Chapter 7 the interwar years
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Chapter 7 The Interwar Years. 1919-1938. Land Based Industry. Newfoundland government tried to create new job opportunities for a growing population. The staple industry- the fishery- could no longer completely support Newfoundlanders, especially with falling fish prices.

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Chapter 7 The Interwar Years

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Chapter 7The Interwar Years


Land Based Industry

  • Newfoundland government tried to create new job opportunities for a growing population.

  • The staple industry- the fishery- could no longer completely support Newfoundlanders, especially with falling fish prices.

  • Business people tried to create economic diversification– jobs in different sectors of the economy.


  • Copper and iron were established as valuable resources.

  • Buchans- 1925- ore contained zinc, copper, gold and silver.

  • The town was built and owned by the company and developed rapidly.

  • In less than a year they had a mill, church, school, hospital and hydroelectric plant.

St. Lawrence

  • Discovery of fluorspar led to the opening of the mine in 1933.

  • Head of the mine Walter Siebert, demanded that workers mine 2000 tons of the ore before getting paid.

  • Desperate workers agreed.

  • Workers only received 15cents per hour.

  • The first mines were open pit and then later went far beneath the surface which had devastating effects on worker health.

Bell Island

  • Iron ore mine from 1895 -1966.

  • Located in Conception Bay - tunnels would snake out 5 kilometers under the sea.

  • Two 10 hour shifts a day (not including 1 hour lunch breaks) six days a week until 1943.

  • Switch to three eight hour shifts but must make twenty car quota.

  • Very few safety standards for clothing until 1950s.

    • Most of today’s mining occurs in Labrador.


  • After WWI Grand Falls and Corner Brook became important centers for newsprint.

  • Expansion of forest industries led to the growth of new towns.

  • Greater access to interior land and use of resources affected the traditional aboriginal way of life.

  • A “Grand Falls Job” was considered a comfortable, safe and secure job.

    • Grand falls mill closed in 2009.


  • High demand for lumber caused creation of 200 sawmills from 1890-1900.

  • International demand for newsprint created need for a second pulp and paper mill.

  • Corner Brook mill opened in 1925, many people moved there to work in the mill or the hydroelectric plants that had been built to supply the power.

  • Mi’kmaq also worked as loggers as fur prices fell.

Forestry Towns

  • Glenwood and Badger = logging towns

  • Deer Lake and Bishop’s Falls grew around hydroelectric plants.

  • Bishop’s Falls was also the site of a wood pulp mill. In 1911, it began to pump pulp to the mill in Grand Falls but stopped in 1952 and mill closed.

  • Botwood became important as a port for Grand Falls to support the mill.


  • Pre-1900: interior land home to Innu and some trappers.

  • High fur prices and forestry projects after 1900 led to a population increase in the Upper Lake Melville area.

  • This led to problems: fewer Caribou made Innu suffer causing them to move to the coast.

Labrador Boundary Dispute

  • Canada and Newfoundland argued over interior land.

  • Nfld. allowed loggers to cut trees west of the Hamilton river which Canada claimed was part of Quebec.

  • Question was put to the British Privy council in 1907 (highest court in Britain).

  • Dispute resolved in 1927 NL awarded current boundary (Quebec still not happy !!).

  • NL granted the coast of Labrador and all the land area where rivers flowed into the Atlantic Ocean.

Industrial Towns

Unlike fishery, men working in mining and pulp and paper had a steady income and earned higher pay.

These towns were company towns and all areas were controlled by the company – ex. Buchans.

Although there were some negative feelings, services such as schools, hospitals, churches, etc. were better.

Higher standard of living and increased awareness of urban lifestyles.

Women in Towns

  • Unlike inshore fishery, where women took an active role in curing fish on the shore, women in industrial towns cared for children and looked after the household.

  • Often, only men were employed; some young women moved to St. John’s, Canada or the United States to find work.

1929 Tidal wave

  • November 18, 1929.

  • Underwater earthquake about 400 km offshore caused a tsunami that hit the Burin Peninsula at 100 km/hr.

  • Waves measured 7 to 15 meters high (21 to 45 feet).

  • Result: 27 dead, much destruction over 40 communities including houses, schools, boats, etc.

The Great Depression

  • Major downturn in the economy.

  • Demand for fish decreased, prices fell, production declined and layoffs were common.

  • Government revenue declined and they were too deep in debt to borrow any more (100 million by 1930).

  • Outport communities relied on cultivating land, fishing for themselves,etc. to survive.

  • Urban areas (ex. St. John’s) relied on church groups and the generosity of family and neighbors.

“Going on the Dole”

  • This term refers to people who were forced to go on government relief.

  • Amount depended on number of family members:

  • family of four received $7.70/month while a family of ten received $17.00

  • This was considered a disgrace and not easy to receive as people had to prove they were in dire need.

St. John’s Riot of 1932

  • People were frustrated and angry at their poor circumstances – broke into stores, destroyed govt. offices, protested.

  • Government tried to raise funds by taxing imported food goods, but this made essential food items more expensive.

  • They also laid off government workers to save money, adding to the unemployed.

  • Accusations of corruption against PM Richard Squires made matters worse

St. John’s Riot of 1932

  • April 5, 1932 a peaceful protest was to take place at the Colonial building.

  • Tensions were high and a crowd grew outside.

  • Police cleared the steps with batons and protesters stormed the building.

  • Several people, including police, were injured and the PM barely escaped out the back of the building and brought to safety.

Commission of Government

  • Commission of Government was appointed by Britain to replace the responsible government.

  • Control of the country returned to Britain in exchange for financial help.

  • Consisted of a British governor, 3 British representatives and 3 Newfoundland representatives.

  • Only needed permission from Dominions Office in London – no consent from NL people. NL unable to vote for their leaders.

Commission of Government

  • While not a democracy, it did set out to help NL.

  • Land Settlement Scheme – created farming opportunities and settled unemployed people on the land.

  • Education – passed a law making education free and compulsory for all school-aged children. Also, increased the number of schools.

Commission of Government

  • Law Enforcement – established Ranger Force to help with law enforcement throughout the island.

  • Health Care: improved health care – wanted to fight disease, provide immunizations and diet supplements. Set up Dept. of Public Health & Welfare.

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