Nanaimo’s Mining History, an Era of Prosperity and Romance

December 15th, 2016

Following the discovery of coal in the late 19th century, Nanaimo became a land of opportunity virtually overnight, marked by prosperity and wealth despite being a predominantly blue collar industry. For decades, the mines employed thousands of people and mine owners became some of the province’s wealthiest people. And a surplus of jobs meant an influx of workers from all over the world, including workers from England, China, Italy, and Croatia, to name a few. At this time there was also a strong tie to the British monarchy, and as such, the traditions of the late Victorian era took their hold on Nanaimo. Opulent architecture and fashion, an emphasis on technology and science, and an overall romanticism found its way to the bustling streets of the Harbour City.

As a mining town, Nanaimo had a very large population of transient single men. While typically these men boarded at downtown hotels, many of them wanted to use their newfound wealth and settle down permanently in the area and start a family. One common activity for men who were courting a lady was to take their sweethearts to the mines for a romantic outing, as shown in this ad campaign for a mine from 1905. Although it was an unlikely match, the mining industry and the romance of the Victorian era went hand in hand.

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