In 1876 Hamilton, a pattern of very public criticism of Hamilton City Council, and municipal operations in Hamilton, was already a tradition which began much earlier and would continue.
As regards the political part of Hamilton’s municipal government, an alderman had long been suspected of being in a conflict of interest. In the February 29,1876 issue of the Hamilton Spectator, a story was included as to how the controversy was put to rest:
“Last evening at the regular meeting of City Council, Ald. Campbell handed in his resignation by letter. He stated he had heard that many of his constituents had complained that he was furnishing the city with sewer pipe and holding a position at the Council Board at the same time, and therefore felt as a duty to himself that he should resign.”
At a regular council meeting in late February 1876, a citizen delegation appeared to let the aldermen know, in no uncertain terms, its view on the numbers of licences allowed by the city for places where alcohol could be sold legally:
Last evening the regular meeting of the City Council was held in the City Hall.
At an early hour, the auditorium was filled by an eager crowd who had gathered there to listen to the discussion on the Licence By-Law which was to come up. Before the regular business of the meeting commenced, a deputation of ladies waited on the Aldermen with a petition signed by 2,500 names, asking that the Council that no grocery should be allowed to sell liquor. They were introduced by D. B. Chisholm, who in a forcible speech, asked the Council to accept the conditions of the petitioners, and, if they refused, the temperance people of the city would bring influence to bear on the next Municipal election. He then introduced
Mrs. Youmans, of Picton. That lady said : Gentlemen of the Council, the last speaker has spoken to you from a financial standpoint, I speak to you from the standpoint of our desolated homes. I represent your mothers, wives and daughters who are crying aloud against this terrible curse. I speak to you on behalf of those who have seen their husbands fill drunkard’s graves, and their sons go down to perdition on account of this terrible evil. I hear a great cry that the reduction of licences will reduce the revenue. If you persist in your course, you are selling the young men of the city to sustain the revenue! Remember, and remember it well, that your action in this matter tonight will be brought up before you on the judgement day.
The ladies then retired, and the regular business of the meeting was proceeded with.
THE LICENCE BY-LAW
The Council resolved itself into a committee of the whole on the above By-Law – Ald. Barr in the chair.
Moved by Ald. Chisholm, and seconded by Ald. Lee that the number of shop licences be eighty.
After a long discussion the number of shop licences was limited to seventy-five.
Moved by Ald. Kent, seconded by Ald. Lee, and Resolved, - that the following prices be charged for the current year; Shop Licences $35, over and above; Tavern $45, over and above; and Houses of Entertainment $100.
Moved by Ald. O’Reilly, seconded by Ald. Kilvert, That the members of this Council while unable to accede to the prayer of the petition presented to them this evening by the ladies, in reference to the subject of shop licences, fully recognise and appreciate the motive by which the members of the deputation were actuated in preparing and presenting the said petition. Carried.
In the days when Hamilton’s principal streets were very muddy in wet weather and dusty in dry weather, the way that the dust kicked by traffic was kept down in dry weather was through the use of a cart that spread water lightly on the dust to keep it down. An article in the Spectator at the end of February welcomed the fact that Hamilton’s ancient, unsightly water carts were to be replaced with ones more efficient and less unattractive:
“One of the principal eye-sores of our city in the summertime is the great, lumbering water carts which roll clumsily along spilling, not sprinkling, water upon our streets. It has been a matter which has been complained of very often by Hamiltonians, that a single horse should be compelled to drag these unwieldy machines, and many of our readers will be glad to hear that the Water Works Committee intend placing patent sprinklers upon the streets next summer, and that the carriages with the exception of the patent sprinkler will be built in this city.”
On February 28, 1876, a case involving a house of prostitution came before Police Court Magistrate Cahill :
“Ida St. Clair charged Nellie Mortimer with keeping a house of ill fame, Nellie Curtis, Eve Venersdale, Lou Howard and Mattie Bell with frequenting said house.
Ida St. Clair, sworn : Live in the city; know Nellie Mortimer; lives at 104 John street north; she occupies the house; she has occupied it some three or four months; she keeps a young women’s boarding house; it is considered a house of ill fame; I know it to be a house of ill fame; I lived there part of the time; I left last Thursday or Wednesday; gentlemen visit the house; I do not know whether they are strangers or friends; I was ill the most of the time I was there; I don’t know whether they came to see me or not; there are bedrooms in the house.
Cross-examined by Mr. Carscallen : Most of the men who frequent the house are married men in the city; the house is owned by Allie Miller, Toronto; the girls pay $13 a week for board and lodging; Nellie Mortimer pays $60 a week rent to Allie Miller. The reason I have complained is that Nellie Mortimer holds my trunks; I was sick and when I offered to pay her money for my board, she told me not to insult her; it is not common for women of her class to receive large sums for women who are sick.
Detective McPherson, sworn : Have been in the house two or three times within the last two months; the report is that it is a house of ill fame; have seen men and women in there; made a note of it in my book.
Ida St. Clair was called to prove that the to prove that the girls Venersdale, Howard and Curtis were frequenters of the house. Mattie Bell was discharged.
Nellie Mortimer was sentenced to three months in jail without the option of a fine, and the girls Curtis, Venersdale and Howard got $50 each, or six months in jail.”