In 1792, Captain George Vancouver sailed through the Strait of Georgia, noting and naming Vancouver Island . But this had little effect on the many indigenous communities living along the shoreline. Europeans didn’t see and exploit the island’s potential for another 50 years, when the Hudson’s Bay Company established control over the entire island and the mainland territory of “Columbia.”
Needing to firmly establish British presence on the continent’s northwest coast, the Hudson’s Bay Company built Fort Victoria—named after Queen Victoria—on the southern tip of Vancouver Island in 1843. Three years later, the Oregon Treaty fixed the U.S./Canada boundary at the 49th parallel, with the proviso that the section of Vancouver Island lying south of that line would be retained by Canada. To forestall any claims that the United States may have had on the area, the British government went about settling the island.
In 1849, the island was gazetted as a Crown colony and leased back to the Hudson’s Bay Company. Gradually land around Fort Victoria was opened up by groups of British settlers brought to the island by the company’s subsidiary, Puget Sound Agricultural Company. Several large company farms were developed, and Esquimalt Harbour became a major port for British ships.
In the late 1850s, gold strikes on the mainland’s Thompson and Fraser Rivers brought thousands of gold miners into Victoria , the region’s only port and source of supplies. Overnight, Victoria became a classic boomtown, but with a distinctly British flavor; most of the company men, early settlers, and military personnel firmly maintained their homeland traditions and celebrations. Even after the gold rush ended, Victoria remained an energetic bastion of military, economic, and political activity, and was officially incorporated as a city in 1862.
In 1868, two years after the colonies of Vancouver Island  and British Columbia  were united, Victoria was made capital. Through the two world wars, Victoria continued to grow. The commencement of ferry service between Tsawwassen and Sidney  in 1903 created a small population boom, but Victoria has always lagged well behind Vancouver  in the population stake.