Sunday May 2, 2021’s Smile of the Day: The Hudson Bay Company
On this Day:
In 1670, England’s King Charles II gave a royal charter to the Hudson’s Bay Company.
The Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC; French: Compagnie de la Baie d’Hudson CBH) is a Canadian retail business group. A fur trading business for much of its existence, HBC now owns and operates retail stores in Canada and the United States.
In 2006 an American businessman, Jerry Zucker, bought HBC for $1.1 billion US dollars, so it is no longer a Canadian-owned company. The company sold most of its European operations by August 2019 and its remaining stores, in the Netherlands, were closed by the end of 2019. HBC owns the Saks Fifth Avenue and Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th stores in the United States; most other American operations were sold by mid-2019 and the last remaining stores (Lord & Taylor chain) were sold prior to the end of 2019.
The company’s namesake business division is Hudson’s Bay, commonly referred to as The Bay (La Baie in French).
After incorporation by English royal charter in 1670, the company functioned as the de facto government in parts of North America for nearly 200 years until the HBC sold the land it owned (the entire Hudson Bay drainage basin, known as Rupert’s Land) to Canada in 1869 as part of the Deed of Surrender, authorized by the Rupert’s Land Act 1868.
At its peak, the company controlled the fur trade throughout much of the English- and later British-controlled North America. By the mid-19th century, the company evolved into a mercantile business selling a wide variety of products from furs to fine homeware in a small number of sales shops (as opposed to trading posts) across Canada. These shops were the first step towards the department stores the company owns today.
In 2008, HBC was acquired by NRDC Equity Partners, which also owned the upmarket American department store Lord & Taylor. From 2008 to 2012, the HBC was run through a holding company of NRDC, Hudson’s Bay Trading Company, which was dissolved in early 2012. HBC’s head office is currently located in Brampton, Ontario. Until March 2020 the company was listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol “HBC.TO“.
The HBC has an extensive history (this is a little long but then again, HBC has been around since 1670….)
For much of the 17th century the French, based on their colony of New France, operated a de facto monopoly in the North American fur trade. Two French traders, Pierre-Esprit Radisson and Médard des Groseilliers (Médard de Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers), Radisson’s brother-in-law, learned from the Cree that the best fur country lay north and west of Lake Superior, and that there was a “frozen sea” still further north. Assuming this was Hudson Bay, they sought French backing for a plan to set up a trading post on the Bay in order to reduce the cost of moving furs overland. According to Peter C. Newman, “concerned that exploration of the Hudson Bay route might shift the focus of the fur trade away from the St. Lawrence River, the French governor”, Marquis d’Argenson (in office 1658–61), “refused to grant the coureurs de bois permission to scout the distant territory”. Despite this refusal, in 1659 Radisson and Groseilliers set out for the upper Great Lakes basin. A year later they returned to Montreal with premium furs, evidence of the potential of the Hudson Bay region. Subsequently, they were arrested by French authorities for trading without a license and fined, and their furs were confiscated by the government.
Determined to establish trade in the Hudson Bay area, Radisson and Groseilliers approached a group of English colonial merchants in Boston, Massachusetts to help finance their explorations. The Bostonians agreed on the plan’s merits, but their speculative voyage in 1663 failed when their ship ran into pack ice in Hudson Strait. Boston-based English commissioner Colonel George Cartwright learned of the expedition and brought the two to England to raise financing. Radisson and Groseilliers arrived in London in 1665 at the height of the Great Plague. Eventually, the two met and gained the sponsorship of Prince Rupert. Prince Rupert introduced the two to his cousin, the reigning king – Charles II. In 1668 the English expedition acquired two ships, the Nonsuch and the Eaglet, to explore possible trade into Hudson Bay. Groseilliers sailed on the Nonsuch, commanded by Captain Zachariah Gillam, while the Eaglet was commanded by Captain William Stannard and accompanied by Radisson. On 5 June 1668, both ships left port at Deptford, England, but the Eaglet was forced to turn back off the coast of Ireland.
The Nonsuch continued to James Bay, the southern portion of Hudson Bay, where its explorers founded, in 1668, the first fort on Hudson Bay, Charles Fort at the mouth of the Rupert River. (It later became known as “Rupert House”, and developed as the community of present-day Waskaganish, Quebec.) Both the fort and the river were named after the sponsor of the expedition, Prince Rupert of the Rhine, one of the major investors and soon to become the new company’s first governor. After a successful trading-expedition over the winter of 1668–69, Nonsuch returned to England on 9 October 1669 with the first cargo of fur resulting from trade in Hudson Bay. The bulk of the fur – worth £1,233 – was sold to Thomas Glover, one of London’s most prominent furriers. This and subsequent purchases by Glover proved the viability of the fur trade in Hudson Bay.
A royal charter from King Charles II incorporated “The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England, trading into Hudson’s Bay” on 2 May 1670. The charter granted the company a monopoly over the region drained by all rivers and streams flowing into Hudson Bay in northern parts of present-day Canada. The area was named “Rupert’s Land” after Prince Rupert, the first governor of the company appointed by the King. This drainage basin of Hudson Bay spans 3,861,400 square kilometres (1,490,900 sq mi), comprising over one-third of the area of modern-day Canada, and stretches into the present-day north-central United States. The specific boundaries remained unknown at the time. Rupert’s Land would eventually become Canada’s largest land “purchase” in the 19th century.
The HBC established six posts between 1668 and 1717. Rupert House (1668, southeast), Moose Factory (1673, south) and Fort Albany, Ontario (1679, west) were erected on James Bay; three other posts were established on the western shore of Hudson Bay proper: Fort Severn (1689), York Factory (1684) and Fort Churchill (1717). Inland posts were not built until 1774. After 1774, York Factory became the main post because of its convenient access to the vast interior waterway-systems of the Saskatchewan and Red rivers. Originally called “factories” because the “factor”, i.e., a person acting as a mercantile agent did business from there, these posts operated in the manner of the Dutch fur-trading operations in New Netherland. By adoption of the Standard of Trade in the 18th century, the HBC ensured consistent pricing throughout Rupert’s Land. A means of exchange arose based on the “Made Beaver” (MB); a prime pelt, worn for a year and ready for processing: “the prices of all trade goods were set in values of Made Beaver (MB) with other animal pelts, such as squirrel, otter and moose quoted in their MB (made beaver) equivalents. For example, two otter pelts might equal 1 MB”.
During the fall and winter, First Nations men and European trappers accomplished the vast majority of the animal trapping and pelt preparation. They travelled by canoe and on foot to the forts to sell their pelts. In exchange they typically received popular trade-goods such as knives, kettles, beads, needles, and the Hudson’s Bay point blanket. The arrival of the First Nations trappers was one of the high points of the year, met with pomp and circumstance. The highlight was very formal, an almost ritualized “Trading Ceremony” between the Chief Trader and the Captain of the aboriginal contingent who traded on their behalf. During the initial years of the fur trade, prices for items varied from post to post.
The early coastal factory model of the English contrasted with the system of the French, who established an extensive system of inland posts at native villages and sent traders to live among the tribes of the region, learning their languages and often forming alliances through marriages with indigenous women. In March 1686 the French sent a raiding party under the Chevalier des Troyes more than 1,300 km (810 mi) to capture the HBC posts along James Bay. The French appointed Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville, who had shown great heroism during the raids, as commander of the company’s captured posts. In 1687 an English attempt to resettle Fort Albany failed due to strategic deceptions by d’Iberville. After 1688 England and France were officially at war, and the conflict played out in North America as well. D’Iberville raided Fort Severn in 1690 but did not attempt to raid the well-defended local headquarters at York Factory. In 1693 the HBC recovered Fort Albany; d’Iberville captured York Factory in 1694, but the company recovered it the next year.
In 1697 d’Iberville again commanded a French naval raid on York Factory. On the way to the fort he defeated three ships of the Royal Navy in the Battle of Hudson’s Bay (5 September 1697), the largest naval battle in the history of the North American Arctic. D’Iberville’s depleted French force captured York Factory by laying siege to the fort and pretending to be a much larger army. The French retained all of the outposts except Fort Albany until 1713. (A small French and Indian force attacked Fort Albany again in 1709 during Queen Anne’s War but was unsuccessful. The economic consequences of the French possession of these posts for the company were significant; the HBC did not pay any dividends for more than 20 years.
With the ending of the Nine Years’ War in 1697, and the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713 with the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht, France had made substantial concessions. Among the treaty’s many provisions, it required France to relinquish all claims to Great Britain on the Hudson Bay, which again became a British possession. (The Kingdom of Great Britain had been established following the union of Scotland and England in 1707).
After the treaty, the HBC built Prince of Wales Fort, a stone star fort at the mouth of the nearby Churchill River. In 1782, during the American Revolutionary War, a French squadron under Jean-François de Galaup, comte de Lapérouse captured and demolished York Factory and Prince of Wales Fort in support of the American rebels.
In its trade with native peoples, Hudson’s Bay Company exchanged wool blankets, called Hudson’s Bay point blankets, for the beaver pelts trapped by aboriginal hunters. By 1700, point blankets accounted for more than 60 per cent of the trade. The number of indigo stripes (a.k.a. points) woven into the blankets identified its finished size. A long-held misconception is that the number of stripes was related to its value in beaver pelts.
A parallel may be drawn between the HBC’s control over Rupert’s Land with the trade monopoly and government functions enjoyed by the East India Company over India during roughly the same period. The HBC invested £10,000 in the East India Company in 1732, which it viewed as a major competitor.
Hudson’s Bay Company’s first inland trading post was established by Samuel Hearne in 1774 with Cumberland House, Saskatchewan.
Conversely, a number of inland HBC “houses” pre-date the construction of Cumberland House, in 1774. Henley House, established in 1743, inland from Hudson Bay, at the confluence of the Albany and Kabinakagami Rivers, was dependent on Albany River – Fort Albany for lines of communication, was not “finished” until 1768. Next, the inland houses of Split Lake and Nelson Houses were established between 1740 and 1760. These were dependent on York River – York Factory and Churchill River, respectively. Although not inland, Richmond Fort was established in 1749. This was on an island within Hudson Bay. It was titled a “New Discovery” in 1749, and by 1750 was titled Richmond Gulf. The name was changed to Richmond Fort and given the abbreviation RF from 1756 to 59, it served mainly as a trade goods and provisions storage location. Additional inland posts were Capusco River and Chickney Creek, both circa 1750. Likewise, Brunswick, Gloucester, Hudson, Rupert, and Wapiscogami Houses were established in the decade of the 1770s. These post-date Cumberland House, yet speak to the expanding inland incursion of the HBC in the last quarter of the 18th century. Minor posts also during this time period include Mesackamy/Mesagami Lake, Sturgeon Lake, Beaver Lake Posts.
The involvement with the North West Company:
In 1779, other traders founded the North West Company (NWC) in Montreal as a seasonal partnership to provide more capital and to continue competing with the HBC. It became operative for the outfit of 1780 and was the first joint-stock company in Canada and possibly North America. The agreement lasted one year. A second agreement established in 1780 had a three-year term. The company became a permanent entity in 1783. By 1784, the NWC had begun to make serious inroads into the HBC’s profits.
The North West Company (NWC) was the main rival in the fur trade. The competition led to the small Pemmican War in 1816. The Battle of Seven Oaks on 19 June 1816 was the climax of the long dispute. In 1821, the North West Company of Montreal and Hudson’s Bay Company were forcibly merged by intervention of the British government to put an end to often-violent competition. 175 posts, 68 of them the HBC’s, were reduced to 52 for efficiency and because many were redundant as a result of the rivalry and were inherently unprofitable. Their combined territory was extended by a licence to the North-Western Territory, which reached to the Arctic Ocean in the north and, with the creation of the Columbia Department in the Pacific Northwest, to the Pacific Ocean in the west. The NWC’s regional headquarters at Fort George (Fort Astoria) was relocated to Fort Vancouver on the north bank of the Columbia River; it became the HBC base of operations on the Pacific Slope.
Before the merger, the employees of the HBC, unlike those of the North West Company, did not participate in its profits. After the merger, with all operations under the management of Sir George Simpson (1826–60), the company had a corps of commissioned officers: 25 chief factors and 28 chief traders, who shared in the company’s profits during the monopoly years. Its trade covered 7,770,000 km2 (3,000,000 sq mi), and it had 1,500 contract employees.
They also operated a store in what were then known as the Sandwich Islands (Hawai’i), engaging in merchant shipping to the islands between 1828 and 1859.
Throughout the 1820s and 1830s, the HBC controlled nearly all trading operations in the Pacific Northwest, based at the company headquarters at Fort Vancouver on the Columbia River. Although claims to the region were by agreement in abeyance, commercial operating rights were nominally shared by the United States and Britain through the Anglo-American Convention of 1818, but company policy, enforced via Chief Factor John McLoughlin of the company’s Columbia District, was to discourage U.S. settlement of the territory. The company’s effective monopoly on trade virtually forbade any settlement in the region. It established Fort Boise in 1834 (in present-day southwestern Idaho) to compete with the American Fort Hall, 483 km (300 mi) to the east. In 1837, it purchased Fort Hall, also along the route of the Oregon Trail. The outpost director displayed the abandoned wagons of discouraged settlers to those seeking to move west along the trail.
The company’s stranglehold on the region was broken by the first successful large wagon train to reach Oregon in 1843, led by Marcus Whitman. In the years that followed, thousands of emigrants poured into the Willamette Valley of Oregon. In 1846, the United States acquired full authority south of the 49th parallel; the most settled areas of the Oregon Country were south of the Columbia River in what is now Oregon. McLoughlin, who had once turned away would-be settlers as company director, then welcomed them from his general store at Oregon City. He was later proclaimed the “Father of Oregon”. The company retains no presence today in the portion of the Pacific Northwest governed by the United States.
During the 1820s and 1830s, HBC trappers were deeply involved in the early exploration and development of Northern California. Company trapping brigades were sent south from Fort Vancouver, along what became known as the Siskiyou Trail, into Northern California as far south as the San Francisco Bay Area, where the company operated a trading post at Yerba Buena (San Francisco). These trapping brigades in Northern California faced serious risks, and were often the first to explore relatively uncharted territory. They included the lesser known Peter Skene Ogden and Samuel Black.
End of the Monopoly:
The Guillaume Sayer Trial in 1849 contributed to the end of the HBC monopoly. Sayer, a Métis trapper and trader, was accused of illegal trading in furs. The Court of Assiniboia brought Sayer to trial, before a jury of HBC officials and supporters. During the trial, a crowd of armed Métis men led by Louis Riel, Sr. gathered outside the courtroom. Although Sayer was found guilty of illegal trade, having evaded the HBC monopoly, Judge Adam Thom did not levy a fine or punishment. Some accounts attributed that to the intimidating armed crowd gathered outside the courthouse. With the cry, Le commerce est libre! Le commerce est libre! (“Trade is free! Trade is free!”), the Métis loosened the HBC’s previous control of the courts, which had enforced their monopoly on the settlers of Red River.
Another factor was the findings of the Palliser Expedition of 1857 to 1860, led by Captain John Palliser. He surveyed the area of the prairies and wilderness from Lake Superior to the southern passes of the Rocky Mountains. Although he recommended against settlement of the region, the report sparked a debate. It ended the myth publicized by Hudson’s Bay Company: that the Canadian West was unfit for agricultural settlement.
In 1863, the International Financial Society bought controlling interest in the HBC, signalling a shift in the company’s outlook: most of the new shareholders were less interested in the fur trade than in real estate speculation and economic development in the West. The Society floated £2 million in public shares on non-ceded land held ostensibly by the Hudson’s Bay Company as an asset and leveraged this asset for collateral for these funds. These funds allowed the Society the financial means to weather the financial collapse of 1866 which destroyed many competitors and invest in railways in North America.
In 1869, after rejecting the American government offer of CA$10,000,000, the company approved the return of Rupert’s Land to Britain. The government gave it to Canada and loaned the new country the £300,000 required to compensate HBC for its losses. HBC also received one-twentieth of the fertile areas to be opened for settlement and retained title to the lands on which it had built trading establishments. The deal, known as The Deed of Surrender, came into force the following year. The resulting territory, now known as the Northwest Territories, was brought under Canadian jurisdiction under the terms of the Rupert’s Land Act 1868, enacted by the Parliament of the United Kingdom. The Deed enabled the admission of the fifth province, Manitoba, to the Confederation on 15 July 1870, the same day that the deed itself came into force.
During the 19th century the Hudson’s Bay Company went through great changes in response to such factors as growth of population and new settlements in part of its territory, and ongoing pressure from Britain. It seemed unlikely that it would continue to control the future of the West.
The iconic department store today evolved from trading posts at the start of the 19th century, when they began to see demand for general merchandise grow rapidly. HBC soon expanded into the interior and set-up posts along river settlements that later developed into the modern cities of Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. In 1857, the first sales shop was established in Fort Langley. This was followed by other sales shops in Fort Victoria (1859), Winnipeg (1881), Calgary (1884), Vancouver (1887), Vernon (1887), Edmonton (1890), Yorkton (1898), and Nelson (1902). The first of the grand “original six” department stores was built in Calgary in 1913. The other department stores that followed were in Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg.
The First World War interrupted a major remodelling and restoration of retail trade shops planned in 1912. Following the war, the company revitalized its fur-trade and real-estate activities, and diversified its operations by venturing into the oil business. Today, the department store business is the only remaining part of the company’s operations, in the form of department stores under the Hudson’s Bay brand.
In 1970, on the company’s 300th anniversary, as a result of punishing new British tax laws, the company relocated to Canada, and was rechartered as a Canadian business corporation under Canadian law, Head Office functions were transferred from London to Winnipeg. By 1974, as the company expanded into eastern Canada, head office functions were moved to Toronto.
The HBC was the official outfitter of clothing for members of the Canadian Olympic team in 1936, 1960, 1964, 1968, 2006, 2008, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2016. The sponsorship has been renewed through 2020. Since the late 2000s, HBC has used its status as the official Canadian Olympics team outfitter to gain global exposure, as part of a turnaround plan that included shedding under-performing brands and luring new high-end brands.
On 2 March 2005, the company was announced as the new clothing outfitter for the Canadian Olympic team, in a $100 million deal, providing apparel for the 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2012 Games, having outbid the existing Canadian Olympic wear-supplier, Roots Canada, which had supplied Canada’s Olympic teams from 1998 to 2004. The Canadian Olympic collection is sold through Hudson’s Bay.
HBC’s 2006 Winter Olympics and 2008 Summer Olympics uniforms and toques received a mixed reception for their multicoloured stripes (green, red, yellow, blue) which seemed to be not-so-subtle advertising for HBC rather than representing the Canadian Olympic team’s traditional colours of red and white (with black as a secondary), in contrast to well-received Root’s 1998 collection with its trendy red letter jackets and Poor Boy caps. HBC produced 80 per cent to 90 per cent of their Olympic clothes in China which was criticized, as Roots ensured that the Olympic clothes were made in Canada using Canadian material.
HBC’s apparel for the 2010 Winter Olympics held in Vancouver proved to be extremely successful, in part because Canada was the host country and their athletes had a record medal haul. The “Red Mittens” (red-and-white mittens featuring a large maple leaf) that were sold for CA$10, with one-third of the proceeds going to the Canadian Olympic Committee, proved very popular, as were the “Canada” hoodies.
The HBC’s 2010 Winter Olympics apparel was also controversial due to a knitted, machine-made sweater that looked like a Cowichan sweater. After a meeting between HBC representatives and Cowichan Tribes, a compromise was made between the parties; knitters would have an opportunity to sell their sweaters at the downtown Vancouver HBC store, alongside the HBC imitations.
Lord Sebastian Coe, chairman of the 2012 London Olympic Games Organizing Committee, who attended the Vancouver Olympics, noted that the Canadians were passionate in embracing the Games with their “Canada” hoodies and their red mittens (of which 2.6 million pairs sold that year). HBC has continued to produce these red mittens for subsequent Olympic Games.
Under the charter establishing Hudson’s Bay Company, the company was required to give two elk skins and two black beaver pelts to the English king, then Charles II, or his heirs, whenever the monarch visited Rupert’s Land. The exact text from the 1670 Charter reads:
…Yielding and paying yearly to us and our heirs and successors for the same two Elks and two Black beavers whensoever and as often as We, our heirs and successors shall happen to enter into the said Countries, Territories and Regions hereby granted.
The ceremony was first conducted with the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VIII) in 1927, then with King George VI in 1939, and last with his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II in 1959 and 1970. On the last such visit, the pelts were given in the form of two live beavers, which the Queen donated to the Winnipeg Zoo in Assiniboine Park. However, when the company permanently moved its headquarters to Canada, the Charter was amended to remove the rent obligation. Each of the four “rent ceremonies” took place in or around Winnipeg.
The legacy of the HBC has been maintained in part by the detailed record-keeping and archiving of material by the company. Before 1974, the records of the HBC were kept in the London office headquarters. The HBC opened an archives department to researchers in 1931. In 1974, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives (HBCA) were transferred from London and placed on deposit with the Manitoba archives in Winnipeg. The company granted public access to the collection the following year.
On 27 January 1994, the company’s archives were formally donated to the Archives of Manitoba.
At the time of the donation, the appraised value of the records was nearly $60 million. A foundation, Hudson’s Bay Company History Foundation funded through the tax savings resulting from the donation, was established to support the operations of the HBC Archive as a division of the Archives of Manitoba, along with other activities and programs. More than two kilometres (1.2 mi) of filed documents and hundreds of microfilm reels are now stored in a special climate-controlled vault in the Manitoba Archives Building.
In 2007, Hudson’s Bay Company Archives became part of the United Nations “Memory of the World Programme” project, under UNESCO. The records covered the HBC history from the founding of the company in 1670. The records contained business transactions, medical records, personal journals of officials, inventories, company reports, etc.
The HBC is the only European trading company to have survived and outlived all its rivals, such as the Muscovy Company, the Levant Company, the Honourable East India Company, the Dutch East India Company, the Dutch West India Company, the Royal African Company, the South Sea Company, the North West Company, the Russian-American Company and the American Fur Company (per Wikipedia).
First, a Story:
In its next venture, The Hudson Bay Company is planning a mission to establish trading posts on the moon. They are calling their spaceship the Apollo-G.
Second, a Song:
Johnny Derocher, 1934-1989.
Born within a poor community at the southern edge of Sarnia, Ontario during the great depression, Johnny Durocher was the youngest of 16 children. Barely a teenager, he decided to quit school so he can secure employment in order to help his mother make ends meet. All his older brothers and sisters were musical – guitar music and singing was a regular happening at the Derocher household. Ron Tedball, a Sarnian and friend of Johnny’s for many years, recalls that Johnny had noticed a damaged fiddle case sticking out of a trashcan one day while walking home. He discovered that it contained an old fiddle in disrepair, so he went to the door and asked if he could have it; the answer was yes. Almost instantly, the fiddle became his life. He never received much formal instruction other than a few lessons from a music teacher – William Brush – but with Brushes help, Johnny quickly learned how to read and write music.
Johnny Derocher – a man from very humble beginnings and with limited formal education who “bit his nails to the bone”. Neither Johnny nor his wife had driver’s licenses – he was terrified of driving in a car but he was truly gifted. Maybe many of you already already play or listen to his music and it will, no doubt be played for many generations to come. He was a “Working Man” who spent his days at a Sarnia factory and his evenings and weekends performing and writing music. His daughter Robin remembers her father often coming home from work whistling a new melody. After dinner, a glazed look would take over his eyes and she just knew that a new tune would be composed by the end of the evening (per fiddle.com).
Many of Johnny Derocher’s songs were written for and performed by Don Messer on his TV Show, Don Messer’s Jubilee.
Don Messer’s Jubilee was a television folk musical variety show produced at station CBHT in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It was broadcast by CBC Television nationwide from 1957 until 1969.
Taking its name from band leader and fiddler Don Messer, the half-hour weekly program featured Messer and his band “Don Messer and His Islanders”, as well as a guest performer. The show followed a consistent format throughout its years, beginning with a tune named “Goin’ to the Barndance Tonight”, followed by fiddle tunes by Messer, songs from some of his “Islanders” including singers Marg Osburne and Charlie Chamberlain, numbers by the Buchta Dancers, the featured guest performance, and a closing hymn. It ended with “Till We Meet Again”.
The series began 7 November 1957 as a regional program limited to CBC’s Nova Scotia and New Brunswick stations. On 7 August 1959, CBC stations throughout Canada carried the show as a summer replacement for Country Hoedown’s Friday evening time slot. That fall, Don Messer’s Jubilee became a regular season CBC series as of 28 September 1959, becoming a Monday night fixture until its final 1968-1969 season when it returned to the Friday evening timeslot.
Outside of Hockey Night In Canada, in the mid-1960s Don Messer’s Jubilee was the #1 show in the country, earning higher ratings than even the imported CBS variety show, The Ed Sullivan Show. The guest performance slot gave national exposure to numerous Canadian folk musicians, including Stompin’ Tom Connors, Catherine McKinnon, Anne Murray, Gordon Lightfoot and Canadian singer Bud Spencer.
The cancellation of the show by the public broadcaster in 1969 caused a nationwide protest, including the raising of questions by Members of Parliament in the House of Commons. The last CBC broadcast was on 20 June 1969. Independent TV station CHCH-TV in Hamilton, Ontario picked up the show for about four years and was distributed to stations throughout Canada in syndication. The show ended following Messer’s death in 1973 (per Wikipedia).
Here is Johnny Derocher performing “The Hudson Bay Breakdown” set to images around Hudson Bay. I hope you enjoy this!
Thought for the Day:
“I’ve worked in the Inuit hamlets of the west coast of Hudson Bay since 1994. Over that time I’ve been very moved by both the pace of social change there – the loss of traditional ways of seeing the world, the affinity for and comfort with the land – and by the social disarray that change of this pace produces.” – Kevin Patterson
Have a great day!
Dave & Colleen
© 2021 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky