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Home > The Public > ArchiviaNet > Electoral Maps > Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada (1895)
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The Records

The 1895 Electoral Atlas of the Dominion of Canada was the first atlas published by the Canadian government to show federal electoral boundaries. Prior to 1895 a cartographic description of the electoral districts was thought unnecessary because the electoral districts usually followed county boundaries and the counties were well known by constituents.

Initially, the task of setting electoral boundaries was left to Parliament, and not unexpectedly, the party in office often found it difficult to avoid gerrymandering the boundaries (deliberately redrawing the boundaries for their own benefit). The electoral redistributions of 1872 and 1882 are well known for their obvious attempts to affect the outcome of federal elections. The redistributions left the boundaries of some ridings in southwestern Ontario unrecognizable.

Although maps were used in the Parliamentary debates concerning the early redistributions, most of these early maps were issued in manuscript format (that is, they were one of a kind), and do not appear to have survived. It was not until the redistribution of 1892 that the federal government responded to the demand for maps showing the electoral districts. The result is the atlas presented here.

The Database

The 1895 electoral atlas is indexed by province and by electoral district. Two separate search screens provide access to maps of the individual electoral districts in each province. Only the electoral districts of Yukon Territory and the North-West Territories were omitted from this first edition of the atlas (but were included in later editions). As well, since the province of Labrador and Newfoundland did not enter Confederation until 1949, it is also omitted from the atlas.

How to Search the Atlas

The main search screen is a map of Canada showing the provincial and territorial boundaries that existed in 1901 (in 1905 the Districts of Athabasca, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Assiniboia in the North-West Territories were amalgamated into two new provinces, Alberta and Saskatchewan). Click on one of the provinces, or on a provincial name at the bottom of the map, to see an index map of the province.

The provincial index maps (the second set of search screens) show the layout of the electoral districts as they existed after the re-distribution of 1894. Click on one of the districts, or on the district name at the bottom of the provincial map, to see a detailed map of a specific electoral district.

Search Tips

Researchers are reminded that the 1895 electoral atlas was published prior to the wide usage of standardization place names. Although a standardized spelling of place names was first introduced by the Geographic Board of Canada (now the Canadian Permanent Committee on Geographic Names) as early as 1897, the practice did not received wide, every-day usage for another 20-30 years. As a result, the spelling of some place names presented in this atlas may be at variance to other contemporary archival documents, such as the 1901 census, and to more modern, commonly accepted usage. For example, the township of Canboro in Halimand and Monck county, Ontario, appears as "Canborough" in the 1901 census and as "Canboro" in the 1895 electoral atlas.

If you know the address in Toronto, you can identify the district and sub-district numbers, courtesy of the Ontario Roots web site.

The number associated with each electoral district on the provincial index maps refers to a page number in the original electoral atlas. Do not assume these numbers correlate to the electoral district numbers, or to census district numbers.

How to Interpret the Results

The maps were prepared by the Department of Public Printing and Stationery and were based on postal maps that were supplied by the Post Office (a number of these postal maps are in the collections of the National Archives of Canada). Not unexpectedly given the source of the base maps, the electoral maps emphasize post offices, postal routes, and distances between post offices in addition to electoral boundaries. The Queen's Printer, S.E. Dawson, wanted to add roads other than the postal routes, but found the cost too expensive. Interestingly, the maps do not show polling divisions. Dawson considered such information to be unwise. The polling divisions were decided by officers in the field and often changed from one election to the next. Any divisions shown by Ottawa would have been surely out of date by the next election.

Unless otherwise indicated on the individual maps, the electoral maps were drawn at a scale of six miles to the inch (1: 380,160), except for Ontario which were drawn at a scale of four miles to the inch (1: 253,440). As well, because of the constraints imposed by a uniform page size, many of maps did not follow the convention of placing north at the top of the page.

The maps are not perfect; some errors do occur. For example, the maps on pages 15 and 47 have the village of Springfield, Ontario, within the boundaries of two separate electoral districts: Elgin (East) and Middlesex (East). Despite these pitfalls, the electoral maps provide researchers with a good geographical description of the electoral districts and the corresponding 1901 census districts for most of Canada. Other period maps were usually designed to show political divisions (counties, local constituencies, etc.) or natural phenomena (lake, rivers, mountains, etc.), and consequently are less helpful to researchers using census data.

If you know the address in Toronto, you can identify the district and sub-district numbers, courtesy of the Ontario Roots web site.

Researchers will note that the 1895 electoral atlas was short of maps showing the electoral districts in the Yukon and North-West Territories. It is possible that detailed postal base maps of these regions were not available at the time of publication and consequently could not be included in the atlas. Fortunately, subsequent editions of the electoral atlas made up for this deficiency.