1869: The Montreal Star & Other Quebec Curios

Part of “The Road to Canada”, 1864-1899

Front page of Front page of "The Evening Star", January 1869. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

A chance partnership at The Montreal Gazette of two men sparked the idea of a satirical magazine that eventually paved the way for the popular anglophone newspapers that dominated the noon day papers in Montreal during the twentieth century. It started with a meeting between Hugh Graham, at the time a writing clerk for The Gazette and George Lanigan, the newspaper’s sports editor. The two men initially founded a satirical magazine that initially landed Graham into some financial difficulties, but the sense of partnership that had developed between them made them turn towards their first serious publication: the Montreal Evening Star.

Things didn’t end well, and Graham and Lanigan parted ways a few years after the newspaper in 1872 after Lanigan wanted the paper to promote annexation of Canada to the United States. To bolster the newspaper’s finances, Graham turned to a sensationalist format, attempting to expose corrupt politicians and using snappy headlines to attract readers. The Montreal Evening Star had a daily and a weekly paper; the daily was published at noontime at the cost of one cent per day, while the weekly had impressive out-of-province and out-of-Montréal readership, selling a year’s subscription for only one dollar. The paper changed names in 1877 to The Montreal Daily Star, which became colloquially known as The Star or The Montreal Star to frequent readers. It was one of the first newspapers to send reporters on location to the source of the news; in The Star’s case, it was covering the rebellions in the Western provinces implicating Louis Riel.

By the beginning of the twentieth century, under Graham’s leadership, The Montreal Star almost had a monopoly on anglophone newspapers. Politically speaking, it favoured Macdonald’s conservatism, supported Camilien Houde’s candidature for mayorship of Montreal, and slowly came to appreciate the Duplessis government during the twentieth century. Graham sold the newspaper to John W. McConnell in 1925 but would remain at its head until his death. After a long period of strikes in the late 1970s and insufficient funding abilities, The Montreal Star folded in 1979, with its last edition appearing on September 25. For a newspaper whose roots started just shortly after Confederation and whose articles served as a means of communication of events and issues from the debate on vaccinations to the Second World War, it was a momentous day.