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Boot and Shoe Manufacturers to Convene in Berlin, Ontario (5 August 1914)  

On 5 August, just one day after war was declared, a convention of boot and shoe manufacturers of Ontario met in Berlin, Ontario. Manufacturers from Waterloo Region, including Waterloo, Berlin and Preston, as well as others from areas such as Brampton, Aurora and Toronto attended. The convention addressed the prospects that the war held for the province’s shoe trade. These manufacturers were aware that the war would likely result in an increased demand for their products. As a result, the province’s manufacturers met to discuss price regulations and price increases, foreseeing an increase in the price of leather due to wartime conditions. The local Breithaupt family, the owners and operators of the Breithaupt Leather Co., entertained the visitors at the Berlin Country Club.

The shoe manufacturers predicted that: “Soldiers on the march will wear out a pair of shoes in a month.”

The boots that needed to be made for the Canadian Forces would be made from a pattern that had proved satisfactory for Canadians in the South African War. It would later be realized that the boots issued to Canadian Soldiers in 1914 could not withstand marches on metaled roads, the wet weather of England, and trench conditions. As a result, a new model was introduced, which came to be known as the 1915 Canadian Variety Boot.

(“Boot and Shoe Manufacturers Convene Here,” Berlin Daily-Telegraph, 6 August 1914, Colonel G.W.L. Nicholson, Canadian Expeditionary Force 1914-1919 (Ottawa: Queen’s Printer, 1962), xiii; Visual:



These were the 1915 Canadian Variety Boot worn by the Canadian Expeditionary Force during the First World War.


Canada Can Feed the Motherland (6 August 1914)  

By 6 August, Canadians were adamant that they could help the motherland by feeding her people. Prior to war, two-thirds to three quarters of Great Britain’s food supply was actually imported goods from Canada, the United States, India, Argentina, and Australia. Canada traditionally supplied one third of Great Britain’s wheat and flour.

There was normally only enough food in the United Kingdom at one time to feed its inhabitants for a maximum of six to seven weeks, meaning that if Britain did not receive its imports, it would likely be starved into submission. It was up to Canada, and the other members of the British Empire, to help make sure that that did not happen. Canada would supply Great Britain with grains, bacon, fish and cheese, but would not be able to supply much more than that. Canada’s foodstuff contributions were part of her patriotic and imperialistic duties to Great Britain.

(“Can Feed Motherland with Bread and Cheese,” Berlin Daily-Telegraph, 6 August 1914, “Britain is Quiet,” Berlin Daily-Telegraph, 6 August 1914; Visual:






The War’s Impact on Canada’s Agriculture (6 August 1914)  

Immediately after the war was declared economists, and many others, became concerned with how the war would affect the Canadian market. By 6 August, there was already a price increase in sugar and flour, which were two of the main necessities of Canadian homes. It was also predicted that the prices of other foodstuff and clothing would increase in the near future.

On 6 August, the Berlin Daily Telegraph reported that Mr. J. Uffelman, of the Ontario Seed Company, stated that while the war would not affect the 1914 harvest, next year’s harvest might be affected. This was because the war might potentially prevent the importation of certain varieties of seeds, especially those that were normally imported from Germany. This would affect the Waterloo Region, where some farmers grew a European variety of rye.

(“Prices for Foodstuffs Increasing,” Berlin Daily-Telegraph, 6 August 1914)


The War’s affect on Canada’s Agriculture (6 August 1914)


Canada’s Gift to Britain (9 August 1914)  

In addition to Canada’s commitment to export as much as possible to Britain, the Canadian Government also offered Britain a gift. Soon after the war was declared, Canada offered to send Britain a gift of one million bags of flour, to be placed at the disposal of the British Government.

In response to this offer, the Colonial Secretary of the Imperial Government stated:

“On behalf of the people of the United Kingdom, his Majesty’s Government accepts with gratitude the splendid and welcome gift of flour from Canada … We can never forget the generosity and promptitude of this gift and the patriotism from which it springs.”

This gift was worth an estimated three million dollars. Parliament would be asked to vote for the necessary funds and once the funding was secured, the flour would be shipped to the United Kingdom in September.

(“Canada’s Gift to Britain,” Elmira Signet, 20 August 1914)


Cannot Buy German Goods (11 August 1914)  

As a result of the war with Germany, the Canadian Government prohibited any importation of goods from Germany into the country. This resulted in a sudden shift in the Canadian economy since Canada’s trade with Germany in the past included millions of dollars worth of imports, including printing, lithography, drugs, calendars, jewelry, silks, ornaments, toys and other novelties. Stores in the Waterloo Region had been waiting for shipments from Germany that would now never arrive. This issue was amplified when all mail and correspondence was halted with Germany, Austria-Hungary and Luxembourg.

The loss of these goods would mean that Canadian manufacturers and merchants needed to start producing these goods themselves and fill the holes left in the market. Many manufacturers were already making many of the goods that were normally imported from Germany, but the German goods proved popular because of their lower price. Despite the fact that Canadian manufacturers would be able to provide alternatives, drug stores worried that they would run out of certain drugs, while customers worried about the availability of Christmas novelties and jewelry that were normally imported from Germany and Austria.

(“Cannot Buy German Goods,” Berlin Daily-Telegraph, 11 August 1914; “Cannot buy German Goods,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 13 August 1914 “How Berlin is Effected by the War,” Berlin Daily-Telegraph, 11 August 1914; “How Twin City is Effected by the War,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 13 August 1914; “Canada’s Trade with Germany at an End,” Elmira Signet, 13 August 1914; “No Mail For Germany, Austria or Luxemerg,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 14 August 1914;  Visual:



Two young girls who pose with a doll and carriage. With trade with Germany traded, families in Waterloo Region and across Canada wondered where they would get toys for the 1914 Christmas.



No more trade with Germany and Austria-Hungary (12 August 1914)

Beginning on August 8 1914, an embargo was placed on Canada’s new enemies, so that no Canadian was allowed to trade goods or conduct business with Germany or Austria-Hungary. These activities were forbidden with the threat of imprisonment for those who broke the law.

The telegraph cables between the USA and Germany were cut so that there was no more connection between the two countries.

Articles in the Journal also revealed that at the beginning of the war there had been warnings of rising prices for groceries and that the war would not help the Canadian economy, but harm it. On August 19 1914, it was said that the prices for bread had significantly increased.

On August 26 1914 the Berliner Journal announced that they were no longer able to send issues of their newspaper to subscribers in Germany or Austria-Hungary, because the mail traffic had been severed.

BJ-1914-08-12-No more trade with Germany and Austria-Hungary

(“Kein Geschäft mit Deutschland und Österreich“, Berliner Journal, 12 August 1914; „Als eine Folge des Krieges…“, Berliner Journal, 19 August 1914; „Nach Deutschland und Österreich…“, Berliner Journal, 26 August 1914)


Soaring Food Prices (13 August 1914)  

When Britain declared war on Germany on 4 August, the Canadian Grocer predicted a general rise in the price of foodstuffs. Foods that were imported from within the war zone, such as sugar, beans, nuts, cream of tartar, Bosnian prunes and French peas, would increase in price and decrease in availability. Additionally, domestic products such as wheat and flour had already seen an increase in price by the first week of August. After discussing the various increases in prices, and the reasons behind those increases, the Canadian Grocer reminded readers that Canadians were fortunate when compared to those in Europe. Canada would have enough sustenance throughout the war, even if rationing had to be implemented later on. It was evident that there was no need for the Canadian public to worry about foodstuff at this point in the war.

(“Soaring Food Prices,” Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph, 13 August 1914; “Prices for Foodstuffs Increasing,” Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph, 13 August 1914; “How Prices Have Soared in Ontario,” Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph, 13 August 1914; “War A Check On Commerce,” Elmira Signet, 20 August 1914; “No Shortage of Food,” Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph, 27 August 1914)


Soaring Food Prices (13 August 1914)

Excerpt from “Soaring Food Prices” (Waterloo Chronicle Telegraph, 13 August 1914)


Orders for factories in Waterloo and Berlin (19 August 1914)

As a manufacturing town, Berlin’s economy was expanded because of the war. Immediately after the war began, factories in Waterloo and Berlin received contracts worth $150,000 to produce goods and clothes for the Canadian soldiers.

Canadian boot suppliers even hoped to gain a portion of the orders to manufacture boots for the Italian army, but the reporter believed that these types of foreign contracts would more likely be given to enterprises in the United States .

BJ-1914-08-12-Orders for factories in Waterloo and Berlin

(„150000$ in Kriegslieferungen für Berliner und Waterlooer Fabriken“, Berliner Journal, 19 August 1914; „Neue Kriegslieferungen in Canada“, Berliner Journal, 9 June 1915)


Factories will be Busy (20 August 1914)  

Waterloo Region understood that the war would greatly benefit Canada’s economy, the Elmira Signet going as far as to say “one continent’s ‘down’ is another continent’s ‘up.’” Waterloo region’s factories plunged into wartime production almost immediately. Multiple Berlin and Waterloo industries received large orders from the Militia Department. Trunk companies, leather companies, boot and shoe firms, textile manufacturers and rubber companies in the region were among the many who received contracts across Quebec and Ontario.

An order for 7000 sets of Oliver equipment, 2000 rifle buckets and 5000 rifle slings were divided between the McBrine Company, the Berlin Trunk and Bag Company, and the Duering Trunk Company. Additionally, five boot and shoe companies in the Waterloo Region were to produce 20,000 pairs of shoes, while another company was to produce 10,000 service shirts. These orders needed to be filled within five weeks to secure a second contract with the Militia Department. By mid-August, the already bustling industries in the Waterloo Region were further stimulated by wartime demands.

(“The Outlook in Canada,” Elmira Signet, 27 August 1914; “Factories will be busy,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 20 August 1914; “Industry Hysteria,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 27 August 1914; “Factories will be busy,” Waterloo Chronicle-Telegraph, 20 August 1914; “Cannot buy German goods,” Berlin Daily Telegraph, 11 August 1914.)

Busy Factories




Expansion of Trade (14 September 1914)

On 14 September, Ottawa reached out to Hespeler’s industrial core. With the increasing demand for supplies both nationally and internationally, parliament was worried about the lack of industrial factories open for business. This open letter to the Hespeler Herald was a propaganda push for Waterloo Region factories that had closed, as a result of the weak economy, to reopen for business. The letter urges the region’s companies to jump aboard the wartime boom and expand their industry. As a result of trade being cut off from Germany, the region was forced to become relatively self-sufficient. It was hoped that the region would see a reopening of old businesses, to further increase the region’s wartime production.

(“Expansion of Trade” Hespeler Herald, September 14 1914)