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CPR — Canadien Pacifique

© The Begbie Contest Society - La Société du Concours Begbie
Multiple Perspectives - perspectives multiple

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"I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet, yet I will venture to predict . . . that many . . . will live to hear the whistle of the steam engine in the passes of the Rocky Mountains and to make the journey from Halifax to the Pacific in five or six days."
                                                                                            Joseph Howe, 1851

"Old winter is once more upon us, and our island seas are 'dreary and inhospitable wastes' to the merchant and to the traveler; –our rivers are sealed fountains, –and an embargo which no human power can remove is laid on our ports . . . The animation of business is suspended, the life blood of commerce is curdled and stagnant in the St. Lawrence . . .  Far away to the South is heard the daily scream of the steam-whistle, –but from Canada there is no escape: blockaded and imprisoned by Ice and Apathy, we have at least ample time for reflection – and if there be comfort in philosophy may we not profitably consider the PHILOSOPHY OF RAILROADS."
                                            Thos. C. Keefer, Philosophy of Railroads, Montreal, 1853

Cheyenne Indians Attacking a Working Party on the Union Pacific Railway, Harper's Weekly, 7 Sept. 1867, LC95522000

"[Macdonald] had a clear idea of why he wanted power: to make certain Canada did not become American. He also had a clear idea of how this goal must be achieved: by stretching Canada into a continental nation that would be a mirror image of its rival."
                                                Richard Gwyn, Nation Maker. Sir John A. Macdonald

"British Columbia is the key of the North Pacific. Without her and the Saskatchewan territory the very existence of Canada as a British dependency would be compromised, and before long at and end. The United States are already knocking at the door, and if the whole of British North America is not speedily connected by an overland communication or by railroad, England may bid adieu before long, not only to Canada, but to a great portion of her trade with the East."
                                    Alfred Waddington, The British Colonist, Victoria, 27 Feb. 1868

"The opening by us first of a North Pacific Railroad seals the destiny of British possessions west of the 91 meridian. . . annexation will be but a question of time."
                                                                           U.S.A. Senate, 19 February 1869

Last Spike, Central and Union Pacific Railroads, Promontory Utah, 10 May 1869

"Sir John A. Macdonald and Sir George-Etienne Cartier were determined to give the country a steel spine."
                                                                                               Charlotte Gray

J. W. Bengough, Grip's Alamanack, Toronto, 1881

[Construction began on the Northern Pacific Railway in 1870 and was completed in 8 September 1883.]

Railways 1870 and 1887

Currier and Ives print, 1874, Library of Congress

"This war [the Civil War] caused the Government of the U.S. to hasten the construction of the overland railway–in part as a military measure and in part to keep California in the Union."
                                                                              Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken

"Trutch proposed . . . his bombshell . . . that without this Road there would be neither physical nor sentimental Union–but that British Columbia would be isolated and might as well be in Timbuctoo or elsewhere. That B.C. had to look for business and population from the East and without the R.R. this would not happen."
                                                                                Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken

"The journey from San Francisco by railway [to eastern Canada to negotiate the terms of union] opened our eyes not a little, for a railway had been built through a mountainous country quite as bad as that of British Columbia–if this one could be built so could one through British Columbia . . . No R. R. no Confederation."
                                                                                Dr. John Sebastian Helmcken

"The United States Government are resolved to do all they can, short of war, to get possession of the western territory, and we must take immediate and vigorous steps to counteract them. One of the first things to be done is to show unmistakably our resolve to build the Pacific Railway."
                                                                  Sir John A. Macdonald, 28 Jan. 1870

"If the railway scheme be Utopian, so also is Confederation. The two must stand or fall together."
                                                           The British Colonist, Victoria, 20 Feb. 1870

"With the construction of the railway the country will be populated by Englishmen; without it by Americans."
                                                                               Toronto Globe, 23 March 1870

"The Government of the Dominion undertakes to secure the commencement simultaneously, within two years from the date of the Union, of the construction of a Railway from the Pacific towards the Rocky Mountains, and from such point as may be selected, east of the Rocky Mountains, towards the Pacific, to connect the seaboard of British Columbia with the railway system of Canada; and further, to secure the completion of such Railway within ten years from the date of the Union."
                                                      From the Terms of Union, 1871 (BC joins Canada)

"Immediate, private. I must have another ten thousand –– will be the last time of calling. Do not fail me; answer today."
                                                                  Sir John A. Macdonald, 26 August 1872

"The American west was won by the prospector, the vigilantes and the saloon keeper; when the settlers arrived in the Canadian west he found a retail store, a chapel and a police station awaiting him."
                                                                                                  L. F. S. Upton

"With emigrants of all Nations flowing into the country [the prairies] we are in constant danger of an Indian war . . . This may be prevented only by an early organization of a mounted police."
                                                                           Sir John A. Macdonald, 1871

Grip, Toronto, 23 September 1873

1875 Red men and white men, Cyro Cuneo, R. I. in A Picture History of Canada, 1942

"Until this great work is completed, our Dominion is little more than a 'geographical expression.' . . . [The CPR is necessary] to give the overextended and under populated Canada a spine. . . The railway once finished, we become one great united country with a large inter-provincial trade, and a common interest."
                                                                Sir John A. Macdonald, letter 1 May 1878

Amor de Cosmos to Sir John A Macdonald 18th of September 1878, LAC

"The Love of the World or the Lover of Mankind.
HEATHEN CHINEE: "Why you sendee me offee?"
A. D. C.: "Because you can't or won't 'assimilate' with us."

HEATHEN CHINEE: "What is datee?"
A. D. C.: "You won't drink whiskey, and talk politics and vote like us."
                       LAC, C-072064 J. Weston Canadian Illustrated News26 April 1879

"The great project of nation building, attendant on the building of the railway to British Columbia, was undertaken at a lasting cost to Canada's First Nations."
                                                         Dominic Hardy, Annie Gérin and Lora Carney

"Everything depended on a railway to give the attenuated entity [Canada] a spine."
                                           Richard Gwyn, Nation Maker Sir John A. Macdonald

Le Canard, Montréal, December 1879

The SS Reliance at Yale on the Fraser River, 1880, BC Archives A-00085

Canadian Pacific Railway construction between Yale and Boston Bar/Construction du chemin de fer du Canadien Pacifique entre Yale et Boston Bar.  LAC PA-022530, Richard Maynard, 1881

"The danger was so great that it became difficult to get men who were willing to be suspended by ropes to drill holes in the chasm walls for explosives. The Indians were the most fearless; fortunately they turned out to be first-class rock workers. Their task was to go down first and blast out the footholds in which other men could stand and work."
                                                                               Pierre Berton, The Last Spike

"Canadian steel, Chinese grit."
                                                                                     Documentary film

"For every foot of railroad through the Fraser Canyon, a Chinese worker died."
Saying in Canada's Chinatown [explosions, rock slides, cave-ins]

Chinese at work on C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific Railway) in Mountains, 1884. Chinois travaillant dans les montagnes pour le Chemin de fer du Canadien Pacifique, 1884. LAC, Boorne & May/ C-006686B, Ernest Brown 1884

C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific Railway) - Hell Gate. LAC, PA-031866 Albertype Company

"The frontier was melting away before the onslaught of steel."
Pierre Berton, The Last Spike

The Graphic, London, 27 January 1883

Corporate Archives Canadian Pacific

1900-1910, Sir William Van Horne, W.A. Cooper / Library and Archives Canada / PA-182603

"To have built that road would have made a Canadian out of the German Emperor."
                                                                             Sir William Van Horne

"Lacombe [upon hearing that the Blackfoot were blocking the CPR] dispatched telegrams to Van Horne, Donald A. Smith, and Edgar Dewdney. The answers were not long in coming; nobody wanted another Custer-style massacre. The orders went straight to End of Track; cease all work until the Indians are placated. Lacombe was asked to appease them any way he could. . . [Lacombe told Chief Crowfoot that] 'The Governor himself will come to meet you. He will listen to your griefs; he will propose a remedy [land to replace the land used by the railway]. . . [Crowfoot ] consulted with Lieutenant-Colonel A. G. Irvine, the Commissioner of the North West Mounted Police, and asked him if he thought he, Crowfoot, could stop the railway. Irvine replied by asking Crowfoot if all the men in the world could stop the Bow River running."
                                                                                Pierre Berton, The Last Spike.

"Father Lacombe persuades Chief Crowfoot and the Blackfeet to allow the railway to be built across their Reserve". LAC, 1972-26-604, Charles William Jefferys, 1920s or 1930s?


Northern Pacific Railway

BC Archives, D-08738

"The day the Canadian Pacific busts the Conservative party busts the day after."
                                                                   John Henry Pope, Minister of Railways

"With bankruptcy looming on the horizon even as the end of construction was in sight, what was needed was some single, dramatic event to bring attention to the railway's plight and underline the potential of a completed transcontinental railway. That event came in the form of the second North West Rebellion which broke out in the spring of 1885."
                                                                  Omer Lavallée, Van Horne's Road, 1974

[Three months before the completion of the CPR a $50 head tax was implemented to discourage Chinese immigration.]

Autumn 1881
"It is hard, this labouring, but my body seems to be strong enough . . .  There are many of us working here, but the laying of the railroad progresses very slowly. It seems we move two stones a day! And they want this railway built across these high mountains, some two thousand miles!"
Spring 1882
"I became known to the Indians here during the trip (to and from Victoria), and their help in the return journey was great. They are solitary people, but they know the land so well."
Early Autumn 1883
"My soul cries out. I wish I had never experienced such bad days as those in which we now live. Many of our people have been so very ill for such a long time, and there had been no medicine nor good food to give them . . . It is such a sorrowful sight. The white doctor has told us the illness comes from lack of fresh food, but we cannot grow any fresh food, as all of us, including the white people, are moving constantly with the work we have to do. [Chinese workers were paid $1.00 a day. They had to pay for their gear and their food. White workers were paid up to $2.50 per day and the railway provided their meals and gear. Unable to afford proper food many Chinese died of scurvy and beriberi.]"
"These mighty lands are great to gaze upon, but the laws made here are so small [He is referring to the head tax]."
The Diary of Dukesang Wong A Voice from Gold Mountain, David McIlwaith [ed.], 2020

Telegram to Prime Minister John A. Macdonald announcing the last spike,
November 07, 1885, LAC.

"Here [Craigellachie] on November 7, 1885, a plain iron spike wedded East to West."
                                                            Inscription on a plaque at Craigellachie

Hon. Donald A. Smith driving the last spike to complete the Canadian Pacific Railway. LAC, C-003693, Alexander Ross 7 November 1885.


CPR workers drive their own spike near Donald, 7 November 1885.

A few of the Canadian Pacific Railway employees, near Donald, the day the last spike was driven on the CPR. The employees were waiting for train to take them East, Royal Canadian Mounted Police / Library and Archives Canada / e004666096


"Nearly every Stó:lo adult male found employment in the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railroad between 1879 and 1885. BC Indian Commissioner I. W. Powell… 'paid out nearly $300,000 for Indian labour alone. Stó:lo men supplied the C.P.R. with timbers for bridges and tunnels, worked as labourers laying down rails, and assisted in the masonry work reinforcing hill-sides, among other tasks."
Keith Thor Carlson, ed. You Are Asked to Witness: The Stó:lo in Canada's Coast History

"The driving of the last spike was a grave moment in the history of Canada and the British Empire. . . The gateway to the Orient had been opened at last by land."
Robert Hamilton Coats and R.E. Gosnell

The Last Spike, Canadian Museum of History, 2011.132.78

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation LAC/e002505525

"Then came the final day when Donald Smith drove a gold [sic] spike into the heart of the Rockies, and ended them."
                                                                                                 Stephen Leacock

The railway united the country. One week later the country was divided.

Bob Altwein Young Socialist 20 Sept 1971

"Stand fast, Craigellachie!"
                                                                                        George Stephen

"All I can say is that the work has been done well in every way."
                                                                                 Sir William Van Horne

"If the CPR hand not imposed an artificial east-west connection, the natural north-south connections would have prevailed. The prairies of Manitoba and Saskatchewan would have been drawn into the orbit of the great American plains, the mountains of British Columbia would have been merely an extension of the mountains of Idaho and Washington state. If there had been no CPR,  neither the settlement of the North West under Canadian authority nor the development of a Canadian industry in the east would have been possible."
Robert Chodos, The CPR A Century of corporate welfare.

John A. Macdonald stopped at the Blackfoot Siksika Reserve just east of Calgary on July 21, 1886, during his first trip by rail across Canada. He wanted to thank Chief Crowfoot for his support during the Rebellion of 1885. Crowfoot was wearing his oldest clothes, a sign of mourning for his adopted son Poundmaker, who had died on Crowfoot's reserve on July 4 after his early release from prison. Crowfoot discussed problems faced by his people, such as the fires started by the trains passing through his reserve. Historian Ged Martin, author of John A. Macdonald:  Canada's First Prime Minister, states that "the event was staged more to show Macdonald as a benign ruler than to engage with Native grievances."

"At eight o'clock the Indians all gathered, men, women and children, some 500 or 600. Sir John Macdonald met them here at the station. . .
Now Crowfoot stepped forward. . .  bowed, took hold of Sir John's hand and called him 'another Brother in law' . . . Crowfoot reminded Sir John of the telegrams which passed
between them during the rebellion last summer. Lifting his right hand and assuming a look of great solemnity, Crowfoot said 'when that telegram was sent it was sent with a good heart. . .  My people are loyal and want to be friendly with the whites.'. . . I suppose you have heard that we suffered from the fires made by the railway last fall. I had difficulty saving my horses last winter, and  hope something will be done to prevent the Reserve being burned over again his summer. . .
We hope that rations will not be stopped. . .
Sir John said that of course the Government expect, by their work, they would be able to raise something for themselves, and the Government expect that year after year they would raise more and more, and in the meantime, while they were doing their best, the Government would see that none of them suffered; but he urged them to work and to endeavour to raise food for themselves. . .

The presents brought by Sir John were then distributed, teas, pipes, tobacco, calico. . ."
                                                                    The Regina Leader, 26 July 1886

"At Gleichen the Indians assembled in force, and a great pow-wow was held in our honor. . . The Indians were marshaled under Crowfoot. They were gorgeous in war paint and feathers, with the exception of Crowfoot. He was in mourning for Poundmaker, who had recently died, and for that reason appeared in undress, which consisted of a little more than a dirty blanket round his loins. The Indians began by smoking a filthy-looking pipe, which they passed from one to another, each warrior merely taking whiff or two.
Crowfoot, being invited to state his grievances, began by alluding to the prairie fires caused by sparks from the railway engines, against the continuance of which he strongly protested. He then passed on to the great question of food, which is the staple grievance of the Indians. . . [Crowfoot] said that his people were originally happy and free with plenty of food at all times., that the white man had come in, taken their land, killed off the buffalo, thus depriving them of their means to live, and so forth. . .  Crowfoot went on to protest his loyalty, which he had already proved in the rising of 1885. . . Sir John . . . provided a banquet for the occasion together with the present of pipes, tea and tobacco, this picturesque gathering terminated."

Sir Joseph Pope, [Sir John A. Macdonald's private secretary], Sir John A's First and Only Trip to the West, Maclean's Magazine, 2 January 1960. [This account is drawn from Pope's diaries and other reflections.]

Chief Crowfoot, Harry Pollard, 1886, Archives of Alberta, P129

Blackfoot Reserve, Gleichen, N.W.T., 1895,  City of Vancouver Archives, AM54-54-- in P83

Sir John A. Macdonald and his wife at Stave River, B.C, during their trip to British Columbia in July 1886

"As I stood on the shore of the Pacific by the side of that old man [Macdonald], with his grey hair blowing across his forehead, I could not help feeling what an exultant moment it must have been for him. Here was the full realization of his political dream of years. His chief opponent had left on record his belief that all the resources of the British Empire could not build the road in ten years. Here it was built in less than half the time."
                                                                                          Sir Joseph Pope, 1886

"We are not to be limited to Halifax, Quebec, Montreal or British Columbia, whether it be Port Moody or Victoria – the termini of the Canadian Pacific Railway are Liverpool and Hong-Kong."
                                                                     Sir John A. Macdonald, Victoria, 1886

Blackfeet at Earnscliffe. "Front row", left to right: North Axe, Peigan Chief, One Spot, Blood sub-chief. "Middle row", left to right: Three Bulls, half brother of Crowfoot, Crowfoot, Blackfoot Chief, Red Cloud, Blood Chief. "Back row", left to right: Father Lacombe, John L'Heureux, interpreter. LAC Canada. Dept. of the Interior, PA-045666, 1886
[Sir John A. Macdonald met Crowfoot at Gleichen and asked him to visit Ottawa in October., July 1886]

"In 1870 the trip from Victoria to Montreal took eight weeks. In 1871 the Central and Union Pacific Railways cut it to 11 days. In 1883, the Northern Pacific cut it to 8 days. Now we have a line of railway extending for ocean to ocean in five days and 17 hours."
James Morton, In the Sea of Sterile Mountains

View of the Rockies. Vue des montagnes Rocheuses. Lucius Richard O'Brian, LAC Acc. No. 1989-514-3, 1887

Punch, London, 15 October 1887

The Field Hotel below Mount Stephen. L'Hôtel Field situé au pied du Mont Stephen. LAC R9266-350 Collection de Canadiana Peter Winkworth,  Edward Roper,  ca. 1887

"It may be said, without any exaggeration whatever, that the life of Sir John Macdonald, from the date he entered Parliament, is the History of Canada, for he was connected and associated with all the events, all the facts which brought Canada from a position it then occupied – the position of two small provinces, having nothing in common but their allegiance, united by a bond of paper, and united by nothing else  – to the present state of development which Canada has reached."
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, House of Commons Debates, 8 June 1891

Pamphlet, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, U of T, CA00886_0001

"To some Britons, the CPR seemed the key to the unity not only of Canada but of their whole Empire, for it offered a new service and all-Red route to the Orient."
                                                                                                    James Morris

By their works ye shall know them, Ottawa, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, CAP00706, 1908

Leslie's Weekly Illustrated Magazine, 5 April 1906

"The CPR was the provincial government on wheels."
                                                          Popular saying

"If we were to follow the laws of nature and geography between Canada and the United States, the whole trade would flow from south to north, and from north to south. We have done everything possible by building canals and subsidizing railways, to bring the trade from west to east, and from east to west, so as to bring trade into British channels."
Sir Wilfrid Laurier, at the Imperial Conference, 1907

By their works ye shall know them, Ottawa, Thomas Fisher Rare Books Library, CAP00706, 1908

1908 Election All Red Line MTPL

Great Northern Railway's track gang. 1909, Vancouver Public Library 1773

C.P.R. Toronto, 191-, National Archives of Québec

"No single work of any man in any part of the world at any period of the world's history has so obviously and directly contributed to the making of a nation as the transcontinental railway in Canada."
                                                                                              C. P. Lucas, 1912

A group of workers; Canadian, American, Swedish, Italian and Scots in a C.N.R. construction Camp. Groupe de travailleurs : Canadiens, Américains, Suédois, Italiens et Écossais dans un baraquement de chantier des Chemins de fer nationaux du Canada. LAC Frontier College C-046150, 1913

Canadian Courier, Toronto, 20 January 1917

Ready Made Farms in Western Canada - Get your home in Canada from the Canadian Pacific. LAC, Acc. No. 1990-106-3, London, England artist unknown ca. 1925

Canadian Pacific - Picturesque Route by Fast Steamers & Trains to Japan & China. LAC Acc. No. 1990-106-13, Odin Rosenvinge, 1925

British Columbia Magazine, August 1925

Travel The Canadian the scenic dome route across Canada Canadian Pacific, ca. 1940, Toronto Reference Library, ca.1940.Travel

Time, Montreal, 29 October 1945

"There have been corporate welfare bums in this country almost as long as there have been corporation, and none has collected as much money over as long a period of time as Canadian Pacific."
Robert Chodos, The CPR A Century of corporate welfare.

"Our national railway is the basic institution of our history, the thread that stitched the provinces together and made Canada possible. It is the elemental symbol of Canadian unity."
                               George Radwanski and Julia Luttrell, The Will of a Nation, 1992

Gordon Lightfoot, The Railroad Trilogy