The timber trade with Great Britain dropped off gradually from the 1850s onwards. Canada was blessed however, by the appearance of a great new market for its lumber trade. The Reciprocity Treaty, signed with the United States of America in 1854 and brought into force in February of 1855, threw open the United States market to the lumber producers of Canada and of especially the Ottawa River Valley. It was an enormous new outlet that bit by bit replaced the declining British market1. Sawn lumber took over from square timber and became the dominant Canadian wood trade. This trend accelerated the industrialization process by giving birth to the large sawmills of the Ottawa Valley and of the Chaudières Falls in particular. Since these new mills were in need of a very large work force, they fostered the growth of the Ottawa Valley towns whose existence was intertwined with the lumber trade. This explains, for instance, the accelerated growth of Hull and Ottawa and of places like Pembroke, Renfrew, Fort-Coulonge, Buckingham, North Nation Mills, Rockland, and Hawkesbury.
The Reciprocity Treaty, like all good things, could not last forever. It was cancelled in 1864. Other trade laws and tariffs, many of them American, will take over from the Reciprocity Treaty, alternately setting up barriers to trade or giving easier access to the American market. These policies and related tariff legislation explain most of the subsequent changes that took place in Canada’s wood trade. Some still trouble the economic life of Canada and Quebec, even today!
The impact of American tariffs was crucial. Very high and costly before 1892, they were restored to those same levels with the passing of the Dingley Tariff, in 1897. These duties were meant to promote the export of raw logs to the United States and to discourage the sale of manufactured products on the American market2. Such a policy was detrimental to the interests of Canadian industry since the raw materials are sent off to the United States without any benefits for the Canadian workers. The shock left by the Dingley Tariff was brutal. The exports of Canadian sawn lumber stood at 883 270 000 feet3 in 1897. In 1898, they had already fallen to 353 134 000 feet4, a 60% drop in the export trade.
The Province of Ontario was the first to react against the situation in 1898 by prohibiting the export of raw pine logs outside its borders5. In 1900, it extended the same regulation to cover spruce logs and other raw pulpwood logs6. The Province of Quebec, more obliging, intervened in 1903 only, and satisfied itself with providing incentives. The cutting rights on a cord of pulpwood were reduced by 25 cents if the wood was transformed in Quebec and an increase of 65 cents a cord if added to raw log exports7. These incentives explain the building of a mechanical pulp mill in Buckingham in 1901-1902. The James MacLaren Company, aware of these measures, took advantage of this new Quebec governmental legislation. It was only in 1910 ; however, that Quebec followed in Ontario’s footsteps by prohibiting the export of raw logs cut on the Crown Lands of the province8. The speedy reaction of the Province of Ontario in this area can be explained by its geographical location: north of the Great Lakes. Ontario had to contend with the fact that millions of raw logs were being floated across the Great Lakes to the American sawmills.
The laws and regulations adopted by Ontario, Quebec and the other provincial governments brought a change of attitude in the United States. In 1913, the American government passed the Underwood Tariff, abolishing all duties on the import of mechanical pulp and newsprint. This new tariff set the stage for the rapid expansion of the Canadian pulp and paper industry9. The capacity of the old mills was increased and new ones were built or planned. New companies were incorporated, dams and hydro-electric power stations were built and impressive paper mills were set up in Hull, Gatineau-Mills and Masson in the 1920s.
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1 Sandra J. Gillis, The Timber Trade in the Ottawa Valley, 1806-1854, Ottawa, Parks Canada, Manuscript Report No 153, pages 60-64.
2 Paul-Émile Lachance, Canadian-American Wood Trade, Masters Thesis, Yale University, pages 14-15. Also: David Lee, Forest Products Industries in the Ottawa Valley, 1850-1925, Ottawa, Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada, 1985, p. 38.
3 F.b.m. = Foot board measure.
4 Paul-Émile Lachance, Op. cit., pages 14 and 16.
5 Paul-Émile Lachance, Op. cit., page 17.
6 Paul-Émile Lachance, Op. cit., page 19.
7 Ibid., page 21. Also: David Lee, Op. cit., pages 38-39.
8 Paul-Émile Lachance, Op. cit., page 21.
9 Ibid, pages 22-23. Also: David Lee, Op. cit., page 40.
PHOTO No 1
Source: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, Centre d’archives de l’Outaouais, P117. Photographer: William James Topley.
Caption: The old James MacLaren lumber yards in Masson, around 1894. In the background can be seen Masson’s Roman Catholic Notre-Dame-des-Neiges church, which burnt on May 10th, 1902.
PHOTO No 2
Source: Library and Archives Canada. Map and Plan Division.
Caption: Silk screen printing showing the two banks of the Chaudières Falls around 1875. All the available land surrounding the sawmills is used as a piling ground for planks and deals.
PHOTO No 3
Source: Pierre Louis Lapointe Collection. File entitled The Richelieu Waterway, September 15th 1972.
Caption: Plan of the navigable channel linking New York to the Montreal Region. In addition to the Richelieu and Lake Champlain Waterway, the plan shows the line of canals that links Oswego on Lake Ontario to Waterford on the Hudson River.
PHOTO No 4
Source: Library and Archives Canada, C 49883.
Caption: Wagons and workers at the E.B. Eddy sawmill around 1873.
PHOTO No 5
Source: Library and Archives Canada, PA-27214.
Caption: Overhead shot of the E.B. Eddy Company factories around 1885. In the background can be seen the sawn lumber piles and in the distance, through the fog, the outline of the buildings on Parliament Hill.
PHOTO No 6
Source: Canadian Museum of Civilizations, no 73-424.
Caption: Dray or truck filled with crates of match boxes waiting to be transferred into a train car belonging to the Pennsylvania Lines Railroad. It seems to indicate that the intended destination is in the United States.
PHOTO No 7
Source: Library and Archives Canada. Map and Plan Division. Aerial photograph,1925.
Caption: Aerial photograph of the Gilmour and Hughson sawmill, at the mouth of Brewery Creek, at the Eastern end of today’s Jacques-Cartier Park, in Gatineau, around 1925.