Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2004


Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 24, No. 2, Spring 2004, pp. 113-29.


Copyright 2004 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln


One of the major challenges that Canadian government officials felt they faced at the end of the nineteenth century was the development of the prairie West. By this time there were large urban centers in eastern Canada, but many Canadians worried that they had not truly ensured the future existence of their country. They hoped that filling the middle, the province of Manitoba and the region that would become the provinces of Saskatchewan and Alberta, with prosperous, white, family farmers would support the industrialized cities of the East. To do this the government engaged in a systematic program to encourage immigration of farmers and agricultural laborers from the United States and Britain. This involved many forms of promotion, including a magazine entitled Canada West. From this publication we can see that the ideal society envisioned by Canadian officials was a modern, highly developed society, based on family farms. This work shall demonstrate through a detailed analysis of the magazine's covers over several years the ways in which Canada depicted the ideal life farmers could hope to have on the prairies.


The subject of this work, the publication Canada West, was one of the most important pieces of promotional material that the Canadian Immigration Branch of the Department of the Interior produced. When it was introduced, the immigration agents throughout Britain and the United States found it the most useful publication in their collection for promoting the West.1 The booklet itself was a magazine-sized text featuring sections on the general history of Canada, the development of the West, and each of the prairie provinces and territories. It was a catchall document, as opposed to some of the other brochures available to the agents, which promoted only one region. It was also much more sophisticated in appearance than the earlier works. Designed by Rand McNally under the direction of the Immigration Branch, Canada West was filled with black and white pictures of prairie life and colorful maps of Canada and its regions. The magazine evolved over time, reflecting the changing reality of prairie farm life but also incorporating new advertising techniques.

This paper focuses on the covers of Canada West rather than the text contained within. Many of the themes addressed in the covers are more explicitly identified in the written promotion, and where appropriate the text will be used to illustrate and elaborate on the topics discussed. The covers will be the focus, though, because they succinctly demonstrate that the Canadian government had an agenda of populating the prairies with prosperous white families.