You’ve heard of Show Biz. This is Biz Biz, the history
of business in Vancouver, told through the activities of The
Vancouver Board of Trade.
It should be noted that, because of the condition
of some of the newspaper microfilms used as the source of these
reports, some issues are unreadable. The coverage of the Boards
AGM for this year, for example, was unavailable, and so was the
January 7 special meeting at which the suggestion for monthly rather
than quarterly meetings was to be debated. Still, we see references
in later reports this year of regular monthly meetings,
so the decision must have been approved.
The February 25th meeting of the Board was divided
in its sympathies regarding the plea of B.C.s loggers to have
repealed the provincial law prohibiting the export of cedar logs
to the U.S. Some members argued one way, some the other. It was
decided to invite representatives from both the Lumbermens
Association and the Lumber and Shingle Manufacturers Association
to come and speak to the Board at its next meeting.
The Edmonton Board of Trade wrote asking the Vancouver
Board to do something to bring grain shipments to this
coast. It seems wheat and oats from the territoriesremember,
Alberta and Saskatchewan did not join Confederation until 1905were
being shipped to the Atlantic seaboard, and "there was no reason
why the shipments could not have been made via Vancouver."
And, still on the subject of wheat, the Toronto Board of Trade wrote
asking our Board to support its drive for a preferential tariff
on Canadian wheat going to Great Britain. The Board agreed to lend
its support, but recommended an amendment that the same preferential
tariffs be extended to lumber, fish and all natural products, and
that the tariffs apply to all portions of the Empire,
not just Great Britain.
A digression: there was an advertisement in the
February 26, 1902 Province, next to the report on the Boards
meeting, for George E. Trorey, Jeweler and Diamond Merchant (and
official Watch Inspector for the CPR). He was holding a Big Watch
Sale, ranging in price from $6.75 to $20. In 1907 Birks would come
to Vancouver and buy the Trorey store, and change its name to Birks.
The Trorey Clock would become the Birks Clock.
The April 8th meeting was informed by member C.E.
Hope of a curious situation: he had been recently at Mission Junction
and observed that fully 75 per cent of the passengers arriving
from the east by the CPR changed cars and crossed the line on the
Seattle & International train. He estimated that 50 per cent
of the American-bound people were agriculturalists, who had been
induced to settle in the state of Washington. He contended that
these people were passing in the Fraser valley land equally as good
as could be found anywhere in the neighboring state. The Board
unanimously supported Hopes contentions, and resolved to bring
the matter to the attention of "the ruling powers."
Member W.H. Malkin brought up the subject of a resident
Supreme Court justice again, and it was decided to confer with the
Bar Association to pursue the subject.
The Board decided to order 10,000 stickers to be
applied to bills of goods shipped north by local merchants, advising
miners in the area that Vancouver now had an assay office and was
buying gold at rates virtually the same as those available in Seattle.
It was hoped the merchants would cooperate.
The Province had a front-page editorial May
5 calling for an end to the practice of allowing Canadian bonded
cargo to be sent to Skagway in American ships. This had been necessary
during the gold rush when there were too few Canadian and British
ships, but now the practice should end. The newspaper said it was
likely the Vancouver Board of Trade would follow the lead of its
Victoria counterpart, and call for an end to that practice. Incidentally,
the editorial said, American law didnt permit Canadian ships
to carry American cargo to American ports.
An interesting passage in that editorial refers
to the trade that had been done from Vancouver to Honolulu before
the islands were annexed by the United States. Every steamer
of the Canadian-Australian line running out of this port did an
enormous business in the hauling of American freight to Honolulu
before annexation was effected, but immediately the islands became
part of the United States all that trade was lost to the port of
Vancouver . . . There was no reason, the editorial concluded,
why Canadian steamers should not take all Canadian bonded
freight north from this port.
But at its May 19 meeting the Boards consensus
was that, because there were still too few Canadian and British
ships available for the amount of trade, it would be inadvisable
under existing circumstances to rescind the practice.
American ships would continue to carry Canadian cargo north.
The August 1 meeting dealt almost wholly with trade
to the Yukon, and satisfaction at its extent and growth. Guest speaker
H.T. Lockyer, president of the Wholesale Grocers Association,
remarked in passing that he thought an All-Canadian or a Canadian-controlled
railway to the Yukon would work to the betterment of Canadian trade.
He thought possibly the sympathies of the present road [that would
be the White Pass & Yukon] showed a leaning toward the Americans.
White Pass passes?
W.H. Malkin must have been elected Board president
at its 1902 AGM because thats his title in an August 6 story
on the regular meeting the previous evening. The members recorded
an emphatic protest . . . against the proposed removal of
the local office of the White Pass & Yukon Railway from this
city. President Malkin "said that he was glad to see
some of the heaviest shippers in the city present to give their
views on the situation. Personally he regarded it as a matter of
vital importance to the trade of the city."
A resolution was passed to the effect that, not
only should the railway keep its Vancouver office open, but that
it should make Vancouver its head office, rather than Seattle. So
much trade was done with the north, and so much came from Vancouver,
that it was inexplicable that the railway would close
the local office. Particularly vexing was the fact that White Pass
gave no reason for its decision. See more on this below.
Members learned that the Colonial Premiers
would be passing through the city, and efforts would be made to
learn the precise date so that the Board could begin preparations
to banquet them.
The premiers were banqueted September 18, and here
is an opportunity to share with todays readers a sampling
of newspaper style of a century ago. The Province of September
19 covered the speech to the Board of Sir Edmund Barton, Premier
of Australia, and here is a brief excerpt from that story.
"The Premier of Australia possesses the gift
of oratory to a marked degree. His personality is magnetic. His
voice is deep, resonant and sympathetic. His enunciation is good,
and his delivery forceful. His was a noble speech, nobly expressed.
His imperialist utterances were the words of a true statesman, with
lofty aims and the ability to impress them upon his hearers.
It was the best speech heard in Vancouver
in many a day.
The dinner was held in the Hotel Vancouver. The
1902 version of the hotel, the first of three, was at the southwest
corner of Georgia and Granville Streets, where Sears sits today,
and the banquet was accompanied by music from the band of the Sixth
Duke of Connaughts Own Rifles. Another indication of the change
in newspaper style: every single guest was named in the story. There
were 67 names, and they included high-ranking military officers,
leading businessmen (no women were present), politicians domestic
and foreign, consuls and more.
One brief passage from Bartons speech was
of special interest to the Vancouver audience: he said that the
people of Australia had taken a firm stand and had not only
barred out Chinese, but other classes of Orientals. Making
that particularly ironic was the reference toward the end of the
newspaper report to one of the guests, Mr. K. Morikawa, the Japanese
consul in Vancouver. He thanked the company for a toast that had
been given to Japan during the meeting, and expressed his
pleasure at Japan being the ally of England. (Cheers).
The subject of grain exports came up again at the
Boards regular September meeting, and it was thought that
although freight rates would make shipping prairie grain to Great
Britain via Vancouver economically unfeasible, there was every reason
to believe that markets for that grain could be found in Australia,
parts of China and northern Russia. It was suggested by Mr. Peters
of the Canadian-Australian line that his firm was prepared to carry
samples of Canadian grain to Pacific ports free of charge to test
That meeting also featured this quaint and puzzling
reference: It was decided to take steps to further the scheme
of establishing telephonic communication with Point Atkinson...
Could they have been referring to the lighthouse there?
White Pass at Gunpoint!
The Board took a dim view of the removal by the
White Pass & Yukon Railway of its Vancouver office, despite
the fact that 25 per cent of the trade carried over the companys
lines originated in Canada. See more on this above. President
Malkin said that he understood from outside sources that the
reason the company did not want to have offices here was that it
might escape the responsibility which attached to the issuance of
the bills of lading." There was no elaboration on that point,
but one striking note was sounded: a letter from E.J. Graves, the
president of the railway, said that "if the board had not tried
to put a pistol to his head he might possibly have transferred the
railways head offices from Seattle to this city.
The Pacific Cable
The Board marked with real enthusiasm the completion
October 31 of the Pacific Cable, which in the words of the Province,
was an epoch-marking event in the history of the British Empire.
Vancouver would now be able to communicate instantly with places
as far-flung as Great Britain and Australia over the 7,200 miles
(11,500+ km) of the cable. The completion of this new electric
band," the report continued, would assist in disseminating
knowledge, and interest in the Colonies would be stimulated through
it . . . President Malkin told the members that a loyal
message had been sent from Vancouver to His Majesty the King, and
this message was then read by Secretary Skene. It was greeted with
cheers and the singing of the National Anthem, His Majestys
health being drunk in champagne. [Edward VII had been crowned
August 9th this year. That National Anthem would have
been God Save the King.]
Sir Sandford Fleming, who had been pushing for the
cable for years, had been quoted as saying that it was British Columbias
offering of $1 million toward the work that was the turning
point, and from that time forward success was assured. Special
regard was paid to Board member Francis Carter-Cotton, then a provincial
cabinet minister, who had been instrumental in the government making
the offer. And a very special telegram was received from Ottawa:
I sincerely rejoice over the complete and successful opening
of the new method of communication between Canada and the Orient,
it read. I feel confident that Vancouver and British Columbia
will reap very substantial benefits from the same. Signed,
Wilfrid Laurier, Prime Minister of Canada.
The cable, incidentally, began its leap across the
Pacific from Bamfield, on the west coast of Vancouver Island, just
south of Ucluelet and ended at Fanning Island, an atoll south of
Hawaii. The ship Colonia laid the 8,000 tonnes of cable needed.
The major topic at the regular monthly meeting of
the Board on December 2, the last meeting of 1902, was a controversy
over street ends, with the city going to court opposing
the CPRs position on the subject. A careful reading of the
newspaper reports shed no further light on the matter; we dont
know what was involved, except that the Board supported the city
in its fight against the railway.
A digression: William Farrell, the president of
the British Columbia Telephone Company, spoke proudly this year
of his companys friendly relations with subscribers, and the
fact that its rates were 50 per cent lower than paid in Seattle
or Tacoma. He also said there were more telephones per capita in
BC than in any other province, while in Vancouver, "We have
more telephones per head than any city in the British Empire."
Unfortunately, labor relations were less tranquil. A month after
Farrell's rosy report, the company locked out its unionized construction
workers. Its mentioned here because a number of prominent
business people, including Board of Trade president W.H. Malkin
and Hudson's Bay Co. manager H.T. Lockyer, lined up in support of
What else was
happening locally in 1902?
For a once-over-lightly look at the history of The
Vancouver Board of Trade, go here.
Next: 1903 »