Local Excursions of the 1897 Toronto BAAS

2022 Anniversaries in the History of Canadian Science and Technology

First posted Friday, July 15, 2022 / Yom shishi, 16 Tammuz, 5782

By David Orenstein, Emeritus, Danforth CTI


I recently posted the “Field Excursions of the 24th International Geological Congress, held in Montréal in 1972, … across the vast continental, insular, maritime and lacustrine expanse of our country.”

In addition to celebrating that 30th anniversary of Canadian scientific excursions, we can also acknowledge the 125th of the 1897 Toronto Meeting of the British Association for the Advancement of Science (BAAS) hosted at the University of Toronto.

That congress, too, ran many excursions. For example, I have to hand a photocopy of a booklet entitled:

British Association / for the / Advancement of Science / 1897 / Toronto / Meeting /

Special Excursions

In between “Toronto” and “Meeting” there’s a Beaver rampant above a wreath of Maple.

Within are itineraries for the following excursions out of Toronto:

A) Niagara Falls and Return, crossing Lake Ontario.

B) Muskoka District and Return. Saturday, August 21st.

C) Penetanguishene and Return. Saturday, August 21st.

D) Hamilton, Niagara Falls, and Return, by rail. Saturday, August 21st.

(X) Toronto to Peterboro’, Rice Lake and Return. Saturday, August 21st.

Toronto to Don Valley and Return. Monday, August 23rd.

Toronto to Scarboro’ Heights and Return. Monday, August 23rd.

E) Toronto to Ottawa and Montreal via Parry Sound and through the Algonquin Park. Thursday, August 26.

F) Toronto to Don Valley and Return. Thursday, August 26rd.

There are six other excursions listed, with prices, but without an itinerary.

Niagara Falls excursions were always a big draw for these Toronto congresses, e.g AAAS 1889, IGC 1913, IMC and BAAS 1924.

In 1897, Excursions A1, A2, and A3, to Niagara Falls, ran on August 21, 22, and 23 respectively. Tickets were available from the Niagara River Line Office at 72 Yonge Street for $1.50, $1.25 if returning the same day.

One of the three itineraries offered was boat to Queenston, Ontario, and then take the Niagara Falls Park and River Railway on the Canadian side to Chippewa, Ontario, then return to the Falls and cross the River on the Upper Suspension Bridge. On the American side, it was the Niagara Falls Park and Lewiston Electric Railway to Lewiston, New York, for the return sailing across Lake Ontario.

Obviously, delegates were eager to see the actual Falls, which were already being harnessed for hydroelectric power. Bu they would also climb up the General Isaac Brock Monument at Queenston Heights and visit Battlefield Park and the tablet erected in Brock’s honour by the Prince of Wales (the future Edward VII, Queen Elizabeth’s great grandfather) during his 1860 visit to Canada, so splendidly documented by Ian Radforth in his 2004 book, Royal Spectacle. Then the Niagara River Gorge and Whirlpool on the Canadian side.

On the American side, they would also climb the Observation Tower in Prospect Park overlooking the American Falls and visit the Devil’s Hole and “the Whirlpool Rapids where Webb lost his life.”

For the Excursion to Muskoka, delegates would leave Toronto in the late morning at 11:20 am by the Grand Trunk Railway for the Muskoka wharf at the south end of the Lake at a scheduled mid-afternoon 2:53 pm. From there the boats of the Muskoka Navigation Company could take you “to the comfortable resting places with good accommodation” on any of the three large Lakes: Muskoka, Rosseau, and Joseph.

“An alternative cottage country excursion was to Georgian Bay with Penetanguishene as the jumping off point. “The islands of the Georgian Bay, thousands in number, commence at the mouth of this harbour, and extends northwards for fifty miles.”

Based on a special arrangement for accommodation at the Penetanguishene Hotel “the small steamer Voyageur through the islands about Penetanguishene with points of interest at the Huron/Wendat community of Christian Island, the Giant’s Tomb, the French Settlement, and the Martyr’s Church.

To go around the Head of the Lake, i.e. Niagara Falls via Hamilton. Projecting myself back to 1897, I imagine myself the ship Modjeska of the Hamilton Steamboat Co. on the early morning 7:30 am sailing from Toronto, staying in Hamilton for the reception hosted by the Board of Trade of Hamilton and take the boat to Niagara on the Lake in the morning with an A Excursion to the Falls.

The Peterborough / Rice Lake Excursion was arranged for sections G, Engineering, and H, Archeology, to be conducted by Mr. A.F. Chamberlin, Dr. G.A. Needler and Mr. David Boyle.

David Boyle was Ontario’s first Provincial Archeologist. A short walk from my home in Toronto’s magical Riverdale neighbourhood there’s the Withrow Archeological Site, at what is now Withrow Public School. There Boyle led the excavations in 1886, after it was “uncovered by workers digging a roadbed.

Return transportation to Peterborough by ether the Grand Trunk Railway or by the Canadian Pacific Railway would cost $1.75. “Peterboro’ to Rice Lake and return (including Dinner and Supper)” $1.25, and “Hotel Expenses at Grand Central Hotel” $2.00, for a total of $5.00.

Rice Lake boasted “the celebrated Serpent Mounds and the Indian Village of Hiawatha.”

Their “canoes have become famous all over the continent.” A tradition upheld to this very day at the Peterborough’s Canoe Museum.

But that’s another story.


British Association for the Advancement of Science (1897) Special Excursions 1897 Toronto Meeting Toronto, Arbuthnot pr., [32 p.] illus., pl.

– In the Internet Archive: https://archive.org/details/cihm_01190

Pierre Berton (1992) Niagara. McClelland and Stewart, Toronto. 480 pp., incl. 17 pp. Index.

Gerald Killan (c1983) David Boyle, from Artisan to Archaeologist. Published in association with the Ontario Heritage Foundation by University of Toronto Press

xvii, 276 p., [8] p. of plates: ill., maps, ports. ; 24 cm.

Ian Radforth (2004) Royal Spectacle: the 1860 visit of the Prince of Wales to Canada and the United States. University of Toronto Press, xi, 469 p. : ill., map ; 24 cm.



A) Earlier CSTHA Blog Posts:

Discovering the Canadian International Scientific Congresses, October 23, 2020.


1972 IGC Field Excursions, July 1, 2022.



B) Other Links:

Niagara Tourist Attractions Today.


Historic Muskoka Steamships.


Peterborough’s Canadian Canoe Museum.


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