When the Iowa Press Association met in Cedar Rapids on Tuesday, June 18, 1879, several editors presented talks to the membership. J.G. Shannon, of the Elkader Journal, captivated the audience with his talk titled “Professional Obligations;” Matt Parrott from the Waterloo Reporter shared his thoughts in a speech titled “Legal Advertising;” and D.M. Baker of the Chariton Leader spoke about “Independence in Journalism.” As engaging as those topics were for the newspaper organization’s members, they were undoubtedly distracted by thoughts of their upcoming adventure which began the next day.
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The Iowa group left the following morning on the Burlington, Cedar Rapids and Northern Railway for St. Paul, Minn., for a ten-day visit to Canada. The 92 excursionists spent a couple days touring in Minnesota, including Fort Snelling, where they were entertained with a concert; and then the Iowans traveled by carriage to St. Paul for a tour of the State House. Next day the group boarded the St. Paul & Pacific Railroad to begin their trek to Canada.
“It needs a trip away from home occasionally to make us realize the real greatness of our country,” W.H. Hartman of the Waterloo Courier wrote about the sights of northern Minnesota. As the train neared the border, hail pelted the windows and roof of the train; but the visitors were warmed by a welcoming message in the Winnipeg Daily Times: “We take great pleasure in extending a cordial welcome…to the members of the Iowa Press Association…”
After a welcome speech from the mayor the Iowans enjoyed a jaunt on a steamer, the Manitoba, joined by editors from Winnipeg newspapers. A trader from the northern reaches of Canada was in Winnipeg selling his 16 cartloads of furs and visited the Iowa journalists on their train. It was a treat for the man as he had never seen the interior of a train car. The Iowans attended church at St. John’s Cathedral, welcomed by the minister, who expressed his pleasure that the visitors had respected the Sabbath by seeking out a place of worship.
The visiting newspaper men and women were told Winnipeg had grown from a population of 700 in 1871 to nearly 10,000 in 1879. Local businesses boasted annual budgets of as much as $250,000. The Winnipeg headquarters of the Hudson Bay Company brought merchants from all over the world to purchase furs. And local officials informed the Iowans of the Red River cart used in the area to transport furs. The all-wood wagon with two very large wheels and pulled by oxen carried up to 800 pounds of furs. Winnipeg had become a center of flour, grain and lumber production over the years. And potato growers produced about 275 bushels from a quarter acre of land.
Iowa Secretary of State John Hull was a member of the group and offered his remarks at a dinner. He said the Iowans had found a “kindred people” in the Canadians; following the applause, the secretary invited the Canadians to visit Iowa.
After a trip to the town of Selkirk, accessed by rail and tug boat, the Iowans concluded their Canada visit, heading back to the United States by train. All agreed it was a pleasant trip and hoped to do it again the following year.
- “Editors Abroad,” Courier (Waterloo, Iowa), July 2, 1879.
- “Hawkeyes Here,” Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada), June 23, 1879.
- No title. Sioux City Journal, June 18, 1879.