Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:
July 2005

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


History of the Introduction of the

Use of Gas in Canada


Gas Industry. The use of gas for light, and later for heat, took place much earlier in Europe and in the United States than in Canada. It was a Flemish chemist who first discovered gas in the sixteenth century; and it was another Flemish chemist who, at the University of Louvain in 1784, demonstrated that gas distilled from coal could be lighted. It was, however, an English engineer, William Murdoch, who first developed the gas industry along practical lines, between 1792 and 1806; and it was an Anglicized German, Frederic Albert Winsor, who later made it a commercial success. By 1829 over 200 gas works had been established in England. In the United States, the first gas company was organized in Baltimore in 1816; and this was followed by the organization of companies in Boston in 1821 and in New York in 1823. The first place in Canada where gas was introduced was Montreal. Here Albert Furniss established a gas works in 1840. The following year he built a gas works in Toronto, mainly for street lighting.


Halifax was first supplied with gas in 1843, Quebec in 1849, Kingston in 1850, Hamilton in 1851, and Brockville in 1853. In these early days, the cost of gas illumination militated against its widespread use, especially in private houses; but the discovery of the Bunsen burner in 1855 reduced its cost, and made possible also the use of gas as a heating and cooking agent. The introduction of coal oil for illumination provided gas with a serious competitor; and the advent of hydro-electric energy at the end of the nineteenth century heralded the virtual eclipse of gas illumination, except in districts where electricity was not available, or natural gas was available at cheap rates. But for heating and cooking purposes, gas has generally held its own against electricity. An interesting illustration of the history of the gas industry in Canada is to be found in the history of the Consumers' Gas Company of Toronto, which has issued a volume commemorating its seventy-fifth birthday, edited by J. Tucker (Toronto, 1923).

Source  : W. Stewart WALLACE, ed., The Encyclopedia of Canada, Vol. III, Toronto, University Associates of Canada, 1948, 396p., p. 11. 


© 2005 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College