Here we are in mid-March of 1895, and we find a world in some turmoil. Riots, wars, and revolutions abroad, economic tough times and political crises nearer to home. And how was Peterborough getting through it all? Well click on, for the afore-mentioned troubles, plus the dog(s) that did bark in the night, evidence of extra-terrestrial life, and some interesting goings-on at the hockey rink!
“Race War Down South” cried the headline in the March 13th Peterborough Times, referring to lethal race riots over employment in New Orleans, and it generally seems to have been that sort of week in international news. Apart from the troubles in Louisiana, there was also war between Japan and China, although at least that affair — it is generally known as the “First Sino-Japanese War” — was winding down. The same issue of the Times contained the headline “Humiliated China Concedes All the Demands of Japan,” with the loss of control over Korea being the biggest blow. Discontent in China over the outcome of the war would eventually contribute to the overthrow of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, and the establishment of the Republic of China. Another global “hot spot” was Cuba, where a rebellion against Spanish control of the island had broken out. In this case, however, the Peterborough newspapers got things wrong. From the March 8th Peterborough Examiner:
“The uprising in [the reporter’s] opinion is not so serious as the foreign press correspondents would have one believe. The [Spanish] Government troops are sufficiently powerful to prevent the massing of insurgent troops in any large numbers and the so-called rebellion will not greatly disturb the peace of Cuba.”
In fact, the fighting was to go on for another three years and eventually involve the United States. The whole thing culminated in the Spanish-American War of 1898, and the end result was Cuban independence from Spain, albeit under American occupation.
There were crises, plural, closer to home as well, in Canada and the near abroad. In the Colony of Newfoundland, bank collapses in December of 1894 had crippled the economy, and prompted negotiations over whether the island should become part of Canada. In the meantime, donations of both money and food were en route to Newfoundland, largely from donors in New England. These activities caused some editorial speculating about whether Newfoundland might actually end up as part of the United States. However, the St. John’s Tribune, for one, was willing to pour cold water on the notion, as quoted in the March 11th Examiner:
“England would never permit one of her colonies to break loose and unite with another state… To permit [Newfoundland’s] occupation by a foreign power would be to destroy the safety of the rising Dominion of Canada. The “manifest destiny” of Newfoundland is to unite with Canada.”
And so it transpired, of course, although not until 1949. The 1895 negotiations fell apart over how much of Newfoundland’s economic burden Canada should assume.
Looming over even the Newfoundland situation, however, was the Canadian political crisis known as the Manitoba Schools Question. We will make a long story short on this one, as no doubt there will be a great deal to say about it in the 1896 post. In summary, though, Manitoba’s decision to abolish provincial funding for denominational schools in 1890 had angered the province’s Roman Catholic minority, and a simultaneous decision to remove French as an official language in the province had only exacerbated things (most Roman Catholics in Manitoba were also francophones). Mindful of its own political powers, not to mention voters in Quebec, the Conservative government had stepped in and the matter ended up in court twice. Both times, Manitoba won, and now new Prime Minister MacKenzie Bowell (he had taken office in December of 1894 upon the death of Sir John Thompson), was considering what sort of legislation could be passed to remedy the grievances of the Manitoba Catholics. The issue would become a massive one during the 1896 election campaign, but for now it is enough to note its lurking presence in the background.
Turning now to matters in Peterborough herself, where, happily, things were a little bit calmer. The big civic issue of mid-March, 1895, had to do with people not keeping control of their dogs. Various writers of letters to the editors of the town’s newspapers complained both of being kept awake by barking at night, and of being menaced by aggressive canines during the day. A fairly typical example of these letters, from the March 9th Examiner, reads:
“…I own a dog myself, but see that none of the neighbors are disturbed at night, and other people should be forced to do the same.
Something should also be done to protect pedestrians from being frightened by the huge mastiffs which are allowed to roam about the streets.”
Not all Peterborians who were staying up late at night were doing so because of annoying dogs, as the town was witnessing a burst of interest in the field of astronomy. On March 10th, residents eagerly watched a lunar eclipse, and the March 11th Examiner reported that “[c]lose watch was kept by more than one through telescopes… to detect any suspicion of an existing lunar atmosphere.” No such evidence was found, all agreed. The same newspaper, on the 13th, contained a report on famed astronomer Percival Lowell and his researches into the mysterious canals of Mars. Wrote the Examiner:
“They may, of course, not be artificial, but observations made at the Lowell Observatory indicate that they are. For it is one thing to see two or three canals and quite another to have the planet’s surface mapped with them upon a most elaborate system of triangulation.”
It is easy to chuckle now about lunar atmospheres and Martian canals, but we should probably keep in mind that 1895 was a long time ago in terms of the the equipment available for exploring space.
And finally, as noted both above and in Wednesday’s post, there was a great deal of hockey being played around Peterborough in the winter of 1894-95, and in mid-March in particular. In fact, the Peterborough Hockey Club had won the Ontario Junior Championship earlier that month, with a narrow win over the Granites in Toronto. The Granites’ ‘B’ team came to town, looking for revenge, on March 8th, but as the headline above indicates, Peterborough once again came out on top, by a score of 9-4. The game set an attendance record for hockey in Peterborough, with almost 700 spectators packed into the Charlotte Street Rink (the next day’s Examiner noted that “[t]he ladies brought all sorts of instruments for making a noise, from a cow bell to a kazoo”).
Exciting though the win over the Granites may have been, that game was not the most interesting match contested on the Charlotte Street ice this week in 1895. On March 11th, teams representing the Peterborough Examiner and the Peterborough Review faced off against each other. Given the fact that the two papers were firmly on opposite sides of the political divide, it was expected to be a competitive affair. Sadly, the Examiner team was no match for their opponents, as the victorious Review reported the next day:
“The result was that… the Examiner team gathered together their fragments and disappeared from the ice, from the rink and from the streets, oppressed and uncomfortable by a record of having failed to score a goal while their opponents had managed 10.”
The Examiner, for its part, spent most its report on the contest complaining about ringers and rough play, albeit in a good-humoured sort of way (the game does seem to have gone on in a fairly amicable spirit). The Times, watching on from a neutral vantage point, simply commented that “[f]rom some unaccountable source the report got abroad that newspaper men could play hockey, and this induced a large crowd to stay and witness the match, when it was amply demonstrated that the report was groundless.”
Next time, we will tackle the lead-up to the federal election of 1896, and other matters pertaining to late March of that year!