The man who helped elec­trify Quebec

The Canadian Jewish News (Toronto) - - News - — MATTHEW GINDIN

ni­ture was con­fis­cated for fail­ure to pay the rent for his liv­ing quar­ters. On Feb. 25, 1880, his at­tor­neys ar­gued that the premises were un­healthy and had been so de­clared by “the City In­spec­tor, who, af­ter ex­am­in­ing the afore­said house, con­demned it as un­in­hab­it­able and or­dered the de­fen­dant and his fam­ily to move out at once.”

At some point, Mohr jumped into the tele­graph business and in 1876, he gained an ex­clu­sive, seven-year con­tract to pro­mote the tele­graph in Quebec City.

Mohr be­gan pro­mot­ing the tele­phone in Quebec amidst an at­mos­phere of keen com­pe­ti­tion. Alexan­der Gra­ham Bell had ac­cepted an of­fer to buy his in­ven­tion in March 1880 from Na­tional Bell Tele­phone of Bos­ton, which hastily set up a Cana­dian com­pany. The Bell Tele­phone Com­pany of Canada bought the Do­min­ion Tele­graph Com­pany, which by then Mohr had be­come an agent of. Thus, he be­came an agent for the Bell Tele­phone Com­pany of Canada. Mohr in­creased the num­ber of sub­scribers from 79 to 240 in six months.

When it came to in­stalling poles, Mohr found him­self at the cen­tre of a storm of con­tro­versy, caused by the re­sis­tance of many to the clut­ter­ing of Quebec’s nar­row streets. On nu­mer­ous oc­ca­sions, he had to go back to city coun­cil and he was taken to court by James Car­rell, the owner of the Daily Tele­graph. A com­plex le­gal bat­tle en­sued and var­i­ous gov­ern­ments be­came in­volved, in re­gard to con­nec­tions that were in­ter­provin­cial or in­ter­na­tional.

As soon as the trial was over, Mohr ob­tained per­mis­sion to in­stall a tele­phone cable be­tween Quebec City and Lévis, Que., on con­di­tion that he find 10 en­ter­prises will­ing to sub­scribe for $100 a year, an ob­jec­tive Mohr reached soon af­ter. His in­ter­est then turned to­wards other ap­pli­ca­tions of elec­tric­ity.

On Sept. 29, 1885, Mohr be­came a lo­cal leg­end. Ac­cord­ing to Le Cana­dien, “The great elec­tric light ex­hi­bi­tion, so im­pa­tiently awaited, took place last night.… Mohr, the ac­tive and in­tel­li­gent manager (of the) Com­pag­nie de Lu­mière Élec­trique de Québec et Lévis has suc­ceeded be­yond all ex­pec­ta­tions” in trans­port­ing the “fluid” to the “34 cen­tres of light” set up on the ter­race. On a sig­nal given by lieu­tenant gover­nor Louis-françois-ro­drigue Mas­son “by means of an elec­tric bell (the) ap­pear­ance of the ter­race was trans­formed as if by a magic wand.”

Af­ter two days of demon­stra­tions, Mohr made his light show more com­pli­cated by cut­ting off the cur­rent and restor­ing it an in­stant later. The crowd went wild. The peo­ple de­manded elec­tric­ity. For a week, Mohr would re­peat his feat of trans­port­ing the “fluid” over a dis­tance of 34 miles.

In Novem­ber 1893, a storm dam­aged the power line link­ing Quebec City and Mont­morency Falls and Mohr set to re­pair the dam­age in bad weather. He caught a se­ri­ous case of in­fluenza, which rapidly be­came worse and brought about his death on Dec. 15, 1893.

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