What Goes in a Textbook?


Paper prices increased dramatically during WW1, by nearly 300 percent according to printers. The military’s requirements were partly responsible, but publishers also blamed collusion by paper manufacturers for pushing prices higher. The Publishers Section of Toronto’s Board of a Trade complained in a 1917 telegram to Canada’s Minister of Finance.

Same grades in United States made from Canadian pulp are one third cheaper than here. Would your government think of allowing similar holdup in munitions…Government contracts for schoolbooks in all provinces must be carried out by pre-war contractors who are compelled to bear heavy financial losses and thus contribute to the wholly excessive profit of the pulp ring owing to inaction by your government.1

Paper manufacturers responded with complaints about price increases in their own supply chain. The smallest price increase in material inputs was for lime, according to Howard Smith Paper, at twenty percent, while bleach had increased 187 percent year over year. Because of the war, European imports had been cut off.

C. Howard Smith wrote a February 1917  letter to to George E. Foster, Canada’s Minister of Trade & Commerce.2 Smith noted that on top of paper manufacturers’ increased burden, Canada charged a 25% duty on all pulp. The new War Tax had increased the levy by 7.5%. He predicted further increases, and called it “strange” that so much would be made of publisher’s concerns “compared with foodstuffs and clothing and other goods, that affect the very life of the country.”


  1. Wise, Frank DAY LETTER [telegram] to Thomas White [Minister of Finance]. February 8, 1917. Macmillan Canada, First Accrual, Part 1, Boxes 8 and 19. Edited from telegram script for clarity. MUA.
  2. Smith, C. Howard letter to George E. Foster [Minister of Trade & Commerce]. February 28, 1917. Macmillan Canada, First Accrual, Part 1, Boxes 8 and 19. MUA.