Freshwater Heritage: A History of Sail on the Great Lakes, 1670-1918

By Mellon, Hugh | British Journal of Canadian Studies, May 2009 | Go to article overview

Freshwater Heritage: A History of Sail on the Great Lakes, 1670-1918


Mellon, Hugh, British Journal of Canadian Studies


Don Bamford, Freshwater Heritage: A History of Sail on the Great Lakes, 1670-1918 (Toronto: Natural Heritage Books/Dundurn Press, 2007), xviii + 300pp. Paper. $34.95. ISBN 978-1-8970-4520-6.

In an age of computers and rapid communication across the globe, it is all too easy to forget the earlier age of sail. Don Bamford offers an engaging reminder of this historic period and the colourful stories of shipping on the Great Lakes. This is a fun read with plenty of adventures and memories of notable Lake travellers of days gone by. There is also a plentiful supply of pictures, prints and drawings, calling to mind the bygone age and its multitude of assorted vessels. Bamford does much to remind readers of the exploits and the challenges posed by travel in early ships encountering rough seas. Anyone with a general interest in the Great Lakes, sailing ships or early Canadian-American relations will find much that is of interest.

The writing style is clear and straightforward, offering a pleasant read for interested armchair historians or prospective sailors. The book is divided into four parts. The first covers the time of French domination (1678-1760), while the second takes up the story with the British ascendancy during the years from 1760 until the end of the War of 1812. Part three deals with early shipbuilding, while the final part surveys various aspects of commercial Lake activity until the early 1900s. This last section deals with sailing and the fur, fishing, and timber trades. …

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