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Amalgamation of Fort William and Port Arthur

The idea of amalgamating the separate cities of Fort William and Port Arthur has been brought up again and again over the years, long before the cities officially combined to become Thunder Bay in 1970. Amalgamation was formally discussed as early as 1910, although it would be another sixty years before Fort William and Port Arthur became one city. 

 Letter with name suggestions, 1910

Over the years, many names were suggested for the amalgamated city, by officials and members of the public alike. Some of the suggested names included:

  • Port Edward
  • Williamsport
  • Westport
  • Westgate
  • Port Thurwilliam
  • Fort Artwill
  • Port Fort

 The first public vote on the issue of amalgamation was held on January 5, 1920. Citizens of Port Arthur were asked the question: "Are you in favour of the union of the Cities of Port Arthur and Fort William, upon terms to be mutually agreed upon?" Out of a total of 1923 votes cast, 1183 were in favour of union, and 740 were against. Although the majority were in favour of amalgamation, no further action was taken.

 Notice of amalgamation plebiscite, 1958

The same question was asked again in both Port Arthur and in Fort William in 1958: "Are you in favour of the amalgamation of the City of Port Arthur and the City of Fort William as one city?" This vote would not be legally binding, and many questioned whether it was worth the trouble to ask the question. The results of the plebiscite were as follows: 

Fort William, December 1, 1958:
Votes for: 4209
Votes against: 6827
Port Arthur, December 8, 1958:
Votes for: 5468
Votes against: 5331


In 1969, the City of the Lakehead Act was issued by Ontario Minister of Municipal Affairs Darcy McKeough. This act decreed that Fort William and Port Arthur would amalgamate as of January 1, 1970, creating a new, larger city. Citizens were asked to select the city's new name by vote, with three candidates to choose from: "Lakehead," "The Lakehead," and "Thunder Bay."

The new name of Thunder Bay won by a narrow margin, and in 1970, after more than 50 years of discussion and controversy, the two cities became one.

Name suggestion, 1910

1920 plebiscite notice

Ballot for amalgamation vote, 1920

 Newspaper editorial, January 1958

 Article on amalgamation plans, 1958

 Article on plebiscite, 1958

City of The Lakehead Act, 1969

Thunder Bay's New Crest

New crest for Thunder Bay

Songs to Amalgamate By

"Songs to Amalgamate By"