1923: The Year of Free Beef

Until the early 1920s, all Canadian provinces drove on the left, just as Britain and Australia do today. In 1922, the decision was made to switch traffic to driving on the right. The change caused a sensation — inspiring advertising campaigns, public service announcements, new signage, and some confusion for horses and streetcar operators. The first day of right-hand traffic, Dec. 1, 1922, was surprisingly a success. Traffic police reported that the public seemed to be taking the change in stride and were anxious to avoid the possibility of accidents. While drivers seemed to adjust, horses were not as accepting. Many horses would wander over to the left side of the road, where they were accustomed to traveling. Four months later, the main problem with the traffic switch remained the animals. Oxen were notoriously slow-witted, and many teamsters had to replace their oxen with new ones trained to keep to the right. The displaced ones that couldn’t “un-learn” the old traffic pattern were simply sent to slaughter. Thus, 1923 became known as “the year of free beef.”