Amassing Power

Amassing Power: J.B. Duke and the Saguenay River, 1897-1927

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    Amassing Power
    Book Description:

    The damming of the Saguenay brought industrialisation on a grand scale to rural Quebec in the form of newsprint and aluminum manufacture. Tapping into rich and diverse sources in Canada, the United States, and Europe, Massell provides an interdisciplinary, cross-border study of American capital and Canadian resources. He shows us how ever-larger amounts of capital yielded increasingly massive and sophisticated applications of hydroelectric technology. Grand industrial plans, in turn, encroached upon provincial water rights and farmers' lands, which drew the attention of the state. He examines the protracted power struggle between public and private interests - between American capitalists and the nascent bureaucracy of the province of Quebec - and describes the origins and evolution of the events that led to state control over hydraulic resources in the province. In doing so he provides vivid portraits of Duke and of Quebec politicians of the period and gives a dramatic account of the protracted battle of wits between Duke's chief engineer, William States Lee, and Quebec's chief of Hydraulic Service, Arthur Amos.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6831-0
    Subjects: Economics

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  4. Illustrations
    (pp. x-xxiii)
  5. Maps
    (pp. xxiv-2)
  6. Introduction: The Problem and Its Sources
    (pp. 3-16)

    Light snow fell softly onto the steep rooftops and into the narrow cobbled streets of Quebec City as some four hundred well-groomed members of the Quebec Commercial Travellers Club, representing French Canada’s merchant and professional elite, gathered for an evening’s gala in the main banquet hall of the Château Frontenac. Le Cercle des Voyageurs de Commerce, formed at the turn of the century and now numbering 635 persons, socialized several times annually at a concert, an excursion, or a supper, the proceeds donated to the urban poor. But on the night of Saturday, 9 December 1922 , this booster club...

  7. 1 The River Passes into Private Hands, 1897–1907
    (pp. 17-39)

    “I have the honor to apply for the grant of lot No. 21 /[Range] 1 Simard, Chicoutimi county, together with contiguous water-power known as Caron rapids,” wrote V.M. Martin of Chicoutimi to the Honorable Commissioner of Lands, Forests and Fisheries in September 1897, as “I intend to erect a saw mill there for the use of the settlers of the locality.”¹ A full quarter of a century before Premier Taschereau’s announcement at the Château Frontenac and commencement of the Saguenay’s development at Isle Maligne, the river’s industrial development had begun – or, at the very least, it was being contemplated. Before...

  8. 2 A Shift in Scale, 1909–1912
    (pp. 40-61)

    The period of 1909 to 1912 witnessed a flurry of development activity on behalf of the Saguenay River, even if little of it was evident in the Saguenay valley itself. Rather, it was at the Ottawa home of Thomas Willson, and just beyond the capital at his summer house at Meech Lake, that the inventor-entrepreneur, now encouraged by the prospect of investment in his Quebec waterpower, hatched additional schemes to jump-start the river’s development. “Carbide” Willson had travelled originally to the Saguenay in the 1890s in search of cheap power for electrochemical production. Ten years’ effort and a half-million dollars’...

  9. 3 J.B. Duke, Master Trader, 1912–1914
    (pp. 62-98)

    In September 1912, William Chisolm and Thomas Willson held an agreement to co-develop the powers of the lower Saguenay River for the production of acid phosphate, and both men sustained high hopes for the venture. For Willson, the accord represented the fruits of over a decade’s experimentation with electrochemical processes and the opportunity, at long last, to make a profitable return on his Quebec waterpowers. For Chisolm and the directors of the Interstate Chemical Corporation, the Saguenay project promised to transform their small company into a dominant player in the industry and to make them very rich men in the...

  10. 4 The Province Attempts to Keep Pace, 1910–1915
    (pp. 99-126)

    Scott’s confidence in a lake grant was terribly misplaced. Back in the winter of 1910 , hydroelectric consultant Joseph Wallace had recommended that Willson and William Mackenzie impound Lake St John to regularize the flow of the Saguenay River. Here, introduced for the first time into the historical record, was a shift in the scale of enterprise from the development of discrete power sites along the river’s length to the broader use of the watershed. And with Duke’s installation at the Saguenay by 1914, Wallace’s longer vision was adopted and supplemented by Duke’s engineer, Lee: to the expectations of storage...

  11. 5 Local Politics, Big Business, and an Intransigent State: The Fiasco of 1915–1916
    (pp. 127-148)

    Duke’s agents were not the only interested parties to what was acquiring the appearance, for Duke, of a political logjam. Several groups inside Quebec also took note of Amos’s decision to make a thorough study of Lake St John before conceding the Crown’s rights therein. Through the summer months of 1915, financiers and farmers, merchants and politicians joined the political fray, attempting either to remove the obstacle of government regulation and thus permit Duke’s project to proceed in its grandeur, or to hurl additional debris on the pile, further stalling the big works. Attentive to the competing demands, Amos nevertheless...

  12. 6 A Lake Grant Won, 1916–1922
    (pp. 149-170)

    In November 1920, his Canadian project dormant for over four years, J.B. Duke was accused by an embittered junior partner of having “abandoned” the venture altogether. Benjamin Scott claimed that Duke was now “endeavoring to dispose of [the company’s] assets” for the “exclusive benefit” of himself and his brother, “and so oust [Scott] from [a] very considerable interest in the said enterprise.”¹ Whether or not these charges rang true, Scott’s words revealed that not all was harmonious in the corporate ranks of the Quebec Development Company in the years following Du Pont’s withdrawal from the project and the collapse of...

  13. 7 The Balance of Power, 1923–1927
    (pp. 171-196)

    Duke’s exhaustive search for power customers led, as we know, to an amalgamation of his Saguenay properties with the Aluminum Company of America and the formation of a new corporate entity in which he held a substantial part. In this search he pursued a variety of options and enticed a number of potential partners in a pattern reminiscent of his prior dealings with associates in the long-running effort to turn the Saguenay’s potential into actuality. In the next pages we trace the story of the search for customers as the concluding chapter in Duke’s pursuit of power. This was not,...

  14. Conclusion: The Limits to American Investment
    (pp. 197-214)

    J.B. Duke and his American allies won out in the end. With Taschereau’s blessing, Duke won the long-sought authorization to impound Lake St John and resolved the crucial problems of water storage, regulated flow, and power supply for industrial production. With Price Brothers and the Aluminum Company of America assured as power customers by the mid-1920s, Duke had solved the related dilemma of sufficient industrial demand in a rural outland of North America. Three decades later the Saguenay Industrial Development Association proudly chronicled the region’s history. With Duke’s dam “a new industrial era dawned for the ancient ‘Kingdom of the...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 215-274)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 275-290)
  17. Index
    (pp. 291-301)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 302-302)