OTD: Frontenac makes maiden commercial voyage to present-day Toronto

On today’s date in 1817, the steamboat Frontenac made its maiden commercial voyage to the town of York (present-day Toronto) from Prescott, Ont.

The Frontenac was built at Finkle’s Point, near Ernestown, Ont., nearly 30 kilometres north of Kingston, according to James Croil’s 1898 book Steam Navigation. It was built by U.S. contractors Teabout and Chapman, of Sacketts Harbour, N.Y., for a company of Canadian shareholders at a cost of nearly ₤20,000.

In September 1816, it became the first paddle steamer to launch on the Great Lakes. Following its maiden commercial voyage less than a year later, the Frontenac – designed to carry passengers as well as freight – earned a reputation as an easy way to travel and send shipments to and from Kingston and York.

Despite the Frontenac’s popularity, shipping technology progressed to the point of rendering the Frontenac obsolete within a decade. In 1825, it was sold for ₤1,550 to John Hamilton, who in turn sold it for scrap in 1827.

The Frontenac was “maliciously set on fire by some miscreants while lying at her wharf at Niagara in 1827, and was totally destroyed,” Croil wrote.


In 1991, the Royal Canadian Mint marked the 175th anniversary of the Frontenac’s maiden voyage with a silver dollar.

With a mintage of 222,892 pieces, a weight of 23.3 grams and a diameter of 36.07 millimetres, the coin depicts the Frontenac with two masts behind a small island, which holds two fishing men above the dates and word “1816 / FRONTENAC / 1991.”

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