Peopling the North American City: Montreal, 1840-1900 9780773586000

Many North American cities trace their population booms to the nineteenth century when immigrants and migrants flooded e

156 54 10MB

English Pages 544 [545] Year 2011

Report DMCA / Copyright


Polecaj historie

Peopling the North American City: Montreal, 1840-1900

Table of contents :
List of Figures
List of Tables
1 Trajectories
2 Tracking a Population
3 The Drawing Power of the City
4 The Hazards of City Living
5 The Pace of Family Formation
6 The Marriage Partnership in Context
7 Emerging Opportunities in the Urban Economy
8 Facing Risk: The Elastic Household
9 A Geography of Encounter
10 City Folks in Their Rural Contexts
11 The Social Emotions and the Social Fabric
12 Toward a Dynamic of Cultural Coexistence
A: Measures
B: Data Collection and Record Matching
C: Tables A1–A3
Index to Persons
Index to Subjects

Citation preview



The Carleton Library Series publishes books about Canadian economics, geography, history, politics, society and culture, and related topics, in the form of leading new scholarship and reprints of classics in these fields. The series is funded by Carleton University, published by McGill-Queen’s University Press, and is under the guidance of the Carleton Library Series Editorial Board, which consists of faculty members of Carleton University. Suggestions and proposals for manuscripts and new editions of classic works are welcome and may be directed to the Carleton Library Series Editorial Board c/o the Library, Carleton University, Ottawa K 1S 5B 6, at [email protected], or on the web at

CLS board members: John Clarke, Sheryl Hamilton, Jennifer Henderson, Laura Macdonald, Brian McKillop, Stan Winer, Barry Wright

192 The Blacks in Canada: A History (second edition) Robin Winks 193

A Disciplined Intelligence Critical Inquiry and Canadian Thought in the Victorian Era A.B. McKillop

194 Land, Power, and Economics on the Frontier of Upper Canada John Clarke 195

The Children of Aataentsic A History of the Huron People to 1660 Bruce G. Trigger

196 Silent Surrender The Multinational Corporation in Canada Kari Levitt 197 Cree Narrative Expressing the Personal Meanings of Events Richard J. Preston 198

The Dream of Nation A Social and Intellectual History of Quebec Susan Mann

199 A Great Duty Canadian Responses to Modern Life and Mass Culture, 1939–1967 L.B. Kuffert 200 The Politics of Development Forests, Mines, and Hydro-Electric Power in Ontario, 1949–1941 H.V. Nelles 201 Watching Quebec Selected Essays Ramsay Cook 202 Land of the Midnight Sun A History of the Yukon Ken S. Coates and William R. Morrison 203 The Canadian Quandary (New edition) Harry Johnston 204 Canada and the Cost of World War II The International Operation of the Department of Finance, 1939–1947 Robert B. Bryce Edited by Matthew Bellamy 205 Lament for a Nation (Anniversary edition) George Grant

206 Confederation Debates in the Province of Canada, 1865 (New edition) P.B. Waite 207 The History of Canadian Business, 1867–1914 R.T. Naylor

216 The Irish in Ontario A Study in Rural History Donald Harman Atkinson 217 The Canadian Economy in the Great Depression (Third edition) A.E. Safarian

208 Lord Durham’s Report (New edition) Based on the Abridgement by Gerald M. Craig

218 The Ordinary People of Essex Environment, Culture, and Economy on the Frontier of Upper Canada John Clarke

209 The Fighting Newfoundlander A History of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment G.W.L. Nicholson

219 So Vast and Various Interpreting Canada’s Regions in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries Edited by John Warkentin

210 Staples and Beyond Selected Writings of Mel Watkins Edited by Hugh Grant and David Wolfe

220 Industrial Organization in Canada Empirical Evidence and Policy Challenges Edited by Zhiqi Chen and Marc Duhamel


The Making of Nations and the Cultures of the New World An Essay in Comparative History Gérard Bouchard

212 The Quest of the Folk Antimodernism and Cultural Selection in Twentieth-Century Nova Scotia Ian McKay 213

Health Insurance and Canadian Public Policy The Seven Decisions That Created the Canadian Health Insurance System and Their Outcomes Malcolm G. Taylor

214 Inventing Canada Early Victorian Science and the Idea of a Transcontinental Nation Suzanne Zeller 215

Documents on the Confederation of British North America G.P. Browne

221 Surveyors of Empire Samuel Holland, J.F.W. Des Barres, and the Making of The Atlantic Neptune Stephen J. Hornsby 222 Peopling the North American City Montreal, 1840–1900 Sherry Olson and Patricia Thornton

Peopling the North American City n M O N T R E A L , 18 4 0 –19 0 0 N Sherry Olson and Patricia A. Thornton


McGill-Queen's University Press Montreal & Kingston · London · Ithaca

© McGill-Queen's University Press 2011 ISBN 978-0-7735-3830-6 (cloth) ISBN 978-0-7735-3831-3 (paper) Legal deposit second quarter 2011 Bibliothèque nationale du Québec Printed in Canada on acid-free paper that is 100% ancient forest free (100% post-consumer recycled), processed chlorine free This book has been published with the help of a grant from the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, through the Aid to Scholarly Publications Program, using funds provided by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Funding has also been received from Concordia University through the Aid to Research Related Events fund. McGill-Queen's University Press acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts for our publishing program. We also acknowledge the financial support of the Government of Canada thorugh the Canada Book Fund for our publishing activities. frontispiece: Mary Elizabeth Bethune, née Rogers (courtesy McCord Museum of Canadian History)

Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication Olson, Sherry H. Peopling the North American city : Montreal, 1840-1900 / Sherry Olson and Patricia A. Thornton. (Carleton Library series ; 222) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-0-7735-3830-6 (bound). ISBN 978-0-7735-3831-3 (pbk.) 1. City and town life – Québec (Province) – Montréal – History – 19th century. 2. Immigrant families – Québec (Province) – Montréal – History – 19th century. 3. Montréal (Québec) – Ethnic relations – History – 19th century. 4. Assimilation (Sociology) – Québec (Province) – Montréal – History – 19th century. 5. Montréal (Québec) – Social life and customs – 19th century. I. Thornton, Patricia A. II. Title. III. Series: Carleton library ; 222

HT 352.C 32M 65 2011


C 2011-900676-6

Set in 11/13.2 Adobe Garamond Pro with Copperplate Gothic Book design & typesetting by Garet Markvoort, zijn digital


List of Figures · ix List of Tables · xiii Acknowledgments · xv Credits · xix 1 Trajectories · 3 2 Tracking a Population · 28 3 The Drawing Power of the City · 65 4 The Hazards of City Living · 89 5 The Pace of Family Formation · 130 6 The Marriage Partnership in Context · 151 7 Emerging Opportunities in the Urban Economy · 182 8 Facing Risk: The Elastic Household · 214 9 A Geography of Encounter · 253 10 City Folks in Their Rural Contexts · 288 11 The Social Emotions and the Social Fabric · 318 12 Toward a Dynamic of Cultural Coexistence · 346 A P PE N DIC E S

A Measures · 365 B Data Collection and Record Matching · 367 C Tables A 1–A 3 · 372 Notes · 379 Bibliography · 451 Index to Persons · 503 Index to Subjects · 513

This page intentionally left blank


1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4

Construction cycles: annual permits, 1841–1940 · 8 Bird’s-eye view of Montreal, 1892 · 8 “The Dawn of the New Century,” by Alonzo Ryan · 9 Projection of population densities in Montreal, 1847, 1861, 1881, and 1901 · 10 Percentage of urban population by cultural community, Montreal, 1842 and 1901 · 12 Christ Church Cathedral underpinned, 1989 · 18 “La débacle de 1873” · 19 “From French Cathedral Tower, looking west, 1859” · 20 Growth of the street pattern, Montreal, 1846–1901 · 30 Vital events in the family of François Beauchamp and Rose Richard, 1851–1901 · 33 Fireproof cabinet of notary S.C. Bagg · 35 “The Plasterer,” 1862 · 39 Portraits of some sample members · 40 Annual number of births, deaths, and marriages in the three communities · 41 Origins of Montreal surnames in Britain · 48 Origins in Ireland of Catholic couples in Montreal in the 1840s · 52 Residential distribution of three cultural communities, Montreal, 1881 · 55 Occupational status levels in three cultural communities, Montreal, 1842–1901 · 70 Homes of working-class sample members · 74 Homes built and occupied by Bulmer families · 75 Layout of three sample blocks developed before 1852 · 78

3.5 Occupational advance of Irish Catholic household heads by decade, 1842–1901 · 81 3.6 Ability to sign: French Canadian men and women, town and country, 1800–1909 · 84 3.7 A family tree of signing ability · 85 4.1 Infant mortality in three birth cohorts, Montreal · 95 4.2 Deaths from weanling diarrhea by weekly mean temperature, 1879–1880 · 100 4.3 Intestinal causes as a percentage of all infant deaths (2–364 days), by age at death and cultural community, 1880 and 1900 · 102 4.4 Deaths under 18 months, by age, season, and language group, 1880 · 102 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 4.9 4.10 4.11 5.1 5.2 5.3 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6

“Mrs Ryan’s Dead Baby,” photographed by Notman firm in 1882 · 112 Monuments erected in the cemeteries on Mount Royal · 116 Child mortality (1–4), mapped by districts of the city, 1880 · 119 Summer deaths and the presence of horses, 1880 · 121 “Health Map” published in 1879 · 123 “Montreal’s Night-Mayor on His Ghostly Rounds” · 124 Trends in mortality from selected causes, 1876–1925 · 127 Fertility rates by mother’s age and cultural community, 1860s and 1890s · 138 Marital fertility by economic status, mother’s age (23–47), and cultural community, Montreal, 1881 · 143 Perceptions of women’s roles in late-nineteenth-century Montreal · 147 Journalists’ perceptions of family violence · 159 Relative rates of intermarriage among the three cultural communities, 1860–1900 · 162 Mean age at first marriage by gender, economic status, and cultural community in the 1890s · 164 Proportion who married as minors (under 21) by gender and economic status, in 1899 · 165 Mean age at first marriage by economic status, 1881 · 167 Interactions in the demographic regime · 176

x · Figures

6.7 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 7.6 7.7 7.8 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 8.5 8.6 8.7 8.8 8.9

“Au Square Viger. La glace n’éteint pas le feu … et vice versa” · 179 Population of Montreal, 1901, by age, gender, and birthplace · 183 Silver trowel made by François Beauchamp in 1873 · 189 Work transformed · 193 New kinds of work · 194 Building of the Burland-Desbarats Lithographic Company · 195 Marriage and employment status of women by year of age (15–30) and cultural community, 1881 · 202 Ratio of women’s earnings relative to men’s in 1900, by age group and cultural community · 208 Progression of earnings with age (15–59) among male white-collar workers and labourers, 1900 · 209 First day of May, “Moving Day” · 215 Homes of a family group in Pointe-Saint-Charles, c. 1890 · 216 Layout of Mrs Greaves’s house in St Mary Street, 1891 · 218 Relationship to head, by age and gender, in households of moulders and weavers, Montreal, 1901 · 223 Family of Peter Ryan and Eliza Connelly over sixty years · 226 Alternative living arrangements, by age and gender, 1881 · 228 Cutaway of family boarding house · 230 Living arrangements by five-year age group and relationship to head of household, 1881 · 233 The population of six institutions by age and gender · 239

8.10 Ralph Seward’s sketches of “The Night Shelter, Its Human Side,” 1909 · 240 8.11 Houses built by François and Louis Chef after the great fire of July 1852 · 244–5 8.12 Wooden houses that survived the fire of 1852 · 246 8.13 Fire in Saint-Jean-Baptiste suburb, 1879 · 249 9.1 Neighbourhood concentrations of carters by language, 1880 · 257 9.2 Residential diversity of Montreal neighbourhoods, 1901 · 259 9.3 Neighbourhood concentrations of the three largest cultural communities in 1901 · 260

Figures · xi

9.4 Related Beauchamp families living within 500 metres of each other in 1881 · 262 9.5 Related pairs of French Canadian families, linked from street to street, 1901 · 263 9.6 “The practical working of mutual benevolence” · 271 9.7 Immigrants recorded in Montreal in 1901 by origin and time of arrival in Canada · 273 9.8 Six communities by age and gender, Montreal, 1901 · 274 9.9 Jewish households mapped by district, Montreal, 1901 · 278 9.10 “Ice Cream Man in Montreal” · 279 10.1 Numbers of rural births, marriages, and deaths, 1760–1900, by cultural community · 291 10.2 Rural surname sample mapped by cultural community, 1881 · 296 10.3 Place map showing principal rivers, 1000-foot contour, and settlements mentioned in southwestern Quebec · 301 10.4 Three generations between town and country, Island of Montreal, 1841–1911 · 304 10.5 Newcomers mocked, turn-of-century cartoon · 305 10.6 Sex ratio by habitat and cultural community, 1881 · 309 10.7 Marriage and employment status of women 1881, by age, habitat (urban or rural), and cultural community · 310 10.8 Percentage in school at ages 15–19, by gender, habitat, and cultural community · 311 11.1 Protest of the Protestant clergy against the bells of the parish church, 1844 · 320 11.2 “Les Echos de Notre-Dame,” 1877 · 322 11.3 “The Party-Colored Octopus or Montreal Devil-fish” · 333 11.4 “Miss Bethune and Friends” · 337 11.5 “The Montreal Poisoning Horror,” 1873 · 338 12.1 “Goose Village Children about 1910” · 362

xii · Figures

ta bles

2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6

Surname sample sizes, Montreal, 1861–1901 · 38 Number of vital events, 1850s and 1900s · 38 Balance sheet of individuals in observation · 59 Rates of natural increase and net migration in three communities, Montreal, 1860s and 1890s · 62 Cause-specific death rates grouped by age, Montreal, 1881 · 93 Relative risk of dying at age 29–364 days, by selected demographic and environmental factors · 96 Factors affecting the odds of dying at ages 29–364 days · 99 Season and cause of death at ages 2–364 days, 1860–1900 · 101 Median birth intervals (in months) by cultural community, 1860, 1880, 1900 · 104 Childhood mortality by cultural community, 1860s and 1890s · 108

4.7 Factors affecting the odds of dying ages 1–4, 1881 · 109 4.8 Probability of dying at various ages; comparisons by gender and cultural community, 1881 · 115 5.1 Birth intervals in months, by cultural community and mother’s age, 1860–1900 · 134 5.2 Median birth interval by cultural community and economic status, 1879 and 1899 · 135 5.3 Fertility, marriage, and reproduction rates in three populations, 1860s and 1890s · 137 5.4 Intercultural differences in age-specific fertility, Montreal, 1881 · 142 5.5 Marital fertility (ages 23–47) by economic status and cultural community, Montreal, 1881 · 144 5.6 The odds of marrying or giving birth, Montreal, 1881 · 145 6.1 Age at first marriage by gender and cultural community, Montreal, 1860s and 1890s · 154

6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 6.8 7.1 7.2 8.1 8.2 8.3 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 11.1

Percentage married as minors (under 21), Montreal, 1840–1920 · 155 Mean difference between ages of husband and wife (in years) · 156 Age at remarriage in three cultural communities · 158 Intermarriage in 1881: Cultural affiliation of partners · 163 Nuptiality by gender and cultural community, Montreal, 1881 and 1901 · 166 The odds of being single at age 23–27, Montreal, 1881 and 1901 · 168 The effect of economic status on the odds of being single (23–27), by gender and cultural community, Montreal, 1881 and 1901 · 177 Marriage and employment status of women (%) at ages 20–24 and 25–29 · 202 Women’s economic activities reported in Lovell’s directory, 1881 · 206 Types of households, Montreal, 1901 · 215 Variety of household structures in Montreal, 1901 · 221 Characteristics of households with a moulder or cotton mill worker in 1901 · 222 Residential segregation by cultural community, 1881–1901 · 255 Segregation by economic status, 1881 · 256 Segregation by sector of work and language group, 1881 · 256 Sample size and household structure in seven communities of origin, Montreal, 1901 · 276 Sample sizes and characteristics in “virtual village,” 1851–1901 · 300 Demographic regimes, urban and rural, for French Canadians, 1860s and 1890s · 307 Singulate mean age at first marriage, by gender and habitat, Province of Quebec, 1881 and 1901 · 313 The odds of being single at ages 23–27, modelled provincewide, 1881 · 314 Chronology, political punctuation · 329

A 1 Sample sizes and properties, 1901 · 372 A 2 Examples of record matching · 374 A 3 Causes of death, original rubrics, aggregation, and classification, Montreal, 1881 · 376

xiv · Tables

ack nowled gments

For access to their remarkable archives, we are grateful to the parishes of Notre-Dame de Montréal and Saint Patrick’s, the Hospital Sisters of SaintJoseph (Hôtel-Dieu), the Grey Nuns, les Prêtres de Saint-Sulpice, le Cimetière Notre-Dame-des-Neiges, the Mount Royal Cemetery Company, and the McCord Museum of Canadian History. Personnel of the Quebec national archives (BA nQ ), Centre d’archives de Montréal, turned the place inside out for guardianship documents and notarial indexes. At the municipal archives, Denys Chouinard, Mario Robert, and their assistants have, over thirty years, retrieved unsuspected treasures from their vaults. Other curators of data assisted us: Bertrand Desjardins for access to the Projet de recherche en Démographie historique (Université de Montréal), Normand Robert to the Parchemin index of notaries’ acts of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Michèle Jomphe to marriage records of Projet Balsac (Université du Québec à Chicoutimi), archivists and librarians at McGill and Concordia Universities, and, in particular, Nancy Marelli, Pamela Miller, Carol Marley, David McKnight, Joanna Hobbins, Anastasia Khouri, Marc Lacasse, Ann Marie Holland, Evelyn Kolish, Estelle Brisson, Johanne Mont-Redon, and Christine Brisson. Robert C.H. Sweeny (Memorial University of Newfoundland) made an immense contribution, ongoing, to the creation of digital maps and databases that are part of MAP, Montréal l’avenir du passé. The project has involved a great many others. The City of Montréal supplied digital databases and map layers; the BA nQ and McGill University Libraries provided images of historical maps. Active from an early stage have been Jean-François Palomino and François Dufaux. A team headed by Lisa Dillon supplied a digital version of the census of 1881. From the census of 1901, Eric Sager and Peter Baskerville, in addition to their role in the Canadian Families Project, retrieved further samples from an earlier venture, as did Mary MacKinnon, Danielle Gauvreau, and Peter Gossage. Graduate assistants made essential contributions to cleaning and documenting these census databases, in particular Caroline Sauriol, Jason Dean, Jacob Larsen, and Julia Mitroi. Supplemental databases were proffered by Bettina Bradbury, Jean-Marie Fecteau, Joanne Burgess, Nancy Christie, Yves Otis, and Kris Inwood. At

the Quebec Family History Society, Bob Dunn generously shared his own databases collected over many years, and Derek Hoskins gave us access to Protestant marriage data. Ollivier Hubert shared the collection of pew rentals, François Dufaux his architectural insights, Claude Bourguignon his knowledge of Saint-Colomban, and Meredith Watkins her photographs and transcriptions from cemeteries in Montreal and Hemmingford. Danielle Gauvreau, as director of a joint research project over a decade, shared the research on employment and choices of youth aged 15–29. She should be regarded as a co-author of chapters 7 and 8, and Jason Gilliland of chapter 9. Partners at earlier stages include Jason, David Hanna, Robert D. Lewis, Kate Boyer, Kevin Henry, and Rosalyn Trigger. Through their own graduate work they inspired experiments, asked tough questions, and launched the MAP project. The judgments of David and Rob twenty-five years ago were central to the handling of occupations and definitions of districts. Among our research assistants over the years, André Duchesne, Alain Dorsonnens, Joe Occhipinti, Ben Johnson, Quoc Thuy Thach, France Bertrand, David Singleton, and Jules Lamarre exercised immense patience in the ungrateful work of capturing records from microfilm. The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada provided steady support for the student research teams for thirty years. (We were a little shocked to discover it had become a million-dollar venture.) Support from NCE -Geoide assured MAP a year of full-time technical assistance by Rosa Orlandini. Technical advice has come at critical junctures from innumerable other colleagues, among them Paula Kestelman, Ruilan Shi, Kevin vanLierop, Don Lafrenière, Christian Jauvin, Henry Balen, and Renee Sieber. All kinds of ideas and inspirations have come from colleagues in the Centre interuniversitaire d’études québécoises (CIEQ ), in particular Serge Courville, Marc Saint-Hilaire, Brigitte Caulier, Normand Séguin, René Hardy, Jean-Claude Robert, and the current co-directors Donald Fyson and Yvan Rousseau. (It’s hard to know where to stop!) Marc has developed parallel urban genealogies and geobases for Quebec City. Jean-Claude shared his stock of maps of Montreal and collaborated with Sherry on research into the carters, contractors, military engineers, and parishes. At the Université du Québec à Montréal, Paul-André Linteau tipped us off to the potential of the rental tax rolls, and Joanne Burgess provided access to card-file indexes to nineteenth-century newspapers. At McGill University, the Montreal History Group provided challenging discussions as well as access to files compiled by many people over many years. Brian Young and his students first explored the cartons of expropriation documents. Alan

xvi · Acknowledgments

Stewart, Mary Anne Poutanen, and Rod MacLeod were making day-by-day discoveries of intriguing sources. Among those who shared their passion for the history of Montreal, there are just too many to mention. With the biennial regularity of the European Social Science History meetings, we have had counsel on methods from members of the Historical Demography Network, where Antoinette Fauve-Chamoux ensured, year after year, a climate of generous exchange of ideas. Frans van Poppel and Renzo Derosas made sure that certain debates over fertility and infant mortality were sustained with good wine and good company. Over the past twelve months, Danielle Gauvreau, Robert Sweeny, Rosalyn Trigger, Brian Young, and two thoughtful but nameless reviewers proposed helpful solutions for problems in the manuscript. We have received ingenious and meticulous assistance in production of the maps from Philippe Desaulniers and Émilie Lapierre Pintal at the CIEQ . Their help was made possible through support of the centre by the Quebec research agency, Fond québécois de recherche sur la société et la culture. Emily Baxter applied her skills to finishing the graphs and tables, and we have had the benefit of the constant collaboration of McGill-Queen’s University Press, notably Philip Cercone, Jonathan Crago, Joan McGilvray, and Carlotta Lemieux. From members of the family history societies and genealogists who worked side by side with us in the archives, how much we learned! Descendants of several families in the miniature shared their own stories, and innumerable others have patiently built up genealogies, family histories, and bulletin boards on the World Wide Web. Begging their patience for what we have misunderstood, we look forward to the corrections they will bring. We cannot hold anybody else responsible for our interpretations. The only people who may have to accept some responsibility are our families. If we have taken too positive a view of the concerns of nineteenth-century parents for their children, of children for their parents, of the good humour of family life, and the lifetime partnerships between men and women, the warp can be attributed to the fact that both authors have been blessed with such loving homes and generous partners.

Acknowledgments · xvii

This page intentionally left blank


Contemporary drawings and cartoons have been reproduced by courtesy of the McCord Museum of Canadian History (figs. 1.2, 1.8, 2.4, 2.5, 4.5, 4.10, 7.3, 8.12, 9.6, 9.10, 11.3, 11.4, 12.1); Bibliothèque et archives nationales du Québec (figs. 5.3, 6.1, 8.3, 8.11, 11.1, 11.2); and McGill University Libraries Rare Books and Special Collections (figs. 1.3, 1.7, 2.5, 5.3, 6.7, 7.2, 7.4, 8.10, 10.5, 11.5). Modern photographs are reproduced by courtesy of Montreal Diocesan Archives, Anglican Church of Canada (fig. 1.6); Musée du Château Ramezay (fig. 2.3), Meredith Watkins (fig. 4.6); Ben Johnson, David Hanna, and Jason Gilliland (figs. 3.2, 3.3, and 8.2). The provenance of each is identified below the figure. Passages have been reproduced, translated, or readapted here, with the permission of the various publishers, as follows: in chapter 2, from Cahiers de démographie du Québec 21, no. 2 (1992); in chapter 3, from Urban History Review 26, no. 2 (1998); in chapter 4, from Continuity and Change 16, no. 1 (2001), and from a chapter in Infant and Child Mortality in the Past, published by Oxford University Press (1997); in chapter 5 from a chapter in Religion and the Decline of Fertility in the Western World, published by Springer (2006); and from the Journal of Family History 16, no. 4 (1991); in chapter 6, from Revue de Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec 1, no. 1 (2009); in chapters 6 and 7 from Histoire sociale / Social History 33, no. 65 (2000); 35, no. 70 (2002); and 40, no 80 (2007); in chapter 7, from Labour / Le Travail 53, (Spring 2004); in chapter 9, from Urban Geography (Bellwether Publishing) 31, no. 1 (2009); in chapter 10, from Cahiers de démographie du Québec 30, no. 2 (2001); in chapters 2, 3, 6, and 8, from Revue d’ histoire de l’Amérique française 51, no. 3 (1998); in chapter 3 from Population et Territoire (1991), and in chapter 11, from La Paroisse (2001), both volumes part of the “Atlas historique du Québec” series published by the Centre d’études québécoises (CIEQ ) at the Presses de l’Université Laval.

This page intentionally left blank


This page intentionally left blank



As populations moved west across North America, cities flared as beacons of opportunity. In the sixty years 1840–1900, both US and Canadian populations grew fourfold, but New York, Philadelphia, Louisville, Pittsburgh, and Montreal all grew tenfold, and two dozen western cities, among them Chicago, St Louis, San Francisco, Denver, and Toronto, sprang from small beginnings to the hundred thousand mark. Of the epic accounts that have featured the new skyscrapers, the fierce competition between towns, or the impact of a particular stream of migrants,¹ most evoke some recognition from the individual who, like yourself perhaps, contemplates the bravery of a grandmother sent all alone to America, a battery of great-uncles from Cornwall, or a man named Shadrach Minkins, who in disguise crossed the Canadian border to freedom.² Cities were their jumping-off places and their landing places. Minkins stopped nine months in Boston. Carrie Nation took her axe to the bar in Kansas City. Fredericka Mandelbaum, New York’s famous fence for stolen silks, retired to Montreal. Mike Fink, on his route to the Rockies, picked a fight in every town between Pittsburgh and New Orleans. The life trajectory of Howard Egan took him from Montreal to Salem, with Brigham Young to Salt Lake City, and as a Pony Express rider he accompanied parties of forty-niners to the goldfields. Of all the Carries and Howards and Uncle Jacks, how many stayed, and how many moved on? How long did they live? Were their progeny few or many? Answers are sparse. For no city on the continent do we have dependable balance sheets of arrivals and departures or a credible series of birth rates and survival rates over those years of spectacular growth.³ Information is easier to find for the numbers of hogs hauled and butchered than for the streams of people passing through the cities and their rates of natural increase. How, then, shall we connect the individual thread of destiny with the chorus of hundreds of thousands? Here lies the kernel of the experiment: to round up a representative set of people, to collect their births, marriages, and

deaths, and from those vital events estimate survival rates and make some interpretation of how the risks and promises were absorbed, decade after decade, into the collective narratives of three communities who lived side by side in the same town. For historians of North American cities, the great mobility of individuals still presents a challenge. Every ten years, census takers enrolled names and ages; cities recorded deaths with some regularity but rarely registered births (a first systematic attempt was made in Baltimore in 1915), and parents consigned vital events to a family Bible rather than a public document. Some of the marriages, some of the births, and some of the disappearances and causes of death were carefully hidden, and parishes preoccupied with an accounting of souls treated their records as highly confidential. Within the past quarter century, however, more people have explored their family histories and created effective networks to trap the missing links. Churches have harnessed computers; governments have released long-buried records to public scrutiny, and scholars have mobilized interdisciplinary teams,4 so that an intense effort is underway, with complementary strategies – on the one hand to recover a singular personal heritage from the mass of documents and, on the other, to sift and sort those thousands of individual life events to yield meaningful evidence of social change. Using a dozen surnames to draw samples from one particular city, we propose a miniaturized model population. We distinguish the three largest ethnic communities and track the comings and goings of each person. Running steadily along the span 1840–1901, we tally the vital events in each family, measure out the rates of increase year by year, and observe the differences among the three groups. Over the sixty years, our “miniature Montreal” tracks about one individual in two hundred, and their experiences will allow us to identify three skeins of continuity, three patterns of choice, and in the timing of their marriages, births, deaths, and moves, three demographic regimes. Why such an approach to urban history? Why those particular beginning and end dates? And why Montreal? Is it a reasonable example of the peopling of a metropolis? And how should we delineate the three communities? In this introductory chapter, we shall need to indicate also the way our perceptions of the challenge evolved and the kinds of discoveries the miniature will yield. W H Y SUCH A N A PPROACH ?

Since the eighteenth century, when Adam Smith and Thomas Malthus published their dismal views of human nature, public debate has raged around

4 · Peopling the North American City

the motivation for getting children. What people like to think of as rather private and personal matters were affected by economic constraints and by the attitudes of the people who surrounded them.5 At what age was it appropriate to leave home? to marry? Under what conditions could a couple afford to marry? What pressures did they experience as the family grew? How did economic motives affect the size of the family? And conversely, how did family expectations limit the options or promote the achievements? These issues have re-emerged from time to time with a new charge, shifting the debate from moral theology to the rise of capitalism, to power relations between the sexes, or to the carrying capacity of the planet. But the debates have always involved a degree of contrariety between “the economic” and “the cultural.” Would traditions survive the transatlantic move? Would urban opportunities change the outlook of the younger generation? For half a century, population experts have employed a model known as the demographic transition – a theme and variations – to interpret the impact of modernization on birth and death rates. Industrialization and urbanization, they argue, fostered a decline in mortality and, with a lag of a generation or two, a decline in fertility.6 The transition account was initiated in the “postcolonial” 1960s in a theorization of economic development as the adoption of Western industrial technology. It was applied to Britain and France, to the nations of Eastern and Southern Europe as they “westernized,” then to Japan and to would-be developing nations on the periphery. While it is understandable that “progress” might appear as an implicit assumption in a theory of mortality decline, the intellectual environment of the 1960s led demographers to structure their analyses in a particular way. They modelled a population variable, such as median age at marriage or the average number of children per woman, as a behaviour to be explained in terms of an array of independent variables identified with the nation’s stage of economic development: urbanization, factory jobs, wage income, or literacy. In such models, economists thought of religion, language, and national origin as mere residuals of unexplained variance, and they styled these so-called cultural factors “irrational” because they did not conform to the logic of Homo economicus. In recent years, historical demographers of Europe and Victorian England have advanced evidence that cultural factors had a real impact on demographic variables and could be examined through behavioural studies at the household level.7 Susan Watkins, for example, noted how local networks of kin and neighbours, who had traditionally exerted influence on a couple’s ideal for number of children, yielded after 1870 in much of Europe to networks of nationwide scope, resulting in greater national homogeneity in behaviour. She has since urged fellow demographers to respond to questions

Trajectories · 5

raised in feminist scholarship by taking into consideration issues of power within the family, the fear of death, and the size of gossip networks.8 Toward the end of the twentieth century, field research in cities of developing nations further enlarged our appreciation of the complexity and reach of “the cultural.”9 R.J. Lesthaeghe, in work on both the European past and the African present, called for an anthropological approach. In Europe, for example, in the onset of marital fertility decline, several patterns of child spacing emerged which he argued were embedded in systems of belief and social organization.¹0 These “ideological codes” can often be captured in terms of language and religion, which were obvious channels for instilling values. In richly contextualized studies of particular places, scholars of the 1990s sought to place economic forces in a broader context, broad enough to embrace the cultural and the political.¹¹ Rather than setting cultural factors in opposition to economic factors, they framed an explanation in their interactions. What Susan Greenhalgh referred to as a political economy of fertility would direct attention to the embeddedness of community institutions in processes that operated at several levels – local, regional, national, and global.¹² In nineteenth-century North America, these interactions have remained somewhat obscure, in part because of the limitations of aggregate data.¹³ Variation is recognized from region to region, but for individual cities there is little information on family formation and virtually none that would allow us to compare, in the same city, families at various levels of income in association with particular religions and national origins. How did status or origin affect the timing of a marriage or the likelihood of moving on? How did wealth and education affect the numbers born? When, precisely, did marital fertility begin to fall? If incomes affected survival rates, were the effects the same for boys and girls, men and women? While the objective of this book is a coherent perspective, let us promptly admit that the research program did not spring full blown from a grand hypothesis. The starting point twenty-five years ago was a modest inquiry into infant mortality: What became of the babies born in Montreal in the year 1859? By focusing on helpless little beings, a quarter of whom died within a year, we were trying to assess the gap between rich and poor. The gap can be observed in other ways, such as how the living were housed or fed, but we targeted infant survival as an indicator traceable over decades and measurable with some precision over shorter intervals, even from week to week. And infant survival mattered. In the attempt to protect their infants, parents experienced urgent combat. In the initial findings, cultural affiliation loomed larger than the economic status of the family, and we pursued the

6 · Peopling the North American City

question with the babies born in 1879 and 1899. The Montreal sources were impressive, and the research problem kept growing, with one concrete and testable proposition after another (many of them had to be rejected) until the connections compelled us to conceive a broader, more interactive framework, to bring under observation longer chains of events, adjustments over a lifetime, and trajectories of communities over generations. How could we exploit sources that seemed to offer such daring possibilities? To tally vital events in the nineteenth century and to surround these events with the necessary cues to social relations – religion, origin, household structure, occupation, and purchasing power – there is probably no other large city in North America that offers so rich and comprehensive a stock of raw material. Since the next chapter describes these sources (and their limitations), we confine the discussion here to the question of whether the city is a reasonable example in terms of its economic trajectory and its cultural mix. THE ECONOMIC DIMENSIONS OF MONTRE A L

For considering the impact of the “industrial revolution” in North America, the years 1840–1900 are an appropriate span of observation and have indeed been the object of sustained inquiries into the processes of technological change, city building, mobilization of labour, and the impact on families.¹4 The big cities were shunting the shiploads of immigrants, collecting workers around great furnaces, and promoting a literate labour force responsive to the factory whistle. We will need to focus on the city’s economic attractions, the new kinds of work it generated, and the relative economic positions of the three communities.¹5 As a gateway to the Atlantic Ocean, Montreal made an early start, but growth was slow initially, and incorporation came late. Like Baltimore and Philadelphia, it had advantages as head of navigation on a waterway that penetrated deep into the continent. To enhance these advantages, canals were built in the 1820s to compete with the Erie and Ohio canal systems, and in the 1840s the steam dredge began deepening the channel. As shown in figure 1.1, the city was built in great surges, and the turning points were identical with those of all the other cities on the continent.¹6 An 1892 bird’seye view of Montreal, with its smoking locomotives, steamships, and factory stacks (fig. 1.2) recalls similar views of the waterfronts of Brooklyn and Cincinnati. All these cities underwent a revolution of steam power in the 1850s,¹7 and by the 1890s Montreal, like Los Angeles, was moving into a “second industrial revolution” of electric motors, electric transit, electric lighting, hydro power, and corporate mergers.¹8 In 1893 a financial crisis and bitter

Trajectories · 7

Building permits issued















Figure 1.1 · Construction cycles: annual permits 1841–1940. Source: City of Montreal, Annual reports of the building inspector

Figure 1.2 · Bird’s-eye view of Montreal, 1892. Source: Print, anonymous, detail. McCord Museum of Canadian History, Montreal (McCord Museum), M 984.210

Figure 1.3 · “The Dawn of the New Century,” detail, by Alonzo Ryan. The artist, a member of the surname sample, personifies the “New Free Nations” of the nineteenth century as allegorical figures of women. Shown here are Greece and Australia (left) and four of the “Great Men” of the century: Abraham Lincoln, Louis Pasteur, Victor Hugo, and Lord Byron. His full-page display featured William Gladstone and Wilfrid Laurier, Thomas Edison, Edmond Rostand, Honoré de Balzac, Joseph Chamberlain, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Alexandre von Humboldt, and, looming over them all, Napoleon and Pope Leo XIII, author of Rerum novarum. Source: Originally published in La Patrie, 1 January 1901, reproduced here from Ryan, Free Lance Political Caricature in Canada (1904), 7. McGill Libraries, Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC)

unemployment spread across the continent, but recovery stirred a grand enthusiasm for “progress,” so that at “The Dawn of The New Century,” Montreal journalists offered Louis Pasteur and a railway tycoon as icons of modernity (fig. 1.3). High-speed communications – the telegraph, the tramway, and the rotary press – accelerated exchange, and on the Canadian side of the border, Montreal was the nerve centre for forwarding resources such as wheat and copper from the West. Even the physical shape and appearance of the city tracked changes that could be observed across the continent. A city of plank and shingle and boardwalk was transformed into something that seemed more permanent, with buildings clad in brick, streets paved with asphalt and festooned with wires. The six- or eight-storey buildings of downTrajectories · 9

Figure 1.4 · Projection of population densities in Montreal, 1847, 1861, 1881, and 1901. Shaded are high densities, over 400 households per hectare. Source: Tax rolls, numbers of households mapped by street segments

town Montreal did not match the skyscrapers of Chicago or New York, and there were no crowded dumbbell tenements, but population densities tripled, and the “mountains” of people displayed in figure 1.4 felt the pace and intensity of competition – for work, for wages, for privilege, and for living space. THE CULT UR A L DIMENSIONS OF MONTRE A L

Cities with a common trajectory of economic growth differed in the mix of their cultural components. In Milwaukee and St Louis the largest numbers of newcomers were from Germany, in Pittsburgh and Cleveland from Hungary, in Boston from Ireland. Montreal, too, had its distinctive profile of origins, making it today the largest French-speaking metropolis outside France. In the cohorts of babies, we had identified three communities, based on a combination of religion and language – Catholic or Protestant, French or English – and had sorted them into French-speaking Catholics, Englishspeaking Protestants, and between them the English-speaking Catholics who shared their language with the Protestants and their religion with the French-speaking (fig. 1.5). Language and religion are among the referents most often explored in present-day and historical studies of ethnicity, and in Montreal they resonated in the newspapers throughout the nineteenth century. As early as 1842, the census tallied people under fourteen denominational rubrics, and a little “in-group” from County Cavan or Glasgow might dominate a corner tavern, but formal institutions such as schools, hospitals, military units, and cemeteries were all organized along the fault lines of French or English language and Catholic or Protestant religion. In the decade before the First World War, cultural variations would become wonderfully complicated, but as late as 1901 the three combinations displayed covered all but 4 per cent of townsfolk. The three-part Montreal has the further advantage of detaching the “cultural” from the additional complication one must face in so many US cities – the racial assignments rooted in the economy of slavery and cotton.¹9 Political debate, like Mike Fink’s fights on the steamboat landings, fosters a tendency to define communities in terms of opposing forces – us and them, anglophone versus francophone voters, Catholic versus Protestant pupils, native versus foreign-born workers. In the study of infant mortality, however, we had to assess the risk that we might miss some deaths of infants never baptized, and this concern led us to distinguish the more complex “bivariate” group of English-speaking Catholics, most of them from Ireland. They amounted at mid-century to one-quarter of the population, and throughout our effort to dissect the urban system the Catholic Irish have offered an ex-

Trajectories · 11

1842 Protestant

Catholic French Speaking

English Speaking

French Catholic


Irish Catholic

1901 Protestant

Catholic French Speaking

English Speaking

French Catholic









Figure 1.5 · Percentage of urban population by cultural community, Montreal, 1842 and 1901. Throughout the period, three-quarters of the population was Catholic. Sources: Census of Lower Canada, 1842, and Census of Canada, 1901

ceptional lens. Our initial analysis of infant mortality suggested that what Marvin McInnis had described as “two cultures of childbearing in Canada” might be better interpreted as three for the people of Montreal. At the hinge of his map of Canada, Montreal was an anomaly, and the interpretation left no room for the Irish Catholic experience. Taking into account citizens of a third kind forced us to question also the popular notion of “two founding peoples” of French and British origins, the literary metaphor of “the two solitudes,” and the still-popular simplification of the geography of Montreal as east and west of St Lawrence Main.²0 We therefore adopted the bivariate definition. In drawing the samples that would make up the miniature, we would aim at equal proportions in 1860 from the three groups. Taken together, the distinctions of religion and language would serve as convenient markers for what proved to be three elaborate cultural packages, each with its own close-bound solidarities. We were framing the miniature in line with Kreager’s notion of “culture as identifier” to explore the three communities as networks of meaning that might influence demographic behaviour.²¹ We are taking a very broad view of “culture,” encompassing the great variety of ways of being and doing, and knowing

12 · Peopling the North American City

how.²² We cannot, of course, assume that the three cultural packages were transmitted unchanged for sixty years. Nor do we dare assume that religion or language per se determined demographic “performance.” As pointed out by Gauvreau and McQuillan, whatever the clergy said about marriage and family limitation (and they said it more vigorously in the twentieth century), it remains uncertain to what extent people adhered to their teachings.²³ Religion and language were just two of a great many points of reference available for navigating the web of social relations.²4 In 1840s Montreal, as indeed today, an individual might invoke the family name with pride, refer to an ideal of motherhood, mastery of a craft or profession, a particular Old World village of origin, the old school tie, or a party affiliation. The several points of reference might overlap in their appeals to personal commitment, as in the deference expressed toward “a lifetime governor of the Protestant Hospital” or the “Friends of Ireland.”²5 On occasion, allegiances tugged in opposite directions, like the choice of Christmas Eve with his folks or hers. Over a lifetime, some of those reference points grew thick with memories, mutual services, and a legacy of trust. Sensitivities could stir animosity; they could also be aroused to feelings of mutual respect and, in its wake, a greater self-respect. IMPL ICATIONS OF A SA MPL ING STR ATEGY

By making these critical decisions, we framed a space of analysis. We specified an interval (1840–1901) and, to distinguish those great surges of citybuilding, a census-based periodization in twenty-year leaps: 1842–1861– 1881–1901. We chose a city that is rich in evidence and reflects the timing of industrialization on the continent, confirmed that its mix of cultural origins can be defined in a consistent way over the entire span, and that most of its residents can be categorized in ways that distinguish a cultural from an economic position. (There are, of course, caveats and operational details to come.) Within this “social space” we would have to sample. To study seventeenth-century Montreal, Louise Dechêne had explored all the nominal sources she could find on two continents, and Danielle Gauvreau likewise based her demographic analysis of French-regime Quebec City on the entire set of parish registers.²6 But Dechêne’s Montreal had not yet reached 5,000, Gauvreau’s Quebec, 6,000, whereas the industrializing city we wanted to observe had reached 35,000 (1842) and would grow to 325,000 (1901). A selection of surnames offered a straightforward and parsimonious method. For further economy in the search process, we confined the choice to two letters of the alphabet and reckoned, from the families of 1859, that an array of

Trajectories · 13

twelve names would recover samples of comparable size from the three communities. Targeting anyone who bore one of those names and lived or died in Montreal before 1920, we combed the archives – census, parish registers, taxrolls, court records. The surname strategy, which is discussed further in the next chapter, had implications for what we would uncover. It would pick up multiple events that concerned the same person. Surname sampling would select parents, children and grandchildren, partners, and neighbours whose lives intersected. Evidence of their transactions would identify their tenants, their servants, and their creditors. As it turns out, a dozen names encompassed several hundred recognizable cobwebs of kinship, doubled by the alliances of marriage. Since transmission of surnames was patronymic, we would have to consider the bias of relationships through the male line, but plucking surnames led us to see the family as endless and supple, extending into a past and into a future, and concentrated in a corner of the city or spread over a rural back country. Where, we wondered, was the borderline between family and culture? What began as a calculus of death rates became an exploration of cultural coexistence in a city and the cultural transmission belt from one generation to the next. The objective of a working model would demand, of course, a good deal of arithmetic. How long was the “average” life? Did the women live longer than the men? Did the chances of a newborn improve over the sixty years? What proportion of ten year olds were in school? In thirty years, the operation migrated from file cards and tracing paper to the university mainframe, and after a few years of nocturnal effort (at the lowest cost per minute) to the desktop computer and programming platforms that allowed us to squander bytes. But the quantitative inquiry is not enough. Did the changes in lifespan or work regime change the quality of life? Why did Célina Beauchamp come to Montreal? Why did James Bethune leave? Did parents believe schooling would make a difference? Did the daughter feel she was better off than her mother? The sources and measures we adopted will offer indirect evidence, but they do not always go far enough in articulating motives. Comprehensive sources like the baptismal register or census sheet contain few expressions of sentiment. Even in wills and contracts, a notary translated the express intentions of the parties into a formal language. We cannot often judge the depth of conviction – only the obligation to record an act or the anxiety that compelled recourse to a written record. How were the several social networks connected? If the three cultural communities succeeded in preserving their boundaries, how did they reach across the gulf? From the interactions in the miniature Montreal it was pos-

14 · Peopling the North American City

sible to reconstruct configurations of social relations. In a sample of onehalf of 1 per cent of an urban population, what were the chances that Elise, a Beauchamp daughter, would marry Jerome, the son of a Ryan? or that John Ryan, an indentured servant, would marry Catherine Burroughs? How likely was it that another John Ryan and his brother-in-law, given to banditry, would pick on storekeeper Joseph Beauchamp? But so it ran with all twelve names. A third John Ryan went to Beaty’s March ball. A Burland and a Bagg built mansions side by side. Bagg sold the lot next door to Canon Bethune for a church, and Bethune hired Bulmer to build a chapter house. Beauchamp let his house to Bowman, and Captain Baird sued chief customs collector Ryan for a delay in unloading his vessel. Aldéric Beauchamp was killed by a falling wall in a burning building he owned; the fire had started in John Bulmer’s “oil cabinet works,” and a second victim was Janet Boyd’s husband, superintendent of the city’s workshop. The same year a Beattie, a Burrows, and a Ryan were implicated in a Twelfth of July fracas. Thomas Barlow graded Bagg’s racetrack at the Mile End tavern, managed his timber shanties in Huntingdon County, and there married Josephte Beauchamp.²7 The several groups, as we shall see, lived their social lives in parallel, keeping somewhat apart, but jointly experiencing the cross-currents of the same market and the same courthouse. They shared the holidays and civic celebrations, the public scandals, the rigor of the Montreal winter, and the excitement at the arrival of the first ships in April, all the while keeping one another under observation as rivals, threats, models, or interlocutors. BORROW INGS

Before we turn to the sources, we need to mention the ways our ideas developed. The outcomes are influenced by the sampling scheme and the initial focus on precocious deaths, but also by the baggage each of the authors brought with her to Montreal in the early 1970s, by the ways the city challenged our thinking, and by the work of other people over a quarter-century. The project has a history rather like some of the families in the sample – two immigrants drawn into multiple social networks of a city “on the go.” The westward march of population generated a westward march of corporate headquarters, and citizens in the 1970s were suffering an acute sense of demotion. As two great locomotive shops and seven oil refineries shut down, the spectacle of industrial might was being erased, and an active waterfront was adapted as a playground for the continent.²8 As a transcontinental highway system burrowed its way through town, the original once-walled townsite of 100 acres (40 hectares) was given protection, but all the rest was at risk of the

Trajectories · 15

wrecking ball.²9 Under the title City for Sale, a journalist probed the international speculations that were producing “this-could-be-anywhere” skyscrapers. Gerrymandering by politicians who lived outside Montreal Island was reshaping the boundaries of the city and keeping a tight rein over its authority.³0 Language had eclipsed religion as the prime political identifier, and the French-language majority, determined to reassert itself provincewide, was framing legislation to regulate the language of signs, union contracts, and schooling.³¹ In 1973 Louise Dechêne published her account of seventeenth-century Montreal – a model of the wholeness of historical treatment of a population in its everyday life and exchange. In historical demography, Quebec was the New World darling, and demographers were among Canada’s most respected and best-funded social scientists, working with sources comparable to those in Europe. At the Université de Montréal, the research program in historical demography had transcribed and linked 750,000 vital events from the 1650s to 1800 in an ambitious reconstruction of the composition of the entire Catholic population of New France.³² A second team of scholars five hundred kilometres to the north had begun linking this pioneer population to local histories of settlement and to practical present-day problems in medical genetics. Interdisciplinary teamwork on these projects elaborated new methods, tested occupational categories, and exerted quality control over the massive local sources.³³ They were part of international networks of European and British scholars who were extending village studies to small towns, and our effort to extract a miniaturized representation is an attempt to apply their methods to a big city.³4 Meanwhile, other Montreal-based networks of historians were introducing perspectives that would revise interpretations of social relations. Our work was profoundly influenced by watching these projects take shape, as scholars moved into new formulations of popular culture,³5 the ambiguities that surrounded the organization of charity in the nineteenth century,³6 and the reconstruction of the body of civil law.³7 Their efforts were accompanied by vigorous debates over definitions of social class, relations between town and country, and alternative pathways between feudalism and capitalism.³8 Other initiatives expanded horizons to a French Canada of continental dimensions, to the “Americanity” of Quebec, with its many contradictions, and to the global breadth of British perspectives on settler opportunities.³9 On the strength of earlier projects, we were drawn, independently, into research teams for the creation of the Historical Atlas of Canada. Thornton, from work on settlement of the Strait of Belle Isle and population dynamics

16 · Peopling the North American City

on a resource frontier, undertook to portray the sweeping exodus of Canadians to the United States from 1860 to 1900. Montreal and Toronto were the sole “hot spots” where the arrivals outnumbered the departures.40 Olson, in her earlier work on Baltimore, had situated its growth in the continentwide cycle of “built capital.”4¹ Investment and land speculation, surging every fifteen to twenty-five years, approached the horizon of a human generation, and work on the atlas confirmed the rhythm in Montreal.4² The projected atlas was a Canadian example of more widespread collaborations emerging in the social sciences. Interpretations of “social space” and “social distance” were being renewed and enlarged by historians as well as by geographers and sociologists.4³ Although cities are defined as dense spatial concentrations of people, the internal organization of the urban space has been neglected in historical demography. An important exception is JeanPierre Bardet who, contemplating a million destinies, subtitled his study of sixteenth-century Rouen “Mutations of a Social Space” and proposed a reading of society from the city map: “In the tight spaces of the city, every parcel of land is a carrier of difference.”44 In Montreal, each of the three cultural communities has received attention in recent years. For a relatively neglected “Protestant Montreal,” the diversity of allegiances has been revealed by studies of elites and prostitutes, of monuments in the cemetery, the relocation of churches, and parents’ demands for schooling for their children.45 As highrise buildings surrounded Christ Church Cathedral, the congregation, amid fierce internal debate, sold its air rights for capital to renovate the structure; it stood for a year on pilings (fig. 1.6). Among the people of Irish descent, efforts to restore St Patrick’s Basilica were matched by scholars’ efforts to recover documents, sites of memory, and a narrative.46 Scholarship directed to more recent streams of immigrants also influenced our understanding of cultural alignments. Most of the newcomers to the province were settling in Montreal, and a federal policy of “multiculturalism” was displacing an older “bilingual/bicultural” policy. Garment workers conducted a union meeting in eighteen languages; French-speaking Jews from North Africa challenged the English-speaking; Chinese from Hong Kong and mainland China brought their political differences with them; changes imposed on the language of schooling elicited tense and divided responses from Italian families, and children of the Greek and Haitian communities challenged their parents’ expectations.47 In the 1990s, as new groups of refugees arrived, sociologists and social geographers advanced research on the integration of “visible minorities” in schools and workplaces and on the informal low-key encounters that make a city

Trajectories · 17

Figure 1.6 · Christ Church Cathedral underpinned for construction beneath, 1989. Source: Courtesy of Montreal Diocesan Archives

“cosmopolitan.”48 How are solidarities created? How are “differences” legitimated? Each new challenge in the living city raised questions about how, in the nineteenth century, differences had been sustained or ignored. In their everyday navigation of the social space, Montrealers are ever alert to the city’s cultural communities. Local historians and social scientists, like their fellow citizens, recognize that “belonging” identifies a social network, that people who speak different languages, attend different churches, or come from different places may also read different newspapers, give a different twist to chignon or moustache, or reach for different brands on the grocer’s shelf. The etiquette of public discourse is exquisitely sensitive to the politics of language, as it was in the nineteenth century to the politics of religion; and the institutionalization of difference is acknowledged in the convolutions of school boards and television licences. In Montreal, today or yesterday, the cultural cannot be ignored.

18 · Peopling the North American City

Figure 1.7 · “La débacle de 1873.” The spring thaw and break-up of ice on the St Lawrence signalled the reopening of trade but in some years created serious flooding in the port and in the low-rent neighbourhoods of Griffintown and Pointe-Saint-Charles. This representation of navigation in a flooded neighbourhood in 1873 contains clues to “social navigation” as well. Source: “Croquis dans la partie inondée de la ville,” L’Opinion publique, 1 May 1873. McGill Libraries, RBSC


At the risk of a disconnect, we are carving out a sixty-year span in a history of more than three centuries. The original French colony at Montreal had been created as a religious mission of Counter-Reformation spirituality (1642), and in the first generation after the Conquest (1760), a British colonial government was pressed to affirm the religious rights of the Catholic population to a degree Britain did not yet tolerate at home or in Ireland. More slowly and less certainly, French Canadian language rights were acknowledged in courtroom, parliament, and schoolroom. At the town centre, Notre-Dame, “the French church” under the direction of the Priests of Saint-Sulpice, had been rebuilt to the scale of a cathedral (1829); and Christ Church – “the English church” – embraced a parish with identical boundaries and was responsible also for the chaplaincy of the British garrison. By 1840 a wide range of Protestant denominations had been introduced – by Glasgow merchants,

Trajectories · 19

Figure 1.8 · “From French Cathedral Tower, looking West, 1859.” Source: McCord Museum, V 7050

Loyalists from New England, Methodist missionary societies, and contentious Presbyterian ministers called from Scotland. Anglicans and Catholics tended to nurse their privileged status in a respectful ambivalence, but the fringe of nonconformists undermined the pretension of “established” religion in British North America. Presbyterians and evangelicals, with greater leeway for congregational independence, launched campaigns among the unchurched and among French Canadians. Each group seized occasions for self-assertion. To the end of the eighteenth century, Anglican parishioners, for want of a church bell, were called to Sunday worship by the regimental drum, and until 1870 the garrison continued to hold Sunday “church parades,” where the brigade marched into Christ Church and, as the Anglican soldiers entered their pews, the Scots proceeded out of the other door to the Presbyterian church. As counterpoint in the year-round public celebrations of identity came the June procession of the Catholic community for the Fête-Dieu (Corpus Christi), whose display of the Host in the streets originated in a pre-Christian circuit of Rome. As long as Montreal remained a single Catholic parish (to 1872), annual symbolic appropriation of the urban territory carried a message as provocative as the military church parade.

20 · Peopling the North American City

A sense of tragedy marked the city of 1840. The Rebellion of 1837–38, public in its inception and inspired by civic ideals, had drawn thousands into its vortex. Without reviewing those events in detail, we have to keep in mind the idealism of the participants, the humiliation of betrayal, and the rage aroused by suspension of habeas corpus, the imprisonment of 1,300 in the Montreal prison on accusations of high treason, the trial of 99 persons under courts martial (rather than under the existing civil courts or juries), and the bishop’s refusal of burial in holy ground to those fallen or condemned.49 Twelve of the Patriotes were hanged, and 58 transported to Australia. In the words from the scaffold and in the exiles’ letters, we can still glimpse the mix of pride and shame. Arrested on 16 November 1837, André Ouimet described the moment his hands were tied behind him: “And, by the way, have you ever been tied up? Well, it is the greatest insult, the most heartrending pain you can impose on a man who is a man and owes himself respect.”50 Readers can refer to numerous studies of the rebellions, the imposition of the union of Upper and Lower Canada (now known as Ontario and Quebec), in 1840, and three years of a punitive government by Special Council.5¹ Much of the historiography centres on the construction of a Canadian nation or on the national aspirations of the Québécois, and scholars have given far less attention to the civic implications for Montreal: a devastating interruption to the process of municipal incorporation (1833–36, resumed 1840) and a legacy of eighteen years of electoral violence (1832–49), aggravated by massive business failures (1846–49) and a rigorous financial restructuring of the young municipality (1849). The torching of the building that housed the Parliament in April 1849 further humiliated the city by depriving it of its status as a capital.5² The starting date in 1840 is abrupt, and to get our bearings, let us step for a moment into “the City of Wealth and Death,” with its iron-shuttered warehouses on the waterfront and its stone convents with their brilliant tin roofs.5³ Had you arrived in late summer like so many others, you would have encountered a clutter of masts and steamboat stacks, a clamour of hammer and chisel at work on a school for six hundred parish boys, a wall and esplanade overlooking the waterfront, toll booths at the entrances to the city, and the grading and gravelling of the roads. The paddlewheel steamers were bringing letters and newspapers about every two weeks from London and Paris.54 In Paris, Louis Daguerre was perfecting his photographic process; Pierre-Joseph Proudhon had published his challenge, What Is Property? and Victor Hugo attended the ceremony of the return of Napoléon’s body from St Helena to the Invalides. France had 100,000 soldiers in Algeria and had just occupied Tahiti. Britain had landed its first colonists in New Zealand,

Trajectories · 21

and the British army, embroiled in the first Opium War and the first AngloAfghan War, was preparing to occupy Hong Kong. In Montreal a pharmacist, on receiving the news that the young queen, newly wed, had set her signature to the Act of Union of the Canadas, pronounced it “the most iniquitous and shameless act of modern times,” comparable, he asserted, to the degradation of Ireland and the annihilation of Poland.55 That was August, and now it’s November, the streets “all in darkness” for fourteen hours. On Sunday night, 22 November, 25 centimetres of snow fell. O’Brien the innkeeper salted two pigs, and his wife bought four cartloads of maple firewood. On 30 November the steamers made their last trip across the river; foreign trade came to a halt, leaving time for weddings, politics, and theatricals. Montreal adopted its winter mode: splitting wood in the back yard, piling manure next to the privy; ice in the wash bowl, the guttering candle. The thirteenth of December was the first day of an unprecedented five-week revival conducted by Monseigneur de Forbin-Janson, a missioner invited from France,56 and excitement ran parallel over a second French visitor, Alexandre Vattemare, who was promoting an international exchange of books, under Bacon’s motto, “Knowledge is power.” On the twenty-second “Monsieur Alexandre” performed at the Royal Theatre as ventriloquist and mimic. In the great nave of Notre-Dame, the mission was still attracting thousands, and on Christmas morning 4,400 women took communion. On the twenty-eighth the Ten Commandments were pronounced from on high; “with one voice” the people assented to each, and the next day, after the men’s communion, “the dead bell” tolled for a quarter of an hour to plead for sinners who had not heeded the call. On New Year’s Day the O’Briens watched a turkey shoot on the ice and on the way home noted high water “up as far as D Cottrels door.” On 8 January the annual soup kitchen was reopened for the “certified poor,” and on the same street corner the Evangelical Society began holding services. On the ice bridge, a track marked across the St Lawrence, a fight broke out between French and Irish. A woman released from jail bought liquor with a cheque she had found and froze to death in a snowbank. The priest responsible for the Irish poor made up his list of men whom the city would hire for breaking stones. He distributed potatoes, moved a stove from one family to another, bought a frock for a woman with the falling sickness, and paid a woman for nursing another who was equally poor. A young lawyer, Charles Mondelet, was occupied simultaneously with a petition of thanks to the missioner and the promotion of the ventriloquist’s plan for an institution that would receive the books from Europe. A combination of town hall, library, meeting place, and museum, it would be dedicated “to the extinction of all national prejudi-

22 · Peopling the North American City

ces.” Backed by both Protestant and Catholic associations, with delegations between them and cheers for the “mouvement d’unanimité,” the newly appointed city council obtained authorization to borrow 50,000 pounds for the project.57 By March the sense of unanimity had waned, and the first elections were held in the united Province of Canada. According to the pharmacist, “injustice, corruption, and violence accompanied every phase.”58 Innkeeper O’Brien noted the gift of a pair of sheepskin mitts and arranged to have his wife’s grandson inoculated against smallpox. On the night of 21 April, the ice went out and the steamers began to arrive, reconnecting the circuits of exchange. Thus the year was marked by grand intentions, modest realizations, and myriad small gestures. In the nation-building narratives, the Act of Union is treated as a milestone. It was followed by a reluctant acknowledgment of local representation, the compromises that established Confederation (1867), and an increasing independence of the mother country.59 From the imposition in 1840 of both the union of the Canadas and the municipal Corporation of Montreal there emerged new conceptions of citizenship. Over the first decade, when the powers of assembly and council were so limited, novels and histories were published with fresh interrogations of the past, harnessed to alternative constructions of the future.60 Each cultural community reframed its narrative to legitimate the new centres of power, to formulate or contest the rights and obligations of a citizen, and to accommodate its own survival as a coherent outlook on the world. We say little in this book about the travail of the nation-state but focus on the local and personal narratives. Our concern is with these “vital events” – vital but little remarked in the newspapers or assembly halls. Births, deaths, and marriages registered in the twelve months (May 1840 to April 1841) involved a dozen Beauchamp couples, a dozen of the Protestant couples, and twenty Ryan couples. (Except for the five newborns attached to the 23d Regiment, the others will reappear.) How did their stories fit into the construction of futures? Cultural difference, lodged in the city by conquest, was sharpened by repression, and at the critical founding moment of civic identity, competing demands for loyalty were already built into its institutions so that individuals, year by year – the newborns and the newly arrived – had to come to terms with those demands. However brief its role as a capital city (1846–49), Montreal made itself the hub of the industrial economy of Canada, the metropolitan market, the central place of spectacle, and therefore the point of entry for all the threats perceived as coming from the wider world – monetization of the economy, alienation of labour, Freemasonry,

Trajectories · 23

and soul-destroying novelties such as the polka, the bustle, cheap novels, and chewing gum. People arrived in Montreal eager to taste all these forbidden fruits. They came and stayed, recognizing that urban life was fundamentally different in its density, its pressure for innovation, and in what Fernand Dumont has referred to as an irrémédiable diversité.6¹ WHAT DISCOV ERIES CAN WE ANTICIPATE ?

Step by step, seizing opportunities or acknowledging the constraints of the research design, we have arrived at findings that force us to question certain interpretations in the literature of the North American city and to assert rather vigorously the importance of “cultural difference” in demographic analysis. In compiling the evidence, we will develop some of the pressure points of culture and kinship. Relationships observed in the miniature invite a broader view of family than the census takers employed, with considerable influence over perceptions of social distance.6² The economic changes can fairly be called revolutionary: a tenfold growth of population, even greater expansion of wealth and territorial extent, the harnessing of steam and electric power, and elaboration of the division of labour. But the urban society displayed some astonishingly stable features. Until 1900 there is little evidence of a sanitary or epidemiological transition. Stability is most impressive with respect to the inequalities of voice, purchasing power, and access to real property. The powerful engine of the urban economy seems endowed with a massive flywheel, ensuring that assets were redistributed with the same inequality over half a century, reproducing the City of Wealth and Death. Although the city continued to draw people from near and far, tracking a thousand couples and their children and grandchildren uncovers kernels of continuity, and within the network of dependable relationships we discover upward mobility as families resident for a generation managed to scramble a rung up the ladder. Scrambling, making and remaking their alliances, the three populations employed some stubborn and consistent manoeuvres. These sheaves of strategies we infer from patterns of behaviour and from fragmentary expressions of values captured in the stories themselves. Despite continual exchange among the three communities and some intermarriage, their differences persisted over the three or four generations observed, undermining presumptions of the cultural assimilation of migrants.6³ The findings for Montreal challenge other interpretations that are sometimes taken for granted. We shall see that the image of the prolific French Canadian family and the much-discussed “revenge of the cradle” do not match the facts of a relatively low rate of net reproduction of French

24 · Peopling the North American City

Canadian Montrealers.64 Among Irish Catholics, the number who made the move from rags to respectability in one generation raises doubts about the classic account of ignorant and deprived Irish Catholic labourers trapped in poverty.65 Nor does the fertility of the Protestant community of Montreal support the classic argument that Protestant convictions promoted family limitation.66 The cumulative impact of all those minute and interwoven personal decisions also challenges those eighteenth-century moralists who claimed that “men multiplied like mice in a barn.” Missing in their perceptions of human nature were important dimensions of personal agency.67 In the great barn of Montreal, people were responding in a variety of ways to a wide range of circumstances. They were operating in contexts of intense personal mobility – social and geographic, long-distance, local, or around the corner. Even in very tight circumstances, individuals were making choices, sometimes consciously, sometimes intuitively, and we shall argue that their experiences with moving affected other choices too, sharpened their awareness of the space for manoeuvre, and promoted a calculus of risk. STEP BY STEP

Since the book is not structured chronologically, it may be useful to refer more than once to figures 1.1 and 1.4 for the shape of the trajectory. Chapter 2 will address the sources employed, since the interpretations that follow have to be appraised in terms of the validity of sampling and identification. To ensure an appreciation of the scale of the city – its growth in population, radius, and density – the chapter sketches the volumes of births, deaths, and marriages as components of a demographer’s balance sheet. The interactive nature of demographic process then imposes its own logic on the exposition. The first component we take up is migration (chapter 3) as the key to New World demographies. Some of the sample members – carpenters, bricklayers, and ditch diggers – will guide us through the surges of construction and market expansion that made the city a magnet. Its attraction to migrants was a powerful determinant of other features of the demographic regime that are discussed in the three chapters that follow – death rates, birth rates, and the timetables of marriage. Rooted in a distinctive experience of migration, each community, responding in its own way, achieved substantial upward mobility. The paths were risky, and in chapter 4 we appraise the levels of mortality and the types of hazard people encountered at various ages and seasons, according to their gender, ethnicity, and access to resources. Chapter 5 shows

Trajectories · 25

how relative growth in each of the three communities was affected by its birth rate and, indirectly, by arrivals, early deaths, and the timing and duration of marriages. Comparison of vital events in the 1860s and 1890s – a generation apart – points to the impact of a trend to later marriage, and chapter 6 probes the incentives and contingencies that influenced the schedule of marriages. In chapter 7 we narrow the focus to changes, between 1880 and 1900, in the structure of urban opportunities for the young women and men who, at ages 15–30, were making so many of the crucial decisions as they entered the labour force, made a move, married, started a family, or launched a business. The city attracted more women than men, and their relative prospects shifted with age. In such a dynamic environment, some properties of the city were remarkably stable, among them the sizes of dwellings and sizes of households. These stable structures, described in chapter 8, accommodated a rapid turnover of household membership and frequent moves from one apartment to another. The samples uncover the reliance of families on a wider circle of kith and kin to cope with change, reconstitute viable households, rescue property rights, and sustain risk taking. The three communities differed in the proportion of individuals they housed as lodgers and servants, and in the proportion of vulnerable people they sheltered as dependents or sustained collectively in institutions. Chapter 9 describes the spatial arrangements. In terms of both culture and economic status, differences were expressed in fine-grained patterns of residential apartheid that were also remarkably stable. Socially distinct residential niches were laced together by zones of encounter characterized by greater opportunities and higher risks; and the zones of diversity attracted other new entrants, in particular the Italian, Jewish, and Chinese migrants, who by 1901 accounted for 4 per cent of the people. In chapter 10 we explore networks that stretched between town and country to uncover a further restructuring of opportunities that ensured the renewal of the city’s productive and reproductive capacities. We have come full circle, to the central determinant of an urban New World demography – the mobility of people. In each chapter we call on people from the little surname samples for their concrete actions and their observations of events they witnessed. Their stories, even though fragmentary, are more appealing than models, and a reader may choose to skirt some technical passages (notably in chapters 4–6 and 10), which are exercises essential to confirm trends, assess interactions, and corroborate the persistent differences among the three communities. In chapter 11 we explore, in a very tentative way, the further question raised by the persistence of their differences: How did each group maintain its co-

26 · Peopling the North American City

herence? We can make a few suggestions about their efforts to mark their boundaries, to reward loyalty, to reconstruct and rehearse their narratives of identity. But the question remains open, an invitation to create other strategies for sampling and tap other kinds of sources. In chapter 12, where we summarize the findings, we will have to be satisfied if we can raise the workings of demography higher on the agenda of the urban historian and restore to the agenda of the demographer some further elements of critical historical context. Within a single city, members of each group were pursuing their lives at a characteristic pace and asserting a particular ideal of the life course. Despite changes modulated by demands of the industrial economy, cultural referents remained vital, contributing to powerful continuities at the core of urban life. These continuities emerged from the myriad decisions, the trust placed in “family,” and the recurrent testing of loyalties.

Trajectories · 27


Tracking a Population

Each year in Montreal there comes a day in early April when a plunging view of the downtown campus reveals in the melting snow a dense criss-cross of footprints. Thousands of tracks. The whims of drainage and ground frost make it possible for a few hours to contemplate a history of pedestrian habits. In the same way, we pick up from faded traces of ink the paths travelled a century ago by some five thousand Montrealers. Some 40 or 45 per cent travelled for less than five years, 10 per cent more than three score and ten. We start with a handful from that privileged group of survivors who watched the city itself grow and change, in order to describe the sources employed and to flesh out the sampling strategy that permits inferences for the population as a whole. Where did they come from? Where did they go? How great was the turnover? How many may have escaped our net? And are there points at which the sampling strategy will fall short? From 1815, a stream of settlers from Britain and Ireland began pouring into British North America. Population had grown enormously in England and Ireland (the first phase of a “demographic transition” that would girdle the globe), and the sudden deflation of the economy at the end of the Napoleonic Wars stirred many departures, while the briefer war between Britain and the United States (1812–15) enhanced the strategic value of the St Lawrence and Great Lakes region for both defence and commerce. Those who settled in Montreal contributed to the creation of a laboratory of cultural coexistence. As early as 1825, Jean-Baptiste Beauchamp was working as a mason on the construction of Notre-Dame Church, where a certain Boyd and another “Boshong” were earning five shillings a day as carpenters; and in May 1829, Ryan was framing doors for the pews. Employed on the construction of St Patrick’s Church in 1846 were Patrick Rian, at two shillings and ninepence a day, along with William Boyd and another Jean-Baptiste Beauchamp. By 1840, when the city was incorporated, all twelve surnames were present in the city; their tracks are numerous enough to envision a study of this kind, and they will appear in every large undertaking.

Let us look at one family, whose members were present in Montreal for more than forty years, to see where their lives were recorded and how the pieces of the puzzle can be assembled. In 1864, when master-carpenter Ferdinand Beauchamp and his wife Emélie Braband, with their nine children, moved from the village of Saint-Lin to Montreal, about forty kilometres, they were part of a gathering stream of French Canadians flooding into Montreal from the countryside. In the spring of 1871, as construction surged, Ferdinand signed up for two lots on Amherst Street at $400 each, and in the course of the summer he and his twenty-year-old son Zotique built a double duplex (four dwellings), bringing the property to ten times the value. Six years later they built another set. And then another. There are gaps in the record. Did they build one every summer? With little capital of their own, land and materials on credit, the labour and knowhow of Ferdinand and Zotique were essential components in a flow of investment, creating a future stream of profits and rents. Their story is part of the transformation of Quebec, its rapid urbanization, and the emergence of Montreal as the chief pole of attraction in the province. Why did they leave Saint-Lin? Ferdinand and his brother Moyse had been working together there as carpenter-builders. Moyse had married in 1845, Ferdinand in 1846 (at 24 and 27), and their wives, Delphine Auger and Emélie Braband, were much younger, 17 and 16 at marriage. None of the four could read or write. Moyse and Delphine invited the fiancés, Ferdinand and Emélie, to be godparents to their first baby, and of course they reciprocated by making Moyse and Delphine godparents to their first-born, Zotique (1850). Moyse Beauchamp had another large job in Saint-Lin in 1853, Ferdinand in 1855, and for another decade the two families were neighbours there. Ferdinand taught his son the trade, while Moyse, who had only daughters, took an apprentice. By 1864 Moyse had died, and Saint-Lin had completed its church, presbytery, school, convent, and a cluster of fine homes for its notables. Ferdinand must have envisioned greater opportunities in Montreal, and his further collaborations point to the continuing importance of kinship, sociability, and ritual, intimately connected with their economic objectives. During the summer of 1871 when Ferdinand and his son were building side by side, hammer and saw sounded from dawn to dark, April through October, in that stretch of Amherst and Wolfe Streets. They were surrounded by other relatives from Saint-Lin. Among the people who signed up for the 200 lots in Boyer’s subdivision were two of Ferdinand’s sons-in-law and four of their brothers. Isaïe, Ferdinand’s cousin once removed, was probably first on the scene: he had married in Montreal (1845), and he and his son Baptiste had built one of the first houses in the Boyer tract (1868). Isaïe’s brother and Tracking a Population · 29

Figure 2.1 · Growth of the street pattern, Montreal, 1846–1901. Sources: Redrawn, using Cane, Topographical and Pictorial Map, 1846; Goad, Atlas of the City of Montreal, 1890; Pinsonneault, Atlas of the Island and City of Montreal, 1906–07

three more second cousins had also come from Saint-Lin, all carpenters, and his sister Isabelle, with her husband, Edouard Ménard. Although two cousins left Saint-Lin for the United States, the principal destination of the entire extended family was Montreal, where an intricate braid of human relations was rewoven into the social fabric of Saint-Jacques parish. What happened when the Boyer subdivision was completed? Isaïe and Baptiste moved on to build a double duplex for themselves a few blocks north. Pioneers in that block, they occupied the site for nineteen years, sharing it at various times with the families of Baptiste’s two brothers, two of his five sisters, and a network of their in-laws. Isaïe and Edouard continued to work together; they commanded larger lumps of capital than Ferdinand; they built larger houses, operated within a neighbourhood of greater radius, and entered into other alliances with Ménard siblings. Of the two sets of cousins, both advanced each building another double duplex in a good summer. Each tightly bonded unit was linked to others, like the braided molecule of DNA that we think of as the basis of genetic structure. Isaïe and his wife Isabelle Gagnon invited the Ménard couple to be godparents to their little Virginie, and they reciprocated the next year. Zotique and his sister Malvina were godparents to the last-born of Uncle Moyse and Aunt Delphine. Delphine, now widowed, lived in Montreal, and all the younger generation married in Montreal: five of Delphine’s children, nine of Emélie’s, and six of Isabelle’s. Because the rate of construction was modulated by such powerful surges, there was also a spatial modulation. Along the old “main streets” stretched a new web of residential streets and lanes (fig. 2.1). Each surge of growth produced a new ring of construction, like tree rings of seasonal growth. We can imagine Ferdinand’s first glimpse of Montreal in 1864, with its thirtysix church steeples. Notre-Dame, the mother parish, still thought of as “the French church,” dominated the view. Across the square rose the dome of the Bank of Montreal, on the hill “the Irish church,” and in the distance the Victoria Bridge. By walking everywhere with his toolbox, Ferdinand Beauchamp had learned the city intimately. In 1897, at the celebration of Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee, he was a widower in his seventies. Whatever his political perception of the event, he probably took the same pleasure as tens of thousands of others in the bicycle parade and the night celebration with “prismatic fires” playing on the heights of Mount Royal. The church whose cavernous interior he had first known bare of decoration was now embellished by his nephews’ carving and gilding, and “drowned in a flood of light.” The electric tramways that laced the neighbourhoods together were decked with Japanese lanterns. The turn-of-the-century city boasted a massive cathedral, a scaled-down model of St Peter’s in Rome. A handsome wall

Tracking a Population · 31

of buildings lined the waterfront, behind them a smoking, steaming mass of factories, all embraced in the curve of railway tracks. The mass of buildings reflected the increased volume of living spaces and work spaces, always in about the same proportions (two to one) and implied trends toward a larger mass of wages and a larger mass of rents. More than one hundred steeples marked out the neighbourhoods along the original main streets, starlike, four kilometres in each direction. THE SOURCES

Since Ferdinand Beauchamp and his relatives operated on such a small scale, how do we know so much about them? The marriages, births, and deaths come from the parish registers of Montreal and Saint-Lin, well indexed and well preserved; and the family appears in the censuses of 1851 and 1861 in Saint-Lin, and in Montreal in 1871, 1881, 1891, and 1901, with inaccuracies of a year or two in ages. The agent of the Boyer estate recorded the purchase of land and the refinancing of the buildings, and when Zotique came of age, father and son went to the notary to confirm Zotique’s right to half the property. For this kind of micro history, Montreal sources are exceptional in North America. Our analysis relies on reconstituting families and households from parish registers, with verifications in cemetery registers, in five decennial census manuscripts (1861–1901), the usual city directories (annual since 1852, erratic earlier), and exceptionally informative annual tax rolls that aimed to record every household head, whether renter or owner. Most reliable are the death records, where the lifespan is often specified to the day, or recorded as “four hours” or “five minutes,” with an address that provides the most secure identification for an entire family. We have to consider whether all those ephemeral lives, “born and died last night,” unable to donate or inherit, were recorded with the same care, but we will see that few were missed (chapter 4). Illustrated in figure 2.2 is the changing configuration of the family of François Beauchamp and Rose Richard. Of their fifteen children, eight lived only a few months; the surviving sons became roofers like their father, the grandsons added painting and plumbing. Three of the married children died before their parents, and in 1901 the couple lived alone with an orphan granddaughter. How reliable are the birth records? Since 1657, the parish of Montreal has been supervised by the priests of Saint-Sulpice, who often were well born and always well educated. Seigneurs of Montreal Island as well as curates of the parish, they organized high-quality registers that conformed to the rules of the Council of Trent (1545–63). In the French colony, as in France itself, the

32 · Peopling the North American City


Frs Rose 60





0 1851






Figure 2.2 · Vital events in the family of François Beauchamp and Rose Richard, 1851–1901. The couple married in 1852. Solid triangles show the dates of the fifteen births and at each census the advancing age of those still present in the household. Open circles indicate children who left home to marry. An open triangle situates a death – several very young, the last at the age of five years in the smallpox epidemic of 1885. Sources: Parish registers and censuses

registers were recognized as public documents, and the system was retained by the British colonial government and extended to cover non-Catholics.¹ Protestant records are more succinct (quality is usually highest among Anglicans and Presbyterians), but work on the 1859 birth cohort satisfied us that the Montreal birth records were remarkably complete, that problems of delayed baptism among Protestants could be overcome by recourse to cemetery records, and that there was no compelling reason to suspect bias in the coverage.² Marriage records contain numerous valuable bits of information, names and places of residence or death of the two sets of parents, and whether the parties were of legal age (25 until 1765, 21 after). They often identify witnesses and relatives who were present, with signatures or explicit mention of those who could not sign. Their value in establishing the chains of parentage has

Tracking a Population · 33

led genealogists to create indexes that make it possible to track people – often but not infallibly – into the surrounding rural parishes. How dependable is the census? It is certainly harder to read than the Catholic parish registers. In the microfilm versions – the original house-byhouse listing of individual residents – we searched each set for people bearing one of the twelve surnames. In addition, we had access to a full digital compilation of the 1881 census, and for the 1901 census a complete digital index, with samples of full information for about one-quarter of the households in the urbanized area.³ For the years before 1871, the Canadian census has been roundly criticized for double-counting, overblown tallies, and a debatable policy of recording individuals where they were supposed to be (at home!) rather than where they really were.4 Most of these complaints are applicable to the published tallies which, we concur, are of limited value. But in the manuscripts, the appearance of someone at two locations brings a bonus, specifying a youth in boarding school, working as a servant, or labouring on a neighbour’s farm. Census taking in Lower Canada (now Quebec) was usually better than in Upper Canada, and the census manuscripts of Montreal for 1842 and 1861 are remarkable.5 References to “persons absent” on New Year’s Day 1861 identified half a dozen voyageurs travelling for the fur trade and a dozen young men cutting timber in the backwoods. Bridget Sheehan’s second husband Paul Himphy appears in three records, at intervals of a decade, always explicitly specified as “deaf and dumb,” although the census taker managed to mix up the surnames of their several children and stepchildren. Each source on its own has its limitations, but the degree of success with which we could match the individuals demonstrates their comprehensive nature. The bureaucratic demands of church and state may have been hard to endure – notably, the urgency of baptism, the fifty cents for notarizing a lease, the painstaking inventory after death, and the formalities of guardianship (often postponed until a remarriage had been arranged). Their reliability exceeds that of today’s paperwork, and most people cooperated, since respectability and even salvation depended on it. Is there a death to account for every birth? A birth for everyone who died or married? Do the survivors turn up in the census? Does the individual registered in the census turn up in the same parish? Complementary sources such as cemetery registers and guardianships improve the level of our supervision, and annual directories and tax rolls help to pin down the date of departure or arrival of a family. We shall look in a moment at the rates of congruence, but it is the wealth of records that allows us to stalk the quarry, to confirm survival or disappearance, and to find alternative ways to confirm presence.6

34 · Peopling the North American City

Figure 2.3 · Fireproof cabinet of notary Stanley Clarke Bagg. A member of the surname sample, Bagg practised as a notary 1842–56 and subsequently managed the substantial properties he inherited in the environs of Montreal. He was a founder of the English Workingmen’s Benefit Society and composed hymns. Source: Photograph, Collection Musée du Château de Ramezay, Montréal (Château de Ramezay)

Matching operations are fraught with peril, and it is in the potential for linking individuals into families that we class the Montreal records as superb. The job is as tedious as elsewhere, but we obtain secure matches in the Catholic registers. Ambiguous cases (excluded) are rare, since the Tridentine rules required so large a number of variables. Many civil registers provide maiden names for women, consistent with the traditions of customary French law. Protestant church records are sparser and more variable in the information they supply, since the churches were smaller, without rigorous boundaries (except for the Anglican parishes), and subject to mergers, secessions, and relocations; and Protestants were more likely to change churches. These deficiencies are compensated for by a greater diversity of surnames among English-speaking Protestants and their more consistent inclusion in city directories, where the English-speaking publisher confirmed more consistent spellings. We collected records from each source independent of the others. The sizes of the three urban subsamples become workable by 1850; that is, large enough to apply statistical tests. The municipal tax roll, compiled annually since 1847, is of exceptional value, since it included tenants as well as owners and provided a rental value for every household. (This is discussed more fully in chapter 3.) There is a

Tracking a Population · 35

further resource of great value, less familiar in North America, the notarial archives. Rather than writing a will or deed privately and filing it away in a strong box (still at risk of fire and theft), Montrealers, like Parisians, had their documents prepared by a notary, who kept them under strict rules of disclosure and precautions with respect to fire (fig. 2.3). He recorded, day by day, in his repertory the date and parties to each act; and for his own convenience in retrieving the antecedents to a settlement or preparing the receipts for a loan, he often maintained an index as well, with names in A entered day by day on the first page, then B … 7 From references to the twelve surnames, we abstracted 6,000 acts, including leases, sales of real property, debts contracted with a lien on property, and a wide range of family arrangements, such as marriage contracts and wills. The notarial corpus has to be thought of as a mere sample of all the loans and leases ever undertaken by the sample households,8 fragmentary, and with serious biases of two kinds. First, there are more acts for individuals who lived longer or who owned more real estate. For merchant Stanley Bagg, the largest property owner in the sample, and his brother Abner, we retrieved 500 acts, one-quarter of them Stanley’s contracts to buy timber and firewood in the Châteauguay valley, where settlement was just beginning. According to Abner’s widow, “he kept no regular books,” but a substantial business correspondence is preserved.9 The Irish immigrants of the first generation are underrepresented; they seem to have avoided notaries and had few of their own. Of 700 acts in the Ryan name, 30 per cent were signed by either Thomas – a merchant established in the city since 1815 – or his wife Wilhelmina Duding de Montenach, Baroness of Longueuil. Both owned considerable property and lived into their eighties. But the Ryan and Beauchamp samples contain few such wealthy persons. About 500 couples in the sample were located in the notarial corpus; most of them lived modestly, and the acts therefore document a great variety of micro-enterprise and micro-capital. James O’Dea gives the lace curtains and barroom fixtures to his daughter-inlaw Kate. Arthur Ryan rents to another carter his sleigh, a black mare with a star on her forehead, and a carriage robe lined in red plush. Insights into the accumulation or loss of property can be gleaned from a sheriff’s sale, a marriage list, or an inventory after death. Gunsmith Thomas Boyd declares bankruptcy and gives up the canary and cage as well as the stove, workbench, and his stock of pocket knives, gun wadding, and fishing tackle.¹0 A second bias in the notarial corpus is more difficult to assess. The notary’s services were worthwhile in the purchase of real estate or a loan secured on land. But if a widow apprenticed her son to her brother-in-law, would she pay a notary to confirm the arrangement? If neither bride nor

36 · Peopling the North American City

groom possessed any property, would they take the trouble to make a marriage contract? They could leave the sequels to the body of law known as the Custom of Paris (Coutume de Paris), which defined how property of an intestate would be divided, or, after 1867, to the Civil Code that fulfilled the same functions. It is likely that the riskiest cases, on the fringes of the social network of family, are better documented than the more routine ones, but caution is in order for handling the notarial documents.¹¹ The other sources are more comprehensive, so their value in informing us about everyday life in nineteenth-century Montreal depends primarily on whether the initial sample of people adequately represented the urban population. Let us now turn to that question. SA MPL ING STR ATEGIES

To represent in all its personal detail a fast-growing metropolitan society undergoing rapid industrialization, we designed the miniaturised model of Montreal. As explained in the previous chapter, the sample was drawn using twelve surnames and stratified for comparison of the three cultural communities. The yield from census records amounts to a thousand married couples and their offspring, two to four generations deep, and provides cameos of the city at successive dates, 1861–1901. Table 2.1 shows the number of married couples recorded in successive censuses and tax rolls; table 2.2, the number of births, marriages, and deaths in each decade and their relative proportions in the 1900s compared with the 1850s. Below, we describe the sample, its advantages, and, given its small size, show how we assessed its representativity and determined at what points we would have to invoke complementary samples. Family reconstitution, a technique developed for the study of European villages of the ancien régime, is wonderfully informative and has been applied in Quebec to link vital events for virtually the entire population prior to 1760. Given the increasing sophistication of reconstitution methods¹² and their successful application to the smaller pre-industrial cities of Rouen, Reims, and Geneva,¹³ we gambled that quite small samples, carefully controlled, would tell us much. The choice of surnames was conceived to take advantage of the available indexes. Since all the names began with either B or R , we had to review only 12 per cent of the quasi-alphabetical indexes used by the clergy and notaries. In each index, docket, register, or roll, was there any reference to one of those twelve names? We chose names that favoured reliable recognition to the ear and eye,¹4 important in a bilingual environment and in a city where so many could not sign their names. French cler-

Tracking a Population · 37

Table 2.1 · Surname sample sizes, Montreal, 1861–1901 Number of married couples with selected surnames in the census and tax roll French Canadian

Irish Catholic









1861 1871 1881 1891 1901

42 57 99 127 173

52 97 113 142 174

42 45 61 73 89

57 56 65 81 82

49 49 69 67 104

53 57 66 75 113

Source: Surname samples culled from the manuscript censuses and tax roll

Table 2.2 · Number of vital events by decade, 1850s to 1900s French Canadian

Births Marriages Deaths

Irish Catholic








96 44 75

361 178 253

119 59 87

130 74 94

123 52 64

145 84 112

Ratio of number of events in the 1900s to the 1850s: Births Marriages Deaths

3.6 4.0 3.4

1.1 1.3 1.9

1.2 1.6 1.8

Source: Surname samples culled from parish registers of all churches in the urbanized area of Montreal

ics recorded a variety of spellings for Hoolahan, Callaghan, McMenneman, and Sheehan but did not have to exercise much ingenuity to record Ryan. The selection was calculated to obtain a desired minimum number (roughly equal) of couples from each of the three communities in 1860 (the date of the first nominative census available in Montreal), but different rates of growth resulted toward the end of the century in numbers that approximated the ethnic balance.¹5 The method yields a running sample of roughly one-half of 1 per cent of the population at a given moment and can be used to explore any shorter span

38 · Peopling the North American City

Figure 2.4 · “The Plasterer,” 1862. An unidentified Montreal workingman, a relatively rare depiction, in the Notman Collection. Source: Photograph, 1862. McCord Museum, I -3727.1

over the half-century. By sticking with the surnames, we were collecting the paternal relations, half of a couple’s “extended family.” The strategy captures the entire sequence of births to a stable couple, and it picks up strays – the tramp, the con man from New York, and the immigrant who died on the way upstream – and relationships that might be missed if we started from a census sample or a cohort of marriages. Médard Beauchamp, for example, a deaf-and-dumb tailor, lived with various relatives, and Anastasia Ryan lived as a servant in the same household for more than a decade. Although the initial goal was to estimate rates of reproduction, a social history has to take into account those who did not figure in the suite of reproductive events. We track all of them. The simplest running tallies showed that among French Canadians and Irish Catholics there were 1.5 times as many births as deaths in the 1860s, and among Protestants nearly twice as many births as deaths (fig. 2.6). The birth cohorts offered circumstantial evidence of fertility based on birth spacing and age at marriage, but these short-term observations did not provide a full picture of the impact on the ability of populations to replace themselves. Only by reconstituting the life and death experiences of an entire population – our miniature city – could we hope to project the extent to which the

Tracking a Population · 39

Figure 2.5 · Portraits of some sample members. Clockwise are shown jeweller Aldéric Beauchamp, killed by a falling wall in the fire of 1873; Mary Elizabeth Rogers (1863), married to James Bethune and subsequently to his cousin; a Boyd baby (1863) with an unidentified and heavily veiled nurse; and Alonzo Ryan by a fellow artist. Sources: Beauchamp engraving, McCord Museum, M 991 X .5.682; Mrs Bethune (née Rogers), ibid., I -6450.1; Boyd baby, ibid., I -7140.1. “Alonzo Ryan, from Sketch by Émile Vézina,” reproduced from frontispiece of Ryan, Free Lance Political Caricature in Canada, 1904. McGill Libraries, RBSC

French Catholic 40 30 20 10 0 20

Irish Catholic

16 12 8 4 0


Protestants Births Deaths Marriages

16 12 8 4













Figure 2.6 · Annual number of births, deaths, and marriages in the three communities, 1800–1900. Source: Surname samples, registers of all parishes and churches in the urbanized area of Montreal

three groups were replacing themselves. The comprehensive nature of such a sample makes it possible to treat the whole system over several generations, as rural studies of entire villages do. Although the sample population is finite and controlled, we must think of each particular source as a subsample because of biases inherent in its creation, the accidents of its conservation, and the limits to the efficiency of our assault on the records. As clearly as footprints in the snow, the trail of ink across the jail register or across the log of a horse-drawn ambulance tracks the movement of people across a continent or an ocean: “born in the parish of T– in County Down,” “found camping in a corner of the Catholic cemetery,” “authorized by her husband absent in California.” Designed for a particular purpose, each source required investigation of its logic, its coverage, and its lacunae. Homonyms plagued the matching operations, like the five Ryan girls named Bridget and the five named Mary, who in 1861 were all between ages 20 and 25, all “in service.” Deaths of wives, with their diverse surnames, required extra searches but sometimes remain uncertain. The largest losses are of illegitimates for whom no surname was recorded at baptism: about one birth in eleven in the 1860s, one in fifteen in 1880. Most of them died as foundlings, but survivors sometimes surfaced as adopted children, and Malvina Beauchamp appears in the census of 1881 as the little sister of the woman who was probably her mother. Among the ten names used to select a sample of Protestants there were 345 individuals who appeared only once in the records. Some of these entries are illegible or unidentifiable, and some were immigrants “passing through,” with peak numbers in years of intense immigration: 1831, 1847, and 1849.¹6 After twenty-five years of grooming, the database is nevertheless linked far beyond our initial hopes. At the height of the smallpox epidemic of 1885, the makeshift hospital was unable to supply to Notre-Dame parish the details usual for parents’ names and the precision of that life’s duration in months and days. In the massive five-volume Nécrologie for 1885, we nevertheless recognized five-year-old François Beauchamp as a child we were searching for, the last-born of Rose Richard’s fifteen. The choice of twelve surnames yielded a good sample in terms of age structure (at any census), social status, occupational profile, religious affiliation, and residential geography. To verify that the sample matched in all these respects, we tested it against samples from the birth cohorts (fathers with surnames beginning with the letter B), and these in turn were grounded by comparing them with the entire set of household heads with B surnames in the tax roll, census, and city directory. Throughout the nineteenth century, the B subset amounts to about 12 per cent of the population, and the selec-

42 · Peopling the North American City

tion shows no substantial bias of ethnicity or rent levels relative to the whole array of residential households recorded in the tax roll (1861, 1881, 1901).¹7 Because the samples are representative, they identify far more low-rent families than well-off families, and far more tenants than property owners. Coupled with the small sizes of the samples, this sets limits on what we can infer about births and deaths among the wealthy, especially the smaller groups of wealthy French and Irish Catholics. To examine the effects of income or status on demographic behaviours, we needed to open other windows. We drew supplemental cohort samples: families with a birth, a death, or a marriage in a particular year (in chapters 4, 5, and 6). With access to such high-quality records and with a sampling strategy that exploits local practices of record keeping and indexing, small samples can indeed encompass a big city. COMINGS A ND G OINGS

How great was the turnover? What continuity can we expect? In these comings and goings, how many will we lose? We will say more in chapter 10 about the rural Beauchamp families, the rural interludes of immigrants from Britain and Ireland, and the collaboration of Montrealers with their country cousins. At this point we need to consider origins and destinations from the narrower standpoint of capture, and we will take advantage of some of those long-lived witnesses and chains of descendants to situate us in the development of the city. Then we will move to some tests of the sample as a representation of the population and the relative growth of the three components.

The French Canadian sample All of the men with the surname Beauchamp were descendants of two brothers, Jacques “le Grand” and Jean “le Petit,” who came to New France, like many other pioneers, from a parish in La Rochelle, with some history of intermarriage with Protestants. Judging from the present distribution of the name in Vendée and Poitou, the family probably originated upriver in the triangle formed by Niort, Melle, and Saintes. Jacques shipped in the summer of 1658, a few months after his first child was baptized, and the next summer his wife Marie Dardennes and the toddler arrived on the ship Saint-André, travelling with Jeanne Mance. They were joined a few years later by Marie’s widowed father and two brothers. Jean, who probably came with Jacques, married Jeanne Loiselle, a pioneer’s daughter, the first European child who was baptized in Montreal and lived to marry. (She married at seventeen.)

Tracking a Population · 43

The Beauchamp brothers were among five thousand pioneers from France who actually settled and founded families in Canada.¹8 The Montreal destination was secondary, well behind Quebec City, and within a few years, as quickly as the countryside could be made safe, colonists took up land in villages. Thus the brothers settled first in Montreal and then moved to Pointe-aux-Trembles, at the east end of the Island. We could have selected the Loiselle, Bazinet, or Filion, who took up neighbouring concessions and whose daughters and sons married into the Beauchamp family. Or we could have selected the Meloche in the west of the Island or the Pinsonnault or Beaucaire who set roots on the south shore of the St Lawrence. But the story would run parallel, with many of the same elements – expansion of their numbers, diffusion upstream into adjoining backlands, and cohesive clusters in small spaces.¹9 The location at the tip of Montreal Island made it likely that the descendants of Jean and Jacques would, sooner or later, take part in the surging growth of the city. In the opening years of the nineteenth century, most of the Beauchamp couples were living in the lowlands known as the Plain of Montreal, within a radius of forty kilometres from the little port, with its crumbling stone walls. Most were farmers, and only one of their marriages in a hundred was celebrated in the city. By 1860, one-quarter of Beauchamp marriages occurred in the city; by 1900, one-half. Since the Beauchamp couples first settled so close to town, did they represent the overall pattern of migration into Montreal? Can we situate the trek of Ferdinand and Emélie from Saint-Lin in relation to the broader catchment of migrants? Two wider-ranging samples for the 1860s and 1890s, periods of intense urbanization, allow us to map the catchment and observe in what parts of the city they settled. These are two large samples from Catholic records: parents of the birth cohort of 1859 and a marriage cohort of 1899. Of the French Canadian couples, three-quarters had married in Montreal.²0 For half of them (54 per cent), their parents – the babies’ grandparents – were actually living in Montreal; for another 40 per cent, they were living (or deceased) in the Plain of Montreal, and only 7 per cent came from greater distances.²¹ Forty years later, Montreal had a population five times larger and offered a more effective generator of its own growth, but the pattern remained much the same.²² All of these features are apparent in the surname sample. Of grown-ups named Beauchamp present in the city in 1861, close to half the individuals, like the parents of the birth cohort, had moved in from the countryside. About one-fifth of the Beauchamp couples were city-born; fewer than onethird were third-generation Montrealers. They continued to come, and in 1901 one-third of French Canadians in the city had come from rural Quebec,

44 · Peopling the North American City

about one-third were their children, and, as before, a scant third were the city’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren. In each generation the infusion of labour gave a powerful boost to the urban economy.

The Protestant population The Protestant population encompassed a great diversity – a diversity of churches, a diversity of national origins, and a wide range of economic assets. They were drawn rapidly into collaborations: to keep track of beggars and orphans, to promote evangelists and Sunday schools, and to create a Protestant school board and a Protestant-managed hospital. But the question remains: How much did they vary in the size of household or pattern of fertility? Would they show greater variance in survival rates or the timing of marriages? Studies from places where Protestants were dominant and were diverse in origin report such variations.²³ Ten surnames do not give statistical control over all this variety, though they were chosen to reflect a range of national origins and religious denominations. At this point we shall describe briefly the scope of our “ten tribes of Israel” and introduce two of them – two networks of contractors – to convey the range of their ventures. They will reappear in later chapters but serve here as witnesses to the changes that were occurring in the urban landscape. Three generations of Baggs and Bulmers shared in the construction of Montreal, and for them, as for Ferdinand Beauchamp and his cousins, remaking the landscape was a family affair. As in the case of the French Canadians, immigrants accounted for nearly half of the parents of the Protestant infants of 1859, divided about equally among Anglicans from England, Presbyterians from Scotland, and assorted denominations from Ireland. The 1899 birth cohort confirmed the continued importance of immigration. Nearly half of their parents were born in the Old Country, an additional 15 per cent in Upper Canada/Canada West, or in Maritime Canada. The miniaturized sample of “Protestant” surnames accurately reflects these characteristics. Three-quarters of the Irish Protestants and two-thirds of the Scots arrived before 1850, while fewer than half the English did (42 per cent).²4 Of the ten surnames selected for Protestants, four were rare, with the entire lineage in Montreal up to the First World War descended from a common ancestor: the Bulmers were Anglicans from Yorkshire; the Baggs were from England via Pittsfield, Massachusetts; the three Burland brothers from County Wexford (Ireland); and the Bethunes from the Isle of Skye, off the coast of Scotland. The last illustrate the circuitous routes many of them

Tracking a Population · 45

took and the perennial reactivation of their family networks. The “founder,” Gaelic-speaking John Bethune, was chaplain of a battalion that fought American rebels in South Carolina. Imprisoned, he escaped to Nova Scotia, where he became chaplain to the Royal Highland Emigrants, a Loyalist unit on Cape Breton. In Montreal in 1782 he married Véronique Waddens, whose father worked for the fur-trading North West Company. He organized the first Presbyterian congregation in the city (1786), mother church of Presbyterianism in Canada. Awarded 2,000 acres (800 hectares) in Glengarry (now part of Ontario), he went west to minister to Highland settlers there, but two of his sons spent their lives in Montreal – Norman as a merchant and forwarder, John as the contentious dean and canon of Christ Church Cathedral. John helped set up the interdenominational infrastructure of the Protestant community: the first monitorial school, the dispensary, the Ladies’ Benevolent Society, and the Montreal General Hospital. Several brothers made names in theological, educational, and mercantile circles in Ontario. Véronique returned to Montreal after her husband’s death, and throughout the century Ontario cousins from impecunious branches of the family continued to find their way to Montreal.²5 The other six surnames, more common in Britain, were reintroduced over and over, including 27 founders named Beattie (Beatty, Beaty) and 34 named Boyd, starting points of distinct lineages or isolated individuals on the move. A clutch of Irish Beatties came from Inniskillin, of Boyds from Kilmarnock, and iron workers named Baird from Glasgow and Stirling. Their wives introduced further religious diversity, including Unitarians, Lutherans, Baptists, and Plymouth Brethren. As a population, Montreal Protestants have been somewhat neglected.²6 Biographies of the elite point to the Scots fur traders and merchants, Anglican clerics and government agents, and Irish Protestant manufacturers. The colonies offered outlets for second sons who would not inherit the bulk of the estate. Throughout the Victorian era, rotations through the military, the civil service, and missions favoured a diversity of experiences and a strong identification with the British Empire. This accounts for the presence in the sample of William Boyd, a clerk who was born in England, married in Ceylon, and arrived in Canada with his first four children, all born in Ceylon. Hannah Lorimer, born in Jamaica, moved to Montreal in 1861 with her family and married the Orkney-born merchant William J.R. Baird. After the American Revolution, a current of Loyalists arrived from the United States via Sorel, among them a Burroughs family. Others who made a stop in New England moved up the Richelieu Valley or across an uncontrolled border into Stanstead, Compton, or Huntingdon, and a generation

46 · Peopling the North American City

later into Montreal. The presence of “Americans” was a factor in social distinctions and introduced the competitive missionary outreach of their churches.²7 The presence of the British garrison further enhanced the diversity; its minimum strength for much of the period 1812–80 was eight hundred men. A small percentage were married (babies were born in the barracks), and some units, such as the Royal Canadian Rifles, were of more advanced age, stayed longer, and had more married soldiers. Officers contributed to the social whirl of the elite; the Molson brewery was founded on capture of the common soldier’s allowance for beer, and opportunities to supply flour and butcher’s meat to the military fostered another form of loyalism, in which the Bagg brothers participated. The usual tour of duty for common soldiers was four years or less, and many subsequently settled in the city, along with an array of deserters. Each regiment had a distinctive intake from a particular region of Britain. Most were heavily Protestant; some included a Masonic network, and several regiments with Irish Protestants contributed to the extremes of status of the city’s born-in-Ireland Protestants.²8 An experiment in grounding the Protestant population from a larger array of surnames demonstrated a founder effect well known among French Canadians. Names that appeared in the city early, with the headstart of a generation, tended to multiply. The diversity is apparent from a map of the likely counties of origin in Britain, based on the array added to the Montreal pool of surnames between 1861 and 1881 (fig. 2.7). Earlier generations showed even greater diversity, associated with the widest deployment of British regiments in North America (1750–1820), the recruiting of Scots by the Hudson’s Bay Company, and Loyalist departures from the United States (1770s and 1780s).²9 Advantaged by their connections with the power of colonial government and the military, Montreal Protestants were more often wealthy, and they accumulated further wealth by developing Montreal as a node of communications on the Plain. The achievements of the Bagg and Bulmer families are exceptional, and their energy is staggering to contemplate, but both lineages demonstrate the suites of opportunities inherent in city building and the importance of family solidarity to the success of their ventures. Stanley Bagg moved into the Montreal region from Vermont about 1798, with his father Phineas and his brother Abner. They first operated a tavern at Chambly, strategically located next to the garrison, then moved it to Montreal. Abner, trained as a hatter, practised at a time when the beaver was in fashion, with partners for manufacture in Quebec City and Terrebonne. In 1810, with Oliver Wait as a partner, Stanley hired an “Irish gang” to help level Citadel Hill and extend the Champ de Mars parade ground. During

Tracking a Population · 47

Figure 2.7 · Origins of Montreal surnames in Britain. At left are the known origins of Protestant families of the “miniature” (ten surnames). At right is the distribution of origins for a larger array of surnames that first appeared on marriage registers of the city’s Protestant churches between 1860 and 1880. Shown are names associated with a particular county in England; excluded are names that were common and wideranging, such as Smith and Brown. London is underrepresented as a result of its great diversity of names, but it was a stopping place for many, sometimes for more than a generation.

the War of 1812, he and Wait delivered guns and naval matériel to Kingston for the British army. This was a high-risk logistical problem, since much of the river route was in full view of US troops. Useful services were rewarded, and with the same partners he obtained larger contracts for the supply of stone and timber for building the defences at Montreal, notably the fort on St Helen’s Island. With expanded resources, the Bagg brothers built several stone houses and warehouses, strategically located at the centre of the city near the “Old Market” and the “New Market.” In 1820–21 Stanley, with

48 · Peopling the North American City

Wait and two others, were the prime contractors for the Lachine Canal, part of a chain of navigation improvements conceived in the wake of the war to advance both the military and the commercial objectives of British North America. Abner, whose manufacturing partnerships took him into insolvency (1821), was refloated by Stanley and continued to make the circuit via the Great Lakes, a little deeper year by year into Ohio and Indiana, to supply flour to the mills at Kingston and Rochester, reserving the best quality for his contracts with the British army or for export through a brother-in-law in Quebec City. In the second and third generations (1850–75), the Baggs gradually sold off vast suburban properties inherited through Stanley’s wife.³0 These stretched from Sherbrooke Street to the Outremont town hall and included stone quarries on the north side of Mount Royal. Their sales of land always required the buyer to build promptly and on a substantial scale, with stone facing, a minimum of two stories, strictly for residential occupancy, in conformity to their street plan and private conception of zoning. By a proviso of Stanley’s will, the properties were sold subject to a ground rent (rente constituée) which would ensure a more than comfortable living for the Bagg widows and daughters in the third and fourth generations. Although Abner died still owing a large sum to Stanley (1852), his widow reported her mahogany furniture, 120 pieces of cut glass, bronze fire fenders, and ivory-handled dessert knives, and in 1888 she gave her daughter the silver, down to the fish knives and mustard spoon. And Stanley’s will was explicit about Abner’s debt: “I forgive him every part and parcel of it.” The Bulmers were an Anglican extended family that likewise worked together and lived as neighbours. Thomas Bulmer had learned his trade in Hatfield, Yorkshire, arrived by way of Trois-Rivières, and was laying brick in Montreal from 1843 to 1881. (He died age 87 from a fall while inspecting a construction site.) He taught his trade to four of his eight children, and from 1843 to the end of the century three of them maintained a partnership in brick laying, contracting, and brick making. They extended the family network into the supply of building materials: one married the daughter of a lumber merchant, another married a brick maker’s daughter, a third the daughter of a manufacturing plumber with 150 employees, and a granddaughter married an architect who owned a sash-and-door factory. What the Bulmer brothers built in successive construction booms (peaking 1842, 1855, 1864, 1871, 1887, 1912) reflects the expansion of the city as a place of wealth and enterprise. Although we have found only a portion of their contracts, the notarial documents reveal the progressive uptown extension of development and the reconstruction of centre-city sites with taller

Tracking a Population · 49

and more massive buildings. In the 1840s Thomas Bulmer and his sons, just arrived, were building brick houses for a “middling” range. The most modest was 20 x 28 feet (6 x 8.5 metres), with three rooms in the upper storey, builtin cupboards, and a trapdoor “large enough to take up the double windows to the garret.” Other houses about the same size had an upper and a lower apartment, each with two large rooms. On the Dorchester Street terrace (35 metres elevation) they built a classic double-decker house with four apartments of five rooms each, with double-decker galleries leading 6 metres from the house to the double-decker privies. The most elaborate mansion, on Sherbrooke Street (45-metre elevation), displayed a skylight, wine cellar, butler’s pantry, an indoor water closet, chimney pieces painted to look like marble, and “an English park gate.” In the 1850s Montreal experienced its steam revolution; the Grand Trunk Railway was building the Victoria Bridge and erecting its locomotive shops, and the Bulmers’ work was immensely varied. They built a fireproof office for notary Gibb, an elegant chapter house for the Anglican synod (contracted by Canon Bethune), and a river-front wall and tun room for expansion of Molson’s distillery. Many of the Bulmer contracts were situated in the new uptown neighbourhood of wealth, where they built handsome new models for city living. The best known was Mount Royal Terrace, with twelve units on McGill College Avenue.³¹ Top of the line in this era was an Italianate dwelling on Sherbrooke Street, with the latest and most elegant in plumbing: black walnut fixtures with marble taps, galvanized iron bath with an “American shower,” iron gas pipes in all rooms, and laundry tubs fitted with hot water. In the late 1860s, about the time the carpenters from Saint-Lin were putting up their little houses on Amherst Street, wealthy families had abandoned to commerce the stone city they now thought of as “Old Montreal.” The sisters of the Hôtel-Dieu had removed their hospital to land running alongside the Bagg holdings at Pine and St Urbain and had redeveloped their downtown sites as elegant and lucrative warehouses. The Bulmers were now concentrating on large brick-laying contracts for a new generation of sixstorey commercial buildings in the core of this financial district.³² As the next boom reached a peak (1886), suburban housing was in demand among the middle class, and Bulmer grandsons began developing tracts in Outremont, Côte-des-Neiges, and the western edge of what is now Westmount. At the end of the century the Protestant community occupied a great flight of stairs, with the wealthiest on the slope of Mount Royal, the Baggs, Bulmers, and Burlands on the Sherbrooke Street terrace, clerks and surveyors such as Robert Barlow on the Dorchester Street terrace; and on the

50 · Peopling the North American City

floodplains of Griffintown and Pointe-Saint-Charles, close to Stanley’s canal, moulders and mechanics such as William Beattie, his sons, and sons-in-law.

Irish Catholic Montreal The Ryans, too, came in family groups – young adult brothers and sisters or couples with adolescent children – but they did not all descend from a single stem.³³ The surname Ryan, one of the three most common in Ireland, underestimates emigrants from the north. Maps of their parishes of origin, as reported on Montreal marriage registers, cut a wide swath across Munster, from counties Tipperary, Limerick, Kilkenny, and Clare (fig. 2.8).³4 In other respects, members of the sample reflect the trend of Irish immigration to Canada, accelerating in 1815, with massive peaks in 1831, 1847, and 1849, and only a trickle thereafter. As a consequence, the community grew suddenly, raised a large crop of children, and then stabilized, so that the population evolved as if it were a closed system, very different from the recurrent arrivals of French Canadians and the more frequent comings and goings of Protestants. While places of departure varied a little from year to year, there was no important difference between those who came in the “ships of death” (1847 and 1849) and those who came a little earlier (1840–46). The very first Ryan we can identify in Lower Canada was running a tavern in Quebec City in the 1790s; he purchased two slaves. Among the earliest in Montreal were merchants Thomas and Edward Ryan, brothers from Wexford, an area well represented in the 1830s. Some became clerks and then merchants in the trades of butter and beer, centred at Montreal, and some of the women married into the French Canadian community. Successive stages of the journey, with a stop at Quebec City for health inspection and a stop at Montreal for transfer to stagecoach or canal boat, filtered arrivals from Ireland, retaining a larger share of Catholics in Montreal and forwarding a larger share of Protestants to Upper Canada. As the exodus from Ireland increased in the 1820s and 1830s, thousands worked their way upstream to clearings in Upper Canada, stopping a year or two in the lumber camps or on the canal construction sites – the Lachine, Rideau, Chambly, and Beauharnois.³5 At Lachine, the closest to Montreal, a couple of thousand men laboured, Scots as well as Irish, under the oversight of Stanley Bagg and his three partners, 1821–24. The payrolls identify several Boyds and Ryans who earned three shillings a day, on days when the weather was favourable. The contractors valued their own time at 25 shillings a day, and the cascade of contracts for the fencing gives further detail to the pecking order. For a five-rail fence with cedar pickets the length of the canal (13

Tracking a Population · 51

Figure 2.8 · Origins in Ireland of Catholic couples in Montreal in the 1840s. Of the Ryan families present in the city by 1850, at least half had arrived in 1847 and 1849. Their counties of origin in Ireland are not very different from those of Catholic couples married in Montreal in the year 1840.

kilometres), the Bagg team received 50 shillings per running arpent; they subcontracted the job at 27 shillings an arpent to a local farmer, who in turn purchased the materials and hired a labourer at 5 shillings an arpent.³6 When the potato famines recurred in Ireland – more frequently and more widespread than earlier ones – and resistance to landlords was ferociously repressed, more people made their way to the New World, and the crossings to Quebec were more devastating than the crossings to New York City or the longer sailings to Australia or New Zealand, since no control was exercised over the freighting of the ships for Canada. Immigrants were treated as return cargo for shiploads of timber – the commemorations of 1997 revealed details that still have the power to shock. Thirty to fifty thousand people arrived in 1831 at the quarantine station at Grosse Île, near Quebec City; eighty to one hundred thousand came in 1847 and again in 1849. In each of these years of floodtide, the number disgorged from the ships onto Grosse Île and reloaded onto river steamboats for the docks of Montreal was larger than the resident population of the city. Government negligence and the want

52 · Peopling the North American City

of preparation were as shocking in Montreal as at Grosse Île, the number of deaths as high,³7 the distress as painful, the reception as ambiguous, the epidemic as terrifying, and the acts of personal generosity as touching. Tradition recalls the occasional miracle, like the reunion of little Rosie Brown with her mother. Sister Slocombe, a nurse in the quarantine sheds the city had built at Pointe-Saint-Charles, found the child clinging to her father’s corpse, and she was adopted without any record. Her mother, who had been detained in quarantine at Grosse Île, recovered, found her two other children on her arrival in Montreal, and was praying earnestly in the vast nave of the new St Patrick’s Church when a marble rolled to her feet – Rosie’s marble.³8 Most of the survivors, like their predecessors, continued their journey west toward the agricultural frontiers or sought employment on public works and private timber shanties, leaving only a few thousand in Montreal.³9 In 1850 tighter regulation, achieved by modifying the fare structure, diverted the emigrant stream to US ports, and subsequent reinforcements to the Irish community in Montreal were modest. The low rate of renewal makes it easier to interpret the evolution of the population from one generation to the next but gives salience to the arrivals of 1847 as a demographic “event” and a rupture in memory. It was, of course, the drama Bishop Bourget had in mind twenty years later when he spoke of the “afflictions of an unhappy people,” an expression to which the prospering community took exception.40 The public works of the 1840s included a widening of the Lachine Canal and, at the locks, water power for new industries. Contracts at Lachine and Beauharnois again involved groups of two to three thousand workers. Labour exploitation heightened tensions among the “canallers” and drew them into the sectarian and party hostilities of Montreal elections. By this time, however, the community was consolidated, and the older generation of grocers, carters, tavern keepers, and iron founders found themselves a reluctant reception committee for the greater numbers of the 1840s. On St Patrick’s Day 1847, when they received news that a hundred ships had left Liverpool and Cork destined for Montreal, the Montreal Irish were celebrating the first mass in their new-built church, elegant and immense. As a gesture of sympathy for the famished, they gave up their traditional banquet and mobilized the entire city, Protestant and Catholic alike, to send relief to Ireland. Once the ice was gone, it became apparent that they would have to organize relief in Montreal as well. Between July and October the epidemic of ship fever (typhus) resulted in six thousand deaths, and in 1849 the tragic scenario was repeated, aggravated by depression and an epidemic of cholera. Ten years later, a contingent of Irish labourers at the construction site of the Victoria Bridge, collected the bones of those who had died in 1847 and

Tracking a Population · 53

consecrated the “Irish Stone,” three metres high. By this time, despite the poverty, Irish Catholics were a significant political force, with visibility in all classes of society and all parts of town. Thomas Ryan, one of the early-arrived wholesalers, was already building himself a mansion at Sherbrooke and Peel Streets in what was later known as the Golden Square Mile. Michael Ryan, merchant tailor, was building two handsome townhouses on Prince Arthur Street, and contractor Patrick Ryan was carting off the debris of burnt-out Christ Church. (The three originated from different parts of Ireland.) By the 1870s, about the time Ferdinand Beauchamp and his cousins were building houses in the east end and the Bulmer brothers were rebuilding the downtown, the Irish had seized entrepreneurial opportunities offered by a second widening of the Lachine Canal (1876). The same Patrick Ryan, now in the junk business with his wife, sold a small but strategic strip of land for the widening. The same Thomas Ryan, now a member of the Canadian parliament, managed a syndicate investing in minerals in Ontario and was secretary-treasurer to a group of speculators who were subdividing a vast canalside property in Montreal. Bricklayer John Ryan had a contract to build a rolling mill on this site, while McDonnell & Ryan (from eastern Ontario) held one of the five big construction contracts.4¹ Annie Ryan, widow of a market gardener, bought a strip of land that had been flooded by the canal, with the right to reclaim it. With more limited success, Francis Ryan, a miller, after building four little houses in canalside Manufacturers Street, died $4,000 in debt, leaving Bridget Sheehan and the nine children no choice but to renounce their insolvent estate. At the auction of the few sticks of furniture, the eldest son bought back the clock, and twelve years later he managed to recover ownership of the home his father had built.4² The impressive social mobility of the Ryans was greater than that documented for Irish Catholics in other North American cities. The examples are suggestive, and in chapter 3 we will see evidence for the magnitude of the achievement and consider how the Irish Catholics in Montreal overcame so harsh a beginning.

The balance These introductory narratives from the three communities of miniature Montreal point to the city’s role as a centre de triage, attracting newcomers, sifting and deploying them to match opportunities in export industries, city building,4³ and the supporting activities that made a city work: home making, domestic service, hauling, clearing snow, and taking in each other’s washing. The miniature reflects reasonably well the timing of arrivals and

54 · Peopling the North American City

Figure 2.9 · Residential distribution of three cultural communities, Montreal, 1881. The locations of the 99 households in the surname samples are displayed against the background levels of concentration of their respective communities of origin. Sources: Tax roll of June 1880 and Lovell’s directory

the distinctive insertion of the three groups. The rhythm of growth is apparent in the construction of buildings, and each surge of in-migration, parallel with cities across the continent, affected the structure of age and gender in the city. Despite the massive presence of low-wage industries such as clothing and shoe making (as in other cities of the North Atlantic economy), incomes in 1900 averaged higher than in other Canadian cities and unemployment lower.44 The miniature is too small to encompass all the origins and all the options, but it accurately reflects the distribution of the three groups across the city (fig. 2.9). The two Beauchamp brothers from La Rochelle did not reflect the breadth of social and geographic origins in France, but the concentration of their offspring in the Plain of Montreal was characteristic of many lines of descendance, and the Beauchamp families present in the city in 1860, 1880, and 1900 match the overall distribution of French Canadians.45 In the same way, the Ryans, Boyds, and Barlows do not capture the full range of Old World origins, but the two sets of English speakers, Protestant and Catholic, accurately reflect their distinct geographies in both the city and the region and, as we shall see, the extent of intermarriage and residential apartheid.46 The variety of the sample suggests a need to put a good deal more meat on the bones of a cultural geography of Canada. Donald Akenson, arguing that there were only “small differences” between Irish Catholics and Irish Protestants in rural Ontario, has cautioned that Ontario may not reflect the whole of Canada.47 In European nations, as well as in North America, histories of particular rivulets of migration, long buried in “national” histories, are now being recovered; and in historical demography in particular, work of the last fifteen years has uncovered great regional and local variation, distinguished by cultural differences as well as social and economic, with respect to age at marriage, perinatal mortality, infant feeding, the pace of the life course, and the onset of a managed fertility. M A N AGING T URNOV ER

In terms of what we can do with the miniature, turnover can be managed. We need to consider briefly the losses from the sample, ways to minimize bias, and strategies for weighting the subgroups. By accounting for deaths and departures as well as births and entries, turnover becomes intelligible. Emigration was heavy from all provinces of Canada to the United States, 1865–1900.48 The departure of French Canadians was already a political issue in the 1840s, perceived as a saignée, a threatening loss of blood.49 In these mass movements, Montreal was less often a point of departure, more often a

56 · Peopling the North American City

receiving centre, and relatively few of the French Canadian couples who married in Montreal and bore a child in the city were ever lost from sight. The English speakers, Catholic and Protestant alike, moved in and out of Montreal with greater ease than the French and more often moved to Ontario or the United States in response to professional and industrial opportunities. A Bethune son died in New Zealand; two Bulmer sons occupied themselves with a family-owned lumber mill in Manitoba; another, to escape creditors in Montreal, went to the Yukon; an Irish couple, convicted of larceny in Montreal, went to Philadelphia. At the settlement of modest estates, married daughters of the Boyds and Ryans reappeared from Rochester, Albany, or Oswego. The two oldest sons of blacksmith William Beattie moved in the 1890s to the steel mill town of Hamilton, Ontario, and when William died, his wife and all the married daughters, still living in Pointe-Saint-Charles, reserved a share for another brother they had not heard from for five years. Losses from the samples are therefore higher among the English-speaking and among young unmarried men. The same features of age and language characterize the in-migrants, consistent with studies of personal mobility elsewhere,50 but the in-migrants included a higher proportion of single women than we see among out-migrants. We have no indication that those who left were better or worse off, and the available hints suggest a disengagement from the social network rather than realistic economic prospects elsewhere. As the examples suggest, there are cues to when they left and where they went. The similarity of ages between the unmatched (often newcomers) and those who disappeared prior to the next census point to the importance of the age group 15–30, featured in chapter 7. The timing of moves affected the timing of marriages and births, and the role of Montreal as an attractor promoted rapid natural increase (chapter 5).5¹ For demographic research based on family reconstitution as the method was first practised for such villages as Crulai and Tourouvre (in Normandy) and Colyton (in Devon), population turnover added a substantial cost, since the researchers had to discard couples they could not trace throughout the full reproductive cycle – the couple who arrived already married, who disappeared from the scene, or whose marriage ended because of the early death of one spouse.5² Industrializing cities, with their heavy in-migration, did not seem amenable to such studies, and in North America, with its relentless westward drive, high turnover seemed to militate against the attempt to observe behaviour over entire lifetimes. To deal with this problem, demographers have made a second breakthrough, and the event history approach pioneered by George Alter holds promise for high-turnover situations. Associated with new computing power and new statistical tools, event history is more

Tracking a Population · 57

amenable to teasing out the dynamics of a large and mobile population. In his elegant case of Verviers, a Belgian city of 40,000 was analysed by weighting each individual by the number of “person-years” he or she was under observation. By this method, it is possible to evaluate the odds of a death, a marriage, or a birth according to age and life situation, by analysing a population over a more limited span of five years or ten and by weighting the membership appropriately.5³ Guided by the potential and constraints of the Montreal sources, we adopted principles of event history analysis for assessing demographic rates. We created tables of life expectancy (chapter 4), estimates of marital fertility (chapter 5), and assessments of nuptiality (chapter 6). Before we look at those rates, we need to consider, in view of the turnover, the problem of asserting enough control or “supervision” over the population in order to guard against bias. From a starting line at the census of January 1861, we took the sample population, our miniature Montreal, to see what happened to them in a decade. The finishing line was the census of April 1871, but we made use of all available evidence in order to ensure that individuals remained in observation and to capture the full suite of vital events over the intervening ten years. We could perform such an analysis on each pair of censuses in succession, but we chose only two subsets: the three subpopulations present over the decade of the 1860s and those present in the 1890s. In each panel we regrouped the population by attributes of age, sex, and marital status. For each individual we subdivided the period of observation between the two censuses into the number of person-years lived in a given age set and marital state. We included in the analyses people present for only a year or two and women widowed within the decade, but we weighted them for the length of time their presence and status were confirmed. Daniel Ryan’s household is a good example of the more complicated problems we had to deal with: Nora died soon after the starting date, leaving six children ranging in age from 7 to 18; and at the finish date we found Daniel remarried, living with Mary, along with their young child, the six children of the first marriage, and two children in-between from a marriage we could not locate.54 For most individuals, their presence was confirmed in a census, but some died, married out or married into the clan, or the entire family moved away. We then used the person-years lived in each age and state to calculate the population at risk, the denominator in the standard period measures of age-specific fertility and mortality; the numerators were the life events (births, deaths, or marriages) belonging to that set. From the age-specific fertility and mortality we constructed life tables and reproduction rates in the standard fashion.55 The census, by providing a control independent of parish

58 · Peopling the North American City

Table 2.3 · Balance sheet of individuals in observation 1860s panel FC Total persons 733 Number supervised 677 Per cent supervised 92.4 In no census (%) 17 In both censuses (%) 22 Entrance (%) Present in start census 38 Confirmed other sources 2 Born in decade 27 Married in decade 7 Immigrated in decade 26 Exit (%) Present in end census 68 Confirmed other sources 4 Died in decade 18 Daughter married 4 Emigrated/lost 6

1890s panel






650 513 78.9 22 24

511 427 83.2 19 24

1,427 1,293 90.6 19 27

789 713 90.4 15 23

754 590 78.2 10 25

48 10 27 6 10

54 4 31 5 6

50 7 26 4 13

51 10 22 5 13

49 13 25 8 5

59 9 18 4 11

53 19 16 3 8

60 5 20 5 11

60 7 15 4 14

70 10 13 4 10

Source: Surname samples

records, ensured specification of the population under observation irrespective of whether and when people married, gave birth, died, or migrated.56 We were thus able to exploit more fully the information available and to escape the biases that might characterize the most stable and long-lived. An assessment of retrieval rates is shown in table 2.3. The proportion we could not control, including some we could not identify, ranges between 10  and 20 per cent, more severe in the 1860s, where problems of illegible or fragmentary records intersect with high mobility. Some families and individuals made, of course, only a brief passing appearance in Montreal. In the Catholic samples, the presence of homonyms confounded some matches, since the Beauchamp families, like other French Canadians, had a decided preference for a handful of patron saints – Joseph, Marie, and JeanBaptiste – and the Ryans, like other Irish families, for John, Margaret, Mary, and Patrick. In all three communities, 40 per cent of the “unsupervised” (people we could not identify or link) were unmarried servants or lodgers (newly arrived immigrants for the most part), orphans, or elderly widows or widowers in hospices. Among Protestants and French Canadians, such

Tracking a Population · 59

unattached individuals made up only 7 per cent of the census population; among Irish Catholics it was one in five. This posed more severe constraints in handling the 1860s generation, where 45 per cent of Irish women aged 15–24 were at the starting date servants living outside their own families, without the clues to parentage that would allow us to match unequivocally that particular Mary or Maggie with the record of her eventual marriage or death. All the samples show high turnover. Only half of the individuals under supervision appeared in any census, and only one-quarter in both. Firm control allows us to distinguish the components of this turnover. More than one-quarter of those supervised were born within the decade (the figures are very consistent for the three groups in both decades), and large numbers, ranging from 13 to 20 per cent, were buried in the city during the decade. As many as 8 to 10 per cent took a first and last breath within the decade so were never subject to the tally of a census taker. The number of women who married into the sample, taking on a witness surname (5 to 8 per cent), is somewhat larger than the number of daughters who married out (3 or 4 per cent), and the difference resides in the uncontrolled identities of women servants. Migration is a factor, as one might expect in a period of industrialization and urbanization, but in most samples it weighed less in the turnover than births and deaths.57 Decade levels of in-migration did not exceed onequarter of any subpopulation and were usually less than one-eighth. Levels of out-migration were lower still, between 4 and 14 per cent. In each decade, far more French Canadians arrived, and we could trace most of them to a baptismal register in the rural environs. The strong persistence of surviving individuals (70–75 per cent) provides evidence of continuity in an urban population. Influential studies of thirty years ago argued that nineteenth-century North American cities were subject to massive flux and that turnover might run as high as one-half within five years. Thernstrom, for example, referred to a “permanent floating proletariat.”58 The volatility is seriously overstated, inherent in the attempt to link census or directory entries without reference to births and deaths. In our samples, the outcome of one birth in three was a death prior to the next census. In the thirty-six Protestant families present at the 1861 starting line and under observation to the finish line, twenty infants were born who did not live long enough to be recorded in the 1871 census. Among the sons and daughters who married during the decade, nine more were born who did not survive to the next census. Three couples formed unions that did not last until the next census, and in two instances a husband was widowed, remar-

60 · Peopling the North American City

ried, and was widowed again, all between the census snapshots of 1861 and 1871. The situation in the 1890s was comparable. Close tracking uncovered 30 per cent more children and a few more couples than were visible in the census at the start or finish. However brief their lives together, they were part of the social fabric, part of the moral economy, and part of the continuity of family affections. The sense of family persisted, and those families can be recognized. This observation helps us to understand why studies of persistence are so difficult, why the census taken alone is an inadequate source, why good scholars like Thernstrom overstated the float, and why we must hone tools of sampling and reconstitution and expand matching efforts to a richer array of sources. Central to this study is the assurance that for at least some part of the decade we have effective supervision over 80 or 90 per cent of the population – highest for the French Canadians, lowest for the Irish. This is crucial to the integrity of the results and provides assurance that the rates reported show no serious bias toward some stable minority and that the sets employed in the analysis as being under observation accurately reflect the samples drawn and, in turn, reflect the three cultural communities they were selected to represent. In the same way that demographers in the Sahel or the Amazon basin prefer small and elaborate surveys to poorly controlled census data, we are inclined to recommend elaborate small samples of historical populations. From the demographer’s perspective, the North American cities of the nineteenth century are a “developing world,” and we face analogous problems of sampling a poorly known universe. From this exercise of control, we argue that a large North American city had a large measure of continuity. In the case of Montreal, we can distinguish three such skeins of continuity, and each of them is represented in the miniature with sufficient mass to allow some comparisons. Even a superficial comparison of the numbers of vital events of the 1900s with the 1850s decade (table 2.1) shows that the three populations were growing at different rates. The number of households in the French Canadian sample increased fourfold over thirty years; while in the Protestant sample they doubled; in the Irish Catholic sample they increased only 44 per cent. The continuing growth in marriages among Protestants also suggests different population dynamics, as compared with stagnation among the Irish. To get a firmer idea of the challenge of interpreting those dynamics, we can take one further step. Table 2.4 displays the rates at which births, deaths, arrivals, and departures were occurring, relative to the sample populations

Tracking a Population · 61

Table 2.4 · Rates of natural increase and net migration in three communities, 1860s and 1890s Births

Deaths Entries


Rates per 1,000 person-years

Natural increase

Net migration

Overall growth

Rates per 100 person-years

1860s French Irish Cath. Protestant

50.0 41.3 44.2

33.4 26.0 23.0

49.4 20.3 12.9

12.1 17.2 12.2

1.66 1.53 2.12

3.73 0.31 0.07

5.39 1.84 2.19

1890s French Irish Cath. Protestant

40.3 33.3 34.0

29.9 22.7 18.4

21.0 22.7 16.1

18.1 21.0 13.9

1.04 1.06 1.56

0.29 0.17 0.22

1.33 1.23 1.78

Source: Surname samples

present in the 1860s and 1890s decades. These are expressed in terms of thousands of person-years lived in Montreal by sample members in the decade. The table presents us with an array of challenges. Can we explain the considerable changes that took place over a generation and the differences that persisted among the three communities? There are some surprises here. Relative to popular assumptions, natural increase was highest in the Protestant population – very high indeed in the 1860s. In all three communities, birth rates fell substantially in a generation, death rates much less, and natural increase was modest. Another surprise, in view of what we read in the literature of North American urban history, is the rather low level of departures from the city. In the English-speaking populations, net migration was always positive, but it does not seem to have had much impact on their overall growth. The entry of French Canadians from the countryside was dramatic in the 1860s; the entry rate in this community was as high as the birth rate, and in this decade net migration contributed twice as much as natural increase to growth of the French-speaking population. Central to the challenge, therefore, is the question, How did the moves people made affect the dynamics? In fast-growth cities – like Montreal in the nineteenth century or Beijing or Djakarta in the twenty-first – the move to the city has a powerful driving effect on all the other features of the demographic regime, but the effects are indirect, connected to the ages of the people who move and the reasons for their choice. That is the logic for looking first at those decisions (in the next chapter). To explain the differ-

62 · Peopling the North American City

ences between the 1860s and the 1890s, and the persistent differences among the three communities, other elements will emerge as we focus in turn on deaths, births, and marriages (in chapters 4, 5, and 6). THE L IMITATIONS

The sources are terse, rarely written out or even dictated by the individual concerned. They do not reveal the everyday concerns that made up the letters which families read and reread – the uncertainty of a job, the yield of the garden, or the repairs to the roof. Deaths were recorded but rarely the antecedent anxieties, the accidents, or the reassurance of recovery.59 How can we read the silences in the sources? Why didn’t Calixte Beauchamp appear at the baptism of his son? Why did Mrs Boyd take the business back from her son? How did it happen that John Ryan died on his wedding day? The problem is not these occasional gaps but the suffocating veil over certain matters. The obvious ones are the illegitimate births and the experience of unwed mothers, whose identities were concealed. It is possible to appraise the dimensions of this one (in chapter 8), but the sources voice nothing of feelings. We can say nothing about homosexual partnerships. We rarely know the reasons or the sequels of the so-called “rough justice” (or rough injustice) of the charivari. The miniature tells us little about the labour struggles that were of intense concern to most of the families. Men named Boyd and Baird and Ryan were working on the canal construction sites at the time of the strikes (1823, 1846, 1876). When the St Crispins walked out (1877), there were Beatties among both the owners of the shoe factories and the striking lastmakers. Members of all three communities were present in the workshops engaged in the struggles of the Knights of Labor (1886), but their names are rarely mentioned. We know that Patrick Ryan organized a strike of theatre workers in 1901; and in 1885 Francis Ryan was jailed for leading a walkout of the Windsor Hotel waiters “between lunch and dinner.” (The hotel management had confined them for months in order to reassure guests that they ran no risk of smallpox contamination.) As we shall see when we consider the marginalized (chapter 8), the sources remain fragmentary. We know what John Ryan, brown-haired and blueeyed, was wearing when he arrived at the penitentiary, but what happened to him when he finished his sentence? What became of the two Beatty orphans apprenticed to a farmer? What disgrace befell Edouard Beauchamp, a member of the young contingent of Zouaves whom the bishop had mobilized to defend the Pope?60 Each discovery added something, sometimes upsetting all assumptions, and a biographer would look further, seeking to secure

Tracking a Population · 63

some judgment of Patriote leaders of the 1830s, such as Joseph Beauchamp of Saint-Eustache, John Ryan of Saint-Colomban, John B. Ryan steamboat proprietor (exiled), blacksmith Ovide Beauchamp, who was arrested in Châteauguay, or their Loyalist opponents Stanley Bagg, Baxter Bowman, and Asa Burroughs. The novelist, too, would feel obliged to supply missing links and more complex motivations. But biography is not our prime objective. The biographical cues are here only to remind us that the sources capture living, thinking persons caught in some instant of engagement, celebration, grief, or stock-taking. The assurance we need is that they constituted a large enough and not too biased selection of the population. The time-consuming nature of record linkage drastically reduces the number of individuals and families we can track. Constraints of sample size are most severe at three points. First, since we did not anticipate so much shrinkage in the rural population of Irish Catholics, samples are too small to compare the Irish experiences in rural and urban settings at the end of the century. In the same way, we did not anticipate the extent to which a small number of marriages to Catholics would introduce uncertainty about religious identities into the Protestant sample in 1900. Third, when we subdivide the sample population by both ethnicity and economic status, we encounter constraints on the inferences we can make. At such points the miniature generates hypotheses that demand confirmation from complementary samples, and we will take advantage of the three cohorts of babies to enlarge the field. Because geographic mobility was greater in some decades than others, rural settings call for complementary study of particular villages and the use of land records.6¹ That said, the urban sample of households is a good representation of the urban population. Despite its limitations, the miniature sets up target rates. It brings into clear view one-half of the circle of kin and the intergenerational links that were active at any given moment. It permits reconstitution and lends itself to the selection of uncensored suites of events. It distinguishes the prime components in this laboratory of cultural coexistence; and, thanks to the breadth of sources, it affords opportunity for cross-examination.

64 · Peopling the North American City


The Drawing Power of the City

Critical to the evolution of our sample populations was the kinship network that was filtering and funnelling people from the countryside into the city and, within the city, steering their first-of-May moves and governing the patterns of everyday trips between home and workplace or marketplace. We begin with migration as the process central to the urban demographic regime. With a cascade of effects that we will explore in the next three chapters, the massive transplantation of people propagated the demographic transition, in its fast-growth phase, from one region to another. In the New World, the transatlantic arrivals make this transparent; but the expansion of cities reveals comparable mass migrations within Britain, Ireland, and Western Europe.¹ Here we focus primarily not on the magnitude but on the diversity of motivations and responses that we can observe – even within a single city – and the grounding of those motivations and responses in local social networks. A powerful motive for many geographic moves was the ambition to move up. As people headed for the city or moved their goods from one house to another in the spring of the year, they also moved up or down or held steady their position in a social triage. Upward mobility of a family over a lifetime or from one generation to the next involved an accumulation of capital that might take the form of tools, knowhow, credit, furnishings, and sometimes land or buildings. The assets were future-oriented. We are talking about goods that served to produce goods, information that elicited new information, and commitments that invited future commitments.² People deployed their assets in geographic spaces, and as they moved they redeployed their assets and expanded their information systems and their social networks. The story of one large family group will illustrate the moves as well as our methods for appraising the status of a family and comparing communities. Migrant experiences differed among the three cultural communities and between men and women, creating unexpected challenges for the second and third generations, and generating distinct narratives. What undergirded

urbanization and its demographic sequels was the perception of opportunity in the city – opportunities for work, investment, and partnership. The people who made those moves, by the hundreds, invested much of their labour in construction of the city itself. In 1850 Célina Beauchamp, born in Sainte-Scholastique, married JeanMarie Grothé, a goldsmith and fourth-generation Montrealer.³ In 1861 they were sharing their one-storey wooden house with Célina’s younger brother Onésime and his bride, and the two families would remain neighbours for the next twenty years. In 1865, when Onésime closed out his partnership as a cabinetmaker with a certain Pinsonneault, Jean-Marie took over the lease and endorsed the promissory note to a creditor who was nipping at their heels. To secure the debt to Jean-Marie, Onésime transferred several pieces of furniture to his ex-partner’s wife. In 1867 and 1868, Onésime was more secure and expanded his shop; he took a journeyman and three apprentices; he purchased a property on St-Dominique Street, next door to Jean-Marie, who supplied the capital, treating Onésime’s own furnishings as collateral, and Onésime turned over his right to collect the rents. In August 1872 Onésime’s second wife died, and a month later Célina died. The goldsmith’s community of property amounted to four times the value of the cabinetmaker’s, and both, to settle their respective estates and remarry, had to sell certain properties. Onésime resold the two wooden one-storey houses on St-Dominique and went into a new partnership. Both were shaken by the business crash of 1873, but Onésime was able in 1876 to buy from Jean-Marie a two-storey house and three lots on the corner of Arcade and Guilbault. Like other such sets of partners, their interactions were not purely financial. Each was godfather to one of the nephews and nieces. Jean-Marie acted as trustee to Onésime’s two small children (his second family), and Onésime became trustee to the nine nephews and nieces born of the union of JeanMarie and Célina.4 In Jean-Marie’s house were several handsome pieces of furniture Onésime had made. When Eugénie, Onésime’s daughter by his first marriage, proposed at age 19, with her father’s agreement, to become “emancipated,” she claimed the $230 inheritance from her mother to stock a milliner’s shop, and Uncle Jean-Marie acted as her adviser so that she could, as she told the judge, “earn a living by her own work, skill, and industry … to make herself a future.”5 The collaboration of the two families was embedded in a wider network of alliances. Célina may have been the first member of the family to arrive in Montreal; she and Jean-Marie facilitated the integration of her parents into the city, along with her brother Onésime and two others. Their father, a blacksmith, bought a lot from Jean-Marie and built the little wooden houses

66 · Peopling the North American City

that Onésime subsequently purchased. On the lot behind Onésime, Aunt Marguerite raised three families; her in-laws were all stone cutters at the nearby quarries. Celina’s younger brother Isidore lived in the same block; he got his start as a manufacturing jeweller by renting tools and a back shop from Jean-Marie on St Lawrence. Above the shop lived widowed Aunt Mathilde, next door a Grothé brother. Toward the end of the decade, JeanMarie and another of his brothers were renting a larger shop half a block north, and Isidore’s family was housing a younger brother who was learning the jeweller’s trade. The entire kinship network had two poles in the urban space: the jewellery shops were downtown close to the high-rent intersection at Craig and St Lawrence, while their homes and Onésime’s wood-working shop were just outside the city limit, above Sherbrooke Street. To save the twenty-minute walk uphill, Jean-Marie could probably afford to use the horsecar line on St Lawrence. In such cases, individuals were responding to the attraction of the city as an array of opportunities. Their responses were interwoven as families and entire communities of interest improved their standard of living and “moved up” in respectability, influence, and initiative. Over the nineteenth century, Montreal was emerging as the hot spot of the Quebec economy, exerting a powerful force in the transformation of everyday life in the surrounding Plain of Montreal. As part of the global process that Henri Lefebvre has described as “the urban revolution,” thousands of interacting agents were involved, with myriads of contingent decisions and mutual adjustments.6 Historians have given considerable attention to corporate entrepreneurs whose ambitious operations we can discern from the rail yards, docks, warehouses, and monumental buildings that still surround us. Without denying the instrumental roles of large entreprises such as the Grand Trunk Railway and Montreal Light, Heat and Power, we need to see individuals like Célina and Jean-Marie as important decision-making units, with their decisions coupled, cumulated, and woven into an extensive network of family. In knitting together the region, the old and half-hidden network of kinship was as important as the new hardware of railways and electric wires. Social connections circulated goods, payments, and messages. Firmly structured in law and ritual, the kinship system involved a conception of human capital. It was future-oriented, designed for regeneration, growth, and expansion. It required perennial reinvestment in its reproduction and continuous inputs to maintain an emotional capital – those elements of trust and solidarity that mobilized commitment and harnessed ambition. Historical sociologists have argued that in most Western economies there seems to have been substantially more movement up than down. We will

The Drawing Power of the City · 67

consider in chapter 7 the magnitude of upward mobility in Montreal, and in chapter 8 evidence for an undertow of downward mobility. At this point, to assess the extent to which the urban population may have resembled Célina’s family, we need to come to grips with the problem of appraising social status. What were the cues of occupation, income, education, wealth, or other aspects of status? How can they be categorized? What kinds of capital were at work? An important element was, of course, ownership of real estate. Some of the uses and distinctions of “immovable properties” are discussed further in chapter 6, but they applied to a minority of the urban population, and no more than 15 per cent owned the houses they lived in. What we need is an indicator applicable to the full array of households, and Montreal offers an unusual source: a municipal rental valuation, compiled annually and still remembered as “the water tax,” since it was introduced in 1846 to finance expansion of a municipal water supply. The tax was pegged to market rent, and assessors’ valuations, applied to owner-occupants as well as tenants, reflected the floor area the household occupied and therefore provides good estimates of household purchasing power. Most occupational status classifications, devised for international comparisons, are too crude to detect local fluctuations in enterprise, know-how, and labour market.7 But in Montreal, use of the rental valuations allows us to retain a very detailed array of selfreported male occupations and to ground intuitions of status by calculating the median rent and the interquartile range for householders of each of a hundred occupational rubrics.8 Like Jean-Marie Grothé, who sold gold stickpins, jewellers on average paid double the rent of cabinetmakers such as Grothé’s brother-in-law, Onésime Beauchamp. The travelling salesman or bookkeeper paid double the rent of a labourer, the notary or wholesaler, three or four times that, and these differentials held over the entire half-century.9 For the city as a whole, there was little inflation; the median yearly rent rose gradually from 1860 to 1900, from about $48 to $80, and the increase was associated with a real improvement in living standards, apparent in a larger floor area. Skilled metalworkers, such as boilermakers and moulders, increased their numbers fourteenfold between 1861 and 1881 and improved their rent-paying capacity by twothirds. Cabinetmakers doubled in number, coopers increased very little.¹0 Mechanization was undermining the shoemakers by “de-skilling,” and their purchasing power increased less (by half) than that of the metalworkers.¹¹ Among shopkeepers, advances were complicated by frequent setbacks. Those who called themselves “merchants,” most of whom were wholesalers and participants in international trade, did not increase in number as fast as the

68 · Peopling the North American City

“storemen” and “traders,” and at all levels they were vulnerable to the bubble of speculation and the crash of credit. If we sort all the occupations by the median of the rents they paid, it gives us an indicator of occupational status, and by grouping them at six levels we find, as one might expect, the merchants and lawyers highest, labourers lowest. The measure is rough. Some occupations (dealers, for example, or commerçants) show a greater range of variation; the distinctions “skilled,” “semi-skilled,” and “unskilled” are not always reliable, and what we know of the careers in the miniature warns us that the same Isaïe Beauchamp may appear one year as an entrepreneur and in another year as a carpenter, and the same Arthur Ryan as a master carter, a hired driver, or a retired “gentleman” who is renting out his equipment. Among clerks, the sources rarely distinguish between the pen-pushing clerk (probably salaried) and the shop clerk, who may be an illiterate assistant. Prior to the census of 1901, the sources do not allow us to distinguish between the baker who owned his shop and the journeyman baker who toiled twelve-hour nights in the basement. For all these reasons, the categorization falls short of what would be necessary for an analysis of social class. Despite the limitations, the estimate of status is useful, and the display of occupational profiles for the several cultural communities shown in figure 3.1 portrays the important starting-level differences in 1842, the advantageous profile of Protestant households, and the relative advancement of the Irish Catholic profile with each twenty-year span. Using the rental values, we can estimate shifts in the social status of a family or an occupation group over various time spans: a five-year span, a decade, over the life of a couple together, or between generations. The whitecollar clerk could hope to improve his earnings while, for the labourer, despite a little help from children as they reached working age, there was no measurable change over a lifetime. In the same way, we can use median rental value to characterize a neighbourhood – a block-face or a street segment (facing rows). Nine streets out of ten were very homogeneous.¹² Merchants and factory owners lived in streets with median rents as high as $300, managers and travelling salesmen $250, white-collar clerks $120, moulders often $90, labourers $60. Median rent in a street reflected the sizes of dwellings, their elegance and fashionableness, the width and cleanliness of the street, and the quality of public services supplied. One street in ten was a commercial strip, built for ground-floor shops and attracting a wider diversity of occupations. Siméon Beauchamp, for example, a crockery dealer, lived over the store. Forced by a street widening to move out of Notre Dame Street East in 1890, he moved up to St Catherine.

The Drawing Power of the City · 69





0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

0 10 20 30 40

French Canadian A high B C D E F low 0 10 20 30 40

Irish Catholic A high B C D E F low 0 10 20 30 40

Protestant A high B C D E F low 0 10 20 30 40

Per cent of households

Figure 3.1 · Occupational status levels in three cultural communities, 1842–1901. Status ranges from A (the highest) to F (the lowest): A , the grande bourgeoisie of merchants and manufacturers; B , the petite bourgeoisie of professionals; C , clerks and white-collar workers; D , skilled craftsmen such as moulder, plasterer, and printer; E , the semi-skilled, including painters and carters; F, day labourers. Sources: Census of 1842; the 1859 birth cohort matched to families in the census of 1861; census households of 1881 matched to the tax roll; the birth cohort of 1899 matched to families in the census of 1901

Once built, values were fairly stable, but changes occurred as an investor built on the fringe or redeveloped a downtown site. Onésime’s family had initially paid a modest rent on the edge of town, surrounded by other owneroccupants, but the vicinity developed rapidly between 1860 and 1880, surrounding them with dwellings whose tenants paid twice the rent. At the most central locations, where the jewellery store was situated, increasing demand for commercial space pushed up the values, so that residents who remained in older buildings were usually boarding-house and tavern keepers. On the street-by-street measure, too, the overall distribution across the city

70 · Peopling the North American City

was remarkably stable: the level of inequality persisted for half a century, and the great divide was between bourgeois and working-class neighbourhoods – the former with median rents above $100, floor areas three times the norm in working-class neighbourhoods, and the land area per household four or five times. The three communities found themselves in 1860 in very different positions, as shown in figure 3.1 – the Protestants with double the median rent of the others, and Irish Catholics initially on a par with the French. In the lowest 30 per cent were the households of labourers; two out of five identified as Irish Catholic, that is, twice the number one would anticipate. In the top 10 per cent, three out of four householders were Protestant, merchants in control of real wealth, visible in provincial politics, the courts, and the municipal corporation. From the census of 1842, when most of the Englishspeaking householders were immigrants, it is possible also to distinguish Irish-born Protestants (about one-tenth of all households), with their peculiar mix of high and low incomes. The trades were also culturally segmented, and tailoring employed large numbers of the Irish-born. The builders we met in chapter 2 suggest a spiralling effect of the growth of the city. The networking of families enlarged the city and increased the value of property, and the advance of a particular family was empowered by its ownership of property. We will look also at the habitats created by two families of carters, small entrepreneurs who started with horse and cart – tools essential to construction of the city and to the circulation of resources within it. Each of these families set out with a specific array of resources. They shared to some extent their aspirations and their anxieties as they confronted the hazards of the urban habitat: fire, epidemic, or collapse of credit. In other words, the construction and provisioning of the city provided springboards for advancing family interests. THE H A BITAT

Each construction boom, in the peak three or four years, produced a rim of new buildings. As late as the 1850s, it was the poor who lived on the fringes and walked to their jobs in the docks or markets at the centre. In the 1860s, a wedge of wealth was opening up, and the turf of the poor was nibbled away for development of suburban residences and complete industrial suburbs. Among the occupants of the rim were the builders themselves, who, more often than other manual workers, managed to become owners of land and owners of their own homes.¹³ In Montreal in 1860, skilled construction trades accounted for one-fifth of the workforce, labourers another fifth, and

The Drawing Power of the City · 71

carters about one-tenth.¹4 In peak summers, half the labour force may have been involved in city building. In 1900, of 450 household heads in our miniature Montreal, one-sixth were members of the building trades: 38 French Canadians, many of whom, like Ferdinand Beauchamp and his cousins, had built their own homes; 21 Protestants, most of them plumbers and electricians, among them all the men in the Bulmers’ extended family; and few Irish Catholics. The bricklayers, too – about a hundred household heads in the city in 1860, three hundred in 1900 – were continually shifting to the scene of action. Most crafts preferred the central axis of St Lawrence Main to the wings east or west, and their residential patterns varied a little according to their pay scales and cultural ties. Entrepreneurs usually lived higher on the slope, stonecutters near the quarries, and joiners such as Ferdinand Beauchamp in the French Canadian heartland of Saint-Jacques, close to the zone of construction. As the population moved outward, they left behind the “hole in the doughnut,” a downtown abandoned to commerce. Some people were still tethered to centrally located jobs with long or irregular hours – barbers, trainmen, tobacconists, milliners, messengers, and stevedores – but the core of peak daytime activity now emptied out at night, and the city centre was redeveloped with taller and bulkier buildings. As the city expanded, the merry-go-round accelerated. Higher land rents were generated at the very centre, where householders could no longer compete with the commercial rents coveted by store owners and bank directors. By 1900, the highest house rents and the highest residential densities were found one kilometre from the centre, pulling luxury shops uptown with them. The greater radius for residences offered a windfall of profits to be harvested in the conversion of land from rural to urban use. Jobs remained concentrated at the centre, and by 1880 thousands of people, perhaps 40 per cent, must have travelled more than two kilometres every morning to their jobs. It is no coincidence that throughout North America agitation for a shorter working day reached fever pitch in 1886 and that in 1891 massive investments were made in electric transit. By 1900, half of Montreal household heads probably still worked in the zone in which they lived, but at least onethird must have travelled more than three kilometres, and several thousand others more than four kilometres. In other words, half were still walking around the corner to the workplace, while the other half were journeying farther and faster than ever before. The new scale of the city and the new scale of operations created a new landscape, its skyline marked by cylindrical gasholders, tall chimneys, and rival steeples. As land values increased, stacking was applied to all kinds of activities. High schools and convents were built to four storeys, as well as 72 · Peopling the North American City

office buildings and department stores. The Royal Victoria Hospital rose to rival Sir Hugh Allan’s mansion as a landmark on the slope of Mount Royal. In the east end Bulmer’s brickyards were redeveloped for a sugar refinery, a stockyard, and a tobacco factory, whose massive multistorey buildings anchored a complete industrial suburb.¹5 The Grand Trunk Railway, by substituting a steam-powered saw for thirty-five stonecutters, in 1900 erected a five-storey edifice for its five hundred office workers, with a lobby trimmed in imported marble. The elegant reconstruction of the Bank of Montreal, fronting on Place d’Armes, was symbolic of the new scale of financial capital. The building extended over Fortification Lane, where the city’s walls had stood in the eighteenth century. The Banque du peuple, instrument of the French Canadian elite, likewise doubled its built volume and raised its height to six storeys, using “glass brick” and an atrium to allow light into the core. St James, the street of finance, had became a canyon, and all of Old Montreal a shadowed, wintry, and oppressive space, compact in its grandeur. As late as 1850, two-thirds of Montreal houses were wooden, with steeply pitched gable roofs – one-storey buildings with attic and dormer windows. Conceived as single-family dwellings, they resembled the rural houses of the St Lawrence Valley, with the same pièce-sur-pièce plank construction. The class distinction was between stone and wood; and a plank house could be upgraded by brick cladding. In response to the fires of 1850 and 1852, which destroyed 15 to 20 per cent of the city’s housing stock, the transition of building types was rapid. New construction had to be brick-clad; it was more expensive, and much of it was double-decker, with two families stacked one above the other, twinned in double duplex buildings, and aligned in terraces. Contributing to higher densities were small dwellings and courts at the back of the lot (1850s), taller buildings with three storeys and lighted “English” basement, roof types permitting fuller use of the top floor (1860s), and, in the 1880s, the introduction of the classic Montreal triplex of three or four storeys with a roof that sloped gently back from the street.¹6 Montreal, we noticed in chapter 1, did not build tenement houses at the densities of Glasgow, New York, Chicago, and Paris, but residential densities did increase greatly, making light, air, and water relatively scarce resources. By 1900, nearly all Montreal dwellings had a water connection in house or yard, but half were still served by a single tap for two or three families, and one household in six still relied on the outdoor pit privy. Despite the increase of people per square kilometre of urban land, there was a modest decline (1850–1900) in the number of people per square metre of floor space. The new types of stacking permitted more room per person inside the dwelling. The most common dwelling size in Montreal rose from three rooms to four, while household size fell: close to seven persons in 1842, six in 1861, five in The Drawing Power of the City · 73

Figure 3.2 · Homes of working-class sample members. These homes were built in the boom that peaked in 1871, with the new fire-resistant brick cladding. Typical is the entry for horse and cart on McCord Street (upper left). Ferdinand Beauchamp and his son built the double duplex on Amherst between Robin and de Montigny (behind the light pole), with its two doors on each side (upper right). In the next block (on Wolfe), in a house with only one door, his cousin Jean-Baptiste Beauchamp and his family may have occupied a comparable space (lower left). The house on Liverpool Street (middle right) shows a “modernization” of a double duplex and, adjoining it, the plank construction exposed by removal of the brick cladding for renovation. At the back of a house on de Bullion Street (lower right), the board fence survives, as well as the second-floor walkway to the shed which once housed the privies and supply of firewood. Sources: Photographs courtesy of David Hanna, Ben Johnson, Jason Gilliland, and Julian Olson

Figure 3.3 · Homes built and occupied by Bulmer families. At left, Henry Bulmer, 52 MacKay (now 2060); and at right, Edward Bulmer, 127 Crescent (2025). Both were situated in high-rent streets of property-owning families. Source: Photographs courtesy of Jason Gilliland, and Julian Olson

1880 and 1900. (Today it would be fewer than three.) Floor area available to the average working-class family rose from 430 to 660 square feet and was filled with a greater variety of consumer goods and a smaller kit of producer goods.¹7 This represented progress, and at the end of the century, when municipal reformers like H.B. Ames began to dramatize the problem of crowding, the proportion of “overcrowded” families was already much reduced. By today’s standard of more than one person per room, three-quarters of Montreal families were “crowded” in 1860; in 1900, 40 per cent. By the contemporary British standard (more than two persons per room, with children counted as half-persons), we would consider only 6 per cent as “crowded,” and Gilles Lauzon has rightly argued that for most people the measure of “upward mobility” was the additional room, the indoor toilet, the light bulb, or the coal stove.¹8 Léon Beauchamp occupied a home of about average size. Léon, his three brothers, and a brother-in-law were all carters, and when they first moved into Montreal about 1852 (perhaps in response to the reconstruction operation after the fire), they lived side by side on Brock Street, the horsiest spot

The Drawing Power of the City · 75

in town, near the waterfront. By 1855 they had managed to buy and build close together in a two-block stretch of Durham Street, near Dorchester, today the site of Radio-Canada, so that each of them could stable his horse and cart and his gear for hauling water. Each couple had several children; each owned a small wooden double house clad with brick, and each let three of the four dwellings to other couples. Among their successive tenants were carters and farmers who had come from nearby villages such as Saint-Rémi, Saint-Lin, Saint-Roch, and L’Épiphanie. The inventory recorded when Léon remarried in 1863 summarizes their standard of living. The water-carting equipment accounted for about half the family’s $100 possessions: a blond workhorse, two carts and two sleighs, various tanks and barrels. Their furnishings included the stove and stovepipe, a little chest, a settee, a large bed and a small one, with their coverlets and pillows, a kitchen table and eight chairs, a frying pan, a kettle and soup tureen, a clock, five framed prints and two little mirrors, a broom, chamber pot, spittoon, silver watch, and a quarter barrel of flour. A couple of decades later, when Léon died, his third wife Scholastique Dubuc and her daughter were living in the same kind of one-storey house, with three or four rooms and an attic, but a little more comfortably, having added a pine sideboard, buffet, and rocking-chair, a lantern, a tablecloth and rolling pin, white bedcurtains, and curtains at the windows. The little house had accommodated the quirks of personality and accumulated the thickness of memory. Making her own list for the notary, Scholastique itemized “a bucket for the house and a bucket for the horse” and, in phonetic spelling, “un couvrepied piqué lila, un tuc que j’ai tricoté, une perre de mitaine et une perre de pognet que j’ai tin en rose.”¹9 Léon’s family was typical of the improvements of that twenty years in the lifestyle of the average Montreal family. A labourer in the same neighbourhood described his two-storey house with about 400 square feet of floor area: a ground-floor room 20 by 10 feet, the upstairs divided into two rooms. His wife still carried water from the yard. In the same street, a skilled worker, able to pay a higher rent, could obtain 50 per cent more floor area in a new triplex layout of three rooms on one floor, with three families stacked on the same lot.²0 By 1900, conditions had improved still further, and half of the city’s families were living in the larger units of 600–750 square feet, partitioned into four or five rooms, with piped water and a water closet. Most were paying 15 to 20 per cent of their income for rent; the very poorest, 30 or 35 per cent. If we look at a wider array of carters, we discover that many of them maintained the same lifestyle for twenty or thirty years but were building up

76 · Peopling the North American City

their resources and reinvesting in the entreprise. They supplied lumber and brick to the builders, firewood and water to the tenants, and crushed stone to contractors for resurfacing the streets. (The stone was crushed to standard sizes as winter “employment” for men recommended by a priest or minister as “able to work” and were paid at about half the normal day-labouring wage.) The investment observed among carters is at variance with the classic complaint of the time as well as contemporary colonial perceptions of French Canadians – that they lived for enjoyment, like the locusts. The strong similarity of household goods among people from various “stations in life” is best understood by their determination to invest in other kinds of income-producing equipment. The movable property of three carters for whom we have complete inventories ranged widely in value: Léon, as we saw, about $100 in 1859 and again twenty years later; Etienne Beauchamp $152 (1823), and Etienne’s brother-in-law François Désautels at triple the value: $440 (1835). But their domestic goods accounted for less than half of their movables: Léon 40 per cent, Etienne 27 per cent, and François, the most substantial, only 15 per cent. The bulk of their capital was invested in the horses, carts, and sleighs in their yards and stables. What did not change over the half-century was the spread of rents. Léon rented out two-room apartments under the mansard roof at $4 to $6 a month, Ferdinand Beauchamp charged $8 to $10 a month for his newly built dwellings (close to the citywide median), and John Bulmer’s handsome terrace houses rented for $25 a month. Bulmer’s tenants were among the most comfortable tenth of Montreal families who occupied one-third of the floor area available, while Léon and his tenants were among the two-thirds who squeezed into one-third of all dwelling space. It is in this context of inequality – unchanged for half a century – that we can appreciate the competition for purchasing power and space as individual families improved their situation or lost ground. While it is easier to measure floor area than sunshine and ventilation, the larger dwellings were situated in lower-density, betterkept environments. Every year on 1 May, Montreal re-enacted “Moving Day,” a pageant of small irritations and small satisfactions, when households, clubbing together within the solidarity of family and within the constraints of their purchasing power, acted out the struggle to control minute parcels of the urban habitat. RECIRCUL ATING THE A SSETS

The way Célina and Onésime stretched their kinship network over a particular neighbourhood applies to practically every family in the sample of

The Drawing Power of the City · 77

Figure 3.4 · Layout of three sample blocks developed before 1852. In the oldest parts of town (such as Rolland Lane), the horse and cart with water barrel or firewood could penetrate everywhere by lanes on privately owned land. As land became more valuable, dwelling space was built over the cartway, and the horse entered the lot through a tunnel. Léon Beauchamp and his brothers built on this pattern in Durham Street (now Plessis). Irish carters long occupied the large lots on McCord Street that offered space for stables and manoeuvring. Source: Redrawn from Goad Atlas of 1881

a thousand. The butchers, tanners, and grocers, like the carters, to meet the requirements of their lines of work, created a particular urban fabric adapted for horse traffic, with the portes-cochères, yards, stables, rear lanes, and hay lofts (fig. 3.4). Kinship has been better recognized in rural studies,²¹ but the teamwork of parents and children, brothers and sisters, was equally important in the city, and the same patterns of social collaboration were employed in creating the urban landscape. Like the carpenters and carters, families were investing in their human capital parallel with their investments in the built fabric of the city. Compelling reasons for neighbouring were grounded in the need to travel on foot. In the “walking city,” very small prisms of space could be conveniently accessed within the constraints of a dawn-to-dark workday.²² From the Protestant sample, Jason Gilliland has retraced the residences of an extended family who, for forty years, lived within sight of one another in Pointe-SaintCharles. William Beattie and Ann Pashby, married in 1849, lived into their seventies. As a blacksmith, William first rented on Nazareth at $68 a year (1861); in 1863 he purchased nearby on Magdalen, a newer habitat and closer to the shops, but comparable in size and valuation. They lodged a family of nine in a home of four rooms; by 1879 there were fifteen people as the young couples repeatedly moved in with their parents, their in-laws, or their sisters and brothers. Co-residence of the younger families was a survival strategy, and all of the twelve brothers and brothers-in-law worked in the nearby Grand Trunk Railway shops. In 1890 the parent couple retreated to a smaller rental dwelling, with just one young family. Among them all, Gilliland identified twenty-eight moves, but only two couples left the neighbourhood.²³ In the miniature as a whole, over the entire span 1860–1900, moves were frequent and, for the most part, local. At the end of each five-year interval, only one-quarter of households remained in the same house, but there was considerable predictability and stability in the system. The death of a father or mother spurred departures, and the seasonal shuffle of one-year leases made it possible for families to adapt to changes in income and family size. In each of the three communities, Gilliland identified one-fifth of the couples as upwardly mobile, on the criterion of at least two successive moves to streets of higher median rent.²4 For the other four-fifths, moves were neither up nor down but upstairs, downstairs, or around the corner, and nine out of ten stayed in the same parish. Through the sequence of residences in so many flats, they acquired an intricate knowledge of the milieu – the houses, genealogies, work opportunities, and sensitivities. Despite the intensity of the first-of-May shuffle, kinfolk remained neighbours, and at any single moment little knots of neighbouring kin were crocheted along the

The Drawing Power of the City · 79

street fronts and threaded through the alleys, testimony to the organizing power of kinship. FROM ONE GENER ATION TO THE NE X T

The more important form of upward mobility was therefore from one generation to the next, and the high-visibility example is the Irish Catholic community. The social advancement of the Irish Catholics of Montreal and their residential dispersion in the city tell a story quite different from the persistent poverty and confinement to an ethnic ward, as described in New York, Baltimore, Boston, or Buffalo.²5 The experiences of the men and women named Ryan reveal not only the massive pick-and-shovel input of the Irish but a rock-hard resistance to exploitation and, among the children of the immigrants, an improved standard of living. Over a hundred couples had children we can trace, married in the 1860s and 1870s, and their achievement forces a reassessment of Canadian and American historiography. Here we estimate the dimensions of that achievement and point out some of the assets they tapped. Housing conditions provide the most reliable evidence of their success in the second and third generations. In terms of median rent, the number of rooms occupied by a family or the floor area per person – all strongly correlated – the Ryans, taken as a group, advanced steadily with every five-year interval. Improvement in purchasing power staked out a geographical pathway. Initially concentrated in three small areas – around St Patrick’s Church, in Griffintown, and along the Lachine Canal – they diffused rapidly into other parts of the city. At the end of the century, as third-generation households were being established, reformers such as H.B. Ames still identified Griffintown as an Irish slum, but four out of five of the Ryan families had already left the old neighbourhood and were living in better than average housing conditions.²6 The improvement in housing matched an occupational advance. In 1848 and 1860 nearly half of Irish Catholic household heads were labourers (fig. 3.5). A decade later their occupational profile matched the French Canadian sample, with a majority in semi-skilled occupations like carters and painters; and by 1901 they were better positioned than French Canadians, filling new kinds of jobs that required reading, writing, ciphering, and competence in two languages. In 1891, household heads named Ryan were evenly split between born-in-Ireland fathers and their Canadian-raised sons. Of the fathers, 40 per cent were still labourers; of the sons, a single individual was a labourer. The same contrast between the occupational profiles of fathers and

80 · Peopling the North American City

Cumulative percentage



High A B C D E F Low










Figure 3.5 · Occupational advance of Irish Catholic household heads by decade, 1842– 1901. Cumulative percentage in each occupational status group A (high) to F (low). The shrinkage of a “labouring class,” confirmed in larger census samples, reflects the rate at which a second generation moved into the headship of households. Source: Ryan surname sample

sons explains why, among the Irish householders of 1901, the younger ones were earning more than the older ones, and sons living at home were earning more than their fathers. How was this accomplished? Although most of the Ryans, like the vast majority of Irish immigrants of the 1840s, arrived in Montreal with very modest goods or cash, we need to take into account assets of a social nature. The immigrants of the 1830s and 1840s – artisans, tailors, pedlars, even labourers – brought with them an advantageous baggage of schooling. Fewer women than men signed the marriage registers, but their levels of instruction exceeded the rates common in Lower Canada.²7 The penal laws that had braked literacy in Ireland and pushed Catholic schoolteachers underground had provoked a high value on schooling and writing. The experience and leadership of the smaller group of precursors also contributed valuable resources of the sort Pierre Bourdieu has termed “cultural capital.”²8 The handsome church dedicated on St Patrick’s Day 1847, just at the moment when the ships were arriving (chapter 2), was evidence of strategic alliances they had developed with the host communities of French Canadians and anglophone Protestants. Despite recurrent tensions in these relationships, Irish Catholics had already constructed a distinct identity in Montreal, with political competence, a political will, and impressive ingenuity in inserting themselves into a politicized context. Construction of the church was backed by the priests of Saint-Sulpice, the parish of Notre-Dame

The Drawing Power of the City · 81

(of which the the Sulpicians were the pastors), and the bishop of Montreal – indeed, the whole French-speaking community. In 1841 the Irish Catholic community had undertaken to raise £3,000, about one-third of the initial investment. They assigned fundraisers to each of the main streets of the city and targeted appeals to the tailors, builders, innkeepers, and soldiers. In the east end, tavern keepers and grocers (who also sold liquor) collected the “penny subscriptions,” and at the first auction of pews in June 1847, it was the image-conscious tavern keepers who made the largest bids. Even at the height of the temperance crusades of 1849 and 1850, one pewholder in five was a dealer in liquor.²9 The intensity of exchanges already operating in the Irish Catholic community also favoured the new arrivals with credit.³0 By 1847 James and Patrick McShane had butcher stalls in the city market. James Megorian was building a large soap and candle factory. (He was occasionally fined for blocking the street with candle molds.)³¹ Active and well known were tavern keeper John Reily, shoemaker Patrick Murray, and carriage maker Joseph O’Kane. John Donegani – a wealthy landowner, Catholic, English-speaking, and of Italian origin – by making three speculative subdivisions, created Irish neighbourhoods that lasted a half-century.³² Builders Michael and John Kelly were putting up houses in these little subdivisions for O’Kane, Pat McAuley, and William Brock, and they subcontracted the plastering to Martin Fardy.³³ All of the entrepreneurs named here rented their pews at St Patrick’s in that first auction, and each one had depended at a critical moment on a line of credit from Bartholomew O’Brien, a broker of silver who had immigrated from Clonmel, County Tipperary, about 1815.³4 Their transactions, recirculating resources within the Irish Catholic network, point to the value of access to credit and a network of guarantors. O’Brien, with his wife Eliza McDugald, whom he had married in the Presbyterian church, also kept an inn in Hospital Street, two blocks from the waterfront, and they received each year a great number of Irish immigrants heading upstream and Irish raftsmen bringing down timber from the shanties of the Nation River to markets in Montreal and Quebec City. Dining rooms and taverns like theirs were vital spaces in the exchange of information and the maintenance of solidarities – Irish Catholic, all-Catholic, and all-Irish.³5 Their self-awareness is apparent in an editorial in the Emerald commenting on the city taxation bill in 1841: “But when we see tavernkeepers taxed to an enormous amount, the soap and tallow chandlers taxed to an enormous amount, and the wholesale merchants not taxed at all, then we look at our pettiness. Oh! Ireland, what kind of children did you rise and send to Montreal, we are sorry to say sleepy fellows.”³6

82 · Peopling the North American City

In a city of such formidable religious and linguistic cleavages, with its antagonisms rekindled in the unsuccessful rebellions (1837–38), Irish Catholics occupied a strategic position. Even while they kept up the rhetoric of a third party caught in the middle, they were appropriating a degree of freedom, playing both sides, and taking advantage of the two sets of institutions already in place. UP WA RD MOBIL IT Y W ITHOU T EQUA L IT Y

Measured in the same way, the occupational advancement of the Beauchamp sons can be compared with that of the Ryan sons, and their achievements were of the same magnitude relative to their fathers of rural origin. Upward mobility is harder to detect among French Canadians, since a recurrent stream of rural migrants affected the communitywide average. Recognition of the city as a place of opportunity spurred a surge of arrivals with each boom. In the miniature, however, we can distinguish the newcomers from the city-born and discover upward mobility in successive generations. The French Canadians, too, were seizing urban opportunities and employing sibling teamwork and family alliances. City living was the alternative to colonization of marginal land or exile to the United States, and Montreal was drawing increasing profits from the manufactures it was pouring into the countryside. As dwellings and workplaces were stacked higher, with more people on each square metre of land, the capitalist was reaping a larger harvest from his urban field. Early in the century, Montrealers had garnered great wealth from clearing and building operations in the surrounding countryside and, from the sheer increase of value of real estate, in the city itself. The overall value of land increased at about the same overall rate as the population of the city, but the impact was highly focused. Each boom gave a boost to values in the central business district and along the main streets leading into it; and on the outskirts each boom created speculative opportunities in the conversion of land from rural to urban use. This process provided a platform for a small number of large fortunes.³7 Throughout at least a half-century (1847–1901), the level of inequality showed no change, and Montreal remained a low-wage city. Instead of the giant steps between “social classes” in 1842, the differences sixty years later were spread along a more continuous gradient, with competition for small nuances of comfort and respectability. But still two-thirds of the people shared one-third of the income and occupied one-third of the space. The influx of immigrants braked wages and maintained the powerful differentials

The Drawing Power of the City · 83

Sign register (%)

100 75 50 25

Urban men

Urban women

Rural men
























Rural women

Figure 3.6 · Ability to sign: French Canadian men and women, town and country, 1800–1909. Source: Beauchamp surname sample, Catholic parish registers, and notarial sources

of purchasing power. Even a modest rate of upward mobility would influence the psychology of personal ambitions and social expectations. Darroch and Soltow have developed this argument for the expanding rural economy of nineteenth-century Ontario.³8 They observed little change in the overall structure of household purchasing power from one decade to the next and saw the same persistence of inequality that we see in Montreal. While their evidence suggested some improvement within a lifetime (in terms of access to ownership of a farm), even the anticipation of a new standard of living for one’s children would be incentive enough to fuel the process of urbanization. Important in transforming the communications network itself was the accumulation of human capital in terms of the ability to read and write. To estimate participation of sample members in the urban culture of literacy, all we can measure is the ability to sign one’s name at the time of marriage, as displayed in figure 3.6.³9 Among French Canadians, the ability to sign was more highly valued sooner in Montreal than in the rural Plain, and a dramatic leap in the 1850s reflected the same pressing motivation as the moves to the city. Neither Célina Beauchamp nor her parents could sign, but her younger brothers could, as well as her city-bred husband and all of her children. Prior to that leap, men and women were about equally (un)likely to sign. As literacy rose, more women were signing in the rural population; in the city, decidedly more men. The city’s investment in education, which

84 · Peopling the North American City

Figure 3.7 · A family tree of signing ability. Louis-Joseph Beauchamp (1) married Denyse Henriette DeChantal (2) in 1833. For both partners it was a second marriage. His characteristic “Bochan” signature is reproduced from a lease to the printer Joseph Guibord (BA nQ , Greffes de notaires, Act of Joseph Belle, 19 April 1838). In 1855 their daughter Hermine (3) married Aimé (4), son of Aimé Beauchamp and Judith Larue. The two grandfathers (5 and 6) were half-brothers; they married in the 1770s. Of their descendants, the figure shows only those who survived to marriage or to age 21 and were bearers of the Beauchamp name, with their wives and husbands.

Danylewicz has described as “largesse” toward boys, produced a measurable effect.40 By 1881 the gender gap was closing in both schooling and signing, and the census shows children from all three cultural communities about equally likely to be in school at ages 10 to 13. In 1901 the ability to sign was higher in the younger generation and among those born in the city. By that time, mini-revolutions had occurred in the villages as well, evident in the signatures of whole marriage parties of young people who had gone to school together. A collection of signatures offers a touching demonstration of the value placed on the ability to sign, and a “family tree” of signatures shows the typical sharp transition, a genuine revolution within the family (fig. 3.7). Louis-Joseph Beauchamp, born about 1800 in Mascouche, first appeared in Montreal as a carter, along with his half-brother Francis, a carter and stonecutter, and a sister, who had been widowed at age 25 and was a seamstress. When Louis-Joseph married in 1821, neither he nor his bride could sign. He built several small houses and gradually became one of the region’s more

The Drawing Power of the City · 85

important traders in firewood. He was a property owner, entitled to vote. In 1833 he remarried, and for Denyse Henriette Cardinal, a young widow who could read and write, he rebuilt his house on St Urbain Street, two blocks north of the parish church. Between Christmas Eve 1836 and mid-February 1837, Louis-Joseph began signing his name. To the end of his life (1849) he retained a simplified spelling, last name only, in primary-school lettering. But on scores of contracts with labourers, sawyers, farmers, carters, and raftsmen, most of them unable to sign, the “Bochan” signature was a mark of distinction and evidence of his social advance.4¹ PA RTNERSHIPS

Each of the thousand couples in the urban miniature was an economic partnership, and their strategies – their mobility, their entrepreneurship, and their alliances with other couples – were a powerful force in the dynamism of the urban economy. A marriage contract can be read as the foundation for a diversified economic enterprise (as is recognized in rural history), and in chapter 6 we probe the shift from “community of property” to “separation of property.” Despite the dominance of male authority over capital, a coherent legal framework gave entrepreneurial scope and identity to the couple as an economic unit. How important were such small ventures? At the end of the nineteenth century, the new joint stock companies were undeniably important to economic growth, urban form, and ethnic control of capital, and some sample members belonged to the new class of professional managers and agents of finance and real estate. Most enterprises, however, still took the form of partnerships of two or three persons. In addition to the thousand marriages, our corpus contains 115 acts that formalized other kinds of entrepreneurial associations. The initial capital ranged from $60 to $100,000, and one-fifth involved a woman, sometimes as the working partner, sometimes as the supplier of capital. Some ventures were decidedly marginal, like the Irish stevedores (Ryans married to Leahys), who formed a partnership for stitching grain bags. Most such partnerships were small and shorter-lived than marriages: the majority lasted one to three years. Nearly all of the long-lived enterprises were founded upon family alliances or cemented by subsequent marriages. Foursomes, like the Beauchamp and Ménard, or the Ryan and Leahy couples, undertook a staggering variety of ventures, seizing a short-term opportunity, capitalizing on a scrap of land, or taking advantage of an ephemeral asset in the energy, talents, or connections of certain family members. Some couples structured their agreements to seed a venture of the younger

86 · Peopling the North American City

generation. Michael Patrick Ryan and Margaret Brennan, in their marriage contract of 1850, formed a partnership with her father, a soapmaker, to operate a hotel; and to protect the assets, they affirmed Margaret’s right to hold her property separate from her husband’s. Her father provided a sum that matched what her husband settled upon her (250 pounds each), and she claimed these sums in 1859 when his butter-and-pork business failed. His parents, William and Mary Ryan, who had emigrated from Ireland, farmed first in Chambly County and in the 1850s moved into contracting ventures and into Montreal. William’s will of 1864, ignoring the married children already provided for, carved out adjoining pieces of urban real estate as legacies to his wife, to an unmarried son (a lawyer), and to two unmarried daughters. Close to the gasworks in Griffintown, where he had fulfilled various trenching contracts, William had built and subdivided a property as four independent but neighbouring units – the classic Montreal double duplex. He specified that his heirs were to keep them insured against fire and to maintain and if necessary rebuild them “on precisely the same ground” in order to guarantee both the value of the property and the family solidarity as neighbours.4² Families thus maintained in parallel their built capital and their social capital through an accumulation of trust, loyalty, affection, and experience. It is not necessary to idealize these relationships. Some moved up, but failures were legion, as well as lawsuits, and family loyalties were vital to marginal and unsavoury enterprises as well as to successful and highly ethical endeavours. R.G. Dun’s Montreal agent in the 1850s identified several “crooked sticks” who nevertheless appeared in our samples as effective partners within closeknit networks of kin. One such man bought from his brother, a roofer, an insurance claim for the value of the roofing job, not yet paid for, on a hotel consumed by fire. He collected on another fire insurance claim for the little girl of his widowed sister, Henrietta Ryan. When his rubber factory failed, he recovered machinery from the sheriff and captured the lion’s share from the other creditors. When his wineshop failed, Henrietta launched another and hired him as manager. He and Henrietta, using assets of her second husband (a lawyer) and the somewhat dubious know-how of the husband’s carpenter brother (three couples in all), next invested in a scheme to manufacture brick. After they liquidated the brickworks and two more wineshops had failed, he assigned his life insurance policy to Henrietta and left the city. In the attempt to redress the bias of an earlier “all-male” reading of history, some scholars have argued that the two sexes operated in complementary ways, in separate spheres and separate spaces.4³ What the notarial corpus more often suggests is an ongoing strategic collaboration between the sexes,

The Drawing Power of the City · 87

in most cases negotiated with mutual concern and affection between wives and husbands, mothers and sons, fathers and daughters, sisters and brothers. Notwithstanding the silences in the records and the rigid gender discrimination of the law, couples functioned as effective entrepreneurial teams, entering into more complex partnerships whose strategies of survival, reproduction, and advancement generated growth in the regional economy. As couples deployed their minute stocks of credit, their ingenuity, their hoards of movables and immovables, they took care to maintain the network of kinship essential to their security and their status. From the skein of family solidarities they wove the social fabric of the region and the material fabric of the city. Women, as we have seen, invested heavily in grooming, maintaining, and mobilizing the kinship network, notably in the selection of godparents, where they manipulated and enforced a powerful and wellunderstood set of social rules and ensured the reciprocity of the gift.44 Célina, busy with the gestation and nursing of a dozen infants, nevertheless drew her entire family into her neighbourhood of the city. Margaret shielded the hotel from the creditors, and Denyse taught her husband to sign his name consistent with his financial status. Henrietta engineered her assemblage of crooked sticks, and Eugénie claimed her $230 inheritance to “make herself a future.” All of these actions were undertaken within strategic partnerships. We can only imagine the long evenings of discussion, the tears of rage, the fit of indignation, the volley of profanity, or the peal of laughter that accompanied their collusion, contention, collaboration, complicity, or connivance. Even obscure documents hint at continual negotiation: “The parties, desirous of resolving a long misunderstanding between them.” Occasionally a voice pierces the notary’s formulaic expression, confirming a collaboration to the brink of death, such as the butcher who made a special legacy to his wife beyond the provisions of their marriage contract, “in recognition of her faithfulness, her devotion, her agreement, and the attachment she has always shown me.”45 An Irish carter’s wife, “sick and lying on her bed,” marked her “X,” leaving their little wooden house to their two daughters, the use of it to her husband, and $4 to their son: “I pray him to receive it with a good heart.”46 Freighted with their contradictions and ambiguities, such partnerships created the future.

88 · Peopling the North American City


The Hazards of City Living

People were attracted to the city at a terrible risk. What we know of cities of Europe and Victorian England points to severe risks for infants, and the differential between town and country is referred to as the urban penalty. For French Canadian infants born in Montreal, mortality was 30 per cent higher than among those born in surrounding villages. The attempt to provide a reliable estimate of the “penalty” opens up questions about mortality differences inside the city – between communities of language and religion, between rich and poor, and, at more advanced ages, between men and women. Decade after decade, some people were at greater risk than others, challenging us to inquire into the magnitudes and to consider how they were perceived. Were the differentials seen as social problems? As issues for public policy? In the midst of the noisy, bustling vitality of Montreal, death was everpresent, and the ceremony that surrounded some deaths underscored the inequalities. In September 1847, when the typhus epidemic was at its worst, notations on the register of Notre-Dame parish read, “They will dig the grave themselves”; on the thirteenth, “Her husband came, he can hardly stand up, he has the fevers”; on the seventeenth, “M. Connolly will pay for a coffin.” A slip falls out of the volume: “Gratis pour tout.” Even in a month considered normal, one family in five could pay nothing, and the grim misery of winter appears on the January register: “The father came. He will pay in the spring if he can, they were burned out, he is poor.” Between January 1847 and July 1849, a thirty-month span that included two severe epidemics, eleven members of the Larocque, Cuvillier, and Montague families received the honour of burial within the walls of the church: three Larocque babies one after the other “par-dessus sa grand’mère”, an unbaptized infant of Sieur Montague, and three weeks later the mother; three Cuvillier children, their mother, father, and grandfather. They were wealthy families, generous to the parish,

related to one another and to the vestrymen. For Mrs Cuvillier’s funeral, four of the church bells tolled, and fees were levied for use of the Great Veil, for services of the organist and for a uniformed “Swiss guard,” 23 pounds of candles, and an extra-deep grave.¹ Distinguished also were Joseph Beauchamp, the wood merchant who had learned to sign his name, and Bartholomew O’Brien, the innkeeper-broker who had given 1,000 livres tournois for a shelter for out-of-place servants. (The Witness complained that the priests had snatched his fortune from his Protestant wife.) They were among the 120 distinguished for burial “within the walls,” while more than 5,000 others were consigned to a crowded enclosure at what today is Dominion Square. Aware of the gulf between rich and poor and of the revolutionary clamour in Europe, a carriage maker on 1 May 1848 gave his son the name Jean Baptiste Edmond Egalité. Three weeks later his name reappeared – on the burial register. The disparities had already led to an unprecedented and rather delicate collective petition of 2,508 parishioners, who appealed to the priests to make it possible to bring every coffin into the church, to light a candle and read a Libera for each, however poor the family, and to accompany the body to the cemetery. The petition, deferentially worded, was presented just as the visiting missioner from France launched the campaign to finish the church by erecting the second tower. Heart and soul, the signers intended to join in the work that would bring the solemn and magnificent church that much closer to heaven, “all classes of Catholic society in this parish, rich and poor alike.” It would be the time to remedy the dreadful “abandon” with which the indigent were excluded from any ceremony in the church and thus deprived of the last rites of a religion so compassionate.² The petition bore no fruit. The crowding of the cemetery, the shallow graves, and recurrent frost heave continued to produce scandals, and in 1854, when cholera threatened to reappear in Canada, the city ruled out burial in the churches. Spacious parklike cemeteries were created on Mount Royal – Catholic, Protestant, and Jewish – but the gap remained between the respect awarded those who could pay and the humiliation of the indigent. The new Protestant cemetery imposed the purchase of lots, and many families, for the sake of respectability, paid the equivalent of a month’s house rent as the yearly fee for a church pew, and a year’s house rent for a family plot in the cemetery. For those who could not pay, charitable and “national” organizations like the St Andrew’s Society established common plots without markers. For the entire Catholic community, Notre-Dame parish collected burial fees and lucrative extras for ceremony and ornament. Members of the Société des prières, who pledged twenty-five cents a month, were assured the accompaniment of fellow members and their Paternoster at the grave, but for

90 · Peopling the North American City

three-quarters of the deaths, no church bell tolled, no marker was erected, and five or ten years later the unmarked plot was recycled.³ The city experienced the typhus and cholera epidemics that flared in European and North American cities in 1831, 1847, 1849, 1854 … and it was these exceptional years that evoked terror, when the epidemic struck individuals in the prime of life. Throughout the entire century, overall mortality in Montreal was high, in line with reports for several other North American cities,4 and the death rates at each stage of life and each season reveal the urban hazards. Year in and year out, the very young, the very old, and the very poor were presumed to be at greater risk. The anxiety of mothers grew as the weather warmed, but the death of “puny babies” raised little collective sense of outrage. Spring and fall, families faced contagious diseases such as whooping cough, measles, scarlet fever, and diphtheria as seasonal afflictions of children. Smallpox, recurring about every ten years, evoked the greatest anxiety and, as we shall see, conflicting interpretations. What is surprising is the extent to which the three cultural communities were differentially affected. E X PECTATIONS

To make a quantitative appraisal of the risks, we employ several samples. The miniature of twelve surnames provides evidence of continuities in the patterns of disease burden from the 1840s to the end of the century and gives a stark picture of the greater risks to French Canadian infants and young children. To explore the impact of standard of living, we rely on larger samples drawn for the purpose: for infants under 12 months, three sets of births (over 3,500 in each set);5 and for children aged 1–4 and adults aged 15–59, the array of 5,909 deaths in the year 1881, matched to the people of these ages registered in the April census (10,788 children and 53,409 adults). In most respects the miniature tracks the birth cohorts, but the larger samples yield more robust results, uncovering measurable effects of poverty on child mortality and, in adulthood, sizable gender differences specific to the French and Irish communities. We therefore use this set to recount the outcomes, working our way through the risks at successive stages of life. Before describing the findings, we must first identify the factors we suspected and the methods we adopted. How were the three communities affected by the intense industrialization of the urban economy? This was the question raised in the initial research design. We anticipated higher mortality in working-class families; and since the city was growing larger and more densely populated, we expected to see a trend to a stronger expression of

The Hazards of City Living · 91

environmental effects. Over the two decades 1860–80, population doubled in the urbanized area, and it doubled again 1880–1900. The city was still in a “foundational phase” of urban growth, its expansion running ahead of public investment, and each surge of construction was associated with more arrivals of young singles and young couples whose infants were at risk.6 As the city grew, competing demands for space induced more intensive use of land, achieved by the construction of two-storey and then three-storey rows in factory suburbs such as Sainte-Cunégonde, Saint-Henri, and Hochelaga (recall figure 1.4). In 1880 one-fifth of the population lived in highdensity streets (over 350 households per kilometre of residential street frontage); in 1900, one-third. This meant three times as many people in some of the older inner-city neighbourhoods, and 13 per cent of families at densities not seen before in Montreal (500–1,100 households/km²). The urban habitat was becoming more different from the village, and households more dependent on the efficiency with which the city was engineered and managed. Given the trends in the built environment and the risk factors observed in European studies, we anticipated that room crowding would aggravate respiratory diseases, that more families, more dung, and more flies on a hectare of ground would add to infant mortality, that hard-labouring men would face high mortality as they reached their mid-forties, and that poor families would become more vulnerable. Would our data confirm Kearns’s observation in England that “the poor and unskilled bore the brunt of the urban penalty”?7 We can report indications of all these effects in Montreal. The persistent cultural differences demand consideration of the ways in which cultural practices intervened either to aggravate certain urban hazards or to offer some protection. At the end of the century, the Grim Reaper was still mowing down infants and small children in about the same proportions: 35 to 40 per cent of the deaths. (Today’s figure would be 1 per cent.) Year after year, from 1847 to 1900, more than one-quarter of the babies born died before reaching a first birthday. (Today it would be 1 in 200.) Over forty years the rates changed little, but a shift occurred in the attitudes expressed in the community. The death of so many small children came to be interpreted as a scandal, and the change of attitude initiated more systematic interventions, which in the twentieth century produced an epidemiological revolution.8 DE V ISING A METHOD

Until well into the twentieth century, the absence of civil registration hampers the study of mortality in North America.9 For Montreal, despite the promising quality of the original records, there were no usable analyses of

92 · Peopling the North American City

Table 4.1 · Cause-specific death rates grouped by age, Montreal, 1881 Rate per 1,000¹ Cohort Infants 2–364 days² Children 1–4 years Youth 5–9 Adults 15–59 Elderly 60+

Rates per 100,000¹

All Deaths















7 10 62

57 359 129

68 92 215

230 98 365

48 94 847

1 Rates over one year are based on the number of individuals in the census by age. 2 The denominator for infant rates is the number of first day survivors. Source: Birth cohort of 1879–80 and associated infant deaths; 1881 deaths at ages over one year (Nécrologie, Paroisse Notre-Dame and cemetery records) matched to the population in the 1881 census

vital rates,¹0 and to appreciate timing and causes of death we would have to compile data for individuals. We collected records of baptisms and burials for infants born in three target years. By 1900 we were collecting records from 27 Catholic and 100 Protestant churches.¹¹ We matched the burials to the baptisms, then matched the vital records with the families recorded in the census where we expected to find the surviving children enrolled as one-year-olds (January 1861, April 1881, or April 1901). To obtain an address, a cause of death, and cues to the unbaptized, we used records of the two cemeteries.¹² Causes reported in the late 1840s are often vague, like “inflammation,” “sudden death,” or “weakness.” Still deficient in 1859, they were nevertheless workable for infants and children; and by 1880 the classification was reasonably good except for people over 60.¹³ We standardized and recoded rubrics (from French, English, or Latin, shown in appendix C , table A 3), and then grouped them to distinguish several pathways of transmission of disease: digestive problems, respiratory problems, or the various manifestations of tuberculosis.¹4 Table 4.1 shows death rates at various ages for the analytically useful groups of causes in 1881. For the birth cohorts, we were able to identify two-thirds of the families in the census of 1861, 80 per cent in 1881, three-quarters in 1901, and we tapped other sources – directory, tax roll, or a later birth – to confirm that all families retained in the analysis were under our watch for a full span of twelve months after the birth.¹5 Reliability of the sources, coverage, and matching

The Hazards of City Living · 93

rates achieved for the first cohort convinced us we could restrict sample size in the cohort of 1899. Selection of surnames beginning with B yielded an unbiased sample of 12 per cent, and we traced families over a longer span to capture the birth of a next child.¹6 Information on the baptismal record established sex, single or twin birth, and a cultural affiliation. We grouped offspring of Irish-born Protestants with those of other Protestants, and in cases of mixed parentage, of the order of 7 or 8 per cent, we assigned the child by mother’s affiliation, consistent with the evidence of survival and the logic observed elsewhere that “mothering” is more likely to be influenced by the mother’s own upbringing.¹7 As indicators of the baby’s environment, we explored the household, the street, and the neighbourhood. For each cohort, we had to adapt the choice of variables to the options available, but we sought to include a measure of economic status as well as cultural identifiers.¹8 The census of 1901 reported the number of rooms in the dwelling, which yielded an estimator for room crowding (the ratio of persons to rooms), and for earlier dates we created a proxy in terms of rent per person.¹9 Since residential segregation along linguistic lines was considerable, we characterized the family environment also in terms of the percentage of French-speaking households in the same residential district. For multivariate analyses requiring reference to tax roll as well as to the census of 1881, exclusion of suburban households reduced sample sizes by 20 per cent, but without a worrying bias.²0 It was the earliest deaths – in the womb, at birth, within the first 24 hours, the first week, or the first 28 days – that provided the greatest challenges to formulation of method. Would we miss infants who died before they could be baptized? French Canadian infants were rarely baptized later than the second day, Irish Catholic infants often at six or eight days old, Protestant infants sometimes as late as the second year. Despite the delays, few births or infant deaths went unrecorded. Among Protestants, a child judged in danger of death was promptly baptized. Among Catholics, the Sulpician priests assigned one of their number to night duty every month (without regard to language) and trained midwives to perform “conditional” baptisms in an emergency.²¹ As Dr Lachapelle put it in the first issue of his magazine La Mère et l’Enfant in August 1890, “Life is measured out by that first and last breath.”²² With such zeal did the clerics wield the quill that the problem was not missing births but an excess of them. Was there ever a first breath? Of those hastily anointed by the midwife (ondoyé) or buried sans baptême, how many should be classed as stillbirths? The proportion of males approached what would be usual for stillborns. What of those listed in the Protestant cemetery register simply as “Infant of John Boyd,” for instance, without ref-

94 · Peopling the North American City


Deaths per 100 day-1 survivors



All groups




21.2 13.7 13.2

17.7 13.9

10.7 9.7





















FC = French Canadian IC = Irish Catholic PR = Protestant






1860 1880 1900

Post-neonatal (29–365d) Neonatal (2–28d)

Figure 4.1 · Infant mortality in three birth cohorts, Montreal. The three cultural communities experienced similar rates in the first 28 days of life, but rates diverged over the next 11 months. Source: Parish and cemetery registers, birth cohorts of 1859, 1879, and 1899

erence to sex or age? At the uncertain threshold between stillbirth and live birth, judgments implicit in the creation of the records varied with religious affiliation.²³ Since the urgency and validity of a baptism were affected by ambiguities surrounding the birth itself, we decided to exclude from consideration those who died on the day of birth. The first-day deaths, about 4 per cent, are thus excluded from the calculation of survival rates, both numerator (deaths) and denominator (live births).²4 The strategy of excluding first-day deaths ensures a baseline for comparison among the three communities, and these are the rates shown in the tables.²5 INFA NT MORTA L IT Y: F INDINGS

Despite the spectacular growth of the population and the economy, the pattern of deaths did not change greatly. Of those who survived the first day, 20 per cent died within the year, nearly identical in the three cohorts (born 1859, 1879, and 1899), as shown in figure 4.1. In all three cohorts, infant mortality among French Canadians was consistently 40 per cent higher than among others. Survival rates among Irish Catholics, who started out on the bottom rung of the ladder, were very close to those of Protestants who, as we saw in chapter 3, were so much better off in terms of income and status. Poverty was

The Hazards of City Living · 95

Table 4.2 · Relative risk of dying at age 29–364 days, by selected demographic and environmental factors Births

Death age 29–364 days

Col. %


97.8 2.2

.97 2.50

51.3 48.7

1.07 .92

24.5 24.8 26.3 24.3

1.03 .99 .98 1.02

65.1 16.4 18.5

1.19 .72 .57

52.6 18.6 28.8

1.15 1.03 .71

30.6 38.1 31.3

1.08 1.05 .85



Single Twin



Males Females

Season of birth


Summer Fall Winter Spring

Ethnicity of family French Canadian Irish Catholic Protestant


French Canadian neighbourhood High Medium Low

> 70% French 40–69% < 40%


Annual median rent in street Low Medium High


≤ $40 $41–$70 > $70



a demonstrable factor, but the cultural connection exerted a much greater statistical impact, and the evidence pointed again and again to a cultural fault line that emerged after the first month of life, between French Canadian infants and the others: 17.2 per cent for French versus 10.7 for Irish Catholics and 9.7 for Protestants (in 1880).²6 The gap widened from month to month. If cultural identities and degrees of cultural segregation had a more powerful impact on an infant’s chances than material conditions, we would have to

96 · Peopling the North American City


Death age 29–364 days

Col. %


44.7 55.3

1.17 .86

25.9 42.0 32.0

.83 1.04 1.12

65.0 35.0

.92 1.15

48.3 51.7

1.00 1.00

Annual rent per person in household Low High

< $10 ≥ $10


Population density Low Medium High


< 30,000/km² 30–54,999/km² ≥ 55,000/km²

Horsiness of block


None or few carters or cartways Many carters or cartways

Elevation above River ≤ 20 metres >20 metres



1 Ratio of deaths observed to expected if the chances of dying were the same for everybody. 2 A significance level of < .05 means there is less than a 5 per cent chance that the differences in mortality ratios could occur by chance. Source: 1879 birth cohort matched to the 1881 census and tax roll

rephrase the question. What cultural practices might account for the differences? For those who “had no language but a cry,” the linguistic distinction of their parents and their neighbourhoods appeared more pertinent than the religions under which they were registered, and we shall see that the cultural differences are richer and more complicated than what is implied in tabulations of either religion or language. Comparative studies of ethnic groups in a particular city have shown death rates lower among Jewish infants and higher among French Canadian and Polish Catholic infants than could be accounted for by patterns of breast-feeding, family income, crowding, or water and sewer connections.²7 Results for other nineteenth-century cities are contradictory with respect to social class.²8 Do biological factors explain the differentials? Among neonates (days 2 to 28), 3 to 5 per cent died, one-third more males than females, with no significant differences among cultural communities.²9 Analysis confirmed in every cohort the well-known disadvantages of twin birth and a mother’s age under

The Hazards of City Living · 97

21 or over 35.³0 Mortality of twins was high, but the rate of twinning did not vary significantly among the three communities: just under 1 per cent. Survival rates among next-born infants showed that the likelihood of first-day death was increased fourfold (to 20.7 per cent) by the first-day death of the predecessor, an effect that may be associated with a maternal predisposition to premature labour.³¹ These biological differences played no important role after the first month, and they do not explain the great differentials between cultural communities. To distinguish among the factors responsible for infant deaths after the first month, when environment might take a more important role, we use the cohort of 1879, where we have the largest samples, making possible the use of multiple regression.³² Displayed in table 4.2 are the risks of dying between the age of 1 month and a first birthday. When we examine the factors one by one, in terms of the deaths observed relative to deaths expected if chances were the same for everyone, the ratios confirm all the suspected factors – cultural affiliation, economic status, and urban environment – and the impact on mortality is statistically significant, that is, the ratios were not likely to occur by chance. Postneonatal mortality was higher for French Canadian families, for those living in a predominantly French neighbourhood, on a low-rent street, in a low-rent-per-person dwelling, or in a neighbourhood with a dense population or lots of horses. But once these factors were all integrated into a single logistic regression (table 4.3), densities contributed no statistically significant increase to the relative odds. In the “best” multivariate model (model 1), based on the babies whose families could be matched to both census and tax roll, the odds of dying are greater for males (1.21) and for twins (3.8), but the powerful effect is cultural: in French-speaking families, the odds of death at ages 29–364 days are double (1.9) those in Englishspeaking families. The economic situation of the household, expressed in terms of rent per person, produced a significant but smaller effect: infants living in families with low rent per person experienced a 30 per cent greater chance of dying (odds 1.3). When we focus exclusively on deaths from intestinal infections (model 2), the economic effect disappears, and the cultural effect is intensified (from 1.9 to 2.4), along with a seasonal risk. Infants born in the summer months (June, July, or August) were least likely to die at ages 1–11 months, since most were breast-fed through the first summer, whereas those born in the spring were especially vulnerable; weaned during their first summer, they were exposed at a very young age to tainted water, milk, and food; they showed 69 per cent higher odds of dying relative to those who were born in summer and still nursing. Of the deaths reported as intestinal, 83 per cent occurred in the

98 · Peopling the North American City

Table 4.3 · Factors affecting the odds of dying at ages 29–364 days Model 1 All causes Odds ratio Sig.²

Twin (Singleton)¹

Model 2 Intestinal causes Odds ratio Sig.²


1.00 3.84


1.00 3.26

Sex (Females) Males

1.00 1.21


1.00 1.14

Season of birth (Summer)

1.00 .96 .96 .96

Fall Winter Spring

Ethnic group (English speaking) French speaking

Rent per person (≥ $10/person) < $10/person First month survivors (N ) Deaths age 1–11 months (N ) Model chi square Degrees of freedom −2 Log likelihood Significance

1.00 1.33 1.19 1.69

*** ***

1.00 1.92


1.00 2.38

1.00 1.29


1.00 1.06

3,679 568 87 12 3078