Tag Archives: canada west

1870s TV Ad for Free Farms in Western Canada

Reid Dickie

A delightful impossibility!

In 1870 the Dominion of Canada bought Rupert’s Land, which was pretty much all of western Canada, from the Hudson’s Bay Company. After passing the Dominion Lands Act in 1872, the government embarked on an advertising campaign to entice people from Europe, the United States and eastern Canada to come to western Canada and take advantage of the free land and unbound opportunity. This campaign went on well into the 20th century. I gathered together ten of the Dominion’s ads from the period, several of them covers for pamphlets about Canada that, more often than not, wildly exaggerated the potential of the prairies. Basically, they were propaganda. In that same tradition, I envisioned what the Dominion’s TV ad might have looked like in the 1870s. Click the poster to watch.

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Last of the Best – Canada West

Lush promises and a bright future guaranteed on the Canadian prairie with a free farm to boot in this 1907 promotional poster!

Another poster from around the same era with the same intent.

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Getting Crowded? Free Farms in Western Canada

Cover of 1911 pamphlet aimed at luring American settlers to Canada, issued by the Canadian Department of the Interior.

Watch my short video on free farms.

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Canada West – Homes for Millions

This promotional poster touting western Canada as the last and best place in the world to farm came out between 1896 and 1911 while Sydney Fisher was federal Minister of Agriculture. Still offering free farms and stooks as far as the eye can see.

Watch my video on free farms

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Canada West – More Free Farms

Another Canadian government propaganda poster from the early 1900s to lure people to the Canadian West. This time the Federal Minister of the Interior is W. J. Roche. Free farms meant 160 acres, quarter sections of virgin prairie. (Your farm may differ from this farm.)

Watch my video about free farms.

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Filling Up The West – 1923 Canada West Promo Cover

        Watch my short video on free farms

          Clifford Sifton, the Minister of the Interior from 1896 to 1905, was the driving force behind the greatest immigration scheme in Canadian history. Through his efforts, the Department of the Interior distributed tens of thousands of pamphlets similar to this 30-page atlas on western Canada. The atlas describes the opportunities and the free homesteads that were available for prospective immigrants in western Canada. The style is flamboyant and spectacular  –  not to mention overstated  –  and had some similarities to a travelling “medicine show.”

         Through an aggressive propaganda campaign, Sifton hoped to saturate the United States and Europe with positive opinions about the Canadian West. Canadian immigration agents were sent to important European centres, and overseas journalists were given expense-free trips to see for themselves the “Last Best West” and its great promise.

         Sifton’s sole objective was to populate the West and his policy was simple: “only farmers need apply.” For Sifton, agriculture was the backbone of the Canadian economy and everything else depended on its success. The best European agriculturalists, Sifton believed, came from northern areas  –  Britain, Scandinavia, western or eastern Europe  –  while the least desirable came from the south. Sifton disdained southern Europeans, especially Italians, because as migratory labourers, they preferred to settle in the urban centres rather than venture into the countryside. However, Sifton encouraged east-European immigration. He considered east-European immigrants to be hard-working, obedient, agricultural people. Stated Sifton, “I think a stalwart peasant in a sheepskin coat, born on the soil, whose forefathers had been farmers for ten generations, with a stout wife, and a half-dozen children, is good quality.”


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