Nanaimo (Canada 2011 Census population 83,810) is a city on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. It is known as "The Harbour City." Previously known as the "Hub City" because of its central location on the island. It has also been known as the "Bathtub Racing Capital of the World" and is today fondly known as the "Hub, Tub and Pub City" because of its association with bathtub racing and the numerous "watering holes" in Old Nanaimo. Nanaimo is also the headquarters of the Regional District of Nanaimo.
The Native people of the area that is now known as Nanaimo were the Snuneymuxw.
Nanaimo began as a trading post in the early 19th century. In 1849 the Snuneymuxw chief Ki-et-sa-kun ("Coal Tyee") informed the Hudson's Bay Company of coal in the area. Exploration proved there was plenty of it in the area and Nanaimo became chiefly known for the export of coal. In 1853 the company built a Nanaimo Bastion, which has been preserved and is a popular tourist destination in the downtown area.
Hudson's Bay Company employee Robert Dunsmuir helped establish coal mines in the Nanaimo harbour area and later mined in Nanaimo as one of the first independent miners. In 1869 Dunsmuir discovered coal several miles North of Nanaimo at Wellington, and subsequently created the company Dunsmuir and Diggle Ltd so he could acquire crown land and finance the startup of what became the Wellington Colliery. With the success of Dunsmuir and Diggle and the Wellington Colliery, Dunsmuir expanded his operations to include steam railways. Dunsmuir sold Wellington Coal through its Departure Bay docks, while competing Nanaimo coal was sold by the London-based Vancouver Coal Company through the Nanaimo docks.
The gassy qualities of the coal which made it valuable also made it dangerous. The 1887 Nanaimo Mine Explosion killed 150 miners and was described as the largest man-made explosion until the Halifax Explosion. Another 100 men died in another explosion the next year.
An Internment camp for Ukrainian detainees, many of them local, was set up at a Provincial jail in Nanaimo from September 1914 to September 1915.
Nanaimo has had a succession of four distinct Chinatowns. The first, founded during the gold rush years of the 1860s, was the third largest in British Columbia. In 1884, because of mounting racial tensions related to the Dunsmuir coal company's hiring of Chinese strikebreakers, the company helped move Chinatown to a location outside city limits. In 1908, when two Chinese entrepreneurs bought the site and tried to raise rents, in response, and with the help of 4,000 shareholders from across Canada, the community combined forces and bought the site for the third Chinatown at a new location, focused on Pine Street. That third Chinatown, by then mostly derelict, burned down on September 30, 1960. A fourth Chinatown, also called Lower Chinatown or "new town", boomed for a while in the 1920s on Machleary Street.