The George Ayoub fonds – a passion for ships

By Kelly Anne Griffin

Many people enjoy birdwatching, trainspotting or stargazing, but George Ayoub loved observing ships. Ship watching and nautical history fascinate many Canadians. This is no wonder, since our country has over 200,000 kilometres of coastline and almost 800,000 kilometres of freshwater shores.

George Ayoub was born in 1916 in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario. In 1930, he became a sailor at age 14, with a lifelong passion for ships and maritime history. His collection, held at Library and Archives Canada, gives us a glimpse into the nautical past and the waterways that helped shape our nation and build our economy. The fonds includes over 20,000 of his photographs taken between 1940 and 1990 at various locations along our seaways, most notably the St. Lawrence Seaway, the Great Lakes, the Ottawa River and the Rideau Canal. The vast collection of images provides fascinating insight into the history of shipping as well as the use of leisure craft. The fonds also includes textual material that complements the photographs and that records not only the history of the shipping industry but also individual ships that sailed the waters.

St. Lawrence Seaway

The St. Lawrence Seaway, opened in 1959, transformed the shipping industry by opening the Great Lakes to ocean-going traffic. When the seaway opened, George Ayoub started to compile an important collection of records on the backgrounds of the different vessels that came to the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence Seaway during the 20th century. He also photographed many of these himself. Today, the St. Lawrence Seaway is one of the great ship canals of the world, carrying freight between the heart of North America and the rest of the world. The George Ayoub fonds contains numerous images that reflect the variety of vessels that travelled the seaway.

A black-and-white photograph of a moored tugboat. The crew is on the deck.

Jean-T on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Iroquois, Ontario, September 28, 1975. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213397. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub

A black-and-white photograph of a large ship passing through the canal.

Kingdoc on the St. Lawrence Seaway, Iroquois, Ontario, September 5, 1965. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213399. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

Rideau Canal and Ottawa River

Officially opened in 1832, the Rideau Canal is the oldest continuously operated canal system in North America. The War of 1812 made clear the need to have a navigable waterway connecting Lake Ontario to the Ottawa River, because traffic on the St. Lawrence River was vulnerable to attack. The huge undertaking provided a secure supply route from Montréal to Kingston that avoided the St. Lawrence.

The Rideau Canal locks provide wonderful boat-watching opportunities. Around many locks, onlookers often watch in fascination as the locks move the vessels along. The George Ayoub fonds includes many excellent photos, taken over the years, of boats passing through the locks.

A black-and-white photograph of a moored leisure vessel on a canal beside a large building.

Korab in front of the National Arts Centre, Rideau Canal, Ottawa, June 14, 1971. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213400. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub

A black-and-white photograph of a small moored fire boat in a wooded stretch of waterway

St. John’s Fire Boat (Gatineau Boom Company) at a dock near Hull, Quebec, November 19, 1967. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213403. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

A black-and-white photograph of a tugboat towing a sailboat across the water.

Sailing yacht Wild Harp pulled by tugboat TANAC V-222, September 10, 1972. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213404. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

A black-and-white photograph of a medium-sized boat in the process of crossing a system of locks.

Templeton in the Rideau Locks, Ottawa, April 17, 1964. Credit: George Ayoub/Library and Archives Canada/George Ayoub fonds/e011213405. Copyright: Copyright assigned to Library and Archives Canada by copyright owner the Estate of George Ayoub.

Canada’s affinity with water is shaped by our vast and beautiful shorelines. Ship watching continues to be a major tourist attraction for many communities along waterways. From busy shipping routes to quiet, peaceful lakes, Canadian waterways truly help us live up to our motto, “a mari usque ad mare”: “from sea to sea.”

Related material


Kelly Anne Griffin is an archival assistant in the Science and Governance Private Archives Division of the Archives Branch at Library and Archives Canada.

The Port of Montreal

From the establishment of Montreal as a city in 1642, until the arrival of steam-powered ships in the early part of the 19th century, the Port of Montreal was mostly used by trappers throughout the fur trade and then by French and English sailing vessels bringing supplies to their colony. However, with the appearance of steam-powered ships and the resulting opening of many new and international trading routes, the Port of Montreal would leave behind its humble beginnings and enter into a new period of growth and expansion.

An oil painting of a harbour and waterfront, with a green island visible on the right.

Montreal Harbour, painted by Andrew Morris in 1847, e008300982

Throughout the mid to late 1800s, the Port of Montreal saw countless changes and improvements, starting in 1830 with the establishment of the first Harbour Commission. By 1832, almost three-quarters of a mile of docks had been constructed, and by 1854, the navigation channel between Montreal and Quebec City had been successfully dredged to a depth of 16 feet. Other improvements during this time frame include the movement of goods from the port by train, the installation of electric lights, a further dredging of the channel to 25 feet, as well as the introduction of regular steamship service between the Port of Montreal and Liverpool.

The Port was further enhanced during the early part of the 20th century. The construction of grain elevators began in 1902 and transit sheds in 1908. And by 1910, the deepening of the channel between Montreal and Quebec City to 35 feet was well under way.

A black-and-white photograph of a wharf lined with various types of cargo with a large neo-classical building and a church along the shoreline.

View of the Bonsecours market, wharves and church, photograph by Alexander Henderson, ca. 1875 (c007943)

Because of the harsh Canadian winter, the Port of Montreal was open only seven months of the year up until the early 1960s. However, in 1962, the National Harbours Board (which had become responsible for the Port of Montreal after the demise of the Harbour Commission) introduced icebreakers to the waterway between Montreal and Quebec City. By 1964, the Port of Montreal was open all year long.

A watercolour of a huge ice buildup along the port shoreline of a city.

“Breaking up of the ice in the St. Lawrence at Montreal,” painted by George Henry Andrews in 1864 (e000996176)

Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has many items that chronicle the evolution of the Port of Montreal. The earliest item is a photograph taken in 1870 by Alexander Henderson depicting the steamship S.S. Quebec docked at Montreal harbour with horse-drawn carts on the shore in the foreground. There are also photographs of the Port by William Topley, Henry Joseph Woodside and Hayward Studios. LAC also has a beautiful oil painting completed in 1847 by Andrew Morris depicting the harbour and waterfront of Montreal from the unusual vantage point of Montreal’s shore across from St. Helen’s Island.

A black-and-white photograph of a busy harbour front, showing a street of buildings and boat-lined piers.

View of Montreal Harbour, photograph by William Topley, September 1902 (a201779)

A black-and-white photograph of railway lines running along a ship-lined harbour front.

Wharf and harbour, undated photograph by William Topley (a008893)

Pre-Confederation St. Lawrence maritime pilot certificates at Library and Archives Canada

By Rebecca Murray

The details of when and where our ancestors were born, lived and died are the building blocks of genealogical research. Knowing how they spent their time or were employed can help connect the dots.

By any chance, might one of your ancestors have been a certified maritime pilot on the St. Lawrence River?

This blog post will focus on records specific to Quebec, beginning with the Trinity House fonds (MG8-A-18), which includes a list of certified maritime pilots for the period 1805–1846. Found in MG8-A-18, Volume 5, this list includes the date of certification and any suspensions of that certification along with reasons for the suspensions. The documentation is in French and arranged in chronological order.

A note in the fonds description gives us a clue about where to look next for related records: “Trinity House […] continued in existence until 1875 when its functions were taken over by the Department of Marine and Fisheries.”

This leads us to the Department of Marine fonds (RG42), specifically the “St. Lawrence river pilot’s certificates” series (1762–1840). The certificates are described at the item level in Finding Aid 42-1 and the documents themselves can be found in RG42 volumes 1 through 6, which are open for consultation and reproduction.

You’ll notice, though, that this series covers up until only 1840, which means that if you’ve identified a certified pilot from the Trinity House fonds list you might not be able to identify their certificate in RG42. The series description tells us that “[related] records that serve as a second source of authorization for pilotage are […] found in the Registrar General sous-fonds (RG68, Vols. 210-211, MIKAN 311, R1008-10-1-E). These registers have a different format than the Marine Branch certificates but the information contained is the same.”

To find these related records, first consult the General Index on digitized microfilm reel C-2884 on the Héritage website and look for the name of the individual of interest in the alphabetical key at the beginning of the reel.

A blurry black-and-white table with names, numbers and folio references.

RG68 key to the general index (C-2884), image 30

When you identify the individual you are looking for, there may be several pairs of numbers next to his name. For example, if I am looking for Fabien Caron, I will look under ‘C’ to find his name, and will then see that the pair of numbers next to his name is 5, 309. The second number indicates the page of the index where we will find the relevant entry, and the first number indicates the line number on that page.

We can scroll ahead on the same microfilm reel to find the general index for the same time period. The fifth line of page 309 does indeed refer to Fabien Caron, and provides us with further information that will allow us to identify the actual certificate: liber 2, folio 117, 5th September 1845.

A black-and-white table with numbers, liber number, folio, dates and names.

RG68 general index (C-2884), image 650

We can now perform a search of the archival database for RG68 and file number 2. By filtering our search results for those from the 1840s we can quickly identify RG68 volume 211, file 2, “Commissions – Branch Pilots” (1838 – 1867) as the relevant source. This volume is available on digitized microfilm reel C-3950. Folio (page) 117 is where we will find the entry for Fabien Caron’s certification.

A black-and-white reproduction of the commission that entitled Fabien Caron to be a maritime pilot.

RG68 volume 211, file 2, “Commissions – Branch Pilots” (C-3950), image 475

If you think Library and Archives Canada might hold this type of record for one of your ancestors, give this method a try! You never know what you might find.


Rebecca Murray is an archivist in Reference Services at Library and Archives Canada.

 

Images of Steam Power now on Flickr

Boiling water creates steam, which is a hot vapour of water droplets.

A black-and-white photograph of a man on a small platform examining the pressure gauge of a turbine steam generator.

Workman checks the steam pressure on the turbine of the first steam generator in the steam and power plant of the Polymer Rubber Corporation facility (MIKAN 3197025)

Inventors, scientists and engineers experimenting with the capture of steam under pressure discovered that the expansive force of steam could be used to power machines, or in chemical processes. The basic steam engine and its variations were used for pistons, cranks, and pumps to power cars, boats, farm equipment, construction vehicles, and locomotives.

A black-and-white photograph of a steam pumper fire engine on a flatcar, as men use the pump to fight a fire near a rail line and sheds.

Steam pumper fire engine on flat car fighting fire at Grand Trunk Railway, Barton St. freight sheds, Hamilton, Ontario (MIKAN 3283663)

Canadian transportation and industry benefited immensely during the steam-powered era that lasted well into the 20th century. Steam power is still used today but to a much lesser extent.

A black-and-white photograph of a small steamboat on the Rideau Canal, with three men located at the stern, midship and bow of the boat, respectively.

Steam boat on the Rideau Canal, Ottawa, Ontario (MIKAN 3392841)

Visit the Flickr album now!

Railway sleeping car porters

By Dalton Campbell

Railway sleeping cars were introduced to Canada in the 1870s by the Pullman Palace Car Company. Pullman built and operated luxury passenger rail cars equipped with seating areas that converted into bunk beds; the seats were converted into the lower berth and the upper berth was pulled down from the ceiling. Pullman cars were known for their accommodations, comfort, and the service provided by the porters.

A black-and-white photograph of three men posing beside a railway car. A chef stands on the steps leading into the train, another man holds the handrail and the third, a porter, stands to the side beside the train.

A porter with two other employees at a stop during the tour of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle across Canada, 1914 (MIKAN 3587745)

A black-and-white photograph of a woman, in profile, lying under the blankets in the lower bunk reading a newspaper.

In the evenings, the porters would make up the beds. One of the seats was extended to create the comfortable lower bunk. While the passengers slept, the porters continued to work until after midnight. The porters could nap if there were no calls or emergencies during the night, but were awake to begin their workday before dawn, 1937 (MIKAN 3353752)

A black-and-white photograph of people seated in a railway sleeping car, looking out the windows.

While the passengers were at breakfast, the porters would convert the berths back into seating. The upper berth would be stowed into the panels above the passenger seats, 1929 (MIKAN 3350533)

The railways were one of the few Canadian companies to hire black men in the early 20th century. It was an opportunity that appealed to many men. There were limitations, however. The railways hired black men solely to be porters, and from the First World War until the 1950s, did not hire or promote black men to the post of engineer, conductor, or any other job on the train.

The porters served the passengers during their trip; they would help with boarding and disembarking, serve drinks and snacks, set up berths, make beds, polish shoes, tend to and entertain small children, and cater to the customers’ needs and wants. The porters were essential to rail travel—they were always present but also pushed to the background.

A black-and-white photograph of people in a train station. A porter, with luggage on a dolly, is facing away from the camera. Two well-dressed travellers are speaking to a ticket agent. An information board with destinations is on the wall behind the travellers announcing the train as “The Dominion” from Montréal to Vancouver. A passenger train is visible in the background.

A porter takes luggage for passengers about to board “The Dominion” at Windsor Station, Montréal, Quebec, circa 1947 (MIKAN 3613396)

The men received regular wages, had the opportunity to see Canada and meet travellers. Stanley Grizzle, a former sleeping car porter, states in his autobiography that porters were admired within the black community.

These benefits and rewards came at a cost. Porters worked long hours, often on call for 24 hours with their sleeping accommodations on the train in the men’s smoking room. They were frequently away from home for days at a time. They were also wary of passenger complaints and were often subject to harsh discipline from management. Porters would risk reprisals from passengers when they reported gambling, excessive drinking, or illegal activities.

The porters received demeaning and insulting comments and names from passengers. Stanley Grizzle wrote that passengers would frequently address porters as “George” after George Pullman, the original owner of the Pullman Car Company. The porters were also forced to rely on tips from passengers. While the money was welcome, Stanley Grizzle writes, the act of asking for a tip was demeaning, reinforced subservience, and allowed the company to justify keeping wages low because of the tips.

A black-and-white photograph of a crowd of people with baggage standing on the platform next to a passenger train. Two porters are seen beside the train. One is on the platform attending to some luggage; the other stands in the doorway of the train. An automobile in the foreground has a sign on the door reading “Jasper Park Lodge.” Mountains are visible in the distance.

Two porters assist passengers and other crew at the railway station in Jasper, Alberta, 1929 (MIKAN 3199681)

The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters was organized in Canada during the Second World War. The union helped to negotiate higher wages, better working (and sleeping) conditions, fairer and more transparent disciplinary measures, and ended racial discrimination in hiring and promotions. Beginning in the 1960s with changes in the travel industry, the railways were employing fewer and fewer sleeping car porters. In 1999, Heritage Canada unveiled a plaque at Windsor Station, Montréal, Quebec, to honour the sleeping car porters.

Related resources


Dalton Campbell is an archivist in the Science, Environment and Economy Section of the Private Archives Division.

Underwater Canada: A Researcher’s Brief Guide to Shipwrecks

Shipwrecks, both as historical events and artifacts, have sparked the imagination and an interest in the maritime heritage of Canada. The discovery of the War of 1812 wrecks Hamilton and Scourge, found in Lake Ontario in the 1970s, and the discovery of the Titanic in the 1980s, served to heighten public awareness of underwater archaeology and history.

Whether you are a wreck hunter on the trail of a lost vessel, or a new shipwreck enthusiast eager to explore images and documents that preserve the epic tales of Canadian waters, Library and Archives Canada (LAC) has something for you.

Starting your research

First, gather as much information as possible about the shipwreck(s) you are researching. Specifically, you will ideally want to obtain the following information (in order of importance):

  • Name of Vessel
  • Location of accident
  • Date of accident
  • Ship’s port of registry
  • Ship’s official number
  • Year of vessel’s construction

The Ship Registration Index is a helpful resource. The database includes basic information about more than 78,000 ships registered in ports of Canada between 1787 and 1966.

Can’t locate all of the information listed? There’s no cause for concern! Not all of the information is necessary, but it is essential that you know the name of the vessel. All Government records relating to shipwrecks are organized according to the ship’s name.

What is Available?

Using Archives Search, you can locate the following types of material:

Photographs

Maps

  • In Archives Search, under “Type of material”, select “Maps and cartographic material” to narrow your results.
    Government Records

All records listed are found in the documents of the Marine Branch (Record Group 42) and/or Transport Canada (Record Group 24).
Official Wreck Registers, 1870‒1975

  • Wreck Reports, 1907‒1974
  • Register of Investigations into Wrecks, 1911‒1960
  • Marine Casualty Investigation Records, 1887‒1980

Important: Government records contain information about shipwrecks that occurred in Canadian waters, and include all accidents involving foreign vessels in Canadian waters.

Please note: this is not an exhaustive list of resources, but rather a compilation of some of the major sources of documentation available on shipwrecks held at LAC.

Helpful Hints

You can find a number of digitized photographs, maps and documents on the Shipwreck Investigations virtual exhibition. More specifically, check out the collection of digitized Official Wreck Registers in the Shipwreck Investigations Database. Simply check if the name of the vessel you are researching is listed.

Another excellent source of information on shipwrecks is local public libraries. There are many maritime histories and bibliographies that offer reference points to begin your shipwreck research.