A Year to Remember: 1904 New Brunswick
Michael Pitblado and the New Brunswick Museum

The twentieth century begins in an atmosphere of commemoration and celebration in many parts of Canada. Strong ties to Europe and the British Empire produce occasions for revelry and remembrance, such as Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee in 1897, a Royal Visit in 1901, and a Boer War Monument dedication in 1904.

This festive mood extends to the New Brunswick summer celebrations of the 300th anniversary of the arrival in the New World of Pierre Du Gua de Monts and Samuel de Champlain in 1604. For the occasion, red, white and blue banners, streamers, flags and all sorts of patriotic emblems hang from windows and rooftops. Distinguished representatives of governments and learned societies from home and abroad join the large crowds of onlookers. The main attraction is the reenacted arrival of the European adventurers, lavishly dressed in period costume.

The undercurrent of everyday life in New Brunswick flows on in all its complexity. With provincial and federal officials at odds, the province experiences limited benefits from a booming national economy set against a backdrop of growing interest in international affairs. Steadfast New Brunswickers struggle for economic progress and innovation, as business turns from traditional ventures to pulp and paper and tourism to meet new market demands. Reformers campaign for social improvements, agitating for women's suffrage, economic justice and education. Commercialization, communication and transportation developments lead to organized athletics leagues and growing interest in entertainment and historical pursuits. Art and literature reflect an exodus of rural populations by romanticizing country life. At the same time urban, middle-class values come to permeate society.

Despite the surge in imperial sentiment exemplified by the celebrated milestones of the era, not everyone views all things European in such glowing terms. Aboriginal communities are denied access to industrial undertakings and face a declining market for their handworks. The Acadian Renaissance had reached its zenith some 20 years earlier. In 1904 Acadians make up nearly a quarter of the province's population but remain on the margins of society.

A time of commemoration and transformation, the year 1904 offers a unique glimpse into the intricacies of life in early twentieth-century New Brunswick.