Experience the Past Through the Lens of the Present



John Scott: First Among Many

“Mr. Scott.” Bytown packet. May 27, 1848.

All traditions, no matter how long they last, must begin with a single moment. John Scott, the first mayor of Bytown, began a tradition which has lasted for the succeeding 170 years, in an unbroken chain down to the present. Scott, born in 1824, moved to Bytown from Toronto at the age of 18.[1] He had attended Osgoode Hall Law School in Toronto prior to his voyage east, and when he arrived in 1842 had just become a practicing lawyer.[2] Upon his arrival, he opened a law clinic near the modern St. Andrew’s Church, just off of Wellington Street, and quickly began integrating himself into the local political and social establishment.[3] Over the succeeding half-decade, he became one of the founders of the Bytown Reform Party (at the time, the Reform Party stood against the Tory establishment). He nominated the Reform candidate for Bytown in the 1844 election, and by the succeeding election, in 1847, there was talk that he himself would be the Reform candidate for the Legislative Assembly (for the united Province of Canada).[4]

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National War Memorial: Little Pieces of Canada Abroad

While traveling through the countryside of Northern France, one might be skeptical if informed they are standing in Canada. If one was at the battlefield sites of Vimy Ridge or Beaumont-Hamel, however, this would be the case. These memorials commemorate two battles which did more than any others to shape Canadian identity during the war. Vimy resulted in 10,500 Canadian casualties[1], but was perhaps more important than any other in creating a Canadian identity; Beaumont-Hamel nearly annihilated the Newfoundland Regiment, but exercised the same impact on (the then-independent Dominion of) Newfoundland. This newfound national identity is today well represented in the chosen design of the memorials.

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Rideau Hall: Grey Skies, Warm Hearts

In 1904, a new Governor General arrived in Rideau Hall. Albert Edward Grey, the 4th Earl of Grey, was a member of the British political elite; a grandfather had been one of the sponsors of the original Reform Bill, and his father a private secretary to Prince Albert.[1] Grey was a committed imperialist at the end of the Imperial age, and spent a good portion of his reign trying to promote the Empire to the people of Canada.[2] Grey was also a warm and cheerful man, and made a favourable impression on Canadians during his many tours of the country.

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Rideau Hall: The Governess General

Lord Aberdeen

While it is true that, on balance, the role of Governor General has made more of an impact on Canadian society than that of their spouse, this has not always been the case. Ishbel Maria Gordon, more commonly known as Lady Aberdeen, came to Rideau Hall with her husband (Lord Aberdeen, or George Hamilton-Gordon) in 1893. The family was not without Canadian connections, having purchased property in British Columbia following a tour of Canada in 1890.[1] Lord Aberdeen was also a rising star within imperial circles of governance, having previously held the post of Lord Lieutenant of Ireland before the sudden fall of Gladstone’s first government.[2] When Gladstone returned to power he offered Lord Aberdeen his choice of post, and Aberdeen chose Canada, which was scheduled to be vacated by the Stanleys (of Stanley Cup fame) in 1893.[3]

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Rideau Hall: General

If asked where the constitutional centre of Canadian government resides, many Canadians might reasonably state that the answer is Parliament Hill. In this, however, they would be incorrect. The true constitutional centre of government in Canada lies (an inconvenient) three kilometres away at Rideau Hall, the official residence of the Governor General of Canada. The official representative of the Queen in Canada, the post of Governor General has been stripped of most official responsibilities but retains the symbolic responsibility of acting as a symbol of unity for a nation that has often been divided.

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Dow’s Lake: Audio Post

Hello everyone! Today’s post will be in a new format: an audio post. For those who want to learn about Dow’s Lake without having to read all three of the first posts, please use the following link:

Please let me know what you think of this format, and have a wonderful day.

Lansdowne Park: A Parade a Day… (All Things Must End)

Thomas Ahearn
Thomas Ahearn.

For over a hundred years, the Central Canada Exhibition took place annually in Lansdowne Park. As it was located in Canada’s capital, it quickly became an important attraction and a vital aspect of Ottawa’s cultural life. Canadian and global notables often attended; Canadian Thomas Ahearn, who invented what was likely the first electric oven (though he receives little credit for this fact outside of Canada) demonstrated his device at the fair in 1892, for example.[1][2] The first electric lightbulb in Canada made an appearance as well;  the Red Devil, one of the first airplanes in Canada, was flown overhead in 1911 (the organizers attempted to get John A.D. McCurdy and his significantly more famous Silver Dart to make an appearance, but he was busy at the time).[3] The Exhibition was often host to a large number of visitors; 20,000 people attended an 1889 show which saw Professor Baptist Peynaud leap off a 150-foot high tower into a safety net, for example; the population of Ottawa at the time was 44,000.[4]

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