life and times
hiram who
birth of the auto
border cities
sports heritage

Windsor: 1892

When Windsor gained city status, people were in a party mood; streets were alive with the sights and sounds of excited celebrants; mongrel dogs added to the bedlam, running among skittish horses, yapping at the heals of little boys with hoops doing tricks for little girls who were cuddling rag dolls and pretending not to notice...

Opened in 1871, Windsor Central School was converted and used as City Hall from about 1903 through 1956. The present City Hall was built on the same site and opened in 1958. In the background is All Saints Anglican Church.

It was one of those picture-perfect spring days: A light, caressing breeze played tease-tag with cottonball clouds, bobbing and skipping in unfettered delight across the sky, clear blue as the finest Wedgwood.

It was the kind of day that made heavy hearts light and forced lingering memories of bitter winter months to retreat like the last traces of a morning fog.

If you could pick any day you wanted as the day to celebrate your city’s first birthday, the best would be this one – Tuesday, May 24th, 1892.

Making it doubly important, it was also the day the British Empire celebrated the 73rd birthday of Queen Victoria. She was also making her 55th year as monarch.

The city had come awake early this Tuesday morning and even now the clock on the tower overlooking the low-slung wooden army barracks in City Square, showed that it was not yet nine o’clock. There was still more than an hour to wait before the big event – the Trades and Society Procession – would begin.

People were in a party mood; streets were alive with the sights and sounds of excited celebrants; mongrel dogs added to the bedlam, running among skittish horses, yapping at the heals of little boys with hoops doing tricks for little girls who were cuddling rag dolls and pretending not to notice.

The ladies, prim in their cotton prints, scolded their men for tardiness; the men grumbled, running thick fingers inside the stiff rim of starched collars; toes were already raw from the chafing of heavy black boots normally endured only at weddings, funerals and Sabbath services.

From the distance came the spirited strains of patriotic marching music as the 21st Fusiliers and the Toronto Grenadiers, one of the country’s leading military bands, tuned their instruments for the parade.

The Grenadiers had left Toronto by train at ten o’clock Saturday night and arrived in Windsor at seven o’clock Sunday morning. They were billeted on the Janisse farm just outside the city.

Hundreds poured into the city with every passing hour; they came from the surrounding countryside by wagon, by boat, and train; others crossed by ferry from Detroit to join and congratulate their Canadian cousins on this important day.

Our Birthday Party a hummer
from hummerville

It was a day to remember, a day marked by saturation coverage of the city’s two newspapers, The Windsor Record, a daily, and its sister, The Windsor Weekly Record.The story began:
“Tramp, tramp, tramp Boom! Boom! Boom!
Did Windsor bubble over? Well, we should say so.”

In 1892 the Klondike Gold Rush was still firing the minds of fortune seekers everywhere… a woollen mill in Essex County discovered its own mother lode by providing blankets for sale to those heading northwest in search of wealth beyond imagining.

The Weekly Record, then owned by McNee and McKay and selling for $1 per annum (in advance), had recently reported the launching of a “fine ferry boat built for the Detroit, Belle Isle and Windsor Ferry Company. . .Electric street lighting arrived in 1890, the same year the first patient was admitted to Hotel Dieu Hospital.

“The citizens took right hold and nearly every building in the city was gay with bunting flags. The Trades and Society Procession was simply immense and the spirits of the people present were away up…”
Windsor’s first telephone exchange came in 1880 and by 1892, there were 205 subscribers. By 1888 the city had three miles of paved streets and in 1891 council voted to spend $20,000 on paving. In June 1886 the first commercial electric railway system in Canada started running between Windsor and Walkerville…

“The procession occupied over an hour in passing a given place…About 9 o’clock in the morning people began moving towards the rendezvous for the procession at the corner of Bruce Avenue and Sandwich Street. Shortly after 10 o’clock the procession got a move on…”

Cod liver oil sold at 35 cents a bottle and was said to be good for those suffering from difficulty of breathing, tightness of chest, wasting away flesh, throat troubles, bronchitis, weak lung, asthma, cough, catarrh and colds.

Pickles were selling 20 to 30 cents per hundred; potatoes, 45 cents per bushel; dressed chicken, 6 cents per pound.

“Immediately after dinner the crowd wended its way to the park and during the afternoon, from Sandwich Street to the park, Ouellette Avenue was a veritable living mass of humanity…”

“The crowd was immense and exceeded all expectations. Only a small portion of the number visited the park, yet that was filled to overflowing…”

Canada’s population was 4,833,000 in 1891…the Canadian West was opening to settlers…the CPR advertised trains leaving Toronto every Tuesday for Manitoba and the Northwest.

At 12 o’clock the celebration committee banqueted the visitors and officers at the British American (Hotel). A large number sat down to a good spread…

“General Committee Chairman Francis Cleary proposed the toasts to the Queen and Dominion and Provincial Parliaments… Immediately after the banquet the party took hacks and proceeded to the Driving Park (Jackson Park) to see the sports and military display…”

The Evening Record is two years old…it is a pretty feisty infant… The roads between Windsor and Amherstburg have been improved so that the stage can be used again…

“Shortly after 3 o’clock the Grenadiers and Fusiliers headed by their respective bands arrived at the Driving Park and took up positions preparatory to the Grenadiers going through the movements of trooping the colours…”

The three cars on the Sandwich line cover 462 metres per day…The demand for lights is so great that the Citizens Electric Light Company will install a new 1800 candlepower dynamo…

In April, the Ontario Legislature passed, with a one-vote majority, a new bill allowing women to study and practise law in the province.

“Before the train pulled out, Col. Dawson attempted to make a speech but the noise of the assembled was too great and beyond a few in his immediate vicinity, his remarks were unheard.”

Biff Bang Boom! Oh what a jag.
Take in your flags. It was a hummer
Didn’t we spread ourselves…?

Photo and story “Birth Of A City” by Carl Morgan copyright 1991, Border Press Inc., Windsor avail. for $29.95 at The TIMES Book Store



©1999-2015— Walkerville Publishing — All Rights Reserved