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Made in Canada! The Canadian Manufacturers’ Association’s Promotion of Canadian-Made Goods, 1911-1921

  • Andre Siegel and
  • James Hull
Cover of                Volume 25, Number 1, 2014, p. 1-340, Journal of the Canadian Historical Association

Article body

Readers of the Toronto Globe on 31 January 1916 found in the paper their expected diet of wartime news: zeppelin raids on Paris, praise for the pluck and coolness of Canadian soldiers at the front, the safety of the Allied fleet at Salonika. But when readers finally got to the end of the issue they found a full-page advertisement for Eaton’s department store, featuring an announcement that on the next day would begin “The Great Made-in-Canada Campaign.” [1] Shoppers were invited to view, and of course to buy, Canadian manufactured goods in all departments of the store. Separately featured was a special “Made in Canada” price of 33 cents a quart on paint, purchased by Eaton’s the previous spring, the patriotically-minded shopper was told, so as to enable the manufacturer to stay productive and his workers employed in a time of difficult wartime materials shortages.

It would be easy to dismiss this as a piece of corporate exploitation of wartime patriotism. In fact, the “Made in Canada” slogan was part of a deliberate attempt, begun well before the Great War, to promote Canadian manufactured goods in this country. As such, it was part of a set of strategies, alongside support for the protective tariff, whereby Canadian manufacturers sought commercial success and security. [2] Enlisting the state in anti-competitive measures, including the tariff, was certainly part of business strategies in this era. But business had other arrows in its quiver. An additional approach was to make their products more competitive through research, a better trained and educated workforce, and more advanced production methods and standardization. The appeal to consumers to value Canadian-made products over imports, including giving them some reason beyond patriotism to do so, was another one. These strategies were complementary and explicitly interrelated. An examination of the “Made in Canada” campaign, from its pre-war beginnings, through World War I and into the immediate postwar period reveals several things about the history of business in Canada. It shows that business was not simply focussed on the protective tariff and protection against foreign competition for business sought ways to win consumer support in competition with imported products. Further, it shows continuities of business thinking and tactics across what has sometimes been portrayed in Canadian historical writing as the great divide of World War I. In its details, it also shows that while business could introduce the issue, it could not entirely control it. Other actors, including consumers seeking best value for their limited dollars, retailers seeking profits, and the press needing advertisement revenue, had specific concerns of their own, and so did particular factions within the business community. The “Made in Canada” campaign had its origins in the Canadian business community’s role in the pivotal 1911 federal election. As it is one of the most studied of all Canadian electoral contests, its details need not be rehashed here. [3] Suffice to recall that along with other issues relating to imperialism, the proposed reciprocity/free trade agreement which Laurier’s Liberals had negotiated with the Taft administration in the United States formed the central point of contention. In particular, that agreement was strongly opposed by central Canadian manufacturing interests who swung their support to the traditionally pro-tariff Conservatives under Borden. As early as February 1911, a month after the reciprocity agreement had been reached, prominent Liberal Canadian businessmen, putting profits before party, were breaking with Laurier over the issue. The next month at a meeting of the Tariff Committee of the Canadian Manufacturers’ Association (CMA), the organization resolved to begin a campaign to raise funds to educate the electorate about the importance of tariff protection. [4] To carry out this mandate, the CMA established the Canadian Home Market Association (CHMA). The CHMA quickly raised a war chest of close to $60,000. [5] This money was expended on a campaign of opposition to free trade, taking the form of direct mailings and articles in newspapers. The direct mailings were targeted to Members of Parliament, members of provincial legislatures, prospective candidates, members of the CMA and other interested parties. Articles began appearing in May in leading dailies in Montréal, Toronto, Hamilton, London, Winnipeg, Brantford and Vancouver. In order to saturate the country, the CHMA worked through newspaper syndicates to maximize the distribution of its message. This allowed them to cover the country with reasonable effectiveness and economy of cost. [6] By late August a total of 31 articles had been produced, mostly in English but some in French and also in German. [7] Other activities of the CHMA included the hiring of speakers to tour the countryside and speak out against reciprocity, as well as the production of posters and enclosure cards promoting its cause. These were relatively minor components of its agenda as its primary focus was the production of literature for newspapers and direct distribution.

Although ostensibly a non-partisan, educational campaign, once the federal election was underway these efforts by the CHMA clearly were against the interests of the governing Liberals. The result of the 21 September election was of course a victory for the Borden Conservatives and, consequentially, any possibility of the reciprocity agreement being ratified by the Canadian Parliament disappeared. For the time being and indeed for decades, the issue of free trade with the Americans was effectively removed from Canadian politics. The question for the CHMA and for the CMA was what to do for an encore. The CMA itself was, if not magnanimous in victory, then at least cautious about pressing home its advantage. In its first meeting after the September election the CMA proceeded “gingerly” with the tariff issue. [8] Although the high-tariff Conservatives had won, not all Canadians supported the protective tariff and presumably very few enjoyed paying the price for it. Further, the tariff, while rigging the terms of the game, did not in fact keep foreign produced goods out of Canadian markets where many Canadian consumers, for any of a number of reasons, bought them in preference to domestically manufactured alternatives. Hence, another approach appeared. Might Canadians be persuaded of the wisdom of buying Canadian–made goods? Most particularly, might prairie Canadians, who had returned more Liberals than Conservatives in the 1911 election, be shown the scope of the Canadian manufacturing economy? They, and other Canadians, might both be exposed to the range of Canadian manufactured goods available for purchase and, as a subtext, see that the Canadian manufacturing economy was not just about a few St. James Street and Bay Street plutocrats but about many hundreds of thousands of industrial workers and their families. To that end, the CHMA/CMA agreed to fund and organize an exhibit of Canadian manufactured goods that would travel the country by rail in 1912. [9]

Before looking at what was dubbed the “Made in Canada” train, it is worth pausing to consider the place of “Made in Canada” with the broader political economy of the National Policy. First, governments of both political stripes in fact were actively favourable to a policy of purchasing Canadian-made goods. In the spring of 1911 Liberal Postmaster-General, Rodolphe Lemieux, ensured that rural mail boxes were all manufactured in Canada, while at the end of the year Conservative Minister of Militia, Sam Hughes, promised that militia clothing would be standardized and made in Canada. [10] The point of the National Policy after all was not so much to keep out imports as it was to stimulate domestic manufacture, and instances of this were celebrated. [11] For the CMA’s part, it was well aware that business success depended on more than the defensive anti-competitiveness of the tariff. In particular, the organization involved itself actively in campaigns for the training of a Canadian workforce more suited to the needs of contemporary industrial production in both traditional industries and, more to the point, those of the Second Industrial Revolution. [12]

The CHMA, with the cooperation of the CPR, organized the transportation logistics, displays from manufacturers, and publicity for the 1912 “Made in Canada train.” [13] Potential exhibitors were solicited by the CHMA both through personal correspondence and a brochure advertising the exhibition. The cost to an exhibitor ranged from $300 for a small booth up to $1,200 for a larger space (including transportation, accommodation, and meals for one representative for the 50-day trip). The brochure enticed Canadian manufacturers with its sales pitch of providing exposure to a new market. The companies represented on the train made up a who’s who of Canadian manufacturers and, significantly, included both domestically-owned companies such as CCM and William Davies, but also branch-plant firms such as Canadian Kodak and NCR. Those manufacturing consumer goods such as CCM’s and Kodak’s as well as the Russell Motor Car Company’s were represented, but also manufacturers of producer goods including Stelco and Algoma Steel.

The train steamed out from Montréal on 15 May 1912 where prominent industrialist George Drummond spoke of the magnitude of the country’s manufacturing economy and added a plea for the continuance of the protective tariff. [14] Between then and the end of June, it travelled via Ottawa, Toronto, Port Arthur, Fort William, Kenora, and Winnipeg and on to the prairies of Western Canada where it made close to 100 stops, “acquaint[ing] the new citizens of western Canada with the fact that Canadian-made goods are equal in value, quality and variety to those they knew in their old homes.” [15] The length of any particular stop ranged from as little as one and a half hours in smaller centres, to almost two full days in Winnipeg where that Western city’s industrial development was pointedly celebrated. [16] This travelling exhibition incorporated a large variety of goods consisting of over 8,000 individual items in a total of ten display cars. All the goods were made in Canada including the train itself which had been manufactured in the Montréal shop of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Each of the ten cars had an area of 60 feet long by 6 feet wide, with displays ranging in size from small table exhibits to as large as half of an entire railway car. There were a total of 54 displays and 25 men rode with the train as representatives of many of the companies showing off their goods. The train was fully illuminated for night time visitation. In addition to the displays, educational and marketing lectures were programmed and a lantern slide show of manufacturing activity and “Life in the Dominion of Canada” was presented. Items on display included rubber products, pianos, bicycles, motors, pumps, kitchen appliances, a two-ton safe, beds, paints (including a miniature display of a paint manufacturing plant), farm supplies (including a miniature model of an automatic grain weighing machine and a kerosene power plant for lighting farm residences and barns), a completely furnished home, and many more. [17] A total of approximately 275,000 people visited the train, while the reception in small town western Canada proved particularly very welcoming. [18] The travelling exhibition would regularly be met by the local chamber of commerce and other leading community members. The press was highly enthusiastic about the “Made in Canada” train. The arrival of the exhibition was front page news from small town newspapers to The Manitoba Free Press, the largest circulation newspaper in western Canada. Although not its intended purpose, contemporary commentators noted that participation in the train’s journey was also an eye-opener for the representatives of Eastern Canadian manufacturers who may not fully have appreciated the potential consumer markets in Western Canada. [19]

The success of the 1912 “Made in Canada” train convinced the CMA to repeat its effort the following year. [20] Enthusiasm from manufacturers remained high but an attempt to draw in the federal government was unsuccessful. A proposal to the federal Minister of Agriculture that his department rent half of a car for a seed exhibit in the 1913 train, adjacent to a half car exhibit of the Ontario government displaying Ontario farm products, was not accepted. The 1913 version of the “Made in Canada” train was the last significant project of the CHMA. For Canadian business leaders — and for Canadians generally— the environment for both manufacturing and consumption, as well as the discourse surrounding “Made in Canada,” was about to undergo dramatic change.

The Great War has long been seen as a striking dividing point in Canadian history, the climax of a national transformation. [21] The profound social impact of the war is indubitable but, as Douglas McCalla has argued convincingly, “the war did not affect in any fundamental way trends in the structure of the economy.” [22] McCalla’s view is largely supported by this examination of Canadian business strategies to boost the consumption of domestically manufactured goods.

While no more “Made in Canada” trains rumbled out onto the prairies, the “Made in Canada” theme was maintained as a small but significant activity of the CMA during the war years. After the outbreak of the war, the first issue of the CMA’s magazine, Industrial Canada, had a number of “Made in Canada” and related home market themes. The “Made in Canada” banner was literally taken up by Industrial Canada in its October and November 1914 issues since the magazine altered its normal cover and placed “Made in Canada” slogans in bold red lettering above the usual mast head.

Industrialists were also anxious about possible disruptions to domestic production that might be occasioned by wartime conditions. Windsor businessman Ernest G. Henderson, President and General Manager of the Canadian Salt Co. and President of the CMA at the outbreak of the war, promised that manufacturers would do their best to keep factories open and workers employed, but urged Canadian consumers to assist by buying “Canadian-made goods as much as possible.” [23] In a somewhat contradictory argument later in 1914, Industrial Canada warned that shortages of workers, with men away at the front, might idle factories and allow predatory American producers to seize Canadian markets which would be difficult to wrest back after the war. The necessary counter to this was “the Canadian who is determined to buy only the manufactured products of his own country during the war.” [24] The same issue of Industrial Canada offered criticism of an unidentified Canadian bank for spending $10,000 on an advertising order for calendars and such in the United States asking “[s]urely, during the war at least, the banks should overlook trifling differences in cost and design, in the few cases where such differences are unfavorable, and agree among themselves to import no article from foreign countries which is made in Canada.” [25] During the war at least patriotic purchasing should trump small sacrifices in cost and quality. The “Made in Canada” philosophy was also espoused by J. Fraser Taylor, president of Lake Superior Steel Corporation, who was even more pointed in his analysis of why buying Canadian over American goods was just the right thing to do, even where the former were more expensive: “It is up to every Canadian not only to be patriotic to the Empire but to be patriotic to Canada and in no other way can such patriotism be shown than by a determination to help Canadian industries at this juncture.” [26] The T. Eaton company boasted that it was cooperating with the Canadian manufacturers of kitchen graniteware to sell their stocks “at practically factory cost” to assist in keeping up employment in that industry. [27]

These views were echoed by Canadian political leaders, notably industrial Ontario’s Premier W.H. Hearst. Addressing a partisan Conservative audience in Toronto in December 1914, Premier Hearst said that “[t]he slogan ‘Made in Canada’ … is a good thing for Canada” and informed his listeners that he had urged his Minister of Public Works “not to import one dollar’s worth of stuff that could be manufactured in Canada.” [28] Also that month an unattributed newspaper display advertisement gave endorsements of “Made in Canada” from Hearst and the premiers of Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia as well as the federal ministers of Agriculture and of Trade and Commerce. [29]

The “Made in Canada” slogan quickly became a patriotic one. The Toronto Globe editorially excoriated those who would try to evade trading restrictions to obtain German goods. [30] A columnist in the same newspaper declared his own determination to buy only Canadian cloth and apples, and urged Toronto’s men’s clubs to stock cigars made in Canada from Canadian tobacco. [31] As early as 1914, the CMA included Canadian women as a target group to sway to the “Made in Canada” movement, working with the Toronto Local Council of Women. [32] The group identified the lack of labeling of “Made in Canada” goods as a difficulty in the shopping experience. Canadian women leaders stepped forward to address the issue. A meeting held under the auspices of the Household League of Ottawa passed a resolution that in part stated: “By purchasing only commodities produced in Canada we should largely increase the output of our industries and provide employment for large numbers of workmen. To attain this desirable end it is hoped that, in so far as possible, housewives and others will buy products ‘made in Canada.’” [33] A certain Miss Roberts, Secretary of the Women’s Canadian Historical Society of Toronto, whose motto was “Deed’s Speak”, “voiced the wish that ‘made in Canada’ should be made a special object with women in their shopping.” [34] When a group of Canadian toymakers formed a trade association in 1916, they adopted a “made in Canada” design to stamp on all their products so that parents would recognize such products— no small matter considering the pre-war prominence of German made toys. Women’s groups were not slow to rise to the challenge. Days later, under the auspices of the federal Department of Trade and Commerce, at a meeting at the Toronto’s Board of Trade hall, resolutions were passed in favour of the new stamp for toys. Represented at the meeting were the National Council of Women, the Women’s Patriotic League, the IODE, the Women’s Canadian Club, the Women’s University Club, and the Suffragists’ War Auxiliary, among others. [35] This was probably the single quickest and clearest victory in the whole “Made in Canada” campaign. It significance highlights, and is highlighted by, the growing agency of women in household consumer purchasing and the assiduity with which retailers courted them. [36]

Not everyone, however, was prepared to give Canadian manufacturers a free ride and accept uncritically their equation of what’s best for CCM is best for Canada. In January 1915, R.C. Henders, head of the Manitoba Grain Growers, speaking in Brandon denounced Made in Canada as “cant” and challenged those who were claiming to be patriots on the issue to eliminate the protective tariff. [37] The next month the president of the Saskatchewan Grain Growers said that the patriotism of manufacturers espousing the “Made in Canada” slogan was of doubtful sincerity unless they also embraced free trade. [38]

Perhaps though the scratchiest cat which had been let out of the “Made in Canada” bag was the issue of the relative quality of domestically manufactured goods. The issue had already been raised before the war. In an article commenting on the 1912 “Made in Canada” train, the Toronto Globe had noted that even those supporting “Made in Canada” in principle were in practice buying imported goods, and in particular wearing imported clothes. This, the newspaper felt, was more a matter of habit than a considered judgment of relative quality. But quality was a reasonable issue; consumers could not properly be expected to buy clothes made in Canada if they were not manufactured to an acceptable level of quality. [39] As Belisle notes, in their purchases Canadian women “balanced conflicting demands of affordability and quality.” [40] Hugh D. Scully, the Secretary of the Canadian Home Marketing Association, had himself regretted that “imported” seemed to be taken as an indication of quality when purchasing goods in Canada. [41] Canadian manufacturers indeed had to plead with Canadian consumers to give their products a chance to show their quality and not just buy imported ones as a matter of course. [42] Matters were so bad that domestically manufactured goods such as shoes and hats were sometimes falsely labelled as U.S.-made in order to sell better in Canada, a practice that certainly continued into the war years. [43]

The issue however cut harder during wartime. The Journal of Commerce took the CMA to task for not ensuring that their members manufactured their “Made in Canada” goods to proper standards, thus bringing the slogan into disrepute. They mentioned most particularly shoddy “Made in Canada” footwear supplied to Canadian soldiers. While not on par with the notorious Ross Rifle affair, the incident doubtless rang the patriotic bell in an unwelcome way for manufacturers. [44] Concerns were even raised from the pulpit. With the war only a few months old, Unitarian minister Reverend H.H. Saunderson while lauding the concept of “Made in Canada” warned Canadian manufacturers to eliminate “sham and shoddy” goods. [45] An editorial in the Monetary Times, an unimpeachable organ of Canadian capitalism, stated:

The way to educate Canadian people to buy Canadian-made goods, is to make goods in Canada at the right price and quality in competition with goods made elsewhere. Patriotism does not lead the housewife to buy an inferior article made in her own country, and sold at a high price, when an article of better quality, lower price, and made elsewhere, can be purchased. Canadian manufacturers are able to make the right quality. They need no such bolstering as the “Made-in-Canada” campaign. The Canadian manufacturer himself can create or increase the Canadian demand for his wares by doing one better than his competitor. [46]

Linking the Made in Canada drive with another long-standing interest of the CMA’s, the argument was heard at the 1915 meeting of the Ontario association for the Promotion of Technical Education, that a better programme of technical education would create workers capable of rendering “Made in Canada” a slogan about quality manufacture. [47] At the annual convention of the Ontario Retail Hardware and Stove Dealers’ Association at Toronto’s King Edward Hotel, both the Secretary and the President of the Association, taking aim explicitly at the “Made in Canada” campaign, regretted that Canadian-made goods sold by its members’ stores did not uniformly come up to the standard of American equivalents. [48] By the end of the war, however, the argument was being heard that interruptions in the foreign supply of some consumer goods had been a blessing in disguise as they had allowed Canadians, forced by necessity, to buy domestically manufactured alternatives and experience the high quality of such items. [49] Somewhat reversing the order of the horse and the cart, an unidentified “prominent merchant” proposed that the Federal government require a “made in Canada” label on all goods or at least all intended for export as this would motivate manufacturers to keep up quality standards. [50]

In some cases, though, the question was not the quality but the ability to produce goods in Canada. The capacity to replace the products of German science-based industries rested on the ability to both identify appropriate sources of raw materials and to develop the know-how to produce those goods — or substitutes — in Canada. Canadian industry’s commitment to scientific industrial research well pre-dated the Great War. As early as 1897 when the British Association for the Advancement of Science met in Canada, speakers had advocated “science”, including research and technical education as a surer basis for industrial success than protection. [51] The pre-war campaign to enlist the federal government’s support bore fruit in the creation of the Honorary Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, forerunner of the National Research Council. [52] Some of the new manufacturing that developed during the war years was directly war related. The removal of the strong German chemical industry from the upstream supply chain meant that Canadian industry now developed production facilities for magnesium, silicon carbide (an industrial abrasive), and synthetic acetic acid and acetone at Shawinigan Falls, Québec. [53] The Canadian Northern Railway built a branch line to Huberdeau, Québec, so that deposits of kaolin, used in porcelain production as well as in the paper industry, could be exploited. [54] Another important example was the development of the Canadian alkali cyanide industry (used in metal refining) in Niagara Falls, Ontario. [55] Other examples of new chemical processes developed in Canada during the war included soda ash and acetyl salicylic acid. [56] With understandable exaggeration, journalist E.B. Biggar claimed, in 1918, that the war had effected a revolution in Canada’s chemical industries. [57]

In addition to the concerted CMA-led “Made in Canada” campaign, the “Made in Canada” slogan appeared with increasing frequency in advertisements by particular firms, both manufacturers and retailers. A search of the Toronto Globe alone for 1914–1918 shows almost 2,000 display ads using the slogan “Made in Canada.” [58] Readers could encounter multiple uses of the slogan on the same page. [59] Some Canadian firms, though, had to be persuaded that it was in their interest to advertise their wares in this manner. [60] Rather self-interestedly, the Canadian Street Car Advertising Company advised manufacturers early in the war that the company’s “facilities for popularizing Made in Canada products are superb.” [61] Similarly, the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency in an appeal to Canadian manufacturers suggested that consumers would patriotically respond to calls to buy Canadian-made goods, but it was incumbent upon the manufacturers of such goods to advertise them accordingly. [62] The CMA’s journal, Industrial Canada, thanked the Canadian press for its efforts in promoting the “Made in Canada” campaign and suggested to its members that paying for some advertising would be an appropriate recompense. [63] The Toronto Globe, which supported the “Made in Canada” campaign, pointed out that consumers could hardly be blamed for not buying more Canadian-produced goods if they were not being clearly told which goods were made in Canada, and criticized manufacturers for not spending more advertising dollars on their own particular brands of Canadian-made goods. [64]

These complaints notwithstanding, it was quite common to see the “Made in Canada” slogan appear in product advertisements from the mid-1910s to the mid-1920s. [65] This covered a wide range of products including clothing, food products, furniture, automobiles, motor oils, pianos, phonographs, bicycles, hunting ammunition, toys, toiletries, and other goods. In many cases the advertisements did no more than simply use the slogan to identify their product as Canadian made, implicitly appealing to patriotism or nationalism as a selling point for the product. That Sloan’s Liniment might soothe your rheumatic pains any better for it being Canadian made was unlikely and not claimed, but purchasing it might assuage a patriotic conscience. Other advertisements pushed home the point a bit more firmly, as in the AutoStrop Safety Razor Company’s insistence that its products were “made in Canada by Canadians for Canadians.” For the off chance that anyone missed the connection between “Made in Canada” and the tariff, the Pollock Manufacturing Company of patriotically re-named Kitchener, Ontario advised potential customers that in purchasing their Phonola record player “you pay no duty.” D &A Corsets was even more explicit on this issue, asking readers of its advertisements to think of the $700,000 earned by American companies on the sale of their corsets in Canada and the $245,000 in customs duty paid on them in the last pre-war year. Others asserted practical reasons for buying Canadian. The Lowe-Martin Company, a maker of index cards, suggested for instance that order fulfillment from a Canadian-based firm would be more assured. Except for wartime references to “the enemy”, outright xenophobia was rare but could rear its ugly head. An especially blatant example was an advertisement placed by Toronto laundrymen urging that the “Made in Canada” sentiment should extend to refraining from patronizing Chinese laundries, the Chinese being “the least valuable to Canada of all the alien classes.” [66] Mercifully little overt racism appeared, although it is difficult to find in all this advertising any other norms than the ones that depicted Euro-Canadian and Anglo-Celtic Canadian cultures.

A minority of advertisements using the “Made in Canada” slogan used flag-wrapping patriotism to identify themselves clearly with the wartime struggle. Consumers were told that Rexall Stores’ products were not only made in Canada, but that Rexall contributed to the Canadian Patriotic Fund. [67] A Columbia Records advertisement featured the “Made in Canada” slogan twice at the top of its display for “Patriotic Records.” [68] In a rare appeal to Imperialistic sentiment in a “Made in Canada” context, the Wm. A. Rogers company advertised its “Made in Canada” series of British Hero Spoons, assuming that Canadian patriotic sentiment extended to a desire to look at Kitchener, French, Jellicoe, and Roberts whilst supping their soup. [69] Companies from Adams Chewing Gum (“The Canadians first introduced chewing gum into the trenches”) to Kodak (“No soldier’s kit is complete without” one) urged buying their Canadian-made products for Canadian soldiers. [70] As with their participation in the “Made in Canada” train, Canadian subsidiaries of American firms had no hesitation in boasting of the ”Made in Canada” status of their products. And why not? after all, they had jumped the tariff wall to locate production facilities in this country and doubtless felt entirely justified in exploiting this to the full. There can scarcely be any suggestion of deception as surely Canadian consumers would have known that firms and brands such as Wrigley’s, Studebaker, Shredded Wheat, Gillette, Kellogg’s, Goodyear, or Grape-Nuts — not to mention Kodak, Ford, and Coca-Cola — were American owned. So if Chinese-Canadian laundrymen were “them”, American-owned factories were “us.” A related issue is the question of what really counted as “Made in Canada.” CCM advertised its bicycles as 90 percent “Made in Canada” — everything, except the seat and the ball bearings were made in Canada. [71] This situation obviously begs a number of questions, none of which have satisfactory answers. There was no policing of “Made in Canada” claims and thus in theory anyone could claim “Made in Canada” status for their product. With no truth in advertising or auditing organizations, the manufacturer could claim whatever it wanted and it would not be surprising if many products were actually only partially “Made in Canada” as in the CCM example. Similarly, claims such as “Assembled in Canada” or “Formulated in Canada,” with parts or ingredients manufactured elsewhere, are almost impossible to verify but it is likely such ambiguity probably did exist with large variability on a case by case basis. [72]

The companies that engaged in “Made in Canada” advertising ranged from smaller local retailers to cooperative ventures such as the one formed by over 100, Toronto druggists, to major companies such as Kellogg’s, Ford, and CCM. Of particular note is the prominence that the T. Eaton Company Limited (Eaton’s) gave to “Made in Canada” advertising. [73] Starting in 1914, Eaton’s had prominent “Made in Canada” campaigns that continued until the mid-1920s. These often included banner headlines and full page promotions in newspapers such as the Toronto Daily Star featuring predominantly goods manufactured in Canada. This marketing effort was very proactive with “Buy Made in Canada goods” tags displayed on the items, deep discounts of up to 50 percent off offered on advertised “Made in Canada” items, in addition to timed daily specials available at certain hours of the day. There was a seasonality associated with these annual campaigns as in most years they ran in the month of February. [74] There were additional slogans associated with some of these campaigns; in 1915 it was “Made in Canada Campaign” — Bargains For You — Employment For Others” and in 1916 it was “Buying Made-in-Canada Goods Means The Development of Canadian Industries.” “Made in Canada” was also featured prominently in Eaton’s News Weekly, the weekly sales bulletin Eaton’s sent out to its customers. Major competitors, including the Robert Simpson Company Limited (Simpson’s), and smaller retailers responded with “Made in Canada” campaigns of their own. For instance, Simpson’s used both the “Made in Canada” terminology but also the terms “Maple Leaf Sale” and “Maple Leaf Day.” [75]

While many Canadian retailers and manufacturers got on the “Made in Canada” bandwagon, the significant exposure given to the campaign by Eaton’s stands out. The programme had national exposure in the form of the iconic Eaton’s mail order catalogue which was distributed throughout urban and rural Canada. The identification of “Made in Canada” goods with a maple leaf labeled “Canadian Made” encouraged consumers to support domestic manufacturing. The catalogue encouraged such purchasing with commentary including: “Whenever you spend money on goods Made-in-Canada, you help toward the prosperity of Canada and the welfare of your neighbors.” We should, however, view such neighbourliness with a measure of cynicism. In the first place, as well as being a retailer, Eaton’s was a manufacturer of some of the goods it sold. And Eaton’s pricing policies could and did work to its own interests but against those of some small local manufacturers, as would be noted by the later Royal Commission on Price Spreads. [76] Another interesting example of the significant effort Eaton’s put into the campaign was the “Made in Canada” demonstrations that they carried out. These included demonstrations and exhibits of everything from the manufacturing of clothing and household goods to the manufacturing of phonograph records and many other goods. [77] Clearly Canada’s largest and best known retailer took the “Made in Canada” idea very seriously. [78]

A display advertisement in the Toronto Globe which appeared less than four months into World War I had asked “After the War – What?” The answer given was “Made in Canada.” [79] Early concern about the postwar environment had also been voiced in the pages of Industrial Canada as shown by the address by T.P. Howard, Chairman of the Montréal branch of the CMA:

When the war is over a large portion of our shipments will cease, however, unless the manufacturers make provision for entering the export field in a systematic manner. Many manufacturers are unable, by the nature of their product, to export, but for those who can, new and very attractive markets will be opened up; and in the interests of Canada, as well as in their own interest, they should make preparations to take advantage of the opportunities offering. [80]

By 1918 the reality that the end of the conflict was coming near made this a much more common concern as numerous press articles began to focus on what was termed “Reconstruction.” There was a strong editorial position in favour of providing tariff protection for Canadian manufacturers in the pages of Industrial Canada, but as well as for the “Made in Canada” programme to continue. The potential disruptions that would ensue with the return of military personnel from the war front to the homeland, the changing manufacturing landscape, the new international trading environment, and growing concerns about domestic radicalism encouraged the industrial sector to become proactive in trying to smooth this transition. Equally bad was the shaky wartime truce over the politics of the tariff threatened to fall apart once the greater Armistice had taken effect. One indication was the first postwar convention of the National Council of Women, which had strongly supported the “Made in Canada” movement during the war. Opinions regarding continued support for that principle were mixed with calls for satisfactory prices and quality of goods and, from the redoubtable Mrs. C.E. Flatt of the Saskatchewan Grain Growers, the question was raised whether such a policy should be supported at all in the face of continued protective tariffs. [81]

Towards the end of the War the CHMA re-emerged as a functioning organization and changed its name to the Canadian Industrial Reconstruction Association (CIRA), before its incorporation as the Canadian Reconstruction Association (CRA) in May 1919. [82] It chiefly expended its resources on the production and dissemination of literature much as had the CHMA. For the CRA, however, the scope of topics and the formats were much broader. The literature covered a range of reconstruction issues with the major general themes of the usual supportive arguments for protective tariffs, competitive intelligence regarding the trading policies of other nations, labour relations issues, focused pieces on specific industries, and “Made in Canada” advocacy. The CRA press releases frequently commented on the “Made in Canada” movement. During the difficult postwar recession with its serious class tensions, a May 1919 release was happy to quote the Canadian Labor Press as stating:

There is an obligation upon all Canadians to buy domestic products, just as there is an obligation upon manufacturers to supply commodities equal in merit to those of foreign competitors. Every dollar spent for goods produced by Canadian labor means better conditions for Canadian workers, and no goods purchased abroad are cheap that take the place of our own labor and our own raw material. The Canadian Trade Commission has estimated that for every $1,000,000 retained in Canada by a refusal to buy other than Canadian goods, a year’s continuous employment can be given to at least 1,000 people. [83]

The CRA provided hard financial forecasts to illustrate the lost opportunities by failing to adopt “Made in Canada” policies. An August 1919 analysis of the apparel industry indicated an opportunity to gain over 18,000 jobs, more than $16,000,000 in wages, and more than $81,000,000 in value of goods produced for apparel goods that could be reasonably manufactured in Canada instead of being imported. While such an analysis seems suspect since the CRA does not provide its methodology, assumptions behind this estimation represent a typical analytical strategy used to this day by advocacy groups to point out potential lost opportunities.

One of the important points to note with regard to the CRA advocacy of “Made in Canada” was that it did not include an “owned by Canadians” component. There was great enthusiasm when “During 1919 more than 200 American manufacturers erected or leased manufacturing buildings in Canada” for “these new industries which provide employment for Canadian labor, pay taxes in Canada, and bring foreign money to help the development of Canadian resources.” [84] This was in fact not just a passive position assumed by the CRA because it actively protested to Washington to amend clauses in the United States Revenue Bill that had the potential to subject Canadian branch plants of American firms to double taxation. This joint lobbying effort of the CRA and Canadian branch firms was successful. [85]

The CRA not only targeted industry and the general population in its “Made in Canada” agenda, but also governments particularly at the municipal level. By March 1920 the CRA was proudly proclaiming that “scores of cities, towns, and villages throughout the Dominion have endorsed the principle of purchasing public supplies in Canada.” [86] Eventually over 100 Canadian municipalities adopted “Made in Canada” policies. For example, the CRA press service relates in February 1920 “that the Toronto Board of Control, discussing tenders for water meters, instructed the Civic Works Commissioner to ‘buy in Canada or do without.’” [87]

Another area of success that the CRA identified was department stores, particularly in Toronto, that promoted “Made in Canada.” The following slogans were used by an unidentified store to promote this cause: [88]

  • “Buy Canadian Products and Build a Greater Canada.”

  • “Buy Home Markets and Get 100 Per Cent. Value.”

  • “Encourage the Canadian Craftsman: Buy the Goods He Makes.”

  • “Buy Canadian Goods and Watch Canada Grow.”

  • “Canada’s Industries Will Grow According to Your Encouragement.”

The CRA was pleased to report that the “Made in Canada” campaign was further supported by the T. Eaton Company: not only did the company produce an annual catalog of its goods for distribution throughout Canada, but it decided to indicate with a maple leaf all Canadian-made goods in its publication. In addition, T. Eaton’s conducted a month-long “Made in Canada” campaign. [89]

The more focused publications of the CRA included a number of “Made in Canada” documents that provided more detailed manifestos of its philosophy and programme. These included the May 1921 booklet Buy Canadian Products, the CRA’s Ten Commandments for Canadian Trade. Not surprisingly, the 1st commandment was “BUY CANADIAN PRODUCTS.” Others included “UTILIZE CANADIAN SERVICES” (6th commandment) but also “MAKE QUALITY THE HALLMARK OF CANADIAN PRODUCTS” (9th commandment). However, other critical components of the CRA’s programme for the success of industry in postwar Canada included “CONSERVATION and STANDARDIZATION” (4th commandment) and “SCIENCE” (8th commandment). These suggest an explicit recognition that developments such as the wartime emergence of the Honorary Advisory Council and Canadian Engineering Standards Association were complementary initiatives to the “Made in Canada” initiative. As Traves as noted, “[i]n order to withstand [foreign] competition the CRA argued that Canadians must improve their products, rationalize their production systems, and reorganize their sales efforts.” This specifically involved support for scientific industrial research, such as what would become the National Research Council. [90]

The CRA was a strong “Made in Canada” advocate but by the end of 1921 the organization was essentially disbanded with its official death occurring at an executive meeting in mid-1922. While the existence of the CRA had been short lived just like that of the CHMA before it, both organizations probably had survived long enough to fulfill the advocacy role that they had been created for in response to the unique circumstances of the day. [91]

In his classic study, The State and Enterprise, Tom Traves added a much welcome corrective to views of a business community unimaginatively pursuing anti-competitive strategies centring on the protective tariff. Canadian businesspeople, like their American counterparts, perceived the advantages of the regulatory state. In the Second Industrial Revolution, the state became not so much Marx’s executive committee of the bourgeoisie but the secretariat for an alliance of trade associations. The continuance of the more activist state of World War One Canada into the postwar period happened largely with the approval of business. The quest for security through regulation became problematic and, to be sure, business did renew its commitment to the protective tariff though not to the tariff alone. The tariff was supremely contentious — even pitting businesses against each other, to say nothing of sectors and regions. Other goals and tactics, including support for and participation in standardization, technical education, applied research as well as the attempts to simply persuade consumers to prefer domestically produced goods were less politically costly and more promising as consensus positions.

In this context the emphasis on employment for Canadians must be seen as a consistently significant aspect of the “Made in Canada” campaign before, during, and after the war. Whether it be an Eaton’s slogan, a racist Toronto laundry ad, or a lengthy CRA brochure on manufacturing jobs in Canada there was the common theme of job creation. The manufacturing lobby had always tried to keep labour on side in support of the tariff by emphasizing the importance of protection for job security and growth; it was playing the same card here with “Made in Canada” as indeed it sought common ground with labour on issues of technical education.

The story of “Made in Canada”, from its origins — in the context of the 1911 election—through the Great War, the Reconstruction period, and the 1920s, is a story of continuity. As such, it questions the importance of World War I as a cause or marker of fundamental change in the country’s history of both its economy and political economy.

The details of the “Made in Canada” campaign also help us better understand Canada’s cultural and economic relationship with the continent and the empire. First, this was a “Made in Canada” campaign and never an owned-in-Canada campaign. Indeed the latter seems to have been a complete non-issue. Viewed through the lens of 1970s debates over economic nationalism, this seems like a curious case of a dog not barking. But to the economic actors of the time it was unremarkable. Indeed to have questioned the Canadian-ness of goods made in some Canadian factories by Canadian workers on the grounds that ultimate ownership of the factories was American, would have called into question the whole rationale of the National Policy and a generation of national development strategies. Equally, American-owned manufacturing firms in Canada participated fully and enthusiastically along with domestic firms in the “Made in Canada” campaign. [92] Furthermore, this was a “Made in Canada” campaign, a Maple Leaf campaign, not a made-in-Empire Union Jack campaign. Nobody spoke of preferring Canadian goods to British goods, and very rarely did anyone speak of keeping one’s consumer dollars in the Empire.

We should also acknowledge the gender dimension to this issue. The “Made in Canada” campaign coincided with the climax of the suffrage movement. Women’s groups, even busy suffragists, took time away from their other concerns to support this campaign. The organizers of the campaign, along with individual manufacturers and retailers, avidly courted both the support and the custom of Canadian women and Canadian women’s groups. The significance of a woman’s direction over household spending is too easy to underestimate, not just in respect to the microeconomics of individual household budgets but in a broader culture and political economy. As Belisle points out, “[b]udgeting had become women’s responsibility in many parts of Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.” [93] The hand that rocked the cradle may not have ruled the world, but the purse that bought the cradle carried a lot of clout.

The “Made in Canada” movement was an example of demand-side economics rather than a supply-side oriented programme. This is in contrast to much of the standard view of the period. As David Monod puts it in his study of early twentieth-century retailing and marketing, “Unlike the believers in a demand-driven economy, most makers of consumer goods in Canada continued to trust in the production-centred view that incomes had to follow outputs.” [94] While this view of the dominance of supply-side economics in the age of emerging mass production is reasonable, demand-side programmes such as “Made in Canada” cannot be ignored if one is to get a complete picture of consumer culture during this period. “Made in Canada” serves as good example of consumer nationalism. Paula Hastings has recently described how most scholarly work examining this period in Canadian history has focused on the views of prominent politicians and intellectuals. [95] Our story here is a common man’s and common woman’s nationalism that had perhaps a limited intellectual foundation but was really about taking care of one’s own getting and spending. It is about making, selling, and buying stuff — what really mattered in the day-to-day lives of Canadians.

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