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Travel Back in Time

1900    Flash version      1 | 2 | 3


Monarch's Portrait
Artistic rendering of a black and white engraving of a young Queen Victoria

Black and white engraving of a young Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria, 1859. Engraving by W.H. Simmons from a painting by F. Winterhalter

A picture of the reigning British monarch hung in most schoolhouses in English Canada. In 1840, the monarch who greeted the students each day from her place on the wall was Queen Victoria. Her portrait would remain until her death in 1901. In fact, in some schoolhouses, the portraits remained unchanged for several years after a monarch died.

In French Canada, the monarch's portrait was uncommon. The Church was responsible for education and, in Catholic schools, a crucifix (a cross with a representation of Jesus) and religious images (such as a portrait of the Virgin Mary and the Sacred Heart) were commonplace.

English Canada: the English-speaking population living in British North America.

French Canada: the predominantly French-speaking, Catholic population living in Lower Canada (what is now Quebec), as well as various French-speaking communities in British North America. The English-speaking minority in Lower Canada was mainly Protestant.


The Canadian flag: Canada got its distinctive white and red maple leaf flag in 1965.

Artistic rendering of a Union Jack hanging on a schoolroom wall

In 1840, the Union Jack was the flag that occupied a place of honour at the front of the schoolroom in English Canada. An important symbol of patriotism to Britain and the Queen, the Union Jack was, and still is, the flag of the United Kingdom. The morning routine included standing to salute the flag and singing one or two national songs, followed by recitation of the "Lord's Prayer."

The Durham Report: a desire for political reform in British North America led to a report by Lord Durham in 1839. It stated that Upper Canada (what is now Ontario) and Lower Canada (what is now Quebec) should be united under one government and one flag: the Union Jack. It also recommended that the French-speaking population be absorbed by the English.

The choice of a flag in Lower Canada remained an unsettled question for some time after Britain took control of Canada in 1763. The flag of France was sometimes flown in Lower Canada until 1840, but it was soon replaced by the Union Jack as prescribed by a statement in the Durham Report. This was seen as one of the ways in which the French-speaking population might be brought into the British Empire, but many French Canadians viewed this as an insult to their distinct cultural and linguistic heritage.

Artistic rendering of a box stove

Very early schoolhouses were heated by a fireplace. Later, wood stoves were the only source of heat. Sometimes the stove was simply a metal barrel, placed on its side and fitted with metal pipes. Wood was occasionally supplied to the school by the students' parents as part of their school taxes.