Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Oil Boom 2012, Wheat Boom 1912 Canada. More of the Same?


Refinery on Montreal's riverbank. 1912. These giant buildings were looming large over the landscape, literally and politically.

Today the Canadian West has oil and they are selling that oil in crude form directly to the US and China (or wanting to) - instead of refining it in the East. Hence we Easterners, indeed all Canadians, pay a fortune for gasoline - and also food and everything else  arising out of high food prices. It seems to make no sense.

A hundred years ago, in 1912, it was all about Wheat.

It was the Wheat Boom Era, after all. Canada was suddenly growing a lot of it and they wanted to profit, but how? They were building giant refineries in Montreal and adding more and more railway lines from West to East, but lots of grain still ended up rotting in the silos.

Herbert Nicholson, 26, wrote a lot about wheat and farming from his vantage point, as a  salesman for Massey Harris out West. Whether he knew what he was talking about was another thing. All I know, is that Margaret Nicholson, his mother, had to pay a lot for flour for her baking, 5 dollars a barrel. (Records for 1883, when Margaret married, reveal that they paid 1.50 for two bushels of flour, but that couldn't have been wheat flour, could it? There was little inflation between 1883 and 1910. In those early days, Canadian wheat was grown mostly in Ontario. But then they discovered  a new hardy type, Marquis.)

You can read about the Wheat Boom on my website Tighsolas.

I've been reading a lot about hundred years ago in Canada as I write my digital trilogy about  three Canadian women in the 1910 era. As I write Diary of a Confirmed Spinster, the follow up to Threshold Girl, already published online, I have come upon more info about the Wheat Boom as it influenced the 1911 Free Trade election.  It's from an article from a Boston Newspaper, (the Evening Transcript, a defunct elitest? paper,  that covered only tennis, sailing, and lawn bowling, etc on the sports page that had a genealogy column) on August 14, 1912. Edith and Marion Nicholson were visiting in Boston at that time.

If they saw this article, they certainly would have paid attention. They were a political family. That is unless they were having too much fun going to Fenway Park and Norumbega Park with their cousin Henry.

The article, called Our Up and Coming Neighbour: Canada claims that Westerners are furious with Ontario for making Laurier lose the Free Trade Election.  Westerners want to sell their wheat, tariff free to the States and Ontario is afraid they'll be forced to lower to erase tarifs on their manufacturing products. (In Threshold Girl, I write about this. A leading Richmond Citizen, J. N. Greenshields, is supporting a Conservative Candidate in Richmond Wolfe, for he is President of a cotton mill.)

Premier Borden was in London in 1912. Some suffragettes met up with him and he passed the buck on  the subject of woman suffrage by saying it was a provincial domain.

Our Up and Coming Neighbour:

by E.W. Thomson. I'll capture and paste some pics of the article as I have a sore arm.









Herbert's letters suggest that Westerners were Conservative in their voting habits, so I don't quite understand. Anyway.

Herbert Nicholson's July 1911 letter from Saskatchewan.(Ironically, he tried to get the Nicholsons to invest in oil in 1910, but they saw the automobile as a mere fad. And they had no money.







Herb to Norman
Qu'appelle Sask. July 29, 1911

Dear Father,

Your letter of the 19th arrived two or three days ago and was glad to hear from you. We are not very busy in the office just at present so think I had better answer you now as later on I am to be in charge again while our manager relieves our Wolsley Branch in the absence of its Manager and I will of course have plenty to look after. I would like if they would make me Manager of some of their Branches as I feel that I could handle one. Suppose it may come if I can only wait, seems a long time thought. 

You asked about the crops in my opinion well, I never saw anything that looked nearly as fine but as it has rained almost every day for the last two months and is at it again today the grain has kept growing all the time instead of heading out and at present there is only parts here and there that are properly headed which means of course that unless we get some dry hot weather at once there will not be time before the frost arrives in the fall for it to mature. The farmers were all smiling for a long time but are now beginning to look less hopeful. We have not had a bit of warm weather that you could speak about or that the papers report then having farther east. 

Have done considerable automobiling all summer and we have only had one night that you could feel comfortable without an overcoat.

I do not think or rather do not know what to think about an early general election. Do not think it is or should be necessary to appeal to the country on the question of Reciprocity. It seems to me that the representatives now in parliament are sent there just for this purpose and that is more in my opinion this class of men are far more able to deal with a question like this sort than about seventy five percent who vote. Would like to see the thing passed myself and think it will. 

There is a lot of opposition here of course drawn principally from party feelings, this being a conservative stronghold. Lake, the man who we heard so much about in the East, is the member and will I think be elected quite easily. There is some talk in the papers of Sir Walter Scott the Provincial Premier running against Lake, also Judge Brown, Dr. Moffatt's friend who came from Huntington originally, resigning from the bench to contest this riding but I do not think either would have much show. Lake did not have a large majority by any means at the last election but Scott does not seem to be very popular and the other man is not well enough known, was practising law in a small Western Town called Mossimin until only a few years ago when he got the appointment of Judge for that district. 

Now I wish you would not apologize for advising me as I know that you have had far more experience than I have and what is more you never advised me very wrong yet and wish you would remember that I will always be glad to have your advice any time. 

You asked me if I thought the chances for making money were any better out here than in the east. I think they are but the the 'get rich quick period' has past in any part of the west that I have seen except for the man with money and the man with money can make it other places just as well. Now I would rather buy real estate in Montreal than Winnipeg. May not be able turn it over quite as quickly but you are always sure of being able to get your money any time you want it. 

Our Manager here is an Englishman and although I am not just exactly struck on him, I can't say that I dislike him and he uses me very well. Marion will certainly have a fine salary next season. Edith has had some fine rides with the Skinners according to the cards she has sent me. I am going to write to Mother today. 

Hope Flora passed her Exams, (read about it in Threshold Girl.)

Well, think I will have to stop this time. Hope this will find you feeling as well as you look in the snap you enclose. I showed it to a man in town here and he said I should be ashamed to be so homely when I had such a good looking father. Let me know when you are writing again if you had an extra one to send to mother and if not I will send this along for her inspection. 

 Glad you have a good chief and hope as you do that you will have him as you have to work for these people.

Your son,

Herb