Selling British Columbia
292 pages, 6 x 9
30 b&w illustrations, 7 tables, 2 maps
Release Date:01 Jul 2005
Release Date:27 Oct 2004
Release Date:01 Oct 2007

Selling British Columbia

Tourism and Consumer Culture, 1890-1970

UBC Press

Selling British Columbia is an entertaining examination of the development of the tourist industry in British Columbia between 1890 and 1970. Michael Dawson argues that in order to understand the roots of the fully-fledged consumer culture that emerged in Canada after the Second World War, it is necessary to understand the connections between the 1930s, 1940s, and the postwar era.

Cultural producers such as tourism promoters and the state infrastructure played important roles in fostering consumer demand, particularly during the Depression, the Second World War, and throughout the postwar era. Dawson draws upon promotional pamphlets, newspapers, advertisements, and films, as well as archival sources regarding government, civic, and international tourism organizations. Central to his book is an examination of the representation of popular imagery and of how aboriginal and British cultures were commodified and marketed to potential tourists. He also looks at the gendered aspect of these promotional campaigns, particularly during the 1940s, and challenges earlier interpretations regarding the relationship between tourism and nature in Canada.

Historians have tended to focus on either the first wave of consumerism from the 1880s to the 1920s, or else on the era of economic expansion that followed World War Two. As Dawson shows, the 1930-45 period in particular was an important and dynamic one in the creation of Canadian and British Columbian consumer culture.

Michael Dawson’s highly readable and engaging account of the development of the British Columbia tourist industry will be welcomed by British Columbian and Canadian historians, as well as other scholars of tourism and consumerism.


  • 2005, Winner - Third Prize Book Award, BC Historical Federation
One of Dawson’s more significant contributions to the history of tourism is his analysis of BC tourism activities during and after World War II. Dawson’s study, with its eight decades of coverage, shows how consumer culture was established in BC and, in the process turned tourism into an industry. Russell Douglass Jones, Eastern Michigan University, Enterprise & Society, June 2005
In this interesting book, Michael Dawson studies the rise of a tourist economy in British Columbia over the course of the twentieth century. This is an important discussion, making Selling British Columbia a must-read for historians interested in either consumer history or twentieth-century Canada. Who would have thought that provincial government could be so engaging a topic? Steve Penfold, University of Toronto, BC Studies, No. 146, Summer 2005
He provides the most thorough examination yet of the shift from tourist trade to tourist industry in Canada, and raises important questions about the emergence of consumer capitalism. Selling British Columbia is obviously necessary reading for anyone interested in Canadian tourism; it also merits serious attention from those concerned with advertising, publicity, and promotion, business and industrial associations, and business in twentieth-century Canada generally. One hopes that his approach and suggestive findings will stimulate both methodological debate and further explorations of tourism and consumption by social, cultural and business historians. Ben Bradley, Queen’s University, Canadian Historical Review
These stories make for an interesting read, especially in light of the political and economic activities that surrounded major tourism events prior to the 1970s. Readers currently working in BC’s tourist industry, as well as a more general readership, will find the events captured in Dawson’s work to be informative. Dr. Kirk Salloum, educational consultant, Vancouver, BC, British Columbia History, Vol. 38, No. 4, 2005
In tracing its modern origins to the depression, Dawson asks readers to see the deep political forces behind what most have described as economic or cultural ... As a result, he reveals the phenomenon as contingent in a new way, effectively historicizing tourism and asking readers to re-think analyses that treat it as monolithic or static. Annie Gilbert Coleman, Indiana University, American Historical Review, February 2006
In Selling British Columbia, Michael Dawson takes a creative approach to the study of tourism in Canada. He makes a good case for looking at the tourist trade from the perspective of the image-makers, showing how tourism promoters stimulated consumer demand. Drawing from a vast array of sources and contributing to the growing field of tourism studies, this book will speak to an international audience. Karen Dubinsky, Professor of History, Queen’s University, and author of The Second Greatest Disappointment: Honeymooning and Tourism at Niagara Falls
Michael Dawson teaches in the Department of History at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick.




Introduction: Tourism and Consumer Culture

1 Boosterism and Early Tourism Promotion in British Columbia, 1890-1930

2 From the Investment to the Expenditure Imperative: Regional Cooperation and the Lessons of Modern Advertising, 1916-35

3 Entitlement, Idealism, and the Establishment of the British Columbia Government Travel Bureau, 1935-39

4 The Second World War and the Consolidation of the British Columbia Tourist Industry, 1939-50

5 Differentiation, Cultural Selection, and the Post-war Travel “Boom”

6 Tourism as a Public Good: The Provincial Government Manages the Post-war “Boom,” 1950-65

Conclusion: From Tourist Trade to Tourist Industry

Appendix: Key tourism promotion organizations in British Columbia, 1901-72




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