Papineau and the Cholera Epidemic of 1832

With the arrival of cholera in Montreal in June 1832, many people left the city for the country to escape the disease. Papineau though decided to stay. Here, he writes to his wife, Julie, at her temporary lodgings at Verchéres, northwest of the island, of domestic matters – lemons, crackers, and work on a property […]

Pie-IX

Some days are better than others, and 19 September 1967 was more hectic than most. I am bringing together my notes on Pie-IX, the large north-south boulevard towards the east of the island that Montrealers most likely associate with the wonder, both financial and architectural, that is our Olympic stadium. In 1967, at the height of the […]

St Laurent

Apologies once again for the infrequent posts. Looming penury at the beginning of the year has been happily solved by a good deal of teaching; alas, this means less time for history! The project does continue, albeit slowly, and at this stage I am reviewing, editing the existing stations. This post improves on one element […]

Verdun

When I set out for Canada in December 2011, my friend Charlotte, hungover from a ‘Spurs victory the day before, asked me over a diet coke in a London pub, where I would be living in Montreal. “Verdun,” I replied, which led to brief but uninformed remarks about Canadian involvement in World War I. Uninformed […]

Atwater

At first glance, Atwater seems to tell the dullest history on the metro system. Edwin Atwater emigrated from Vermont in 1830; established himself with his brother, Albert, as a painter and varnisher in Montreal; went on to establish factories and and telegraph companies as well as managing banks through various financial crises (yes, they had […]

Berri-UQAM, formerly Berri-de Montigny

Originally opened as Berri-de Montigny, this station had its feet firmly planted in New France, until in 1988, it took in the university which is one of the products and symbols of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. For all this though, the origins of Berri is unclear. In 1989 the Tour toponymique noted that […]

Charlevoix

Remembered by Voltaire his former student at the Collège Louis-le-Grand for being a “bit longwinded”, the great philosophe bought all the books of Pierre-François-Xavier Charlevoix, not least his Histoire et description de la Nouvelle France. Coming in at 3 substantial volumes, it is the journey and observations of a teacher, editor, and priest venturing into […]

Cadillac

History has been kind to Antoine Laumet de La Mothe, sieur de Cadillac, his fame and crest borne on the high-end cars built in the city he founded. It has no reason to be; Cadillac had no respect for history, faked his noble origins, and ensured that whatever scraps may be found about him before […]

Frontenac

The only son of Anne Phélypeaux de Pontcharterain, the daughter of one Secretary of State and the niece of another, Louis de Buade de Frontenac, godson of Louis XIII was possessed of a vanity matched only by his debts and was a man who could only exist in the orbit of seventeenth-century Versailles. In 1648 […]

Approaching St Laurent, The Immortality of Big Business

Bite Size Canada has a great post on Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who, in August 1583, claimed Newfoundland for England. Great because it gives an insight into the mentality of the explorers who headed up the ventures as well as one of their major problems. As the post tells it, Sir Humphrey’s ship went down on […]

Before St Laurent, News of the Cape Breton Landfall

On 24 June 1497, the feast day of John the Baptist, John Cabot made landfall on Cape Breton and planted two flags: one, a banner for his patron, Henry VII of England, the other for St Mark and his native Venice. To read the accounts of Cabot’s voyages from Bristol and the reactions to his […]

At Lionel Groulx, the Delirium of the Nation

Reading Esther Delisle’s account against the French Canadian nationalist and anti-semite, Lionel Groulx, the case against him seems overwhelming. But Groulx was neither the first anti-semite nor the first person to create a national myth. In the hardships of the Depression, Groulx was hardly in original looking for scapegoats, and finding them. As Delisle, herself […]

From Lionel Groulx, The Death of a Race

The stations of the Montreal Metro system are not named after people. They are named after streets and places, which themselves may or may not be named after people. So when people call for Lionel-Groulx to be renamed after Oscar Peterson, they are actually calling for the street to be renamed. There is no Peterson […]

From Lionel Groulx, The Birth of a Race

Of all the stations in the metro system, Lionel-Groulx is the most controversial. Named after the priest and historian, he dominated a strand of French Canadian intellectual culture from the 1920s to his death in 1967. To his admirers, including former students at Université de Montréal, André Laurandeau, a future editor of Le Devoir, and […]

On the Metro, With No Small Fanfare, Art and Buskers

Montreal is a city of art and music, and its metro is no exception. This is hardly surprising as the core of the system was designed to whisk the world to the spectacles of the 1967 Expo on Ile Ste-Helene and, when it was extended nine years later, to the Olympics of 1976. These first […]