Partly because there is at present so much concern with problems of economic growth and partly because much has already been done to account for the years before the First World War, interest is now quickening in the process and magnitude of capital formation in Canada between Confederation and the end of the nineteenth century. An important part of Canadian capital formation has been in housing, and a historical series on housing investment, covering the years 1926–1941, was presented in an official publication prepared by Firestone and Urquhart in 1945. This series was superseded by revised estimates (which still form the basis for the historical figures in the National Accounts) made by Firestone in 1951; Buckley, partly on the basis of Firestone's later estimates, produced a series going back to 1896; and Firestone has recently returned to the problem. A consistent series from Confederation to the turn of the century is, however, still lacking.
The main purpose of this paper is to derive and present annual estimates of residential capital formation for the years 1871–1921. It is in three parts: the first presents annual estimates of the number of dwellings completed; the second considers the problem of securing annual average values and presents the final estimates of residential capital formation; and the third compares the new estimates with those published earlier, discusses the estimates and their limitations, and makes suggestions for their improvement. An effort has been made to present the material in such a way that the reader could go a long way towards reproducing the results. Inadequate data invite endless ingenuity: but unbridled wit can sometimes be dangerous and an effort has been made to keep the paper within the bounds of the plausible.