They’re Giving Away Land!


Back in the day, Canada needed more people to build up its country and, in particular, in its vast western inland plains. With lots of land and not so many people, the federal and provincial governments and land companies starting in the late 1800s on into the early twentieth century launched  recruitment campaigns  around the world, especially in Europe, with the lure of free land grants and the potential for prosperity.  The distance was far and farm life was (is!) tough, but the appeal drew many new immigrants to Canada’s west.   I love the variety and details in some of these posters! (Click on images to enlarge)

53 responses

  1. Thanks for sharing these! They seem to be circa 1890 – 1910, but I had a friend whose family arrived at the border in the 1960s, everything they owned in a couple of trucks, hoping to move in and get free Saskatchewan land. By then, it wasn’t so easy to enter and they were sent back to the States.

    Although some land was free, once title was secured, it could be sold. Quite a few of your posters were sponsored by either Canadian National Railway or Canadian Pacific Railway. In a bit of a scam, in the late 19th C, those railways were given title to every second section (square mile) that touched the new rail lines (in addition to government cash subsidies). The railways were allowed to sell the sections to raise cash. So, as some people arrived to get free land, others bought railway land, too.

    These posters are lovely and – as you wrote – the detail is great. Thanks again for posting them!

  2. I grew up in Manitoba and these posters are so interesting; knowing they might have influenced my ancestors to move to Sask. from England. Thanks for sharing, Cheryl

  3. Seeing the photo of the child in the prickly stubble, inside the stook, sent me off to see what I could find about stooks. I remember well the bleeding ankles we kids had from walking through that darn stubble on our way to school!

    1. (Agriculture) a number of sheaves set upright in a field to dry with their heads together

    2. (Agriculture) (tr) to set up (sheaves) in stooks

    [C15: variant of stouk, of Germanic origin; compare Middle Low German stūke, Old High German stūhha sleeve]

  4. I wonder which poster my great grandparents saw in Germany or South Russia when they decided to take advantage of the free farmland and immigrate to the Canadian prairies in 1911. The terrain and climate was similar to the steppes they had been living on but it was a hard life. I am so glad they made that decision.

  5. Great sequence of poster art. Where did you get the images ?

    The whole blog is very interesting. Canadians love to hear others talk about ( not aboot) how great we are, especially Americans. We are an insecure lot, but polite & nice. 😀

    • The posters are great cultural history! The pics are curated mainly from different archives.

      Thanks for the comment about the blog — and your wonderful sense of humor! 🙂

  6. Jeepers, that expresses it all and….now, our problems with urban sprawl in the prairies where commercial developers want to pay the lowest development fees compared to other provinces.

    I live in Alberta…..

    Actually kind of shocking that the land was “free”, when it belonged to the First Nations, native Indians.

  7. Such a different era. Yes, dreadful to think of land being given away from the native Americans. I had an ancestor make a similar trek from New York to the Dakotas. You have a very nice blog.

  8. That is an interesting post and I loved the vintage posters. I did not know they ever gave free land in Canada. But I know that when I decided to go to travel in the USA (in 1961) I found out I had to get a visa, green card and sponsor if I wanted to stay for a while and work. I was told though (not sure if that was really true) that if I went to Quebec instead I would get a free apartment for a while and help in finding a job. After checking the weather in Canada and San Francisco – I flew to San Francisco … but now, after ending in Atlanta, I wonder if I should not have gone to Quebec then…

  9. Great images, again, Brett. Thanks for sharing. My grandparents from Norway were among those who heard the call and came to the “new homeland”. It was an open secret that there were already people there who were cleared off the land in preparation for their arrival – the First Nations. In that sense the posters are chilling as well as beautiful.

    • Thanks for the comment. It’s interesting to me that there are many commenters, such as yourself, who have such a direct, personal connection to this history.

  10. An incredibly great collection! I know I’ll have to be back to take another look… right up my alley. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Pingback: HISTORY SHARE: IMMIGRANT POSTERS | Time Travelling With Kids

  12. Hi Brett, this is an amazing selection of posters that you’ve managed to cull together! I`m wondering if you`ve noted down or remember which archives you used to gather these? I’m doing some research on ads from this era related to homesteading and pioneering. Thanks!

  13. Hi Brett. I’m a researcher on a Knowledge Network documentary series about British Columbia history. You can read more about the project here:

    We’re very curious about where you found the ‘Canada West’ poster that’s in the centre of the second row of images. (The family by the tree with man and his hand outstretched.) Do you know what the source is?

Your Comments Are Welcome and Encouraged!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: