Nova Scotia Archives

'Canada's Ocean Playground'

The Tourism Industry in Nova Scotia, 1870-1970

Dr. Jay White earned a doctorate in Canadian History from McMaster University in 1994. He is currently (2008) on staff with the Department of Continuing Studies at Royal Military College, Kingston, ON. The following article has been guest-authored for this Website and is an abridged version of an earlier work, "'A Vista of Infinite Development': Surveying Nova Scotia's Early Tourism Industry," in Collections of the Royal Nova Scotia Historical Society, Vol. 6 (2003), pp. 144-169.

Wherever possible in the text below, discussion of specific locations, activities or published material has been linked directly to corresponding photographs or digitized travel literature featured elsewhere on this Website.

Nova Scotia's Early Tourism Industry, 1870-1940

In July 1871, they came — not pioneers of the settling variety, but 300 trailblazers in the fledgling tourism industry in Nova Scotia. Calling themselves the Coit Family, traveling by train from Massachusetts to Saint John, they crossed the Bay of Fundy by steamboat to Annapolis Royal, then rode the recently completed Windsor and Annapolis Railway to Halifax. Nine hours later, they went back the same way. Amazingly, the entire Nova Scotia leg of their journey took less than 24 hours! The first place they wanted to see: Grand Pré, the setting for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's 1847 poem, Evangeline.1

It was a sign of things to come.

At inaugural ceremonies on 19 August 1869, the Windsor & Annapolis Railway proclaimed: "Welcome to the Land of Gabriel and Evangeline."2 Its corporate successor, the Dominion Atlantic Railway, promoted the "Evangeline Route" for more than eighty years. But neither company was responsible for creating a sustained tourism business in Nova Scotia. It was only when the Yarmouth Steamship Company [YSSC] inaugurated fast, modern steamships on a direct route between Boston and Nova Scotia in the late 1880s that summer visitors began visiting the province on a routine basis.

Modeled on similar efforts by American railroads to promote resorts in New England, the Yarmouth Steamship Company created a sophisticated advertising campaign that employed lecturers, travel agents, and publicists to advertise Nova Scotia as a tourist destination. According to Eric J. Ruff, company founder Loran Ellis Baker should be "credited with establishing the tourist industry in Nova Scotia."3 Press junkets, trade cards, schedules, timetables, newsletters and guide books spread the word about the scenic British province with a romantic past. The centrepiece of this marketing blitz was a remarkable series of booklets published annually from 1892 to 1901. The Yarmouth Steamship Company's Beautiful Nova Scotia series provided the blueprint for advertising Nova Scotia as a place of historical interest and natural beauty.

To fully appreciate how tourism grew in Nova Scotia, it is necessary to revisit its origins. Before Nova Scotia was known as the "Land of Evangeline," the province's sporting life garnered attention. Charles Hallock's The Fishing Tourist (1873), a guide book for anglers, included chapters on Nova Scotia and Cape Breton. Hallock, who had once lived in Halifax, was the editor of a New York City magazine called Forest and Stream.4 Other books in the same vein were Captain Campbell Hardy's Forest Life in Acadie (1869) and John J. Rowan's The Emigrant and Sportsman in Canada (1876). Sport fishing may have been indirectly responsible for publicizing Nova Scotia among the New England intelligentsia, because Reverend Joseph Twichell, an avid angler, persuaded his friend Charles Dudley Warner to accompany him on a fishing expedition to Cape Breton in 1873.

Warner wrote an account of that trip, Baddeck, and that Sort of Thing, which was published the following year in the Atlantic Monthly and later in book form. For such a well-known American literary figure as Warner (he co-wrote The Gilded Age with Mark Twain) to write about Nova Scotia was noteworthy. It is believed that Alexander Graham Bell visited Cape Breton — later building a summer home there — as a result of reading Baddeck, and that Sort of Thing.

But not all of what Warner said about Nova Scotia was complimentary. Expecting "to see something like the fertile valleys of the Connecticut or the Mohawk," he was unimpressed with the "small meadows" and "thin orchards" of the Annapolis Valley. While Grand Pré was "the most poetical place in North America," Warner found "nothing here…except a faint tradition of the French Acadians." As for the "murmuring pines and the hemlocks" of Longfellow's Acadia, Warner dismissed them as "trees of the imagination." Nova Scotia, he told New Englanders, was a country of "scraggy firs and balsams."5

Few Americans at the time would have disagreed with this assessment. Many regarded Nova Scotia as cold, remote and unfriendly. New Englanders may have forgotten the colony's Tory posture during the Revolution, but links with the Confederacy during the Civil War, not to mention recent tensions surrounding Fenian raids and American fishing rights in Canadian waters, were fresher in their minds. A Massachusetts man in 1871 found Halifax to be a "dark, dismal looking place" where citizens "stared at us" and "seemed afraid we had come to take away their political rights, or were on a mission of annexation."6 The epithet "Go to Halifax" was a commonplace in nineteenth century American speech.7 A decade later, another American visitor found the best hotel in Halifax to be "musty, fusty, [and] rusty."8

Things were no better in the countryside. In 1864, while visiting a "little, dirty, bluenose villagette" in Cape Breton, an American tourist attempting to break up a drunken street brawl was accosted by local inhabitants for interrupting their "customary theatricals."9 Similar negative impressions of rough and tumble Nova Scotia frontier society were recorded by British journalists during the 1860 tour of the Prince of Wales.10 Clearly this was a milieu not yet attuned to the hospitality needs of an urbane, educated middle class. Visiting the Maritimes in the early 1870s, travel writer Moses Foster Sweetser found only one "first-class" hotel and one summer resort "of any consequence" and neither one was in Nova Scotia.11 As late as 1880, a Yankee minister in search of lodging near Grand Pré was asked by a wary resident if he was "one of them literary fellows." Replying in the negative secured him a room for the night.12

Although Longfellow's Evangeline drew acclaim from the day of its publication, this did not result in immediate curiosity about Nova Scotia. One of the earliest references described the poem as "a story of the simple rural population living together... on the shores of France."13 In 1853, an article entitled "the Birth-Place of Evangeline" appeared in Putnam's Monthly, written by someone visiting an old Harvard classmate in Nova Scotia. The visitor was taken to various spots around "Horton" — Grand Pré having not yet acquired its literary cachet. The stated purpose of the tour was to demonstrate that no place in New England could surpass Horton's scenic beauty. On this point there was little argument, but the sight of "shiftless and ignorant" inhabitants struck an ambiguous chord in the visitor's mind:

My American feelings came strongly over me... 'If this were the United States, what a glorious place would this valley become! Those dirty houses would soon be torn down, and beautiful dwellings erected.' 'Yes, and if this were the United States,' replied my incorrigible friend, 'every tree would be cut down. Those cottages which, when seen from a distance are so romantic, would give place to unsightly two-story houses, and cotton factories would line the banks of this lovely river.'14

The view that Nova Scotia's comparative backwardness was one of its chief assets from a tourist's point of view, whereas the prosperity that industrialization bestowed on New England had somehow changed it for the worse, became a recurring motif linking Nova Scotia with a romanticized "lost" New England. This image co-existed comfortably with the pastoral stereotype of Longfellow's Acadia. It was therefore easy for the casual visitor to see contemporary Nova Scotia as a pre-industrial society, particularly when the areas of the province being visited were primarily agricultural.

The commingling of past and present was evident in the earliest writings about Nova Scotia by American authors. Like Charles Dudley Warner, New York humourist and wine merchant Frederic Cozzens saw little of interest at Grand Pré when he visited in the mid-1850s. In his book, Acadia; or, A Month with the Blue Noses, Cozzens dismissed historical events as "useless reflections of a bygone period." While in Halifax, however, he was so captivated by the exotic appearance of two Acadian women that he arranged to have daguerreotypes made of them.15

To underscore the antiquity of the scenes described in his book, Cozzens also placed a verse from a popular song of the day on the title page:

This is Arcadia–this the land
That weary souls have sighed for;
This is Arcadia–this the land
Heroic hearts have died for:
Yet, strange to tell, this promised land
Has never been applied for!

To this day, "Acadians" and "Arcadians" are virtually interchangeable in American vernacular speech. Any Victorian with a smattering of classical education would have been able to differentiate the Arcadia of ancient Greece from 18th century French Acadia. Over time, however, common usage combined the two meanings, thus reinforcing the perception of Nova Scotia as a remnant of some pre-modern society. References to Nova Scotia in Francis Parkman's many books about the struggle between the French and British empires in North America, published between 1865 and 1892, further supported associations with America's colonial past.16

While early writers like Cozzens and Warner tended to echo Longfellow's romantic visions of Old Acadia, they also reported candidly about Nova Scotia's primitive transportation, peculiar customs, and extreme poverty — hardly the stuff of typical tourist literature. A different form of publication appeared in 1875 with Moses Sweetser's The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers. Its stated purpose was "to supply the place of a guide in a land where professional guides cannot be found."17

Modeled after the popular Baedeker's guides in Europe, Osgood's (a.k.a. Sweetser's) Maritime Provinces included a section on the "Land of Evangeline" that quoted liberally from Longfellow as well as Thomas Chandler Haliburton's 1829 history of Nova Scotia. The Maritime region's "peculiar charms," Sweetser wrote, were "their history during the Acadian era and their noble coast scenery, — the former containing some of the most romantic episodes in the annals of America, and the latter exhibiting a marvelous blending of mountainous capes and picturesque islands with the blue northern sea."18

The Osgood/Sweetser guides were updated at least eight times into the 1890s. By then, tourist literature was transformed thanks to cheaper techniques for printing photographs, such as the gravure process and the half-tone block.19 The first mass market publications to capitalize on the new technology were "view books" featuring growing Midwestern cities like Chicago, Cincinnati and Minneapolis. Other popular subjects were places of interest (Niagara Falls, Civil War battlefields, etc.) and notable events like Queen Victoria's Jubilees in 1887 and 1897, the Columbian Exposition in Chicago (1893) and the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo (1901). Souvenir view books of tourist destinations such as the Thousand Islands, the White Mountains, the Fulton Chain of the Adirondacks, and coastal Maine were also common.20

A defining feature of the view book was the "oblong" or "landscape" format, usually measuring 5x9 inches but occasionally as large as 9x11 inches. One photograph per page was the norm, but smaller multiple images were sometimes arranged on a single page, framed with ornate decorative graphics. A printing method known as "photogravure" produced a fine-grained, "softer" image than the less costly half-tone process. Hence the first view book commissioned by the Yarmouth Steamship Company in 1892 announced on the title page: "Illustrated with Full Page Photogravure Views Direct from the Original Negatives."21

It was around this time that New York publisher D. Appleton published the Canadian Guide-Book, in two volumes, covering Western and Eastern Canada. Ernest Ingersoll, already the author of a tourist guide for the Boston and Maine Railroad entitled Down East Latch Strings, wrote the Western volume, and Charles G.D. Roberts covered the East.22 As D.M.R. Bentley points out, Roberts had "a sophisticated understanding of the guidebook genre and its literary, political and commercial possibilities."23 Roberts milked Acadian history for all it was worth, writing novels like The Forge in the Forest (1896) and A Sister to Evangeline (1898), as well as celebrating pastoral themes in his poetical works.

One could hardly blame a struggling poet for seizing on a trend; around 1894 Roberts also authored a guide-book for the Dominion Atlantic Railway entitled The Land of Evangeline and the Gateways Thither. He reported seeing "tourists jump out of the [rail]car at Grand Pré and snatch up a handful of pebbles from beside the track" as "Evangeline mementoes."24 Local residents had long since desecrated what were said to be old Acadian graves by "digging up... coffins and selling the pieces to tourists."25 Writing in 1907, a thoroughly cynical Newton MacTavish claimed that souvenir hunters had "stripped" a willow tree associated with Evangeline "so mercilessly... that it finally withered and died."26

Such occurrences heralded the arrival of mass tourism in Nova Scotia along lines already well established in New England and Central Canada.27 In effect, it was the urban areas of Boston, New York, and Philadelphia that fueled the growth of tourism in New England. The combination of urban growth and more efficient steam-powered transportation inexorably extended the geographical limits of leisure travel. As cities grew, the resort areas closest to them became more and more crowded. Eventually, areas further afield such as the Thousand Islands, coastal Maine and Florida became summer havens for the rich.

By the 1880s the coastal area from Portsmouth, New Hampshire to York, Maine had largely been "colonized" by tourists.28 The state of Maine alone saw more than a thousand summer hotels opened between 1887 and 1914. By 1900, the state of New Hampshire, which had a population comparable Nova Scotia's, was hosting an estimated 174,000 summer tourists annually.29

Just as the New England summer resort business reached a crescendo, the Yarmouth Steamship Company was formed by Loran Ellis Baker, underwritten mostly with Nova Scotia capital. Baker immediately ordered a new steel steamer to be built in Scotland — the first to be built specifically for the Nova Scotia-New England route. The Yarmouth went into service in 1887; a second vessel, the Boston, was added in 1890. Baker's steamers significantly increased carrying capacity for both passengers and freight. Their seagoing qualities and triple-expansion engines made it possible to shorten travel time between Boston and Yarmouth by about seven hours.30

Baker wasted no time launching an aggressive marketing campaign. On the Yarmouth's maiden voyage in May 1887, he showed off his new vessel to invited journalists in Boston harbor. He followed that with a junket to Nova Scotia for leading members of the Massachusetts press. They gathered at the American House in Yarmouth to thank Baker and other railway officials for their efforts to "inform the American public of the merits of a section of the Dominion too little known to the people of our country."31

Ironically, Nova Scotians were all too familiar with the "Boston states," due to seasonal migration to work in farming, lumbering and the George's Bank fishery. An estimated 17,000 Maritimers entered the port of Boston via steamship in one year alone.32 Loran Baker's Yarmouth Line thus stood to benefit from increased passenger travel in both directions. Unused capacity is the bane of the shipping business, and eastbound tourists provided a profitable counterpart to westbound sojourners, especially when the latter did not purchase a round trip.

By 1894, the American consul in Yarmouth noted that Loran Baker's steamships were "chiefly supported by the summer travel from the United States." Two years later, a travel bureau in Brooklyn, New York reported "demand for Nova Scotia literature has been very large and the bureau has given out a great mass of folders and books issued by the various lines reaching the country of Evangeline." Competition was keen, and the Yarmouth Steamship Company hired "traveling agents" to canvass the eastern United States, venturing as far as Florida "distributing guide books, folders, etc... [to] wealthy Americans who spend the winter in the south." In addition to schedules, folders and cards, the company briefly issued a 10-page monthly paper called the Yarmouth Line Journal.33

By far the most impressive product of the Yarmouth Steamship Company's publicity department was Beautiful Nova Scotia, a series of illustrated booklets published in Boston and New York between 1894 and 1901. Part tourist guide and part view book, the Beautiful Nova Scotia booklets were inspired by similar material issued by the Boston and Maine Railroad and the International Steamship Company. By 1899, the Beautiful Nova Scotia series was recognized as "a very successful departure in guide book literature" and Baker's claim that "demand... throughout New England has been enormous" explained the unusually large print run of 50,000 copies that year.34 These booklets set a high standard for tourist literature about Nova Scotia. For example, the title page of the 1895 edition employed the now almost lost art of "engrossing," resulting in a particularly outstanding example of the printer's craft.

The text for the inaugural edition was written by Thomas Fenwick Anderson of the Boston Globe. Born in Halifax in 1865, not much is known about Anderson's early life, but he was working as a journalist in Boston by the late 1880s. Anderson subsequently involved himself in various Nova Scotia-related activities, including fundraising in 1895 for a proposed Joseph Howe memorial in Halifax, and thirty years later, advocating a monument to Nova Scotia native and clipper ship builder Donald McKay in Boston. In 1906, legendary Boston Mayor "Honey Fitz" Fitzgerald chose Anderson to head up a civic publicity bureau.35

In 1889, Thomas F. Anderson wrote a piece on Maritime emigration to New England36 that may have caught Loran Baker's eye; at any rate, Baker commissioned him to write the copy for the first Yarmouth Steamship Company view book in 1892. (The first two booklets did not carry the "Beautiful Nova Scotia" title). That spring Anderson also delivered a lecture in Boston on the company's behalf, for which he was paid fifty dollars. At the time, the Halifax Herald acknowledged that Anderson was "doing yeoman service in attracting tourists to Nova Scotia."37

Thomas F. Anderson's prose may sound maudlin to modern ears, but he still managed to deliver hackneyed themes with a touch of elegance and charm:

Evangeline's land is indeed a land where sentiment and poetry go hand in hand with beauty and plenty... and where the enchanted pilgrim from the care-clouded city, looking down from the North Mountain upon this marvelous symphony in white and green, prays that the Paradise in which he hopes to spend his days of immortality may be half as beautiful as this earthly one beneath him.38

Anderson also created similarities between Nova Scotia and New England in order to reassure Americans that they would feel "at home" while visiting a foreign country. Thus Halifax's Northwest Arm evoked "one of the banks of the Hudson, just above New York;" the tiny hamlet of Wilmot Springs would be "to Nova Scotia what Poland Spring is to Maine;" the town of Digby was "the coming Bar Harbor of Canada;" while nearby Digby Neck had "sand as red as that of New Jersey." In Anderson's words, Yarmouth was "the most American of Canadian cities" — a place where you could be "in the woods after moose or caribou" one minute and "buy or sell stocks in Boston or New York" via telegraph the next.39

From such statements it seems clear that the Yarmouth Steamship Company targeted New England's professional and educated classes in their advertising. They were most likely to seek escape from crowded resorts closer to home, and they could afford to take a holiday abroad.40 In 1893, for example, Charles G.D. Roberts wrote to Loran Baker requesting a free pass for a socially prominent American friend because her "movements will be attentively chronicled in Boston and NY papers and she has a very wide influence among society and traveling classes in America."41 The implication was that the small concession of a complimentary passage on Baker's ships could pay handsome dividends among the ranks of high society.

Nova Scotia was also touted because of its accessibility and low cost when compared with a vacation in Europe or the far west. "Sorely underpaid" schoolteachers — whose numbers were rising rapidly though their salaries were not — made ideal candidates for holidaying in locales with literary significance.42 Eliza B. Chase's Over the Border: Acadia, The Home of "Evangeline" (1884) was an early example of a travel narrative aimed at this emerging niche market. Chase prepared for her trip by reading "railroad literature in the shape of maps, schedules, [and] excursion books." "These friendly little pamphlets," she noted approvingly, were "delightful pathfinders."43

Many New England women followed in Chase's footsteps. In July 1892, it was reported that a "party of 9 ladies of Pittsfield, Mass." were visiting the province. When the Brooklyn Daily Eagle organized an excursion to Nova Scotia in 1897, eleven of the twenty-three women in the group were unmarried. Two years later, an American on a bicycle tour of the province met a group of seven female cyclists traveling together, with "not a married woman in the party."44 For both men and women, Nova Scotia offered a welcome respite from the crowded Gilded Age resorts of the U.S. Northeast. The "British province" offered an appealing mix of low cost, pleasant climate and middle class sensibilities.

As tourism diversified and more competitors entered the business, the range and quality of promotional literature evolved. Gradually smaller, short-run publications featuring modest water-colour graphics gave way to larger format view books with more illustrations and explanatory text. Photography became increasingly important. In 1892, Loran Baker hired Nathaniel Livermore Stebbins "to secure views of Nova Scotia" for the second annual Yarmouth Steamship Company view book. One of the foremost marine photographers of his day, Stebbins toured the province with Thomas F. Anderson.45 The photographs accompanying Anderson's 1893 article on Nova Scotia in the New England Magazine may well have been by Stebbins.

Among Nova Scotia photographers whose work can be found in tourism promotion material after 1900, the most notable names were Amos Lawson Hardy, Paul Yates, George and Enos Parker, and Edson Graham. Yates spent several years "working in advertising and commercial photography" before arriving in Digby around 1906. His scenic views of the Annapolis Valley reportedly "toured North America" and appeared on countless postcards. George F. Parker of Yarmouth was active in the 1890s but left the photography business to become a full time traveling agent for the Dominion Atlantic Railway.46 Windsor-based Edson Graham's work can be seen in postcards and brochures of the 1930s.

Amos Lawson Hardy opened a commercial photography business in Kentville. His photographs represent a superb pictorial record of how the Annapolis Valley looked at the turn of the 20th century. Around 1902, Hardy published a collection of his work in a 90-page view book titled Evangeline Land. His picture entitled "The Village of Grand Pré" was the most widely reproduced image of Nova Scotia prior to the First World War, though he rarely received credit for it.47 Hardy's work appeared frequently in material produced by the Dominion Atlantic Railway.

In the 1890s, the Windsor & Annapolis Railway finally began to reap the benefits of its "Land of Evangeline Route." For twenty years the railway had struggled to stay solvent as political intrigue and high operating costs plagued the line.48 From 1875 to 1887, annual ridership never exceeded 100,000, and it may be inferred from a report of the company's operations in 1885 that only about a third of the railway's business involved carrying passengers; the balance dealt with "goods traffic." In 1889, however, passenger traffic rose by 20% — so sudden an increase that temporary seats had to be fitted in baggage cars. Two years later, when the "missing link" was completed between the Western Counties Railway terminus at Digby and Annapolis Royal, the Windsor & Annapolis Railway carried nearly 200,000 passengers. For the next five years, passenger traffic topped 180,000 per year.49

This success was due in no small part to the Yarmouth Line. Despite strong competition from American carriers such as the Boston and Maine Railroad, the International Steamship Co. and the Plant Line, Loran Baker and his associates worked hard to win the patronage of the traveling public. Baker himself made a habit of walking down to the dock to welcome passengers when they stepped off the boat. A "Brooklynite" on board the Yarmouth in 1896 found "as much cordial welcome on board... as if I was one of the family."50 Loran Baker also spearheaded the construction of a fine hotel overlooking Yarmouth harbour. Opened in 1894, the Grand Hotel set a high standard for tourist accommodation in the province.

Meanwhile, far from Nova Scotia, plans were hatched in the board rooms of London to consolidate the patchwork of railroads between Yarmouth and Halifax. In 1894, the Dominion Atlantic Railway assumed managerial control of the Windsor and Annapolis Railway. An infusion of British capital significantly increased the rolling stock in the Annapolis Valley, and both freight and passenger traffic rose accordingly.

The future looked bright for tourism in Nova Scotia at the turn of the century, a few naysayers notwithstanding: "There has been much excellent advertising done for our country by capable newspaper writers," Halifax journalist Neil Mack wrote in 1900, "[b]ut the thing has been overdone." Americans, Mack claimed, tended to see Nova Scotians as

simple peasant like people, who are undisturbed by thoughts of the busy world, who go from day to day in an Arcadian sort of existence, delighting themselves with the glorious panoramic picture of hill and dale, of widespread meadows, of verdant fields, of fertile orchards that give forth their fruit without a stroke of labor, or magnificent sunset skies that cast a halo of softened glory o'er all the beauteous scene, and accompany with a benediction the happy mortals who sip their bread and milk within the cottage doors. They are cheerful people, always wearing a smile that suggests celestial rather than earthly content.51

Mack's irritation at being stereotyped was no doubt shared by many Nova Scotians, but for better or worse, the past was turned into a renewable resource and future tourism promoters unabashedly embraced the same "simple folk" theme to market everything from fishing villages to highland games. At least the province seemed to have nature on its side: as one commentator put it, "perhaps...this exploitation of poetry and of history, too, for commercial purposes is a good thing, for… these shores of Minas Basin are fair to look upon and in themselves would justify the traveler's admiration."52

Sadly, the man who was most responsible for bringing record numbers of tourists to Nova Scotia would not live to reap the credit he so richly deserved. In a scene both poignant and ironic, Loran Baker's lifeless body was discovered by a porter on a train running between Boston and New York on January 1st, 1900, the apparent victim of a heart attack. He had lived out his final moments, alone, on the cusp of a new century.

At the time of his death, Loran Baker was engaged in a bitter struggle with the Dominion Atlantic Railway for supremacy on the Yarmouth-Boston route. In 1897, the DAR had inaugurated its own steamship service, going head to head with the Yarmouth Line. A fare war raged between the two lines during the 1899 summer season. Baker's heirs declined to carry on the fight. In 1901, the last Beautiful Nova Scotia booklet announced that the Yarmouth Steamship Company had been "absorbed" by the Dominion Atlantic Railway.

In addition to acquiring a steamship line, the DAR appropriated an extremely successful marketing strategy. The introduction of a new annual booklet series, Vacation Days in Nova Scotia, with colour covers, copious illustrations, and commissioned text by none other than Thomas F. Anderson, showed the debt owed by the Dominion Atlantic to its former business rival. Vacation Days in Nova Scotia would continue to be published well into the 1930s.

According to Marguerite Woodworth, in 1907 the Dominion Atlantic Railway "enjoyed the biggest tourist traffic in its history," but the heyday of the 1890s was not repeated. Despite being swallowed up by the giant Canadian Pacific Railway in 1911, followed quickly by divestiture of most of its steamship operations, tourist traffic on the DAR stabilized at about 30,000 per year.53 The outbreak of war in 1914 did not help matters; summertime passenger revenue plunged by more than thirty per cent in 1917 alone.54

A new general manager spearheaded modernization and expansion in the 1920s, featuring new hotels at Digby and Kentville and the construction of Grand Pré Memorial Park. As its name implied, the purpose of the park was solemn commemoration rather than offering tourists a slice of Acadian life. It was promoted heavily and attracted respectable annual numbers — 7,000 to 10,000 visitors in the mid-1920s55 — but in some ways the park was an attempt to recapture the halcyon days of a quarter-century before, when tourists had flocked to a farmer's field to see a few gnarled trees. The park's architect, Percy Erskine Nobbs of Montreal, drew on Arts and Crafts and European classical influences for his "Norman" church.56 No matter — with Louis-Philippe Hébert's masterful bronze statue of Evangeline in the foreground, the results were aesthetically pleasing and managed to avoid either tackiness or ostentation.

Grand Pré Memorial Park has withstood the test of time and is now a National Historic Site, but the company that built it is no more. Even as the Dominion Atlantic earned a reputation for being one of the finest small railways in North America, a new mode of transportation was poised to revolutionize travel in Nova Scotia, just like it did everywhere else. By the late 1930s, automobiles and buses carried tourists over paved roads to every corner of the province.

Notwithstanding the importance of transportation in shaping the initial phase of Nova Scotia's tourism enterprises, the ability to attract tourists in the 1870-1940 period was closely linked to New England's rediscovery of its own colonial past. It was no coincidence that an American led the ten-year campaign to reconstruct de Mons' Habitation at Port Royal.57 The perceived decline in the quality of life in urban New England led to an idealized conception of the colonial period and various attempts to preserve what was left of the region's heritage.58 Building on the pastoral philosophy of the New England Transcendentalists, writers and artists like John Burroughs, Wallace Nutting (who photographed Nova Scotia early in his career), Clifton Johnson and others glorified an idyllic, mythical New England in which American values could be expressed in their purest form.59

Bearing this in mind, when New Englanders visited Nova Scotia, especially areas settled by former residents of colonial America (i.e. Planters and Loyalists), one assumes there was a strong nostalgic effect in the experience, even when visible evidence was scant. Mundane local features — a well, a church, a row of willow trees — took on added significance when viewed in literary or historical context. Patricia Jasen called it "the extraordinary ability of tourists to displace an element of indigenous culture with an artificial one which they deem to be more genuine or typical."60

The cover of a 1927 brochure for the Dominion Atlantic Railway's Digby Pines hotel provides a fitting metaphor for Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's enduring influence. Evangeline floats serenely over the landscape, arms outstretched like some omnipresent patron saint casting a beneficent gaze upon native and tourist alike. However pervasive her presence, it took concerted marketing efforts by the Yarmouth Steamship Company and the Dominion Atlantic Railway to turn Longfellow's story into a lasting cultural symbol that has proven, in the long run, to be more successful than the literary work that spawned it. The true pioneers on the Evangeline Trail were pragmatic promoters and businessmen who recognized the potential of cultural tourism and created an industry where one did not yet exist. All Nova Scotians owe them a debt of gratitude.


1.     The "Coit Family" was named after the captain of the first steamboat chartered by the group for summer excursions in 1868. On their third annual excursion they visited Saint John, N.B., and were so warmly received they decided to return the following year. It was on this fourth trip that they included a one-day side trip to Nova Scotia. Coit Correspondence of 1871, or the Second Trip to New Brunswick by the Coit Family (Worcester, MA: Charles Hamilton, 1872). See also Nova Scotia Archives MG 1 Vol. 1001 file 3 Jan 1871 - Dec 1877 T. T. Vernon Smith diaries, 29 July 1871.

2.     Margeurite Woodworth, History of the Dominion Atlantic Railway (Kentville, 1936), p. 66.

3.     Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. XII (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1990), pp. 50-51.

4.     Charles Hallock, The Fishing Tourist (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1873). See also James H. Morrison, "American Tourism in Nova Scotia, 1871-1940," Nova Scotia Historical Review Vol. 2 No. 2 (1982), p. 42.

5.     Charles Dudley Warner, "Baddeck and that Sort of Thing," The Atlantic Monthly Vol. 33 No. 2 (February 1874), pp. 186, 189. Warner's travelogue on Baddeck was published serially in the Atlantic Monthly from January to May, 1874.

6.     Coit Correspondence of 1871, p. xi.

7.     Sharon Ingalls, "Mad About Acadians," The Beaver, (June-July 1989), p. 21. On 25 January 1888 the Brooklyn Daily Eagle began a short item about a Nova Scotia blizzard with the heading: "Hardly Any One Just Now Would Care to Go to Halifax." Six years later, the paper led off an article on a "Summer Trip through the Land of Evangeline" with the same epithet. Brooklyn Daily Eagle 8 July 1894, p. 5.

8.     Eliza B. Chase, Over the Border: Acadia, The Home of "Evangeline" (Boston: James R. Osgood, 1884), p. 124.

9.     James Doyle, ed., Yankees in Canada: A Collection of Nineteenth-Century Travel Narratives (Downsview, Ont.: ECW Press, 1980), pp. 116-117.

10.     Woodworth, p. 49. See also Ian Radforth, "'Called to the attention of the whole civilized world': The Visit of the Prince of Wales to British North America, 1860," Zeitschrift für Kanada-Studien Vol. 20 No. 1 (2000), pp. 185-204.

11.     Moses Foster Sweetser, The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers, (Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1875), p. 5. Sweetser claimed that the best hotel in the region was the Victoria in Saint John. The only summer resort he found was the Island Park Hotel in Summerside, P.E.I. Two unnamed hotels in Halifax (probably the Queen and the Halifax) were deemed "comfortable."

12.     Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 16 December 1880, p. 3.

13.     Ibid., 19 November 1847, p. 1.

14.     "Acadie and the Birth-Place of Evangeline," Putnam's Monthly Vol. 2, Issue 8 (August 1853), pp. 144-45.

15.     Frederic S. Cozzens, Acadia; or, A Month with the Blue Noses (New York: Derby & Jackson, 1859), p. 294-301. The daguerrotypes do not appear in all editions.

16.     Although Parkman's interpretation is no longer considered viable by modern historians, his work was enormously popular on both sides of the border in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. See W.J. Eccles, "Francis Parkman," Dictionary of Canadian Biography Vol. XII (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000).

17.     Sweetser's guidebooks were published by James R. Osgood of Boston. Osgood also published Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mark Twain, Jules Verne and William Dean Howells — the latter was editor of the Atlantic Monthly. See Peter Dzwonkoski, ed., Dictionary of Literary Biography, Volume 49: American Literary Publishing Houses, 1638-1899 (Detroit: Gale Research Co., c1986), Vol. 2.

18.     Moses Foster Sweetser, The Maritime Provinces: A Handbook for Travellers (Boston: J.R. Osgood, 1875), p. 1.

19.     John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (London: Macmillan, 1988), p. 66.

20.     On view books generally and those featuring New England in particular, see William F. Robinson, A Certain Slant of Light: The First Hundred Years of New England Photography (Boston: New York Graphic Society, 1980), pp. 97-99.

21.     Thomas F. Anderson, Nova Scotia, The Land of Evangeline and the Tourist's Paradise reached in 15 to 17 hours by the Yarmouth Steamship Co (Limited), Illustrated with Full Page Photogravure Views Direct from the Original Negatives, by C.B. Webster, and with Entirely Original Text, by Thomas F. Anderson (Boston: Yarmouth Steamship Co., 1892), p. 7. C.B. Webster was also listed as the publisher.

22.     Ernest Ingersoll, Down East Latch-Strings or Sea Shore, Lakes & Mountain by the Boston & Maine Railroad (Passenger Department, Boston & Maine Railroad, 1887); Charles G.D. Roberts, The Canadian Guide-Book, The Tourist's and Sportsman's Guide to Eastern Canada and Newfoundland (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1891).

23.     D.M.R. Bentley, "Charles G.D. Roberts and William Wilfred Campbell as Canadian Tour Guides," Journal of Canadian Studies Vol. 32 No. 2 (1997), p. 84.

24.     Charles G.D. Roberts, The Land of Evangeline and the Gateways Thither (Kentville: Dominion Atlantic Railway, ca. 1895), p. 7.

25.     Carrie J. Harris, A Modern Evangeline (Windsor, N.S.: J. Anslow, 1896), p. 8.

26.     Newton MacTavish, "The Myth of Evangeline," The Canadian Magazine (December 1907), pp. 145, 148.

27.     Dona Brown, Inventing New England (Washington, D.C. and London: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995); Patricia Jasen, Wild Things: Nature, Culture, and Tourism in Ontario, 1790-1914 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1995), p. 36.

28.     Brown, pp. 180-185.

29.     Richard W. Judd, "Reshaping Maine's Landscape: Rural Culture, Tourism, and Conservation, 1890-1929," Journal of Forest History, Vol. 32 No. 4 (October 1988), p. 183; Brown, p. 155. New Hampshire's population in 1900 was 411,588. Nova Scotia's population in 1901 was 459,574, according to the 1933 Canada Year Book, p. 102.

30.     Halifax Morning Herald, 27 May 1887, p. 3; The Yarmouth was 220 feet (67 metres) long and had a top speed of 14 knots — a fast steamer for the time. J. Murray Lawson, Yarmouth: Past and Present (1902), pp. 555-556. See also Arthur L. Johnson, "From Eastern State to Evangeline, A History of the Boston-Yarmouth, Nova Scotia Steamship Services," The American Neptune Vol. 34 No. 3 (1974) pp. 179-180.

31.     Yarmouth Herald, 18 May 1887, p. 4; 1 June, 1887, p. 4.

32.     Thomas F. Anderson, "Remarkable 15 Years' Exodus to Boston," Boston Globe, 1 September 1889, reprinted in L'Evangeline, 18 September 1889.

33.     Despatches from United States Consuls in Yarmouth, 1886-1906, Washington, D.C.: National Archives and Records Service, 1962, Vol. 2 January 8, 1889 — November 17, 1902, Charles O'Connor to Edwin Uhl, 9 June 1894; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 19 July 1896, p. 5; Halifax Herald, 8 April 1895, p. 8; Nova Scotia Archives Scotian Railroad Society. Spinney to Baker, 7 June 1892, 17 June 1892; Liverpool Advance, 24 August 1892, p. 1.

34.     Halifax Herald, 23 May 1899, p. 8; 21 June 1899, p. 5.

35.     Robert J. Long, "Nova Scotia Authors and Their Work: A Bibliography of the Province" (West Medford, Mass., 1918), typescript in possession of Killam Library Special Collections, Dalhousie University; Halifax Herald, 16 January 1895, p. 8; 28 March 1925, p.17; Saint John Sun, 18 September 1906, p. 1.

36.     See note 32.

37.     Nova Scotia Archives RG 28 Series "S" Vol. 172, Scotian Railroad Society. File #3 Yarmouth Steamship Company, Correspondence May Sept 1892, Spinney to Baker, 16 May 1892; Halifax Herald, 27 August 1892, p. 8.

38.     Thomas F. Anderson, "Blossoms Here for Many Miles," Halifax Herald, 20 May 1916, p. 13.

39.     Anderson, Nova Scotia... Tourist's Paradise, pp. 9, 10, 13, 15, 19, 26.

40.     Salaried office workers were the first recipients of paid holidays, beginning in the mid-nineteenth century. Paid vacations for wage earners were relatively uncommon before 1930. Donna Allen, Fringe Benefits: Wages or Social Obligation? (Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press, 1964), p. 42.

41.     Bentley, p. 88.

42.     "Summer Exodus and What It Testifies," The Century Vol. 38 No. 3 (July 1889), p. 469.

43.     Chase, p. 15. Eliza Chase wrote a sequel, In Quest of the Quaint (1902) about travels in New Brunswick and Quebec, later reissued by John C. Winston, with an extra chapter tacked on, under the title Transcontinental Sketches (1909).

44.     Yarmouth Telegram 29 July 1892, p. 1; Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 6 September 1897, p. 2; 7 May 1899, p. 18.

45.     Nova Scotia Archives RG 28 Series "S" Vol. 172, file Yarmouth Steamship Company Correspondence May-Sept 1892, #6, J.F. Spinney to L.E. Baker, 16 August 1892. See Robinson, p. 132. Also see W.H. Bunting, Steamer, Schooners, Cutters and Sloops-Marine Photographs of N.L. Stebbins taken 1884-1907 (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1974). Stebbins published a viewbook in 1888, The Yachtsman's Souvenir (Gardner, MA), and two books: Yacht Portraits (Boston Photogravure Company, ca. 1890) and The New Navy of the United States (New York: Outing Publishing, 1912). A major collection of Stebbins photographs is held by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities in Boston. A good source for photographs of steamships operating between the Maritime Provinces and the United States between 1850 and 1950 is W. Bartlett Cram, Picture History of New England Passenger Vessels (Hampden Highlands, ME: Burntcoat Corporation, 1980). The S.S. Yarmouth pictured in Cram, p. 26, is likely a Stebbins photograph.

46.     Photographs by Hardy, the Parkers and Edson Graham are reproduced in Scott Robson and Shelagh Mackenzie, An Atlantic Album: Photographs of the Atlantic Provinces, before 1920 (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 1985). On Amos Lawson Hardy, see Graeme Wynn, "Images of the Acadian Valley: the Photographs of Amos Lawson Hardy," Acadiensis Vol. 15 No. 1 (1985), pp. 59-83. For the Parkers' work, see also Eric Ruff and Laura Bradley, Historic Yarmouth (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 1997) pp. 105, 108. Paul Yates is featured in Mike Parker's Historic Digby (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 2000) p. 95. Hardy and Yates are also represented in Patricia Pierce, Canada, The Missing Years: Images of our Heritage, 1895-1924 (Don Mills, Ont.: Stoddart, 1985).

47.     The precise date of Hardy's photograph "The Village of Grand Pré" is unknown, but it was reproduced on countless postcards prior to the First World War, almost always without attribution. It dates from at least 1897 since it appears on p. 34 of Agnes Helen Lockhart's Gems from Scotia's Crown, a commemorative view book of Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. A fine example is included in Hardy's own view book, Evangeline Land (ca. 1902), published by James Bayne of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

48.     Woodworth gives the fullest accounting of the railway's problems, but Shirley E. Woods provides a more concise summary in Cinders and Saltwater: The Story of Atlantic Canada's Railways (Halifax: Nimbus Publishing, 1992), pp. 134-135.

49.     Library and Archives Canada (hereafter LAC) RG 43, Railways and Canals, Series A-I-1, Vol. 11 File 897, Windsor & Annapolis Railway, now Dominion Atlantic Railway, Statistics showing the Rails, Rolling Stock, etc, 25 May 1897; Woodworth, p. 105; Woods, Cinders and Saltwater, pp. 134-135; Halifax Morning Herald, 12 January 1886, p. 3.

50.     Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 20 September 1896, p.11; 1 November 1896, p. 21.

51.     Halifax Herald, 2 September 1899, p. 10.

52.     Brooklyn Daily Eagle, 8 Sept 1900, p. 13.

53.     Woodworth, pp. 121, 130. Woodworth reported total passenger revenues (i.e. resident and non-resident) in 1907 of $380,000 whereas data from 1915-1918 show an annual average of just over $400,000. LAC, RG 46, Canadian Transport Commission, Series C-II-1, Vol. 1549 File 14241 Pt. 2, Table, "DAR Income Account"; LAC, RG 46 Vol. 1549 File 14241 Pt. 1, Memo, "H.L.D." to "The Chief Commissioner," 24 December 1917.

54.     Letter, R.A. Parker, General Passenger Agent, DAR to A.D. Cartwright, Secretary, Board of Railway Commissioners, Ottawa, 19 Sept 1919.

55.     Halifax Herald, 26 March 1926, p. 3.

56.     Brenda Dunn, "From Pasture to Prosperity: The Development of Grand Pré Park," Parks Canada Microfiche Report Series #47 (1982); Susan Wagg, Percy Erskine Nobbs, Architect, Artist, Craftsman (Kingston and Montréal: McGill-Queen's University Press, 1982). The Skansen folk village (1891) in Stockholm attracted considerable attention from American colonial revivalists who wanted to create a similar project in the United States. Colonial Williamsburg (1926) in Virginia and Pioneer Village (1930) in Salem, Massachusetts were inspired by Skansen. See Lindgren, pp. 165-166.

57.     See Barbara Schmeisser's article at

58.     James M. Lindgren, Preserving Historic New England: Preservation, Progressivism, and the Remaking of Memory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995); Alan Axelrod, ed., The Colonial Revival in America, (New York: Norton, 1985). The colonial revival is more closely associated with material culture and architecture than historiography, however its influence on late Victorian American popular culture is obvious.

59.     On Wallace Nutting see William H. Truettner and Thomas A. Denenberg, "The Discreet Charm of the Colonial," in Truettner and Stein, Picturing Old New England: Image and Memory (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 79-110; Thomas Andrew Denenberg, Wallace Nutting and the Invention of Old America (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003). Nutting mentions visiting Nova Scotia in his autobiography, Wallace Nutting's Biography (Framingham, Mass.: Old America Company, 1936); two of his early hand-tinted photographs were titled "A Nova Scotia Idyll" and "Evangeline Lane."

60.     Patricia Jasen, "From Nature to Culture: The St. Lawrence River Panorama in Nineteenth-Century Ontario Tourism," Ontario History Vol. 85 No. 1 (1993), pp. 50.


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