On today’s date in 1737, iron ore was smelted for the first time in Canada.
According to Michael Coulson’s 2012 book The History of Mining, iron ore was discovered in Québec, near the confluence of the St. Lawrence River and St. Maurice River, and upstream from Trois-Rivières. The ore was smelted on site.
Today, Parks Canada operates the Forges du St.-Maurice – the birthplace of Canada’s iron industry – as a National Historic Site. It was established nearly 300 years ago, on March 25, 1730, after two companies were granted a monopoly to extract the iron ore deposits at Trois-Rivières (the first company failed rather quickly) . Eight years later, the forge began operating and remained in near-continuous operation until closing in 1883. It employed about 100 craftsmen and upwards of 400 labourers to produce forged and molded iron products.
In 1742, after bankruptcy was filed, the state took over the forges before it was handed over to Britain with the Treaty of Paris.
Since 1735 and until the mid-1830s, these forges were considered North America’s most technologically advanced ironworks; however, they were also the continent’s oldest-operating blast furnace. By the time it closed in 1883, it was obsolete.
In 1932, the Dominion of Newfoundland issued a 24-cent stamp (Scott #210) celebrating its own iron industry in the Bell Island area. Printed by Perkins, Bacon & Co., the light-blue stamp had its design reused on another 24-cent Newfoundland stamp (SC #241) that depicted King George VI, whose coronation took place on the date of issue, May 12, 1937. Lastly, in 1943, Newfoundland reissued this design on another 24-cent stamp (SC #264). Printed by Waterlow & Sons, this stamp was part of the Definitive Re-Issues series.
The Forges du Saint-Maurice became a National Historic Site of Canada in 1973, marking the 100th year since its closure.