“Coca-Cola is now sold to some extent in every state and in almost all the cities of the United States, and in some of the cities in Canada, and in the city of Honolulu, H.I.”

This letter from Coca-Cola president Asa Candler to shareholders outlining The Company’s successes in 1897 is the first definitive record of Coca-Cola being served in Canada. What makes Coca-Cola’s 120 year milestone in Canada truly exciting though, is when it’s placed in the context of Canada’s 150th anniversary celebrations.

Naturally Canada was a very different place when Coca-Cola first arrived in 1897.  To start, Sir Wilfrid Laurier was Prime Minister and Queen Victoria – the namesake for everyone’s favourite May weekend – was Canada’s monarch.

The country that would celebrate its 30th birthday that year also had a lot less people around with a population of just over 5 million. Even something simple like a map of the country would pose a challenge for the modern Canadian geography buff, as Canada only had seven provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan wouldn’t be created until 1905 while Newfoundland and Labrador wouldn’t join Confederation for another 52 years).

Canadians were much more spread out with nearly two thirds of us living in rural areas in 1897. Families were also much larger before the turn of the last century with an average of just over five people per home!

It’s hard to imagine how the Canada of 1897 eventually became the country Canadians know and love. Instead of a vast and largely empty wilderness, Canada has grown into a modern, cosmopolitan nation in the last 120 years. Today Canada boasts a population of over 35 million people with four out of five of them living in urban areas. With an average of just over two people, families have also become significantly smaller.

Canadians themselves have also been busy. We’ve made major contributions to society in the last 120 years. Great Canadian minds are behind everything from revolutions in medicine like insulin and the external pacemaker to the programming language Java, basketball and the Canadarm.

From the Yukon’s Klondike Gold Rush in the 1890s, to the first time The Maple Leaf was flown above Parliament Hill in 1965, to the lighting of the Olympic cauldron in Vancouver during the 2010 Winter Olympic Games - Coca-Cola has had a front row seat to some incredible history over the last 120 years and looks forward to another 120.

Cheers to us Canada!