There are currently more than 50 periodicals relating to agriculture available for subscribers on Early Canadiana Online (ECO). Dozens more are slated for digitization over the next few years. This reflects the huge role that agriculture played in the economic, social, and political spheres of 19th century Canada.
I’d like to highlight an agricultural periodical that was recently added to ECO: Massey-Harris Illustrated (CIHM 8_04516). This magazine was produced by the world-famous Canadian agricultural equipment company, Massey-Harris (later known as Massey Ferguson). It began publication January 1897 and ceased publication in 1921 – a very respectable run for a Canadian magazine at that time.
Drew Swackhamer, in an article for the University of Guelph Library publication, Collection Update, provides a history of Massey-Harris Illustrated and Massey’s Illustrated (an earlier magazine), and notes their potential importance to researchers. Swackhamer writes:
“The journals are significant as a primary source for rural history especially in reference to the impact of science and technology on rural society. The Illustrated journals are significant because they were being produced by one of the largest manufacturers of farm equipment over a period of time that was simultaneous with an agricultural revolution in rural Canadian society [...] The journals also reveal attitudes toward progress, the rural/urban relationship, and how rural life fit into the larger provincial, national, and international dynamic.”
The target audience of the Massey-Harris Illustrated was the rural agricultural family. Contents of a typical issue include: national and international news, literature (short stories, poems), helpful tips to be used around the farm and articles on rural life. For the lady of the house specifically, there were articles on gardening, child rearing, fashion and cooking.
I really enjoyed browsing through the issues. In particular, I found it interesting to read articles on the “new technology” such as one in the January 1897 issue discussing the new “horseless carriage” (which is what the early version of the automobile was called) that can travel up to 18 miles an hour. The author ponders whether interest in such mode of transportation will be maintained.
(Please note that currently only pre-1901 issues are available on ECO. It should also be noted that the Massey Company’s earlier magazine, Massey’s Illustrated (1882-1895), should be available on ECO in 2012.)