Canadian Travel Ads (1940s-1960s)

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.


“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:

“Canada’s Federal Tourism Strategy: Welcoming the World,” Government of Canada. October 2011. Accessed from:

Photographic Sources

All Posters –Β  Seriously there are so many here.
Library and Archives Canada
Peter Ewart Corporate Artwork
Peter Marshall’s Canadian Pacific Tribute



5 thoughts on “Canadian Travel Ads (1940s-1960s)

  1. milliethom says:

    I love these colourful posters and your commentary is great. The posters remind me a lot of some we have in many of our railway stations in the UK, all obviously advertising British Rail. Many date from as far back as 1930, others are from the post-war era, as most of yours. They also have a similar bold style to your posters.
    It’s a shame Canada’s popularity with tourists has fallen. We definitely want to visit! Canada is very high on our list of places to visit.

    Liked by 1 person

    • cadeauca says:

      Thank you! I kind of wish they would bring this poster style back. It’s very eye-catching.

      On the one hand, I understand the decrease in the tourism ranking. Other countries that weren’t popular then are now so there’s a lot more competition. But 18th is still kind of sad, it’s great here! Come when you can! Our dollar is terrible right now so the exchange rate will work in your favor. πŸ˜‰


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