AuthorBruce Ricketts

HomeArticles Posted by Bruce Ricketts (Page 5)

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 2

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 2: Queen of the Hurricanes

Born in 1905 in Vancouver, Elsie MacGill was a force to be reckoned with.  In 1927, she became the first woman to graduate as an electrical engineer from the University of Toronto.  She was hired as an engineer by the Austin Automobile Company in Michigan.  When Austin entered the aircraft industry, she became interested in aeronautics. MacGill enrolled in the University of Michigan, and in 1929 became the first woman to graduate with a Master’s degree in aeronautical engineering. Just before graduation, MacGill was struck by polio and wrote her final exams from her hospital bed.  Not on to quit when told that she would never walk again,  on problems, MacGill spent the next few years learning to use canes, writing magazine articles on planes and flying, and continuing her studies at MIT in Boston.In 1934 she got her first break into the aeronautical business by securing the position of Assistant Engineer at the Fairchild Aircraft Company in Montreal.  She worked on, primarily, bush aircraft.

In 1938, as war in Europe was looming, MacGill was hired by Canada Car & Foundry at its plant in Fort William, now Thunder Bay.  Her first task was the design of the Maple Leaf Trainer II.  MacGill’s legs were never strong enough to fly her airplane but she flew in the second seat in every test flight.  An interesting side note on the Maple Leaf Trainer II is that it was designed for the Mexican air force and never flown by our own RCAF.  The plane was eventually built in Mexico.

By 1939, with war  winding up, Canada Car & Foundry (CC&F) and its Chief Engineer, Elsie MacGill, were contracted by the RAF to design and build the Hawker Hurricane.  When the production of the Hurricane was complete in 1943, CC&Fs workforce of 4500 (half of the women), over 1400 aircraft had been built.  Refinements introduced by MacGill on the Hurricane included skis and de-icing controls for operating in the winter.  MacGill’s success with the Hurricane earned her the nickname “Queen of the Hurricanes”.  She was even featured in a comic book in the US under that name.

The CC&F plant went looking for new work to replace the Hurricane in 1943 and was awarded a contract by the US Navy to build the SB2C Helldiver.  This was not a happy time for either CC&F or for MacGill.  A continuous stream of specification changes from the aircraft designers meant the mass production of the aircraft was not possible.   The Navy grew frustrated at the delays and instead of figuring out where the bottle neck really was they visited the CC&F plant and had Elsie MacGill and the Helldiver line-production manager, Bill Soulsby, fired.

MacGill and Soulsby were married two weeks later.

MacGill and Soulsby moved to Toronto to set up a consulting company.  In 1946, as Technical Advisor to ICAO(International Civil Aviation Organization), she wrote the International Air Worthiness regulations for the design and production of commercial aircraft, a document which, to this day with some updates, helps keep us safe in the skies.

But Elsie MacGill was not a one-trick pony – only an engineer.  In the 1960s sheworked hard on women’s issue.  From 1962 to 1964 she served as the national president of the Canadian Federation of Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.  In 1967 she was named by Prime Minister Lester Pearson to the Royal Commission on the Status of Women and one of the co-authors of the Commission’s report in 1970.  She was awarded with the Order of Canada in 1971.

As a founding member of the National Action Committee, she was involved in women’s issues right up the time her death. MacGill once said: “I have received many engineering awards, but I hope I will also be remembered as an advocate for the rights of women and children.”

Elsie MacGill died on November 4, 1980 in a car accident in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In 1983 Elsie MacGill was inducted into the Canadian Aviation Hall of Fame.  In 1992 she was one of the founding-inductees into the Canadian Science and Engineering Hall of Fame in Ottawa.  Fitting tributes to a pioneering Canadian.

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 1 – Birth of a Giant

This article is part 2

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 3 – The Airplane That Flew… But Did Not Take Off

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 4: The Bomber That Could Have Been

Continue Reading

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 1

Canada Car and Foundry Part 1: The Birth of a Giant

In 1941 a competition was held in the US to decide which company should build the US Air Force’s new fleet of heavy lift bombers.  Among the competitors there were two notables – Boeing and Canada Car & Foundry.  We all know about Boeing but who was this Canada Car & Foundry and what qualified them to build a state-of-the-art bomber?Canada Car & Foundry (CC&F) was established in 1909 in Montreal.  The firm was the result of an amalgamation of three other companies.  Rhodes Curry Co. of Amherst, N.S., Canada Car Co. of Turcot, Quebec and Dominion Car & Foundry Co. also of Montreal.Nathaniel Curry, founder of Rhodes Curry Co, became the first President of the newly minted CC&F.  In his inaugural address about the new company, he laid out the history, technical and manufacturing strength and financial position of CC&F.

“The Dominion Car & Foundry Co. is located at Montreal. Its works were erected less than three years ago, and are equipped with the most up-to-date machinery for the construction of steel cars; also for the manufacture of bolsters, brake beams and other railway specialties.”The Canada Car Co. is located about a mile from the Dominion Car & Foundry Co. This plant was erected less than five  years ago, and is equipped with the most up-to-date machinery for the manufacture of wood passenger and freight cars, including wheel foundry, grey iron foundry, forging shops and machine shops.

“The Rhodes Curry Co. plant is located at Amherst, N.S., the geographical centre of the Maritime provinces. This plant started the manufacture of cars in a small way 17 years ago, but has grown to be a large concern. It is equipped for the manufacture of wood passenger and freight cars with a wheel foundry, grey iron foundry, forging and machine shops; also rolling mills, malleable iron foundry and axle shop.

“This company also owns 20,000 acres of timber lands, and operates saw mills and planing mills with branches at Halifax and Sydney.

“The Dominion Car & Foundry Co. has a capacity of 30 steel freight cars a day, and capacity for the manufacture of bolsters, brake beams, and other specialties for 100 cars per day.

“The Canada Car Co. has a capacity for the manufacture of 100 passenger cars a year, and 25 freight cars a day.

“The Rhodes Curry Co. has a capacity for the manufacture of 60 passenger cars a year and 20 freight cars per day. Rolling mill capacity, 20 tons per day of bar iron and steel. Axle shop capacity 200 axles per day. Malleable iron foundry, 20 tons of finished malleable castings a day.

“The present capacity of these combined works is enough to take care of the Canadian railways for several years to come. The combined capacity of all other car companies in Canada is probably not over 100 cars a day.

“The net earnings of these three companies for the past two years have averaged $1,000,000 per year. This period has been a very dull one for car builders, and business was obtained under keen competition, with plants running at only half capacity. The savings in buying, selling, freight, administration and manufacture with these three concerns combined should add at least 40% to the net earnings without charging any more for the output. In my opinion the replacement value of these properties is over $7,500,000.”

Nathaniel Curry, 1909

CC&F was efficient and profitable from day one.  In 1911, the Board of Directors recognized that it would improve their efficiency if they started to produce their own steel castings, a part that was becoming common to all their products.  They purchased Montreal Steel Works Limited at Longue Pointe, Quebec, the largest producer of steel castings in Canada, and the Ontario Iron & Steel Co., Ltd. at Welland, Ontario, both a steel foundry and a rolling mill.

The cash continued to roll in.

A few years later CC&F acquired the assets of Pratt and Letchworth, a Brantford, Ontario, rail car manufacturer.  In the latter timeframe of WWI, the expanding company opened a new plant in Fort William (now Thunder Bay) to manufacture rail cars and ships.

Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 2: Queen of the Hurricanes
Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 3: The Airplane That Flew… But Never Took Off
Canada Car and Foundry Company Part 4: The Bomber That Could Have Been

Continue Reading

The Spanish Flu of 1918

Just today I was reading about a deadly bird flu in Asia.  Last month I went for my annual flu shot.  Seems that no matter where you turn people are talking about influenza or the flu. Something endemic is native to a particular place or always to be found in a particular region, such as certain diseases that neither increase nor decrease but are simply always present there.  Something epidemic is prevalent and spreading rapidly in a particular region or community, like a mild flu .  However something pandemic is omnipresent, spread over a huge area, to be found everywhere – such as the Spanish Flu of 1918. The source of the Spanish Flu Pandemic may never be known (it probably came from China as most flu strains do) but it was first officially recorded in May  1918 in a sleepy resort town of San Sebastian on the coast of Spain, thus the name Spanish Flu.


In fact, the flu had stuck British trenches in France in early 1918 and spread very quickly to the German trenches.  But with the squalid conditions and all the death in the trenches, who had time to name a flu bug.


The Spanish Flu started to make its appearance in North America in September of 1918 and when it had run its course by late 1919, an estimated over 25 million people had been felled by the disease.  (By comparison, 9.3 million soldiers died in the entire First World War.)  It was wide spread.  It was found in large cities, small towns, rural areas and even in the high north where entire Inuit communities were practically wiped out.

People took to wearing masks and staying indoors.  Even the harsh Canadian winter temperatures could not stop the spread of the Flu.  The virus was different in that it affected young adults, who are generally hardy enough to fight off such infections, as well as the very young and very old.

This Flu was so virulent that doctors of the time did not even classify it as an influenza as most influenzas are quite mild.  Some called it bronchopneumonia.  Others thought that it might be a strain of botulism or dengue fever.

There was no specific treatment for the Spanish Flu.  Just as we do today, bed rest, lots of fluids and antibiotics for any ancillary infection.  It had to run its course.

In the end no one knows how many lives were lost worldwide to Spanish Flu. Estimates were between 20 and 100 million.

When I was very young, my grandmother lived in Willowdale, a suburb of Toronto.  I remember at the end of her street there was a small cemetery.  I always wondered at the ages of the people that were buried there.  They were mostly young kids who had died in 1918/19… casualties of the Spanish Flu.

Continue Reading

The Syrian Peddlers

Who is that walking in our lane? This was a common question between the members of many families in the early twentieth century, especially in rural areas. No matter how remote, inaccessible, or sparsely populated, early settlers of rural Canada came to count on visits by the Syrian Peddler.  He always had a collection of useful and different goods.

These itinerant peddlers with their heavy and often unique back-packs carried their wares to small towns, villages, and the sparsely populated rural outback of Canada.

Their wares were what they could carry, however, they offered different forms of merchandise and a new method of acquisition for the purchaser. The local store, in rural areas could be many, many miles away and was stocked with what was familiar to the store owner and his patrons. The mail-order catalogue again had familiar goods but took many weeks and often months to deliver. Again, the purchaser had to make the trip to the central mail delivery office for pick-up.

The Syrian peddler had his wares with him. Small tools, cooking utensils, sewing materials, fabric, bed-sheets, and dry goods were common, and sometimes foreign produce was also offered. This consisted of spices, pepper and seed. Many purchasers took their chances with seed for Syrian corn with varying results.

As the peddler progressed on his journey, a leather pack could be collapsed to fold into another pack, and the continued trudging became less and less cumbersome. The demonstration of the packs was often a delight to children present at the time.

Depending on the time of day, the peddler was often offered a place to stay. It is estimated that 99% of these offers were from people of the French population. It has been interpreted by some that the French-Canadians were kind and being Mediterranean, had a similar complexion to the Syriac people.

These immigrant peddlers were overwhelmingly of the Christian faith, having emigrated from Mt. Lebanon, a semiautonomous Syrian district, on the Mediterranean’s eastern shore. The very first Lebanese immigrant, Abrahim Bounadere, arrived in 1882, followed by four more in 1883, another ten in 1885, and 50 in 1890. Communication from these in all probability led to future migration.

The Ottoman Empire was under the rule of the Ottoman sultan, Abdulamid. He was adamant at crushing any and all separatist movements being formed by the Syriac people, the Kurds and the Armenians. Since they shared land between southeast Turkey, northern Syria and Iraq, and northwest Iran, Abdulamid played the Kurds against the Armenians who were promoting their own territorial autonomy. This resulted in the Christian massacres of 1895-1896 when estimated hundreds of thousands were slaughtered, followed by the burning of Christian villages and by the rounding up of people in caravans into a forced migration. This ethnic cleansing of Christians continued and between 1915-1918, the Young Turk’s government encouraged the Kurds to attack convoys of Christians, who were evacuated by force from their villages and towns by the regular Turkish troops and police forces, and were allowed to rob and kill them all.

This continued with Mustafa Kamal, Turkey’s new ruler, who used the Kurds again to pressure the remaining Christians in the Eastern parts of Turkey to leave indefinitely.

During World War 1, the Christians of the Near East and Asia Minor were almost annihilated. The “Year of the sword” was given to 1915 in the Christians’ historical memory. The massacre descriptions tell of human savagery that left 1.5 million Christians dead, and village upon village wiped out.

Those who survived the massacres headed to nearby Lebanon and Syria and from there, many migrated to Europe, North America and Australia.

With hopes of a new life in rural North America, the Syrian peddler had an often arduous journey. Many left the ports of Beirut, Mersin or Alexandrette via the ports of Egypt or Cyprus to the harbours of Italy or France; then to Liverpool, England, and from there, they continued to Canada by transatlantic steamers.

Typically, to get to their closest port, they walked, rode animals or carriages, and sometimes used trains where available. By horseback, the first trip would take 10 days. A boat voyage from Beirut to Marseilles, France took six days. Often, they would be held by authorities in Marseilles, on the basis of the fact that some members of the family might have infections in their eyes. There they would be kept with promises of being allowed to continue if they would pay this person or that person. When it was considered that there was no more money to be extracted, they were deemed fit to continue their travel. From Marseilles, they would cross France by whatever means to Calais for the crossing of the English Channel to Dover and then to Liverpool. After Liverpool, there was a six day crossing of the Atlantic to Halifax, and another train trip to Montreal. What might have been a trip to Canada in a little over a month, could often take over a year and a half.

The Syrian/Arab references were cultural and not nationalistic since there was neither an independent Syrian or Lebanese political entity to which nationalism could be tied. Their values blended well with their North American hosts, being as success-oriented and free enterprise-driven.

Arrival in Canada was not as easy as one might think.  The Canadian government selectively restricted immigration.  The first example was the head tax which came into effect in 1885 to limit Chinese immigration, followed in 1907 with the Gentleman’s Agreement between Canada and Japan to hold Japanese immigration to Canada in check.  However, in 1908, two Order in Council rulings restricted Arab immigration.  The first Order in Council excluded immigrants who did not come to Canada by direct continuous journey from their homeland.  The second Order in Council imposed a $200.00 landing fee on immigrants from Asia.  Syrian immigrants were included among other Asiatic groups.

Interestingly, between 1882 and World War II, almost all Arab immigrants to Canada came from Syria and Lebanon and were predominantly Christian.  In contrast, most of post-World War II Arab immigrants were from Lebanon, Tunisia, Syria, Morocco and Jordan, with an excess of thirty percent of these being Muslim.

The 1901 Canadian census counted Syrian immigrants with Turks because at that time, Syria was under Turkish rule.  The five next census from 1911-1951, classified Syrians under a separate class.  In 1961, the class was modified to Syrian-Lebanese, in response to the emergence of Syria and Lebanon as two separate states.  For the last quarter century, with diversification of the Arab immigrants country of origin, Canadian immigration statistics has grouped new arrivals under the country of last permanent residence.

The geographical mobility of peddling that motivated the early Syrian to seek survival in North America, allowed him to earn his keep, return an investment to his sponsor, and finance the plight of a next of kin or bride to be, one penny at a time.  Being allowed to practice Christianity without annihilation was an added bonus to his Canadian territory.

After Montreal, and their wide-spread peddling, some opened wholesale stores to replenish other peddlers merchandise.  Many went where business was good and eventually settled their families in Sherbrooke, Ottawa, Toronto, Windsor, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.

Although originally, some thought they would seek a fortune and return to their homeland, very few ever chose to leave North America.

Continue Reading

Canadian Oath of Allegiance?

Canadian Children do not start their school day with the Canadian pledge of allegiance. In my day we sang O Canada and recited the lord’s prayer in the morning and ended the school day by singing God Save the Queen. Those traditions have long since passed into history.

However, military and government workers are required to take The Canadian Oath of Allegiance to the Queen.

Is it just me or is it odd that we pledge our allegiance to the Queen only and not also to Canada? The Canadian Oath of Allegiance Act reads as follows:

2. (1) Every person who, either of his own accord or in compliance with any lawful requirement made of the person, or in obedience to the directions of any Act or law in force in Canada, except the Constitution Act, 1867 and the Citizenship Act, desires to take an oath of allegiance shall have administered and take the oath in the following form, and no other:

“I, ……………….., do swear that I will be faithful and bear true allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second, Queen of Canada, Her Heirs and Successors. So help me God.

“(2) Where there is a demise of the Crown, there shall be substituted in the oath of allegiance the name of the Sovereign for the time being.
R.S., c. O-1, s. 2; 1974-75-76, c. 108, s. 39.”

Webster’s dictionary defines Allegiance to include:  loyalty or devotion to a person, group or cause.

Does the Queen take an Oath of Allegiance to Canadians?  Well not specifically, but the Act establishing the Coronation Oath of 1689 states that she does promise to govern over the Kingdom and its “dominions”.


Act Establishing the Coronation Oath 1689
Whereas by the law and ancient usage of this Realm, the Kings and Queens thereof have taken a solemn oath upon the Evangelists at their respective coronations, to maintain the statutes, laws, and customs of the said Realm, and all the people and inhabitants thereof, in their spiritual and civil rights and properties: but forasmuch as the oath itself on such occasion administered, hath heretofore been framed in doubtful words and expressions, with relation to ancient laws and constitutions at this time unknown: to the end therefore that one uniform oath may be in all times to come taken by the Kings and Queens of this Realm, and to them respectively administered at the times of their and every of their coronation: may it please your Majesties that it may be enacted:

II. And be it enacted by the King’s and Queen’s most excellent majesties, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons, in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That the oath herein mentioned, and hereafter expressed, shall and may be administered to their most excellent majesties King William and Queen Mary (whom God long preserve) at the time of their coronation, in the presence of all persons that shall be then and there present at the solemnizing thereof, by the Archbishop of Canterbury, or the Archbishop of York, or either of them, or any other bishop of this Realm, whom the King’s majesty shall thereunto appoint, and who shall be hereby thereunto respectively authorized; which oath followeth, and shall be administered in this manner; that is to say,

III. The archbishop of bishop shall say, “Will you solemnly promise and swear to govern the people of this Kingdom of England, and the dominions thereto belonging, according to the statutes in Parliament agreed on, and the laws and customs of the same?”
The King and Queen shall say, “I solemnly promise so to do.”
Archbishop or bishop, “Will you to your power cause law and justice in mercy to be executed in all your judgments?”
King and Queen, “I will.”
Archbishop or bishop, “Will you to the utmost of your power maintain the laws of God, the true profession of the gospel and the Protestant reformed religion established by law, and will you preserve unto the bishops and clergy of this Realm, and to the churches committed to their charge, all such rights and privileges as by law do or shall appertain unto them, or any of them?”
King and Queen, “All this I promise to do.”
After this, the King and Queen laying his and her hand upon the holy Gospels, shall say,
King and Queen, “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep: So help me God.”
Then the King and Queen shall kiss the book.

IV. And be it enacted, That the said oath shall be in like manner administered to every King and Queen, who shall succeed to the imperial crown of this Realm, at their respective coronations, by one of the archbishops or bishops of this Realm of England, for the time being, to be thereunto appointed by such King or Queen respectively, and in the presence of all persons that shall be attending, assisting, or otherwise present at such their respective coronations; any law, statute, or usage to the contrary notwithstanding.

Funny thing is that the monarch, who was to be bound by this “Oath”, was also the person who had to approve the Law enacting the Oath.

You may note that the Monarch promises to govern according to the statutes of Parliament, that is the ruling body of the country.

Since Queen Elizabeth II is the Queen of Canada, she must, according to the 1689 Oath, takes an Oath to rule according to the laws of Canada.

So the Queen takes an Oath to Canada but Canadians do not?

Just thought I would ask.

Continue Reading

Governor General of Canada

Canada’s system of government is a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary democracy. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is Queen of Canada and the Head of State. The Governor General is the representative of the Queen in Canada.

The duties of the governor general have changed over time, as Canada has become an independent nation. In 1947 King George VI changed the role of the governor general. The letters patent “authorize and empower Our Governor General, with the advice of Our Privy Council for Canada or any members thereof or individually, as the case requires, to exercise all powers and authorities lawfully belonging to Us in respect of Canada”. Since these letters were signed the governor general has exercised the duties of Head of State. Not only in Canada, but all over the world. The governor general is also the commander-in-chief of Canada.

Some of the duties of the governor general are:

  • Repreenting Canada during international State visits.
  • Welcomes Royal Visitors, heads of State and foreign ambassadors at Rideau Hall and at the Citadelle of Québec.
  • Gives honors and awards for  excellence, valor, bravery and achievements.
  • Heads of the Canadian Heraldic Authority.

Chronological List of Governor Generals of Canada

  • Charles Stanley Monck; 4th Viscount Monck: 1867 to 1868.
  • Sir John Young; Lord Lisgar: 1869 to 1872.
  • Frederick Temple Blackwood; Earl of Dufferin: 1872 to 1878.
  • John Douglas Sutherland Campbell; Marquess of Lorne: 1878 to 1883.
  • Henry Charles Kieth Petty-Fitzmaurice; 5th Marquess of Landsdowne: 1883 to 1888.
  • Frederick Arthur Stanley; Baron Stanley of Preston: 1888 to 1893.
  • John Campbell Gordon; Earl of Aberdeen: 1893 to 1898.
  • Gilbert John Elliot-Murray-Kymynmound; 4th Earl of Minto: 1898 to 1904.
  • Albert Henry George Grey; 4th Earl Grey: 1904 to 1911.
  • Prince Arthur William Patrick Albert; Duke of Connaught: 1911 to 1916.
  • Victor Christian William Cavendish; 9th Duke of Devonshire: 1916 to 1921.
  • Julian Hedworth George Byng; Lord Byng: 1921 to 1926.
  • Freeman Freeman-Thomas; Viscount Willingdon: 1926 to 1931.
  • Vere Brabazon Ponsonby; 9th Earl of Bessborough: 1931 to 1935.
  • Sir John Buchan; Lord Tweedsmuir: 1935 to 1940.
  • Alexander Augustus Frederick William Alfred George Cambridge; Earl of Athlone: 1940 to 1946.
  • Harold Rupert Leofric George Alexander; Viscount Alexander: 1946 to 1952.
  • Vincent Massey: 1952 to 1959.   First Canadian-borne GG of Canada.
  • Georges Vanier: 1959 to 1967.
  • Roland Michener: 1967 to 1974.
  • Jules Leger: 1974 to 1979.
  • Edward R. Schreyer: 1979 to 1984.
  • Jeanne Sauve: 1984 to 1990.
  • Ramon John Hnatyshyn: 1990 to 1995.
  • Romeo A. LeBlanc: 1995 to 1999.
  • Adrienne Clarkson: 1999 to 2005.
  • Michaëlle Jean: 2005 to 2010.
  • David Johnston – 2010 to current.



Continue Reading

Prime Minister of Canada

The Prime Minister of Canada is appointed by the Governor General. The appointee is usually the leader of the majority party. There are no age or citizenship restrictions on becoming the prime minister.  There is no legal requirement for the prime minister to be a member of parliament. However, if the appointee is not already a Member of Parliament, then it is usually expected that they will soon win a seat. In rare circumstances people who are not sitting members of the House of Commons have been appointed to Prime Minister of Canada. Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott and Sir Mackenzie Bowell were both members of the Senate and served in the late 1800’s. They both replaced prime ministers who died in office.

The prime minister is the most politically powerful member of the Canadian government. The Prime Minster of Canada is the head of government and responsible for advising the Crown on how to exercise the Royal Prerogative and its executive powers. The prime minster controls the appointments of the governor general, the cabinet, justices of the Supreme Court, senators, heads of crown corporations, ambassadors to foreign countries, the provincial lieutenant governors, and about 3,000 other positions. The prime minister originates most of the bills sent to parliament and plays an important role in the leadership of The Canadian Armed Forces.

Here is a list of all the past and present Prime Ministers of Canada:

Top row, left to right.

  • Sir John Alexander Macdonald: Born 1/10/1815, Glasgow, Scotland. 1st. Prime Minister from 6/1/1867 to 11/6/1873 and again from 10/17/1878 to 6/6/1891. Died 6/6/1891 from heart failure.
  • Alexander Mackenzie: Born 1/28/1822, Dunkeld, Scotland. 2nd. Prime Minister from 11/7/1873 to 10/16/1878. Died 4/17/1892 from a stroke.
  • Sir John Joseph Caldwell Abbott: Born 3/12/1821, St. Andrews East, Quebec (lower Canada) 3rd. Prime Minister from 6/16/1891 to 12/5/1892. Died 10/30/1893 from cancer.
  • Sir John Sparrow David Thompson: Born 11/10/1845, Halifax, Nova Scotia. 4th. Prime Minister from 12/5/1892 to 12/12/1894. Died 12/12/1894 from heart failure.
  • Sir Mackenzie Bowell: Born 12/27/1823, Rickinghall, England. 5th. Prime Minister from 12/21/1894 to 4/27/1896. Died 12/10/1917 from pneumonia.

Second row, left to right

  • Sir Charles Tupper: Born 7/2/1821, Amherst, Nova Scotia. 6th Prime Minister from 5/1/1896 to 7/8/1896. Died 10/30/1915 from heart failure.
  • Sir Wilfrid Laurier: Born 11/10/1841, St-Lin, Canada East (Quebec). 7th. Prime Minister from 7/11/1896 to 10/6/1911. Died 2/17/1919 from a stroke.
  • Sir Robert Laird Borden: Born 6/26/1854, Grand Pre, Nova Scotia. 8th. Prime Minister from 10/10/1911 to 7/10/1920. Died 6/10/1937 from heart failure.
  • Arthur Meighen: Born 6/16/1874, Anderson, Ontario. 9th. Prime Minister from 7/10/1920 to 12/29/1926 and again from 5/29/1926 to 9/25/1926. Died 8/5/1960 from heart failure.
  • William Lyon Mackenzie King: Born 12/17/1874, Kitchener, Ontario. 10th. Prime Minister from 12/29/1921 to 6/28/1926 and again from 9/25/1926 to 8/7/1930 and yet again from 10/23/1935 to 11/15/1948. Died 7/22/1950 from pneumonia.

Third row left to right

  • Richard Bedford Bennett: Born 7/3/1870, Hopewell Hill, New Brunswick. 11th. Prime Minister from 8/7/1930 to 10/23/1935. Died 6/26/1947 from heart failure.
  • Louis Stephen St. Laurent: Born 2/1/1882, Compton, Quebec. 12th. Prime Minister from 11/15/1948 to 6/21/1957. Died 7/25/1973 from heart failure.
  • John George Diefenbaker: Born 9/18/1895, Neustadt, Ontario. 13th. Prime Minister from 6/21/1957 to 4/22/1963. Died 8/16/1979 from heart failure.
  • Lester Bowles Pearson: Born 4/23/1897, Newtonbrook, Ontario. 14th. Prime Minister from 4/22/1963 to 4/20/1968. Died 12/27/1972 from cancer. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1957 for settling the Suez Crisis.
  • Pierre Elliot Trudeau: Born 10/18/1919, Montreal, Quebec. 15th. Prime Minister from 4/20/1968 to 6/3/1979 and again from 3/3/1980 to 6/30/1984. Died 9/28/2000 from cancer.

Fourth row, left to right

  • Charles Joseph Clark: Born 6/5/1939, High River, Alberta. 16th. Prime Minister from 6/4/1979 to 3/2/1980.
  • John Napier Turner: Born 6/7/1929, Richmond, England. 17th. Prime Minister from 6/30/1984 to 9/17/1984.
  • Martin Brian Mulroney: Born 3/20/1939, Baie-Comeau, Quebec. 18th. Prime Minister from 9/17/1984 to 6/25/1993.
  • A. Kim Campbell: Born 3/10/1947, Port Alberni, British Columbia. 19th. Prime Minister from 6/25/1993 to 11/4/1993.
  • Joseph Jacques Jean Chretien: Born 1/11/1934, Shawinigan, Quebec. 20th. Prime Minister from 11/4/1993 to 12/12/2003

Newer Prime Minsisters of Canada not shown in picture.

Continue Reading

Canada Dry Ginger Ale

Are you aware that Canada Dry Ginger Ale, as we know it today, is a Canadian development? Ginger ale was first development in Ireland as an alcoholic drink.  Recently in London, I asked for ginger ale in a pub and got a dark ginger beer served to me.In the late 1890’s John J, McLaughlin, a Toronto pharmacist,  began a quest to develop a non-alcoholic soda-based ginger drink which he could bottle so that customers could take it home to enjoy.  (In that time soda drinks could only be bought and consumed at drug stores.)

He used as his base recipe Belfast-style ginger ale.  But following a champagne-tasting trip to France he became convinced that a lightly colored and clear ginger ale would be his ticket to riches.

He was right.  Canada Dry Ginger Ale, now a product of Cadbury Schweppes, plc, has grown to become one of the most recognized brands in the world.

It is interesting to note that North America is about the only place, in my experience, that ginger ale is drunk as a beverage.  In most places, especially in the Asian countries, ginger ale is only used as a mix.  If you want to get a funny look, order ginger ale as a beverage in Hong Kong or Tokyo!

Continue Reading

Jerry Kathnelson – Father of the Programmable Thermostat

There are many web sites dedicated to Canadian inventions.  We know about the paint roller, baby pablum and basketball.  But did you know that the most common device hanging on home walls across Canada and most of the developed world… the programmable thermostat… was invented by Jerry Kathnelson, a Canadian? Until the mid 1970’s the home heating thermostat was a simple device which used a bi-metal strip (which bent according to temperature) and a balanced mercury bulb that, when tilted past a point, would turn on your furnace to heat your house.  It was simple but it was also inaccurate.

In the 70’s, the price of heating oil rose dramatically and something had to be found that could help reduce consumption.  Jerry Kathnelson, working at the National Research Council (NRC) in Ottawa, hit on an idea to bring the thermostat into the 20th century with the use of microprocessors and software.  At that time, the mandate of the NRC included both fundamental and applied research and the programmable thermostat was an example of both.

(As an aside, there is a strong research streak in Jerry’s family, as his father-in-law, Ed Swenson, also at NRC, was Canada’s leading expert in Portland Cement – first developed in 1900 – which was refined, through his discovery of an alkali-carbonate reaction, by Swenson for use in nuclear material containment structures.)

Jerry’s first thermostat (initially called the energy saving thermostat or Enerstat) has evolved over the past 40 years to what we see today – a small device controlling both heating and air conditioning which is easy to program, easy to read and very accurate.  The current devices can even be programmed or controlled remotely over the internet.  All the while the device sits in the background quietly saving us money on energy as we go about our busy days.

One large benefit from Jerry Kathnelson’s invention is one we do not generally think of but it is a doozy.  Ever barrel of oil, cubic foot of gas or kilowatt of electricity that is saved by the programmable thermostat reduces green house gases and the cost of production and delivery of energy to our homes.

Today, Jerry Kathnelson lives, with his wife Karen,  in California where he acts as Vice President of Customer Development at Energate Inc.  Based in Ottawa, Energate is a leading provider of demand response and home energy management solutions including smart thermostats, energy displays, wireless communications, gateways, load switches, and utility applications software – all an off-shoot of that first programmable thermostat.

Continue Reading

Did Canada Sanction the Hiroshima Bomb?

There has been a great deal written over the past 70 years about the birth of the atomic bomb and The Manhattan Project.  But how many are aware that Canada played a critical role in the development of the bomb, and in the decision to drop it on Hiroshima, Japan? Until 1939, uranium was an unwanted waste product from radium mining. There were tons of it lying around Port Hope, Ontari.  A refinery had operated  there in the 1930’s to extract radium from ores from Great Bear Lake.  Early in 1939, German scientists proved uranium atoms could be split, or fissioned, releasing energy. If a chain reaction could be achieved, an “atomic bomb” was possible. Within months, French scientists were trying to provoke a chain reaction. They fled to England when Germany invaded France.  In 1940, the British figured out how to make an atomic bomb by enriching natural uranium – a slow, difficult, expensive process. In utmost secrecy, they asked the Americans for cooperation and the Canadians for uranium.   Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Americans took over the project. Uranium for the world’s first A-Bombs was refined at Port Hope for the U.S. Army.  Some of the uranium was enriched for the Hiroshima bomb; the rest was irradiated in the world’s first nuclear reactors to produce plutonium for the Nagasaki bomb.

In 1942, the British moved their own plutonium-production research team to Montreal — away from the Luftwaffe and closer to the Americans. Canada paid all expenses, and Canadian scientists joined the team.  The Montreal Lab focused on the best ways to produce plutonium for bombs

So on August 6, 1945, when the first nuclear bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was thanks to the assistance of Canada.  However, the mystique does not stop with the making of the bomb.

The Anglo-Canadian-American Atomic Bomb Project, the largest secret project in human history, was started in 1940.  At the Allied Leaders Conference in August, 1943, the three major leaders, Churchill form the UK, Roosevelt from the US and Mackenzie King, PM of Canada, signed the Quebec Agreement which stipulated that the Bomb would not be used “against each other,” or “against third parties without each other’s consent”.  It also established a Combined Policy Committee of six to deal with the Bomb: three Americans, two Brits, and the Honorable C. D. Howe, Canada’s Minister of Everything”.

Mackenzie King and Howe were both told in advance of the plan to drop the bomb on Hiroshima and, according to the agreement, had to consent to its use.

I am not sure that we should be proud about that or not.

I acknowledge an article written by Dr. Gordon Edwards, former President of the CCNR.

Continue Reading