Tag Archives: Police

The crowded sidewalks of St. John’s

Archival Moments

15 May 1879

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John's, looking east.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives. A -2-35. Water Street, St. John’s, looking east.

On May 15, 1879 the Colonial Government of Newfoundland declared that they had had enough of the businessmen on Water Street obstructing the natural flow of pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks of the historic street. It appears that the businessmen were hindering traffic by placing their wares in “boxes, barrels, and packages”   on the sidewalks.

To show that they saw this as a very serious matter, constables dragged before the Police Court in St. John’s “forty two (42) representatives of the business houses on Water Street.” The parade of businessmen to the Police Court included according to the local St. John’s newspaper, The Evening Telegram, “men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country.”

The Telegram continued:

“It was certainly unique to see so many of our leading civilians arraigned at the bar of justice, and we must confess that our feelings were truly indescribable when we entered the court room and glanced around.”

The Evening Telegram reporter seemed to be enjoying the spectacle observing with some embellishment that:

“There they were, men in the highest social and commercial positions in the country, philanthropists, merchant princes and politicians of the first order; constrained by the omnipotent mandate of the presiding genius of the magisterial bureau. In short they were there on a charge of violation of the following the Municipal Regulations Act.”

The particular act that they were dragged before the courts to answer too was the regulation or act that read:

“Any person who shall place or deposit on any sidewalk in any of the said places, except in transit, any boxes, barrels, packages, or any other matter or thing, so as to obstruct free passage on the said side walk, shall for very offence forfeit and pay a sum not exceeding twenty five dollars.”

Water Street, St. John’s was the hub of the cultural, social and economic activity in St. John’s in the 18th – 20th century.

In 1877, just two years before this mass arrest of the business leaders of St. John’s, Rochfort’s Business Directory, the “Business and General Directory Containing Classified Lists of Business Men of St. John’s” gave a detailed listing of all trades on Water Street and reported that there were on the historic street many different kinds of enterprises.

Some of the businesses on the historic street included: 3 Photographic studios, 8 Auctioneering houses, 4 Bakeries, 2 Blacksmiths, 3 Boarding houses, 15 Boot and Shoe Makers, 15 Butcher Shops, 3 China and Glassware Dealers, 4 Confectioners, 2 Coopers, 2 Dentists, 1 Distiller, 28 Drapers, 2 Engineers, 2 Furniture Dealers, 31 Grocers, 3 Hairdressers, 3 Harness Makers, 11 Hardware Dealers, 2 Hotels, 2 Joiners, 3 Leatherware Dealers, 4 Lumber Merchants, 32 General Merchants, 6 Millinery, I Painter, 2 Plumbers, 2 Pump and Lock Makers, 6 Stationers, 1 Stonemason, 19 Tailors, 7 Tin, Sheet and Iron and Copper Workers, 8 Watchmakers, and 50 Wine and Spirit Retail Stores.

With so many businesses being located on Water Street vying for the attention of the same customers it was not surprising that they should position their products on the sidewalks to try and lore customers into their shops!!

Do you have any problems navigating the sidewalks in St. John’s?

Recommended Archival Collection: City and Town Directories held in archives give incredible insights into the business life of Newfoundland communities. A few of the directories that should be consulted when doing research are Hutchinson’s Directory of Newfoundland (1864); Lovell’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); McAlpine’s Directory for Newfoundland (1871); and Rochfort’s Directory of Newfoundland (1877).

Recommended Museum Exhibit: At the Rooms: Here, We Made a Home The Elinor Gill Ratcliffe Gallery – Level 4.

RNC Officers Carry Guns


April 3, 1998

Royal-Newfoundland-Constabulary-HP-QC-frontThe Newfoundland legislature authorized officers of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary to carry sidearm’s on April 3, 1998 ending this provinces status as the only unarmed police force in Canada.   Previously, members of the force kept their weapons in a  locked compartment in their police vehicle.

The Justice Minister of the day Chris Decker made the announcement in the Legislature.

On 2 December 1997, a Select Committee of the House of Assembly was appointed to enquire into the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and report its findings to the House of Assembly by 31 March 1998. The Select Committee conducted research, viewed presentations by interested parties and held public hearings.

The Committee tabled its report to the House of Assembly on 31 March 1999 which recommended that the arming policy of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary be amended to permit its members on operational duty to wear sidearms as part of their regular uniform.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary has the deepest roots of any police force in Canada and possibly North America. These roots date back to 1729 when Newfoundland’s first Governor, Captain Henry Osborn of the Royal Navy, created six separate judicial districts each with justices and constables.

Recommended Reading: Browne, G. (2008) To Serve and Protect: The Newfoundland Constabulary on the Home Front World War Two.St. Johns: DRC Publishing.

Recommended Website:  RNC Historical Society:   http://www.rnchs.ca/history.html




December 15, 1980

June Layden, Royal Newfoundland Constabulary

On this day December 15, 1980 the first female members of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary were sworn in.

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary (RNC) is the oldest police force in Canada, which has roots dating to 1729, and was reorganized in 1871 to become the Newfoundland Constabulary. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II bestowed the prefix “Royal” on the Newfoundland Constabulary in 1979 in recognition of its proud history in this Province. The present day RNC is Newfoundland and Labrador’s Provincial Police Force. Prior to this Province joining Canadian 1949 the RNC was the National Police Force of the Dominion of Newfoundland.

In that first class was June Layden who  held every rank possible in the RNC’s Street Patrol Division, including constable, media relations officer and platoon commander. On Jan. 22, 2009 she made history when she became the first female RNC officer to become a superintendent.

Photo Credit: The Rooms, Provincial Archives Division: A 12-162, Motorcycle Division [ca 1947

Of the approximately  400 RNC Officers in the province in 2915,  300 were male (74.35%)  and 109 were female (25.65%).

Recommended Web site: http://www.rnchs.ca/   The mission of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Historical Society is to stimulate and encourage the commemoration of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary in its customs, traditions and affiliations and to appropriately honour and preserve their legacy for future generations

Recommended Reading:  Kenney, P. & Wentzell, S. (1991) Policing in Newfoundland, in The Newfoundland Quarterly, Vol. LXXXVI, No. 3, April 1991, pp. 42-43.