The Early Years, 1870-1897

National Archives of Canada

Sir John A. Macdonald, Prime Minister, relied heavily on Sir Hugh Allan of the Allan Steamship Line to advertise western Canada in Britain and Europe.

In the 1870s and 1880s, the Allan Line of Steamers spent more money on advertising for immigrants to Canada than did the new federal government, it was said. But steamships could only bring immigrants so far.

A railway was urgently needed to take passengers west to settle the vast area of the North-West Territories recently acquired by the Canadian government. The Americans had a national railway network in place by 1869.

Sir John A. Macdonald, first Prime Minister of Canada. Building a trans-continental railway was a major priority for Macdonald, and one of the pillars of his National Policy.

Sir Hugh Allan, of the Allan Line, was encouraged by Prime Minister Macdonald to organize a consortium to build a Canadian Pacific Railway. The attempt failed when Macdonald's government was defeated over the so-called Pacific Scandal (Macdonald had asked Allan for a sizeable contribution to his 1873 election campaign, and word leaked out). But Sir John A. Macdonald returned to office in 1878, and his second attempt succeeded: in 1885 the Canadian Pacific Railway was completed and the CPR joined forces with the government to advertise for immigrants to western Canada.

However, the majority of British and European emigrants leaving for North America continued to go directly to the United States, which had been advertising heavily and effectively for new settlers since the 1850s.

National Archives of Canada

Back Next

The Early Years
Advertising in Britain
Advertising in Europe
Presenting newcomers to Canada,
Advertising in the United States
Advertising in Britain
The Early Years, 1870-1897 Advertising in Britain, 1900-1916 Advertising in Europe, 1900-1920s Presenting newcomers to Canada, 1910-1911 Advertising in the United States, 1900-1920s Advertising in Britain, 1920s