You’ve heard of Show Biz. This is Biz Biz, the history of business in Vancouver, told through the activities of The Vancouver Board of Trade. The Board began in 1887 (details here »), and for all those 120 years has been promoting the economic interests of the city, sponsoring charitable events, presenting notable speakers (recent examples include the minister of national defence, the head of Canada Post, the chief executive of the Port of Vancouver, many many more), commissioning studies of a broad range of topics (like the provision of affordable housing, or the growth in rates of property crime), bringing business people together to form new networks, advising small business, promoting Vancouver abroad . . . the plate is always full.

Come back often as this file grows!

1888 1889 1890 1891 1892 1893
1894 1895 1896 1897 1898 1899
1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
1906 1907 1908 1909 1910  
1926       1932 1933
1935 1936 1937 1938 1939 1940


Van Horne

The Daily News-Advertiser in its July 15, 1888 issue, reported that The Council of the Vancouver Board of Trade had had an interview with the visiting William Van Horne, president of the CP, on the afternoon of the 14th. “There was a good attendance of the members headed by the Mayor, who is also the President of the Board.” [That would be David Oppenheimer.]

The report bears quoting verbatim: “The subjects discussed were of great importance to the city, comprising, as they did, the subject of the carriage of exhibits to the Toronto exhibition, which Mr. Van Horne promised the CPR would make no charge for; arrangements whereby tourists can get their tickets certified here instead of being obliged to go over to Victoria; a site for an emigration shed; better steamship communication between Vancouver and San Francisco and between this city and Nanaimo; the establishment of a quarantine station here, especially important now that steamers are running to China from here at frequent intervals; the question of Vancouver having railway communication by way of Westminster with Seattle and the other Sound ports, and False Creek bridge. Mr. Van Horne discussed the whole of these matters at considerable length with the Council and assured his listeners that the people of Vancouver would always find the company anxious to cooperate with them in any matter affecting the prosperity of the city.”

In a column called The City (on local daily doings) on the same page as the above report, the News-Advertiser reported that “Mr. W.C. Van Horne, accompanied by Mr. H. Abbott, went over to Westminster by a special train yesterday afternoon on business connected with the Westminster Southern Railway and returned last evening.” And in yet another reference in that column to Van Horne, it reported that he was leaving for Montreal that day, ”his car being attached to the regular Atlantic Express.”

Van Horne is well known here; it might be interesting at this point to pop in a short bio of Henry Abbott, important in Vancouver’s history, from the Hall of Fame pages here.

Henry Braithwaite Abbott CPR executive b. June 14, 1829, Abbotsford, Que.; d. Sept. 13, 1915, Vancouver. Studied civil engineering at McGill. Throughout his career, he held important positions in eastern Canadian railway systems, before appointment as CPR superintendent. Present at laying of the last spike Nov. 8, 1885 at Craigellachie; rode the first train from Montreal to Port Moody with Lord Strathcona and CPR president Sir William Van Horne. In March 1886, let the contract for the clearing of the townsite of Vancouver (pop. 500). A mountain in the Selkirks and Vancouver's Abbott St. are named for him.”

Big Sticks and Big Water

In that same The City column this appeared: “Amongst the deck load of the barque Uttock [not sure of the spelling, the print is obscure], which is being loaded with lumber at the Hastings Saw Mill, are 8 pieces of timber, 100 feet long and 12 by 14 inches in thickness. It is probable that the Australians will be considerably astonished when they see these sticks and learn from Captain Brown that British Columbia mills could easily furnish a whole cargo of them if a ship could stow them handily and there was a demand for them.”

There’s a reference in the column, too, to the city’s water system moving ahead with laying of pipes across the Narrows. For the interesting, complicated, frequently rancorous and occasionally even funny story of how the city got its water see the 1889 file here.

Name Game

Back in 1888 the Board met only quarterly. At its December 4, 1888 meeting, according to the News-Advertiser, The Board met “in its rooms on Carrall Street.” The main topic was a communication from the New Westminster Board of Trade calling attention to the “peculiar position in which the other boards of trade in the Province were placed by the style under which the Victoria Board was known, viz: The British Columbia Board of Trade.” The New Westminster Board wanted its Vancouver counterpart to back it in suggesting “courteously” to the Victoria group that it consider a name change.

Tannery and Haberdashery

That December 5 News-Advertiser also reported that The Board had received a letter from a “large tanning firm in Glasgow, Scotland” (unnamed) as to the prospects for a tannery in Vancouver and asking for details as to hides, bark, etc. The Board’s secretary (unnamed) would gather the data and pass it along to the Council at its next meeting.

We can see why The Board would eventually move to monthly meetings. Getting together every three months would not have been quite fast enough for inquiries of this kind!

There was a reference in that same newspaper to the haberdashers Page Ponsford, opening a second shop on Cordova. One of the clerks in this prosperous firm was a young fellow named Edward Chapman.

What else was happening locally in 1888?

For a once-over-lightly look at the history of The Vancouver Board of Trade, go here.

Next: 1889 »






















William Van Horne
William Van Horne