We currently associate Hamilton with urban coffee shops, a growing music scene, craft beer and steel mills, but did you know that Hamilton has a rich history of notable people and Canadian claims to fame that have gone forgotten with time. Let’s take a walk back through history and see what sorts of things and people happened in Hamilton back in the day.

Dr. Alfred Pain

The sole Hamiltonian to ride on the disastrous Titanic in 1912, Dr. Alfred Pain was a doctor who studied in Hamilton before working at Hamilton City Hospital. He was visiting London to continue his studies before coming back to Canada. He booked a ticket on the Titanic as a second class passenger, and quickly befriended Marion Wright, a passenger from Yoevil who was sailing back to New York to meet her fiance. When the boat started sinking, Alfred aided in bringing Marion to the lifeboats. He died in the sinking.

Hamilton Airport

The John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport was originally a Royal Canadian Air Force base called the Mount Hope Airport. After the war, the base wasn’t used as much so in 1963 the Department of National Defence declared it surplus to its needs and the Department of Transportation assumed ownership.

Today, the airport is considered Canada’s largest dedicated courier/cargo airport.


The Centre on Barton

Currently an outdoor shopping centre on Barton Street East in Lower City Hamilton, The Centre on Barton used to be home to one of North America’s first malls, Centre Mall. In 1955, the mall was built on the former land of the Jockey Club racetrack. The tenants occupying the space today are TD Canada Trust, Shoppers Drug Mart, Canadian Tire, Walmart and Metro.


Hamilton in 1803

John Ryckman, a citizen of the Barton township, described Hamilton in 1803:

“The city in 1803 was all forest. The shores of the bay were difficult to reach or see because they were hidden by a thick, almost impenetrable mass of trees and undergrowth…Bears ate pigs, so settlers warred on bears. Wolves gobbled sheep and geese, so they hunted and trapped wolves. They also held organized raids on rattlesnakes on the mountainside. There was plenty of game. Many a time have I seen a deer jump the fence into my back yard, and there were millions of pigeons which we clubbed as they flew low.”

It’s hard to image current Hamilton full of trees and animals!

Humiliations and Public Executions

The first public execution was the hanging of a woman who committed the first official murder. The victim’s name was Bartholomew London. 

1930 was the last recorded year a pillory device was used. A pillory is a device made of a wooden or metal framework erected on a post, with holes for securing the head and hands. The device was formerly used for punishment by public humiliation and often further physical abuse.

In 1859, Hamilton had it’s last public execution, which still causes controversy. The man hung,  Harry Lee, was convicted of killing his girlfriend, although many think that the conviction was a racist decision. Lee was black and spanish, and people believe that he was set up for the murder of his Jewish girlfriend, Mary Rosenblatt.

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