Hidden treasures: The punch bowl that tells the story of Montreal's first department store

For Montreal's 375th anniversary, we're showing you rarely seen gems that tell the story of the city. Here, a punch bowl that shows the birth of downtown.

Discover some rarely seen gems from the city's past for Montreal's 375th anniversary

(McCord Museum)

To mark Montreal's 375th anniversary, curators from Montreal museums show us some of their favourite items hidden in their archives. This is the latest installment in an ongoing series.

Want to know the story behind the opening of Montreal's first department store? Look in the punch bowl.

Henry Morgan arrived in the city in 1844 and, soon after, opened a dry goods store on Notre-Dame Street, in what was then its bustling commercial centre.

Over the next decades, Morgan's store did so well, he decided to open a department store a little further north, on Ste-Catherine Street.

"At that time, on Ste-Catherine Street, we're talking about the 1890s, there was not much large commercial activities up there," said Louise Pothier, a curator and archaeologist at Pointe-à-Callière Museum.

"He built a huge building at that time in Montreal. His store on Ste-Catherine was compared to the Louvre in Paris, so nothing but the best ... I think it was so spectacular at that time for Montreal that it was celebrated as a very important event in history."

Built in 1891, that building still exists today, owned by the company who bought Morgan's department store: the Hudson's Bay Company 

Punch bowl commemorates 100 years

The punch bowl was made to celebrate Morgan's 100th year anniversary.

Its design shows the changes to the city over those 100 years and the history of the vibrant city. 

The department store wanted to highlight the city's bilingual nature by including portraits of Jean Baptiste and John Bull — an imaginary figure meant to personify the spirit of the United Kingdom, much like Uncle Sam in the United States.

This punch bowl commemorates the 100th anniversary of Morgan's department store. 0:30

One side of the bowl shows the view from Mount Royal down onto the city in 1945, including skyscrapers that were beginning to go up. The other shows the view from Île Sainte-Hélène across the St. Lawrence River in 1845.