MP-0000.25.913 | Tractor hauling logs, SK, about 1915

Photograph, glass lantern slide
Tractor hauling logs, SK, about 1915
Anonyme - Anonymous
About 1915, 20th century
Silver salts and transparent ink on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
8 x 10 cm
Gift of Mr. Stanley G. Triggs
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Industry (942) , industry (91) , logging (8) , lumbering (124) , lumbering (23) , Photograph (77678) , sled (4) , tractor (7) , transportation (338) , winter (74)
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Keys to History

Canada's crucial ability to be an exporter of primary resources had traditionally been driven by muscle power - men with broad axes in the forests and sturdy horses in the field. Now internal combustion engines aided the process, pushing productivity and exports upwards. On the farm, gasoline and kerosene-powered tractors bearing names like Fordson, Waterloo Boy and Bates Steel Mule appeared. Tractors cost between $800 and $1,200 in the 1910s, roughly the price of five to seven horses. But the tractor could only do the work of four horses and could not be fed locally grown oats. Consequently tractors were slow to appear. By 1921 there were 47,455 of them in Canada, 38,485 of them on the prairies. Mechanization made "agribusiness" possible.

Internal combustion soon made an appearance in the woods and on the wharf. Tractors or caterpillar tractors replaced horses dragging logs from the forest; crude gas chain saws began to replace axes and saws. Fishing boats began to be powered by outboard motors.

  • What

    Mechanization extended beyond simple motive power. Canadian implement makers like Massey-Harris in Ontario began supplying farmers with binders and thrashers which drew their power from the tractor that towed them. Hardened steel made such implements more durable and reliable.

  • Where

    Mechanization was national in scope but most apparent on the prairies: larger farms, more debt and a heightened reliance on one-crop farming were often the tractor's most direct impact.

  • When

    Mechanization extended from grain-elevator machinery to wood chippers at the pulp mill, propelling Canada's emergence in the years 1896-1919 as one of the world's great agricultural and pulp and paper producers.

  • Who

    The demand for mechanized power sponsored the growth of big manufacturing in central Canada. Ontario-based Massey-Harris, created by merger in 1891, was on the cutting edge of agricultural implement and tractor design. Its products were exported throughout the Empire.