A St. John’s horse went into hysterics

Archival Moment

Motor cars begin to displace horses

September 9, 1914

There was much excitement in St. John’s on September 9, 1914 with crowds gathering, all scrambling to get the best view of the first annual work horse parade that was ever held in the city. The parade held under the auspices of the Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and under the distinguished patronage of His Excellency the Governor and Lady Davidson took place and was described as “a decided success.”

Upwards of 130 horses were entered into the parade that looped past the post office along Water Street to McBride’s Hill, thence to Duckworth Street and up Cochrane Street to Government House grounds where the exhibition was held.

The parade was headed by the Salvation Army’s fine brass band that “presented a very attractive and novel sight, the horses being decorated with patriotic colours.”

For many the parade was seen as a distraction from the seriousness of the conversation about the ‘Great War’ that had been called a month earlier.

The local newspapers reported:

“Citizens from every point of vantage, viewed the procession as it wended its way to the exhibition grounds, (at Government House on Military Road) accompanied by an immense crowd of people who thronged the sidewalks and followed with admiration the long line of horses from different classes”

On the field at Government House the animals were taken to their allotted spaces and the judging was done by some of the leading citizens, the gentlemen and ladies of the town, including his Excellency and Lady Davidson, the Premier and Lady Morris.

Judges had to choose the best horses in a number of categories including; “Heavy Draft Horses”, won by “Ben” driven by J. Morrisey; the “Truck Horse” that had to driven and owned by truckmen was won by “Charlie ” owned by John Fowler;   “The Express and Delivery Horses” category was won by “Bruce”, owned by M. Fleming; “The Cab Horses”, category was won by “Stella” owned by   A. Symonds. There were also categories for farm horses, ponies and an old horse category.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) that was established in Newfoundland in November 1888 was always seeking new ways of bring attention to their cause.

Motor Car or Horse

The parade of horses was in September 1914 a success but because of the Great War (1914-1918) what may have been a grand tradition was interrupted after only one year.

The parade also stands as a symbolic divide between the old and the new. It was in 1914 that motor cars or automobiles began to take the place of the horse. The shift from horse to motor car was so evident in St. John’s that the Editor of the Twillingate Sun in July 1914 felt obliged to write an editorial about the phenomena.

The Editor noted that the first motor car had arrived in Twillingate owned by Mr. Ashbourne’s had brought with it:

“considerable criticism, and naturally there are some old folk who can see no use in such contraptions as automobiles. There are also the owners of horses who, unused to such things, easily see in an automobile a terrifying sight.”

The Twillingate man cautioned in 1914 that it was inevitable that the horse would be displaced by the motor car. He wrote:

“Now although horse owners, (with the exception of Mr. POND, whose horse Dick, regards automobiles with contempt and indifference,) have their kick, they are not the first. A St. John’s horse went into hysterics when the streetcars first started, and no doubt the cars were valiantly cussed by the drivers, but the horses got used to them, and ours will do the same. …..”

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Recommended Web Site: Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals: http://www.spcanl.com/