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Dictionary Project, Volume X: Dominion of Canada

The Dictionary Project is a post-a-day exploration of The Century Dictionary and Cylopedia, a twelve-volume set printed in New York in 1901. The Project runs from October 1, 2014 to September 30, 2015, and matches volume numbers to calendar months. Volume X is The Atlas, and today is Day 5.

Here we are, in the land of my fathers… except not, because my father came to Canada as an adult, and his father never came here at all, and his father never left Scotland. But you know what I mean. Anyway. In direct contrast to the “hardly changed at all since 1897” nature of the United States map, There’s almost nothing on this map of Canada that’s still the same, 117 years later.

The old Canada:

IMG_1872Present-day Canada:

Every Canadian schoolchild is expected to be able to rhyme off the names of the provinces (there are only ten) and the territories (was two when I was a kid, now it’s three). But those early-1900’s schoolkids had their work cut out for them. I already knew that Newfoundland and Labrador weren’t part of Canada yet (not until 1949), but I had no idea that the Labrador of the time was just a narrow strip of coast. Or that there used to be provinces called Athabasca, Assiniboia, Keewatin, and Ungava. Or that Manitoba used to be tiny, Alberta was short, and Saskachewan used to be wider than it was tall. We never covered this in any part of any class at any time when I was in school.

Interestingly, the borders of British Columbia are unchanged. And so are those of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and (no surprise) Prince Edward Island. But everything else? Crazy. I found a very cool animated map at Wikipedia, showing the evolution of the provinces (though it doesn’t include Athabasca or Assiniboia for some reason). Have a look. Thing I learned today: Most of Canada was a large, undifferentiated “North-West Territory” at one time.

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