Marketing the Frontier
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Pioneers Head West
Marketing the Frontier
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Marketing the Frontier
A misleading advertising campaign convinces thousands to head west
The first settlers to head to the Canadian prairies were lured by cheap land and big promises.
Pioneers were lured to western Canada in the late 1800s by pamphlets promising a better life in the new  frontier. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)
Pioneers were lured to western Canada in the late 1800s by pamphlets promising a better life in the new frontier. (As portrayed in Canada: A People's History)

Prairie land was advertised in central Canada, England, Scotland and Europe. The Canadian government offered families 160 acres for a $10 deposit.

Pamphlet writing became a literary genre in its own right as writers tried to find grand ways to describe the prairies. Pamphlets were published often exaggerating the sort of life immigrants would find on the Canadian frontier.

One of the most inventive pamphlet writers was Thomas Spense:

"Situated where the great stream of human life will pour its mightiest flood," Spence wrote, "Beneficiently endowed with nature's riches, and illumed by such a light, there will be no portion of all earth's domain surpassing in glory and grandeur the future of Canada's North-West.... Feeling himself every inch a man, as he gazes upon the unclaimed acres which shall reward his toil, the settler breathes a freer air, his bosom swells with a prouder purpose, and his strong arms achieve unwonted results."

The Canadian immigration literature also dealt with its biggest competitor for settlers - the United States. The pamphlets warned of warm, disease-carrying breezes and the wasting torpor to the south.

Pamphlets also targeted specific markets. Literature directed to the English peasant highlighted the availability of land and the new egalitarian society to be found on the prairies. For those living in the cities, the authors talked about the clear air and the pristine moral climate.

Soon people began to trickle into the prairies choosing to believe the promises of a new life. Mary Louisa Cummins recalled the advertising campaign that brought her and her husband from England to the Canadian plains.

"At the time, the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) was plastering the country with fascinating pictures of glorious wheat fields on the great prairies," she wrote. "There was a fortune for everyone in three years not to mention glittering promises of practically free land. Hopes were high. So we, poor fools, fell into the trap."

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Tales on the Trails

Mounties Saddle Up
A legendary police force is born on the western frontier.
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Tales on the Trails
Following their dreams, pioneers travel a nightmare journey across the Praires.
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Quebecers in New England
French Canadians flee to the U.S. for work and ignore pleas to settle Canada's West
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Winnipeg Boomtown
The little prairie town enter a golden age as it becomes the gateway to the West
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