Proposal Title

SESSION 1.1: Steamtown: Transpacific Steamships and the Vancouver Waterfront

Presentation Type

Individual paper

Location

IB 1015

Start Date

3-5-2019 1:30 PM

End Date

3-5-2019 3:00 PM

Abstract

The end of the supposed “golden age” of shipping in the late nineteenth century arrived at precisely the time when the urban Pacific Northwest began to develop. The city of Vancouver—like Victoria, Port Townsend, Seattle, and Tacoma—consequently never developed a distinct sailortown. These portside neighborhoods of seafarers and their communities had long held close associations with ideas of race, ethnicity, foreignness, and criminality. Nevertheless, historical attitudes toward the urban waterfront—particularly in terms of racialization and criminality—survived the existence of the historical sailortown. Vancouver’s residents and observers, as those of earlier port cities had done in prior centuries, continued to perceive their dockside neighborhoods as sites that were simultaneously essential to port industries and home to problematic populations and practices. The heart of Vancouver’s dockside community was Gastown, named for a Yorkshire-born seaman and saloon-keeper, and home to one of the region’s largest seaports, the Canadian Pacific Railway’s western terminus, and the highest concentration of liquor-licensed establishments in the city. This paper will attempt to parse the relationship between Vancouver’s urban waterfront at the turn of the twentieth century and the transpacific steamship lines that fed the city’s industry in order to understand the entangled multinational, multiethnic dynamics of life in one of the most subversive spaces of early twentieth century urbanity.

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May 3rd, 1:30 PM May 3rd, 3:00 PM

SESSION 1.1: Steamtown: Transpacific Steamships and the Vancouver Waterfront

IB 1015

The end of the supposed “golden age” of shipping in the late nineteenth century arrived at precisely the time when the urban Pacific Northwest began to develop. The city of Vancouver—like Victoria, Port Townsend, Seattle, and Tacoma—consequently never developed a distinct sailortown. These portside neighborhoods of seafarers and their communities had long held close associations with ideas of race, ethnicity, foreignness, and criminality. Nevertheless, historical attitudes toward the urban waterfront—particularly in terms of racialization and criminality—survived the existence of the historical sailortown. Vancouver’s residents and observers, as those of earlier port cities had done in prior centuries, continued to perceive their dockside neighborhoods as sites that were simultaneously essential to port industries and home to problematic populations and practices. The heart of Vancouver’s dockside community was Gastown, named for a Yorkshire-born seaman and saloon-keeper, and home to one of the region’s largest seaports, the Canadian Pacific Railway’s western terminus, and the highest concentration of liquor-licensed establishments in the city. This paper will attempt to parse the relationship between Vancouver’s urban waterfront at the turn of the twentieth century and the transpacific steamship lines that fed the city’s industry in order to understand the entangled multinational, multiethnic dynamics of life in one of the most subversive spaces of early twentieth century urbanity.