Construction of Canada's Dominion Astrophysical Observatory (DAO) commenced in 1914 with first light on 6 May 1918. As distinct from the contemporaneous development with private funding of major observatories in the western United States, DAO was (and remains) funded by the federal government. Canada's initial foray into ‘big science’, creation of DAO during the First World War was driven by Canada's desire to contribute significantly to the international rise of observational astrophysics enabled by photographic spectroscopy. In 2009 the Observatory was designated a National Historic Site. DAO's varied, rich contributions to the astronomical heritage of the 20th century continue in the 21st century, with particularly strong ties to Maunakea.