The days were getting longer and the weather warmer for Peterborians in late April of 1902, and they had much to consider as this was going on. Foreign conflicts, provincial politics, and a major civic improvement were all on the agenda this week 113 years ago, so click on for those items, plus a couple of other notes!
As April of 1902 turned into May, The Boer War was a month away from its end — that would come with the signing of the Treaty of Vereeniging on May 31st. However, sporadic guerrilla warfare continued, and the April 28th Peterborough Review contained a report on a number of Canadian soldiers who had wounded in action near the Harts River (“Mangled For The Empire” was the newspaper’s somewhat lurid headline). As well, men from Peterborough were still heading off to South Africa. The Peterborough Examiner, also on April 28th, described the farewell party of Lt. E.O. Bradburn, who was going overseas to fight as a member of the Canadian Mounted Rifles. Per the Examiner, Bradburn was “presented with a beautiful wrist watch, and a sum of money in gold” as his going-away presents.
The other piece of interesting overseas news mentioned in the Peterborough papers this week in 1902 no doubt seemed fairly minor at the time, garnering only a paragraph here or there. It was however, the prelude to much bigger things. On April 28th, the Examiner briefly described riots by the starving peasantry in the southern provinces of Russia, writing that “desperate country folk ravaged every unprotected estate, destroying everything which they could not carry off.” This unrest, of course, was part of the long run-up to the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, although there would be any number of twists and turns along the way.
It has been several posts in this series since we came across a Canadian election campaign in full hue and cry, but late April of 1902 found the politically-minded in Ontario eagerly anticipating a provincial election, to be held on May 29th. Peterborough’s two main newspapers, as well, were in their traditional partisan roles. The Examiner, always a staunch supporter of the ruling Liberal Party of Premier George W. Ross, was keen to portray the electorate as content with the status quo, and so wrote in a May 1st editorial:
“Everybody… remarks the quietness of the election contest throughout the country. There is no firing of the heather; no breathless runner is passing the firey cross to another runner in token of a terrible danger to the country.”
The Examiner‘s support of the Liberal Party was well-established; the newspaper’s owner, J.R. Stratton, was the longtime provincial representative for the riding of Peterborough West, and was running for re-election in this contest.
On the other side of the political aisle was the Review, supporting James P. Whitney’s Conservative Party. That paper’s editors were keen to provide their readership with accounts of the benefits that would accrue from breaking the Liberals’ 30-year grip on power in the province (“better and cheaper school books” being just one example, from an April 20th editorial). The Review had also taken to including the line “Whitney will win” at fairly random intervals in its text.
Whitney did not in fact win, at least not on this occasion. The May 29th election returned another Liberal majority, although it was very close — 50 seats to 48. Stratton retained his seat as well, as both Peterborough County ridings went to the Liberals. However, the Conservatives would finally get their revenge in the 1905 election, winning a majority to give Whitney the Premier’s chair.
The election was big news, but it was not the only big news around Peterborough. On April 29th, Council met to give final approval to an ambitious plan to resurrect the town’s electric streetcar system. Peterborough had had a brief flirtation with streetcars in the 1890s, but that particular project had failed after only a few years. The new proposal, under the auspices of the Peterborough Radial Railway Company, would involve not only streetcar service in the town itself, but to points further out as well. Lakefield and Chemong Lake were mentioned, and one letter-writer to the Review that week even suggested a line to Rice Lake, where a summer resort could be constructed.
The Radial Railway Company’s proposal was accepted, with some amendments, and the system opened for service a couple of years later. It was a success, too — at their height of popularity, Peterborough streetcars carried a million passengers a year, before being replaced with buses in the late 1920s. Sadly, however, the regional ambitions of the project were never realized. The streetcar system’s northern terminus was on Water Street, at Langton, and it got no further south than roughly where the Canoe Museum is today. Even so, the foundation of the Radial Railway was a major event in Peterborough’s early history.
Summer sports were underway in Peterborough and elsewhere, and that meant that it was lacrosse season at last! However, the lacrosse action attracting the most attention was actually taking place in Britain, where a touring team from Toronto was playing exhibition matches against local squads. On April 26th, the Torontonians took on an England representative team in front of a crowd of 10,000 at Lord’s Cricket Ground in London, with King Edward himself in the audience. The Canadian team won handily, and the April 28th Examiner reported that “[t]he Toronto’s short passing and quick catching have simply astonished players and spectators.”
And finally, as Spring began to turn towards Summer, the April 28th Examiner predicted a “Boom in Sporting Goods,” and introduced its readers to “[o]ne of the most exciting games this season for lawn, verandah or indoors.” In this case, the newspaper was referring to ping-pong, which was experiencing a vast and somewhat bizarre explosion in popularity in North America at the time (there is, in fact, a book about the ping-pong craze of 1902). The Examiner included this little poem about the sport:
Next time out, we’ll take a look at early May of 1903!