The warm start to the year 1876 led to a postponement of a grand curling bonspiel which had been planned to take place on January 6th on the bay, which, it had been assumed, would be frozen. Between 70 and 80 rinks from all over Canada and the United States had promised to attend.
On January 4th, the Spectator announced the postponement of the bonspiel until the 30th of January, adding the hope that “should the weather prove favorable, it is anticipated that the forthcoming bonspiel will be the most successful ever held on the continent.”
The day before, January 3rd, 1876 had been municipal election day in Hamilton, as well as in the surrounding towns, townships and Wentworth County.
In Dundas, there had been several spirited contests in the Valley Ward, Foundry Ward, Mountain Ward and Canal Ward, as well as in the races for mayor, Reeve and Deputy Reeve.
During the morning, a crowd of electors had gathered at a downtown street corner, sharing predictions as to the outcome of the voting. Local Police Constable McDonough took it upon himself to order the crowd to disperse.
As recounted in the Spectator, McDonough’s order set up a lively reaction : “all complied with the exception of a man named McConnell, who resisted and seized McDonough, tearing his coat. The constable promptly knocked him down and proceeded to conduct him to the cells. The act being observed by a great many, a large crowd gathered around the constable and his prisoner, and it was thought at one time that a rescue would be attempted. The crowd got very excited, and had it not been for a large crowd of citizens, the prisoner would have been carried off. However, McConnell was successfully conducted to the cells, and after some howling and vain threats from the mob, they were induced to disperse.”
Hamilton had a few theatres operating in 1876, ranging from the fairly respectable Hamilton Opera House on John Street North to the smaller, maybe somewhat less respectable, Theatre Comique.
The Hamilton Opera House was about to lose two of its most popular resident stage performers, Mr. and Mrs. Mack. They both were about to leave Hamilton for New York City, accepting an offer from Edwin Booth’s new company. The Spectator lamented their exit from Hamilton but said : “Mr. and Mrs. Mack were favourites of the stock company, and should they ever return to this city, they will receive a hearty welcome."
At the Police Court on January 4, 1876, Tom Tindill, the owner and operator of the Theatre Comique had the police arrest all the members of his stock company, on the grounds that actors and actresses were refusing to fulfill their contracts with him. They were neither appearing on stage at performances, nor even attending rehearsals. The result for Tindill was a serious loss of income.
Although the newspapers did not state the full nature of the dispute, one can assume that money, and the lack of payment of same from Tindill to the performers was the problem. According to the Spectator, “the company defended themselves very ably, and the charges were all dismissed.”
In an undoubtedly related manner about the Theatre Comique, , it was announced in the press that “this place of amusement has been closed for the present to finish painting and frescoing, and make some repairs. It will be opened, however, on Saturday night, by a new and superior company engaged at great expense.”
In yet another Hamilton theatre-related story appearing on January 4, 1876 issue of the Spectator.
Mr. H. Bent was an actor boarding at the St. Nicholas Hotel, while the other “actor” in the matter was J. H. McKinley, proprietor of the hotel. McKinley was also involved with the management of the Hamilton Opera House.
The Spectator coverage of the matter as it was aired in the Police Court was detailed and dramatic :
“Last evening at 4 o’clock before Mr. Cahill, Police Magistrate, Mr. Bent, an actor charged Mr. J. H. McKinley, proprietor of the St. Nicholas Hotel, with aggravated assault. Mr. Brent’s head was bound up in a handkerchief, and his eye was badly cut.
W. H. Brent, sworn : known the defendant McKinley; have been boarding at his house for the past few weeks; was sitting in his house this morning; saw him come in from Toronto; he saw me in the hall and called me a dirty loafer; I called him a loafer in return; he then caught me by the collar, pulled me down on my knees, struck me several times on the head and face and then kicked me in the eye.
Cross-examined by Mr. McKinley : Am an actor by profession; was engaged by you through your agent Mr. Sanford; never refused to play a part while in your employ; did not call you a loafer first; never endeavoured to entice your company away.
Thos. Ritchie, sworn, testified : Was present at the scuffle; heard McKinley complain of Brent; saw McKinley striking him; heard him order Brent out of the house.
Wm. Sutton sworn : Heard McKinley say that he would rather scatter Brent’s intestines on the sidewalk if he did not take his hand out of his pocket.
Wm. Marshall : Am business manager of the Hamilton Opera House; know Brent; he was leading man; he refused to take parts given to him.
J. H. McKinley, sworn : Acknowledge the assault, but entered a plea of justification that Brent had endeavored to entice the company away from him, and that he had grossly insulted him by calling him a d----d dirty loafer.”
Police Magistrate James Cahill merely listened to the testimony and held off making a judgment until further investigations were made.
Finally a major story was the supper and presentation put on by the employees of the Tuckett & Billings tobacco company, held to say farewell to a popular member of the firm who was relocating to Virginia, to become a tobacco purchaser for the company, directly from the farmers in that state.
The event was covered in great detail by a Spectator man in attendance, and his story not only details that particular event but gives a flavour of such gatherings in the 1876 era :
“Last evening a complimentary supper and presentation to Mr. John E. Tuckett, who has been for the past three years in the employ of Messrs. Tuckett & Billings of this city, was given by his fellow employees at the Commercial Hotel. At about 9 o’clock, upwards of forty gentlemen, among whom were Mr. George E. Tuckett and Mr. Billings, sat down to a well-spread table, and proceeded to enjoy a repast prepared in mine host Wheeler’s best style. After attending to the wants of the inner man, the cloth was removed, and the chairman, Mr. William Myers, called upon all present to drink the toast of
“The Queen and Royal Family,” which was received with the greatest enthusiasm, three hearty cheers being given in connection with it.
“The Governor-General of Canada and the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario,” and “The Army and Navy and Volunteers,” were then duly honoured, after which the Vice-Chairman Mr. John Bamberger, gave,
“The Mayor and Corporation of the City of Hamilton,” followed by songs from Messrs. Bruce and Anderson.
“The manufacturing interests of Hamilton,” coupled with the names of Mr. Billings and Mr. George E. Tuckett.
Mr. Billings responded in a brief speech, expressive of his pleasures at being present, and the harmonious nature of his connection with the men around him. He hoped it would always continue in the future as it had been in the past, and thanked them for the heart manner in which they had received the toast.
Mr. Tuckett then rose and said : Gentlemen, he would say gentlemen advisedly, for he was happy to say that though laboring with their hands he had found all the men in the employ of the firm during the past year, the most of whom he had known intimately for ten years past, honest, industrious, civil, obliging, kind to each other and gentle to all around them. He had seen each one doing his duty in his own sphere and belted knight could do no more. He wished to say publicly that no employers, taken all together, could have a better lot of men, and he was certain very few as good as it has been the lot of the firm to which he belonged to have in their employ during some years past. It was not the trade, which did credit to the man, but the man who gives credit to the trade. He would exhort all to continue to act in the future as in the past and they would make their trade the most respected in the City; and he would assure them both for his partner and himself that if the employees continued to work for the interests of the firm, the employers would do their part to make the Myrtle Navy so good that every smoker in Canada would use it in preference to anything else. He hoped that the time was not too far distant when they would again have the pleasure of meeting at a social union such as at the present. He concluded by thanking them sincerely for their kind manner of receiving the toast and resumed his seat amidst hearty applause.
Mr. Tuckett proposed “The Press” saying that all present should honor the toast with enthusiasm as a great deal of the success achieved by the Myrtle Navy was due to the newspapers setting its merits properly before the public. The Toast was well-received, and was responded to by Mr. Bell of the Spectator.
The Chairman then said the most interesting part of the evening’s entertainment was to come yet. They had met to do honor to a companion with whom they had been in pleasant intercourse during several years past, and who was now about to take his departure from amongst them for a time. He was glad, however, that the young gentleman to whom he alluded, Mr. John E. Tuckett, would still be connected with the firm of Tuckett & Billings, and would work for their interests while in Virginia, where he was going, as faithfully as he had done in Hamilton.
Mr. Charles Wilson, being then called upon, read the following address :
“Mr. John E. Tuckett : Learning that you were about to depart from Hamilton for a brief period, your fellow employees in the service of Messrs. Tuckett & Billings, desire to mark the occasion of your leaving with an expression of their friendly regard for you. I am therefore commissioned by them to say that in departing you carry with you their very warmest wishes for your future prosperity.
“They are glad to learn that though leaving for the moment the present head quarters of the firm, you are not quitting its service, but will continue to watch its interests, though in another place.
“Your fellow employees have every confidence that the attentive devotion to duty and the exemplary conduct, which has distinguished yo here, will be equally marked in your new sphere of labor and that you will gain an experience of great value to you in after life.
“When your period of absence is ended, I assure you that we shall welcome you back amongst us with a pleasure that I can inadequately express.
“I am instructed to ask your acceptance of this watch as a tangible evidence of our esteem. It is our hope that you will be long spared to wear it, and that, through the vicissitudes of life, it will be a reminder of the pleasant days we have spent together, and of your old Hamilton friends.
Signed on behalf of the subscribers,
Chairman of Committee.
Mr. Tuckett replied to the address in an appropriate speech, thanking his friends for their kindness towards him, and expressing the hope that the pleasant relations now existing between them would always last. He would cherish their gift, as it would ever remind him of some of the happiest days of his life.
The watch presented to Mr. Tuckett was a handsome silver one, and was purchased at the establishment of Mr. Alexander Campbell on King street. Inside the back case the following inscription was engraved:
PRESENTED TO JOHN E. TUCKETT
By his fellow workmen, as a token
Hamilton, Jan. 3, 1876.
After the presentation was over, volunteer toasts and songs were given for some time, and at a late hour the company separated, after having spent a most enjoyable evening.