HAWKINS, ALFRED, merchant, author, publisher, and office holder; baptized 10 Oct. 1792 in Bridport, England, second of six children of George Hawkins and Elizabeth Ellery; m. 2 Oct. 1819 Martha Paterson at Quebec, and they had four children, two of whom survived infancy; d. there 30 June 1854.
In January 1817 Alfred Hawkins, a wine merchant from Dorset, England, advertised in the Quebec Mercury and the Quebec Gazette that he was entering into partnership with John Leland Maquay. The firm of Hawkins and Maquay, wine and brandy merchants, operated from Rue du Sault-au-Matelot in Lower Town until March 1818 when a move was made to the office and vaults of the Quebec Freemason’s Hall in Upper Town. Both men were active in the social and economic life of the city. For several years during the period 1818 to 1824 Hawkins was treasurer of a social organization called the Quebec Assembly which held dances and banquets during the winter months. In 1819 he was acting secretary and treasurer of the Quebec Exchange. He was appointed director of the Quebec Bank on several occasions from 1822, and was also a member of the Quebec Fire Society.
The Hawkins–Maquay partnership was dissolved on 1 March 1820 and Maquay left the province the following year. Hawkins moved his business to Rue Saint-Pierre in Lower Town. In March 1821 he rented a house in Upper Town and from some time before 1824 he occupied a “central and pleasantly situated” house and office on Rue du Parloir.
During the 1830s Quebec was experiencing a period of political, economic, and social turbulence, but there was also a surprising degree of literary activity and interest in the history of the colony. Hawkins had become a keen collector of Canadiana, and after eight years of research Hawkins’s picture of Quebec, dedicated to the Earl of Dalhousie [Ramsay*], was printed by the firm of Neilson and Cowan in 1834. In the preface he acknowledged the assistance of journalists John Charlton Fisher* and Adam Thom*. His association with these two men is an indication that politically he identified with the English party in Quebec.
According to the review of the book in the Montreal Gazette, Hawkins had “indomitable perseverance in the acquisition of information, a taste refined by an extensive acquaintance with the best ancient and modern authors, and an ardent love for his subject.” The work contains a history of Quebec from its discovery to the founding of the city, accounts of the various sieges, and histories of the religious establishments and the important buildings. The final chapter, which deals with the geology of the area, was contributed by Lieutenant Frederick Henry Baddeley* of the Royal Engineers. The book is illustrated with 14 plates lithographed by Robert Auchmuty Sproule* from sketches by several artists.
In 1835 Hawkins issued a Plan of the city of Quebec, engraved by William Gumming Smillie. The plan was reprinted in 1840, and five years later it was brought up to date by the city surveyor, Joseph Hamel. In April 1837 Hawkins founded the Morning Herald and Commercial Advertiser, which was published in Quebec until the following March. The Morning Herald was predominantly a commercial paper and politics occupied little space. Hawkins’s Plan of the military & naval operations under the command of the immortal Wolfe & Vice Admiral Saunders before Quebec was published in London by James Wyld in 1841. The London Sun commented that Hawkins “omitted not one single point, however minute, that may serve to explain the proceedings of the attacking and defending parties . . . all these various explanatory details are delineated with a skill and accuracy that is truly astonishing.”
Hawkins next compiled two directories for the city. W. Cowan and Son printed 1,000 copies of the Quebec directory in 1844. The second part of this work was printed separately in the same year as Hawkins’ historical guide to Quebec and its environs. Following two disastrous fires which almost destroyed the city in 1845, the second part was reissued as Hawkins’ guide to Quebec and its environs for 1845, with a plan of the city and burnt district. The second directory appeared in 1847; because of problems with W. Cowan and Son it was printed in Montreal at the office of the Canada Gazette. Both directories were similar in format to the Montreal directories being compiled by Robert Walter Stuart Mackay. Hawkins was at this time residing at Mount Pleasant (Sillery), and his collection of material on Quebec was available to the public.
On 14 Aug. 1847 Hawkins was appointed shipping master of the port of Quebec, the chief lumber port in British North America and an important shipbuilding centre. From that year destitute Irish immigrants were pouring through the port, bringing with them first typhus and then cholera. Seven years later Hawkins died at age 62, a victim of one of the cholera epidemics. A son, Alfred George, became a customs employee at Quebec.
Hawkins’s picture of Quebec is today mainly of interest to antiquarian book-dealers, but his Plan of the city of Quebec and his two directories remain of value to the antiquary, the historian, and the genealogist.
Alfred Hawkins is the author of Hawkins’s picture of Quebec; with historical recollections (Quebec, 1834); This plan of the city of Quebec is respectfully inscribed to the Mayor R. E. Caron Esqr. by his obedient servant Alfred Hawkins (n.p., 1835; repr., 1840; new ed., 1845); and Plan of the military & naval operations under the command of the immortal Wolfe & Vice Admiral Saunders before Quebec (London, 1841). He compiled the Quebec directory for 1844 and 1847; the second part of the Directory for 1844 was also published as Hawkins’ historical guide to Quebec and its environs (Quebec, 1844) and as Hawkins’ guide to Quebec and its environs, for 1845, with plan of the city and burnt district (Quebec, 1845). For more information about the directories and guides published by Hawkins, see D. E. Ryder, Checklist of the Canadian directories, 1790–1950 (Ottawa, 1979). Hawkins was also the founder of the Morning Herald and Commercial Advertiser (Quebec), which was published from April 1837 to March 1838. There is a portrait of Hawkins at the Hôtel de Ville in Quebec.
Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Quebec), reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials, 2 Oct. 1819, 1823–28, 1 July 1854. Dorset Record Office (Dorchester, Eng.), P196/RE4–5 (reg. of baptisms, marriages, and burials, 1754–1806). PAC, RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Quebec Gazette, 1817–34, 1 July 1854. Quebec Mercury, 1816–20, 1853–54. Beaulieu et Hamelin, La presse québécoise, 1: 95. Morgan, Bibliotheca Canadensis, 179. Quebec directory, 1852. “Alfred Hawkins,” BRH, 41 (1935): 747–48. “Le Bureau de poste de Québec,” BRH, 5 (1899): 247–49. J. M. LeMoine, “Alfred Hawkins,” Le courier du livre (Québec), 1896: 89–91.