Tuesday, 28 April 2009

The People on the Museum Wall: Elliott Galt

“The Father of Lethbridge” – this was the tribute paid to Elliott Torrance Galt upon his death in 1928.
Elliott Galt was sent into the North West Territories in 1873 as an assistant Indian Commissioner. In 1879, he noted the coal deposits along the Oldman (then the Belly) River that were being mined by Nicholas Sheran. Knowing that coal would soon be essential in supplying the needs of the pioneers, the Northwest Mounted Police and, eventually, the Canadian Pacific Railway, Galt sent samples of the coal back east to his Father.
Working with his father, Sir Alexander Galt, Elliott Galt helped establish the coal mines in Coalbanks, now Lethbridge. It fell to Elliott, particularly after the death of his father in 1893, to manage the various companies set up by the Galts to exploit the coal discoveries, to build railways, and to construct irrigation systems.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

More Musings on a Museum Exhibit

Another instalment in my post on the early research I’m doing for an exhibit on the years 1906-1913 in Lethbridge and southern Alberta. As I find things (which may or may not show up in the final exhibit), I’m including some of them on the Blog. I would love to hear from you what you like, what you find interesting (or not) or if there’s some area of history that you think I should research more on for the exhibit.
These years, not surprisingly, were also a time of many firsts in Lethbridge. The Lethbridge Automobile Club was started in 1907. I haven’t yet found out how many people were in the 1st Club but since in 1906 it was reported that there were six automobiles in town and that three more gentlemen were interested in buying cars, I assume it started as a relatively small group! The City of Lethbridge wouldn’t purchase its 1st automobile until 1910.
Publicly funded kindergarten started in Lethbridge in 1907. The Manual Training School (later Bowman School) and kindergarten were advances in education that were introduced during this time but which were later stopped because of financial pressures. The artillery battery started in Lethbridge in 1908. When started it was the most western-most battery in the entire British Empire. In 1909 the High Level Bridge was completed. The first airplane to ever come to Lethbridge came in July 1911. The first (and only) execution in the City of Lethbridge occurred in 1911 and the provincial gaol was built that same year.
In 1912, the first natural gas pipeline in Alberta was laid from the Bow Island field to Lethbridge and then on to Calgary. You have to wonder when it went through if people knew that eventually it would help to bring an end to the coal industry in Lethbridge as natural gas became the preferred way of home heating? That same year (1912) the street car system in Lethbridge was inaugurated. The expense of the street car system certainly contributed to the financial problem the city found itself in from 1913 to 1928. The year 1912 was also the year that the Lethbridge Fire Department took over ambulance service from the Galt Hospital, making it the 1st combined Fire/Ambulance service in Canada.
Watch for another instalment in a few weeks ….

Thursday, 2 April 2009

Musings on an Exhibit

I am guest curating (for 2011) an exhibit on the boom years 1906-1913 in Lethbridge. These were years of incredible population growth with many new businesses and industries coming to Lethbridge. And these years were vital in shaping the growth and development of Lethbridge throughout the 20th century. In many ways these years were bookmarked by the wild optimism of 1906 as Lethbridge became a city and the real estate bust of 1913 when City Council found itself faced with a deep debt (that wouldn’t be paid off until 1928) and 1/3 of all assessed city property tax exempt.

I have just started my research into this period and have already found some fascinating items. A great deal happened in these years and I certainly can’t include it all in the exhibit. So I thought as I was doing my research I would blog and share some of the random stuff I’m finding – stuff that may or may not show up in the exhibit. I would love your feedback, questions, ideas – what do you find interesting, what surprises you, what do you want to know more about.

I have to start with boosterism – the promotion of your community as THE best. There are so many examples of it during this period. To name two. There was such belief in the growth and prosperity of Lethbridge that in 1907 the 25,000 Club was formed. This group believed that Lethbridge would grow from its population of 7000 in 1907 to 25,000 by 1912. This goal was not met and it wasn’t until the 1950s that Lethbridge finally achieved a population of 25,000. One of the best boasts came from the 1910 letter head of the Board of Trade which stated that Lethbridge had the advantages of: “most up-to-date water system, finest climate, mildest winter, most productive soil, Purest water, most progressive city, Most trees, most sunshine, Cheapest fuel, widest sidewalks, Best electric power, best schools, prize wheat Of any place in Western Canada.”

More to come…

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The People on the Museum Wall: Red Crow

Soon we will have a series of podcasts available to describe the portraits in our Discovery Hall. Before they go live, we'll give you a taste of who they are, beginning with Red Crow - appropriate, considering the Everett Soop exhibit on until April 26!




A fearless and successful warrior as a young man, Red Crow went on to become a wise leader of the Kainai people. From 1870 to 1900, he was head chief of the Kainai, also known as the Blood Tribe, part of the Blackfoot Nation. Red Crow guided his people through the difficult early years on the reserve. He was one of the Treaty 7 signatories in 1877 and, for more than two decades, dominated the affairs of the largest reserve (by land size) in Canada. He pursued self sufficiency for his people and highlighted the importance of education. Red Crow kept his people at peace with the Europeans but never let them surrender their pride and dignity. Throughout his life, Red Crow remained a strong proponent of Blackfoot customs, but was also one of the first of the Kainai people to build a wood house, grow grain and keep cattle. Honoured by both the Kainai people and all the people of southern Alberta, Red Crow Community College was named in his honour.