November 27, 2017
Thousands of men and women from Port Arthur, Fort William and the region served in the armed forces during the First World War. The poppy was adopted as a national symbol of remembrance in Port Arthur in 1921.This monthly column will share stories and photos about life here in Thunder Bay and overseas during World War One.
In November 1917 Canadians were introduced to the Victory Loan Campaign. Similar to other war loan systems implemented in other countries, Canadian Victory Bonds served as a source of capital to fund the ongoing war effort. Dominion war bonds had already been issued in 1915, 1916 and March 1917. The first Canadian Victory Loan Campaign ran from November 12 to December 1, 1917. Bonds were sold at a price of par with 5.5% interest per annum and were available in different denominations starting at $50 (over $400 in 2017). Bond maturity was reached at 5, 10, and 20 years.
Marketing and advertising efforts were aggressive and persuasive. Advertisements and posters called for people to a) beg money from any source available in order to purchase more bonds and b) borrow money from area banks that were offering loans to cover up to 90% of the bond costs. While not advertised, stealing was also a common occurrence as bonds spread into public possession and were often treated as the equivalent of cash.
The Superior District for the campaign included Fort William, Port Arthur, Rainy River, and Kenora; in reality it comprised a massive geographic area reaching from White River to the Manitoba border. With Mr. I. L. Matthews as the Northern Ontario campaign chairman, local committees were formed to coordinate meetings, rallies, and other special events to engage and inspire the community to action.
Local businesses donated newspaper ad space to encourage Victory Bond sales and went on to enter window display competitions in coming years to support the campaign. Bonds were in fact marketed as a “business proposition” between the nation and its citizens. Victory Bonds were used to finance the war and to “sell” the public on the war itself in order to maintain support levels at home.
Typical tactics used to elicit sales included, but were not limited to, peer pressure and constant reminders of the sacrifices being made by sons, brothers, fathers, and the “boys” at the front. Questions such as “Are you doing your full share in winning the war?” appeared almost daily in the Fort William and Port Arthur newspapers. An excerpt from an advertisement in the Port Arthur News Chronicle (November 15, 1917) states:
“We cannot all serve in the trenches; we cannot all fire a gun or help to man a tank; but we can all buy Victory Bonds. What of your money? Is it helping to smash through to Victory? The amount of the Victory Bonds you buy is the measure of your fighting power.” Women were often especially targeted through advertisements and in campaign efforts to coordinate sales.
Fort William entered the first year of the Victory Loan Campaign with a goal of raising $300,000. Port Arthur’s initial goal was $500,000. Both cities far outstripped those numbers early on. By the second week of the 1917 campaign Fort William had raised $568,000 and Port Arthur had reached over $325,000. To find out results from both cities and the rest of the district, stay tuned to next month’s updates to the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project.
This article runs on the fourth Monday of each month. Jesse Roberts is a member of the World War One Thunder Bay Centennial Project committee. Please visit www.tbayworldwarone.com for more information about this project or to contribute personal stories and photos.