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Markets and capital : a history of the lumber industry of British Columbia (1778-1952) Lawrence, Joseph Collins

Abstract

The history of the lumber trade of British Columbia has been one of considerable fluctuation and recurring crises occasioned by historical changes over which the industry has had no control. With no large permanent home market to depend upon for stability, it has had to attain a flexibility which would allow it to accommodate itself to the ever-changing complexity of world markets, In its pioneer phase (1851-1886) the trade could depend on only small local markets in Victoria, New Westminster and, to some extent, San Francisco. With a scarcity of operating capital , no rail transportation whatever, and inadequate water transportation controlled by San Francisco brokers, the infant industry located on Vancouver Island, on Burrard Inlet and at New Westminster struggled for survival. Despite these handicaps, certain fairly reliable markets were gradually established In the awakening Pacific community in Australia, Chile, the Sandwich Islands, and China. The completion of the Canadian Pacific Railroad (1886) marked the real beginning of the lumber trade in British Columbia, it made possible the exploitation of the interior forests, presented the trade with the Prairie market, which was to sustain it until 1913 and it attracted plentiful capital to the industry for the first time. The completion of the Panama Canal in 1914 marked the third phase of the history of the trade, for it opened to the industry the communities of the Atlantic, especially the seaboard of the United States and the important United Kingdom market, This new cargo trade rescued the ailing industry from the collapse of the Prairie demand. The pattern of the lumber trade changed again after 1940. War-time shipping difficulties, followed by a seemingly permanent dollar shortage in the sterling area largely diminished the importance of the United Kingdom market a sustained period of prosperity in the United States, however, facilitated a shift of trade lines from the Old World to the New. The change was accelerated and consolidated by the rise of giant American cellulose corporations which invested heavily In British Columbia forest lands and production plants and integrated them into vast international complexes of industries whose main market is the pulp, lumber, and cellulose-hungry industries of the United States. This thesis attempts to trace these economic changes in the light of changing historical conditions and to discover the pattern which emerges from them.

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