Snapshots of Canada’s Past: History is more than just words on a screen or from a textbook; this series is a thematic look back at Canadian history through visual imagery.
It is hard to pinpoint when tourism began in Canada. Some consider European explorers of the 16th century to be the first Canadian tourists. Others argue it was the creation of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century that really got things rolling because with modernization came with the development of cars and airplanes.
The postwar era was a peak time for Canadian tourism. From 1945-1960, most tourists preferred to travel to a handful of developed countries; the top 15 destinations received 97% of international tourists. In 1950, after the United States, Canada was the second most popular place to visit. Contrast that today with those same 15 destinations receiving only 55% of tourists and as of 2014 Canada has dropped to 18th on the list.
Travel ads during this time had the general look of postwar era advertising. Poster and magazine design had become an art form and drew heavily from the modernism and art deco movements. Artists utilized rich colours and bold geometric shapes to catch the attention of prospective tourists. As a result, many vintage Canadian travel ads all have a similar look: bright, eye-catching paintings, big, happy faces, occasionally a lot of descriptive text. There are some other similarities as well. See if you can spot them by clicking on the images below.
One of the reasons many of these posters look quite similar is because many of them were made by Peter Ewart (1918-2001). This Canadian artist’s art deco inspired designs were used for almost 25 years by Canadian Pacific.
Another one by Peter Ewart. He made a number of ads about all the animals there are to kill to Canada to bring in hunters and fishers to the country.
Airplane companies weren’t the only ones behind travel ads. Here’s one suggesting that there’s no better way to see Ontario’s many lakes than by train.
This is a more subdued ad. It showcases Ottawa’s dual appeal: history and nature. As you can see, nature was a major theme in our travel ads.
Looks like the woman from Ewart’s Nova Scotia Calling ad was on a cross-country tour. Here she is taking in Banff and Canadian Pacific’s hotel there. CP owned many, many things back in the day.
Norman Fraser, like Peter Ewart, was another artist whose work shaped the Canadian travel ad industry. This ad showcases both golf and the Algonquin Hotel in St. Andrew’s, New Brunswick.
In this one, Norman Fraser references ‘Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie,’ a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Set during the Expulsion of the Acadians, the poem was well-known to Americans at the time.
When Newfoundland joined Canada in 1949, travel agencies began to come up with lovely travel ads and silly puns to bring tourists to our newest province.
The Canadian Government Travel Bureau used the slogan “Canada Vacations Unlimited” on a number of their ads.
Canada: Come for the mountains, stay for the cultural appropriation.
Part of the reason Canadian Pacific dominates my collection of pictures is that the Trans Canada Airlines geared their ads towards getting Canadians to travel abroad via their planes or having people outside Canada use their services. This TCA ad is an example of them attempting to bring tourists to Canada as well as advertise their international flights.
Another example of TCA advertising abroad to bring tourists to Canada.
This cute ad depicts Uncle Sam and a Canadian Mountie back-to-back to advertise their daily US to Canada flights. This ad is from 1961 and you will notice the Red Ensign is being used. The Maple Leaf flag didn’t become our flag until 1965.
Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego? Apparently she’s on a Canadian Pacific train.
This 1952 ad for Banff & Lake Louise likely appeared only in magazines given the amount of text used.
Most vintage Quebec ads depict the province as a “Winter Wonderland” and often include someone skiing. This one focuses on the Laurentian Mountains.
Technically this one falls a bit outside my “postwear era” range as it’s from 1968, but I had to include it. Apparently though Canadians can’t tell the difference between a fur coat wearer and an actual bear. This is the government’s attempt to change a common misconception about Canada. “We’re not a frozen tundra, really! We have beaches!”
“Chapter 1. History and Overview,” Introduction to Tourism and Hospitality in BC. Morgan Westcott, Ed., Geoffrey Bird, et al. BC Open Book Textbook Project. Capilano University. 2015. Accessed from: https://opentextbc.ca/introtourism/chapter/chapter-1-history-and-overview/
“Canada’s Federal Tourism Strategy: Welcoming the World,” Government of Canada. October 2011. Accessed from: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/034.nsf/eng/00216.html
All Posters – Seriously there are so many here.
Library and Archives Canada
Peter Ewart Corporate Artwork
Peter Marshall’s Canadian Pacific Tribute