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When the First World War began in 1914, the city of Saskatoon was reeling in the aftermath of its first “delirious” boom period, descending into an economic bust that would bring construction in the city to a standstill until after the war (Kerr & Hanson, p.104). Despite this decline, the people of Saskatoon had developed a unique sense of pride and community, an optimism and a sense of prosperity which would sweep them to Europe and the front. These feelings of pride, optimism, and prosperity were well-earned. The three years between 1910 and 1912 had seen unprecedented growth in the city. The population of Saskatoon had more than doubled between 1906 and 1908, and by 1913 had an estimated population of over 27,000 people. A 1911 pamphlet proudly claimed that “no city in the British Empire has ever approached Saskatoon’s extraordinary record of progress” (XLIX 130).
There was a sense of the innate richness of the land: the claim was made that crop failure was all-but impossible for the intelligent farmer, and that prosperity could be had by anyone moving to the city; that in Saskatoon “one seems to breathe prosperity” (XLIX 126). The cost of land in and around Saskatoon went up accordingly, and this inflation, along with a chronic overextension of credit, would contribute to the economic decline of 1914 and throughout the war years.
In many ways, Saskatoon, on the brink of the Great War, was still a fledgling city, filled with young inhabitants who met the declaration of war with a sort of “jubilation” (Kerr & Hanson, p.104). The city, having made it through the early growing pains of settlement with great success, was as yet untested by the looming threat of economic decline and the horrors of the war years. The 1910-1912 boom would forever leave its mark upon the shape of the city and the pride of its people—but the bust, and the war itself, would sculpt Saskatoon’s character.
The above link will take you the materials scanned for this section from the Shortt Library and Pamphlet Collection of the University Archives and Special Collections.