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99 Simcoe Street South
Central Oshawa, ON, L1H 4G7

(905) 576-1222

Since 1963 the Canadian Automotive Museum has preserved and shared the history of the Canadian automotive industry.

Clara Dennis

Clara Dennis (1881–1958) was one of Nova Scotia’s first travel writers and also one of the first women to explore the province by car. Setting off in her automobile around 1930, she proceeded to capture several thousand images of scenery and everyday life with her camera. The automobile gave Dennis the freedom to explore all areas of the province, including the rarely travelled Cape Breton Highlands. She wrote three books about her travels of Nova Scotia and had articles published in a variety of magazines, including the popular Canadian Motorist.

Clara Dennis: Documenting Nova Scotia by Automobile

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Clara Dennis

Clara Dennis at Purcell’s Cove, 1907. Clara Dennis Nova Scotia Archives, 1981-541 no. 1089.

Clara Dennis (1881–1958) was one of Nova Scotia’s first travel writers and also one of the first women to explore the province by car. Setting off in her automobile around 1930, she proceeded to capture several thousand images of scenery and everyday life with her camera. The automobile gave Dennis the freedom to explore all areas of the province, including the rarely travelled Cape Breton Highlands. She wrote three books about her travels of Nova Scotia and had articles published in a variety of magazines, including the popular Canadian Motorist.

Canadian Motorist, May 1929. Collection of Canadian Automotive Museum

Canadian Motorist, May 1929. Collection of Canadian Automotive Museum

A mountain range has shut it off and while the world rushed on with the speed of the airplane, the automobile and the electric and steam railway car, the inhabitants of these villages pursued their leisurely way on foot, visited only on rare occasions by those who came by boat or braved the mountain trail on horseback or with dogs. But recently the Government began to build a road around the north of the island Part of it was completed before last summer ended and we resolved to travel that road as far as it had been constructed.
— Clara Dennis, “Into the North of Cape Breton by Motor,” Canadian Motorist, May 1929
Then and there was born the resolution to seek and find Nova Scotia. I would travel over her highways and byways. I would know her cities, her towns, her villages. I would visit the remote and but little frequented islands of her coast. I would talk with the men, women, and children I would meet. In their lives would be unfolded the soul of Nova Scotia.
— Clara Dennis, Down in Nova Scotia: My Own, My Native Land (1934)
Road map of Nova Scotia, 1927. Rand McNally and Co. David Rumsey Map Collection, Cartography Associates.

Road map of Nova Scotia, 1927. Rand McNally and Co. David Rumsey Map Collection, Cartography Associates.

Hupmobile

1938 Hupmobile

Clara Dennis’s car, a 1938 Hupmobile. Clara Dennis Nova Scotia Archives, 1981-541 no.1330.

Up, up, up wound the road, following the mountain trail. We passed through the village of Cap Rouge. This was the last sign of civilization. From then on the road got steeper and more winding. In two or three places we had to back the car to get around the curve, for the road had not as yet been completed. What a marvel to look back and down the road over which we had come, winding like a white ribbon up the mountain; the ships like toy boats riding at anchor in the sea below; the sense of height and depth around us.
— Clara Dennis, “Into the North of Cape Breton by Motor,” Canadian Motorist, May 1929