Charles Joseph Howlett


Melvin Baker (c)1984

Originally published in the Newfoundland Quarterly, vol. LXXIX, no. 3 (Winter 1984)

Charles Joseph Howlett was born on 25 January, 1885, in St. John's, the youngest son of John and Mary (Byrne) Howlett. After receiving his early education at St. Patrick's Hall and St. Bonaventure's College, he studied dentistry first in 1901 at the University of Toronto in Toronto and later at the Philadelphia Dental College. He graduated from the latter in 1905 and the following year he opened a practice in his native city. On September 8, 1908, he married Eleanor M. Walsh of St. John's. Besides being President of the Newfoundland Dental Board from 1916 to 1929, Howlett was a member of the American Institute of Dental Radiologists and a Honorary Member of the 1st District Dental Society of New York.

Howlett was prominent in the city's social life, organizing, for instance, several theatricals for residents. During his presidency of the Rotary Club from 1928 to 1929, the Club opened a children's swimming pool that had been constructed from funds raised by Rotarians. Howlett's concern over the need for improved civic services prompted him to enter the mayoralty race in the municipal election held on 9 December, 1929. On this occasion, he defeated the incumbent, Tasker Cook, 2,438 votes to 2,226.

In 1930 Mayor Howlett had the city's financial and administrative operations thoroughly investigated by a firm of chartered accountants with a view towards greater efficiency and management. The following year the firm, Read, Son, & Watson, reorganized the civic government. Also, in 1930 Howlett was successful in persuading the Liberal administration of Sir Richard Squires to turn over to Council's control the city's share of the annual grants from the legislature for the Electoral Districts of St. John's East and West. Previously, the control of these grants had been in the hands of the representatives for the two Districts. The following year Howlett successfully negotiated a contract with the Warren Bituminous Paving Company of Toronto to pave Duckworth and New Gower Streets. This work was completed during the autumn of 1931. To deal with the destitution of an increasing number of the unemployed of the city as a result of the economic depression in Newfoundland, in January, 1932 Howlett organized the Civic Relief Committee, which raised money to provide coal and other assistance to the poor of St. John's. It was also in 1932 that Howlett had Council float its first bond issue, the raising of a loan of $500,000 for the city having been authorized by the Newfoundland legislature during its 1931 sitting. Howlett died at St. John's on 31 March, 1932.