Lately, we’ve been highlighting some important lessons that can be learned in our collections, including the history of typography, how surgery was performed in the 16th century, and which artists are responsible for the art in the Chung Collection. But did you know that our collections also contain important business lessons? That’s right, business lessons from the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) collection, which is part of our Chung Collection! 


1. Keep Your Word

The Canadian Pacific Railway was built to fulfill a pledge that John A. Macdonald made to British Columbia. To be part of the Canada, BC demanded that a transcontinental railway should be built to connect the west and east.

Map of Canadian Pacific Railway, Kootenay District, British Columbia, 1904


2. Manage Projects Closely

British Columbia gave the Canadian government ten years to build the railway. Despite the complexity of building railways across Canada, the Canadian Pacific Railway completed the project before the estimated time.


3. Take Initiative

Although the railway project was successfully completed, and there was now a connection between the Canadians coasts, there were not enough people actually using it, which affected business profitability. As a result, the CPR sold their lands near the railway to settlers and immigrants in order for them to occupy the Prairies. The settlers did not know how to farm in the Prairie environment, so the CPR created ready-made farms where buyers could purchase the land and immediately start seeding the soil. The CPR also created initiatives to educate farmers on how to cultivate prairie soil. In the early 1900s, the CPR spent more money than the Canadian government in promoting immigration and settlement.

Ready made farms in Western Canada, 1910


4. Create Business Opportunities

The CPR management noticed that passengers needed a place to stop and rest during long trips across the country, so they decided to build their own hotels. Seeing the potential of the tourism trade, the CPR began to explore possible attractions for their hotels. This led to the discovery of natural hot springs in Alberta and the founding of the Banff Hot Springs Reserve (later Banff National Park), Canada’s first National Park. The park became a popular destination for vacations.

Canadian Pacific Hotels from Atlantic to Pacific, 1942


5. Transform Barriers into Opportunities

The CPR business was tested on several occasions. A notable example was when a climber unfortunately died while climbing Mount Lefroy in Banff National Park. In order to avoid any future tragedies and possible negative word of mouth, the CPR began to hire Swiss hiking guides to lead tourists through the mountains and ensure their safety. In the 55 years that the program was in place, no one died.

The challenge of the mountains, 1907


6. Diversify

You always hear that you should never put all your eggs in one basket. The CPR definitely took that advice to heart. Around 1971, their main businesses were: railway, ships, hotels, mines, minerals and manufacturing, oil and gas exploration, airlines, telecommunications, trucking, and real estate.

Canadian Pacific Airlines: straight to the point, 1946


7. Innovate

There was a time when telegrams were very popular at Christmas time. People loved to see the CPR telegram boy come to their door in his gray uniform to give them a colored telegram designed by the CPR’s art department, along with messages from their relatives. But the CPR’s real innovation was the Santagram, which were telegrams sent by Santa Claus himself to children.


8. Be Socially Responsible

The CPR contributed to the education of children in Northern Ontario, by bringing a school car to remote areas of the province. The car came equipped with a chalkboard, desks, a map, a library, and an area for the teacher to live. The car would typically stay in the same place for five days, then move around to other regions, leaving enough homework for the children to do until its return.



Canadian Pacific Railway (Historica Canada)

Canadian Pacific Railway (UBC Library)

CPR history for students (CPR)

Our history (CPR)

The story of the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR)

If you take a look at the Canadian Pacific Railway Company posters in our Chung Collection, you’ll be amazed by all of the wonderful paintings depicting early and mid 20th-century travel in Canada. These promotional posters were created to attract tourists to the many trains, hotels, world cruises, Canadian tours, and airplanes owned by Canadian Pacific Railway Company.

Several artists in Canada were recruited to design these materials, including Norman Fraser, A. C. Leighton, Peter Ewart, Kenneth Shoesmith, Roger Couillard and A. Y., among others.

Get to know a little about two of these artists.


Alfred Crocker Leighton (1901-1965)

Born in October 27, 1901, in Hastings, England, Leighton used his drawing skills to win a scholarship at the Brassey Institute, Hastings’ Municipal School of Art. Initially, he studied architecture to satisfy his father’s wishes, but after an intervention, his father agreed to let Leighton study art.

Between 1919 and 1924, Leighton worked as a toy designer and became a member of the Royal Society of British Artists after submitting one of his works. In 1924, he and a partner built a working scale model of the port of Liverpool, which caught the public’s attention along with the interest of certain Canadian Pacific Company executives.

Later that year, he was hired by the Canadian Pacific Company. He would travel on the company’s trains, jump off to sketch scenes, and then get back on the next train. He returned once more to the UK, before coming back to Canada and settling down in 1929. Leighton worked as Art Director of the Art Institute of Calgary, formed the Alberta Society of Artists, and established the Banff School of Fine Arts.

Learn more about Leighton’s history at the Leighton Art Centre website. This is a sample of his work in our Chung Collection:

Chateau Lake Louise, 1938


Canadian Pacific Empress of Australia, 1925


Peter Ewart (1918-2001)

Peter Ewart was born April 7, 1918, in Kisbey, Saskatchewan, but was raised in Montreal. Although Ewart enjoyed playing hockey and marbles with his friends, his true passion was painting and drawing, which lead him to study art in Montreal and later in New York City.

During World War II, Ewart enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF). While in service, he was stationed in British Columbia for a time, first at Pat Bay and then at Spider Island. Ewart was so amazed by the beautiful BC scenery that he decided to settle there after the war.

After moving to Vancouver, Ewart was hired by the Canadian Pacific Company, creating over 20 posters and two serigraphic prints for them. But Ewart’s work goes beyond commercial illustrations. His paintings have been exhibited in the Royal Academy (London, England), Royal Canadian Academy, Canadian National Exhibition, and Mid-Century Exposition of Canadian Painting, among others.

If you want to get to know more about Peter Ewart’s history, check out the website Peter Ewart. This is a sample of his work in our Chung Collection:

The three sisters Canadian Rockies, 1955


Banff-Lake Louise region Canadian Rockies via Canadian Pacific, 1941


Canadian Pacific train in the Rocky Mountains, 1940


If you are interested in knowing more about Canadian Pacific Railway and graphic art, check the book “Canadian Pacific: creating a brand, building a nation“. To see these and other items of the collection, access Open Collections.



A.C. Leighton: a biographical sketch (Sharecom)

Artwork and images of the C.P.R. (The Chung Collection)

Go Canada! When gorgeous graphic design lured the world to the great white north (Collectors Weekly)

Peter Ewart: an artist’s journey (Peter Ewart)

The early years (Leighton Art Centre)

Photo courtesy of the Chung Collection

Photo courtesy of the Chung Collection

UBC Library is proud to unveil a documentary film and a book looking at the fascinating stories behind the Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection – a designated national treasure that was donated to the Library in 1999.

The book, Golden Inheritance: The Wallace B. Chung and Madeline H. Chung Collection at UBC Library, provides an overview of UBC alumnus Dr. Chung and his family, profiles the dedication and dynamics behind the Chung Collection, and offers an in-depth examination of its three themes: early B.C. history, immigration and settlement, and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. Passage of Dreams: The Chung Collection is a documentary that features the stories of Dr. Chung’s childhood love of collecting Canadian Pacific artifacts and memorabilia.

The Chung Collection is housed in the Rare Books and Special Collections on Level 1 of UBC Library’s Irving K. Barber Learning Centre and is open to the public.

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