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

Chapter 16
1 January 1905   to   31 December 1909


Commercial Cable Company's
Fifth Trans-Atlantic Telegraph Cable

In 1905, the Commercial Cable Company laid its fifth submarine cable between Hazel Hill, Nova Scotia, and Waterville, Ireland.  This was one of the heaviest submarine telegraph cables up to this time.  Its speed was remarkable for its day, and it quickly took a heavy load of telegraph message traffic.


Hantsport Water Supply

In 1905, a water supply system was installed in Hantsport with the water being brought in from Davison Lake, 11 miles 18 km away.  Hantsport is located on the boundary between Kings and Hants Counties.
[Source: The Windsor Hants Journal, 22 September 1999, contained excerpts from Hantsport on Avon, 1968, by Hattie Chittick.]

1905 January 30

Halifax & South Western Railway Opened

On this day, the Halifax to Yarmouth main line of the Halifax & South Western Railway Company was officially opened for traffic.

1905 April 7

Gold River Mines & Power Company Limited

The Gold River Mines & Power Co. was incorporated under chapter 136, passed by the Nova Scotia Legislature on 7 April 1905.  This company was interested in the area around Gold River, Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.

1905 May

Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

List of telephone companies in Nova Scotia, spring 1905

Questions by Mr. Bergeron, a member of the Committee,
Answers by Mr. J.H. Winfield, of Halifax, manager of the Nova Scotia Telephone Company:

Q.   I understand you say there are about 30 companies in Nova Scotia?
A.   I am speaking roughly, I have a list here.
Q.   Will you produce it please?
A.   Yes, sir.
                        Exhibit No. 68
      With Approximate Number of Telephones Operated by Each

      The Nova Scotia Telephone Company Ltd.  .........3,511
      Eastern Telephone Company Ltd.  ...................923
      Valley Telephone Company Ltd.  ....................700
      Queen's County Telephone Company Ltd.  ............180
      Central Telephone Company Ltd.  ....................25
      Yarmouth Amalgamated Telephone Company Ltd.  ......235
      Westport and Digby Telephone Company Ltd.  .........15
      Barrington Telephone Company  ......................20
      Yarmouth Telephone Company  ........................12
      Maitland Telephone Company  ........................15
      Cheverie Telephone Company Ltd.  ...................15
      Maitland and Noel Telephone Company  ...............10
      New Ross Telephone Company Ltd.  ....................3
      Bass River Telephone Company  .......................5
      Elmsdale, Gore and Rawdon Telephone Company  .......10
      Economy and Five Islands Telephone Company  .........8
      Parrsboro Shore Telephone Company  ................120
      Conns Mills Telephone Company  .....................12
      Wallace Bay Telephone Company  .....................18
      Fox Harbour Telephone Company.......................15
      Wentworth Telephone Company.........................10
      Hammonds Plains Telephone Company....................3
      Antigonish and Sherbrooke Telephone Company Ltd.  ..60
      Cumberland Telephone Company.......................250
      Blandford Telephone Company..........................6
Questions by the Chairman of the Committee,
Answers by Mr. J.H. Winfield:

Q.   ...Exhibit 68 is a list of the telephone companies operating in Nova Scotia?
A.   Yes.
Q.   Is this the complete list?
A.   As far as I know.  There may be some others that I do not know of out in the backwoods somewhere...
Q.   This list contains the names of 25 companies and these companies have 6,181 subscribers? This is correct, is it?
A.   It is correct, as far as I know.  It is approximately correct; some of them may be out two or three.
Q.   But as far as you know, this is a complete list?
A.   Yes.
Q.   Of the companies operating in Nova Scotia?
A.   In Nova Scotia...

[Source: Report No. 16, 2 May 1905, of the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Various Telephone Systems in Operation in Canada and Elsewhere, Ottawa.  This list was delivered to the Committee by Mr. J.H. Winfield, of Halifax, the manager of the Nova Scotia Telephone Company, as part of his sworn testimony.]
Minutes of the Committee proceedings, 2 May 1905

Note: There are two more telephone companies, in addition to those listed above, which are believed to have been in operation in Nova Scotia in the spring of 1905:
  Southern Telephone Company, Sydney
  West Gore and Nine Mile River Telephone Company, Elmsdale, Halifax County 
[Source: Report No. 9, 11 April 1905, of the Select Committee Appointed to Inquire into the Various Telephone Systems in Operation in Canada and Elsewhere, Ottawa.  "The chairman submitted for the information of the Committee a list of telephone companies in Canada, compiled from the latest available information." These companies are included in the Nova Scotia portion of that list.]

1905 May 5


1905 May 15

Halifax & South Western Railway Company
Buys the Halifax & Yarmouth Railway Company
and the Middleton & Victoria Beach Railway Company

On this day, the purchase became official, by the Halifax & South Western Railway, of the Halifax & Yarmouth Railway for $675,000, and the Middleton & Victoria Beach Railway for $325,000.  The H&YR had fifty miles 80 km of narrow-gauge track in operation between Yarmouth and Barrington Passage.  The M&VBR had no track in operation, but it had a charter under which 39 miles 63 km were built by the H&SWR from Middleton through Bridgetown to Port Wade, which opened for traffic in 1907.


69 Years as a Miner and Still Working

In September 2000, Elaine Mott, in her Echoes of Yesterday column in the Parrsboro Citizen, wrote about an old clipping of a 1906 article in the Halifax Herald headed "The oldest coal miner in the world works in the Springhill mines." This old newspaper was loaned to me (Elaine Mott) by William Graven Sr., who was a step-grandson of this Joseph Maddison and Mrs. Douglas MacDonald was a great-granddaughter.  The article tells how Joseph Maddison, who was then 76 years old, had begun working underground in Durham, England, when he was six years old.  He worked underground 69 years, a quarter of that being in the mines at Springhill, Nova Scotia.  The clipping: "Who else has a record of 69 years as a miner and is still working?  Who will say this is not a case worthy of a state pension?"  The article had a picture of the robust, happy Joseph Maddison with this caption: "Joseph Maddison, Springhill, who has worked 69 years in the coal mines and is still working."
[Parrsboro Citizen, 16 September 2000]

1906 June 6


1906 November 3

International Wireless Telegraph Convention

The International Wireless Telegraph Convention was signed in Berlin on this day, by representatives of Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Monaco, Norway, the Netherlands, Persia, Portugal, Roumania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, the United States of America, and Uruguay.  [Canada was included by association with Great Britain.]

The Contracting Parties bind themselves to apply the provisions of the present Convention to all wireless telegraph stations open to public service between the coast and vessels at sea — both coastal stations and stations on shipboard — which are established or worked by the Contracting Parties.  They further bind themselves to make the observance of these provisions obligatory upon private enterprises authorized either to establish or work coastal stations for wireless telegraphy open to public service between the coast and vessels at sea, or to establish or work wireless telegraph stations, whether open to general public service or not, on board of vessels flying their flag...

International Wireless Telegraph Convention 1906

1907 March 19

Egerton Tramway Ceases Sunday Streetcar Service
in Pictou County

On this day, in The Eastern Chronicle, a twice-a-week newspaper published in New Glasgow, the Egerton Tramway Company inserted a Notice to the Public: "Owing to the fact that another case has been brought by the Lord's Day Alliance against one of the men employed by this Company, under the Act forbidding the performance of servile labour on the Lord's Day, and decided against him, after the original test case had been decided in favour of our employees, both before Stipendary Magistrate and also the County Judge, before whom it was taken on appeal, we have decided to discontinue the operation of any cars on the Sabbath day until we are convinced that the people of the Municipality through which we operate desire to have them run.

The Company has been running its Sunday cars at a loss ever since it began operating, and this coupled with the cost of defending actions against our men, involved too great a loss for the Company to stand.  We have therefore decided on the above to avoid further prosecution.  We regret, for the sake of our Sunday patrons, that we are obliged to take this step.

Egerton Tramway Company Limited
Charles A. Flaherty, Manager

Historical Notes about the Egerton Tramway Company

1907 March 26

Vale Railroad Petition

Mr. Robert Malcolm McGregor, MLA for Pictou County, presented petitions to the Legislature "from the citizens of New Glasgow, Thorburn, and McLellan's Brook, asking that the Vale Railroad should be made part of the Guysboro system when the same is built or else that it should be taken over by the Intercolonial Railway.  Mr. McGregor spoke at some length in presenting the petitions stating fully the circumstances of the case and urging the necessity of action to relieve the people in the district affected and to promote the opening up of the coal areas nearby."
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 2 April 1907]

1907 March 28

Subsidy Refund Refused

The Nova Scotia Legislature spent much of this day "discussing the claims of Inverness County for a refund of subsidies paid to the Mackenzie and Mann Railway.  The Government did not see its way clear to recoup the County for a bargain which they voluntarily went into, as to do this would open the door to similar claims in all directions."
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 2 April 1907]

The "Mackenzie and Mann Railway" referred to was the Inverness & Richmond Railway Company, which later became the Inverness Coal, Iron & Railway Company, then the Inverness Railway & Coal Company, and finally CNR.

1907 April 3

Moving Pictures Well Attended

"There was a large attendance at the moving pictures in the Y.M.C.A. hall" on Wednesday evening, April 3, 1907.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 9 April 1907]

1907 April 9

Large Propeller Casting

The moulders at Matheson's Foundry are at work at the largest and most difficult cast ever made in New Glasgow.  It is a propeller for a British steamship now in dry dock at Halifax.  The outside diameter of the casting will be 15 feet 6 inches 4.72 metres and it will weigh about 6 tons 6 tonnes.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 9 April 1907]

1907 April 19

Automobile Fever

The automobile fever is catching.  Messrs. Fanjoy have theirs in the garage awaiting better roads and others are en route here.  By the time the mud disappears the chug-chug noise will be quite common.  One prominent horseman is so attacked with the disease that he is said to be quietly disposing of his stable outfit and spends his spare moments studying auto catalogues.  The horsemen need not get alarmed that the motor car will injure their business in our country. 
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 19 April 1907]

History of the Early Days of Automobiles in Nova Scotia

1907 April 25

Halifax & South Western Railway Company
Buys the Liverpool & Milton Railway Company

On this day, the Liverpool & Milton Railway was bought by the Halifax & South Western Railway for $71,550.  The L&MR owned and operated a 4.63 mile 7.45 km railway along the west side of the Mersey River, between Liverpool and Rapid Falls, near Milton, in Queens County.  Most of the L&MRCo line was abandoned in 1936, but a short section of the old L&MR main line track was used until the late 1980s for the H&SWR main line between Halifax and Yarmouth.  Much of the old L&MR roadbed has since been obliterated by highway construction, but parts of it were still visible in the 1990s.

History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia

1907 May

Quebec Steamship Company, Limited
1907 Summer Schedule

Scheduled Sailings of
Montreal and Quebec
Calling at Father Point, Gaspe, Mal Bay, Perce,
Cape Cove, Grand River, Summerside,
Charlottetown, and Pictou

Quebec Steamship Company
Passenger Service between Montreal and Pictou
Summer Schedule

at 4pm
at noon
  Monday, 6th May   Tuesday, 7th May
  Monday, 20th May   Tuesday, 21st May
  Monday, 3rd June   Tuesday, 4th June
  Monday, 17th June   Tuesday, 18th June
  Monday, 1st July   Tuesday, 2nd July
  Monday, 15th July   Tuesday, 16th July
  Monday, 29th July   Tuesday, 30th July
  Monday, 12th August   Tuesday, 13th August
  Monday, 26th August   Tuesday, 27th August
  Monday, 9th September   Tuesday, 10th September
  Monday, 23rd September   Tuesday, 24th September
  Monday, 7th October   Tuesday, 8th October
  Monday, 21st October   Tuesday, 22nd October
  Monday, 4th November   Tuesday, 5th November
Returning will leave Pictou, Nova Scotia, every alternate Monday, at Midday, up to 16th September, on arrival of trains from Halifax and Saint John.  Commencing 28th September, leave Pictou Saturdays as soon as cargo is landed.  Subject to change should circumstance require.
Arthur Ahern, Secretary, Quebec, Canada
Dodd Dwyer, Agent, Pictou, Nova Scotia
(7-5-07 6mos.)
[Display advertisement in The Eastern Chronicle, 10 May 1907, page 4]

1907 May 8

Automobile Licence Plate Number One

Nova Scotia plate #1 was issued on 8 May 1907, to Mr. William Black, Wolfville, for an Oldsmobile.  Plate #2 was issued 18 May 1907 to Mr. W.L. Kane, Halifax.  #62 was the last plate issued in 1907 (#13 was not issued).
Source: A History of Nova Scotia Licence Plates, by David Fraser

Nova Scotia License Plate History, by Joseph P. Sallmen

1907 May 10

Call for Tenders, Miners' Houses


Tenders will shortly be asked for the construction of 60 blocks semi-detached miners' tenement houses.  All builders desirous of tendering will communicate with the undersigned.
The Acadia Coal Comapny, Ltd.,
Stellarton, Nova Scotia
3i 3-5-07
[Display advertisement in The Eastern Chronicle, 10 May 1907, page 4]

1907 June 14

Special Mail Train

Montreal, Friday June 14 — The Intercolonial Railway's special train for the mail from Great Britain, which left North Sydney at 5:25 last evening with the mail from the steamship Victorian, arrived here at 7:45 tonight, having made the run, allowing for the difference of one hour in time, in twenty six hours twenty minutes.  All the mail was delivered at the post office here by 9:20, just in time to allow the Western mail to be sent off by tonight's express train.  All the mail by last Friday's steamer which was landed at Rimouski was not delivered at the post office until after midnight, or four hours later than tonight's mail which came via North Sydney.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 25 June 1907, page 2]

Note: The 26 hours 20 minutes running time, from North Sydney to Montreal, included the time required to ferry the train across the Strait of Canso, from Point Tupper to Mulgrave.

1907 June 18

Yarmouth Electric Company

On this day, the Yarmouth Electric Company Limited was incorporated under the Nova Scotia Joint Stock Companies Act with an authorized capital of $100,000, divided among one thousand shares of a par value of one hundred dollars each. Briefly the principal objects of this Company, as set out in the incorporation papers, were to acquire stock or securities of other companies for the purpose of managing or operating them, or of consolidating them; also to engage in any other business which might seem to work in well with the Company's enterprise. It is not clear just how extensive this Company's operations were.

Historical Notes about the Yarmouth Electric Company

1907 June 21

East Pictou Telephone Company

The East Pictou Telephone Company, which is planning to construct a telephone line to Little Harbour and points on the coast of East Pictou, is now fully organized and will start construction at once.  The President of the Company is Mr. Charles P. Stewart, Little Harbour, and the Secretary is Councillor Frank McNeil, New Glasgow.  Mr. James McKay, of East River, St. Mary's, is engaged to superintend the erection of the poles.  There will be a call station at Fisher's Grant or some other place just below Trenton that will be "called" by the Nova Scotia Telephone Company and that station will call up subscribers beyond.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 21 June 1907, page 8]

1907 July 7


1907, Summer

Restrictions on the Operation of Automobiles

In Marguerite Woodworth's book, History of the Dominion Atlantic Railway, published in October 1936, on pages 131-132 she quotes the following from a contemporary letter:   The use of automobiles is allowed in the undermentioned counties as follows:

1907 July 2

Paving Contract

The Barber Asphalt Company of New York, represented in Nova Scotia by Robert Low, have secured the contract for paving the Halifax streets.  It is a $75,000 job.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 2 July 1907]

1907 July 31

Edison Telegram

"Trenton, N.J.  July 31 1907
H.J. Logan MP
Chairman Board of Trade Committee Amherst, Nova Scotia
Permit me to congratulate your board of trade and Senator Mitchell on the inauguration of the first power plant on the American continent for the generation of electricity at the mouth of a coal mine and the distribution of the same to distant commercial centres.  It is a bold attempt and I never thought it would be first accomplished in Nova Scotia where my father was born over one hundred years ago.
Thomas A. Edison
4 pm"

Reproduction of the telegram as received in Amherst From First Things in Acadia (book) by John Quinpool [John William Regan], published in Halifax, 1936.

Letter to Editor
The Halifax Daily News

Making Electricity in Nova Scotia

To the editor:

It is encouraging to see the increasing attention The Daily News is giving to the history of Nova Scotia.

On July 31, 1998, in the inside front page, "This day in ..." drew my attention: "1907: North America's first plant to develop electric power from coal opens in Amherst, N.S."

This refers to the electric generating plant built by the Canada Electric Co. at Maccan, near Amherst, which began commercial operation on July 31, 1907, and which was still in operation decades later, with modernized machinery but on the same site. The 1990 annual report of the Nova Scotia Power Corp. contains a list of the company's electric generating plants as of March 31, 1990.  This list includes the Maccan plant at a rated capacity of 15 megawatts. By the 1980s, the Maccan plant had become a low-efficiency, high-cost plant, and in recent years has been run only occasionally. I do not know when it last generated electricity, but I understand it has been used for commercial generation in the 1990s.

The Canada Electric Co. continued operations as an electric utility, running the Maccan plant and supplying electric power to Amherst and vicinity, until it was taken over in 1961 by the Nova Scotia Power Commission. In 1973, the commission was reorganized and renamed the Nova Scotia Power Corp., a provincial Crown corporation. On Aug. 12, 1992, the N.S. Power Corp. was privatized — it was sold to Nova Scotia Power Inc. Ownership of the Maccan generating plant followed these corporate developments.

There's just one little detail about that item, as printed.

It isn't true.

The Canada Electric Co.'s electric generating plant at Maccan was not "North America's first plant to develop electric power from coal."

It wasn't even the first in Nova Scotia. Not by a long shot.

There were numerous earlier coal-fired, electric-generating plants in Nova Scotia. I'll name three, but there were several others.

1888 — The first electric arc street lights in Yarmouth, comprising several street lamps on Main Street, one on Water Street, and one on Parade Street, were put into operation on the evening of Jan. 8, 1888. The electric power to operate these lights came from a coal-fired, electric generating plant in downtown Yarmouth, owned by the Yarmouth Electric Light Co.

1890 — The first electric incandescent street lights in Nova Scotia were turned on in Windsor on the evening of Sept. 22, 1890. This was an initial demonstration, for the public, with 27 lights installed along the streets. They were supplied with direct current generated by a dynamo driven by a reciprocating steam engine, located in the new coal-fired generating station at the corner of Victoria and Stannus streets. The system went into regular operation a few weeks later, with 55 street lights connected. The system was built by the Windsor Electric Light & Power Company Ltd, under a contract with the Town of Windsor (The Windsor Electric Light & Power Co. was sold in 1921 to the Avon River Power Co., which was merged in 1929 with the Nova Scotia Light & Power Co., which in 1972 was taken over by the Nova Scotia Power Commission, which in 1973 became Nova Scotia Power Corp., which in 1992 was sold to Nova Scotia Power Inc.)

1896 — Electric streetcars began operating in Halifax, powered by a coal-fired generating plant located on Lower Water Street. "The first trolley car started out on Feb. 13, 1896," according to a technical paper Halifax Electric Tramway Plant and Steam Engineering read on May 7, 1907, by Philip A. Freeman, chief engineer of the Halifax Electric Tram Co., before the Nova Scotia Society of Engineers.

There were other early coal-fired, electric-generating plants in Truro, New Glasgow, Sydney, Glace Bay, Antigonish, and Dartmouth, among others. All of these were running well before 1900.

So, what about the item that appeared in The Daily News? It would have been correct if it had included a vital detail. It should have read: "1907: North America's first coal-fired electric generating plant located at the mouth of a coal mine, began operation in Amherst, N.S."

The crucial point, omitted in the item as printed, is the location of the generating plant at the mine mouth, in contrast to all the earlier generating plants which were located in the towns served by the plants.

This essential point is brought out clearly in the famous telegram (reproduction attached) sent by Thomas Alva Edison on July 31, 1907, to Senator Hance J. Logan, in Amherst. Logan was a director of Maritime Coal, Railway & Power Co., owned by the same holding company that controlled the Canada Electric Co. Edison's telegram explicitly refers to "the first power plant on the American continent for the generation of electricity at the mouth of a coal mine."

What is the difference? All earlier generating plants were located near the centre of the towns they supplied.

For example, the 1890 generating plant in Windsor was built at the corner of Victoria and Stannus streets, then and now within a couple of blocks of Windsor's main downtown area.

The 1888 generating plant in Yarmouth was within three blocks of the downtown core.

The 1896 generating plant in Halifax was on Lower Water Street (the site now occupied by the Electropolis sound stage).

The 1880s generating plant in Truro was located within a few blocks of the downtown core.

Before 1907, this was the universal practice for steam generating plants, in Nova Scotia and everywhere else in North America. (That's true for steam generating plants, but not for hydro-electric generating plants, which had to be built where the water was available.)

Before 1907, they dug the coal and transported it to the downtown generating plant. The energy was carried to the town by hauling coal on a railway.

The Maccan plant was built close to the coal mine, and the energy was carried to the town by wire — an electric transmission line. This was often called coal by wire.

If you look at some of John Buchanan's speeches when he was premier, you will find that phrase — coal by wire — more than once.

That's how it is done today in Nova Scotia; burn the coal in a generating plant located close to the mine — Lingan, Aconi — and carry the energy in electrical form by wire to the consumers.

It is less costly to carry energy by wire than on wheels. It was done first in 1907, in Cumberland County.

[Halifax Daily News, 15 August 1998]

1907 August

Harvest Excursion Tickets Sold

Forty-one tickets were sold in one day, at the Dominion Atlantic Railway station in Windsor, to Hants County people going to the Canadian West on a harvest excursion train.
[Windsor Hants Journal, mid-August 1900]
[100 Years Ago in the Hants Journal, 16 August 2007]

These harvest excursion trains were organized and operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR).  The Dominion Atlantic Railway (DAR) in Nova Scotia was a subsidiary of the CPR, and all DAR ticket offices sold tickets for CPR trains throughout Canada.

The Harvesters by Glenn Wright
Legion Magazine, March-April 2001
Harvest excursion Wikipedia

(book) The Harvest Train : When Maritimers Worked in the Canadian West, 1890-1928
by W.J.C. Cherwinski and A. A. MacKenzie, January 2002

1907 August 30

McKenzie and Mann

The private railway car of Messrs. McKenzie and Mann passed through New Glasgow on Friday, August 30th, returning from Cape Breton.  One of the principals of the firm and Mr. Spencer, the general manager, were on board.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 3 September 1907]

1907 September 25 to October 3

Baldwin's Air Ship

Thrilling Flights from the Grounds
in This Wonder of Modern Times

Take a Holiday and Visit the Exhibition
at Halifax, Sept. 25th to Oct. 3rd.

A feature of thrilling interest at the forthcoming Exhibition will be the daily flights of Baldwin's Air Ship.  The air ship will rise from the exhibition grounds and after about twenty minutes spent in circumnavigation of the city it will return to the starting place.  A great cigar shaped bag, 52 feet 15.8 metres long and 17 feet 5.2 metres in diameter, constitutes the bouyancy-giving part of the machine.  Beneath this is the wooden car, 42 feet 12.8 metres long in which sits captain Baldwin, and in which is the motor that drives the twin screw propellors at a rate of 1,000 revolutions a minute.  In this car also is the steering gear.  The air ship contains 9,000 cubic feet 255 cubic metres of hydrogen gas, to produce which 4,000 lbs. (pounds) 1,800kg of sulphuric acid and 4,000 lbs. 1,800kg of iron turnings have been ordered to be in readiness for the arrival of the air ship from New York.  The exhibition itself gives every indication of being a tremendous success ... The horses on exhibition will number 200.  The horse races will attract a splendid field and the racing will continue for seven days.  The Vaudeville Show which will consist of eight acts, as well as the races, will be seen from the splendid new Grand Stand which is now about complete.  The new Horse Barns are being rapidly erected.
[New Glasgow Eastern Chronicle, 6 September 1907, pages 6 and 7]

1907 October

First Commercial TransAtlantic Radio Service

The first service for sending radio (telegraph without wires) messages across the Atlantic Ocean, began commercial operation between Marconi Towers near Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, and Clifden, Ireland.  The system was owned and operated by the Marconi Company, which had carried out the design, construction, installation, and testing of all equipment at both ends.  This was a simplex system, meaning that messages could be sent both ways, eastbound and westbound, across the Atlantic, but not at the same time.  While sending eastbound, from Marconi Towers to Clifden, messages could not be received at Marconi Towers, because the very powerful transmitter emission swamped the feeble incoming signal.  The same problem occurred in Ireland, that signals could not be received at Clifden while the Clifden transmitter was in operation.  The simplex system was replaced by a duplex service in 1913.

1907 October 17

Official Opening of
Marconi's TransAtlantic Radio Service

An elaborate formal opening ceremony was staged on this day for the Marconi Wireless Telegraph station at Marconi Towers, near Glace Bay, Nova Scotia.  Official congratulatory messages were sent (using no wire across the Atlantic) to the King of England, the King of Italy, Lord Kelvin, and other notables.  The Marconi Company entertained several hundred guests at a banquet.  This was a genuine radio operation, using electromagnetic waves travelling without wires across the North Atlantic Ocean between Nova Scotia and Great Britain.  But, while it was operated by radio, it could not transmit voice messages.  It was unable to reproduce at the receiving end, any sound made at the sending end.

It worked by using a telegraph key to "key" a high-power spark transmitter.  When the transmitter was "keyed" it was simply turned on and off — "on" meaning a spark carrying several thousand amperes of electric current was turned on, and "off" meaning the spark was turned off.  A spark transmitter is basically an exceedingly simple device.  If you make an electric circuit of wire (any wire that is handy), with a short gap somewhere — a short section with no wire, just air — and then you apply a high voltage to the circuit, you get a spark across the gap.  A good example is the spark plug used in gasoline engines in automobiles; if you have ever watched a spark plug tested in your local garage, you have a general idea of what it looks like.

Any electrical spark generates a spectrum of electromagnetic disturbances, or waves, of various frequencies, depending strongly on the electrical characteristics of the circuit it is connected in.  That is, any electrical spark generates and radiates radio waves.  (If you want to observe this, take any ordinary AM radio receiver to your local garage and turn it on while the spark plug tester is operating.  It does not matter where the tuning dial is turned, the spark produces many frequencies and the receiver will "hear" it no matter what frequency you select.) The more powerful the spark is — the more current that flows across the gap — the greater the distance the radiated waves will travel.  If you use enough power, the radiated waves will travel thousands of kilometres.  There was some technical sophistication in the apparatus, but Marconi's system also relied on brute force — use enough power and your spark-generated wave will get through. When the Cape Breton spark was running, there was a buzz in the headphones in Ireland; when the spark stopped, the headphones were silent.  Thus, the letter "v", represented in Morse code as dot-dot-dot-dash, would be heard in Ireland as buzz-buzz-buzz-buzzzzzz. This buzzing in the headphones in Ireland was an audible sound, but it was not a reproduction af a sound made in Nova Scotia; the headphone buzz was produced by an electrical disturbance in the atmosphere which was the result of an electric spark running in Cape Breton. Marconi's spark transmitter was essentially a gigantic spark plug tester.

This was a brute force system, but it worked nonetheless.  When it became obvious that Marconi's wireless telegraph would work across the Atlantic Ocean, the price of Commercial Cable, Western Union, and other cable company shares fell sharply on European and North American stock markets.

1907 November 26

First Dial Telephone

On this day, the first dial telephone in Canada went into regular use in Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.
[Halifax Daily News, 26 November 1999]

1907 November 28

First Dial Telephone

Dial telephones first used at Sydney Mines, Nova Scotia.  Believed to be the first dial telephones in Canada.
[National Post, 28 November 2000]

1907 December 14

Hiram Hyde Dies

Hiram Hyde, the "stage coach tycoon" of Nova Scotia, died at Truro.  He had been born in New York State on 25 September 1817, but moved to Nova Scotia as a young man.  When Samuel Cunard obtained his contract to carry the Royal Mail from Great Britain to Halifax and Quebec in 1839, Hyde contracted with Cunard to provide a stage coach service between Halifax and Pictou, which was an essential link in Cunard's route between London and Quebec.  Hyde's contract specified a Halifax to Pictou time of seventeen hours, which was tight scheduling in those days.  Hyde's bitter letter of 1844 gives us a rare and detailed view of road conditions of that time, as experienced by travellers.  Hyde had other interests; he worked with Fred Gisborne in developing telegraph lines, and he had a hand in the pony express of 1849.  He entered politics, and was elected MPP (Member of the Provincial Parliament) for Truro Township 1855-59 (in the days before Confederation when Nova Scotia's Assembly was referred to as a 'Parliament' instead of a 'Legislature').  Later, Hyde became a contractor in supplying locomotive fuel, after his stage lines had been forced out of business by the building of competing railway lines.

1908 June

Transportation Schedules at Canso


Strait of Canso Summer Service
for 1908


Mulgrave and Guysboro daily (Sunday excepted), calling at Queensport every morning from Guysboro.  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday trips extended to Boylston.


Mulgrave and Canso daily (Sunday excepted).


Mulgrave, Arichat, West Arichat, and Petit de Grat daily (Sunday excepted).
Connecting with ICR Halifax Express morning and afternoon.
A.N. Whitman & Son, Ltd., Agents


The S.S. Scotia

Will leave Campbell's Wharf every Thursday at 8 p.m., calling at Port Hilford, Port Bickerton, Country Harbour, Isaac's Harbour, Goldboro, Drum Head, White Head, Canso, Queensport, Guysboro, and Boylston.

Excellent passenger accomodation.
Freight will not be received after 1 p.m. Thursday.
On return trip leaves Canso on Monday mornings.

A.N. Whitman & Son, Ltd., Agents


Tickets sold to all points via this popular route.

A.N. Whitman & Son, Ltd., Agents


Leaves Halifax every Tuesday at 7 a.m., calling at Sheet Harbour, Isaac's Harbour, Canso, Arichat, Port Hawkesbury, Charlottetown, and Summerside.  On return trip leaves Canso on Saturdays.

A.N. Whitman & Son, Ltd., Agents


All trains are run by Atlantic Standard Time.
Times according to 24-hour clock.
Twenty-four o'clock is midnight.

Leave Mulgrave

6:45 Train 56: Accomodation for New Glasgow and Truro
11:45 Train 20: Express for Halifax, Quebec, and Montreal

Leave Point Tupper

5:50 Train 105: Mixed for North Sydney and Sydney
15:45 Train 19: Express for North Sydney and Sydney

Dining and Sleeping Cars between Halifax and Sydney on Trains 19 and 20.

A.N. Whitman & Son, Ltd., Ticket Agents

The above items have been adapted from five display advertisements in the 20 June 1908 issue of The Canso News, published monthly at Canso by A.N. Whitman & Son Limited.  The information in the Plant Line ad is sparse — the text above is all there was in the original advertisement.

The Plant Line

Henry Bradley Plant, founder of the Plant System of railroads and steamboats, was born in Branford, Connecticut, in 1819.

After the American Civil War, he bought several small railroads across Southern Georgia and Northern Florida which, when later combined with his already flourishing Southern Express Company, Plant Steamline and Plant System of West Coast Hotels, formed "The Plant System of Railway, Steamer and Steamship Lines".

Henry Plant served as President of the System from 1880 until his death in 1899.

Plant established the Plant Investment Company in 1882 to manage his holdings, and also to facilitate the aquisition of other railroads.

Plant recognized that his railroad would be an even greater sucess if combined with steamship and steamboat service. In 1886, the Plant Steamship Line was organized, offering direct service to Mobile, Key West and Havana via the Steamships Olivette, Mascotte, and Florida.

The Canada Atlantic and Plant Steamship Line Limited offered service to Boston, mainland Nova Scotia, Cape Breton and Prince Edward Island.

Henry Plant died in the summer of 1899, as important to the development of the Gulf side of the Florida Peninsula as Henry M. Flager was to the East Coast.

The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad aquired the Plant System in 1902.

Intercolonial Railway steamship connections, 1907
Detailed information about regularly-scheduled steamship services in 1907 around Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick, by the Plant Line and other steamship companies.

1908 August 8


1908 September

New Acetylene Lighting Systems Installed

"The Roman Catholic and Methodist churches here have recently installed new lighting plants, which are proving very satisfactory and a great improvement over the old oil lamps.  The machines are said to be the very latest in acetylene lighting."
[Quoted whole from the 19 September 1908 issue of The Canso News, Canso, Guysborough County.]

1908 September 23

Beinn Bhreagh Letterhead

Dr. Bell's letterhead at Beinn Bhreagh, September 1908
Source: The A.G. Bell Family papers at the U.S. Library of Congress
Historical Collections for the U.S. National Digital Library
Low resolution:   http://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/148/14800101/0009i.gif
High resolution:   http://memory.loc.gov/mss/magbell/148/14800101/0009i.jpg

1908 December

Capable Lamp Lighters Hard to Find

"The problem of street lighting for the town seems a rather difficult one, at least it would seem so as the absence of any lights so often indicates.  We believe the style of lamps provided are capable of doing the work and require only careful management to get good results.  The parts of the lamps are very fragile and not easy of adjustment, and because of this the town has had difficulty in securing capable lamp lighters.  The season of the year is now approaching when there is greatest need of street lights, and it is to be hoped that every effort will be made to provide a satisfactory service."
[Quoted whole from the 18 December 1908 issue of The Canso News, Canso, Guysborough County.]


First Radio Broadcast of Music

Leonard Rosser Johnstone, living in Dartmouth in the mid-1930s, recalled the first radio broadcast of music to be heard in Nova Scotia.  On 17 October 1907, Johnstone was a telegraph operator working for the Marconi Company at Marconi Towers, Glace Bay, and he had "personally handled most of the sending of numerous official telegrams ... addressed to rulers, statesmen, scientists and publishers'" during Marconi's official opening ceremonies.  As Johnstone recalled, in 1909 the "steam yacht Hirondelle with the owner aboard, the Prince of Monaco, passing Halifax, though out of sight, treated operators at Camperdown Wireless Station to four musical selections, including the Merry Widow... The operator on the yacht explained a piano was hooked to a wireless transmitter and the Prince wished to know if the scheme was a success."
[The quotes are from the book First Things in Acadia by John Quinpool [John William Regan], published in Halifax in 1936.]

1909 February

Reduced Steamship Service,
Canso - Mulgrave

"On the first day of this month the steamer Malcolm Cann left for Yarmouth to undergo her annual overhauling.  This necessitates the John L. Cann performing the double service of Canso - Mulgrave and Mulgrave - Guysboro routes.  On the return of the Malcolm Cann the John L. leaves the route, the former performing the double service.  When the John L. returns, the Percy Cann is sent off the Arichat - Mulgrave route for one month and the John L. does her work.  Thus for a period of three months these three regular daily services are interrupted.  The present contractors for these steamboat lines claim that the subsidy voted is not sufficient to permit of their putting on an extra steamer for the three months to give the continued daily service the year round.  No doubt the travelling public and fresh fish shippers would appreciate the year round daily service, and we hope the day is not far distant when the volume of trade and travel will open the way towards that end."
[Quoted whole from the 25 February 1909 issue of The Canso News, Canso, Guysborough County.]

1909 February 23

First Flight

On this day, members of the Aerial Experiment Association accomplished the first manned airplane flight in Canada, by flying the Silver Dart over the Bras d'Or Lake, near Baddeck, Nova Scotia.  The A.E.A. was officially formed in October 1907 on Mrs. Alexander Graham Bell's suggestion, and she contributed money to pay for most of the expenses. It was headed by the great inventor himself (who had a home at Baddeck) and had as its members, four young men eager to make their mark during the heady days of early flight: American Glenn H. Curtiss, a motorcycle manufacturer who would later be awarded the Scientific American Trophy for the first official one-kilometre flight in the Western hemisphere and later be world-renowned as an airplane manufacturer; F.W. (Casey) Baldwin, the first Canadian and first British subject to pilot a public flight — in Hammondsport, New York; J.A.D. McCurdy; and Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, an official observer of the U.S. government.
More about the flight of the Silver Dart
Canadian Aviation Historical Society, Silver Dart Chapter

This flight at Baddeck on 23 February 1909 is often stated to have been the first powered flight in the British Empire, but this claim has been found to be untrue.  Eighteen weeks earlier, on 16 October 1908, Samuel Franklin Cody made a flight of 1390 feet 424 metres over Laffin's Plain, Farnborough, England, which is recognized by the Royal Aero Club as the first powered flight in England and in the British Empire.
[Letter in the Halifax Sunday Herald, 16 December 2001, confirmed by other sources]

There are two schools of thought about this. One group takes the position stated above, that the first powered flight of an aircraft in the British Empire was Cody's flight on 16 October 1908 in England.  The other group says no, that was not the first powered flight of an aircraft in the British Empire, because England was/is not a part of the British Empire.

It depends on what you mean by "British Empire".  Does the term "British Empire" include England itself?  Some say yes.  Others say no.

1909 March

Canso's New Town Clock

1908 July 20: "The promised clock for the tower of the Public Building has not yet been installed... The placing of the clock in the tower will add greatly to the appearance of the building.  It will also be a great convenience to the public..."

1908 December 18: "Owing to an accident when installing the clock in the Public Building in which one of the dials was broken, the work has not yet been completed and the clock has not yet been taken over by the department.  When the work is completed the dials will be illuminated at night so that the time can be seen as well as heard."

1909 February 25: "It is to be regretted that the new clock in the tower of the Public Building has not been completely installed.  Only three dials are in place and although the absence of the fourth dial does not affect the running of the clock, it is not kept going.  There seems some hitch about the care of the clock, the caretaker of the building having received no instructions in the matter."

1909 March 25: "Caretaker Sutherland has received instructions re the care of the clock in the tower of the Public Building, and its musical strike can now be heard day and night, 'marking time'."

[Above items are quoted from issues, dates as given, of The Canso News, published monthly by A.N. Whitman & Son Limited, Canso, Guysborough County.]

1909 April 1

New Glasgow Electric Company Sold
to Egerton Tramway Company

On 23 April 1909 the Legislature passed an Act (chapter 142, 1909, 9 Edward VII) to confirm the sale, on 1 April 1909, of the New Glasgow Electric Company Limited to the Egerton Tramway Company Limited.

Historical Notes about the New Glasgow Electric Company

1909 April 23

Egerton Tramway Company Changes Name
to Pictou County Electric Company

On 23 April 1909 the Legislature passed an Act (chapter 143, 1909, 9 Edward VII) to change the name of the Egerton Tramway Company Limited to Pictou County Electric Company Limited.

Historical Notes about the Pictou County Electric Company

1909 May 6

New Acetylene Lights in the Colonial Arms

Deep Brook's New Summer Hotel Brilliantly Lighted

Our correspondent in Deep Brook, Annapolis County, writes: The Acetylene Plant in The Colonial Arms was completed last week and the hotel was illuminated on Thursday and Friday evenings, May 6 and 7, 1909.  The plant consists of two generators which make the acetylene gas from which it is led into the bell; from there it passes through a purifier into the pipe leading to the hotel.  The plant works automatically and just makes the gas needed, whether it is supplying one light or 150.  On Thursday evening, May 6th, about 75 persons were present, and on Friday evening a large party from Bear River came down to see the hotel and its lights.

The unanimous opinion is that the light is fine, and it has been reported that the glow was seen by people in Annapolis [about fifteen kilometres away].  In connection with the hotel a platform has been built beside the Dominion Atlantic Railway to accomodate the guests, the name of the stop being "Sea View Landing".

[Digby County News, a supplement in The Digby Weekly Courier, 14 May 1909]

Acetylene is a gaseous hydrocarbon which, when burned, produces an extremely bright and white light.  In 1892, a Canadian by the name of Thomas Leopold Willson, who will forever be known as Thomas "Carbide" Willson, discovered quite by accident an inexpensive method for manufacturing acetylene gas.

In 1891, Wilson, along with an American associate James Turner Moorhead, had formed the Willson Aluminum Company in Spray, North Carolina.  In May, 1892, experimenting with ways to increase his aluminum yield, Willson combined lime (calcium oxide) and coal tar, heated the mixture in the furnace, and found that he had made a strange substance: when thrown into water, it produced a gas that burned. The substance was calcium carbide and the gas was acetylene.

Willson's discovery of a method to make calcium carbide economically led to his nickname "Carbide" Willson. In 1894 Willson initiated the industrial production of carbide in a small plant in Merritton, Ontario.

Willson's discovery led to the use of acetylene in many areas of everyday life.  In the early 1900s, before the ready availability of electricity, acetylene was used to light homes, commercial buildings, and lighthouses, and it was widely used as fuel for headlights for horseless carriages.

The Chemical Institute of Canada

1909 June 5

Big Log Drive Arrives at Weymouth

Weymouth, June 5, 1909 — The big drive of logs for the Campbell Lumber Company, about four million feet, reached its destination at the lower pulp mill late Saturday night, June 5th, 1909.  George W. Wagoner was the boss of the drive, and he is very much elated over the success of his efforts, for it was no small undertaking.

This is the third large drive brought down from the headwaters of the Sissiboo River this year.  The first drive was one of three million feet, one million feet of which was for the Campbell Lumber, and two million feet for Dickie and McGrath.  The second drive was one of a million and a half feet for the Campbell Lumber Company.

The drive arriving here Saturday night was eight miles 13 km long and nearly one hundred men were required to bring it down the river, many of them being Micmac Indians.  The drive was brought down through fifteen water gates, and was one of the heaviest in the history of Nova Scotia.

[The Digby Weekly Courier, 18 June 1909]

In this context, "three million feet" means three million board feet,
or "three  million  feet  board  measure"  (as it would  appear in a
legal document such as a contract).

one million board feet = 2,360 cubic metres
three million board feet = about 7,100 cubic metres

A board foot was legally defined as a piece of wood
one foot long, twelve inches wide, and one inch thick.
In other words, a board foot was (and still is)
a measure of volume equal to 144 cubic inches.

144 cubic inches = 2360 cubic centimetres = 2.36 litres

The "board foot" was a measure widely used for sawn lumber,
and wood quantities in general (but not for firewood) in
the 1800s and 1900s, continuing into the 1980s.

Production  statistics,  inventories,  prices  of  sawn  timber,
and  other  business  information  about  wood  and  wood
products  was  usually  stated  in  terms  of  board  feet.

The term "board feet" (or "feet board measure") was often
abbreviated to simply "feet", as in the newspaper item
quoted above.  It was generally assumed that everyone
understood "three million feet" of logs meant
three million board feet.

1909 July

New Acetylene Lights
in the Canso Post Office Building

1909 May 27: "B.L. Redding has the contract for building a brick outhouse on the Post Office property to house an acetylene machine to light the public building.  P. Campbell & Son, of Saint John, are installing the plant, which is the same as they put in the Roman Catholic and Methodist churches in this town.  The installation of this light will add greatly to the appearance, convenience, and comfort of both the Customs and Post Office departments in the Public Building."

1909 July 29: "Contractor Campbell has been busy the last month installing the acetylene lighting plant for the public building and has completed the work.  The new light adds greatly to the appearance and convenience of the building."

[Both items are quoted whole, from issues, dates as above, of The Canso News, published monthly by A.N. Whitman & Son Limited, Canso, Guysborough County.]

1909 September

First car in Bridgewater

The first car to be owned in Bridgewater was purchased by Herbert S. Hall at Halifax from W.L. Kaine in September 1909.  It was a Ford, the Nova Scotia license was 171 which would mean that there were 171 cars licensed in Nova Scotia at that time.  He sent his son Laurie to Boston for some weeks for instructions on driving.  At that time there was only one other car in Lunenburg County, a McLaughlin which was owned in Lunenburg.

—Source: First car in Bridgewater page B23, Bridgewater Bulletin and Lunenburg Progress Enterprise, 4 March 2008

1909 September 9


1909 November 26

Nova Scotia Steel Corporation Declares Dividend

The directors of the Nova Scotia Steel Corporation, meeting in Montreal, declared a stock bonus of twenty per cent, and a dividend of one per cent to holders of common stock, thus putting the common shares on a four per cent basis.
[Quoted whole from the Toronto Globe, 27 November 1909]

"A stock bonus of 20 per cent" means each owner of common shares was given one additional share for each five shares he held.  This "bonus" is effectively a stock split, a procedure well-known and widely-used in modern times.  A stock split of two-for-one (such as done by IBM and Microsoft and many other companies in the 1990s) means each owner of common shares was given one additional share for each share he held.  A stock bonus of 20 per cent is a stock split of six-for-five.

A quarterly dividend of one per cent means the shares were paying 4 per cent annually.

To a Nova Scotian, the most significant part of this item is the fact that the directors of the Nova Scotia Steel Corporation were meeting in Montreal.

Go To:   History of Telegraph and Telephone Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Railway Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Electric Power Companies in Nova Scotia

Go To:   History of Automobiles in Nova Scotia

Go To:   Nova Scotia History, Chapter One

Go To:   Nova Scotia in the War of 1812

Go To:   Nova Scotia Historical Biographies

Go To:   Proclamations: Land Grants in Nova Scotia 1757, '58, '59

Go To:   Statutes of Nova Scotia, 1805, edited by Richard John Uniacke

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