This Week in Peterborough: 1913


Peterborough Examiner, July 11th, 1913.

In July of 1913, we find Peterborians enjoying a relatively pleasant and carefree time — a good thing, considering that the summer of 1914 would be nothing of the sort.  And how were they enjoying themselves?  As the headline above shows, they were eating quantities of ice cream — 400 gallons on an average summer day in the city, and 500 if it was hot.  They were also, as you will discover if you read on, celebrating a politically-fraught holiday, picnicking by the river, and enjoying other such summer-y activities.  It was not all worry-free, however, as there was real horror in the news from abroad…

Peterborians who were paying close attention to the foreign news may well have found their enjoyment of the summer a little bit impeded.  “Advance preparations” for World War I were well underway, and had been for some time.  In the summer of 1913, these portents took the form of savage fighting in the Balkans between Greece and Serbia on one side and Bulgaria on the other.  The Second Baltic War had broken out in late June, only a month after the end of the First Balkan War, and was provoked by Bulgarian dis-satisfaction with the outcome of that conflict (ironically, Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia had been allies in the First Balkan War, against Turkey).  By mid-July, Romania and the Ottoman Turks had joined in by attacking Bulgaria themselves, and the whole thing was headed towards a settlement that would be negotiated in Bucharest in early August.


Serbian soldiers with a radio during the Second Balkan War. (Image Source)

The war did attract some volunteers from Ontario, although not many.  The July 15th Peterborough Examiner noted that “about thirty” Greek men from Toronto had gone to fight, and the the Greek community in general had raised $5000 for “orphans, widows and soldiers maimed in battle.”

However, what was particularly catching the attention of Peterborians as regards the Second Balkan War was the scale of the atrocities committed by both sides, but particularly by Bulgarian soldiers against Muslim civilians.  I will spare you the descriptions of the brutalities — they were as awful as one can imagine — but the number of civilians killed was running into tens of thousands, and the July 18th Peterborough Examiner summed up the situation by reporting that “everywhere the Bulgarians have passed one sees only blood, dishonor and ruin.”  In an editorial on June 15th, the newspaper called upon Britain, France, and the other Great Powers to intervene, on religious grounds if nothing else:

“Christian nations, the Christian powers, should change their name if they are not to live up to it by using their influence or even force, in putting a stop to the nameless cruelties reported in the press from day to day.”

We turn now to Canada, and to more pleasant matters — or at least pleasant to a certain segment of the population!  As every year, thousands of Protestants of Irish extraction turned out to celebrate the Twelfth of July (“The Glorious Twelfth”), the anniversary of the 1690 Battle of the Boyne.  After a brief decline in the late 19th century, the Orange Order, the notorious Irish Loyalist organization, had returned to a position of some prominence, driven at least partially by the ongoing debate in Britain over Home Rule for Ireland (the Orangemen were very, very, much against it).  In Canada, the Order railed not only against Home Rule, but against the Roman Catholic and French schools as well.  July of 1913 saw Orange parades and marches held all across Canada, although unlike some earlier editions of the holiday they passed without significant violent incident.


Inscription on the former meeting hall of Peterborough’s Wellington Loyal Orange Lodge, on what is now the campus of Trent University. (photo by Patrick Conway)

Peterborough had long been a bit of a stronghold for the Order, with more than two dozen Orange Lodges operating in the County in the 1860s (this is not at all a surprise, given the town’s heavily Irish origins).  It is perhaps a bit odd, therefore, that there was no major celebration of July 12th in the city in 1913.  Instead, Peterborough’s Orangemen — 2500 of them, according to the July 14th Peterborough Times — trooped off to Port Hope for a major parade through that town’s streets.  Fiery speeches by local members of the Order followed; the marchers were told that “Orangemen stood for… a definite, absolute Protestantism from ocean to ocean in this great Dominion,” and that “[t]he Orangeman’s greatest difference was not with the individual Roman Catholic, but with the Hierarchy of Rome” (Peterborough Examiner, July 14th, 1913).

Despite pouring rain and resultant mud, both main Peterborough newspapers declared the Port Hope Orange parade to have been a vast success.  “The Peterborough band was one of the best in the line, and the music it provided was noticeably good,” wrote the July 14th Examiner.  Once the parade and the speeches were done, Peterborough’s delegation returned home, where it held its own brief march from the station through downtown.  And that was about it for the celebration of the “Glorious Twelfth” in the city.

As for Peterborough herself, she was growing, and in one instance this growth was quite literal.  A new suburb was planned for south of what is now Lansdowne Street, in the area known as Crawford’s Grove just west of the river.  It was anticipated that the new neighbourhood would be popular with workers at the General Electric plant; “one can walk from Crawford’s Grove to the [G.E.] works in from 15 to 20 minutes,” reported the July 14th Examiner, and there was talk of extending the streetcar lines to make the jaunt even easier (this, in the end, did not occur).


“NEW TYPE OF MOTOR AMBULANCE IN CANADA — It has a large, capacious body, which will accommodate three stretchers and is roomy enough to carry three passengers. The engine is heavy and powerful, and capable of a very high rate of speed.” (Peterborough Examiner, July 16th, 1913)

And the city was to have its first ambulance corps!  The July 15th Examiner reported that a Mr. Andrew Forrest, formerly an ambulanceman in Edinburgh, Scotland, was calling for volunteers to form a similar institution in Peterborough.  Those who did sign up  would be “carefully instructed in the theory and practice of the science of first aid to the injured in order to prepare them to be able to act quickly and intelligently in any emergency that may arise.”  Whether they were to receive one of the new vehicles pictured above was not made clear.


Peterborough Examiner, July 15th, 1913.

On the diamond, the Canadian Baseball League’s Peterborough Petes were enjoying a far better season than they had the year before.  While fifth in an eight-team league may not sound too impressive, the CBL in 1913 was an incredibly tight affair, and the top six teams were separated by only five games in the standings.  Coming in for particular praise was shortstop Harry Brant, an Ohioan who enjoyed a long career in the sport’s minor leagues.  After Peterborough had taken two out of three games from Hamilton this week in 1913, that city’s Herald newspaper said that “Brant has been playing great ball in the series just concluded, and both his hitting and fielding make him loom up as the best shortstop of the circuit.”

Baseball and the “Glorious Twelfth” aside, the big excitement in Peterborough this week 102 years ago involved the first annual Merchant’s Picnic, to which all inhabitants of the city were invited.  It was held on the riverside on July 17th, and featured sports (both footraces and canoe races among other events), contests, carnival attractions, and of course ice cream (not enough ice cream, however — the Examiner recorded that the supply was exhausted by mid-afternoon).  Music for dancing was provided by the band of 57th Field Artillery Regiment.  By all accounts, the picnic was a wild success, with the next day’s Examiner praising its “fine spirit of harmony,” and playing up the romantic side of the day’s entertainment:

“Then another ice cream cone, one for you and one for your friend [the supply must have been replenished. -ed.]; and on the bank of the river you (plural) slowly relished them, betimes gazing out across the water and in one other direction.  And all unheeded the sun was gradually retiring after another day’s toil…”

The July 18th Times was even more rapturous:

“”Tis love that makes the world go round,’ and the little world of Peterboro will spin all the more merrily for having spent a day of unity and goodwill together with the one object and desire, to make each other happy.”

Those remarks attain a certain degree of added poignancy, given what was to come the following year.  And it is late July of 1914 that we will deal next time in this series!  In the meantime, here is a look at what was happening in Peterborough at this time of year back in 1861!


The Lift-lock in operation in 1913. (Archives of Ontario, I0003465)

This entry was posted in This Week in Peterborough. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s