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Newspapers didn't agree on Wilfrid Laurier's popularity in Collingwood

A 1911 campaign visit drew crowds of 3,000 or 10,000, depending on which newspaper you read.
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X974_767_1LaurierDay
Collingwood prepares for a visit from Wilfrid Laurier during his 1911 campaign. Photo contributed by the Collingwood Museum Huron Institute 188; Collingwood Museum Collection X974.767
Today’s Remember This photograph captures Collingwood’s “Laurier Day” festivities on September 8, 1911, when Prime Minister Wilfrid Laurier rolled through town for his re-election campaign. Hurontario Street was decorated for the occasion with festive bunting and banners spanning the width of Hurontario Street, continuing as far as the eye could see.

Five other “Laurier Day” photographs are recorded in the Huron Institute Historical Catalogue; however, none appear to have been viewed by Collingwood Museum staff or volunteers since the Carnegie Library’s destruction in 1963. Today’s stand-in photograph is also shrouded in mystery as its identifying numbers do not correspond with the Museum’s collections records, appearing to have been misidentified as a Loyal Orange Lodge parade. Presently, this photograph is the only visual record of “Laurier Day.”

The newspapers of the day give different accounts of the event, each suggesting a different level of success and vastly different crowd size.

The September 9 issue of the Saturday News reported the following: “Though the weather was disagreeable most of the day, upwards of 10,000 people gathered to listen to the Prime Minister. Every available seat of 4,000 at the [Exhibition] Park was occupied. Stretches of flags and bunting, from side to side of the streets, added to the gala appearance of the town. Many mottoes, such as ‘Progress to our fair Dominion’, and ‘We welcome our Visitors,’ were displayed. Coming up from the station, was a huge banner stretched across the front of the Collingwood Shipyard’s big plant, ‘Let us build the ships that carry the grain that feeds the mouths of the multitudes.’”

Interestingly, The Messenger reported a different outcome: “Laurier Day in Collingwood will go down as the greatest political frost that ever was. Immense preparations had been made by the local Liberal Association…special decorations to make the town attractive; three bands to liven things up. Yet, as a political demonstration, the whole affair was ‘tame’. Only about 3,000 present, and of these, one-third had left the grounds before Sir Wilfrid ceased speaking. Not one spontaneous cheer was given throughout the proceedings.”

Though Laurier’s 1911 campaign for re-election was unsuccessful, he takes his place in Canadian history as the fourth-longest serving Canadian prime minister after the Right Honourable William Lyon Mackenzie King (21 years), the Right Honourable John A. Macdonald (18 years), and the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau (15 years, 5 months).

In recent memory, the name Sir Wilfrid Laurier is cemented in Collingwood’s history as the last ship to be constructed and launched at the Collingwood Shipyards. The Sir Wilfrid Laurier plunged sideways into the launch basin on December 6, 1985.

Remember This is a weekly series of historic photographs submitted by the Collingwood Museum to CollingwoodToday.ca. These photographs were originally collected and documented by the Huron Institute in an historical catalogue entitled Huron Institute Paper and Records: Volume III. Much of Collingwood’s early history has been preserved due to the dedication and foresight of the early museum’s founders, namely its secretary-curator David Williams, upon its establishment in 1904.




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