Cleve’s Win Impacts at Least a Couple of Vancouver Residents

Str P82 - [A man in a wheelbarrow is pushed by the loser of a bet regarding the United States presidential election] 1892 Bailey Bros

CVA – Str P82: Man in a wheelbarrow is pushed by the loser of a bet regarding the United States presidential election. 1892. Bailey Bros photo. (Note: Dog and kid are both too curious about stuff going on around them to hold still for the long exposure needed by the early photographer. Most of the grim adults don’t have that problem).

Who are the principal figures in this image? What is the context? And where is this bunch of early Vancouverites gathered on this occasion?

This brief article in the Vancouver Daily World is helpful:

Fulfilled the Wager

At 2:30 this afternoon, in payment of a bet made on the United States Presidential election, Dave Douglas wheeled R. G. McKay along Cordova Street from Dunn’s hardware store to the Real Estate Exchange. While on the way  Mr. McKay waved an American flag that he had carried in a [Grover] Cleveland procession in Cincinnati in 1884.

— Vancouver Daily World 14 Nov 1892

The U.S. presidential election in 1892 involved incumbent, Republican Benjamin Harrison, Democrat Grover Cleveland, and Populist James Weaver. Cleveland and his running mate, Adlai Stevenson I  (not to be confused with grandson Adlai Stevenson II) — known informally as the ‘Cleve and Steve’ ticket — won the election in 1892 and became President and Vice-President, respectively. 

Not a lot is known of “Dave Douglas”; he appears to have been David Freemont Douglas, Sr. who was born in Madison, Wisconsin October 1, 1865. It isn’t clear when he moved north, but he married Clara Straube in 1893 in Vancouver (she was born in Waterloo, ON). Douglas, Sr. was a realtor in Vancouver and in the States. He was still living in the Vancouver area during the 1901 Census; he moved his family to Alberta for a while, and ended up in California where he died in February 1917.¹

About the bet winner, Robert G. McKay, we know he lived in the St. Paul, Minnesota area during the 1880s. He married Ann D’Arcy and had a daughter named Constance. In the 1890s, McKay moved up to Vancouver where he remained a relatively brief time. He was back in Minnesota by about 1900. He was involved in realty sales both in Minnesota and in Vancouver. His daughter, Constance — who made a name for herself as an author and producer of pageants — married Roland Holt, the son and heir of publisher, Henry Holt (Burlington Free Press, Apr 7 1923).

The principal connections between Douglas and McKay seem to have been their country of birth (USA) and their occupation (realty).  

The American flag in the image above, which presumably is the flag obtained by McKay in Grover Cleveland’s earlier presidential win in 1884 (the first of Cleve’s two, non-consecutive presidential terms) would have been a 38-star version of the stars and stripes, I’m assuming. (By 1892, the flag consisted of 44-stars).

According to the Daily World article reproduced above, the wheelbarrow trip began at Dunn’s  Hardware, which was in the Dunn-Miller block — today, more commonly known as the Army & Navy Department Store. The ride proceeded west from the hardware up Cordova for about two blocks until they reached Cambie, at which intersection, they would have turned left and stopped on the west side of Cambie at the “Real Estate Exchange” (today, where Danny’s Inn is located). The image at the top of this post was made at the wheelbarrow trip’s finish point. 

CVA – Str P222: The west side of Cambie Street near Cordova Street. 1888.


¹Thanks to Robert of WestEndVancouver for his impressive digging that yielded these details about Douglas and McKay.

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