Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 12 – Vancouver’s first female newspaper publisher

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 12:  Rena Whitney was the city’s first female newspaper publisher…

Sara Ann McLagan may have been the first female publisher of a daily newspaper (Vancouver Daily World) in Vancouver, however, the title for the first female publisher of a newspaper in the city goes to Rena Whitney. Like McLagan, who took over as publisher after the death of her husband, John McLagan, in 1901, Whitney took the helm at the weekly paper, the Mount Pleasant Advocate, after the death of her husband publisher Mayo Whitney in March of 1900.

Clippings from the Mt. Pleasant Advocate. Available via UBC Open Collections.

The Advocate was established April 8, 1899, by newspaper publisher/editor and lawyer, (Charles) Mayo Whitney. Whitney originally from Massachusetts moved to British Columbia with his first wife Laura and son Charles Francis Whitney sometime in the late 1880s. By 1890, the Whitneys had settled in Courtenay, B.C. where Mayo and his son Charles (Frank) started a newspaper, the Courtenay Weekly News. After the death of Laura Whitney on December 22, 1893 in New Westminster, the Whitney father and son team continue to run the newspaper in Courtenay until at least 1895. They drop off the radar until 1899, when widower Mayo Whitney and his second wife Rena show up living in Mount Pleasant and publishing the Mount Pleasant Advocate.

The Advocate newspaper office was located at 2525 Westminster Avenue (Main Street) in the heart of the Mount Pleasant village. “Devoted to the interests of Mt. Pleasant and South Vancouver”, the paper was not known for its hard-hitting news, but was nonetheless an important part of the growing community of Mount Pleasant.

Sadly, there is not much known about Rena Whitney. The 1901 Canada Census for Vancouver reveals that Rena Whitney was born in the U.S.*, on July 3 1854, was a widow, working as a newspaper publisher, and living with her son, Ralph Cummings (from a previous marriage), a printer, who was born September 24, 1878. Ralph worked at the newspaper with his mother, first as a printer and later as the Advocate manager.

Vancouver Daily World February 28, 1908.

Rena Whitney sold the Advocate in early 1908 due to health reasons. The Vancouver Daily World item (above) explains that she left the city for California. Unfortunately, this is the last information we hear about this intriguing woman who was part of Vancouver’s newspaper history.

*Update: An archivist friend of mine located Rena Whitney’s California 1934 death certificate it appears that she stayed in Los Angeles with her sister for the remainder of her life. The death certificate also revealed that she was born in the US not NS (Nova Scotia) as I previously stated.

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Fun Fact: The first female publisher/editor in Canada was Mary Ann Shadd Cary who ran an anti-slavery newspaper called The Provincial Freeman (1853-1860).

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 10 – Salmonopolis

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 10: Steveston was once known as Salmonopolis…

Vancouver Daily World Aug 14 1897

Steveston was once the salmon town of Canada. So many canneries set up shop there that it earned the moniker, Salmonopolis – the city of salmon. Newspaper stories from the 1890s/1900s about the canning industry in Steveston used the dateline: Salmonopolis.

Portion of the key plan of the Steveston canneries, 1915 – Charles E. Goad, June 1915.

By the 1890’s, Steveston was a full-fledged salmon boom-town with a fishing season population of 10,000. Fishers of Japanese, Chinese, First Nation and European heritage flooded into “Salmonopolis” and canneries lined its shores along the Fraser. Salmon was King! So much so, that the over 120-year-old Steveston Hotel was once called the Sockeye Hotel. Manager Harry Lee opened The Sockeye Hotel and Club in the spring of 1895. It seems that when Lee opened the hotel, Salmonopolis, or Steveston, was also a popular destination for those participating in the “bicycle craze” of the 1890s. He made sure that the Sockeye Hotel was the “headquarters for bicyclists”.

Vancouver Daily World, 1895

I think Salmonopolis would make a great name for a Steveston-based craft beer – Salmonopolis Saison, anyone?

 

Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 5 – Bicycle Livery

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 5: Vancouver once had bicycle liveries …

At the turn of the last century, before the automobile took over our city streets, bicycles were a common and popular mode of transportation. So popular in fact, there was a bicycle “craze” of sorts. Men, women and citizens of all ages were caught up in “cycling’s first golden moment”. But, what is the owner to do if they should find their “silent steed” in need of repair? Enter the bicycle livery.

What is a bicycle livery? Think of it like a horse livery, but for bikes. It was a place where you could rent a bicycle (perfect for visitors or fair weather riders) and where wheels were repaired and sold. There were several dotted around the city.

The popularity with all things two-wheeled resulted in bicycle races becoming very common in the late 1800s, and in 1890 the Terminal City Bicycle Club was formed in Vancouver.  Stories of some bicycle riders who were not only “reckless as to their own safety, but were indifferent to the safety of pedestrians” started appearing in the local newspapers, so on July 13, 1896, Vancouver City Council passed by-law (No. 258) to regulate the use of bicycles in the city.

Province Newspaper, 1898

Major J.S. Matthews, the first City Archivist, documented Vancouver’s fin-de-siècle bicycle “craze” in his book Early Vancouver. Here are some excerpts:

“The bicycle became so popular that racks were put up in the vestibules of the small office buildings to receive the “machines” of those employed there and who had business there. At the City Hall, there was a long rack which would accommodate perhaps two dozen bicycles. Similar racks existed at the C.P.R. Depot, and also public places such as parks, post office and hotel lobbies.”

“The “machines” were so numerous that the City Council ordered special bicycle paths constructed on those streets which were most frequently used. These paths were invariably cinder surfaced, and rolled flat, and ran along the edge of the street between the gutter and wooden sidewalk. They were about six feet wide, and constantly kept in order, level and smooth, by city workmen.”

“The bicycle paths led to and from some well-frequented area, or beside streets where there was considerable vehicular traffic. One ran from Seymour Street, along the north side, to the entrance of Stanley Park; another on the west side of Seymour from Robson to Pacific Street; a third from Granville Street South (from the Third Avenue Bridge) from the bridge, along the north side of Third Avenue to about Maple Street, where the track turned off in an indeterminate direction through the clearing until it reached Greer’s Beach.”

Terminal City Cycling Club at the reservoir near Prospect Point, Aug. 12, 1892. Photo: COV Archives, P18

By 1910, the automobile was starting to gain popularity and the street car system was well established in the city. So, like their equine counterparts, the bicycle went out of favour and bicycle liveries began to die out.