Canada History

Canada History   timelines 
AskAHistorian    blog 




Prehistory | 2 Worlds Meet | New France | England Arrives | Clash of Empires | Revolution | British America | Reform/Revolt | Responsible Government | Confederation | Nation Building | Laurier | The Great War | Roaring 20's | Great Depression | WWII | The Peace | Cold War | Trudeau | PC's in Power | Modern Canada

A New Leader | Maritimes Rights Movement | King Byng Affair | The Economy Booms | A New Culture | Stocks

The roaring twenties an be compared somewhat to the period in Europe after the first round of the plague had hit. People were happy to be alive after the terrible losses of the first world war. Despite a minor economic bump in the economy, business and agriculture thrived and expanded, jobs were plentiful, technology evolved at a dizzying speed and the population soaked up change faster then it could be presented.

Women had gained the vote during the war but with technology such as refrigerators, washing machines, vacuum cleaners and electric appliances, women were released from much of the day to day work that had tied them down in the home. Fashions also began to change as hemlines began to climb, underclothing changed or disappeared and new materials such as rayon began to replace traditional materials. Along with cloths can new hair styles such as the bob and  the cosmetics industry exploded with all types of new makeup and products.

All of these changes offered opportunities for new businesses and industries to startup, expand, and thrive as suppliers for these changes. The use of women during the first world war to supply labour in some industries had broken open the floodgates for them to enter all sorts of new job categories rather then just the old established types. Women began t get into politics, business, retail services, and many other previously restricted occupations. The gender barrier broke down as the began to smoke in public, drink gin and whiskey at social get togethers, question restrictions on their freedom and generally expect more rights and opportunities then their mothers did.

Perhaps the greatest catalyst for change was the explosion of communications in conjunction with electricity. Radios became wide spread, and Hollywood churned out movies faster then anyone could keep up with. Radio stations sprung up everywhere and broadcast shows, sporting events, news and many other types of information to all who were listening. In 1923 Foster Hewitt started to broadcast Hockey Night in Canada which quickly became the main activity of Saturday evening and is still one of the highest rated broadcasts on both radio and TV today. Along with the shows and news came advertising. These mediums offered a new way to get the message out about new products, old favourites, ways to make life easier and of course which way the people should vote at election time.

The impact of the movie industry cannot be underestimated with it's portrayal of how modern men and women should and could behave, what the rest of the world was doing in the past and the present and once again it's power to market and advertise looks, language (subtitles and talkies) fashions and the lifestyle of consumerism. Hockey, football, baseball and many other sports experienced huge growth in popularity and revenues. People had leisure time, money, a way of getting to events and attractions and the desire to do so.

Another aspect of changing life in Canada was the automobile. By 1928 one in two households had a car and in conjunction with the building of roads, expansion of gas station locations, cheap prices (about $400 for a Ford model T) and greater accommodation for cars in city and government planning, people could go further, faster and more conveniently then ever before.

Big business became the darling of almost all citizens except those dedicated labour and Marxist supports. The stock Markets boomed and anyone could buy stock which in many cases only required a 10% payment up front. Athletes and entertainers were admired but the giants of business were also on a pedestal. Free enterprise could do no wrong and the cycle of boom and bust seemed to be a thing of the past with endless growth and prosperity and profits for all. The best thing that government could do was to get out of the way of big business which it seemed could do no wrong.

Canada became the main source of illegal liquor entering the U.S. which had prohibition in place and although many places in Canada also restricted the consumption of alcohol, the production and export of it was encouraged. The long undefended boarder with the U.S. encourage smuggling and rum runners to wet the thirst of the American population.

In hindsight the 20's seemed like a dream with prosperity for all, limitless growth, exploding technological advances and limitless possibilities. This world was all to come crashing down in October of 1929 when the house of cards so carefully built and admired came face to face with the reality of having to pay the bill for all of the excesses and speculation the participants of this drama exhibited. 

By G Scott staff writter,  2012 - - section:eras, subsection Roaring 20's