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In 1896, the founders of The Chicoutimi Pulp Company laid the first stone of what would quickly become a great empire. More than a century later, their investment made way for another great project: LA PULPERIE DE CHICOUTIMI / REGIONAL MUSEUM.
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At the end of the 19th century, the global context supported great industrial development. A group of French-Canadian businessmen therefore founded the Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi. Avery ambitious project aimed to fight the ambient economic depression and to lead Chicoutimi into the international trend by giving it the means for development.

The company beginnings were dazzling. No obstacle seemed to be able to slow down the enthusiasm of his directors, who created an entire empire within a "Kingdom". For nearly 30 years, the company was on the rise, and the region greatly benefited from its success.

It is exciting to imagine the future. It is even more exciting to be able to fashion it to your own plans. It was that same spirit that undoubtedly took hold of the founders of the Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi. As proud inhabitants of the "Royaume du Saguenay", they pushed their imaginations to the limit and built an empire that would benefit the entire region. One hundred years later, their achievements were used as inspiration for the development of LA PULPERIE DE CHICOUTIMI.

From an economic point of view, the end of the 19th century represented a golden age filled with money! The year 1896 marked the beginning of a period of unprecedented growth in industrialized countries.

Canada and Quebec benefited from the new international economic situation. Government and businesses alike launched vast developmental projects. They counted on the natural richness of Chicoutimi: water and wood as well as abundant labour and ease of transport.

On November 24, 1896, an elected official, the 1895 mayor of Chicoutimi, Joseph-Dominique Guay joined some friends and formed the Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi; the first industry in the pulp and paper sector whose shareholders and management primarily came from French-Canadian business circles.

Pulp: A Product in High Demand


With the turn of the century, urbanization, education, the scarcity of rag and the increasing popularity of the press in North America and Western Europe increased the value of wood and its derivatives. Since the discovery of a mechanical manufacturing process of pulp, it has represented the proof of richness. Pulp played a significant role in the production of newspaper.

It did not take long for the reputation of the Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi to cross the Canadian border. It exported three quarters of its products to Europe, mainly England, while the New-York market absorbed the rest. With a volume of export of this magnitude, the company gained a reputation of quality on an international scale. During the 1900 World Fair, it received its first official recognition in Paris where it won a gold medal for product quality. Paper makers from all across Europe then took notice of this factory. Cinema teams, like the studios Pathé, crossed the Atlantic to set up their set in Chicoutimi, which was quickly dubbed "The City of Pulp". This success was accompanied by a booming expansion of its mill.

Nations where fir, balsam and spruce trees abound, like Canada, were quickly sought after to provide the precious material. It was not long before steep competition set in among them; each one wanting to fully benefit from this extraordinary source of income. The Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi quickly became one of the principal players in the commercial battle.

Joseph-Dominiqphoto8ue Guay joined a young banker, Julien-Édouard-Alfred Dubuc and gave him a managerial position in the new company. In 1898, the first mill was hardly operating, but there was already a need for expansion. In order to fill its orders and to respect its commitments, in 1903 the company inaugurated its second mill. Business was booming. Three hundred and fifty men were working day and night in its mills and eight hundred others in the lumberyards.

 


Constant Rise


In 1910, after only 12 years of activity, the Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi raised to the forefront of Canadian pulp producers; three quarters of its clients were among the largest English producers of paper. The First World War and strikes in the Scandinavian mills contributed to an increase in demand, which is why, in 1912, they undertook the construction of a third mill adjacent to the first.

In 1912, they built the third mill, and, in 1919, they expanded the building built in 1903. At the beginning of the 1920s, the company employed 2 000 men from a total population of 8 000 people. In 1921, the Compagnie de pulpe built an imposing mechanical repair workshop, and it is in this building that we find the regional museum today.

The Decline


Starting in 1921, business spiralled. The economic situation was no longer the same: prices began to plummet. With all its expansion projects, the company went into debt. In 1923, the soul leader of the company, Julien-Édouard-Alfred Dubuc, resigned. In March 1924, the Compagnie de pulpe de Chicoutimi liquidated all its assets. In 1930, despite significant reorganization, the decrease in orders and price brought permanent closure to the mills.

At the end of the 70s, the old buildings were saved from the axe of demolition contractors. They have gradually been restored and now contribute to the tourist and cultural calling of the area.

Come today and discover the complete history of the Compagnie de pulpe at the Pulperie de Chicoutimi. You will enjoy 100 years of history in a single day!

On Thursday, July 18, 1996, a significant atmospheric low-pressure system formed over the Great Lakes. The 4000 km long stretch of clouds moved quickly. Before finishing its course in the Atlantic Ocean, it stopped over the Laurentides faunal reserve, covering the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean and Côte-Nord regions.

In contact with the mountains, the mass of humid air accompanying the low-pressure system was pushed towards the summits. They cooled and condensed increasing the clouds mass causing heavy precipitation.

The first drops of water fell on the night of July 18. Within 48 hours, Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean received from 150 to 280 mm of rain where the usual average for that month was approximately 125 mm. The heavy rains added to the 120.5 mm that had already fallen since the beginning of July. The early rains had already saturated the grounds, filled the tanks and increased the flow of several rivers. All of this together caused a catastrophic deluge. A real flood!

Pulperie de Chicoutimi Threatened by Torrents

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In 1896, the volume and water-flow of the Chicoutimi River encouraged the directors of the Compagnie de pulpe to build their factory on the river banks in order to benefit from its driving force. A century later, raring to go, the river rushed over a significant part of the Pulperie. Its flow was 11 times higher than normal.

In its unchained course, the water destroyed hundred-year-old stone walls, landscaped facilities as well as service and performance grounds. Within just a few hours, several years of restoration work on the Pulperie de Chicoutimi site was ruined. The Jardin de Vestiges (1898 - Garden) was completely destroyed. In its ardour, the water wiped out the rock on which the facilities rested, exposing the 1903 building foundations next to the Sainte-Marie mill. The river also flowed through the theatre that was brought to the building in 1912. Everything was lost. From the stage to the seats, the lighting system and furniture; everything had disappeared. Nothing but the walls and the red roof remained. The final report was heavy and would impose significant reconstruction.

In June 2002, the Pulperie de Chicoutimi reopened its doors.

The Museum Building (1921) is fully accessible to disabled people and has an elevator and parking spaces.