by Bruce Cherney (part 2)
Under the headline, Million for Manitoba League Not Regarded with Favor in the United States, the April 3, 1912, Manitoba Free Press reported the league was creating “considerable anxiety in certain portions” south of the international border. The information in the newspaper was provided by C.S. Mellon of Kansas City, Missouri, who was visiting Winnipeg.
Mellon said the formation of the league, which was set-up to boost the province’s population to one-million people by 1921, would have serious consequences for the Mid-West states.
“Already the provinces west of Manitoba are attracting hundreds of American farmers,” said Mellon, “and when the active interest is aroused in Manitoba as a place for emigration, it is feared that the tide will grow.”
But what Mellon was really telling the newspaper had more to do with a fear of what was happening in Saskatchewan and Alberta rather than in Manitoba.
He mentioned that farmers in his district were selling their land for $100 to $200 and moving to Saskatchewan, “where they could purchase more land for the same money, and where it will increase in value more rapidly.”
Mellon claimed American authorities understood that immigration from the U.S. was being heavily promoted by Canadian agents.
A counter advertising campaign was being proposed by American authorities to meet the land desires of U.S. farmers, telling them that acreage in the American West was being made arable through irrigation.
For the moment, Mellon said, Canada was the favoured place for American farmers to relocate.
“Personally,” he commented, “I can’t see why it is, because the land is in good condition round Kansas City. The only explanation seems to be that in the majority of cases farmers wish to provide farms for their families, and, the cheaper but valuable land of western Canada seems to offer the logical solution.
“It seems to me that Canada is only now reaping what the United States reaped several years ago, when it was general for Canadians to move across the line to the farms and cities of the United States.”
The Million for Manitoba League was receiving a lot of publicity in the U.S. Mid-West, but it was having difficulty meeting its objectives due to a lack of funding. In particular, its member municipal branches were not advancing their fees nor collecting the dollar membership that were expected to fill the league’s coffers, and the provincial government was not providing its expected financial support.
During the annual Industrial Exhibition in Winnipeg, delegates from across Manitoba met to discuss the financial difficulties faced by the league.
Members from the smaller municipalities argued that they should not be paying the same as larger centres such as Winnipeg, Brandon and Portage la Prairie. A concession was made that the 141 municipalities in the province “be requested to subscribe on the minimum basis of $100 each.” An earlier resolution had not made mention of “requested.” Still, the change was not passed unanimously, although by a “great majority.”
According to a Free Press report on July 19, 1912, the financial statement of the league “showed that there must be funds at once raised in order that the league might be in a position to carry on a campaign of advertising and promoting Manitoba’s interests in a manner calculated to bring results.”
This was in sharp contrast to a May 28, Free Press, article which stated that efforts by the league were “bearing fruit,” including 1,200 inquiries by mail from immigrants interested in the farming prospects within Manitoba.
The July financial statement also revealed that the Manitoba government “made a greatly appreciated grant to the league.” But of the original promise of $5,000, only $2,500 had been forwarded. The sale of membership buttons raised $3,901, while expenditures totalled $3,067.97.
William Sanford Evans, the president of the Million for Manitoba League, told the delegates that there was not enough in the league’s treasury to mount a successful advertising campaign in the U.S. and Europe. Among the campaign efforts that would take money was sending a Manitoba agent to every state fair in the U.S.
T.B. Tustin, the chief food inspector for Winnipeg, had earlier suggested an equally costly endeavour: the launch of an extensive advertising campaign in England to “get the various districts (i.e., the five in Manitoba under the Million for Manitoba League) to exhibit in England, have the transportation companies distribute literature, and last, but not least, formulate a plan whereby large families could be given assisted passages (from England),” according to the June 21, 1912, Free Press.
William Whyte agreed with Tustin that large families should be relocated to Manitoba, as young single men would be liable to “wanderlust.”
Tenant farmers should be encouraged as Manitoba newcomers, said Whyte, “who from lack of means could not make the journey to Canada. The league should help them out and educate them to Canadian conditions on Canadian farms.”
“One very important factor is the getting of new population; another, the improvement of the fructiveness (sic) of those who are here and another the improvement of conditions as they now are, such as farmers’ markets in towns and cities,” Evans told the delegates at their July meeting in Winnipeg. “The conditions in Winnipeg are not suitable to the consumer and producer.”
Evans wanted to “work out an ideal plan for the marketing of products, one which will work satisfactorily to the consumer and producer ...”
Evans remarked that Manitoba could do better when it came to cattle raising. “We have to send to the United States for thousands of pounds of dairy products when we have a beautiful dairy in this province.”
T.L. Arnott of Souris spoke of the ridiculous situation of a local farmer who had to import butter from Australia.
It may also sound rather astonishing today that Winnipeg in 1912 imported much of its milk supply from Minnesota.
Tustin said dairy farming could be a lucrative enterprise. To make his point, Tustin provided the example of the Mews brothers, who came to Manitoba with $75 in their pockets and unable to speak English. He said the brothers had “a cash turnover of $1,500 and $1,800 weekly from the byproducts of their dairy.
“Those are the sort of men we want in Manitoba.”
The establishment of a public produce market in Winnipeg soon distracted the league from its goal of promoting immigration, and consumed an inordinate amount of its time, as well as all its financial resources. In midstream, the league had virtually abandoned its primary goal of rising Manitoba’s population to one-million people within 10 years and concentrated its efforts on attacking the alleged “piratical” practices of produce dealers. In essence, the league wanted to cut-out the middlemen involved in the produce trade.
At a meeting of the People’s Forum on January 19, 1913, C.J. Whellams, the business secretary of the league, said: “Whereas the prices paid by the wholesalers for market produce were the same as prevailed twelve years ago, the prices being paid by consumers for the same produce had risen in the same period 200 per cent. It was said that the dealer today was under very much expense for handling, but in the very same degree the expense to the grower had also gone up. The public market proposal would cut out the undue profits of the dealers and would enable the market gardeners to get more for their produce while decreasing the price to the consumer. There was no place in the world more favourable for the growing market produce than Manitoba. The citizens of Winnipeg should be able to buy vegetables as cheaply as anywhere in the world” (Free Press, January 20).
Whellams claimed Manitobans were being kept out of mixed-farming “through exorbitant profits of middlemen and high transportation charges.”
J.W. Ryckman, chairman of the market committee of the league, alleged that there was an “intolerant vegetable trust” set up at the existing market behind city hall.
He said the imported produce from the U.S. was both too costly and arrived in the city stale.
Countering the comments from Ryckman and Whellams was an unnamed “large” market gardener, who said the produce imported from the U.S. could not be grown in Manitoba.
“Another speaker mentioned the difficulty of distributing garden stuff from the proposed central market. The women of Winnipeg had got into the habit of ordering by telephone or having things delivered ...
“The view was put forth by another speaker that the chief desire of the Million for Manitoba League was to get people to the province who would buy real estate. The opposition of the market gardeners to the reciprocity (free trade) pact (with the U.S.), which would have lowered the price of vegetables to the consumer, showed that they were not principally concerned for the consumers’ welfare in agitating for a public market.”
Whellams admitted the proposal for a public market had created friction but the idea was gaining widespread acceptance.
During the annual meeting of the league on February 11, 1913, in Winnipeg, a major item of business was the establishment of a cold storage facility for vegetables in Winnipeg.
“I have seen potatoes left in the ground in my district of Morden,” said Reeve Jonathon, “because it was not worth the farmers’ while to dig them (up). If they had facilities to store these potatoes until the next season when they could dispose of them they would certainly take out of the ground all the potatoes they cultivated.”
Of course, such a facility would add to the cost of establishing a second market in Winnipeg. Meanwhile, a report prepared by the market committee expressed confidence that a $4,000 loan asked for from the city and another $2,000 expected from outlying municipalities would be covered by the proceeds from the market the following summer.
“Our plans will eventually result in Manitoba exporting rather than importing its farm products,” concluded the report.
In March, it was announced that the public market would be opening in April.
(Next week: part 3)