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"Art is Long, Life is Short", Remembering the Nine-Hour Movement

September 3, 2022 @ 1:00 pm - 3:00 pm

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Walking Tour
Saturday, September 3rd, 1:00-3:00 PM

Join artist and educator Simon Orpana on Saturday, September 3rd from 1:00-3:00 pm for a free walking tour that will trace the history of the three thousand Hamilton workers who took to the streets on May 15, 1872, to fight for a shorter working day.

The walking tour will trace part of their parade route to consider parallels between the historic nine-hour movement and the experiences of contemporary workers struggling with the promises and realities of life in “the ambitious city.”

This walking tour is FREE to attend, all are welcome, and will start at the Custom House at 1:00 pm on September 3rd. 

Historical Overview

The late 1860s were an optimistic time for Hamilton. The completion of Great
Western Railroad, in the early 1950s, had ushered in a new era of industrial and
economic development that shaped the lives of many working people. A sense of
hope for social mobility pervaded the skilled trades, while growing demand for
unskilled labour attracted workers and immigrants from near and far.

The fight for a shorter, nine-hour workday gained traction in this period,
spearheaded by skilled tradesmen who aspired to better their station and sought
time away from the shop floor for professional development. The narrative of the
self-improving crafts worker, popular at the time, finds contemporary echoes in
the promises of self-actualization and autonomy offered to precariously
positioned workers of the gig economy.

This walking tour will follow part of the route of the Nine-Hour parade that on
May 15, 1872, shut down many downtown factories when three thousand
workers took to the streets to fight for shorter working hours. We will uncover
traces of Victorian Hamilton that provide insight into the everyday lives of working
people, and consider parallels to contemporary experiences of living and working
in a moment of urban promise, transition and struggle.

Meet Simon

Simon Orpana (he/him) is an artist and educator who uses media such as graphic novels, zines, websites, and walking tours to raise awareness about the links between culture, politics, labour and the environment. He lives and works in Hamilton, Ontario.


The walking tour will start and end at the Custom House which has physically accessible washroom facilities. There are no planned bathroom stops or breaks on the tour which will last approximately 75 minutes.

The tour will take place on city streets and will involve walking outdoors, so good mobility is recommended in order to enjoy the tour and we suggest wearing comfortable walking shoes and bringing water if necessary. WAHC has a refillable tap water station onsite. Please come prepared for outdoor weather; hats, sunscreen, jackets and umbrellas may be useful depending on the conditions.

If you have any questions about the walking tour or accessibility, please contact Kat Williams by email, kat@wahc-museum.ca or by phone, 905-522-3003 x21.

51 Stuart Street, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada L8L 1B5       905.522.3003       Public Hours: Click here