The Trades Journal

By David Buchanan


Canada’s first Maritime labour weekly was The Trades Journal: Popular Reading for Miners, Mechanics, and Farmers (Spring Hill, N.S., 1880-91), a four-page periodical first published on 8 January 1880 and edited by Robert Drummond. It sold for one dollar per year in advance or three cents per issue. The initial slogan was “Devoted to the Interests of the Mine, the Workshop and the Farm.” In an attempt to broaden the scope of the paper, this later changed to “Unity, Equity, Progress. None Cease to Rise but Those who Cease to Climb.” The Trades Journal was a moderate labour paper. Drummond favoured mutual concessions between employers and employees. Emphasis was placed on social reform, for example supporting education, better wages, shorter hours, and improved housing as well as temperance, trade unionism, and sickness and benefit societies. Human-interest stories were common, as was reporting on disasters, unsafe working conditions, mental health and asylums, poverty and old age security, and housing. As was common at the time, the paper was against Chinese labour and inconsistent with respect to women and labour. As a mixed format periodical it offered news, articles, editorials, advice columns, and letters, as well as a significant amount of short fiction and many popular novels from local, national, and international sources.[i]

Further Description

Rather than further description of the moderate politics, mixed format, or general content of The Trades Journal, which can be gleaned from the full text samples provided, this overview provides a select list of short stories and serialized novels published in The Trades Journal, followed by some brief comments. This list indicates the sort of authorship (i.e. men and women, popular, international), the types of fiction (e.g. sensation, society, romance, mystery, adventure), and the continuous publication of such fiction throughout the 1880s. For each entry the volume and issue are noted for the beginning and end of serialization, although in some cases this has not been possible due to missing issues. Authors are listed if given in the journal or added in square brackets if located elsewhere. In several instances the name of an author or title is not certain or incomplete due to the poor quality of the print. A question mark is used to mark a lack of information.

Short Fiction

3.21-22       Wilkie Collins (ed.), “How I Married Him: The Confession of a Young Lady”

3.26-28       “The Mortlake Peerage”

3.43            Mary Elizabeth Braddon, “My First Fee,” from The Argosy

3.44            Clarence M. Boutelle, “One Man’s Heart”

3.45-46       “The Clifford Diamonds”

4.1-2           Florence Fairfax, “Alice Carr’s Engagement: A Toronto Novelette,” (a new Toronto writer)

4.3-6           Florence Fairfax, “Out With Mackenzie in 1837: Or Scenes in the Life of a Canadian [Old Etan (?)]”

4.13            Dr. Mcleant (?), “Aunt Martha’s Visit: A Novelette of Student Life”

4.28-29       “Benjamin Blunt, Mariner”

4.39-42       “A Curious Case”

4.43-44       A. Emery, “Under False Pretences”

4.46            “Janet’s Love”

4.47            Sophie Swett(?), “Black Spirits and White,” from the Detroit Free Press

5.1              “A Woman’s Cadence: Detective Story”

5.20-23       “The Miner’s Partner”

5.25            “A Ghost Story”

8.2-5           W. E. Bessey, M. D., Ruth Elliott; or, A Prophecy Fulfilled. A Tale of Social Life in Canada

10.11-14     “The Deserted Farm: A Tragic Story of Old Canada”

10.16-17     Hjalmar Hjorth Boyeson, “The Wolf in the Herd”

10.20-23     “A Changed Decision”

Serialized Novels

2.3-12         Dora Russell, Against the Law

2.13-21       No Relations: A Story of Today

2.22-37       Lover’s Yet, by the author of Madoline’s Lover

2.38-3.4      [James Payn], Avenged At Last: A Story of Love and Daring, by the author of What He Cost Her, Gwendoline’s Harvest, and other popular novels

3.5-17         [Mary Jane (Hawes) Holmes], Her Boy At Last: A Society Novel, by the author of Edith Lyle, Mildred, Forrest House, Chateau D’Or, etc., etc.

3.35-40       Bertha M. Clay [Charlotte M. Brame], Ingledew House, [incomplete]

3.49-4.21    [Orlando Witherspoon], Doctor Ben: An Episode in the Life of a Fortunate Unfortunate

4.22-27       Kitty’s “Fate”

4.30-?         An Utter Despair, [serialization discontinued?]

4.52(?)-5.22 Cupidity and Crime

5.27-6.10    Sydney’s Folly, [abridged?]

5.47-48(?)  The Daughter of the Stars: A [??] Romance, [serialization discontinued?]

6.2-12         Diamonds and Rubies

6.15-21       A Lock of Red Hair

6.23-29       Avenged; Or, Calm After Storm, [abridged?]

6.30-36       Storm and Sunshine

6.38-44       A Terrible Tragedy, by the author of The Flower Girl, Lovely Lady Lyndcourt

6.46-?         An Egyptian Romance: A Story of Love and Wild Adventure founded upon Startling Revelations in the Career of Arabi Pasha, by the author of Nina, the Nihilist, The Red Spider/Spot [sometimes one, then the other], The Russian Spy, etc. [Note: all of year 7 missing]

7.?-8.15      Rift and Spray, or, Love and Vengeance Among the Smugglers, added subtitle: “The Most Fascinating Ocean Romance Since the Days of Cooper and Maryatt”; from Google Books, ‪The Rift and the Spray: A Tale of the Smugglers of the English Channel, ‪James Malcolm Rymer, ‪Johannsen Collection, F.A. Brady, 1869 [same?]

8.16-30       Fred M. White, By Order of the League

8.32-?         Love’s Triumph, by the author of Kate Massey’s Falsehood, Beatrice’s Ambition, For Love or Kindred?, A Golden Dream, etc. etc.

9.?-27         Charlotte M. Yonge, Nuttie’s Father

9.4-45         Mary Elizabeth Braddon, Like and Unlike

9.28-10.8    [Susanna Moodie], Roughing it in the Bush

The Trades Journal combined labour news and popular fiction of various sorts. Sensation fiction popularized by British authors Wilkie Collins and Mary Elizabeth Braddon in the 1860s and taken up by many others in the following decades was especially common. It regularly features bigamous marriages, misdirected letters, romantic triangles, heroines placed in physical danger, characters in disguise, and aristocratic villains. Such novels offer much more than an escape at the end of a workweek, and they may be analyzed as social fiction of particular importance to downmarket readers. It seems likely that the incorporation of entertaining literature also played a key role in maintaining readership or attracting new readers. Although the earlier Ontario Workman (Toronto, 1872-75) serialized a long work of working-class fiction, The Trades Journal was different in that the fiction was not directly or obviously labour related. Perhaps this strategy contributed to the relative longevity of The Trades Journal. Regardless, it was a strategy that other labour papers in the 1880s and later, including The Palladium of Labor (Hamilton, 1883-86), The Labor Advocate (Toronto, 1890-91), and The Western Clarion (Vancouver, 1903-25), would experiment with.

Full Text (samples)




Source: The Trades Journal. Spring Hill, 1880-91. Microfilm. Find It.

Note: The format of The Trades Journal (e.g. number of columns, banner, ordering) changed over the course of more than 10 years of publication. The three sample issues provided reflect some but not all such changes.

Image Gallery

In the issues I have seen, The Trades Journal does not include images.


[i] For a more detailed description of the history, format, and politics of The Trades Journal, see Ron Verzuh, “A Maritime Miners’ Friend,” Radical Rag: The Pioneer Labour Press in Canada (Ottawa: Steel Rail, 1988), 35-46.