Work, Innovation & Exchange

1870 - 1950

This gallery takes you on a voyage down a river past a lumber camp, river drive, farmland and a river boat dock to a coastal fishing wharf, lumber mill, woodworking factory to an urban dock. Here is the point of exchange where lumber, fish and agricultural produce from the New Brunswick hinterland and coastal areas meet the town or city wharf. The ploughs, axes and carpet sweepers from the town and city factories await shipment upriver and along the coasts aboard steamers to consumers on the farms, lumber camps and fishing villages. In the background, portending change, is the railway which provides increasing competition to the riverboats and coastal steamers for freight traffic in the late 19th and 20th centuries. It also permits the establishment of portable sawmills nearer the source of supply and rail transport directly from the forest thus cutting into the traditional river drive. Opposite the urban dock, the fish canning operation along New Brunswick’s eastern coast is already shipping by rail.

As the visitor leaves the urban dock, entry is made to the town or city by passing in front of a railway passenger station, a reminder that rail traffic was succeeding steamboats in this area as well. Ahead is an urban streetscape with personalized service industries on one side and retail services on the other. The barber shop with its shaving mug rack and mugs monogrammed with customers names is the epitome of early 20th century neighbourhood identification, although Sullivan’s Bar nearby is in the same league. Behind the retail stores selling metal ware and dry goods are the workshop tables that produced or finished them and beyond that the heavy industries of the factory floor – the foundries and cotton mills that made the base product. Along the wall are photos of workers and industrial plants interspersed with banners from New Brunswick’s early labour movement. Relations between workers and management were not always pleasant but out of conflict progress was made in settling issues related to safety, abuse and long hours.

Sometimes the products of New Brunswick workshops were not consumer driven but scientific in their purpose. Such was the case with W.R. Turnbull’s display which, on the surface, features standard wood and metal working tools like lathes and drill presses but instead fashioned such otherworldly items as bird wing flapping devices, a mechanical crow and a wind wagon. The latter was designed to run on a 300 foot long railway outside his home in Rothesay, N.B. near Saint John. What would the neighbours think? Eventually they thought quite a lot, since Turnbull also constructed Canada’s first wind tunnel (1902) and developed the first reliable variable pitch propeller (1925) for use on commercial and military aircraft. It was like having a gearshift for a propeller since its surface angle could be varied by electric motor to take a larger or smaller cut out of the air.

Whether a captain of industry, a retail clerk, a lumberman, a factory worker or an inventor in a workshop, this gallery honours the effort and determination of all those who contributed in making New Brunswick a safe and comfortable province in which to live.