Map of Newfoundland.
DEPT. OF AGRICULTURE AND MINES
Published 1923, London
Size: 30" X 36.25"
A rare wall map of the Dominion of Newfoundland, that predates it accession into the Canadian Confederation in 1949. The wall map was produced by the department of Agriculture & Mines and published by Whitehead Morris Limited of London. The map depicts land grants related to mining rights and timber limits throughout Newfoundland. These grants were issued to different companies but principally to the corporate entities of The Reid-Newfoundland Co., and the Anglo-Newfoundland Development Co.
The map is of historical significance because it was issued at a critical juncture in the economic development of Newfoundland that, as already indicated, predates its accession into the Canadian Confederation and prior to the ruling that confirmed its jurisdiction over the Labrador region.
As such, following Newfoundland’s rejection of Confederation in 1869, the critical component of its independence, as a self governing colony of the British Crown or its eventual evolution into a Dominion in 1907 within the British Commonwealth, was its ability to create economic development within the island’s interior. This economic development was predicated upon its ability to construct a rail system linking the interior to ports located in the East at St-John’s and in the West at Port aux Basques. However, The Newfoundland Railway that was meant to achieve this vision, originally conceived in 1880, was perennially in debt to such as extant that its assets were transferred to Robert G. Reid under the Railway Contract of 1898. As part of the deal the Reid company, which eventually became the Reid Newfoundland Co. in 1901, agreed to operate the railway lines for 50 years in exchange for land grants as well as the dry dock in St-John’s and the telegraph system.
It should be noted that the railway contract of 1898 changed the development vision for Newfoundland by transferring the railway into private interests so as to develop the interior for industries such as pulp and paper. However, “it was a time when the high flung dreams of the pioneering era were met by cold reality.” This cold reality is often associated with the onset of World War I. Although rail traffic initially increased due to wartime demand for timber products, maintenance costs were postponed or abandoned altogether due to the overall increase in costs. This condition persisted into the post war period when economic demand slumped. To remedy this situation the Reid Newfoundland Co. wanted to divest itself of the unprofitable rail lines so as to develop properties at the Humber and Grand Lake. To relieve the company of its money losing venture into railways the Newfoundland government in 1923 passed the Railway Settlement Act as part of the Humber Deal which in essence nationalized the railway while some of the lands that had belonged to the Reid Newfoundland Co. were used by the government to develop a pulp and paper mill in Corner Brook.
The current map is thus important in showing the extant of the properties owned and controlled by private interests at a time when the colonial government of Newfoundland was forced to help assist the development of these economic interests that included the nationalizing the rail system of the island.
(Sources: Heritage Newfounland.)