Historical Context


Ice Races in Hamilton (Burant, 2013)

The yellow ribbon pictured on the first page of this exhibit can tell us more about Ontario's history than meets the eye. Ice racing, now a distant memory, was once a popular winter event and can help explain inter-city and national relations on a recreational level.

This winter pastime, clearly a great idea for the icy Canadian landscape, eventually gained so much popularity that in 1910 the Canadian government had to take regulatory action. They decided to ban bookmakers and restrict betting on horses to designated race tracks (Elder, 2014). This resulted in a decline of popularity of these events and eventually their disappearance. This unfortunate end to the events is an interesting demonstration of the government’s power over citizens especially in a pre-war society.

There are records of ice racing all over Ontario and even in the US contained in the Globe and Mail publications, which indicates that the annual circuit of meets could have played a significant role in building relations among Canadians and between Canadians and Americans through leisure (The Globe and Mail, 1896). These kinds of friendly relationships among cities may have helped strengthen the country and continent which was vital so close to the beginning of World War One (WW1).

Speaking of WW1, the ties this ribbon has to Berlin, Ontario are a reminder of the issues even Canadians faced during and after the war. The name ‘Berlin’ has been lost through the years (perhaps on purpose) and it is safe to say that most the younger generations are unaware that Kitchener ever went by a different name. They are similarly uninformed of the anti-German sentiment that existed at the time even in Canada (Kitchener, 2016). The name change from Berlin to Kitchener was controversial and can be associated with the fear and discrimination that the war brought upon the world (Kitchener, 2016). These parts of history are ones that should not be erased in hopes of them never being repeated.