My, my, how times have changed! Today I received a package of Calgary and Banff artifacts from a 3rd cousin living in Los Angeles who my Mom recently reconnected with. She is a big collector and loves treasure hunting at flea markets and fairs in the LA area. When my Mom told her about my interest in old Calgary artifacts, she said she’d keep that in mind.
I really never gave it much thought until very recently my Mom told me to expect a package in the mail from Sally. Today it arrived - a nice two-page handwritten letter (can’t remember the last time I saw one of those), a dozen postcards and a magazine entitled “CANADA Vacations Unlimited,” all purchased at the Glendale, California, Vintage Paper Fair.
While the postcards were wonderful, it was the 50-page, 1951, full-colour magazine that immediately caught my attention. Produced by the Canadian Government Travel Bureau (part of the department of Resources and Development), the magazine was aimed at enticing Americans to visit Canada. It was captivating to see how Canada branded itself as a tourist destination 60+ years ago.
I was immediately struck by the lack of any information about Canadian cities; it is dominated by images of hunting, fishing, swimming, beaches, horseback riding and golf. Everything is family, rural and quaint. Shopping gets only minimal attention and food and dining isn’t even on the radar.
No advertisements, no hotel listings, no phone numbers and no coupons and about festivals, museums, art galleries
Branding the Provinces
The first 20 pages area devoted to profiling our 10 provinces – photo heavy and text light. And, nothing on the Territories.
British Columbia is branded as “Canada’s Pacific Province” with “great mountain ranges like Switzerland, deep costal inlets like Norway and valleys with pastoral charm of England’s quiet shires.” There is no mention of the charms of Vancouver except to say “it is the largest city in British Columbia, with more population than any state capital in the U.S. with the exception of Boston. Images include the Empress Hotel (Victoria), Cathedral Grove (Alberni), Skyline Trail (Yoho Valley) and a generic game fishing photo.
Alberta is branded as “Canada’s Mile-High Mountain Playground” where “cowhands and reservation Indians still roam Alberta’s grazing lands against the splendor of the Canadian Rockies, and the Calgary Stampede gets more spectacular each year.” The images are of “cowgirls sitting on a fence at Stampede, picnic at Waterton Lakes National Park, lookout on Banff Jasper Highway and Bow River from Banff Springs Hotel.”
Saskatchewan branded as “Land of the last frontier” is where there’s fishing, hunting, swimming, boating, camping, hiking, golf, tennis and riding.” Images include Qu’Appelle Valley, public gardens (Regina), picnicking (Lake Waskesiu), golf (Prince Albert Park) and boating (unnamed river/lake).
Manitoba is branded as “Inside the rim of Adventure” (whatever that means). The entire text is focused on fishing and hunting with no mention of Winnipeg as a tourist destination. But, it does point out that “the adventurous, if they have a special licence, can hunt the belugas and great white whales of Hudson Bay – boats and harpoons are supplied at Churchill and the big mammals sometimes weigh up to 2,000 pounds.” Images include ruins of old fortress at Churchill, a couple on the shore of Whiteshell Reserve, beach on Lake Winnipeg and shore of Clear Lake.”
Ontario is “Canada’s All-Year Vacation Province” and includes names of the 14-tourist reception centres and how the climate ranges from Arctic temperatures in the north to peach, strawberry and tobacco growing in the extreme south, which by the way is south of northern California. There are small photos of a Mountie and the Peace Tower in Ottawa, swimming in a quiet lake, sentry at Kingston’s Fort Henry, Niagara Falls and a “Niagara Peninsula blossom queen. No mention of Toronto - how can that be?
Quebec is “Canada’s French Heritage” that offers “vacation charm with a French-Canadian accent, exhilarating scenery, Scandinavian-type skiing as well as hunting and fishing. Quebec City is North America’s only walled city and cosmopolitan Montreal is the largest in all Canada, as well as being the world’s greatest inland port.” Images include a cruise ship passing Chateau Frontenac, looking out over the city of Montreal from Mount Royal, Gaspe Bay fisherman and highway along Lake Massawippi. What? No mention of maple syrup or poutine!
New Brunswick is branded as “Canada’s Unspoiled Province by the Sea” with more information about fishing, beach colonies and a quick mention of Magnetic Hill and Reversing Falls. Images include a woman sitting on the edge of canoe, salmon fishing in the Miramichi River, fishing smacks at Caraquet, fine game bird shooting and Bay of Fundy.
“Canada’s Ocean Playground” is Nova Scotia’s brand, “where every village has a story and usually there is a historic background to the tale.” Visitors who stay for more than a few days are eligible for the ‘Order of the Good Cheer’ North America’s first social club formed in 1606 by Samuel de Champlain.” Images are of the beach at Ingonish, landing a giant tuna at Wedgeport and small sailboats in North West Arm in Halifax.
Prince Edward Island is “Canada’s Garden Island Province” with “specialties of potato growing and oyster farming and where a lack of heavy industry have kept it from being better known.” (I am not making this stuff up; this is their promotional material.) There are photos of Parliament Buildings, silks and sulkies, north shore beach, Keppoch Beach and rural countryside.
Lastly, Newfoundland is “Canada’s Newest Province” which in 1951 was a big deal as it just became the 10th province in 1949. There is a whole paragraph on St. John’s history and the city’s role in the American War of Independence, War of 1812 and World War II. The text ends with “The Canadian dollar has been the accepted currency in Newfoundland since 1894.” Images include a fishing cove, Gander airport, lumber mill (Corner Brook) and scenic highway on the Humber River. I can’t believe there is no mention of icebergs or a photo of one.
If you found this blog insightful, you will definitely want to read CANADA Vacations Unlimited Part 2 (later this week), which will look at how Canada’s Travel Bureau promoted National Parks, Vacation Highways, Fishing, Canoeing, Camping, Swimming, Relaxing, Shrines and Historic Sites to Americans. You will be surprised, maybe even shocked at how we branded shopping in Canadian shopping.