This Week in Peterborough: 1919


HRH Edward, Prince of Wales (in the bow), canoeing in Ontario during the Royal Tour of 1919. No indication as to whether that is a Peterborough-made canoe, but it very well may be. (Library & Archives Canada, MIKAN# 3194402)

The war was over!  Of course, Canada now faced the question of how exactly it was going to pay off the massive debts accrued during the conflict, and the Peterborough Examiner complained on August 26th, 1919, that “[t]he obligations appear to have been incurred without planning how they could be met.”  The paper went on to warn that “strict economy will be necessary,” and that high taxes were on the way.  However, the main thing was that the war was over, as the conclusion to that editorial reminded its readers:

“In view of the victory won and the horrors escaped, Canada will cheerfully bear the burden.”

Read on, for royalty, a new face on the political scene, and the visit of a famous sporting name!

The war was over, but not entirely, even though the controversial Treaty of Versailles had been signed in June.  The international news reports of the day focused on reported massacres of ethnic Poles in the region of Silesia, which was approaching a plebiscite on whether it would be part of Poland or Germany (it would end up divided, this being one of the pretexts for the German invasion of Poland in 1939).  The August 26th Examiner quoted a British newspaper description of “organized crime committed under the nose of the victorious allies, who are to be held responsible for the massacres, particularly President Wilson and Lloyd George.”


Peterborough Review, August 28th, 1919.

And there was also trouble in Russia, where the Civil War was still very active, with the anti-Bolshevik White Army under General Anton Denikin reported to be enjoying major territorial gains.  However, the Allies had by this time withdrawn from northwestern Russia, leaving the two sides of the Civil War to their own devices, and within a year and a half the Whites would be comprehensively defeated, and Vladimir Ilyich Lenin would be the leader of what was by then the Soviet Union.

Back in Canada, among the big excitements as September approached was the Royal Visit of the Prince of Wales (later King Edward VIII, briefly).  Prince Edward was in Toronto at this time, meeting and greeting, and Peterborough was not about to be left on the sidelines of the festivities.  From the August 27th Peterborough Examiner:

“With faces aglow with anticipation and youthful enthusiasm, 100 Boy Scouts, accompanied by six scout-masters… left by the early train for Toronto to be reviewed by His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales at the Exhibition today…  An interesting feature of the departure of the scouts was the fact that before leaving they cleared out all pennants bearing the word Peterborough from the local shops.”

That enjoyable diversion aside, there were serious matters transpiring in Ontario, as the province was in the run-up to an election.  The 1919 vote featured the emergence of an intriguing new political movement, namely the United Farmers of Ontario.  The United Farmers was a largely non-partisan organization on the political left, running simply in the hopes of being able to influence legislative proposals related to agriculture.  They had allied for this particular election with the Independent Labour Party, with the United Farmers running candidates in the rural ridings, and Labour contesting the urban seats.  At a rally in Peterborough on August 23rd, the United Farmers’ delegates promised to avoid the “muck and filth of party politics,” and “to have no truck or trade with either Grits or Conservatives,” as reported by the August 26th Examiner.


Ernest C. Drury. (Image Source)

Being basically a one-issue group, the United Farmers had hoped merely to hold the balance of power in the Provincial Parliament (in fact, they had not even chosen a leader).  They were somewhat shocked, therefore, on October 20th, 1919, when they won a near-majority of 44 seats and were asked to form the government.  This they did, in coalition with the 11 elected members of the Independent Labour Party.  The incumbent Conservatives of Premier William Hearst were decimated, finishing third with only 25 seats (the Liberals came second with 27).  In the absence of a United Farmers leader, one of the founders of the organization, Ernest Drury, was asked and agreed to serve as Ontario’s new Premier, although he had not actually run in the election.  The United Farmers would hold power until 1923; among other accomplishements, they saw to the funding of Dr. Banting and Dr. Best, whose research led to the discovery of insulin.

As for Peterborough, the city supported the new provincial government.  The riding of Peterborough East, which was largely rural, elected the United Farmers candidate, while the more urban Peterborough West duly voted in favour of Independent Labour.

Back to the waning days of summer!  Among the pleasant activities in Peterborough in late August of 1919 was the happy task of welcoming home the local men who had been abroad for the Great War.  The August 27th Examiner announced a picnic outing to Clear Lake for the veterans of the 93rd Battalion, with a band, sports events, and the like.  In the village of Apsley, a similar celebration had been held the previous week.  Meanwhile, some of the men were still returning from what had been the front.  On August 25th, the Examiner reported the homecoming of Pte. Fred Soward, of the 48th Highlanders.  He had escaped injury in the War, reported the newspaper, “except from barbed wire entanglements.”


The Quaker Oats plant and downtown Peterborough in 1919. (Image Source)

There was good news on the labour front in town as well, as the moulders at the Peterborough Lock Works, who had been, indeed, locked out for several months, were back at work.  The moulders had been demanding a reduction in the work week to 44 hours, reported the August 29th Peterborough Review, and had settled for 45.  They were also to get a 25% raise (the workers at the PLW were paid by the piece).  Moulders at a number of other local factories remained locked out, but it was anticipated that similar deals would soon be arranged for them as well.

And Peterborough was continuing her development into a modern city.  The issue of the week?  Street signs.  A certain Mr. Winslow, visiting from Pennsylvania, had written a letter to the Examiner complaining of the difficulties of navigation in the city, and the newspaper was in full sympathy with him.  From an editorial on August 26th:

“It is true that the majority of the streets have their names marked in the pavement, but these names are buried under the snow during the winter months and cannot be read by a motorist, even in summer, without stopping his car and climbing out.”

The article went on to recommend that “[t]he city fathers would be well advised to consider the matter,” and as we know they did just that in due course.


Babe Dye, in his more familiar get-up. (Image Source)

The Peterborough sports scene this week in 1919 was enlivened by the visit of a famous athlete, albeit in a sport other than the one for which he is best known (and he was not as famous then as he would become).  The occasion was the visit of the Toronto Hillcrests baseball team, in town to take on the local Petes of the Central League in an exhibition game on August 23rd.  On the mound for Toronto that evening was Cecil “Babe” Dye, a genuine major-league prospect (the Boston Red Sox held his rights) who would go on to play baseball professionally as high as the AA level.  However, his fame would come on the hockey rink; Dye scored 248 goals in 271 NHL games, and won the Stanley Cup as a member of the Toronto St. Patricks in 1922.  He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1970.

As for Dye’s visit to Peterborough in 1919… well, his Hillcrests won the game, 15-8, with a nine-run sixth inning the difference, and Dye went three for five at the plate with a triple and a double.  However, the reporter on the scene for the Examiner came away generally unimpressed with Dye, apart from his hitting, as the newspaper’s report on August 25th reveals:

“The much-touted Dye did not reveal much class as a pitcher, being found for thirteen hits… and handing out five complimentaries as well but he lived up to his reputation as a slugger… [He] got in bad with the crowd and showed the reason for his nickname by his childish conduct in the fourth innings when he nearly quit the game because of a decision at second base.  Dye threw his glove on the ground and started to walk off the diamond and it took the persuasion of the whole Hillcrest team to get him back in the box again.”

And with that, we’ll call an end to the look at 1919.  Next week, we’ll see what was going on in early September of 1920; in the meantime, here’s a look back at this week in 1867!

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1 Response to This Week in Peterborough: 1919

  1. Pingback: Play Ball! | Peterboriana

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