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Homesteading, Part Two:
Advertising for Settlers

Even though the Dominion Lands Act was passed in 1872, it wasn’t until he end of the 19th century that immigrants started settling the Canadian west. As historian Pat Myers explains, it took some work to make homesteading in Alberta an attractive proposition.

One of the important factors was that the Canadian government undertook an aggressive and multifaceted campaign to tell people about the settlement possibilities, and then to bring them here.

They printed advertising pamphlets and posters; they sent displays to Great Britain, to Europe, to the United States; they opened agencies and offices; they offered commissions to transportation companies who would bring people here; and they really worked hard to get the name of Canada, and western Canada, out there.

After Alberta became a province in 1905, the newly formed department of Agriculture ran its own advertising campaign to attract homesteaders.

They printed handbooks about Alberta, filled with all sorts of information on crops and climate and towns, education facilities, mineral and timber resources; they had lots of pictures of successful farms. They profiled farmers, such as one fellow near Daysland, who had harvested a turnip that weighed almost 14 kilograms.

In 1910, the province had established a publicity bureau, to make its attempts to attract immigrants even more thorough. They opened offices in Winnipeg and Toronto and Montreal. They sent commissioners all over the United States.

Some people who took up the call had already homesteaded across the United States. And now, with little free land left there, they came north to Canada so their children might have land.

Others came from Europe.

In Great Britain and Europe, a lot of the population was urban; it was industrialized by that time, it was no longer engaged in food production, and this was a population that ate bread as a staple. And these countries no longer grew enough grain to make enough bread.

So grain became a very attractive crop. The price of wheat was rising, transport costs were falling, so it was now quite an attractive crop to grow.

Of course, once people made the decision to come to Alberta, they still faced an arduous journey before they could claim their homestead.

On the Heritage Trail,

I’m Cheryl Croucher.

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