Quebec City in the 19th century

During the first half of the 19th century, Quebec City lived by the timber trade.

Large rafts coming from Ottawa region where beached at Sillery before the square timber was loaded on board ships or used in shipbuilding. In the second half of the 19th century Quebec City fared badly in the transition to industrial capitalism because the city was dependant on shipbuilding and timber trade, and both of these sectors declined in the second half of the century. Besides, the city’s economic health was further threatened by American demand for sawn lumber that was shipped on canals and railway. Exports and the building of wooden ships declined dramatically.

From an average of over 18 million board feet of square timber in 1862-1866, exports fell to just over 7 million board feet in 1882-1886. As a result Quebec City lost its significance, its ocean port declined and its population grew slowly. Even before the foundation of Canada, its political and administrative functions were in decline. In 1871 the British garrison was removed. Many predicted the decline and even death as a commercial and industrial city.

But the city survived. Shoe manufactures grew, as well as leather production and many other sectors.

The horrible hump in Quebec City: In her 360 year history, Quebec City has suffered much from fires and landslides. On several occasions serious landslides occurred at Quebec with heavy loss of life. In 1889, with a thundering roar, a great mass of the 90 m rock cliff towering over lower town crashed down on houses nestling below, crushing them like eggshells. Today a perceptible hump on Champlain Street is evidence of the volume of rock that fell many years ago. It was found easier to reconstruct the road over a large part of the mass than to remove it.


One of Canada’s first important commercial industries was lumbering. Far up the might rivers, huge rafts of squared logs were assembled by the loggers in preparation for the spring journeys downstream. With their living quarters on the deck, many men worked, slept and ate on the way down to ports where the rafts of squared timber were dissembled and loaded on ships bound for England. As early as 1790, a timber raft from near Kingston, Ontario reached Quebec city. Source of the photo: Charles W. Jefferys / BIBLIOTHÈQUE et ARCHIVES Canada /c-073702

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