The World of Tomorrow: A View of Canada in 1939


172 pages
Contains Illustrations
ISBN 0-88902-543-6




Reviewed by Joan McGrath

Joan McGrath is a Toronto Board of Education library consultant.


In early 1939, the great Depression was slowly lifting; people had begun to look toward the future with the glimmerings of renewed hope. The most festive event of the year in Canada was the visit of King George VI and his consort, Queen Elizabeth, to Canada and the United States. They were greeted with a frenzy of almost hysterical enthusiasm; their visit seemed to be a harbinger of a rosy new life of progress and prosperity just around the corner. Yet at the very time the well-loved British monarch was being feted by loyal subjects, another, ominous ruler was being hailed in Germany. By the end of the year, Canada had plunged into the hell of World War II. The rosy prospects of 1939 had become dreary visions of khaki and gray.

This collection of period photographs, quotations, advertisements, and snippets conjures up the mood of a vanished era. It is a pot pourri of the views and musings of working people, news writers, notables, and advertising hacks — the lot. As in all other times, day-to-day life continued whatever great events might be taking place: youngsters went off to school or graduated from college; roads were built, promises were made, some kept, some not.... It all took place not so very long ago. People in 1939, as at the close of any decade, spent a lot of time and effort in predicting the future, the “World of Tomorrow” of the title. Now, in that world of which they could but surmise, we look back upon that “World of Yesterday” with some nostalgia, some sympathy, and more than a passing wish that some events of the past could be rewritten. Interesting almost-contemporary social history.


Stamp, Robert M., “The World of Tomorrow: A View of Canada in 1939,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed December 2, 2023,