocean liner ever built."

"The signing of this letter of intent is a significant milestone in the birth of this unique vessel," said Micky Arison, Chairman and CEO of Carnival Corporation, Cunard's parent company.  "Over the last months, our vision of the first true ocean liner to be built in a generation has evolved from a dream to a detailed plan on paper.  We are satisfied that the shipyard that created Normandie, France and other legendary liners has the capability to make that dream a reality." Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique, which employs over 4,000 workers in its facility, has a continuing record of delivering ships of unusual size and style.  Recent projects at the yard resulted in large ships for the coastal cruising trade.  However, it is entirely another matter to construct a purpose-built transatlantic liner.  From the architect's plans to the nature of the steel plating that forms the skin of the hull, a liner differs in most details from the sorts of ships that have been built in the last three decades.  Nonetheless, Alstom's officers are confident that their company represents the best choice for Cunard.  "We want to build this magnificent ship because of our history and because of our future," said Alstom Chantiers de l'Atlantique Chairman and CEO Patrick Boissier.  "We understand the character of the ship they want to build, and we know how to build that kind of ship."

"The level of excitement and interest in this project is beyond anything we could have imagined," said Cunard Line President and CEO Larry Pimentel.  "Queen Mary 2 seems to embody the public's renewed fascination with the romance of a bygone era of sea travel.  Now that excitement and interest is being transformed into a tangible project, with dollars and cents attached to it.  From the start, we believed that this project could be realized.  Now we have agreed to the fundamentals of how we are going to make Queen Mary 2 not merely a reality, but a sound investment and a resounding success."

A recent agreement with the City of Long Beach, California and its affiliates, which operate the floating hotel Queen Mary, has cleared the way for Cunard Line to use the name Queen Mary 2 for its new liner.  The final building agreement is subject to several conditions including the finalization of definitive contracts and financing.

Cunard Line, one of the world's most recognized brand names with a classic British heritage, is operated by Miami-based Cunard Line Limited, which also operates Seabourn Cruise Line.  Cunard Line Limited is a unit of Carnival Corporation.  Carnival shares trade on the New York Stock Market under the ticker symbol CCL.  The Cunard fleet includes famed Queen Elizabeth 2 and Caronia.  The Seabourn fleet includes Seabourn Sun, Seabourn Pride, Spirit and Legend and Seabourn Goddess I & II.  Cunard Line and Seabourn Cruise Line are members of the exclusive World's Leading Cruise Lines alliance, which also includes Carnival Cruise Lines, Holland America Line, Costa Cruises and Windstar Cruises.  Together, these member lines share a commitment to quality and value, offering cruise vacations that appeal to the widest range of lifestyles and budgets and sail to some of the world's most exciting destinations.  Cunard Line and Seabourn Cruise Line represent nearly 50 percent of the world's luxury cruise market.

Source: Cunard Line press release, 9 March 2000 http://www.newswire.ca/releases/March2000/09/c2954.html

Captain Warwick on the Cunard Line

In 1999, Cunard is the only cruise line in the world that uses the name of its founder, Samuel Cunard, and it was founded in 1840.  He had this incredible vision to bridge the Atlantic with this string of steamships.

Samuel Cunard was Canadian and could not get any money in Canada, so then he went to the United States and could not get any money there.  For everybody thought it was a crazy idea.  So he went to England and linked up with some engineers and that is where the company really started.

Their first ship, the Britannia, set forth from England on July 4th 1840 and that began the bridge of the North Atlantic.  Then everybody thought Cunard's achievement was a great idea and so everybody got on the bandwagon and intense competition from other companies in Europe and England as well as the United States.  But Cunard stayed firm.  And in later years, the competition totally disappeared.

And then we had the war years.  Our country (England) wanted to use our ships and we lost a lot of them as a result.  Then the airlines came and we turned our adversaries into allies, and so on.  We have had a lot of fragmented leadership and management in more recent years but then Carnival Corp came along as a form of white knights and it is incredible the resilience that people have when they become associated with Cunard and that was to keep the flag flying.  This desire to keep the flag flying has been further endorsed by Carnival who took over the company just a year and a half ago.  Within minutes of buying this company, they announced their desire to build other transatlantic liners in the form of the Queen Mary Project, as we call her.  And with my long association with the Cunard company, I feel we are going to move ahead.

Captain Ronald W. Warwick, master of the Cunard ship Queen Elizabeth 2.  He wrote the first authoritative book on the QE2 in 1985.  Since then the book has been revised and republished, first in 1994, and then in 1999.

Cunard Line's 150th Anniversary

July 1990: The captain pulls out all the stops for the QE2's fastest east-west crossing of the Atlantic in 105 hours 57 minutes to mark the 150th anniversary of the Cunard Line.

Cunard's new Queen Mary 2 to house Olympic athletes
Cunard's new Queen Mary 2 to house Olympic athletes
Source: The Globe and Mail, page T4, 4 January 2003

1839 January 28

Nova Scotia Legislature

Proceedings of the Nova Scotia House of Commons (now known as The Legislature), 1839 Jan 28
Proceedings of the Nova Scotia House of Commons
(now known as The Legislature)
January 28, 1839
Source: http://nslegislature.ca/demo/JPEG/0121_1839-01-29_Resolution_01.jpg

1839 March 20

Three Atlantic Steamers

Extract of a letter from Glasgow, Scotland, to a merchant in Boston, Massachusetts, dated 20th March, 1839: "We feel highly gratified to inform you that the keels of three steamers of 1100 tons and 420 horsepower 310 kilowatts are now being laid.  No expense will be spared to make these boats equal to any vessels now afloat.  They are intended to run between Liverpool and Halifax twice a month, with a continuation from the latter port to Boston, and other steamers from Pictou for Quebec, which will no doubt, create not only a greater intercourse with the U. States, but an immense addition of travel on the various rail roads, by which means passengers and letters will arrive in Quebec in a shorter time than they now do by steam to New York.  Your friend Cunard has just left here, after extending the size of the boats beyond the power and tonnage first contemplated.  The contract is made with Messrs. Wood and Napier, the most extensive and successful builders in the kingdom."
[The Yarmouth Herald, 3 May 1839]

These three steamships were Acadia, Caledonia, and Columbia.
All three were launched in 1840.

1839 April 20

Boston Supports Halifax

At a meeting of citizens of Boston, Commonwealth of Massachusetts, "at the Hall of the Tremont Bank, on Saturday, April 20th, 1839, to consider what steps should be pursued to encourage the proposed communication by Steam Packets between Boston and England... Resolved, That we regard the establishment of a line of Steam Packets, between Liverpool and Boston, as tending greatly to advance the prospreity of this city... That it is of the highest importance to the success of this great enterprise that the larger class of steam packets should run entirely through from Liverpool, England, to Boston, and vice versa — stopping sufficient time at Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the reception of fuel and to receive and discharge passengers and freight... That the Hon. S. Cunard of Nova Scotia, the spirited projector and conductor of this enterprise, is entitled to the warmest acknowledgements of the inhabitants of this City and State for the vast benefits which must accrue to them from the measure he has originated, and that he is assured of our sincere and ardent wishes for his success ..."
[The Yarmouth Herald, 10 May 1839]

1839 May 4

First Contract to Carry
Trans-Atlantic Mail

The first contract between the British Admiralty and Samuel Cunard was dated this day.  This was the first contract entered into by the government of Great Britain for the conveyance of mail by steamship across the Atlantic.  The contract included a subsidy to Cunard of £80,000 a year for seven years.  The Yarmouth Herald of 1 November 1839 reprinted the following from the Novascotian: "Mr. Cunard's Contract — The London Sun furnishes a detailed account of this Contract entered into by this gentleman, from which we glean a few particulars, in addition to those already published in the Novascotian. The Boats from Pictou to Quebec are to be of not less than 150 horsepower 110 kilowatts. The Commissioners of the Admiralty may alter the days of sailing, and may detain the Packets for 24 hours, only.  If, in stress of weather, time can be saved, the naval officer in charge of the Mails may direct them to be landed at the nearest port in England.  This person and his servant are to be found, and have cabins, free.  The Mails may be entrusted to Commanders, if the Admiralty see fit.  If the officer in charge sanctions any delay or putting back, not authorized, he is to be fined £100; and for every twelve hours delay of the larger vessels, the Contractor is to pay £500, and for the smaller ones £200.  The Contractor is to carry two chief cabin passengers at £30 each, and two forward passengers at £15; and seamen, soldiers, and marines at £4 each.  He is also to convey free small packages for the Admiralty, and stores, not to exceed five tons weight.  No part of the Contract is to be underlet, and the only penalty incurred by the non-fulfilment of the whole is £15,000."

1839 May 27

Three Locomotives Arrive

The three steam locomotives, Samson, Hercules, and John Buddle, that were to provide motive power for the Albion Rail Road (always spelled in old documents as three separate words) arrived at Pictou on board the brig Ythan of Newcastle.  H.B. Jefferson wrote: "They were built in 1838 by Timothy Hackworth, today becoming recognized as a greater locomotive genius than better publicized George Stephenson."

1839 September 6

Plans for 13 TransAtlantic Steamships

The Yarmouth Herald of this date reported: "Ocean Steam Navigation — By October 1841, there will be thirteen large and splendid steam ships running across the Atlantic Ocean.  No one will be smaller than the Liverpool, and more than half of them will be larger than the Great Western. Four of the thirteen will ply between Liverpool, Halifax, and Boston, and the rest will run between Bristol, Liverpool, and the Clyde, to New York."

1839 September 17

Albion Rail Road's First Coal Trains

Samson, the first engine to be assembled and given trial trips, hauled the first coal trains over the newly-built and still not complete Albion Rail Road, about 2.5 miles from Albion Mines to Fourth Chutes, across the river from New Glasgow.

1839 September 19

Albion Rail Road Formally Opened

The formal opening ceremony for the Albion Rail Road took place in Stellarton on this day.  The ceremony was premature, in that only 2.5 miles of the railway had been built; this was less than half of the complete railway which was to be 6 miles 403 feet 9.78 kilometres in length.  H.B. Jefferson wrote: "The great celebration at Mount Rundell (the General Manager's house on Foord Street in Stellarton) on that date has often been described, with its roast whole ox barbecue, its casks of rum and ale placed on convenient saw horses about the grounds for the edification of the proletariat, and its 'initial running of the locomotive carriages', when John Buddle and Hercules, in that order, made two round trips over the line, each hauling 35 cars and 700 passengers." Samson was held in reserve, and did not run that day.

From The Yarmouth Herald of 27 September 1839: The Pictou County Rail Road — The portion of this work reaching from the mines (Stellarton) to New Glasgow — a distance of about two miles three kilometres — has been completed, and steam Locomotives with their trains were to be run on it on the 19th of this month.  This, we believe, is the first piece of Railroad, traversed by steam power, ever opened in a British Colony — and the event is certainly one of much interest.  The Mechanic and Farmer of the 18th says:— To commemorate the event, it is to be held as a gala day at the Mines.  The different Companies under the command of their respective captains, plan walking in procession with suitable emblems; and we believe that no expense will be spared by the Agent of the General Mining Association to render the spectacle as imposing as possible, and to infuse hilarity and animation in the bosom of the immense concourse of spectators who will attend to witness the exhibition.  Both steam locomotives will be in town at half-past seven o'clock a.m., for the gratuitous accomodation (free rides) of the onlookers.  The Volunteer Artillery Company will also attend to enliven the scene.

1839 October

42 Ocean Steamers for 1841

From the Baltimore American

"The perfect and triumphant success which has attended the experiment of Ocean Steam Navigation between Great Britain and the United States, is but the forerunner of the extension of the system between other distant ports.  It has been already stated that the British and French Governments have turned their attention to the subject, and that regular lines of steam ships are soon to be brought into operation under their auspices.  We find in the New York Herald the following list of steam ships, which will be in operation in the course of the year 1841:—

Great Western 1340 450 Bristol to New York
British Queen 1870 500 London to New York
Liverpool 1150 468 Liverpool to New York
New York 2000 600 Liverpool to New York
United Kingdom 2000 600 London to New York
President 2500 600 Liverpool to New York
City of New York 2500 700 Bristol to New York
Steamer, Cunards 1100 420 London to Boston
Steamer, Cunards 1100 420 London to Boston
Steamer, Cunards 1100 420 London to Boston
Steamer, Cunards 1100 420 London to Boston
Steamer, British Government 1000 300 Glasgow to Boston
Steamer, British Government 1000 300 Glasgow to Boston
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1400 400 (See Note 1 below)
Steamer, British Government 1500 500 (See Note 2 below)
Steamer, British Government 1500 500 (See Note 2 below)
Steamer, British Government 1500 500 (See Note 2 below)
Steamer, British Government 1500 500 (See Note 2 below)
Steamer, British Government 1500 500 (See Note 2 below)
Steamer, French Government 1200 400 Havre to New York
Steamer, French Government 1200 400 Havre to New York
Steamer, French Government 1200 400 Havre to New York
Steamer, French Government 1200 400 Havre to New York
Steamer, French Government 1100 350 Brest to Brazil
Steamer, French Government 1100 350 Brest to Brazil
Steamer, French Government 1100 350 Brest to Brazil
Steamer, French Government 1100 350 Brest to Brazil
Steamer, French Government 1100 350 Bordeaux to Vera Cruz
Steamer, French Government 1100 350 Bordeaux to Vera Cruz
42 58,260 18,048  

Note 1: Falmouth (England) or Southampton (England) to the West Indes, to the Gulf of Mexico, to South America and to the Brazils, also from Havana to New York, keeping the entire West India & American route open by steam.
Note 2: From London either to Egypt or via the Cape of Good Hope to the East Indies.

In reference to the above list, the Halifax Times remarks:— "The interesting account, from a Baltimore paper, of the number of splendid steamers that will shortly be traversing the ocean, will be looked upon with much interest.  It is, we believe, generally correct, but we notice a few discrepancies, which it may be as well to set right.  Mr. Cunard's steamers, which are rated there at 420, are, we understand, 500 horsepower.  Instead, also, of running between London and Boston, as there stated, it should be Liverpool and Boston, touching at Halifax.  The two steamers of 300 horse power, placed in the list under the head of "British Government" and stated to run between Glasgow and Boston, are also, we assume, Mr. Cunard's, and are to run, one between Quebec and Pictou, the other between Boston and Halifax."

[This item, quoted whole above, appeared in The Yarmouth Herald of 18 October 1839.]

1839 November 1

Minas Basin Steam Service

"Steamer on the Basin of Minas — The Hon. James Ratchford, of Parrsboro, has issued a Prospectus, having for its object the establishment of a Steamer on the Basin of Minas, to ply between Parrsboro, Horton, and Truro — and occasionally, if found practicable, making a trip to Saint John.  The expense of the undertaking would be £5000, and it is proposed to raise this sum by subscription [sale of shares] in shares of £50 each..."
[The Yarmouth Herald, 1 November 1839]

1839 December 1

New Lighthouses in Operation

The light house recently built on Scatarie Island was put into operation on 1st December 1839.  The building was painted white, and the light was about 90 feet 27 metres above the sea.  It was equipped with a "revolving light of a superior description, visible one minute and invisible half a minute." A good boat was "always kept at the establishment to render assistance to vessels in distress," and a gun was placed there "to answer signals."

Two light houses had been built "on the north and south extremes of the Island of St. Paul's." The one on the north end was put in operation on 1st December 1839.  This light showed "a very brilliant fixed light," and was elevated about 150 feet 46 metres above the sea.  The light on the south end of St. Paul's Island was "expected to go into operation a short time" later.

The new light house "on the S E end of Cross Island, at the entrance of Lunenburg Harbour, in latitude 44 22 N, longitute 64 06 W," was put into operation on 1st December 1839.  This light was "distinguished from Sambro and Liverpool lights, by exhibiting two lights, one 30 feet 9.1 metres above the other," the lower one being a fixed light, and the upper one flashed or was darkened "at intervals of one minute," and could "be distinguished from the gradual motion of a revolving light, by the quickness of its motion or change from light to dark." The building was "painted red, to distinguish it in the day time from Sambro and Liverpool lights" which were painted white; "and as a further mark of distinction, Cross Island is a low island, near a mile in extent and thickly covered with trees, whereas Sambro is a high bluff rock, without trees of any description."

1839 December 23

Nova Scotia Western Steam Company

A meeting was held in Yarmouth to explore the possibility of establishing a company to operate a scheduled weekly steamship service between Yarmouth and Halifax, stopping at points along the way.  An advertisement, in The Yarmouth Herald of 20 December 1839, read as follows:

Steam Notice

"All persons interested in the formation of a Company, to be called the Nova Scotia Western Steam Company, having for its object a weekly communication by Steam-Boat with Halifax, are requested to meet at the Phoenix, or Richan's Hotel, on Monday next (23 December) 2 o'clock p.m. for the purpose of forwarding the interests of the said Association, now about to be formed.  A punctual attendance is requested."

On 22 November 1839, under the head "Nova Scotia Western Steam Navigation" The Yarmouth Herald had reported: "Mr.  Bazalgette, of Halifax, is now in this place (Yarmouth), procuring the names of such gentlemen as may feel disposed to take shares in a Steam Packet between Halifax and Yarmouth.  The shares are £25 each, and the whole sum required is £10,000.  It is intended to purchase the boat in Britain, and to have her on the route next summer."

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