Safe Passage: Aids to Navigation on the St. Lawrence

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Introduction

François Cartier, McCord Museum, 2003

Quintessential symbols of the romance of the sea, solitary guardians of our coasts, towers standing firm against salt-bearing winds -- lighthouses have always captured our imagination. Whether depicted in popular art or in written accounts of tragic shipwrecks and heroic battles against cruel seas, lighthouses are objects of curiosity and fascination.

Yet hidden behind the idyllic image lies a practical reality. Lighthouses and a whole range of navigation aids are designed to facilitate the transporting of people and goods by water. Long before the advent of trains and automobiles, sailing ships and later steamboats were the main means of transportation. In the 19th century, they carried many thousands of immigrants inland to the heart of this country-Canada-and many millions of bushels of Western grain on the way to European markets. Ships were an essential mode of transportation in Canada, and one of the keys to its future economic growth.