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Pathways to Winnipeg history
PastForward: Winnipeg's digital history
History of Winnipeg

Winnipeg's History

Historical Profile of Winnipeg

Picture of the Forks, City of Winnipeg Photo

The City of Winnipeg is located at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers, almost at the geographic centre of North America. With an ethnically diverse population, Winnipeg is characterized by slow but steady growth. It is the eighth largest city in Canada and dominates the Manitoba economy.

Though there have been fur trading posts on the site since 1738, the first permanent settlement of the area occurred in 1812 when a group of Scottish crofters arrived. Winnipeg was incorporated as a city in 1873 with a population of 1,869 people. The arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1885 brought a 30-year period of growth and prosperity unequalled in Canadian urban development. A flood of immigrants, high wheat prices, plentiful capital, and improved farming techniques contributed to making Winnipeg the wholesale, administrative, and financial centre of western Canada. Following World War I, economic stagnation due to low wheat prices and the Depression lasted well into the 1940s.

Since 1945, Winnipeg has grown steadily, based on its position as a major grain, financial, manufacturing, and transportation centre.

The current population of Winnipeg

In 1972, the unified City of Winnipeg was created by amalgamating the following 13 municipalities, towns and cities:

  • R. M. of Charleswood
  • R. M. of North Kildonan
  • Town of Tuxedo
  • City of West Kildonan
  • City of Transcona
  • City of St. James-Assiniboia
  • The Metropolitan Corporation of Greater Winnipeg
  • R. M. of Fort Garry
  • R. M. of Old Kildonan
  • City of East Kildonan
  • City of St. Vital
  • City of St. Boniface
  • City of Winnipeg

Winnipeg "Heart of the Continent"

The name Winnipeg has its origin in the Cree name given to the lake 40 miles north, meaning "Win", muddy, "nipee", water.

Winnipeg is situated at the confluence of the Red and Assiniboine Rivers; 40 miles south of Lake Winnipeg and 60 miles north of the boundary line between Canada and the United States of America, almost midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans at an altitude of 760 feet above the seaboard level of New York.

From a Hudson’s Bay Company trading post (Fort Garry) in 1870, with a population of 215, Winnipeg proper has grown to the size of a first-class city of 663,617 people (2011 Census). When the city was incorporated in 1873 there were 1,869 inhabitants. In 1878 steam railway connections from St. Paul, Minnesota, had reached a point just across the river from Winnipeg; and on July 1st, 1886, the first through railway train, which left Montreal on June 28th, 1886, arrived in Winnipeg. The advent of railway connections introduced a steady stream of travel and trade and an influx of population that resulted in the building up of a City of standing and importance that is exceeded by only a few cities in Canada.

Winnipeg has become a significant grain centre on the American continent, the financial, commercial, wholesale and manufacturing centre of the middle west, owing to its geographical position and its tremendous railway facilities, with branches reaching out in every direction. It affords great possibilities for trade in the province and the Northwest and an inducement for the establishment of manufacturing and other industries. Winnipeg's soft water supply is adequate for the needs of a city of one million inhabitants.

The day of incorporation came, but not without struggle. The first Bill presented to the Legislature for the City’s incorporation was thrown out and the townspeople seized the Speaker of the House and gave him an extensive tar bath. However, cooler heads did prevail and with legal guidance the Bill was passed. The government of the City was carried on under the powers of a special Charter granted by the Provincial Legislature. This charter was repealed in 1886, and from that time until 1902 the City’s affairs were administered under the provisions of the Manitoba Municipal and Assessment Acts. Once again the City obtained a special Charter which has been revised and consolidated in the years 1918, 1940 and 1956.

Today, Winnipeg is noted for its fine hotel and motor hotel accommodations and for its superb restaurants. It has excellent shopping facilities, "A Shopper’s Paradise", and is one of the few Cities in Canada that has not imposed a general sales tax. It has enjoyed this distinction for ninety-two years.

There are facilities for playing golf, tennis, swimming, boating and other outdoor sports. Close to Winnipeg, anglers will find good fishing in many lakes accessible over first-class highways.

Few Cities have as many beautiful parks. Visitors to Assiniboine Park will find magnificent facilities for rest and recreation as well as one of the finest Zoos in the country, while Kildonan Park is the home of some of the most beautiful trees in Winnipeg.

Winnipeg, the "Friendly City of the Nation",
extends to every visitor a truly warm Western Welcome.

Last update: April 6, 2016

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