Welcome to the Engineering Institute of Canada's Virtual Museum of the History of

Engineering in Canada, dedicated towards sharing some

of the past history of our profession.

The EIC Virtual Museum Project

(All the prints and illustrations on this site are used, with permission, from a private collection.)

Here you will find various exhibits depicting some of the accomplishments of Canada's engineering community. In the early days of Canada, the only branches of engineering were called military engineering and civil engineering. The latter meant only to distinguish it from military operations, as most of the engineering dealt with the building of roads, canals, buildings, etc. Travel was difficult, especially in spring and fall, when the roads became quagmire. In England, the invention of macadam To get a flavour of the times read Engineering Education in Canada: the Beginning. Then tour the history and heritage pages for articles the history of the Engineering Institute of Canada, and many developments of historical interest, including articles about some famous Canadian Engineers.

The training of engineers became an issue in the development of the country because of the need, initially, for transport of goods mainly by water, through canals, but also and by road. Subsequently, as the population began to move from an agrarian society to an urban society, the need for good water took center stage. The building of bridges also became a priority, especially after the development of the railway as a means of transport for goods and passengers. Among the early waterworks was the Hamilton water pumping station, designed by Thomas Keefer, one of Canada's great engineers. The building is still standing today, much as it is depicted in print on the archives page, and is now a museum dedicated to the history of technology.

Engineers and scientists are the wealth generators of nations. It is their products and services that realize increased gross domestic product and improve the balance of trade. This is certainly true of Canada. In the early history of our nation, starting from the food supply, housing, defense, transportation of people, as well as goods for market, and communication, it is the engineers who have solved the problems and developed the devices and other products that ultimately provided employment ofr our people. This has not occurred without trial and difficulty over the entire history of our nation, though.

In the beginning of European settlement in what is now Canada, there were no roads. Travel was effected by water and portage, the possessions necessary for survival in the new harsh wilderness carried by hand. The Indians had travelled for centuries through the waterways using birch bark canoes to carry both people and possessions. The new settlers, first as trappers and traders, then as immigrants to farm the land, adapted to the Indian mode of travel. At this time there were elementary roads (for which, read mud roads) near major centres such as York (which changed its name to Toronto in 1834). In cleared areas, roads parallelled farms, especially in the communities that sprang up in places like southern Upper Canada (Ontario). Travel was then much easier.

The print above is taken from Isaac Weld's "Travels Through the States of North America and the Provinces of Upper and Lower Canada During the Years 1795, 1796 and 1797."

Note the rutted road. In rain, the roads became more or less impassable. In Winter, travel was mainly by horse and sleigh.

Accommodation on the farms and in most outlying comminities was similar to that depicted below.

The sketch above is from Catherine Parr Traill's "The Backwoods of Canada," published in 1836, depicting the life of a new settler.

Both Catherine Parr Traill and her sister, Susanna Moodie, wrote extensively about their new homes and way of life in the wilderness. They had bothe married half pay officers in England, and moved in the same year, 1832, to Upper Canada near what is now Peterborough. Mrs. Traill accommodated rapidly to the life of a settler, and found ways to make life easier, making use of natural herbs and other plants. Mrs. Moodie adapted rather slower to the privations of a settler's wife, longing for the civilization she had left behind, with its genteel life-style. The settler's cabins were normally one room only, heated with an open fire in winter, and with little in the way of natural lighting when the sun was not much in evidence. These were spartan accommodations at best!

The first choice for a capital for Upper Canada was Niagara. However, it soon became apparent that Niagara was vulnerable nto attack by the Americans. That left the choice between York and Kingston. York won out in the early years because of its importance to trade, its good harbour, and the establishment of the military presence at York.

During the early part of the nineteenth century the country was in turmoil, mostly due to hostilities south of the border, during the War of 1812, and subsequent skirmishes that lasted more or less until the Civil War in the United States. Military Engineering and associated endeavours. These events had a decided effect on the development of transportation in the Canadas, not only for the movement of goods and people, but also to protect the constructions from encroaching troops from south of the border. For example, a safe route to avoid both the border with the US and the rapids above Montreal was needed. The result was a route up the Ottawa River, then down the Rideau Canal to Kingston. (See the chapter on canals.)