Thomas Joseph (very often abbreviated to "T.J.") Hannigan was born on 6 Nov 1869 in Campbellford, Ontario, to John and Ellen. The family moved to Guelph in 1888 (Mercury, 27 June 1940). The 1889 city directory lists John as a tinsmith and young Thomas as a "finisher". The 1891 directory specifies Thomas's place of work as the Bell Organ factory, where he likely finished the organ cabinets.
Hannigan was a joiner in more sense than his work in carpentry. He quickly became involved in various community organizations. In 1891, he is noted as a participant in a minstrel show put on by the Guelph Catholic Union (Mercury, 30 Jan. 1891). He performed in a number called "Africans Bluebeard" described as a musical burlesque. (It's quite possible the performance was in blackface, which would be a liability for a future politician today but was unremarkable for people like Hannigan in that era.)
In 1892 and 1895, Hannigan is listed as an officer of the Canadian Order of Foresters, Court Wellington, No. 180.
In spite of his growing involvement in the social life of the Royal City, sometime in the mid 1890s, Hannigan moved to Plattsville, where he became a hotelkeeper. No doubt this move was a step up the ladder of success, working for himself rather than an employer.
In spite of the move, the connection with Guelph was not severed. In 1895, Hannigan returned to the Royal City to wed local girl Mary Tait in the Church of Our Lady (Mercury, 3 July 1895). The next year, Hannigan's father John died in Plattsville and was buried in Guelph. By 1901, Thomas and his new family had returned to the Royal City.
It seems that Hannigan was a fan of the sport of running. Once back in Guelph, he helped to found the Guelph Cross Country Run and Road Race Association (Mercury, 27 June 1940). With a time-out during the Great War, this association organized running competitions in Guelph, focussed on a set of road races on Thanksgiving Day. Hannigan's interest seems never to have wavered:
He has served as president, General manager and treasurer of this association on numerous occasions. Last year  he was president again. Mr. Hannigan was also president of the Guelph Track Club.From 1902, city directories list T.J. as the manager of a billiard hall, situated at 1 Wyndham Street, apparently on the second floor of what was the southern half of the Macdonald Block. From its windows, gentlemen at leisure would have had a splendid view of Jubilee Park, old City Hall, and the marketplace.
It appears that T.J. remained in this business until about 1910. It was during this time that he dabbled in the contemporary postcard craze. I am aware of two postcards marked "Published by T.J. Hannigan" on the back, one of St. George's Square and the other of the Church of Our Lady, where he was married. Note the distinctive handwriting featured in the captions below.
Neither card provides a printers name and neither image is unique to T.J. Hannigan. The image of the Post Office in St. George's Square can be dated to about 1904, as the third storey was added to the building in 1903, and the clock added to the empty portal in the tower in 1905. Neither postcard has been postally marked. One card, not in my possession, bears a postmark 16 Jan. 1906.
Further postcards featuring similar captions also exist. All of these have a generic "Private Post Card" logo on the back. Three cards, featuring views of the Court House, Speed River, and Macdonald Institute, have no publisher's or printer's marks. Another six cards are marked "W.G. MacFarlane," a Toronto publisher of the era. These cards feature views of St. George's Church, the Carnegie library, the General Hospital, and the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC). Cards in this set have postmarks from 3 November 1905 through 20 September 1906.
Here is a card of a man canoeing on the Speed River, probably north of the dam in Riverside Park. It has no publisher's or printer's mark.
Here is a card of the barns at the OAC. They were situated where Rozanski Hall lies today, as seen looking down Trent Lane from the north. Cards like this one are marked "W.G. MacFarlane" on the back.
Indexes on the back of these cards are marked A.103, A.105–108, and A.110, suggesting that A.104 and A.109, at least, are still to be found.
It may be that Hannigan decided to sell some postcards in his billiards hall as a side hustle, not an unusual arrangement at the time. He obtained them from W.G. MacFarlane and made them available from late 1905 and into 1906. Perhaps he saw the MacFarlane cards for sale in other businesses and ordered a few specially made for him. Alternatively, he may have sold cards from MacFarlane and perhaps others, not bothering to personalize them except for one small run.
It is hard to know for sure. It seems likely, though, that Hannigan took only a brief interest in the trade. He had other matters on his mind.
Hannigan was also involved in the organization of the Old Home Week festivities in 1908. In particular, he produced the official, souvenir program for the event, which featured views from his postcards and a lovely photo of himself.
(T.J. Hannigan, from the 1908 Old Home Week Souvenir booklet. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 1973.23.26)
The caption notes that the booklet was a sample of Hannigan's advertising. Presumably, this reference is to a business in which he was involved, although I am not yet sure what that was. It may be that his interest in postcards and in advertising at that time were somehow related. It was just as well that he was branching out.
On 17 Dec. 1909, a fire gutted the Norrish block on the Market Square (now Carden St. west), including Hannigan's pool room on the third floor (where it had been recently relocated). It was time to put the billiard business behind him. Hannigan began a new business venture, running "McDougall & Hannigan," a real estate and insurance company. In 1913, the partnership was dissolved and Hannigan operated the business on his own account. He remained in this line of work for the remainder of his life.
(Advertisement for MacDougall & Hannigan, "The men who sell real estate" from the Christmas edition of the Mercury, 1910. The address "just around the corner" seems cryptic; the city directory gives the address 89 Quebec Street East—now part of the Quebec Street Mall. Also, is it just me or does it appear that the photos are mixed up?)
Hannigan's interests in real estate in the Royal City seem to have been widespread. Irwin (1998) notes that he was involved in the disposition of properties such as Wheeler Avenue in the Ward, and Chester and Stanley streets near Exhibition Park. Plans in the University of Guelph archives associate him with developments near St. James's Church and Crimea Street.
(Ad for Hannigan's real estate business, "He knows." From the Industrial edition, 1915.)
The property that Hannigan was most involved with was Wellington Place (or Boulevard, later renamed Riverview Drive and Waverley Drive), on the east side of Riverside Park. The city directory gives his address as Wellington Place starting in 1922. There, he named his house "Athlone," presumably after the town in central Ireland where, it may be, that the Hannigan family originated.
His tenure there was not untroubled. On 7 May 1928, Hannigan was awakened at an early hour to find that his house was on fire and his bedroom filled with smoke (Mercury):
When the pungent, penetrating fumes of smoldering wood aroused him, Mr. Hannigan, clad only in his pyjames, hastened to the upper portion of the back verandah, and climbed down a post to the ground. Securing a ladder, he placed it against an upstairs window, and re-entering the smoke-filled room, assisted Mrs. Hannigan, who was dazed from the fumes, to the outside of the house.Although there was considerable damage, Hannigan probably had the house insured. Evidently, it was repaired and he remained there for the rest of his life. Hannigan's special fondness for flowers is apparent in the remark in the article that "many valuable bulbs stored in the cellar were ruined."
Hannigan became politically active. He was elected an alderman for St. John's ward in 1913 and 1914, and in 1919 and 1920. He joined the local Conservative Party and took on a leading role. In 1937, he opposed the nomination of local boy (and future Ontario Premier) George Drew for the South Wellington seat. Rumors swirled that Hannigan would run as an Independent Conservative or that he had already prepared cards listing him as a Farmer-Labor candidate (Globe, 29 Sep. 1937). Hannigan stated that he could neither confirm nor deny the rumors, although he did not run in the end.
(George A. Drew; courtesy Wikimedia Commons)
Hannigan also threw his hat into the ring as Conservative nominee for the 1939 federal election, although he was superseded by Lieut.-Col. C.D. Crowe (Globe, 16 Aug. 1939). He put his name forward again as a National Government candidate in 1940 but again was unsuccessful (Globe, 23 Feb. 1940). At the age of 70 years, he clearly had not lost his enthusiasm for the political life!
During his life, Hannigan was best-known for his role in the development of Hydro power. In the late 19th Century, cities in southern Ontario, including Guelph, had adopted electricity for illumination, powering factories, and private use. Electricity was generated locally, near where it was consumed. In the early 20th Century, power stations were built at Niagara that could generate enough power to run many cities. Distribution of Niagara power constituted the beginning of the electrical grid that we know today.
One important matter concerned ownership of the grid. Would Niagara power be owned and distributed by private companies or a public utility? The campaign for public ownership was led by London M.P.P. Adam Beck, later knighted for his efforts. Organizations including the Hydro Electric Railway Association of Ontario and the Ontario Municipal Electric Association were quickly formed to push the program forward.
(Sir Adam Beck, ca. 1902 as Mayor of London; courtesy of London Public Library)
In Guelph, the public option was broadly preferred. As Stephen Thorning pointed out (2000), the Royal City was pleased with its own track record with its city-owned power utility and the Guelph Junction Railway. Prominent Guelphites organized to support the public option, led by millionaire publisher and civic booster J.W. Lyon, who became president of both Railway and Electric associations.
(J.W. Lyon; Men of Canada (1891, p. 230).)
Hannigan joined both efforts in top positions, such as secretary, treasurer, or both. He took over leadership from Lyon after the latter retired from the fray in the mid-1920s. He continued to promote public ownership of utility for the rest of his life, defending it against encroachments on its turf. He was successful in maintaining public ownership of the grid, although efforts to electrify the inter-city railway system did not bear fruit.
Hannigan's tenure in the Ontario Municipal Electric Association was not without controversy. Liberal leader and Premier Mitchell Hepburn accused the Association of being a "slush fund" used by Hannigan to oppose the government and conduct shady insurance deals (Globe, 13 Aug. 1934). Certainly, Hannigan was a staunch Conservative. However, such allegations were never substantiated, so far as I am aware.
(Mitchell Hepburn; courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.)
No account of T.J. Hannigan's life would be complete without some mention of his passion for flowers. He was president of the Guelph Horticultural Society for many years, and also the Ontario Horticultural Association (Mercury, 27 June 1940). He was a particular authority on gladioli and entered his blooms in many competitions.
For example, Hannigan won many awards in the second annual exhibition of the Ontario Gladioli Society, held at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph and attended by gladioli gurus from across the continent (London Free Press, 23 Aug. 1923). Hannigan triumphed in the categories of Best six spikes Pink Perfection, Best three spikes smokey, Best six spikes yellow, Best six spikes pink; and second place in Best 12 spikes Le Marechal Foch (Holland variety), Best three spikes variegated, Best six spikes blue, Best three varieties three spikes each, and Best 12 spikes golden.
Hannigan also became Secretary-Treasurer of the Simcoe Tobacco Plantation Ltd. in 1930 and director of the Ontario Flue-Cured Tobacco Marketing Board. It seems that he was Catholic not only in religion but in botany as well.
T.J. Hannigan died in 1940 and was buried in Marymount Cemetery (Mercury, 27 June 1940). The Guelph Cross Country Run and Road Race Association decided to name its one-mile Thanksgiving Day race the "T.J. Hannigan special race" in his honour (Mercury, 24 Sep. 1940). Certainly, it was a fitting tribute for a man who enjoyed running so much.
(Guelph Cross Country & Road Association Annual Meet, 1909. Hannigan is seated in the front row, extreme left. Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums 1981.212.1.)