Skip to Menu

Canada Evolves

(choose from the list below)

Main article


When Canada came together as a confederation in 1867, almost 150 years ago, wood and coal were the main sources of heat in Canadian homes and gas and electricity were still far in the future. How times change!

A decade of hardship and promise

1. Image shows a gas furnace on display in a booth in 1934

1. Gas heating equipment on display
in 1934. Click the image for more

The late 1930s was a period that would usher in a growth market for consumer products, many of them, like the winter air conditioner and the Chronotherm night setback thermostat, technology-based. It was a growth market that would balloon following the end of the Second World War. The result was an increase in the demand for the engineering of all sorts of technology-based useful things for home, business, and industry. An expansion of engineering, trade, and technology education would follow.

A new market advantage was evident for the innovative and entrepreneurial industrialist. Many Canadian entrepreneurs would move into the home heating market, making use of the new science and technology of the period. Included was Howard Furnace and Foundries, among others, serving to greatly expand Canada’s manufacturing and service sectors.

The winter air conditioner of the 1930s, would provide the principal spring board for warm air heating systems to follow, employing a range of combustible fuels, electricity, or ground and air heat sources.

The 1930s, despite the Great Depression, featured many other great achievements, historic dates, and many classics in song and movies. In all of this century, no decade can match the 1930s for memorable tunes, from Brother Can You Spare a Dime (1932) to Over the Rainbow (1939). Other highlights:

Hit songs:

  • In the Mood, Glenn Miller, 1939;
  • April in Paris, Evelyn Hoey, 1932;
  • Pennies From Heaven, Bing Crosby, 1936.

Hit Movies:

  • Snow White, 1937;
  • Wizard of Oz, 1939;
  • Gone With the Wind, 1939.


  • CCF (now NDP) was formed in 1935;
  • William Aberhart, Social Credit, Premier of Alberta, 1935;
  • Maurice Duplessis, Union Nationale, Premier of Quebec, 1936.


  • Canada became fully independent by Statute of Westminster, Dec. 11, 1931;
  • Canada declared war on Germany, Sept. 10, 1939;
  • Bank of Canada created in 1934, CBC in 1937.


  • Bombardier produced the first snowmobile, 1937;
  • Radar was developed, largely in Canada, 1938;
  • Airmail service across the Atlantic Ocean began in 1930.


  • Gasoline averaged 10 cents/gallon in the 1930s;
  • Steak cost 20 cents/pound in 1938.

Section Gallery

2. Photo of unemployed men hopping onto a train in 19333. Toronto Maple Leafs program, 19314. Photo of people eating at a soup kitchen5. Photo of a store window of Simpsons, 1936

Factually Speaking

Unemployment in Canada peaked at 27 percent in 1933, causing untold hardship for millions.

A fashionable history: 1860s to 1960s

1. Drawing of a large-patterned dress in silk crepe

1. A large-patterned dress
in silk crepe. Click the image
for more information.

2. Image of an in-between-season dress in grey-blue silk, finely striped in dull red

2. An in-between-season dress
in grey-blue silk that was
finely striped in dull red.
Click the image for more


  • Looser fitting coats and trousers
  • The bodice and skirt of a dress were often made from different materials
  • Cotton, linen, wool and silk were the most popular fabrics


  • Three piece suits grew popular
  • Top hats formal wear, bowlers more casual
  • Loose fitting cloaks were popular with women


  • Bustle gowns still popular
  • Accessories such as gloves and draperies were an essential part of fashion
  • Knee-length topcoats, often with contrasting velvet or fur collars, and calf-length overcoats were worn in winter


  • Contrasting waistcoats were popular, usually single breasted
  • “Morning” coats popular
  • Sleeves are larger and skirts only big at back


  • High wasted skirts were very popular
  • Fashion dictated by time of day
  • Large variety of coats, they were the “thing”


  • “One hour dress” became popular… it got its name from being easier to put on and was made in an hour
  • Assorted suits, trench coats and fedoras


  • Fabrics were now tailored closer to the body
  • More “jazz inspired” clothing for me
  • The “flapper look” was in vogue


  • Clothing was very light weight
  • Slightly baggy garments were now in fashion
  • Long skirts and dresses were back in fashion


  • Bulky shoes were now popular
  • Padded shoulders were popular as well
  • Longer skirts and dresses


  • The poodle skirt was now popular
  • Lots of business clothing and casual suits
  • People dressed “smartly”


  • Puffy skirts and billowy materials
  • Some Mod influences
  • Lots of colour and patterns

Factually Speaking

In 1884 Timothy Eaton Co. (Eaton's) produced its first catalogue. A year later it began its mail order business and soon news about the latest fashions was reaching households deep in rural Canada.

This tale of four foundries
is a story of small town Canada

1. Image of a Cottage Diamond parlour stove

1. Cottage Diamond parlour stove.
Click the image for more information.

Four foundries established in three towns in the mid-1700s and 1800s to produce wood stoves is a tale of the emergence of a new industry in Canada. The need for heating was one reason that dozens of foundries were built all over the country in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The first foundry in Canada was the Forges du Saint-Maurice near Trois Rivieres, Quebec. Its wood stoves (1742) and other products made the Forges famous for more than 150 years. The foundry was established by royal warrant in 1730 to produce iron products for the King of France, who was almost continuously at war during the 1700s. Later, the company contributed significantly to the development of other industries in the colony and played a role in modernizing iron and steel production in Canada. It shut down for good in 1883, and is now a National Historic Site.

The A. Belanger foundry in Montmagny, Quebec began operation in 1867, was expanded in 1889 and modernized in the early 1900s. New management in 1908 established the company as specializing in the production of wood stoves, the most popular being its Royal model. The company began producing electric ranges in 1954, changed ownership in 1960, acquired several other domestic appliance manufacturers and by 1981 was owned by Inglis and then by Whirlpool (1990) which shut the plant down on May 13, 2004.

Two foundries in Sackville, New Brunswick, Enterprise and Fawcett, were established in 1850, where they competed in producing wood and coal stoves for over 100 years. The two merged in 1984, but only the Fawcett foundry is still operating.

In each case, they were great employers of hundreds of skilled workers — all unemployed when shutdown and a major tax base gone along with each town's reason for existence. Many other companies got involved in stove making in Canada, such as E. & C. Gurney Co. in Toronto and The James Smart Mfg., Co., Limited of Brockville, Ontario.

Section Gallery

Factually Speaking

A type of stove branded “Canada's Pride” was imported from the United States.

Life without electricity:
Bring back the wood stove

1. Photo of a street after an ice storm

1. Power lines are down after an ice storm.
Click the image for more information.

Modern heating systems, like all mechanical-type or electronic equipment, have limitations. One is that most function poorly or not at all without electricity to drive fans and pumps for circulation; valves, controls, and thermostats for automation; and start-up fuel ignition.

When electricity from the grid is gone — when a blackout occurs — out of sight and out of mind residential automated heating appliances are suddenly useless. Our alternative?

Millions of people have made it through The Great Ice Storm of January 1998, the North American Northeast Blackout of August 2003, the east coast blackout of 1965, and many other regional blizzards and major storms that took power for many hours or days. Each event serves to remind us that Nature can still exercise unwelcome control our lives, and encourages many to maintain traditional wood and coal stoves and fireplaces for insurance when the lights go out.

These heat sources don’t need the electric grid. Muscles swing an axe to split wood just like the pioneers, and a chainsaw or bucksaw makes felling trees easy. Alternatively you can bring in a bucket of coal from the bin outside — if you have some. For most of us, stoves and fireplaces are considered “supplementary heating equipment,” because we no longer count on them to heat the whole house. But when the grid fails they will help us stay warm until the power is restored.

Section Gallery

2. Image showing Toronto during a power blackout3. Image of a building with a fire pit in the centre4. Image showing four large propane tanks against the wall of a house5. Image of a modern closed-combustion gas fireplace

Factually Speaking

Over 1,000 electrical transmission towers, including 130 of the largest, and 25,000 telephone poles were destroyed in Quebec during the ice storm of 1998.

Powerful predictions for Canada:
A future described in 1852, 1968, 2007

1. Image of a well-dressed lady and several men crossing a Toronto street in 1890

1. A well-dressed lady stands out from
the men crossing with her.
Click the image for more information.

In her famous novel Roughing it in the bush, Susanna Moodie wrote, “Forty years has made as great a difference in the state or society in Canada as it has in its commercial and political importance. When we came to the Canadas [1832], society was composed of elements which did not always amalgamate in the best possible manner.

“The Canadian women, while they retain the bloom and freshness of youth, are exceedingly pretty; but these charms soon fade, owing, perhaps, to the fierce extremes of their climate, or the withering effect of the dry metallic air of stoves, and their going too early into company and being exposed, while yet children, to the noxious influence of late hours, and the sudden change from heated rooms to the cold, biting, bitter winter blast ...

“They are naturally a fine people, and possess capabilities and talents, which, when improved by cultivation, will render them second to no people in the world; and that period is not far distant.”

In The Little White Schoolhouse, John C. Charyk wrote, “The country schoolhouse was a proud moment in the building of this nation. In the 50 years or so that it operated, the one-room educational institution contributed far out of proportion to the moderate demands it made in return. It was the bulwark of civilization in a primitive land.

“The little building represented the heart and soul of every rural district. It was the centre about which the religious, political, social and educational life of the community revolved.... The rural school was the cradle of a nation that in a scant 100 years has grown up to be respected and recognized throughout the world.”

“[Yet] the march of progress across the land [1960s] is quietly and irrevocably erasing the country schoolhouses from our midst.”

Robert Couturier, a New York architect-interior designer, commented in a 2007 issue of Architectural Digest that “with change in the field occurring at such a rapid pace ... [I believe] that it’s nearly impossible to predict the profession’s future. I estimate that 80 percent of what will be for sale in five years has not been invented yet. So we cannot even conceive of what will be coming up within a very short while ...”

Section Gallery

2. Image showing three women and two men using snowshoes

Article Sources

A decade of hardship and promise

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #208).
  • "A Brief History of Canada." Canadian history and industry events, via http://www.3.sympatico/goweezer/canada/can1930.htm (accessed February 3, 2010).
  • "Acclaimed Music - The Top Songs from the 1930s." Acclaimed Music, via (accessed February 4, 2010).
  • "Film History of the 1930s." Greatest Films — The Best Movies in Cinematic History, via (accessed February 3, 2010).
  • "WikiAnswers - The QandA wiki." WikiAnswers — The QandA wiki, via (accessed February 4, 2010).

A fashionable history: 1860s to 1960s

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #51, HD1006I).
  • ‘Long bibliography
  • Photos: More from McCord Museum – see list sent today

This tale of four foundries is a story of small town Canada

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #36, HD1005Y).

Life without electricity: Bring back the wood stove

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #18).

Powerful predictions for Canada: A future described in 1852, 1968, 2007

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada (DCSB #102. HD1002C).
  • Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (Toronto, ON: New Canadian Library, McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1962), 142-43. First published in England in 1852, the book cover the years 1832 to 1847.
  • John C. Charyk, The Little White Schoolhouse (Saskatoon, SK: Modern Press, 1968).
  • Advertisement: “100 New Design Ideas,” Architectural Digest, January 2007, vol. 64, no. 1, 85, via

SIDEBAR: More About Fashion

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.

SIDEBAR: More on Power Failure

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.
  • Teresa Bandrowska, Wakefield, Quebec, Ottawa Citizen, February 13, 2008.
  • Hans Giese, in rural Quebec, for the Ottawa Citizen’s 10th anniversary of the Great Ice Storm.

SIDEBAR: We Knew That!

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.
  • Susanna Moodie, Roughing It in the Bush (Toronto, ON: New Canadian Library, McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1962), 142-43. First published in England in 1852, the book cover the years 1832 to 1847.

Factually Speaking

  • Research from the archives of the HVACR Heritage Centre Canada.

Image Credits

A decade of hardship and promise

  • Glenbow Archives, ND-3-6785b [detail].
  • William Jame, COTA-image|Fonds 1244, Item 2181.
  • Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 3.0.
  • Library and Archives Canada, PA-168131.
  • Conrad Poirier, Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec, P48,S1,P807.

A fashionable history: 1860s to 1960s

  • Detail from Annabel Worthington, "The Globe Fashion," The Globe, September 3, 1929, p 16.
  • Detail from Helen Williams, "The Globe Fashion," The Globe, September 3, 1934, p 10.

This tale of four foundries is a story of small town Canada

  • Charles Fawcett Ltd. catalogue.
  • A. Belanger catalogue.
  • The E. & C. Gurney Co., Gurney's Standard Stoves, Ranges, &c. (Toronto: Jas. Murray & Co., 1892), via
  • The James Smart Mfg., Co., Limited., Combined Catalogue and Wholesale Price List of Perfection Stoves, Ranges and Furnaces, Favorite Stoves and Ranges (Brockville, ON: The Recorder Printing Co., Ltd., 1890).

Life without electricity: Bring back the wood stove

  • Archives of Ontario, I001156.
  • By Camerafiend at en.wikipedia [GFDL (], from Wikimedia Commons.
  • Glenbow Archives, NA-1807-38.
  • Nigel Heseltine, HHCC.
  • Ibid.

Powerful predictions for Canada: A future described in 1852, 1968, 2007

  • VIEW-2308, Wm. Notman & Son, Notman photographic Archives — McCord Museum [detail].
  • N.M. Hinshelwood, Notman photographic Archives — McCord Museum, MP-1985.31.182.