Thomas Chandler Haliburton

Thomas Chandler Haliburton – Age 40

Thomas Chandler Haliburton

No account of the history of Windsor would be complete without an explanation of its most important citizen of all time, Thomas Chandler Haliburton. He gained greater fame and did more for the town than anybody else before or since his time.

He was born in 1796 and attended King’s College School for Boys, matriculating at age fourteen. He entered King’s College and graduated with a degree in Arts and Law.

He became a lawyer, a judge, a politician, a writer, and is known as The Father of American Humor. In 1829 he created an imaginary Yankee Clockmaker, named Sam Slick, and wrote satirical accounts about him as he travelled through Nova Scotia towns and villages selling his clocks to folks whom he nick-named Bluenoses.

Through his writing, he succeeded in drawing the attention of the people and the government to the needs of the town and province as he saw them. He also wrote the first History of Nova Scotia in 1829 when he was 33 years of age.

His accounts of Sam Slick of Slickville appeared regularly in a Halifax newspaper called The Nova Scotian, whose editor was his good friend Joseph Howe who eventually became the premier of the province.

Haliburton also became a member of the Legislature and stimulated Howe to activity that led to the improved highway, the stage coach line, the railway line between Halifax and Windsor, as well as the highway covered bridge across the Avon River, and eventually a train bridge parallel to it, and subsequently an extension of the rail line to the Bay of Fundy communities, thus connecting them to the city of Halifax for trade and transportation.

Those things constitute a very great achievement for any one individual in his lifetime. In addition to all of that, Haliburton’s Sam Slick was a very humerous character who used wise sayings to illustrate his many ideas.

Those sayings, which Haliburton referred to as ‘wise-saws’ have become universally known. Because they are so often repeated in the writings and spoken words of so many people to this day, Haliburton is the most commonly quoted author in America, and no doubt deserves the title of Father of American Humor.

Copyright – Garth Vaughan December 8, 2000

Thomas Chandler Haliburton – Haliburton Chronology

Thomas Chandler Haliburton – Age 40

“Facts are stranger than fiction” – Thomas Chandler Haliburton

Thomas Chandler Haliburton was a great Windsorian. During Windsor’s annual “Sam Slick Days” celebration each August, it has often been suggested that we should be celebrating “Haliburton Days”. Haliburton was a very significant Canadian, and certainly the most important citizen that Windsor has ever had. Sam Slick, on the other hand, is Haliburton’s most famous character.

Through his constant efforts he made life continually better for his home town (of Windsor) and (colony of Nova Scotia) province. The following chronology is prepared in an effort to help us know him better for his wonderful self and great works.


Thomas Chandler Haliburton – A Chronology

1796 – Born at home Dec.17, on Water Street, Windsor, N.S. – Site: Presently occupied by AVR Studio.

– Father: Hon. William Haliburton, a Nova Scotia Tory Judge and M.L.A. – Mother: Lucy, who died when Tom was one year of age. Devoted step-mother Susanna raised Tom.

1810 – Known as “Tom”, an only child, he graduated from King’s Collegiate Preparatory School at age 14, and continued his education at King’s College. Windsor’s population was then 1500 and it was known as “the most aristocratic society outside of England”.

1815 – Acquired B.A. at age 18, King’s College, Windsor.

1816 – Married Louisa Neville – of a family of eleven, three sons and five daughters survived (Three sons died at infancy).

1819 – Finished Studies at King’s College, Windsor, age 23.

1820 – Articled with father, then – Admitted to the Bar – Practiced Law in Windsor briefly, and then in Annapolis until 1830.

1823 – Wrote A General Description of Nova Scotia – a handbook of history of Nova Scotia for immigrants – prelude to 1829 Historical Account of N.S.

1826 – Became Tory M.L.A. of N.S. for Annapolis – was noted for oratory and wit.- MLA for three years.

1826 – One of his successes as M.L.A. was to remove “The Test Oath”, following which Catholics could hold public office in N.S.

1829 – Wrote An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova Scotia, the first history of Nova Scotia at age 33

1829 – Appointed judge and returned to Windsor to live

1830-1856 – Haliburton was involved in the quarrying and exporting of gypsum from Windsor and Newport Landing by ship to New England.

Note: 1850-1890 – Windsor was Canada’s third largest sea port (2nd to Montreal and St. John).

1830 – 56 – Was a landlord who owned several rental properties in Windsor.

1830 – 56 – Owned, leased and operated several gypsum quarries about Hants County.

1832 – He and wife Louisa then had eight children living – five daughters and three sons

1832 – President of Windsor Agricultural Society – the fields of “Clifton” bore abundant crops of vegetables and fruit.

1832 – Built horse-drawn railway from Clifton to the Avon River waterfront. He exported 132,000 tons in 1832 – Horse drawn carts on tramway down Park St (now Clifton Ave.) and along Albert St. to John Clark’s Wharf at present site of N.S.L.C. He built six waterfront gypsum warehouses. It was Nova Scotia’s second mining railway, the first being in Pictou County for coal.

1832 – Donated land and money for a church

1833-36 – Built his home “Clifton”, a wooden villa with spectacular grounds and gardens, named after his wife’s home town in England.

1833-36 – He designed and built a windmill by himself at Clifton.

1833-36 – Horticultural expert – planted a variety of trees and grew flowers and vegetables at Clifton.

1834 – Sold the Acadian Stone House and Henley Farm at Newport Landing, where he had quarried gypsum. (Now owned by Mr.and Mrs. Sherman Hines).

1835 – Wrote Recollections of Nova Scotia featuring Sam Slick – Published in Novascotian by Joseph Howe.

1836 – Created Sam Slick a fictional Yankee Clock Peddler, a humorous character who could “speak for” Haliburton.

1836 – Published The Clockmaker: The Sayings and Doings of Sam Slick

1836 – Through Sam Slick, Haliburton became the first Canadian author to achieve international acclaim. In so doing he became known as “the Father of American Humor”.

1836 – Haliburton named Nova Scotians “Bluenoses”

1836 – Haliburton’s The Clockmaker was published in England. – He toured England and Europe as a literary celebrity, accompanied by Joseph Howe.

1836 – Influenced establishment of trans-Atlantic Cunard Steamship Line

1836 – Influenced Joseph Howe to build Nova Scotia’s longest covered bridge across the Avon River, which made Windsor “The Gateway to the Valley”.

1836-1856 – He lived at Clifton, writing stories which he dictated to secretaries hired from Windsor.

1838 – Wrote the second series of The Clockmaker.

1839 – Visited England.

1840 – In N.S., he was appointed Canada’s youngest Supreme Court Judge – which was an unpopular political appointment at the time.

1841 – Wife Louisa died.

1843 – Returned to England for a visit.

1843 – Wrote The Attaché; Or, Sam Slick in England published in England in 2 vols. 1844 – Published The Attaché; Or, Sam Slick in England – Second Series

1849 – Wrote The Old Judge (or, Life in a Colony).

1856 – Resigned position as judge.

1856 – Wrote Traits of American Humor, Sam Slick’s Wise Saws.

1856 – Sold Clifton to James Pellow – Sailed to England for retirement. Married Sarah Harriet Williams and lived at Gordon House on Thames. (The Clockmaker made another good bargain!)

1857 – Influenced Premier Joseph Howe to build Nova Scotia’s first public railway, the Nova Scotia Railway, commonly known as the Windsor-Halifax Railway

1858 – Received honorary degree from Oxford – very popular in England as writer and humorist. – Elected to British House of Commons.

1862 – Nova Scotia Fruit Growers impressed London – R.G. Haliburton, son of T.C.H. organized the show.

1865 – Became ill and died in August – buried at Isleworth, Middlesex, England.

Haliburton’s most famous books are The Clockmaker, The Attaché (or: Sam Slick In England – four vols.), and The Old Judge. Through his writings he told that boys, as early as 1800, at King’s College School were playing Hurley on Ice and games at base in the fields. Hurley on Ice developed into Ice Hockey in Nova Scotia, and games at base in the fields developed into Baseball in New York State.

Windsor, N.S., the Birthplace of Hockey, and Cooperstown, New York, the Home of Baseball and the Baseball Hall of Fame, became united as twin towns on August 19, 1996.

Because of Sam Slick’s wise sayings (Wise-Saws), to this day Haliburton is America’s most frequently quoted author.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton – Sam Slick’s Wise Saws

Thomas Chandler Haliburton, born in Windsor in 1796 and educated at Canada’s first college, King’s College, Windsor, created the popular fictional character Sam Slick, a Yankee peddler who sold clocks to unsuspecting Nova Scotians, which he called “Bluenoses”.

Haliburton’s popular satirical writings made him the “Father of American Humor”. He is still the most commonly quoted writer in America.

Thomas Chandler Haliburton included many wise sayings used by Nova Scotians in his stories about Sam Slick:

  • As quick as a wink
  • Seeing is believing
  • He drank like a fish
  • Real genuine skinflint
  • I wasn’t born yesterday
  • You’re as sharp as a tack
  • A stitch in time saves nine
  • Barking up the wrong tree
  • A miss is as good as a mile
  • They are all uppercrust here
  • The early bird gets the worm
  • Facts are stranger than fiction
  • Give and take, live and let live
  • This country is going to the dogs
  • You can’t get blood out of a stone
  • Every dog has his day in this world
  • As large as life and twice as natural
  • Six of one, half a dozen of the other
  • Never look a gift horse in the mouth
  • What a pity that marryin’ spoils courtin’
  • He flies right off the handle for nothing
  • I like to let every feller grind his own axe
  • It’s like looking for a needle in a hay stack
  • A nod is as good as a wink to a blind horse
  • A knowledge of God is the foundation of all wisdom
  • An ounce of prevention is as good as a pound of cure
  • A college education shows how devilish little other people know
  • It is easier to make money than to save it; one is exertion, the other self-denial
  • If a man seems bent on cheating himself, I like to be neighborly and help him do it

T.C. Haliburton On Relationships…

“There is a private spring to everyone’s affection; if you can find that, and touch it, the door will fly open, tho’ it was a miser’s heart.”

“What a pity it is that marryin’ spoils courtin’.”

“Matrimony likes contrasts; friendship seeks it’s own counterparts.”

“All the girls regard marraige as an enviable lot, or a necessary evil.”

“There must have been a charming climate in Paradise. The temperature was perfect, and cannubial bliss, I allot, was a real jam up.”

“Women, in a general way, don’t look like the same critters when they are spliced, that they do before; matrimony, like sugar and water, has a nutral affinity for, and a tendency to acidity.”


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