The year was 1865, the American Civil War had ended, and four British Provinces in British North America decided to unite under what is called Canadian Confederation. And a large group of Irish Americans were wondering what their next step would be, and John O’Mahoney found himself at a crossroads. The Fenian Brotherhood hit its stride during the Civil War and now had money and manpower to spare. Plus all their members who served in both armies during the war had either kept or purchased their own equipment, the Fenians had an army that could easily stand up to the American Army of the day.Read More →

Of the four fathers of confederation, I’ve explored in these blog posts the one with the strangest story, and the youngest in both age and political experience is Thomas D’Arcy McGee. Born the 13th of April 1825 in Carlingford, County Louth, Ireland. Raised by Irish Roman Catholic Patriots, much of his early education came from his mother, who as a Dublin Bookseller filled McGee with the stories of the Irish heroes of old. His knowledge continued in the illegal Hedge Schools where he learned of the past and ongoing struggles for Irish independence from British Occupation. His experience continued when his family moved to WexfordRead More →

When it comes to political change in Canadian history, there has always been two behind any major change. Robert Baldwin and Louis La Fontaine for example, and while George Brown would play a major role it would be George-√Čtienne Cartier who would provide political support to John A MacDonald but ensure that French-Canadien culture would not be lost. Born the 6th of September 1814 in Sainte-Antonie-sur-Richelieu in Lower Canada. Baptised with the name George in honour of King George III. But George’s family already had a long history in the new world, even claiming relation to Jacques Cartier (although there is no evidence to supportRead More →

It should come as no surprise that at the mention of Sir John A MacDonald, you get a lot of negative feedback. He managed to in his time attract a lot of controversies. Like his law career, he drew as much positive attention as he does negative today. Born the 11th of January 1815 in Glasgow, Scotland, the son of a somewhat successful business owner by age five he and his family had immigrated to Canada settling in Kingston, Upper Canada. While his father continued to see moderate success in running various mills and businesses, most of the family income would go towards John’s education.Read More →

One of the greatest misconceptions about confederation is that Canada sprung forth fully formed from the passage of the British North America Act in 1867, in reality, the modern Canada we know today was a long way off in 1867. It wasn’t until 1999 that the last territory, Nunavut would be carved out of the Northwest Territory. In 1864 a majority of the British holdings in North America remained in the hands of the Hudson Bay Company as Rupert’s Land, the colonies were each a separate entity, Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Red River, Canada, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Newfoundland. Most hadRead More →

Across the British Commonwealth and in Canada specifically, no other British monarch is as widely celebrated at Queen Victoria. Secondly only to Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II for the length of her reign. The two queens share a lot in common beyond familial relations. Both never expected to take the throne, born Alexandria Victoria on the 24th of May 1819, daughter of Prince Edward Augustus and grand-daughter to King George III. At birth, Victoria sat fifth in the line of succession to the British throne. At only a year old, both her father and grandfather passed, leaving Victoria in the care of her over-protective mother.Read More →

In a strangely ironic twist, the final of the significant three colonial railways to be completed would be the sole survivor of them all into the 20th century. And while Great Western and Northern Railway of Canada all survived past Confederation in 1867. It would be the Grand Trunk railroad that would absorb both of these before the turn of the century and then lose it all a couple of decades into the new century. Unlike Grand Trunk’s peers, the new railroad had not tried to build a line before the 1850s, chartered on the 10th of November 1852. British investors wholly-owned grand Trunk andRead More →

Like Ontario, Simcoe & Huron, unless you’re a hardcore railroad history fan, you may have never heard of the Great Western Railroad. If you commute between Hamilton and Toronto on the GO Train, you’ve ridden on the part of the original line for Great Western. Their stations are still in use around the province, and yet the name is long lost to history. Great Western Railroad got its start in 1834 as the London & Gore Railway to build a railway between the city of London and the city of Hamilton. Even in 1834, Sir Allan Napier MacNab invested heavily in the company. But theRead More →

If there is a single camera that you can point to in the history of photography that changed the way that professionals worked then the Nikon F would be that camera. While it did build on previous advancements (which we will get into), the Nikon F brought it all together like never before and began the idea of a camera system. That is a group of lenses and accessories that allowed a photographer to control and customise their camera to their tastes completely. On today’s episode, Bill and Alex Smith tackle this complex and revolutionary camera system. You have to understand one thing; the NikonRead More →

If there is a single piece of infrastructure that changed Canada in the early 1850s, the railroad is that single piece the spurred the Province towards a modern industrial location in the British Empire. While the Welland and Rideau Canals provided a fast link they both were tied to the waterways they were built out of. Rail, on the other hand, could cross areas where canals could not. Rail could run nearly the year-round, bridge water, and move faster. But railroads were not new in the province, having existed in some form or another since the early 1820s. Rail technology had been used in theRead More →