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Photo by Mark Newman

Photo by Mark Newman

East Mountain resident Bill Yates with a pin celebrating Hamilton’s centennial industrial exposition in 1913. City officials at the time decided to hold the celebration even though the centennial date was two years early.

A real pin for a fake anniversary

East Mountain resident amazed at background of ‘centennial’ memento

 By Mark Newman, News Staff 

Bill Yates always wondered about the history of the old pin a friend from the U.K. gave him about eight years ago.

The blue, red and green metal pin features the title Hamilton with the circular inscription Industrial Centennial Exposition August, 1913.

Also inscribed is the city’s 100,000 population at the time and what was then the city crest featuring a sailing ship, a beaver and a beehive surrounded by trees.

“I looked at it when I got it originally and thought, ‘an exposition at that particular time?’” said the 88-year-old east Mountain resident and Royal Navy veteran, who isn’t sure where his friend John Hollins got the pin, only that it was on one of his visits to Hamilton.

“To the best of my knowledge the person that gave it to him was 90-years-old at the time,” Yates said.

The mystery surrounding the pin was quickly solved with a call to Margaret Houghton, local historian and archivist at the Hamilton Public Library.

Seems city officials at the time didn’t want to let the facts get in the way of a good party and they decided to hold centennial celebrations two years early.

“They had a real celebration, but it wasn’t based in fact,” Houghton said. “George Hamilton (who the city is named after) didn’t arrive in Hamilton until 1815.”

According to a chapter in the book First Here that was forwarded to Hamilton Community News by Houghton: “The City of Hamilton became a Police Village in 1833 and then attainted City status in 1846, electing it(s) first mayor, Colin Campbell Ferrie, who took office in early 1847. However, as the year 1913 approached the city fathers determined that they would celebrate their “Centennial” in that year. For some reason they determined George Hamilton had founded the town which became Hamilton in the year 1813 and therefore Hamiltonwould celebrate the centennial of its founding in 1913.”

The downtown library also has a copy of an Aug. 11, 1913 newspaper article about Ontario Lieutenant Governor Sir John Gibson officially opening the exposition at the “new armories” on James North.

The article refers to a variety of machinery and exhibits by the Hamilton factories of that era, including Westinghouse, and that the city’s industrial advancement was made possible by electricity supplied by the Cataract Power Company.

It was also noted those factories employed about 40,000 people in 1913 and together those workers were earning wages of about $20,000 a year.

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