Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Terra Nostra

Terra Nostra: The Stories Behind Canada’s Maps

Jeffrey S. Murray
Copyright Date: 2006
Pages: 192
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Terra Nostra
    Book Description:

    Maps have been invaluable throughout Canada's history. They promised fame and fortune to early merchant-adventurers and guided army commanders. They legitimized a politician's dominion and allowed businessmen to stake new claims. And they helped ordinary citizens build communities.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8617-8
    Subjects: Technology

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 3-6)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 7-7)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. 8-9)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. 11-11)
    Ian E. Wilson

    Canada’s maps are precious. They contain the accumulated knowledge and experiences of the individuals who created them. Beautiful and detailed, intriguing and inspiring, they reveal much about the development of our country and the people who lived here, their aspirations, preoccupations, and daily lives. They store our memories of past achievements and point the way to future endeavours. If examined carefully, much can be discovered—they are like puzzles waiting to be unlocked.

    As Canadians, we are lucky to have such a full record of our country’s cartographic heritage within the collection of Library and Archives Canada. What’s more, we...

  5. Preface
    (pp. 13-14)
  6. I Envisioning Canada

    • [I Introduction]
      (pp. 19-23)

      Maps are powerful tools that reflect our view of the world. Part of this power comes from our natural willingness to accept them as they are. Where we are taught from childhood to question written text—to read between the lines—we tend to be less critical of the information conveyed through maps. “Add a map,” explains geographer Mark Monmonier, “and the idea not only sounds good but it looks good too.” In other words, maps are valuable tools of persuasion that enable their creators to present a singular vision of the world. When users share this vision, the inherent...

    • CHAPTER 1 Passage to the Orient
      (pp. 25-35)

      Standing with his companions on a rock outcrop near Echo Harbour on the Pacific Coast, not far from present-day Ocean Falls, British Columbia, Alexander Mackenzie [Fig.1.1] used a pomade of vermilion face paint and melted bear grease to inscribe a brief memorial to his epic journey across the Great Divide: “Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second July, one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three.” With those words the Scottish-born fur trader effectively closed the books on more than two and a half centuries of speculation about the nature and extent of the North American interior. As the first European...

    • CHAPTER 2 General Murray Maps the St. Lawrence
      (pp. 37-47)

      With the final surrender of the French army at Montréal on September 8, 1760, Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Amherst, the commander in chief of His Majesty’s forces in North America, found himself in a difficult situation. The British army now had complete control of the entire St. Lawrence valley—an area encompassing some 65,000Canadiens—yet it knew nothing about the region. While it may have been possible for Amherst to wrestle the colony from the French with little geographical intelligence, he needed to be better informed if the new military regime was actually to control it. [Fig.2.10] What General Amherst...

    • CHAPTER 3 “Free Farms for the Million”
      (pp. 49-57)

      Canada had a problem. It had gone to considerable lengths to acquire the vast western lands of the Hudson’s Bay Company, had put together a mounted police force that successfully relegated the region’s original inhabitants to reservations, spent two decades carefully subdividing the land into a giant checkerboard of 160-acre homesteads, then paid a king’s ransom to service these lands with a transcontinental railway. Yet despite the elaborate preparations and the offer of a free homestead, [Fig.3.1] the expected wave of settlers from Britain and Europe never materialized. In fact, it had been a dismal failure.

      In 1881, census-takers counted...

  7. II Perfecting Our Cities

    • [II Introduction]
      (pp. 61-63)

      With their architectural splendours and scenic wonders, Canada’s cities are compelling representatives of the country as a modern industrial state. Calgary with its famous backdrop of mountains, Toronto with its many ethnic faces, and Ottawa with its stately buildings of governance offer powerful statements to the world of the type of society that Canadians envision for themselves. It is not surprising that the maps produced in this country over the last century have called upon the highest skills of the surveyor, artist, and publisher to ennoble our cities and evoke the power and prestige that Canada seeks on the international...

    • CHAPTER 4 Modelling Québec
      (pp. 65-71)

      “When it is considered how greatly the safety and preservation of this part of His Majesty’s Dominions depend on Quebec,” penned Maj. Gen. Gother Mann in a confidential dispatch to the Inspector General of Fortifications in London, “too much attention cannot be paid to promote its strength and security.” The thirty-eight-year-old Mann was writing at the close of the eighteenth century, when Britain’s relationship with the United States was becoming tense. Although Mann recognized that Canada’s harsh winters offered the British some security from a possible America invasion, he readily admitted that something more substantial was required for this military...

    • CHAPTER 5 A Bird’s-Eye Perspective
      (pp. 73-81)

      “The business had been practically without competition as so few could give it the patience, care and skill essential to success,” lamented bird’s-eye artist Oakley Bailey to an American reporter in the 1930s. Then in his senior years, Bailey was reminiscing about the 1870s and 1880s, when he and a handful of itinerant artists wandered Canada’s dusty roads selling inexpensive coloured lithographs of its cities and towns. “But now the airplane cameras are covering the territory,” continued Bailey, “and can put more towns on paper in a day than was possible in months by hand work formerly.” Almost without exception,...

    • CHAPTER 6 Mapping for Fire
      (pp. 83-91)

      “The business of fire insurance has become so systematized in this country that correct maps have been made by competent engineers,” wrote Henry S. Tiffany in his 1887 instruction manual for fire insurance agents. Written “from a practical standpoint,” Tiffany wanted to encourage “those just commencing in the insurance business” to embrace the special maps that had been prepared for agents working in the field. [Fig.6.1] The maps had been available in Canada for more than a decade and, according to Tiffany, were “a very great convenience in the prosecution of the business, and their use simplifies and lessens the...

  8. III Finding Our Way

    • [III Introduction]
      (pp. 95-97)

      Air, land, and sea transport have been crucial to Canada’s development. Indeed, Canada may be the only country in the world whose very existence as a nation was contingent on building and maintaining a national railway—a provision that was intrinsic to the British North America Act. Where most countries look to revolutions and wars as defining moments in their development, Canadians take pride in a transcontinental rail line, a land-based substitute for the Northwest Passage that had eluded so many earlier travellers. It might be said that most of Canada’s development has been a result of the need to...

    • CHAPTER 7 Charting Eastern Waters
      (pp. 99-109)

      Knowledge of the Atlantic coast—its shoals, reefs, currents, harbours, and anchorages—was paramount to the English-French struggle for North America. When mounting their amphibious assault on Québec, not even the French charts they had acquired after their capture of Louisbourg gave sufficient details to permit the British fleet safe passage up the St. Lawrence River. [Fig. 7.8] The lack of detailed charts was not a reflection of the inabilities of French surveyors: the Dépôt des cartes et plans de la marine was well directed and its employees, who possessed surveying skills of the highest calibre, far outnumbered their British...

    • CHAPTER 8 Going for Klondike Gold
      (pp. 111-121)

      “There are more ways of making money than by going to the Klondike,” declared Tappan Adney, the special correspondent for theLondon ChronicleandHarper’s Weekly,who was anxiously hoping to find transport for his year’s worth of provisions and mining equipment. Although the fees for packing goods across the Alaska Panhandle to the headwaters of the Yukon River at Lake Bennett were grossly inflated, Adney reluctantly handed over his money. [Fig. 8.2] If he could get his entire outfit to Lake Bennett in a few weeks with help from professional packers, there was a good chance he could make...

    • CHAPTER 9 Maps for Your Motoring Pleasure
      (pp. 123-133)

      “With the exception of a few days , the months of October and November are our best motoring months and Western Ontario is fortunate in having fairly good roads,” announced theToronto Daily Star’sautomobile editor in the fall of 1916. While Canada’s youth faced the muddy trenches of the Somme, the motoring clubs back home debated the best weekend tours for their shiny new McLaughlin Buicks, Stanley Steamers, and Model T Fords. By most accounts, the recently completed concrete highway between Toronto and Hamilton—Ontario’s first—meant that the best roads in the province were centred in the Hamilton...

  9. IV Scaling the Landscape

    • [IV Introduction]
      (pp. 137-141)

      Canada is immense, stretching more than 4,600 kilometres from the northern tip of Ellesmere Island to the southern tip of Point Pelee, and 5,047 kilometres from St. John’s on the Atlantic coast to Victoria on the Pacific. At 9.9 million square kilometres, it takes up half a continent and could easily accommodate much of Europe. The geographical diversity of the landscape is equally remarkable. Canada’s towering mountains, northern tundra, expansive prairies, and majestic lakes are unmatched. Prime Minister Mackenzie King was not too far off the mark when he once commented that, where some countries have too much history, Canada...

    • CHAPTER 10 Hawking County Maps
      (pp. 143-151)

      “This is progress in the right direction,” declared the editor of theHalifax Sun and Advisorwhen in September 1865 he finally got a chance to see Ambrose Church’s map of Halifax County. [Fig. 10.2] Calling it a “splendid map … as near topographical perfection as it is possible to be,” the editor could hardly contain his enthusiasm for this “tedious and difficult, and enormously expensive” mapping project. “The whole county has been surveyed and mapped by men specially trained to the business.” As the editor saw it, Halifax County was now in the running with many of its American...

    • CHAPTER 11 Deville’s Topographic Camera
      (pp. 153-161)

      In the fall of 1925, an inconspicuous wooden box measuring about a half metre square arrived in the basement shipping rooms of Department of the Interior, the federal agency responsible for monitoring the settlement of western Canada. A red label pasted diagonally across one side of the box simply read: “Glass. Handle Carefully.” Although the railway manifest provided no other clues about the contents, experienced clerks knew that the box contained several hundred exposed photographic glass negatives—an entire season’s worth of surveys from one of the most rugged and inhospitable mountain systems in the world.

      The negatives had been...

    • CHAPTER 12 Weapons of the Great War
      (pp. 163-175)

      Lieut. Col. Andrew Mcnaughton understood only too well the value of accurate topographic maps. [Fig. 12.2] As commander of Canada’s counterbattery operations at Vimy, he spent much of his time at his drafting table pouring over maps of the battle-field. “What a coldblooded thing war now is,” he wrote his wife just a few days before the Canadian assault on the German-held ridge. “We set and plot destruction with pencil on paper, then issue orders and make preparations. More of it tomorrow and still more the day after.” In the end, McNaughton’s planning proved to be worth the effort. Canada’s...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 177-178)

    Terra Nostrais a celebration of the mapping of Canada—for Library and Archives Canada, it is also a celebration and a sharing of the incredible historical resource that is contained in our cartographic holdings. From the inception of our institution in 1872 until today’s Library and Archives Canada, part of our mandate has been to acquire and preserve the cartographic heritage of Canada. The collection spans an incredible array of mapping initiatives, from the portolan charts of the early explorers, to recent aerial images of east coast ice floes.

    Archivist Hensley R. Holmden’s published inventory of the holdings from...

  11. Selected Readings
    (pp. 179-183)
  12. Index
    (pp. 185-190)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 191-192)