Notre-Dame Street

Left: Clearing snow, Notre-Dame Stree. Montréal, QC. about 1887

Right: Notre-Dame Street, looking east from McGill Street, Montréal, QC. After Notman (VIEW 1577 A) Taken January 26th, 2000 at 1:30 p.m.

Photographers: Left: William Notman, Right: Andrzej Maciejewski
McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


Date/Time: January 26, 2000, 1:30 p.m.

The remarkable thing about this Notman photograph is that so many people stopped working and looked straight into the camera. At that time the appearance of a photographer was still unusual enough that people stopped what they were doing - in this case, snow removal - and posed for the shot, even on what must have been a cold day. It was also cold the day I took my photograph, and it took many Polaroid tests to find the correct vantage point. Nobody paid the least bit of attention to me, or to my camera.
Date/Time: January 26, 2000, 1:30 p.m.

The remarkable thing about this Notman photograph is that so many people stopped working and looked straight into the camera. At that time the appearance of a photographer was still unusual enough that people stopped what they were doing - in this case, snow removal - and posed for the shot, even on what must have been a cold day. It was also cold the day I took my photograph, and it took many Polaroid tests to find the correct vantage point. Nobody paid the least bit of attention to me, or to my camera.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Map

This Map of Montreal depicts the location where the photographs by Notman and Maciejewski were taken.

McCord Museum of Canadian History

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.


In the past, photographers took few pictures of everyday life on commercial streets - even the most important ones, such as Notre Dame Street - especially in the winter, probably preferring scenes that were more likely to attract the attention of tourists and Montrealers. However, the accumulation of snow and the snow clearing operations carried out by day labourers and carters hired by the city provided an impressive spectacle.

This picture is of interest because of the presence of workers in the foreground. Snow removal must have been a significant winter activity for the carters who transported the snow, and snowstorms must have delighted the thousands of day labourers and tradesmen who were otherwise unemployed in the winter. These men welcomed this backbreaking, low-paid work because when the economy slowed down in the winter, they had to face increased heating costs and other expenses related to the cold weather, without any public assistance.
In the past, photographers took few pictures of everyday life on commercial streets - even the most important ones, such as Notre Dame Street - especially in the winter, probably preferring scenes that were more likely to attract the attention of tourists and Montrealers. However, the accumulation of snow and the snow clearing operations carried out by day labourers and carters hired by the city provided an impressive spectacle.

This picture is of interest because of the presence of workers in the foreground. Snow removal must have been a significant winter activity for the carters who transported the snow, and snowstorms must have delighted the thousands of day labourers and tradesmen who were otherwise unemployed in the winter. These men welcomed this backbreaking, low-paid work because when the economy slowed down in the winter, they had to face increased heating costs and other expenses related to the cold weather, without any public assistance.
Printed Documents
  • Bonville, Jean de. 1975. Jean-Baptiste Gagnepetit : Les travailleurs montréalais à la fin du XIXe siècle. Montreal : L'Aurore.
  • Bradbury, Bettina. 1995. Familles ouvrières à Montréal : Âge, genre et survie quotidienne pendant la phase d'industrialisation. Montreal : Éditions du Boréal.
  • City of Montreal. 1888. Rapport de l'inspecteur de la Cité sur les divers travaux exécutés par le département des chemins de la Cité de Montréal durant l'année 1887. Montreal : Imprimerie Perrault [Microfilm. City of Montreal Archives].

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Detail

In this detail, the workers have shovels in their hands, and the picks, close at hand, indicate compacted snow, perhaps weighted down by an ice storm. The shovels and picks, made of metal and wood and provided by the city, were manufactured industrially. In the background, one man seems to be holding a wooden shovel, closer to the traditional hand-made tool. Many onlookers can also be seen, attracted by the presence of the photographer.

Photograph: William Notman
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
c. 1887
20 x 25 cm
VIEW-1577.A-D2
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


It'll be great when the ice breaks up!

In winter, life in Montreal slows to a crawl. Down at the port, the river is hemmed in by ice, which brings activities to a standstill and makes it difficult for the city to receive needed supplies. It'll be great when the ice breaks up! In the snowy and icy streets, getting around on foot or by automobile is sometimes dangerous, and one is better off outfitted with crampons and a shovel. In fact, before the city brought in a public snow-removal system, clearing the streets was no easy task: armed with patience, the citizens themselves had to clear the public roads.
It'll be great when the ice breaks up!

In winter, life in Montreal slows to a crawl. Down at the port, the river is hemmed in by ice, which brings activities to a standstill and makes it difficult for the city to receive needed supplies. It'll be great when the ice breaks up! In the snowy and icy streets, getting around on foot or by automobile is sometimes dangerous, and one is better off outfitted with crampons and a shovel. In fact, before the city brought in a public snow-removal system, clearing the streets was no easy task: armed with patience, the citizens themselves had to clear the public roads.

© 2002, McCord Museum of Canadian History. All Rights Reserved.

Cleats

These cleats are made of brass and steel, two very strong materials.

McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mrs. Mias J. Scott

M18169.1-2
© McCord Museum


Many Montrealers wore shoes with cleats to keep from slipping on the icy sidewalks.

These cleats with little metal studs were attached with leather straps under the heels of the shoes. The straps were inserted into the little rectangular slots in the side shanks of the cleats, then tied on top of the foot. This pair is quite narrow, suggesting that they were probably intended for women’s shoes. The semi-circular metal band would have fit perfectly around the back of the heel of a woman’s boot.

Rare today, cleats were very popular in the 19th century. Advertisements published in the newspapers of the day extolled the qualities of various models of cleats.
Many Montrealers wore shoes with cleats to keep from slipping on the icy sidewalks.

These cleats with little metal studs were attached with leather straps under the heels of the shoes. The straps were inserted into the little rectangular slots in the side shanks of the cleats, then tied on top of the foot. This pair is quite narrow, suggesting that they were probably intended for women’s shoes. The semi-circular metal band would have fit perfectly around the back of the heel of a woman’s boot.

Rare today, cleats were very popular in the 19th century. Advertisements published in the newspapers of the day extolled the qualities of various models of cleats.

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Ice shove, Commissioners Street

Ice jams - dams formed by blocks of ice - form mostly in the narrow or winding sections of waterways.

Wm. Notman & Son
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
c. 1884
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
VIEW-1498
© McCord Museum of Canadian History


Break-up occurred in the spring, when the river began moving and carried away large blocks of ice.

Since the river was narrow and not very deep at Montreal, spring break-up was for a long time accompanied by huge ice jams, accumulations of ice that formed veritable dams. If the ice jam did not give way quickly, the water would rise and flood part of the island. In March 1871, the weekly The Canadian Illustrated News reported that flooding in the streets of Montreal caused by spring break-up was trying the tempers of citizens.

In the 19th century, Montreal was also a rapidly expanding port that was trying to attract a growing number of commercial ships. To this end, there were all kinds of development projects on the St. Lawrence waterway and the river was gradually deepened and widened. These improvements put an end to the annual floods.
Break-up occurred in the spring, when the river began moving and carried away large blocks of ice.

Since the river was narrow and not very deep at Montreal, spring break-up was for a long time accompanied by huge ice jams, accumulations of ice that formed veritable dams. If the ice jam did not give way quickly, the water would rise and flood part of the island. In March 1871, the weekly The Canadian Illustrated News reported that flooding in the streets of Montreal caused by spring break-up was trying the tempers of citizens.

In the 19th century, Montreal was also a rapidly expanding port that was trying to attract a growing number of commercial ships. To this end, there were all kinds of development projects on the St. Lawrence waterway and the river was gradually deepened and widened. These improvements put an end to the annual floods.

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Snow banks on Craig Street

It was only in 1905 that the city of Montreal created its own snow-clearing service for the streets. This change was prompted by the arrival of the automobile, which could not travel on snow-filled streets.

James Inglis
McCord Museum of Canadian History - Gift of Mrs. J. B. Learmont
c. 1869
Silver salts on paper mounted on card - Albumen process
7.8 x 7.9 cm
MP-0000.2871
� 2009, RCIP-CHIN. All Rights Reserved.


Before 1905, the year when the municipality of Montreal became responsible for snow clearing, it was common to see impressive snowbanks in the city.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, a municipal bylaw obliged the citizens to shovel the snow on the part of the sidewalk in front of their homes, which led to the formation of huge snowbanks in the streets. In fact, so much snow accumulated that, in certain places, strollers could not see what was happening on the sidewalk across the street.

However, since the situation could become dangerous in the city, entrepreneurs became specialized in clearing snow from public thoroughfares. Their work was done in three major stages. First, snowploughs pushed the snow to the sides of the street, then it was loaded up, transported away and unloaded in designated locations.
Before 1905, the year when the municipality of Montreal became responsible for snow clearing, it was common to see impressive snowbanks in the city.

Until the beginning of the 20th century, a municipal bylaw obliged the citizens to shovel the snow on the part of the sidewalk in front of their homes, which led to the formation of huge snowbanks in the streets. In fact, so much snow accumulated that, in certain places, strollers could not see what was happening on the sidewalk across the street.

However, since the situation could become dangerous in the city, entrepreneurs became specialized in clearing snow from public thoroughfares. Their work was done in three major stages. First, snowploughs pushed the snow to the sides of the street, then it was loaded up, transported away and unloaded in designated locations.

© McCord Museum of Canadian History

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • Identify the changes that were operated within Canadian society over two decades (territory, population, economy, etc.);
  • Describe in details changes that he/she is able to observe;
  • Explain and speculate about the reasons that could justify these changes;
  • Make connections between the differences and similarities of the two eras.

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