John Molson launches Canada’s first steamship (1809)

On today’s date in 1809, English-born brewer John Molson launched his wooden paddle-wheel steamboat Accomodation for service on the St. Lawrence River between Montréal and Québec.

Built entirely in Montreal by the Eagle Foundry, the boat carried 10 passengers and was the first Canadian steamship as well as the first successful steamboat built entirely in North America.

In 1986, Canada Post featured Molson on a 34-cent multi-coloured stamp (Scott #1117) commemorating his main achievements. Printed by Ashton-Potter on Rolland paper, the stamp has general tagging along two opposite sides.

Molson was born in 1763 in Lincolnshire, England. At 19 years old, he came to Canada, which had heard described as a land of exciting opportunity. The next year, he and a partner joined forces in a brewing venture; however, Molson later assumed full control of the business, and the brewery has operated within the Molson family since 1786.

His business was wildly successful, and Molson branched out into banking, hotels, a theatre, a foundry and politics. He built the Accomodation – Canada’s first steamboat – and financed Canada’s first railway. Molson was co-founder of the Montreal General Hospital. He sat in both the House of Assembly and the Legislative Council of Lower Canada. For Molson, Canada indeed proved to be a land of opportunity.

A press release issued by Canada Post explained by combining the only known portrait of Molson with illustrations of the Theatre Royal, the Accomodation and the first Canadian steam train, Montreal designer Clermont Malenfant recreated a period atmosphere while commemorating several of Molson’s greatest achievements.

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