First wave of BC Sugar records now available

The City of Vancouver Archives is pleased to announce the public release of the first batch of records from the British Columbia Sugar Refining Company fonds (BC Sugar), donated to the Archives in 2011 by Lantic Inc.

The records of BC Sugar document the activities of Vancouver’s first large-scale industrial operation that was not a sawmill or related to the railways. The company continues to operate its historic refinery on Vancouver’s waterfront to this day.

Fire insurance plan of the British Columbia Sugar Refining Co. Ld. Vancouver B.C., May 1899, Chas E. Goad. Reference code: AM1572-S8-: 2011-092.0113

Fire insurance plan of the British Columbia Sugar Refining Co. Ld. Vancouver B.C., May 1899, Chas E. Goad. Reference code: AM1572-S8-: 2011-092.0113.

This first release (of three) focuses on the core business records of the company and its subsidiaries, and includes records that cover a wide variety of BC Sugar’s activities, such as:

  • the formation of the company in 1890 and that of its holding company (BC Sugar Refinery, Ltd.) in 1899;
  • Board of Directors and Annual General Meeting minutes until 1920;
  • correspondence series from various Presidents and Vice-Presidents
  • the foundation or acquisition and operations of subsidiaries in Manitoba, Fiji and the Dominican Republic;
  • Vancouver refinery operations;
  • international sugar trading;
  • research on beet sugar cultivation and refining;
  • promoting sugar use by Canadians;
  • managing the company’s facilities, both in Canada and overseas;
  • industrial relations with its employees, including records on the 1917 strike at the Vancouver refinery;
  • relations with shareholders;
  • company finances, including both public and private financial records;
  • relations with other sugar companies; and
  • how the company interacted with the federal, provincial and Vancouver governments, including records relating to the federal government’s Combines Act investigation of BC Sugar in the late 1950s.
First two pages of the Minutes of the first Board Meeting of the British Columbia Sugar Refining Company, Limited, April 11, 1890. Reference code AM1592-S1-2-F1.

First two pages of the Minutes of the first Board Meeting of the British Columbia Sugar Refining Company, Limited, April 11, 1890. Reference code AM1592-S1-2-F1.

Detail from the first page of the meeting above, reference code AM1592-S1-2-F1.

Detail from the first page of the meeting above, reference code AM1592-S1-2-F1.

The records provide insight into the operations and management of a company that was one of Vancouver’s most important employers from the late 19th to the mid-20th centuries, and how the company extended its reach across Western Canada and across the world.

Unexpected finds in this first release of records include records that document the growing and harvesting of sugar cane and beets, engineering drawings of refinery machinery, and historical publications on sugar production.

When BC Sugar acquired the Ozama sugar plantation and factory in the Dominican Republic in 1944, managers from Vancouver made a number of trips to investigate operations there. The fonds includes hundreds of photographs from these trips, made between 1944 and 1949, which document sugar cane production and harvesting, Ozama fields and factory, and the living environment for managers and plantation workers. The following photo depicts a tug boat that was used to travel through the district where the Ozama cane fields were located.

Tug Acadia. Reference code AM1592-S17-: 2011-092.6646.

Tug Acadia. Reference code AM1592-S17-: 2011-092.6646.

The fonds includes a large number of engineering drawings of refinery equipment for various mills and refineries operated by BC Sugar and its subsidiaries.

Apparatus for evaporation of beet juices in beet sugar manufacture, “General Arrangement of Quadruple Effet 10,000 [square foot] H.S.”, The Mirrlees Watson Company Limited, 1905 (copied 197-?). Reference code: AM1592-S17-: 2011-092.6747.

Apparatus for evaporation of beet juices in beet sugar manufacture, “General Arrangement of Quadruple Effet 10,000 [square foot] H.S.”, The Mirrlees Watson Company Limited, 1905 (copied 197-?). Reference code: AM1592-S17-: 2011-092.6747.

The company collected publications on the history of sugar production and refining, including this 17th century book on the history of Barbados, which includes a section on early sugar production on the island.

A true and exact history of the Island of Barbados, Richard Ligon, 1657. Reference code: AM1592-S22-F12.

A true and exact history of the Island of Barbados, Richard Ligon, 1657. Reference code: AM1592-S22-F12.

Over the course of the year, two more releases of BC Sugar records will occur, including the records of Canadian Sugar Factories, BC Sugar’s Alberta subsidiary, as well as the collection of the BC Sugar Museum, including its extensive photographic holdings. Stay tuned for further information!

The City of Vancouver Archives would like to thank Lantic Inc. for its financial support for the archival processing of the BC Sugar fonds, which has made it possible for the Archives to make these records available to the public at this time.

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