Fifty Years of Business Expansion
How Industry, Finance, Insurance and Transportation Have Advanced Since Confederation
W. A. Craick
CANADA’S position at the close of the fiftieth year of Confederation is imposing only in so far as present-day conditions are placed in contrast with those prevailing at the dawn of the Confederation era. Progress is at best a relative term, and to appreciate to the full the extent of this country’s development, one must visualize the setting in which that development was commenced.
To all intents and purposes the whole of Western Canada, with its far-flung population, its many fine cities, its thousands of miles of railway and its enormous agricultural production, must beelimin* ated from the canvas. It is true that by 1867 some ten thousand people had settled in the Red River Valley; that stragglers had penetrated even farther west. It is also true that the gold "rush of the late fifties had poured population into the Fraser River Valley and that Victoria was already a fair-sized town. But these widely-separated settlements, on the prairies and at the Coast, were almost as distant from Eastern Canada in those days as Australia is to-day, and further their business associations were entirely with the neighboring sections of the United States.
The picture of Canada in 1867 narrows, therefore, to the comparatively restricted limits of the older settled portions of the country,—the narrow fringe of clearing along the St. Lawrence; the lake front counties of Ontario; the coast and rivers settlements of New Brunswick and the scattered towns and fishing villages of Nova Scotia. The wider vision of a great and prosperous West had not ÿet seized upon the minds of the people and their field of possible endeavor lay no further off than the thickly wooded concessions of the back counties.
THOUGH fairly well populated and supplied with the modern means of communication, the older sections of Quebec and Ontario were still in a comparatively rude and undeveloped condition. Even between Montreal and Toronto, then as now the two foremost centres of population in Canada, the appearance of the country was anything but prepossessing. There remained much uncleared land. Many of the homes of the inhabitants were at best but miserable shanties. The people were poor; the children dirty and ragged ; the cattle lean. Towns, which were quite as numerous as they are to-day and in several cases nearly as large, were suffering from the after-effects of the Grand Trunk boom, and exhibited numerous unoccupied and delapidated buildings.
From Prescott to Ottawa, then the customary route to the Capital, the railway traversed what appeared to be a continuous pine swamp, wet, dismal and depressing. The Capital itself lay hidden away in the midst of green, unbroken forests,
which closed in on the log houses and small villas lying on the outskirts of the embryo city.
To the rear of the counties fronting on the St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, settlement was just getting under way at the time Confederation came into being. Railways were being promoted to tap the resources of Peterboro’, Victoria, Simcoe, Grey and Bruce Counties and settlers were arriving from the Old Country to people their solitudes. In fact this particular section of Canada was going through an experience which has since been duplicated many times in the West.
The government was devoting special attention to the settlement of the free grant lands in the Muskoka District. Advertising matter of the same brand as that which later lured thousands of immigrants to the prairies, told of the prospective wealth to be derived from the cultivation of the soil in this remote part of the province. In response to the appeal population was penetrating as far north as Parry Sound on the shore of the Georgian Bay, while Bracebridge was thronged with newcomers.
It was about this period too that the oil boom in Enniskillen Township and the gold boom at Madoc were absorbing public attention. The former attracted the curious from all parts of the country. To reach the oil fields, visitors had to leave the Sarnia branch of the Great Western at Wyoming and drive through th$ woods to Oil Springs. It was a trip,o described by travellers, full of spectacular interest. The great dark forest, traversed! by a narrow plank road ; the constant succession of carts coming and going with their barrels of oil; the derricks, oil tanks and engines scattered through the clearings, all presented a scene of strange and outlandish character. Oil Springs itself was a village of wooden hotels, thronged with speculators and hangers-on, who by their frenzied efforts to secure paying properties increased the popular interest in the district.
The Madoc gold finds were made m the year before Confederation and the rush to the mines in the spring of 1867 was one of thg events of that momentous year. Prospectors in large numbers thronged to the new gold fields, from which so much was expected, and many miners, who had participated in the California and British Columbia rushes, made their way to the new Eldorado. Five lines of stages from Belleville to Madoc were for a time insufficient to accommodate the crowd who sought access to the scene of the discov
These events, bulking largely in the popular imagination at the time, have long since dwindled into their proper proportions. The oil wells of Enniskillen have become a commonplace ; the gold strikes at Madoc have sunk into insignificance. Reference has been made to them merely to
illustrate how places which fifty
3 ears ago
were on the very fringe of settler lent and to reach which tedious journeys 1 ad to be made are now left far in the rear by the tide of progress. The gold of Porcupine has long since eclipsed the gold of Madoc and in Southern Alberta the oil prospector has been finding new fields for his|investi gâtions
IS VARIOUS other respects coádition^.
have changed in olï Ontario and Quebec. Lumbering was a far more important industry fifty years ago than It is today. The Great Western Railway Brought down from its Sarnia branch annually large quantities of oak timber. This wood was rafted at Hamilton and towed to Quebec for export to the Old Country! Northern Railway carried to Toronk the Port Hope, Lindsay & Beaverto) way hauled to Port Hope trainlc trainload of lúmber for shipmc schooner across the lake. Cordwc one of the commonest commodities day and trainloads of it were a sight oh the railroads fifty years was used not only for heating and_ but it formed the universal fuel motives, and from the back settl« thousands of cords were shipped to the United States. '
The extent of settlement in 1861 reflected in the cities. To-day there áre in the Dominion six cities with populations in excess of 100,000,—Montreal, ' Winnipeg, Ottawa, Hamilton and —while a seventh, Vancouver, fa short of that figure. In the year of federation, however, Montreal wa: only urban centre that came within of reaching the 100,000 mark. Toronto could not boast 50,000 inhabitants, nipeg was a mere hamlet. Ottawa | tained but 15,000 people. Hamilton exceeded 20,000 by a narrow margin. J for those flourishing Western citi« Calgary’, Edmonton, Regina, Saskat Brandon, Moose Jaw and Vancouv« they were practically all non-existient. Only conservative old burgs like Que Halifax and St. John had population) any way commensurable with pi figures.
The beautiful capital city of the dominion, whose natural charms have b sen greatly enhanced by the work of the Ottawa improvement Commission, has developed during the fifty years of C >n. federation from a crude backwoods set lement into one of the finest cjties in America. So unprepossessing was its ippearance when it was selected b>T Qui en Victoria to be the seat of government, tl at it was described as the Cinderella of Ci nadian cities. Its intrinsic beauty v as recognized but that beauty was so hidd sn by uncouth and dirty surroundings that the comparison was by no means inapt.
Curious visitors who went to view t íe new capital during the early sixties, car íe
away with mixed impressions. It was admitted that the site of the Parliament Buildings was a lovely one; that the surrounding forests had a wild impressiveness and that the clear air, everlastingly resounding with the noise of falling water, was exhilarating, but what were these natural, attractions when everyday living conditions were so bad? The streets were rough, the houses mean and squalid, the hotel accommodation wretched, and the food poor. Lumber and sawdust litered the place until it looked like one vast timber yard.
A sister of Lord Mondt, who visited the town shortly before the GovernorGeneral moved there from Quebec, groaned over the prospects of life in such a place, describing it as “t’other end of nowhere.” And it is known that civil service employees, who had to forsake the comparative liveliness of Toronto, Montreal or Quebec, for its early crudities, bemoaned their fate, while ministers of the crown took the earliest opportunity to escape from its impenetrable dullness.
Of course all this has changed. Ottawa to-day boasts the possession of every modern facility, not only for the enjoyment but for the improvement of life. Its beautiful streets and parks, its splendid public buildings, its superior hotels,—all these combine to render the contrast with the miserable, down-at-the-heel settlement of fifty years ago most striking and complete.
AND WHAT of other cities? Montreal, the foremost city of the Dominion with its more than 600,000 people, could, in 1867, muster barely onesixth of that number. In extent it was very considerable smaller. Its principal business thoroughfare of to-day, St. Catherine Street, lay on the outskirts of the= city. Even lordly St. James Street, with its splendid financial institutions, was only just in course of construction. Business centred in Notre Dame Street; McGill College stood out in the suburbs and it was a mile walk from the edge of the city to the mountain.
In several respects, Montreal fifty years ago was greatly inferior to the present city. Its streets were notoriously filthy, especially along the docks where the mud frequently lay knee-deep. The lighting even of the main thoroughfares was inadequate, gas being then, the universal illuminant. The drainage was bad, and in this connection one visitor tells of having to leave the Theatre Royal one night in the middle of an amusing comedy on account of the Vile odors that were wafted in through the windows. Apart from these deficiencies, however, the city seems to have been an imposing place with its solid-looking buildings, its many fine churches and its active commerce.
Toronto’s expansion during the fifty years has been equally, even if not more, phenomenal. When it is recalled that in 1867 Queen’s Park, now in the heart of the city, was on its extreme northern edge; Trinity College was situated a mile beyond the western limits and that troops were able to go through extensive evolutions on a great common that lay between the city and Spadina Avenue, some faint conception of the physical growth of the place can be obtained. In population it has increased twelve-fold, or roughly from 40,000 to 480,000.
The cities in the east, Halifax and St. John, have probably exhibited fewer changes than their western sisters. Halifax, which has now about 50,000 inhabitants, had a population of 30,000 at the time of Confederation. St. John, which to-day contains approximately 54.000 people, was then a place of 35,000 inhabitants. In Halifax the lives of the citizens revolved around the garrison of British regulars wrMch manned its forts and citadel. Some trading, it is true, went on with the West Indies. Fish was exported; sugar and other tropical products imported. But the military and naval interests of the place predominated and trade I and commerce, while a necessary evil, w’ere not allowed to thrust themselves too far into the foreground.
The commercial spirit was more in evidence in St. John, a city which then as nowr regarded its Nova Scotian contemporary with a feeling of suspicion and I rivalry. St. John had been a notable shipbuilding center for years and, not only was many a stout vessel built each year in its shipyards, but its merchants owned and outfitted numerous deep sea craft for service on the seven seas. The !docks of St. John was a busy spot in those days, for ships and sailors were numerous and thére was a constant coming and going of vessels from distant ports.
IP CITIES were small fifty years ago, so also were the industries that flourished in them. Industrially there has been a remarkable change in Canada durjn the past half-century. When Confederation came into being the settled sections of the country were plentifully supplied with an immense number of small steel industries. Each town, each village, had its little group of manufacturing establishments w’hich produced the essentials of life for the people of the immediate neighborhood. A flour apd grist mill, a sawmill, a tannery, a carding and fulling mill, a carriage factory and not infrequently a brewery or distillery were the possession of practically every center of population.
The census of 1861 showed that in Ontario alone there were in operation 501 flour and grist mills, 1,164 sawmills, 271 tanneries, 185 carriage factories, and 143 breweries and distilleries. In Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island combined. there was 8,503 industries, of which 1,785 were flour and grist mills, 4,240 saw mills and 710 tanneries. By 1,867 all these figures had probably been considerably increased. *
Few of these primitive local industries have survived the evolution of the centralized factory system. Here and there through the country there may remain some pathetic examples of these once important institutions, But, generally speaking, the economies introduced in the operation of the large factories of to-day have made it quite impossible for the small industry to exist.
Even in the sixties there were evidences of the development of large-scale manufacturing. The building of the Lachine Canal seems to have produced a considerable industrial boom in Montreal. The canal furnished four million horsepower of hydraulic energy' per annum, a huge figure for those days, and, as practically all manufacturing was done by waterpower, manufacturers naturally flocked to this new source of energy.
The extent and importance of the factories along the canal filled visitors with astonishment. There were huge iron works, employing1 no fewer than 120 men and producing 12 tons of nail plates per day! There was a wonderful new flour mill, which could grind 500 bbls. of flour in twenty-four hours. There was a sugar refinery with capacity adequate to manufacture seven-eighths of the sugar consumed in Canada and there was a marine works, which could produce several ships for river and lake service each season.
One may smile at the expressions of amazement with which the citizens of 1867 regarded these examples of industrial enterprise, the size and output of which have long since been eclipsed by immensely larger establishments, but, after all, there were some industries in operation fifty years ago which would astonish even the wonder-sated folk of the twentieth century. The sawmills at Ottawa, for instance, were undoubtedly marvels. There were ten of them running night and day in an endeavor to keep pace with the efforts of the ten thousand lumbermen who were busy felling the forests along the river. One of these mills boasted eighty saWs and the others were very little smaller. The ten mills together turned out 180,000,000 feet of lumber a year, while 16,000,000 cubic feet of square timber was rafted to Quebec each season for shipment across the Atlantic. In that golden age of the lumber trade, it took 800 ships, manned by 25,000 men, to carry the harvest of the Ottawa from Quebec to England.
THESE were great and picturesque enterprises and so too was the wooden shipbuilding industry, which was in its heyday of prosperity when Confederation came into being. At Quebec and at many a harbor and port on the coasts of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, fine, large wooden vessels were built and launched annually in considerable numbers. There were fifteen shipyards at Quebec alone, in which from 25 to 50 ships were turned out each year. Unfortunately, except for a
forced revival of the industry at the present time, wooden shipbuilding is dead and thus an interesting chapter in Canadian industrial history is closed.
However, all industry in Canada in and about the year of Confederation was not so spectacular, though to the people of the time many of the developments seemed very wonderful. In Hamilton, for instance, where foundations for future industrial greatness were even then being laid, it was deemed a remarkable feat on the part of the local manufacturers to have installed 8100,000 worth of new machinery in a single year. The production of locomotives at Kingston was considered a work little short of marvellous. The erection in Sherbrooke in 1866 of a woollen factory five stories high was heralded as a most important event, while Victor Cote’s new tannery at St. Hyacinthe, which gave employment to 90 hands, was regarded as a mammoth plant
But if industries were small and scattered, the products of industry were by no means inferior. At the great Paris Exhibition of 1867, the goods of Canadian manufacturers showed to advantage. Furniture made by Jacques and Hay in Toronto was declared to be superior to anything on display. The wall hangings of
the Stauntons compared favorably with the product of the English maken. The Barbers, of Streetsville, showed I cloths and woollens of most creditable quality. Implements from the Jones plant anoque and the Whiting plant at were highly commended, as were abo the cigars exhibited by Davis, of Montreal.
T NDUSTRIALLY, Canada has travelled 1 far since those far-away daysl All the marvellous expansion which ne introduction of electricity has facilitated has come since then. The mammom textile works with their electric drives; the great steel plants; the huge paper mills; all these and many more have sprung into being since 1867, and in no respedt has the progress of Canada been more marked than in this department of nationall life.
Hand in hand with the growth If industry has gone the extension of transportation facilities and rapid means of communication. In 1867 the railway systems of the country, since expanded to transcontinental proportions, were ted in scope. This was especially trfce of the maritime provinces, wherethe coach was still an established and [very necessary institution when the Confederation era dawned. Nova Scötia was served
by two short lines of road, running from Halifax to Truro and from Halifax to Windsor respectively, a matter of some hundred miles of track in all. New Brunswick likewise had but two railways, one connecting St. John and Shediac and the other St. Andrew’s and Woodstock. Prince Edward Island, which has now a system of 275 miles, was without any railway at all. In short the three Maritime Provinces among them had only about 300 miles of road in operation, whereas to-day their mileage extends to 3,668 miles.
The upper provinces were somewhat better served. The Grand Trunk, then the longest railway in the world under one management ran from Portland in Maine to Sarnia, in Ontario, and from Riviere du Loup on the lower St. Lawrence to Richmond, P.Q. Its most formidable rival was the Great Western, running from Niagara Falls through Hamilton to Windsor, with a brapch from Hamilton to Toronto. Northward stretched lines from Prescott and Brockville to Ottawa, from Port Hope to Beaverton, and from Toronto to Collingwood. All the rest of the network of roads now traversing both old and New Ontario were non-existent.
* I ' HE idea of through traffic was only A just being evolved in 1867. The Great Western, then a wide-gauge road, as were most of the railways in Canada, had laid a third rail from Windsor to Niagara Falls and built a car ferry for service across the Detroit River, in order to secure a slice of the business between the newly developed settlements of the middle West and the seaboard. The Northern Railway from Toronto to Collingwood was paying so much attention to the traffic it was receiving from the upper lakes and trans-shipping at Toronto for lower lake ports, that settlers along the line complained of the difficulty of getting their cordwood shipped to Xoronto. In fact promoters of the Toronto & Nipissing and the Toronto, Grey & Bruce made it a point in soliciting financial aid from the municipalities that they would serve the settlers better in this regard.
Communication between the Maritime Provinces and the upper provinces in those days Was usually by coasting vessel from Halifax or St. John to Portland and thence by Grand Trunk to Montreal. The extension of the Halifax-Truro road to Pictou, completed in the Confederation year, gaye a new summer route up the St. Lawrence to Quebec, while one of the fruits of the new political arrangements between the provinces was the establishment of a line of steamers to run from Montreal and Quebec to Máritime Province ports. Otherwise it was possible to take a longer stage journey up the St. John valley from the railway terminus at Woodstock to Edmundston and across the height of land to Riviere du Loup, where the Grand Trunk terminated. This was the route by which the British regulars journeyed to Upper Canada at the time of the Fenian scare.
The recent completion of the Victoria tubular bridge at Montreal was then filling the minds of visitors with awe and astonishment. It was hailed as one of the wonders of the world, a scientific achievement without a peer in the history of construction. Its three million cubic feet of masonry, its eight thousand tons of iron, its enormous length, its great cost, were dilated upon in unmeasured terms of admiration. For the times it
was indeed a remarkable engineering feat, but since then many a far more wonderful undertaking has been completed in Canada, which illustrates still further how the country has progressed.* Canada’s canal system had by 1867 reached considerable proportions and comparatively speaking, traffic by water was of more importance then than it is to-day. The lakes were covered with sailing craft, while steamboats were far more numerous than they are now. Of course, all these vessels were so much smaller than the big freighters of the twentieth century that mere numbers were insignificant. At the same time they provided a most picturesque element in the picture of Canada in 1867, The passage of fifty schooners a day through t|ie Welland Canal was by no means an unusual experience in the year of Confederation.
The canals were much smaller than they are to-day. Those on the St. Lawrence, by means of which ships passed up from Montreal to Lake Ontario, contained but nine feet of water, while the locks were limited to 200 feet in length. Notwithstanding this, records of vessels are not uncommon which had sailed down from the upper lakes and, passing through these canals, had later crossed the Atlantic.
TRAVELLING conditions in the year of Confederation were none too satisfactory. As compared with the luxury of the present day, a journey even for a short distance was an arduous and uncomfortable undertaking. In the Maritime Provinces, if a traveller preferred an overland journey instead of a trip by coasting vessel, he would have to put up with the inconvenience of a wearisome ride in a big, lumbering, springless stage over rough roads, his only solace the occasional pauses for rest and refreshment!' at old-fashioned change houses. In the upper provinces, he would have to contend with the wretched service of what were referred to at the time as the most poorly conducted railways in the world.
Two trains a day in each direction were sufficient to accommodate the traffic between the two largest Canadian cities. One made the journey by day, the other by night, and the run was scheduled for something like fourteen hours. The locomotives burned wood and there were frequent stops en route to re-load the tenders. Cars were small and light, the track poorly laid and the bumping and jolting terrific. One wretched tourist who endeavored to beguile the tedium of the journey by a game of draughts found to his disgust that it was quite impossible to keep the men on the board.
The postal system in Canada fifty years ago differed very little from the present system except that very much higher rates of postage had to be paid, and it took much longer for letters to reach their destination. The rate to points in Canada, that is, Ontario and Quebec, was five cents; to the United States 10 cents, and to England, 12y2 cents. A special weekly service to Halifax, via Portland, having been arranged, a business man in Toronto or Montreal could send a communication to Nova Scotia for the sum of 12^ cents. As for British Columbia, it cost 25 cents to forward a letter to the Pacific coast.
Statistics for the year 1863 show that there were in the upper provinces, 1,974 post offices in that year and that the num-
ber of letters carried was 11,000,000. New Brunswick had 375 post offices, in which 833,625 letters were handled and Nova Scotia 493 post offices with 1,467,726 letters. The year’s revenue for the three provinces was $853,778, and the expenditure. $896,303. As an indication of the extent to which the postal service has since expanded it may be said that in 1915, the revenue for all Canada was over thirteen million dollars and the expenditure nearly sixteen millions.
WHILE the telephone w^s unknown in 1867, the telegraph and the Atlantic cable were both in existence, and so far as telegraphic communication was concerned, Canada was well served. Indeed, in Nova Scotia the boast was made that they had more miles of telegraph per inhabitant than in any other country in the world and, what is even better, lower rates. In Ontario and Quebec, the Montreal Telegraph Company, with over 3,000 miles of wire, controlled the situation, while in the Maritime Provinces the lines, about 2,000 miles in extent, were controlled by the American Telegraph Co. As there are to-day over 200,000 miles of wire in the telegraph systems of the country, it is obvious that here again there has been vast development
The story of the telephone is all contained within the limits of the Confederation era. There were no telephones when Confederation was born. Tó-daj^ there are between six and seven hundred thousand instruments in use, with over a million and a half miles of wire connecting them.
ELECTRIC street railways have been another modern development. In fact in the year of Confederation, horse cars had only just come into use. Toronto’s system had been opened in 1861. It consisted of six miles of track on Queen and Yonge Streets, with eleven cars and 70 horses, a total investment of only $175,000. Montreal had also about six miles of track with similarly small equipment. Halifax was a third city with a system of horse cars at that time. The innovation was not welcomed. One critic complained that “the street railway is an institution for the benefit of those who ride, at the expense of those who drive, and is a flagrant violation of the rights of the majority. The horse railway is a permanent obstruction; it practically divides a wide^treet into two narrow ones and a narrow Vine into two lanes. It is questionable wither it will be found profitable in Canad^.”
In the light of this hostile attitude, it is interesting to note that the tiny systems in the three leading cities of 1867 have since developed into a vastly important series of electric lines, located in practically every city in Canada, operating upwards of 1,700 miles of track and carrying annually six hundred million passengers. The capital invested in them amounts to over $150,000,000.
TRADE and finance have shown marvellous expansion in the fifty years of Confederation. When it is considered that in 1868 the country’s total trade only amounted to a little over $131,000,000, of which $57,500,000 represented exports; that the export of manufactured products i in that year scarcely amounted to $2,000,* 000 and agricultural products exported Continued on page 91
Fifty Years of Business Expansion
Continued from page 36
were under $13,000,000 in value, then the growth becomes all the more remarkable. For, in 1016, Canada's trade amounted to nearly a billion and a half dollars ; her exports of manufactured products to $242,000,000, and her exports of agricultural products to $250,000,000. Her mineral exports in the same period jumped from $1,800,000 to nearly $67,000,000, and the products of her fisheries from $3,500,000 to over $22,000,000.
The development of trade has been graphically reflected in the expansion of the financial institutions of the country, notably the chartered banks and the insurance companies. There were as a matter of fact, more banks doing business in 1867 than there are to-day, but the banks of the Confederation year were very much smaller and, in several cases, they were in a notoriously shaky condition. In all there were twenty-six of them in existence, with a paid-up capital among them of approximately thirty millions, or about a quarter of the paid-up capital of the twenty-one institutions now operating under Dominion charters. There were about 120 branches doing business, the large majority of which were located in the Upper Provinces.
Since 1867, sixteen of the twenty-six chartered banks on the list in that year have disappeared, either through failure or amalgamation, leaving but ten of their number to carry on the traditions of thé pre-Confederation days. The survivors, in point of age, are the Bank of Montreal, Bank of Nova Scotia, Bank of British North America, Bank of Toronto, Molson’s Bank, Bank Nationale, Merchants Bank, Banque Provinciale, Union Bank and Canadian Bank of Commerce. Eleven new banks have bepn established, bringing the present total/up to twentyone.
To-day Canadian banks have over 3,000 branches in Canada alone, not to mention agencies in the United States, the West Indies and elsewhere. Their assets have grown since 1867 from seventy-five millions to well over two billions; their liabilities from forty millions to over eighteen hundred millions. They have deposits of over fifteen hundred millions, as compared with twenty-five millions fifty years ago, and their circulation has expanded in the half-century from nine millions to over $132,000,000.
Life insurance was the smallest of Canada’s financial institutions in 1867. Only one Canadian company,—the Canada Life, which had been organized in 1847,—was operating, and the total insurance in force of all companies, including British and American did not exceed $:10.000,000. Progress in this one business alone has been little short of phenomenal. Company after company has been organized until to-day no fewer than twentysix domestic companies are reporting annually to the Dominion Department of Insurance, not to speak of fifteen British and sixteen American companies.
By the end of 1916, the insurance in force on the lives of Canadians amounted to nearly a billion and a half dollars, of which nine hundred millions was carried by our own Canadian instiContinueh on page 92
tutions. The latter, whose assets in the year of Confederation were a mere bagatelle, now show accumulated wealth approximating three hundred million dollars; their annual income runs to over sixty million dollars; while they disbursed last year to policyholders or to their beneficiaries nearly twenty-five million dollars in cash.
The business of fire insurance has enjoyed a similar expansion. Our Canadian companies, then few in number and uninfluential, had at risk in 1867 about fifty million dollars, on which they were receiving premiums of somewhat less than half a million dollars and paying losses of from a quarter to half a million dollars a year. Last year, the domestic fire companies had $663,758,129 at risk, on which they were receiving premiums of nearly five million dollars, while they met losses during the year of over half that amount.
One might proceed and produce figures bewildering in their detail to demonstrate how far Canada has progressed in every department of business activity since 1867. The tremendous expansion of agriculture due to the opening up and settlement of the West; the development of mining, which is placing Canada in the forefront of the mineral-producing countries of the world; the growth of the fisheries; the extension of hydro-electric power in industry; these and a hundred other matters might easily be referred to as affording means of gauging the country’s fifty years of progress. However, enough has been written to give a faint idea of the Canada of fifty years ago and with this in mind it is not difficult to picture mentally the extent of development.