Canadian Geographic
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Ship Building, 1863-1914

The sailing-ship industry of Atlantic Canada flourished between the 1820s and the 1880s. The initial impetus for the trade (except in Newfoundland) was the Napoleonic blockade of the Baltic which forced the United Kingdom to seek other sources of timber for its navy and merchant marine. Preferential tariffs for British North American timber stimulated colonial production and sale of masts, deals, and, increasingly, wooden ships. After the tariff was removed in 1842, shipowners began deploying their vessels themselves in the international carrying trades, expanding their activities as a world commodities market (centred on the United Kingdom and with a secondary centre on the northeast coast of the United States) developed after 1850. By 1867 the eastern Canadian sailing-ship fleet was the third largest in the world (after the United Kingdom and the United States). However, as the technology of steam became increasingly cost-efficient – first on short hauls, then on longer voyages – the sailing-ship industry of Atlantic Canada went into decline.

During its heyday the shipping industry was not monolithic: different ports specialized in different rigs and vessel sizes, or in different marketplaces for the vessels they sold, or in different uses for their vessels. Nor did all the ports of registry peak or decline at the same time; such fluctuations depended on the kinds of vessels they built and the purpose to which these were put. Saint John and Yarmouth concentrated on barques and ships for the carrying trade; Newfoundland and Halifax on schooners; and other ports, more closely tied to the sale of vessels, on brigs and brigantines. In later years Halifax continued to build sailing ships for the fishery and the related West Indies trade after the world carrying trade had gone over to steamshipping. Saint John and Yarmouth, however, which had concentrated on the carrying trades, began disinvestment in the 1870s.


This series contains a graph depicting shipbuilding in tonnage on registry by both year and region, as well as two maps comparing the number of Canadian Atlantic voyages made between 1863 and 1878 to those made in 1891 and 1915. The user can explore portions of each by clicking to zoom in and out, and dragging to pan around it.


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Pulp and Paper, 1928-1961

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Quiz :

Where was much of Central Canada's lumber production sent in the late 19th century for wholesaling?

Chicago, IL
Albany, NY
Boston, MA