Montreal Winter Carnival, February, 1884


In the late 19th century, the Montreal Winter Carnival changed the way winter was perceived in Quebec. It sought to attract visitors to the city in the heart of the winter, a season they had otherwise avoided. From 1883 to 1889, five such carnivals were organized. A smallpox epidemic caused a break in 1886 and the withdrawal of financing by the train companies caused a cancellation in 1888. Highly publicized, the carnival was attended by a large number of American tourists. Special trains were even chartered for the event. Discount train tickets were also offered. Many of the organizers of the carnival were recruited from among the members of various Montreal clubs, such as the Montreal Snow Shoe Club. Carnival activities included balls, masquerades, parades, shows, hockey, skiing, toboggan rides, curling, jousting, horseback riding, sleigh or snowshoe races, and speed skating. The Montreal winter carnivals gave rise to a wide variety of print productions: newspaper articles, greeting cards, postcards, programs, guides, and posters. This chromolithograph shows snowshoers in a torchlight procession down Mount Royal, the hill located in the center of the city. The Ice Palace was a fundamental part of the Montreal carnivals. Its height, architecture, and fantastic appearance amazed onlookers. Indeed, one of the highlights of the carnival was the attack on the palace by the clubs of snowshoers. As a leading symbol of the event, the Ice Palace is represented on almost all the printed productions about the carnival. In this picture, the palace is adorned with mica crystals to simulate the ice. The ice palaces of 1883, 1884, 1885, 1887, and probably 1889 were designed by leading architect Alexander Cowper Hutchinson and built at least in 1883 by his brother J.H. Hutchinson.

Last updated: June 19, 2017