Wednesday, February 13, 2013

First steamship in Canada: The Accommodation, 1809

This steamship, built at Montreal by John Molson, was the first in Canada.
Edwin C. Guillet.  Pioneer Travel in Upper Canada.  U of Toronto Press, 1933, Reprinted 1963.

Just like Canada!  Thought up over a beer, eh!

Impressed by Fulton's Clermont in England, John Molson (of Molson Brewery fame) decided to build a steamship.  He and two other partners financed its construction at the David Munn Shipyard in Montreal, conveniently located on the river next to Molson's brewery.  A steam engine was ordered from the Old Forges du St. Maurice at Trois Rivières, which had never built anything this complicated before.  On her maiden voyage, she turned out to be woefully underpowered, taking 36 hours to make the trip between Montreal and Quebec City.  She never managed to do much better, either practically or economically.   She had cost him about £4,000 to build and operate, but his return was maybe £500.  In 1811, the ship was broken up, and Molson re-purposed the deck house as a summer cottage.

For a more complete story, visit The Gazette.

As an aside,  John Ross Robertson (from whose collection the above picture was taken) founded the Toronto Telegram in 1876.  His collection of Canadiana was left to the Toronto Public Library.  The Telegram folded in 1971.  York University in Toronto now holds the Telegram's photographic archive and has digitized many of the photos.

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