VIEW-17112 | Loading flour on Belgian relief ship, Montreal, QC, 1917

Loading flour on Belgian relief ship, Montreal, QC, 1917
Wm. Notman & Son
1917, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  boat (1192) , harbour (624) , Industry (942) , Photograph (77678) , Transportation (2517)
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Keys to History

War in Europe created an export bonanza for Canada. The country's new-found industrial capacity had been hard hit by the 1913 downturn in the economy, but war quickly revitalized demand for manufactured goods. Munitions production led the way, but other manufactured goods ranging from clothing to processed food were soon being shipped to our allies in Europe. Before 1913 only 7% of Canada's manufactured goods were sold abroad; between 1916 and 1918, a period in which the country's exports grew dramatically, that figure rose to 40% of our exports. Most of this trade was negotiated on a government-to-government basis, but some of it took the form of humanitarian aid freely given by Canadian citizens. The Belgian Relief Fund typified this patriotic fervour: "poor little Belgium" had to be fed. Such exports alter the traditional notion that military manpower constituted Canada's primary contribution to World War I; the steady flow of exports suggests another, less visible wartime sacrifice.

  • What

    This freighter, loading flour in Canada's busiest port, was clearly marked as bearing Belgian Relief so that German U-boats would recognize its humanitarian purpose.

  • Where

    Canada's largest export market continued to be the United Kingdom. In 1916, $452 million of the country's overall exports of $779 million exports went to the UK; the United States would overtake the UK as Canada's leading trade partner in the 1920s.

  • When

    Canada's ability to export flour was reinforced in the late nineteenth-century by the emergence of modern milling techniques that were mastered by Montreal-based companies like Ogilvie Flour.

  • Who

    Contributions to the Belgian Relief Fund were made - in cash and goods - by provincial governments, companies, schoolchildren, women's groups and farmers.