Written by Himself.
I was born in Harbor Hill, near Bandon, county Cork, Ireland, on the 4th Aug., 1810. At the age of nine I was taken to Bandon to be sent to school. For some time previously my good mother taught me the first steps in English. On arriving in Bandon, my mother arranged to send me to Mr. Patrick Dowd's school. The school hours in those days were from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., an hour being allowed for breakfast and an hour for dinner.
My father and mother, with 8 children, arrived in Montreal on 4th August, 1820, my tenth birthday. My father with his family were on a farm for about three years. On our return to Montreal from Maskinongé, in the fall, he rented a large field from Colonel Evans, at Cote-à-Baron. In August, 1823, I was walking on Notre Dame street. A boy, John Curran, an apprentice in a printing office, stopped me and asked : "Would you like to be a printer?" I said yes, without even knowing what a printer was. He took me to Mr. Edward Vernon Sparahawk's office on St Jean Baptiste street. The foreman, Mr. Enos Folsom, gave me a piece of copy, covered with Monks and Friars. I could not read it. My straw hat was under the frame, I picked it up, placed it in front of me. I saw that I could get to the back door without being noticed. Unfortunately -- I should say fortunately -- the gate leading to the street was ten feet high. I tried to climb it, but on reaching a certain height I fell backwards to the ground. From loss of blood I lay senseless. On being missed from the office Mr. Folsom sent Curran to find out what had become of me. He found me lying in my blood. He could not lift me. He then got one of the men to help him. I was carried into the office. The blood was wiped off. Cold water restored me to consciousness. Mr. Folsom asked me why I tried to leave. I told him that I could not read the copy he gave me; that I wanted to go home to my mother. He was a considerate, kind and good man. He said that he gave me the blurred copy to try how I could read it. Then he gave me a piece of well printed copy and he showed me how to set it. On finding that I scarcely knew a from b, he advised me to go to a night school; that he would help me in the office. So he did. Ever afterwards I looked on him as a kind friend. Four years ago he died in his native state -- Vermont -- aged 84.
In the course of time I became a fair compositor, a type setter. After being two years in Mr. Sparahawk's employ, he failed. He was the owner and editor of the Canadian Times, a weekly newspaper. The office was sold in 1825, to a number of Canadian gentlemen. They were the owners of the Canadian Spectator, then being printed by William Lane. It was the advocate of the then powerful Papineau party. It was edited by Mr. Jocelyn Waller, an able writer and a worthy Irishman. I remained in the office, Mr. Folsom being retained as foreman. In about six months the owners found the cost of carrying it on too great. They sent to Three Rivers for Mr. Ludger Duvernay, a fine specimen of a French Canadian. He bought the office. Unfortunately his means were slender, consequently his trials were burdensome. In 1826, several Canadian gentlemen induced Mr. Duvernay to begin a new paper -- La Minerve. It was ably edited by Mr. A.N. Morin.
When La Minerve was commenced Mr. Duvernay discharged Mr. Folsom. I remained with him as long as he paid me $1.75 per week, but his business was light. He had two newspapers to provide for with non-paying subscription lists and few advertisements. In 1827 I got a good offer from the foreman of the Montreal Gazette, which Mr. Duvernay allowed me to accept. The Gazette, now a flourishing paper, was then owned by Mr. Robert Armour, a wholesale woolen merchant, and a noble specimen of a Scotch gentleman. My engagement expired in 1831. Then I went to Quebec, where I worked on Parliamentary printing till July, 1832. As the Cholera was at its height there, in obedience to the urgent request of my good mother, I returned to Montreal, where I was made foreman of L'Ami du Peuple office. The Irish Advocate was printed in the same office. It was owned by a number of Irish gentlemen. In 1835 I bought it and commenced business on my own account. Ever since I have been at the head of a printing office.
In 1832 I joined the Montreal Cavalry. I was at the battle of St. Charles in 1837 and of St. Eustache in the winter of same year. I witnessed the destruction, by fire, of St. Benoit. Previous to the battle at St. Eustache I left the Montreal Cavalry and helped to form the Queen's Light Dragoons, and was made Paymaster Sergeant and appointed one of the orderlies to Sir John Colborne, who led the troops at St. Eustache. On my return to Montreal I was ordered to the Frontier, under Captain Walter Jones, M.D., a dashing soldier. I remained till the rebellion was ended.
I cheerfully apologise for referring to so many gentlemen. Their names always had and ever will have a revered place in my memory.
During six months of the rebellion I closed my office and saddled my horse for active service. Of course I had to discharge the hands employed. I felt for some of them, one in particular named Cinq-Mars. He had a wife and nine children depending on his earnings for subsistence. Several months after he was discharged he told me that his wife, his children and himself were in a state of starvation. He appealed to me to lend him the use of a small hand press and of a few cases of Long Primer type so that he might print a small sheet in French to sell for a half-penny. I consented upon getting a pledge that he would only print translations from the English newspapers (Martial law was then in force). I had a part of the office partitioned for a press and type. At that time I was on my way to the Frontier to pay our troop with money received from the Commissariat. Three days afterwards I received a message from a friend in Montreal, that my printing office was seized because I harbored rebels, and my material taken to the vaults in the Court House. On telling my Captain he graciously allowed me to return to Montreal. On my arrival I went to my office in St. Nicholas street. On going upstairs I was accosted by one of Colonel De Bleury's Carabiniers with a fixed bayonet, be saying: "Que veux tu?" I said: "Ceci est mon imprimerie." Without a moment's hesitation he said: "Sortez, vous avez encourage des rebelles." In an instant he thrust his bayonet at me. I went to Attorney General Ogden's office. I asked him why my office was seized and my effects taken to the vaults of the Court House, even to the files of auctioneers' bills and catalogues and of my ordinary job work. He boldly said that I had encouraged rebels, that I ought to be sent to prison. I said, "Arrest me, if you dare." My loyalty was rudely questioned by an unmanly man. On going out I met Colonel Wetherall at the door. He perceived that I was in a passion and kindly asked: "What's the matter, Lovell?" I told him. He felt that I was wronged. He knew of the daring service I rendered him the night before the battle of St. Charles. He urged me to return with him to the Attorney General, but I could not. I was distracted. I could not trust myself again in the presence of Mr. Ogden. During the afternoon I received an apology from the Attorney General. My printing material was at once returned to me, the Carabinieri were ordered to leave, and compensation offered, which I refused.
From the time of re-opening my office, In December, 1838, I printed and published numerous books, especially school books. For years I was the only school book publisher in Canada. I printed and published the Literary Garland for thirteen years. I may say that for the past fifty years I have been the Montreal Directory publisher. It was commenced as an 18mo. of about 100 pages, Long Primer type. To-day it is a Demy 8vo. of 1010 pages in Nonpareil type, double columns, which shows the extraordinary growth of Montreal, with a population of 211,302 by my Census of Montreal, compiled in January, 1891. In 1857 I published the Canada Directory, a volume of 1544 pages, double columns. In 1871 I compiled and published the Dominion Directory, a volume of 2506 pages of 3 columns, Royal 8vo.
In September, 1849, I was married to Miss Sarah Kurczyn. She is the mother of twelve children. Two of them were called to an eternal home -- ten have ever been a blessing to our happy union.
In 1872 I was part owner and manager of a large printing office at Rouses Point, N.Y. After three years trial and an outlay of $200,000 for land, buildings, printing material, paper and labor, to produce English copyrights, the undertaking failed, but I have the satisfaction of knowing that it led to the establishment of four of my sons in New York. One of them, John W. Lovell, is the Vice-President and General Manager of the United States Book Company.
I am now, February, 1892, trying to get subscribers to enable me to publish Lovell's Gazetteer and History of Canada in eleven Royal 8vo. volumes at $9 a volume. The issue will cost $200,000. If undertaken, 110 editors will be employed on it, to ferrit out, on the spot, the history of every place having a name in Canada, from the landing of the first white man to the present time.
I am now in my 82nd year, having spent 71 years in Montreal, 67 of them happily in a printing office.
Montreal, 25th February, 1892.
* In those days Monks and Friars were frequently seen on printed pages or sheets, caused by careless ink-taking on balls and a want of proper distribution of the ink. The black daubs were called Monks. A want of sufficient ink on balls, consequently on the type, was called Friars, sometimes too pale to be read by a novice such as myself.
John Lovell and the Bank of Montreal. Microfilm image on "arcihve.org".