“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Montréal in Montréal (region), Quebec — Central Canada (French-Canadian)

Joe Beef’s Canteen

Le Cantine de Joe Beef

Joe Beef’s Canteen Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 5, 2014
1. Joe Beef’s Canteen Marker
Inscription.  English:
“Joe Beef’s may be low, it is certainly dirty on the cellar and ground floors; and the value of such a place to the city may be questioned, but let one thing be remembered - many a tired head has found rest; many a hungry mouth has been filled. Surely, this charity will cover a multitude of sins.” - Unknown - Montréal by Gaslight, 1889

A canteen keeper in the British army in the 1850’s, Charles “Joe Beef” McKiernan was assigned to the canteen on Île Sainte-Hélène in 1864 until he was discharged. He then opened Joe Beef’s Canteen, a tavern near Bonsecours Market that later moved to the corner of de la Commune et (and) de Callière streets in 1875. Bold, generous and flamboyant, the Irish immigrant quickly became the most famous tavern owner in Montréal.

The People’s Tavern

Hundreds of longshoremen, day labourers and seamen came to the canteen to drink and have lunch. For 10 cents, the wealthier clients had steak and onions, while the poorer patrons received a bowl of soup and some bread. The eccentric Joe Beef even kept a menagerie of wild animals
Joe Beef’s Canteen Marker image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 5, 2014
2. Joe Beef’s Canteen Marker
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in the cellar to entertain guests!

The Friend of the Working Man

A man of the people, philanthropist Joe Beef generously offered food and lodging to sailors and vagrants. In 1877, he gave out 3,000 pieces of bread and some 2,000 liters of soup to striking Lachine Canal workers, whose cause he supported. When Joe Beef died in 1889, thousands of Montréalers attended his funeral. The Montréal Gazette dubbed him the “friend of the working man.”

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La cantine de Joe Beef est peut-être de bas étage, les planchers de sa cave et de sa salle sont certainement sales; la valeur d’un tel lieu pour la ville peut être mise en doute. Mais qu’on se souvenir d’une chose: plus d’une tête fatiguée a ici trouve le repos, bien des bouches affamées ont été ici remplies. Assurément, cette charité. Inconnu - Montréal by Gaslight, 1889

Cantinier dans l’armée britannique dans les années 1850, Charles Joe Beef McKiernan est affecté à la cantine militaire de l’île Sainte-Helene en 1864, jusqu’à sa décharge militaire. Il ouvre ensuite sa taverne, Joe Beef’s Canteen, Après du Marche Bonsecours, puis le déménage au coin des rues de la Commune et de Callière en 1875. Frondeur, généreux et flamboyant, cet immigrant
Joe Beef’s Canteen image. Click for full size.
By Barry Swackhamer, August 5, 2014
3. Joe Beef’s Canteen
irlandais devient rapidement le tavernier le plus connu de Montréal.

La Taverne du Peuple

Débardeurs, journaliers et matelots viennent à la «Canteen» par centaines pour y manger leur repas de midi et y boire. Pour 10 cents, les plus riches se paient un bifteck aux oignons, alors que les indigents sont gratifiés d’un bol de soupe avec du pain. L’excentrique Joe Beef garde même une ménagerie d’animaux sauvages dans sa cave pour divertir sa clientèle.

L’ami des ouvriers

Fils du peuple et philanthrope, Joe Beef offre généreusement nourriture hébergement aux sans-le-sou et aux marins. En 1877, il fournit 3 000 pains et quelque 2 000 litres de soupe aux ouvriers grévistes du canal de Lachine, et il soutient leur cause. À sa mort en 1889, des milliers de personnes assistent à ses funérailles et la Gazette de Montréal le surnomme «l’ami des ouvriers».

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Erected by Government of Canada / Gouvernement du Canada.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Charity & Public WorkIndustry & CommerceLabor Unions. A significant historical year for this entry is 1889.
Location. 45° 30.146′ N, 73° 
Joe Beef’s Canteen image. Click for full size.
By Musée McCord Museum, June 15, 1879
4. Joe Beef’s Canteen
33.224′ W. Marker is in Montréal, Quebec, in Montréal (region). Marker is at the intersection of Rue de la Commune Ouest and Rue de Callière, on the right when traveling south on Rue de la Commune Ouest. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 190 Rue de la Commune Ouest, Montréal, Quebec H2Y 2C6, Canada. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Aux origines de Montréal / The origins of Montréal (within shouting distance of this marker); Montréal’s Founders and First Colonists Monument (within shouting distance of this marker); L’Ancien Édifice de la Douane / The Old Custom House (about 90 meters away, measured in a direct line); Kondiaronk and Callière (about 150 meters away); Jeanne Mance (approx. 0.3 kilometers away); History of Basilique Notre Dame de Montréal (approx. 0.3 kilometers away); Saint-Laurent Boulevard (approx. 0.3 kilometers away); La Basilique Notre-Dame / Notre-Dame Basilica (approx. 0.3 kilometers away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Montréal.
More about this marker. This marker is in Parc Lineaire de la Commune.
Also see . . .  Charles McKiernan, Joe Beef - Dictionary of Canadian Biography. From the outset Joe Beef’s inn was different. He did not set out to get rich but rather to make a reasonable profit while extending charity to the destitute. Consequently he always gave food and lodging to the down-and-out. “I never refuse a meal to a poor man,” he told a journalist from La Patrie.
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“No matter who he is, whether English, French, Irish, Negro, Indian, or what religion he belongs to, he’s sure to get a free meal at my place if he can’t afford to pay for it.”
(Submitted on April 2, 2015, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California.) 
Credits. This page was last revised on May 23, 2017. It was originally submitted on April 2, 2015, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. This page has been viewed 399 times since then and 10 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on April 2, 2015, by Barry Swackhamer of Brentwood, California. • Andrew Ruppenstein was the editor who published this page.

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Apr. 18, 2021