MP-1981.160.258 | Group of refugees or immigrants on ship, 1907-14

Group of refugees or immigrants on ship, 1907-14
Martin Wolff
1907-1914, 20th century
Silver salts on film - Gelatin silver process
6 x 10 cm
Gift of Miss Annette R. Wolff
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Figure (1339) , Figure (1339) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

From the late 19th century on, Canada welcomed many immigrants drawn by its economic prosperity and land out West. At first mostly men came to find work, and they stayed only temporarily. For every 100 immigrants, up to 50 would sail back to Europe. In a kind of chain reaction, they headed to towns and regions where they already had family or fellows from their hometown. Many chose the mining towns of Northern Ontario, like Sudbury and Timmins. After repaying the cost of their passage, they saved money to take back to Europe -- yet some stayed on in Canada and settled in ethnic neighbourhoods that provided essential services.

  • What

    Immigrants loiter on the upper deck of an unidentified ship, waiting patiently to arrive in port to start a new, and they hope better, life.

  • Where

    Many transatlantic ships arrived at the chief port of entry for immigrants: Grosse Île in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, downriver from Quebec City.

  • When

    On the eve of the First World War, Canadian immigration policy permitted unrestricted immigration, encouraged by Canadian businesses, like the mining companies.

  • Who

    Once here, male immigrants who decided to stay brought over their wives and children. That is probably why there are mostly women and children on this ship.