Mapping Patriotism (sort of)


I’m prepping some GIS workshops, so I needed some data that workshop participants could map as part of an exercise. I could just make up some random numbers but it would be much more effective to demonstrate the power of GIS if I used some actual data that could reveal how space and place should factor into historical analysis. The problem is that I haven’t actually used GIS much in my dissertation research. I’ve always meant to make a map of contributions to a wartime fund like the Canadian Patriotic Fund (CPF) or the Red Cross, but I just never got around to it. I figured this was a good opportunity to take a bit of time to try it out so I decided to map municipal contributions to the Canadian Patriotic Fund from the Province of Alberta, according to population.

I took the data from Philip Morris’ The Canadian Patriotic Fund: A Record of its Activities, 1914-1918. Morris’ book is not a great work of history partly because, as I’ve noted in a previous post, Morris was the Executive Secretary of the CPF. Not exactly the person you would trust to write a critical history of the fund. This is, however, the most accessible compilation of statistics about the funds collected by the CFP, and these are presented in the back of the volume with graphs that list contributions according to municipality, sometimes by year. Alberta’s contributions fit on a single page:


There are definitely some problems with this data. Only 24 Municipalities are listed, excluding some of Alberta’s larger towns such as Red Deer, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat. These contributions, for whatever reason, are probably lumped under “Province of Alberta – Generally.” I’m not compiling this map for research, though, so  I can overlook these omissions for now.

To plot these contributions in relation to each municipality’s population required some statistics. A quick google search led me to the Government of Alberta’s Municipal Affairs Website, which provided historical populations for the province. Unfortunately, not every municipality listed in the CPF’s history had a matching population, so I deleted a few of the rows. Again -this is just a demo so I’m not too worried about the completeness of the data.

I threw everything into QGIS and this is what came out:


Blue dots represent the scale of contributions to the CFP, while the red dots reflect the population of each municipality. The largest contributions come from Calgary and Edmonton, which contributed donations in far greater proportion to their populations. This is probably to be expected, as urban centres tend to have more residents with disposable income, which means larger donations and more people organizing public appeals. Most rural centers gave proportionally less to the fund, although we see some exceptions. Fort Saskatchewan, Halkirk, Gleichen, and Suffield were relatively strong contributors, when comparing contributions to population.

I can’t explain these disparities right now. Both sets of statistics are coming from dodgy sources, so maybe the data is corrupt. But if I were to pursue a study of the Canadian home front during the First World War, this is the kind of exploratory research that could focus my inquiries in order to better understand why some rural communities gave more than others. In the meantime, it’s not a bad GIS demo.

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