Thursday, 28 May 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- 1906-1913 Exhibit

You can glean a lot about a time period and a community from reading old newspapers. As I've been researching other topics and material, I keep finding little nuggets that fit into the time period (1906-1913) of the exhibit I'm working on. And I can't resist copying them as potential avenues for research for this exhibit. Letters to the editor are particularly great for finding out about the hot topics of a community. I was not, though, expecting to find this -- a visiting wrestler put out a challenge to Lethbridge wrestlers for a bout. I have not yet had time to look into this to see whether the match took place and, if it did, who won. But I do feel a little bit sorry for McDonald.


Lethbridge, July 23, 1908
Editor Daily Herald: '
Sir.—In passing through the district on my way to my home in Iowa I was told by a travelling man that there are several wrestlers in your city.

I would like to take on either Maxwell or Gordon and hereby challenge either to a match for a reasonable side bet. I do not include McDonald for I do not consider him to be in my class.

The man who accepts this challenge can specify style, terms, number of falls, etc.

I can be found at the Coaldale Hotel

Fred Bartell.

P2 24 July 1908 Lethbridge Daily Herald

Monday, 25 May 2009

1906-1913 Exhibit -- More Musings on a Museum Exhibit

Continuing to work and research on the 1906-1913 Lethbridge exhibit. Trying to establish context and place these events in a larger understanding (social, economic, political, etc).
As I’m piecing together all of this information, one of the questions that comes to mind (and, thankfully, I have time before I need to answer this) is how far ranging do I want to make this exhibit? While it’s supposed to look at Lethbridge in the years 1906-1913, Lethbridge certainly can’t stand alone. It was part of a larger regional economy and community and was also affected by national and international events. Outside events certainly had a great effect, both short-term and long-term. And do I try to tell the whole story or focus on particular issues such as the social history of the community? For myself, a story is never fully told unless the largest context is provided. But will there be space in the exhibit to provide all of these stories?
How many people besides myself find it noteworthy that Marquis Wheat was introduced on a wide scale across the prairies in 1909? Since Marquis Wheat matured earlier than other wheat, it meant wheat could be grown in a much wider area than ever before. By the 1920s, 90% of all spring wheat in Canada was Marquis Wheat. In southern Alberta, it was a sample of Marquis Wheat that won Henry Holmes of Raymond a new Rumely tractor in the International Dry-Farming Congress. As Lethbridge was the Coal City in the Wheat Country (I love this phrase), this community was tied to the success and failure of the wheat crops.
The growth of the city itself was matched by growth in the communities around and land rushes took place during this time. The 1st major land rush occurred in Lethbridge on 1 September 1908 when more than 1000 eager settlers lined up at the government land office to get homesteads. The last major land rush was in 1912 when homesteaders lined up for land in the Del Bonita area.
Certainly, from an irrigation viewpoint, the Boundary Waters Treaty (1909) that governed the sharing of streams/rivers between Canada and the United States was both affected by irrigation development in southern Alberta and affected it as well. Where would the St. Mary River Irrigation District be without American water? Is it important, though, for this exhibit? Would Lethbridge have boomed in this period without irrigation? If the water had been diverted to the US would the boom have ended earlier?
Is at all relevant to the exhibit that on March 24, 1906, the "Census of the British Empire" shows England rules 1/5 of the world? Knowing that in the First World War, Lethbridge had the highest per capita enlistment of any city in Canada and Pincher Creek had the highest per capita enlistment of any community in Canada, it may help us understand the mind-set of many local citizens at the turn of the 20th century. To us, they were building Canada. They saw themselves as building the British Empire.
Well, back to more research. You’ll have to keep watching the blog (and, of course, come see my exhibit in 2011) to find out what direction I finally take. If you have ideas as to what course I SHOULD take, please share your thoughts. Until next time…

Monday, 18 May 2009

1906-1913 Lethbridge Exhibit -- Another Muse on a Museum Exhibit

As I was reading the 1910 Lethbridge Herald tracking down some information for another project I'm researching, I chanced upon an advertisement for Alberta's Pride Beer and I couldn't resist sharing it. At this point, I don't plan on focusing much on adverts for the exhibit I'm working on for the years 1906-1913 in Lethbridge, but perhaps I'm missing a unique area of research? In a time before chlorination of water (which started in 1916 in Lethbridge), water could perhaps be seen as more dangerous than beer (or at least people reading the ad might believe it to be so). Fear used as an advertising ploy? Perhaps times haven't changed quite as much as we sometimes like to think.

Advertisement from 20 August 1910 Lethbridge Herald p 7

The Problem of Satisfying the Thirst
What to drink is the question.
You want something cold, to be sure, but you want it to be
wholesome as well.
Ice water shocks the stomach and retards digestion. Sweetened
chemical mixtures are not conducive to health.
Here is a beverage that is satisfying and beneficial. There is
something more to it than wetness and coolness. It is a sustaining
drink. It refreshes you and you stay refreshed.

Call for Lethbridge Beer.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Continued Musings on a Museum Exhibit

Another installment of research for an exhibit on Lethbridge 1906-1913.

This time -- scandal!

In October 1908 people of Lethbridge were shocked to find that a baby was being raffled off. Or, maybe they weren't. The truth is, we just don't know what people in Lethbridge thought of this seemingly strange and scandalous occurrence.

While we do have 2 newspapers articles from October 1908 that state that a baby was raffled off and won by a single man (who was going to find a woman to help him raise the child), all we have been able to find are these 2 articles. We don't know whether or not it was a joke, a prank, a promotional gimmick or the real thing. This is one of the frustrating parts of historical research. We have this tantalizing information but, without more context, the danger is that we could read too much into this.

But, until we know more, it is interesting to think of what type of community Lethbridge may have been 100 years ago to allow a baby raffle? All I do know is that this and other stories are certainly spurring me on to do even more research into this fascinating time period.