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UBC Theses and Dissertations

The urban development of Winnipeg, 1874-1914 Artibise, Alan Francis Joseph


In an effort to meet partially the long-felt need for urban biographies of Canada's major cities, this study examines the City of Winnipeg for the period 1874-1914. It attempts to provide a reasonably detailed social history of Winnipeg; to describe - or reconstruct - the evolvement of an urban area. This description Includes a characterization of Winnipeg during a particular time period and an analysis of the nature, directions, and magnitude of the changes occurring in the various facets of the City's social and physical structure. It also endeavors to identify and analyze the events, personages, trends, and movements which have played a key role in the development of Winnipeg, This "biography" of Winnipeg does not in any way attempt to be definitive. Such subjects as economic development and metropolitanism, for example, are given but scant attention. To facilitate comparison with other cities, this history of Winnipeg has been organized topically rather than chronologically. The various aspects of urban life in Winnipeg during the period - whether civic politics, population or spatial growth, or public health - are dealt with in separate chapters. But while each chapter deals with a distinct topic, the study does have a unifying theme for Winnipeg between 1874 and 1914 followed a particular pattern of development. Throughout, the City's political, social, and economic life was dominated by a growth conscious commercial elite whose prime goal was to create in Winnipeg the "Chicago of the North." The account of this group’s efforts to attract to Winnipeg - usually by the expenditure of public moneys - immigrants, railways, and industry is one of the main elements of this study. A second major theme is the far-reaching results this commitment to growth on the part of Winnipeg's leaders had on the social fabric of the City. Problems such as public health, water and sewer facilities, prostitution, and city planning were given only passing attention. As a result, after forty years of prodigious growth, Winnipeg in 1914 still lacked decent housing, good schools, adequate recreation facilities, and integrated neighbourhoods. Above all else, Winnipeg lacked any powerful group which understood the City as a whole and wanted to deal with it as a public environment; one belonging to and affecting all citizens. Although it was an outstanding success economically, the Winnipeg of 1914 was not, in the social sense, a vibrant community. Unfortunately, the conclusions reached about Winnipeg's development from I874 to 1914 cannot be put into a national or even a western Canadian context, Far too few cities have been studied and the time span is too full of gaps. It is hoped, however, that this history of Winnipeg will be a progressive step along the path to a general and comparative history of the Canadian City.

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