Thursday, 11 September 2014

War Fever Strikes Lethbridge

As 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of the First World War, two exhibits at the Galt Museum & Archives will examine the impact of the war on the homefront, and the contributions of people in Lethbridge and area.

The first of these, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (1914-1915)—currently on display until September 29—examines the beginnings of the war and its impact on the community and its citizens. Stories include initial response and mobilization efforts, Lethbridge's militia history, the spread of patriotism and the rise of xenophobia, recruitment, and the life of Lethbridge's most well known soldier: General J.S. Stewart.

Over the next five weeks we will share this exhibit research by guest curator Brett Clifton here on the blog, starting with War Fever Strikes Lethbridge.

August 1, 1914 Lethbridge Daily Herald cover

On 28 June 1914, Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, was assassinated in Sarajevo by Gavrilo Princip, a young Serbian nationalist. A world away, the nearly 9,000 people who lived in the little prairie city of Lethbridge had no idea that this single act was about to touch off a series of events that would lead to the brutal conflict known as the Great War.

The Dominion of Canada officially joined when the British Empire declared war on Germany and its allies on August 4, 1914.  Since the majority of the citizens of Lethbridge claimed to be of British descent, there was little question as to the direction public opinion would take.

The much anticipated declaration of war lead to an outpouring of patriotism in communities across Canada.  War fever struck Lethbridge immediately, as frenzied citizens crowded around the offices of the Lethbridge Daily Herald.  The local paper reported that news of the war declaration was announced by megaphone to the eagerly awaiting crowds, who responded by cheering wildly and throwing their hats into the air.
Galt Archives 19891049200

Galt Archives 19752201394
In the hours that followed, the newspaper received continual updates by wire and telephone, publishing several special editions, which were quickly snapped up by the crowds in the street.  The Starland Theatre was packed with excited citizens who raised loud cheers as each new bulletin was flashed across the screen.

Later, the throngs of citizens outside the Herald office marched with flags, gathering at the bandstand, where members of the Citizens' Band had assembled to entertain the happy crowd with a wide array of patriotic music interspersed with fireworks, rockets and a water hose display offered by the Lethbridge Fire Department.

Galt Archives 19760220030

Galt Archives 19861078012
Mayor W.D.L. Hardie voiced the sentiments of the majority of those gathered in a rousing speech, proclaiming:
Ladies and gentlemen and fellow subjects of the British Empire, you are assembled now at the most momentous event in the history of the British Empire, to which it is our proud privilege to belong.  The war has been thrust on us, we have not sought it.  But now it has come we are ready and I know that every citizen of the City of Lethbridge is ready to do his duty at any sacrifice to himself.  The German Kaiser has been going around for some time with a chip on his shoulder and the time has come for us to knock that chip off.  The Kaiser has been seeking trouble and has now started something, and I tell you, citizens of Lethbridge, that by the time the trouble is over, there will be no Kaiser and we will have put the "Dutchman" where he belongs.
The next installment will look at The Early Days of War. The second exhibit, Lethbridge's Experiences in the First World War (Local Contributions), runs OCT 11-FEB 8.15.

Guest Curator Brett Clifton was born and raised in Lethbridge, attending local schools as well as the University of Lethbridge. Graduating in 2012 with a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Education, he now teaches Grade 7 and 8 Social Studies at G.S. Lakie Middle School. He has published two books documenting the lives and service of local men commemorated on our cenotaph, and is contributing a section on Lethbridge's war time experiences for an Alberta centennial publication coming out this year.  

19891049200: The Lethbridge Daily Herald Offices at 323 - 6 Street S, August 1914. In the days before television, radio and the internet, newspapers were the primary resource of public information.

1975220139: The printing room at the Herald worked overtime during the early days of the First World War. In addition to the regular daily issue, several special editions were printed during the first weeks of August 1914, bringing news directly from the telegraph wires to the citizens of Lethbridge.
19760220030: As war fever swept into Lethbridge on August 4, 1914, members of the Citizens' Band gathered at Galt Gardens to entertain the growing crowd. The band played stirring renditions of popular favourites, like "The Maple Leaf Forever", "God Save the King", and "Rule Britannia".
19861078012: Hardie served as Mayor of Lethbridge throughout the Great War and was an active supporter of the war effort. His own son, W.E.G. Hardie, joined hundreds of other local men in enlisting for service with the Canadian Expeditionary Forces.

Friday, 8 August 2014

Beginnings & Endings of Miss Edith Fanny Kirk

Edith Fanny Kirk began her life in July 16, 1858 in the residence attached to the Crookes Endowed School where her father was the head master (the residence is to the right of the main building, it has a large chimney on the near side). Crookes is now a suburb of the city of Sheffield.  I went to see the area in June 2014 while on a research trip to England.  The current owners of the buildings, St. Thomas Church, generously allowed me to have a brief look inside the school and the residence.  

I stood in the main room of the three room home.  One of the two other rooms was very likely her parent's bedroom and so the room in which Edith was born.  The residence had a yard surrounded by a stone fence in which she and her brother John could play.  After all the years of research getting know Edith through newspaper articles, historical records and her art, it was humbling to actually stand in her first home.

I also visited what is now called Sheffield Cathedral where baby Edith was baptised.  This is located in central Sheffield and is a very impressive High Anglican church.
Edith's mother died when she was only 3 years old and her father moved the family to Altrincham shortly after their loss.  There he remarried to Elizabeth Gresty and a half brother was added to the family unit.

Edith Kirk trained as an artist from an early age and travelled through the United Kingdom and France to paint watercolour land and streetscapes. When she was 46 years old, she emigrated to Canada and lived in several places in British Columbia from 1905 to 1913 where she taught art and continued to create her own art.  After a year's visit back in England, Kirk returned to the east coast of Canada where she spent a couple of years before moving to Lethbridge, Alberta.

In Lethbridge, she was well known for her art and her dedication to teaching young people.  She settled in Lethbridge but didn't stop travelling and having more adventures.  At the age of 60, she joined the Alpine Club of Canada and spent weeks in camps in the National Parks where the spectacular scenery was reflected in her watercolours.  Miss Kirk, as everyone knew her, lived until she was 95 years old.  She died December 30, 1953 and was buried in Mountain View cemetery.

In July this year, just days before her birthday, I visited her last resting place and found her small white headstone nestled at the roots of a line of spruce trees.  Knowing her love of nature and her skill at painting trees I found this to be a perfect place for her to be.  For me, it was like coming full circle in her life.

But my task in learning about Miss Kirk continues as I am still searching to fill in a few gaps in her travels and as I plan an exhibit about her life and write a book about her travels, her art and her teaching. 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Real-life Spider-man

We'd like to share with you a rare archival photo of a real-life spider-man...

real-life spider-man
Trick photography: young man with four hands (*IN STUDIO), 26 April 1948
Galt Museum & Archives, 20121093149
This is one of 54 archival photos we have posted in the album “Fort Macleod’s Anonymous” on Flickr the Commons. Most are shot in Fort Macleod, Alberta in the late 1940s. The donor of the photos purchased them at a garage sale in Pincher Creek. Who are these people? What are they doing? Who were the photographers? What are these places and buildings? Please share your knowledge and help us reclaim your community’s history!

Please tell us as much as you can about the people and places by emailing the Archives at, leaving a comment on Flickr or right here on this blog. Please tell us where your knowledge comes from – personal memories, local history research, or grandpa’s tips.
* The CAPITALIZED text in the descriptions was copied from the envelopes in which the negatives were found.
Thank you!

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

How One Question Became a Collection and an Exhibit

I love history and I love books. So it was wonderful to be able to curate an exhibit that brought those two concepts together. On March 1 we opened a new exhibit at the Galt called The Literal Truth. 

This exhibit showcases fiction books set in southwestern Alberta. Years back I came across an article in the Lethbridge Herald that stated that the 1st ever book set in Lethbridge had just been published. So I wondered: how many fiction books are set in southwestern Alberta?

I posed that question to people at the Lethbridge Public Library, to friends and family, to strangers (yes, I was that person). I asked people to submit names on Facebook and Twitter. I scanned articles and boosk on the history of literature in Alberta. I ordered in books from far and wide -- the furthest coming from Scotland. Slowly my collection of books grews.

Then at an exhibit planning meeting I raised the idea that the books might make a fun exhibit. And for some strange reason the rest of the staff agreed.

But with 60+ books, how to arrange? This was only going to be a hallway exhibit and needed to be relatively small and compact. I was incredibly fortunate to have the assistance last summer of Kimberly, a summer student in education programs. She went through every book and made a list of quotes about southern Alberta from each book.

I was then able to take all of these quotes and when I reviewed them I realized there were a few large themes -- the landscape itself, the Crowsnest Pass (the one area of SW Alberta where the MOST books are set), Lethbridge, wind (you knew it had to show up) and the Mounted Police (a perennial favourite among writers though the portrayal has certainly changed over the years).

The cases are set up around those themes. Thanks Brad for putting it all together and making it look great.

I still haven't answered the question of how many books are set in southwestern Alberta. I keep finding or am told about even more books. And then, of course, people are continuing to write books set in this area.

In fact, one thing I would most like to come from this exhibit is that it inspires people to write more books, comics, stories focused on our area. We have put up a "Story Starter" on our website where you can submit stories or beginnings of stories if you choose.

I would also like to encourage people to read some of these books set in this area. There is a brochure that gives you a list of books (or a bookmark with the children's books on it). You can also have a set and flip through some of the books. You can also see a list of the books on our Flickr page. It's your chance to try judging a book by its cover.

One of my favourite things in the exhibit is we have a magnetic board up and some interactives. You can move them around and tell your own story. So here's to The Literal Truth and southwestern Alberta in literature.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 8

The Entrepreneurs and Innovators exhibit officially closed yesterday. This exhibit at Galt Museum & Archives celebrated southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators featured photos from the Galt Archives's holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post is the eighth and final installment in a series based on the exhibit.

Be sure to check out the upcoming exhibit in the lower gallery, Treasure Maps, featuring maps from the Galt Archives cartographic collection. Treasure Maps opens on February 7th and runs until April 30th.

This post features the business of the namesake of the Galt Museum & Archives, Alexander Galt and the difficulties he had in getting coal to market from Lethbridge in the early years of his mining operations here.  This post also features the Knight Sugar Company, that arranged for development of land with the Galts' interests, providing irrigation and a mill to process sugar beets locally.

North Western Coal and Navigation Company

The Alberta at Medicine Hat, 1885. Galt Archives 19738150000.

In 1879, the mine of Nicholas Sheran at present-day Lethbridge was seen by Elliott Galt, who soon interested his father Alexander, then Canadian High Commissioner in London, in the possibilities of coal mining in western Canada. The Galts soon formed the North Western Coal and Navigation Company, and began mining at Coal Lease No. 4 with Elliott as general manager. Though the area was rich in coal, little infrastructure existed to get the coal to market. In 1883 the company commissioned three riverboats – the Alberta, the Minnow and the Baroness – to transport coal to Medicine Hat. However, the Belly (later called the Oldman) River proved unsuitable to navigation due to its many sandbars and a strong current. During 1883 only 180 tons were transported and in 1884 they managed 2,278 tons. After these two seasons, it was clear that the only viable solution to transporting coal to market was by rail. Galt’s company completed a narrow gauge railway to the main CPR line at Dunmore, near Medicine Hat, in 1885.  


Knight Sugar


In 1901, Utah mining magnate Jesse Knight sent his sons Oscar Raymond and Jesse William to investigate land available for purchase in Southern Alberta. They acquired 30,000 acres and set about putting the land to work. Jesse soon entered into a contract with the Canadian Northwest Irrigation Company and the Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company to purchase an additional 226,000 acres. In exchange, Knight was obligated to build a sugar mill for the 1903 harvest and keep it in operation for at least twelve years. The town that emerged around the mill was named Raymond, in honour of the son that Jesse Knight’s older son that had put in charge of the operation of the mill and his ranch. The introduction of irrigation to the area and success of the sugar factory soon brought 1500 residents to the town. Raymond Knight sold his interest in the company in 1917 to help his father manage his growing interests back in Utah.

Exterior of the second Raymond Sugar Factory, ca. 1930. Galt Archives 19740030000-056.

By Sven Andreassen

Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of  British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He volunteered in the Galt Archives in 2013  and curated this exhibit.