Posted by: Cornwall Community Museum | April 4, 2014

Artifact of the week, St. Lawrence Seaway, Cornwall/Massena.

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With this season’s opening of navigation on the St. Lawrence Seaway, I thought it would be interesting to mark the event with Seaway related artifacts.

The building of the Seaway was the realization of a dream that goes back to the exploration of the New World by Europeans looking for a short cut to the Orient.  They didn’t find the Orient, but instead found a continent already inhabited, which they named North America.

The construction helmets shown above were worn by two politicians involved with the Seaway.  The white helmet on the left was worn by the Honourable Lionel Chevrier, perhaps the Canadian politician most responsible for the Seaway, first as M.P. for Cornwall and then as Minister of Transport and finally as the first President of the St. Lawrence Seaway Authority.  The helmet on the right was worn by Cornwall Mayor L.G. “Archie” Lavigne.


Canadian Prime Minister Louis St. Laurent (on the left), New York Governor Dewey and Ontario Premier Leslie Frost turn the first sod, August 10, 1954, just west of Cornwall, symbolically starting work on the St. Lawrence Seaway and Ontario Hydro Power Project.

seaway0004St. Lawrence Seaway Authority President Lionel Chevrier, centre showing officials plans for the St. Lawrence Seaway and Ontario Hydro Project.


The project became an international tourist attraction.  Students are pictured here visiting the construction site  during the summer of 1957.

seaway0001The American and Canadian commemorative stamps issued for the official opening of the Seaway.

It is estimated that over one million people visited the construction site and completed project.  For many entrepreneurs this meant that there was a ripe souvenir market to feed.  And feed it they did with hundreds of souvenirs.  One of my favourites is this porcelain salt and pepper shaker depicting the Eisenhower Locks on the American side of the Seaway.

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A Royal visit or two is always good for tourism and the souvenir hunter, this cake plate was made in 1959 by “Aynsley” England to commemorate the 1959 opening of the Seaway by Queen Elizabeth II.

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If you were a souvenir collector you could have your cake and eat sweets with it too, with this candy tin marking the Royal couple’s presence.

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Or how about bone china a business card plate, by Paragon for your collection?

Souvenirs ranged from plates, to tumblers, to beer tankards, to jewellery to postcards, buttons and pins and much in between.  This is just a very small sample of the collection at the Cornwall Community Museum.

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Along with commercial souvenirs, the Seaway Authority and Canada Post did not miss the opportunity to mark both the 25th and 50th anniversaries of the opening of the Seaway.  They even produced a 50th anniversary Christmas tree ornament.









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