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> Issue 39 > Page 53 - The Steel Boom Comes to Sydney, 1899

Page 53 - The Steel Boom Comes to Sydney, 1899

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1985/6/1 (204 reads)

was realized that the type of ore was un? suitable to the Bessemer process." It was said that between 7 and 8 million dollars was wasted and the entire plant could have been built for 2/3 the cost. By 1903 Cana? dian Mining Review was writing about the "Dark Hour of Dominion Iron and Steel Com? pany." But that's not the end of it. It's hardly the beginning. Whitney and Moxham left be? hind Sydney, three times the population of what it had been and a third of what it would become (although it would never reach the boom estimates as high as 75,000.) It left behind wage-paying jobs in what many considered a state-of-the-art plant, where "electricity was used in eve? ry conceivable way." having "done away with nearly all the hard, exposing, brutal? izing labour." There are others who,insist that the plant was poorly built, that the coal and iron ore were never satisfactory, and the entire operation was established as a stock scam. They left behind Sydney, described by Mark Sullivan as: ... a perfect type of boom town of the West planted here on the northeastern tip of Cape Bret? on Island... redolent with the smell of cheap pine timber and fresh paint, and every second building on Main Street a "dry goods emporium," and the ones between real estate offices... 25 miles of country roads that go by the name of city streets because they form rectangles, streets in which you wade ankle deep in mud or dust... for there is scarcely a yard of sidewalk; 3000 cheap frame houses, those that are finished crowded till the windows bulge with labourers and their families, half that are still building filled with families before the roof is on • and for all those houses no sewerage except the few miles that is just now be? ing laid, the trenches and the uncovered terra cot- ta adding their mite to the general ugliness and unkemptness... an esplanade lined with cheap board? ing houses and 3-room "hotels,"... "the finest courthouse in eastern Canada" finished to the foun? dations; newspapers whose daily text is "the mar? vellous strides of progress made by our beautiful city in the past 6 months"; pretentious iron rail? ings that enclose what here passes for a fine res? idence, joining with a rail "worm" fence that en? closes a cow pasture in the middle of the city;... such is Sydney today. (Summer, 1901) December 31, 1901: "First steel made in Cape Breton... poured last night. Quality of steel in every way excellent.... This steel means another product of Cape Breton placed on the markets of the world, and the bringing into existence of a commer? cial commodity that is destined to revolu? tionize trade relations in these parts of Canada." Below which: "A new chapter has been added to the history of Sydney and that is in the articles we are offering to Xmas Buy? ers- -Curry Jewelery." Below which: "Lunch and dinner served at the Whitney Cafe." Below which: "California navel oranges/Mc? Leod's Fruit Store." Besides Sydney and Halifax newspapers, our main sources and guides for this article are Ronald F. Crawley's thesis, "Class Conflict and the Establishment of the Sydney Steel Industry 1899-1904" (M.A. thesis, Dalhousie University, 1980), the work of David Frank and Don MacGillivray, and C. W. Vernon's Cape Breton, Canada (1903). (53)
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