The Big Four and Alberta Place Names

This post was originally published on July 10, 2012 in honour of the 100th anniversary of the Calgary Stampede. It highlights the place names and geographical features in Alberta named after The Big Four – the ranchers and businessmen that funded Guy Weadick’s 1912 wild west show and rodeo, which grew to become today’s Calgary Stampede. Six years later, the Stampede is once again in full swing – a good excuse to revisit the legacy of the Big Four.

On the west side of Stampede Park, rising from the seething mass of carnival rides, concession stands and humanity that is the Stampede midway is the Big Four Building. This building is named for the Big Four – the four Southern Alberta ranchers and businessmen who funded Guy Weadick’s proposed rodeo and wild west show in 1912. Intended to be a one-time event, the show and rodeo grew to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. To say that the Big Four influenced Calgary’s popular culture would be a great understatement.

The Big Four with HRH Edward, Prince of Wales at the EP Ranch, 1923 LtoR: Pat Burns; George Lane; Edward, The Prince of Wales; Archie McLean; and A. E. Cross. (Provincial Archives of Alberta, A2658)

However, the legacy of the Big Four extends beyond the boundaries of Stampede Park. They left their mark not only in Calgary, but on the geography of the Province of Alberta. This blog post is the first of three that look at the Big Four – George Lane, A. E. Cross, Archie McLean and Pat Burns – and the places named for them. Read more

The Battle of Vimy Ridge and Place Names of Waterton Lakes National Park

For this week’s blog post we welcome Meg Stanley, a historian with Parks Canada. Meg has done extensive research on war-related place names in the Canadian Rocky Mountains, particularly place names in the National Parks. We welcome her to RETROactive!

During the First World War, the Geographic Board of Canada assigned place names to various geographic features in the southern Rocky Mountains commemorating battles, military leaders, individual soldiers, and others with strong associations with the war. The Board’s inscription of the war onto the mountain landscape began in 1915 and continued through the war years and into the early 1920s.

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“IT THREW A MUSHROOM CLOUD JUST LIKE AN ATOMIC BOMB”: THE LEDUC No.1 OIL DISCOVERY – 70 YEARS AGO

On a bitterly cold afternoon, at 3:55pm, Nathan E. Tanner, Minister of Lands and Mines turned a valve at the Leduc No. 1 oil well as a rig hand held out a burning rag, setting alight a massive column of smoke and flame that roared hundreds of feet skyward. That event took place on February 13, 1947, seventy years ago today and it heralded in a new era for Alberta. An era of rapid development and prosperity fed by the now discovered reserves of oil deep under the province.

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“It flared hundreds of feet” is how tool push Vern Hunter described the lighting of the flare as the Leduc No. 1 oil well was brought in on February 13, 1947. Source, Provincial Archives of Alberta, P1342

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St. Nicholas Peak

You better watch out
You better not cry
You better not pout
I’m telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town.

He sees you when you’re sleeping,
He knows when you’re awake,
He knows when you’ve been bad or good,
So be good for goodness sake!
(J.F. Coots & H. Gillespie, 1934, © EMI Feist Catalog Inc; Haven Gillespie Music)

How can Santa Claus see all of this? How can he know what we are doing all of the time? Where exactly does he get his information? While some more imaginative people believe that Santa Claus must have magical, all-knowing, all-seeing powers. Other, more practical-minded folk, insist that he must have a vast network of elfin spies keeping tabs on every boy and girl in his domain. However, here in Alberta we know better. Santa Claus obviously does his recon from his lofty vantage point in the Canadian Rockies from which he can see great distances – perhaps even into your own home (and isn’t that just a little bit creepy?). Read more

ELIZABETH STREET SCHOOL, MEDICINE HAT – MUNICIPAL HISTORIC RESOURCE

In February 2016, the City of Medicine Hat designated the Elizabeth Street School as a Municipal Historic Resource. In September, a plaque about the school’s history and designation was unveiled. The school is the most recent of Medicine Hat’s historic resources to be listed on the Alberta Register of Historic Places.

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Elizabeth Street School during construction, ca. 1912. The school’s Classical Revival details, notably the cornice at the roofline and the keystone and voissoir details around the entryways, are evident.
Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, A10594

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Claiming their Ground – Three Pioneering Alberta Women in their Professions

October is Women’s History Month in Canada, when we celebrate the achievements of women throughout our past and use their stories to inspire Canadians today. The twentieth century saw women entering occupations previously the exclusive domain of men. A variety of circumstances combined to allow these advances, including the rise of public education, social activism culminating in universal suffrage, legal challenges that established women as “persons” and the upheaval created by two world wars. These changes are not sufficient to explain the careers of the three women described in this blog; it took determination, persistence, courage and intelligence for them to succeed and carve a place for themselves as professional women in these fields that were predominantly, if not exclusively, the preserve of men.

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Diane Loranger, geologist, ca. 1946-1947. (Glenbow Archives, IP-14A-1470)

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Edmonton’s River Valley: The Glitter of the Gold Rush

Every summer around this time of year, I look forward to checking out the sights and sounds of Edmonton’s local exhibition formerly known as Klondike Days. Its very name conjures childhood memories full of non-stop carnival rides, piping hot corn dogs and the sweet smell of freshly spun cotton candy. The name Klondike Days was originally brought in by exhibition organizers in the 1960’s and the Klondike gold rush theme was enthusiastically embraced by the public. I’ve always wondered what our local historical connection to the gold rush really was. Is there really gold to be found in the river valley?

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Man washing gold at Edmonton, 1890. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, B5280

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