Another Canadian Article

Still celebrating Canada 150 here at First Floor Tarpley! Here is an article I noticed last week on the road. It serves as a reminder of how the nineteenth century was the first great age of globalization, and of the putative origins of the word “Canuck”:

Hawaiian-Canadians and ‘Buffalo’ Canadians: The hidden history of confederation

One hundred and fifty years ago, a disparate collection of peoples, nations, population clusters, companies, outposts and colonies began to cobble themselves together into Canada.

The story of how that awkward colonial jumble turned into today’s plural, prosperous, but still half-finished democracy – often in spite of its founders’ intentions – is not widely understood. We need to turn away from the Heritage Minutes and look into the forgotten back alleys of our history. Look, for example, at two near-forgotten diasporas that shaped Canada before Confederation, and whose invisibility defines us.

The Hawaiian Canadians:

Canada is not a simple story of French, British and Indigenous nations. At the point when British Columbia became a colony in 1851, for example, the Pacific coast contained sizable populations of Indigenous nations, a thin scattering of British and U.S. trappers and miners and a well-established community of Hawaiian Canadians.

Indigenous Hawaiians, who crewed transpacific ships, had been settling the Vancouver and Victoria areas since the 1780s, jumping ship to take jobs in the burgeoning fur and later mining and timber industries; in the 19th century, they were recruited and imported by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

In the 1830s, Hawaiian Canadians were the single most populous ethnic group employed by the company on the West Coast. By 1851, half the working-age population in Fort Victoria was native Hawaiian. By 1867, according to Tom Koppel’s history of their community, the Hawaiians had become farmers, landowners and fishermen, and were known, sometimes derisively, as “Kanaka” (the Pacific Island word for “man”). There was a substantial “Kanaka Row” shack town in Victoria, and sizable districts in Vancouver and on Salt Spring Island. They had their own schools and preachers, and while they taught their children English, some subscribed to Hawaiian-language newspapers….

The “Buffalo” Canadians:

Canada is defined even more by the diasporas it creates elsewhere – after all, there is nothing more Canadian than being forced to leave Canada to succeed. Nowhere is this more evident than on the southeast coast of New South Wales, Australia, where an influential Canadian immigrant community reshaped reality in the middle of the 19th century.

The Canadians were not voluntary immigrants. They were political dissidents, 58 francophones and 82 English-speakers, well-educated and influential men who were convicted of fighting for democracy, public education and free trade in the 1837 rebellions. They avoided the executions and dismemberments [sic] meted out to others, and instead were shipped to the Australian prison colony aboard the HMS Buffalo.

There, the Canadians proved popular. The Bishop of Sydney sympathized with them and assigned many to serve as free labourers in Sydney, where they played a significant role in building the community physically and politically. Their presence is remembered in the names of Canada Bay, today a major suburb of Sydney, and nearby Exile Bay. And, according to Australian historian Tony Moore, they also proved politically influential, helping advance the causes of labour rights and governance (which, as a result of their defeat in the rebellions, lagged behind in Canada).

Read the whole thing.

Australia!

From (the antipodean) ABC News, via my friend Lachlan Mead, the “five funniest moments in Australian history”:

One day we will look back on this moment and laugh. The author of new book Error Australis, Ben Pobjie, reflects on the most comical characters and cock-ups of Australia’s past.

By Ben Pobjie

History, let’s be blunt, is hilarious.

It’s hilarious for the same reason life itself is hilarious: it’s filled with weirdos and idiots screwing everything up in the worst ways possible.

But the beauty of history as a comedic resource is that it all happened ages ago, so you don’t have to pretend to feel sorry for the people it happened to.

Many people believe that Australian history is a boring and colourless saga and that our nation lacks historical periods or events with the rich humorous potential of, say, the English Civil War, or the Spanish Inquisition.

Yet a closer examination of the figures of our past will show that, to the contrary, Australia’s history is the funniest thing that ever happened to this country. To get a taste of what I mean, peruse these: the five funniest moments in Australian history.

1. The Emu War

Australia cannot lay claim to any great empires or epic conquests, but we do have one distinction that no other nation on Earth can boast: we are the only country in history to lose a war to birds.

In 1932, the farmers of Western Australia, fed up with the 20,000 emus that kept dropping in to their farms to eat all their crops, went to defence minister Sir George Pearce to demand he take action to safeguard the precious wheat of the Campion region.

Pearce, a man who knew the value of a show of strength, decided that what the emus needed was a hefty dose of good old-fashioned military might.

And so Major GPW Meredith of the Royal Australian Artillery was sent, along with two soldiers, two Lewis guns, and 10,000 bullets, into the scrubland to show the emus just who was the more highly-evolved species.

Almost immediately the expedition ran into trouble. The soldiers attempted to herd the emus into a suitable place in which to mow them down en masse, but the birds, well-trained in guerrilla tactics, continually split into small groups and ran off in different directions, making it damnably difficult for the guns to draw a bead on them. Also, the guns jammed.

Also, when the guns worked, and when an emu stood still long enough to shoot at, they proved resistant to bullets to an unsettling degree. Meredith wrote:

“If we had a military division with the bullet-carrying capacity of these birds it would face any army in the world. They can face machine guns with the invulnerability of tanks.”

The soldiers retreated, weary and sick of the sight of feathers. Meredith’s official report noted, optimistically, that his men had suffered no casualties. The emus’ report noted that humans were slow-moving and stupid.

The House of Representatives debated the matter and questions were asked of the minister regarding whether medals were to be awarded for survivors of the campaign.

The question of why, blessed as we are with a native animal that is essentially a cross between an armoured car and a velociraptor, our military has not taken advantage by training emus for combat duty in the ADF, remains unanswered to this day.

Click the link to read about Hume and Hovell’s frypan fight, Ned Kelly’s pen pal, and Ben Hall, clown prince of bushrangers.

Happy St. George’s Day

In honor of this auspicious day, a gallery of images of St. George from my collection. Apologies for the poor quality of some of them.

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A statue of St. George by Alexander Scott Carter, in St. Thomas’s Anglican Church, Huron St., Toronto (photo by my friend Bruce Patterson).

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From my graduate school colleague, Lieutenant Colonel Lachlan Mead of the Australian army.

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Family friend Laine Rosin took this photo on a trip to Ethiopia.

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Allen and Unwin printer’s mark.

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This is from the spine of a volume in the great Victoria County History series.

kopeck

My five-year-old found this Russian fifty kopek coin last summer. “Look daddy,” she said. “St. George!” That’s my girl!

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Bruce Patterson took this photo in a Catholic church in London.

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My colleague Pam Wilson took this photo in Barcelona.

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This sculpture of St. George is carved on the facade of the Canadian Parliament Buildings in Ottawa. I took this photo in 2006.

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A war memorial in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, taken by Dr. Anne Good.

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I acquired this label on an airplane once. I like it especially because dragons are associated with water. 

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If there is Scotch whisky and Irish whiskey, then why shouldn’t there be English whisky too? And what better a character to represent it than St. George?

TrotskySlayingtheDragon1918

One of my favorite representations of St. George comes from shortly after the Russian Revolution, when Christian saints had not been entirely eradicated, but could be repurposed for Communist ends. Here St. Trotsky kills the Counter-Revolutionary dragon, complete with top hat. From Wikipedia.

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From my friend Chris Berard, via Facebook. Happy St. George’s Day!

Pallets

From my friend Matt Lungerhausen, a fascinating article on shipping pallets. I like the Georgia angle! If “whitewood” ever becomes obsolete, one thing to do with it is to turn it into mulch, as does Bo’s Pallets, a local business I drive by from time to time.

Excerpts:

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Although the technology was in place by the mid-1920s, pallets didn’t see widespread adoption until World War II, when the challenge of keeping eight million G.I.s supplied—“the most enormous single task of distribution ever accomplished anywhere,” according to one historian—gave new urgency to the science of materials handling. During the summer of 1941, at Fort Wayne, Indiana, the army staged a field test of various materials-handling contraptions, and the pallet–forklift combo trounced the competition. The Quartermaster General ordered a million pallets, and the domestic pallet industry was effectively born.

Military depots began by palletizing heavy, regularly shaped objects, such as tins of K-rations. But over the course of the war, these depots, facing shortages of time, space, and labor, brought more and more items under the regime of the pallet. The Quartermaster Depot in Jeffersonville, Indiana, which occupied ten city blocks, was particularly aggressive in this regard; during a six-month stretch in 1943, workers there discovered novel methods of palletizing mattresses, saddles, baled goods, pyramidal tents, and tanned cowhide, among other items. By the end of the war, Jeffersonville had palletized 98 percent of its stock.

The pallet industry boomed after the war, along with interstate highways, long-haul trucking, and the rise of a national consumer culture. The canneries of the Salinas Valley were early palletizers, followed by other grocery sectors, then the auto industry, then everything. In 1954, pallet manufacturers left the country’s wooden box association and founded their own trade group, the National Wooden Pallet and Container Association, or NWPCA. Its slogan: “Pallets move the world.” Sometime in the early 1970s, on a CBS news broadcast, John Kenneth Galbraith informed Dan Rather that pallets were the second-fastest-growing industry in America. “What are those?” Rather asked. Or so the legend goes.

The boom ultimately created a problem, because all of these pallets did not disappear when they reached their destinations. They piled up: on loading docks, in stockrooms, in landfills. Beginning in the late 1970s, people realized these used pallets might have value, and the pallet recycling industry was born. There was good money in recycling, especially in the early days. The supply of raw material was cheap, if not free, the capital investment was minimal, and the whole thing had an appealing simplicity: acquire pallets from wherever they end up, fix them up, sell them back to manufacturers. The service this new generation of recyclers provided was called “reverse logistics.”

CHEP, a subsidiary of Brambles Limited, an Australia-based multinational corporation, is the largest pallet business in the world. The company earned $3.5 billion in pallet-related revenues during fiscal year 2013, and in many markets has achieved pallet monopoly. CHEP’s roots stretch back to World War II, when the American military shipped millions of palletized loads to Australia. At the end of the war, those pallets were abandoned, and CHEP was formed out of this accumulation. After four decades of growth and expansion, the company entered the US market in 1990, in what amounted to an obscure case of military blowback.

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Read the whole thing.