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Saturday, 17th May 2008
Canadian rail depot

his is the fourth time of asking for the introduction of this set. If I am out of the Gold Silver and Bronze position the thing usually gets scrapped but as I was watching the TV a presenter said the very line I was using in the original version of this introduction. At that point I decided to hit the keyboard again.

In 1914 and 1915 Wills produced a series of sets called, 'Overseas Dominions.' Perhaps I am overstating the case to call it a series as there were only two sets produced.

Still the two that did escape from the printers presses were about Canada and Australia, so well worth the effort in my opinion.

Like a lot of people I have relatives in these far flung places. When they left in the 1950's it was a very tearful affair, they were never going to be seen again so great was the distance and the problems of international communications. Today they are an email away and a days flight. Amazing.

What was the line the presenter used?
'Some of my best friends are...' Fill in the subset of the populous you wish to patronise in an effort to show just how liberated and liberal you are whilst achieving the exact opposite effect. That and a whole battery of nonsense I had to endure whilst watching the Commonwealth Games as Canada and Australia were beating Brits hollow it was the 'Friendly Games'. Then Britain started winning a few Gold medals and we remembered it was the Commonwealth games and towards the end as the medal tally rose in the Boxing events we were reminded it used to be called the Empire Games. Oh dear Oh dear.

Going back further though when these cards were being removed from cigarette packets the world was being gripped by the largest war in the history of mankind and flight was not much more than a technological stunt.

So what was Canada up to during this time.

Enjoying a fair bit of space by the looks of the set.

For my birthday my cousin (Hi Julie), who happens to live in Canada, sent me a book full of photographs of Canada, lets just say I am green with envy, its a beautiful country.

I know if a book of photo's cannot make somewhere look good then you are in trouble but none-the-less from where I am sitting its an improvement on most things I see.

The set is of the finest drawn detail with a full rich set of colours.

The set is of the finest drawn detail with a full rich set of colours printed on good quality thick card but if there is one thing a small bit of card is not good at depicting its space.

Although masterpieces of miniaturization getting the Rocky mountains onto a cigarette card means there is a certain loss of majestic power.

In the Canadian set there are a lot of snowy capped mountains one way or another.

They are not all mountains though and there are cards which depict the sort of industrial activities which go on. In fact the first card shows a timber raft.

A good start as I cannot think of anything which more typifies Canadian industry than these huge floating rafts of timber being guided down slow moving rivers of vast size. The card mentions some of these rafts can be half a mile in length and containing £50,000 ($80,000 approx US, although the exchange rate was slightly different at the beginning of the 20th century.) of timber within them.

Looking through the cards there is clearly a lot more nature than people going on in Canada, something which has not really changed since.

Card 11 tells a little more of the wood industry story, Lumberman's Camp. Apparently it all started in 1769 when William Davidson began supplying the British navy with masts. was I to know Maple sap was involved?

Card 29 has the sort of information on the reverse which I feel a bit of a fool for not thinking about before. The making of Maple syrup. Well how was I to know Maple sap was involved? An industry which was started by the Indians apparently (or Native Americans as they are more properly called now.)

In those far of days the globe was more worried about running out of people than we were running out of natural resources and card 33 (Logging Railway) reflects this fact when it tells us about the vastness of the timber supplies, British Colombia alone contained 180,000,000 acres of forest.

Today we hear about how we clear 10 football pitches an hour of the stuff or something of the sort. Then a volcano erupts and wipes out five square miles and the forest burns for a month. I agree we are doing more than our fair share of planet wrecking but finding a perspective on the issue is what it is all about.

1998; Hmmm...
E.Canada, Sugar Maples are dying because of increased soil acidification
A number of rivers in Nova Scotia are too polluted to support Salmon or Trout.
Large areas of farm land turned to dust
Logging companies opposing the growth of National Parks.

The set began with wood and it finishes with wood, the final card is all about felling trees. Forget machinery this is arm power and a serious pair of arms would be needed too.

The two men in the picture are cutting the sort of tree which can only live in the imagination for most people, it is huge and quite how long it is going to take them to cut down is anyones guess. Mine is they have been hitting the thing for a week or two already.

So Canada has wood and mountains but that is not all. Card 35 shows the Salmon Cannery, Fraser River. Turns out British Colombia has 7000 miles of coastline and 220,000 square miles of freshwater from which 11 million dollars of fish were pulled in 1911. The estimate on the card is that 17000 men form the fishing industry.

That obviously is the inland stuff because card 21 entitled Drying Cod is all about the fishing grounds off the Atlantic Coast. This fishing industry employs some 30,000 people during the summer months.

Ice-boat racing
On the broad frozen waters of the St. Lawrence the exciting sport of ice-boat sailing may be enjoyed under ideal conditions. The runners glide over the ice with minimum of friction, and great speed is developed, 60mph, having been attained under very favourable conditions. When the ice is covered with a few inches of snow, broader runners are used, and the progress of the boat is not affected.

Lake Superior is just such a stretch of water. It appears on card 19 and I might be doing it the gravest of disservice to call it just another stretch of water. Around 370 miles in length the card announces it to be the largest sheet of freshwater in the world and so largest of the Great Lakes.

It is big and during the winter months the wind could create violent storms which would mean the loss of many a vessel during that time of year. Not content with suffering the dangers of storms even if the water froze over the resourceful Canadians found ways of getting into trouble.

Lots of water and lots of cold weather means ice. Card 12 shows ice-boat sailing. A sport which looks designed to be dangerous and so great fun.

The St. Lawrence gets top billing on card 17 when it is put into historical perspective. Discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1534 he travelled up the thing to claim Canada for the French. In 1608 Champlain sailed up it to found Quebec and Wolfe came in 1759 the night before the great battle on the Heights of Abraham.

A good many other cards are dedicated to the watery assets of Canada.

Hand to hand combat is out, making the hunting a bit less exciting...

If ice racing is a bit too soft then card 26 is all about Bear-Hunting. Early autumn is the time for this when the normally shy Bruin is feeding up on berries for the winter hibernation. Hand to hand combat is out, making the hunting a bit less exciting, although more practical.

If you cannot wait for Bruin to become hungry then Moose-Hunting is for you (card 44). Judging by the numbers of moose heads adorning walls there were a lot more of them ready to stand in front of gun sights.

Apparently the Indians were skilful at imitating the call of the cow by means of a birch bark trumpet. This lured the Moose to within shooting range. Perhaps birch bark was not so good for imitating a female bear.

Shooting the rapids seems a far more even sided contest, large volumes of water are shot by men armed only with light birch-bark canoes. I expect more people died shooting rapids than they did shooting bears.

Birch bark obviously being some pretty useful stuff all told. Useful in this set as the native population of Indians might not have got a mention at all in the set had it not been for tree bark. Good grief.

Old Quebec
It is Canada's boast that the picturesque wooden houses of old Quebec are the only slums in the Dominion. Our illustration is of Sous le Cap Street, the name of which indicates that it was built by the French founders of the historic city. The province of Quebec is inhabited chiefly by French Canadians, and the visitor hears the French language spoken everywhere.

At the time of the card production it seems the entire of Canada is being constructed of wood but things were changing rapidly and settlements were taking on a more permanent nature and so card 37 illustrates a brick yard from which pour forth the materials needed to produce the buildings shown on cards 38 to 41 which are various government buildings in Quebec, Winnipeg, Halifax N.S & Victoria B.C.

Quebec as is fitting gets its own card (5) showing the Citadel, it notes the population in 1911 was 78,100. This compares with Ottawa (card 2) with a population of 96,000 in 1913.

Card 48 was probably popped in just to show how darn superior us Brits were, Old Quebec.

To right you would hear French, imagine hearing English being spoken in a slum district I'm sure an Englishman would rather have bitten his own tongue out and fed it too the upper classes rather than be caught degrading the Kings English (even if the royal family were German) in slum surroundings.

I expect there was many an English smoker that would have learnt French in a trice and got over there rather than slog it home to his back to back Victorian housing stock after having spent a long day breathing toxic fumes in a blackened factory building.

Anyway Canada was not totally over-run by trees, water and wildlife, there was the farming element. Card 46, Ploughing the Prarie where it shows big scale farming taking place.

I still marvel at the vast open spaces people can buy in some areas of the globe....

I suspect most Brits would not have been able to comprehend just how big this meant. I still marvel at the vast open spaces people can buy in some areas of the globe. It takes every penny I have to keep enough space between me and the rest of Britain so I can swing my arms without hitting anyone.

Open space, just lovely. Obviously Wills were keen to push forward the 'natural' pace of life in Canada, not too much sign of the industrial processes going on at the time, I suppose you can't have everything but that fact does not stop the idea being nice.