January 29, 2012

A fascinating, photo filled look at Alberta’s rich history

Before hopping into the main topic of today's post, I want to take a moment to thank you all for your recent blog comments - very much including those that were left on Friday's "Hey, it's OK" post. No where on the whole of the internet, do I know of a sweeter or more supportive group of people than those I've encountered in the vintage blogging sphere, and I truly appreciate all of the thoughts and encouragement you share with me through your lovely comments.

As many of your may recall from last summer's post in which I chatted about about a new Flickr group I'd started called Vintage Canada, being a proud maple leaf loving Canuck - who's also positively wild about history - I have more than a passing interest in anything that combines my adoration of the past with my home and native land.

Thus, when I discover a new (to me) Flickr stream with images pertaining to Canada's history, I just about leap out of my seat with joy! Such was the case about a month ago when, much to my delight, I found that the Glenbow Museum, located in Calgary, had a stream all its own. While not every image in it is vintage, a good chunk of them are, with many pertaining to the history of Alberta and/or the prairie provinces in general.

While my love of Canada and history is scarcely a secret, what some of your may not know is that I actually spent more than two years of my life (late teen years) living in Calgary, Alberta and that my love for this amazing city is, to say the very least, off the charts. I adore Calgary with a passion that, before living there, I honestly did not know it was possible to have a for a city.

I'd be ecstatically happy to live there again one day, if possible, but if not, then I'll just continue to visit whenever the universe permits and to keep those flames (subtle Calgary hockey team reference intended) of passion burning bright by studying the history of this majestic prairie city through sources such as the Glenbow Museum's Flickr stream.

One need not hail from Alberta or even Canada for that matter, to enjoy the photos and illustrations in this Flickr stream though. So long as 19th and 20th century history tickles your fancy, you're bound to discover many images that interest and inspire you in this engaging collection.

While I could easily post every last one of the vintage images from this stream, I've whittled down today's select to fifteen of my favourite images from the Glenbow Museum's Flickr stream to share with all of you.

{Attracting early settlers to Western Canada was an ongoing job for the Government of Canada that lasted for many decades during the 19th and early 20th century. Posters, pamphlets and other literature geared at prospective settlers, such as this wonderfully illustrated one from 1930, often pictured Canada as a land abundantly rich in agriculture prospects and excellent harvests. Over time millions would come to call Alberta, Saskatchewan, and Manitoba home, many of whom would indeed farm its vast, golden lands for generations to come.}

{Life for early settlers on the prairies varied a great deal, ranging from unbearably hard to prosperous and highly worthwhile. It was not, generally speaking, well suited for people who were not afraid of a great deal of hard work and dedication - previous farming experience certainly helped too, but wasn't strictly necessary.

In this absolutely darling image from 1912, we see a young woman named Miss Thorsen sitting in the yard of her family's homestead (in Wetaskiwin, Alberta) with a group of adorable chicks and puppies. The appearance of the yard (including a wooden fence), would indicate to me that the family was doing at least relatively well.}

{Families who settled out west often arrived with just the barest of necessities and farming equipment, especially if they were immigrants. As such, children who grew up on the prairies commonly had to come with creative ways on their own to have fun without a lot of toys available. In this heartwarmingly sweet image from the 1910s, we see a group of young boys, sporting cowboy hats, who have done just that by riding each other as horses.}

{While many who settled in Canada's middle provinces hailed from Eastern Europe, immigration officials were eager to bring in people from elsewhere in Europe and around the world, too. As such immigration literature was published and widely distributed in many languages, including Gaelic, which this colourfully illustrated invitation to the prairies from 1907 was printed in. As with many images hoping to attract foreigners, this image attempts to convince immigrants that they'll have a better, much more prosperous life in Canada than the one they'd been living in their homeland.}

{The call to "Go west, young man" attracted thousands upon thousands of men from Canada, America, Europe, and other parts of the world who decided to try their luck at ranching, farming, and homesteading in Alberta. Often these young chaps were single men who arrived without a wife, mother or other female relative to help run their homes, and as such needed to fend for themselves on the domestic front. Case in point, this image of rancher George Pocaterra from Longview, Alberta doing his own laundry in the snow outside his cabin in the 1900s.}

{Long before the days of aviation, and at some points in times even railway travel, reached Western Canada, exploration took place on horseback or by foot. In this thoroughly captivating image from 1914, we see a cowboy, along with his trusty horse and dog, standing on Burgess Pass, British Columbia, as he survives the vast stretch of land before him.}

{Aware of the fact far more men than women were settling the west, and hoping to create long term settlers out of family units, the Government of Canada issued immigration literature, such as this sweetly illustrated booklet from the late 1910s, that was geared specifically towards women.

Often single women of the time were encouraged to find work as domestic help, both in rural and residential areas (and were lead to believe that  in doing so it would not be hard for them to soon find themselves with many male suitors and a potential husband), which may be why we see a lady making a pie in this lovely Edwardian image.}

{Those who's grandparents or great-grandparent's grew up in the prairies may be all to familiar with tales of how they walked to school for "ten miles each way in snow up to their waists". So long as one doesn't toss an "uphill both ways" in there, much truth remains in such statements, as youngsters who settled with their parents in the prairies did often have to walk long distances, in all kinds of weather conditions, to reach the nearest school house. In this image from the 1910s however, it would appear these rugged youngsters (from Springfield Ranch, near Beynon, Alberta) are enjoying an afternoon of sledding, not trekking off to school though.}

{As someone who has lived in Calgary, I can tell you that it certainly does get its hefty share of snow each year! However, this rarely deters locals from making the best of a chilly situation and enjoying the snow via winter sports. Here we glimpse a group of young women, from the Central Collegiate Institute, who did just that back in 1915 by taking part in one of Calgary's local ladies hockey teams.}

{While many struggled significantly to eek out a living from the dusty prairie soil or the streets of Alberta's blossoming cities, others were able to not only make ends meet, but to grow wealthy from the farming, ranching, and industrial opportunities that Alberta held. As such, many merchants were available to cater to the needs of such well-to-do clientele. While I do not know if all of these dolls and other toys belonged to the three little girls in this immensely cute 1920s image, it certainly looks their parents were able to spoil them heavily at Christmas time.}

{Though hockey and ice skating were certainly much loved pastimes for early Albertians, they weren't the only winter/snow sports by any means. Skiing was another highly popular outdoor activity, made all the more enjoyable by Calgary's close proximity to the Rocky Mountains. In this lovely hand-tinted lantern slide image from the 1920s, we see a man and woman out partaking in a day of cross-country skiing at Banff National Park, as they take in the stunning view that this part of the country offers all who visit.}

{Recognized the world over a symbol of Canada, Mounties (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) were an integral factoring in helping to keep the peace amongst prairie settlers and city dwellers alike throughout much of Alberta's history. In this photograph from 1933, a group of uniformed Mounties has gathered from a Christmas banquet in Edmonton, Alberta.}

{Cuteness flows like the Bow River through this immensely darling 1930s image of a group of young dancers, in their matching sailor costumes, from the Alice Murdoch Adams dance school in Calgary.}

{Throngs of busy holiday shoppers make their way through the crowded floors of the Bay Department store in Calgary, in this great slice-of-life shot from around the end of the 1920s. One can't help but notice the many fur collared coats and winter boots, which speak of the intensely snowy Decembers that Calgary faces most years.}

{Long before Will and Kate toured Alberta, other members of the British royal family were keen to spend time in this prairie province while visiting Canada. In 1951 Princess Elizabeth and Prince Phillip did just that, and their journey through Alberta brought them to the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede Indian Village, where they interacted with a group of First Natation's People sporting traditional costumes.}

{All images via the Glenbow Museum's Flickr stream. To learn more about a specific image, please click on it to be taken to its respective Flickr page.}

Many years are covered in the images above, which follow Alberta from its days as the wild, unsettled west to a land with thriving metropolises like Calgary and Edmonton just a few short decades later.

It is impossible for me to pick just one favourite image, for each speaks to me of Alberta, its hearty people, and all that it took to help mold, shape, and develop Western Canada. Many too, remind me of my own, albeit much more modern, experiences on the province’s golden prairie soil.

If you're on Flickr and haven’t done so already, be sure to follow the Glenbow Museum's stream. It's a trove of invaluable, deeply engaging and historically fascinating glimpses back into the history and culture that helped shaped not only Alberta, but Canada, into the tremendously wonderful nation that it is today.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed this post, and the pictures are wonderful. Just looking at George Pocaterra doing his laundry outside in the snow, and by hand, had me reaching for the hand cream!

  2. Thank you for this utterly fascinating and well-researched post!

  3. Lovely blog dear.
    My last post is about my vintage passion.
    Come on my blog if you want see.

    Baci from Italy.