The year 1919, one hundred years ago, now a closed volume, will be remembered as one of the years of the Great War. The roar of guns had ceased before the birth of the year, but the echoes of war were still reverberating, the shadows had not all disappeared. The boys were returning home and were being welcomed with warmth and enthusiasm that compensated largely for the hardships they endured on the battlefields. But the returning ranks were broken. Some 500 in all from our province had been left to sleep ‘over there’, and the memory of the sacrifice saddened the welcome home.” Times would be hard, jobs few, and the Spanish flu raged.” The Guardian, January 1, 1920.
For this province the year 1919 was a prosperous one. Crops were abundant; prices were high and farmers, merchants and indeed the whole community shared in the distribution. Nevertheless, the general unrest throughout the world left its impress upon our people. Conditions were, and still are, abnormal. The high prices for produce were discounted by the abnormally high prices for commodities purchased. General unrest manifested itself, here as elsewhere, in a desire for change.
An outstanding event of the year was the visit of His Royal Highness, the Prince of Wales, (Edward who became king in 1936 and abdicated within the year), an event which afforded our people an opportunity to express their loyalty to the British throne and to their future sovereign. The visit, although but for an afternoon, was sufficiently long to create a most favourable impression upon all who had the privilege of seeing and hearing the Prince, his charming and unaffected manner winning the hearts of all.
The general health of the Province was good, and the death rate, in comparison with that of the previous year, was low. Nevertheless, to the toll of the Grim Reaper, there was included a number of outstanding figures in the social and political life and many homes were saddened by those who died from Spanish influenza and the Province made poorer by their passing. Up to September 30th, the deaths reported numbered about 400.
Business during the year has been fairly satisfactory, and conditions have been similar to those during several years in the immediate past. Farm products have shown good yields and everything in that line has been in good demand at high prices, and shipments have gone forward to market quite freely.
In regard to potatoes, some varieties showed considerable disease but this was discovered in the early fall and shippers who took note of it, and exercised proper care, guarded against what might otherwise have caused them serious trouble.
The price for oats has been too high to allow successful competition with the western product, and only our nearness to the provincial markets and the prompt delivery gave us the opportunity to keep this product moving. Newfoundland has not taken as much oats from the Island as in former years, dealers there having purchased western oats at a price very much less than ours.
Regarding general supplies from Europe, it is hard to predict when any relief is likely to come as it is impossible to realize the extent of the destruction of the world’s goods during the last four years. Immense steamers and ships, with their valuable cargoes, have been sunk daily. In former years maritime disasters occurring from ordinary storms had their effect on the market, but how small were those accidents compared with the world war’s destruction. It will require much time and increased production in every line to bring things back to a normal state again.
One of the outstanding features of the shipping trade during the year has been the founding of the town of Borden, and the inauguration of the car ferry service there between the Island and the mainland. About 75% of the coal that came in the Province has been imported by rail, although a large number of schooners have been used in the coal trade, the merchants have made use of the ferry to a considerable extent. One important advantage of the car ferry is the fact that coal merchants in PEI are no longer under the necessity of stocking up, as they were bound to do before the inauguration of the ferry service which began a little more than a year ago.