Monday, 18 November 2013

Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 2


Andrew Briosi welding in his shop. Galt Archives 19752990127.
On now until February 2, the Galt Museum and Archives presents an exhibit celebrating southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators features photos from the Galt Archives's holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post is the second in a series based on the exhibit.

This week's post features two Alberta Agricultural Hall of Fame inductees whose innovations contributed to the viability of farming in the dry regions of southwestern Alberta. Asael Palmer's research at the Lethbridge Experimental Station led to improved dryland farming techniques that limited soil erosion and conserved water. Andrew Briosi was a lifelong farmer who spent his spare time tinkering on inventions that would make farm work easier.


Asael Palmer

Asael Palmer at the Lethbridge Experimental Station. Galt Archives 19752910483.
Asael Palmer dedicated his life to agricultural research that made dry land farming possible in southern Alberta. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in soil science at Utah State Agricultural College, he obtained a second science degree from the University of Alberta. In 1921, he was appointed assistant superintendent of the Lethbridge Experimental Station and engaged in research, publishing research papers and books on dry land farming, irrigation, soil erosion and water conservation. During the drought of the 1920s and 1930s, he was active in promoting stubble cover on fields to prevent erosion in his role with the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration. In 1945 he was promoted to superintendent of the station, and after his retirement in 1953 he conducted research at the Peshawar Research Station in Pakistan. Asael Palmer was awarded an honourary doctorate from the University of Lethbridge in 1970.

Andrew Briosi
Andrew Briosi with one of his inventions. Galt Archives 19754021026.

Andrew Briosi spent his life in agriculture, first in sheep ranching and then in irrigated farming. Briosi’s farming was aided by his inventive genius, and he worked on developing machines to make his work easier. He often stated he invented things to make his life easier because he considered himself to be lazy. His most notable inventions were a front-end loader for tractors and a sugar beet harvester. In 1975 Briosi was named a member of the Order of Canada “for his role in the mechanization of sugar beet harvesting, which has been a great boon to the industry in Canada and elsewhere.” Later he developed the River Valley Golf Course in Lethbridge, where he invented a machine for retrieving balls from the driving range.

By Sven Andreassen

Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He has been volunteering in the Galt Archives since the summer and curated this exhibit.

Monday, 4 November 2013

Entrepreneurs and Innovators - Part 1

On now until February 2, the Galt Museum and Archives presents an exhibit celebrating southwestern Alberta businesses, inventors and researchers. Entrepreneurs and Innovators features photos from the Galt Archives's holdings, and can be seen in the lower gallery, outside the archives. This blog post will be the first of a series based on the exhibit.

 Communities thrive when people initiate successful businesses, programs, opportunities and events.  Innovators bring new or better ways of doing things to the benefit of others.  In southwestern Alberta there is a strong history of entrepreneurs capitalizing on available opportunities and innovators solving the particular problems of this area to improve economic opportunities for everyone.

Though government surveyor John Palliser stated this area was unsuitable for agriculture in the 1850s, the work of many people made farming Palliser’s Triangle possible.  Agriculture was much improved with the extensive irrigation systems constructed by companies such as the Galt’s Alberta Railway and Irrigation Company.  Lethbridge Research Station staff like Asael Palmer developed better methods for irrigating crops and reducing soil erosion through trash cover.  This research complimented the development of better farm tools such as Charles Noble’s cultivating blade and Andrew Briosi’s beet harvester.  The Knight’s Sugar Factory helped make the development of irrigation more profitable by producing sugar beets at a good return per acre.

This exhibit illustrates a few of the individuals who saw a need in the community and developed a way to meet that need by supplying products and services or new and better ways of doing things.  It also celebrates those who faced hardship and developed strategies to overcome these conditions.

I. G. Baker and Co.


I. G. Baker and Co. store, Lethbridge. Galt Archives 19891046021-022
Isaac Gilbert Baker and his brother George formed a mercantile and grocery company in Fort Benton, Montana in 1866. As the Montana gold rush fizzled out, the I.G. Baker & Brother Company looked for new customers. In 1869 the brothers outfitted their brother-in-law Alfred Hamilton and John Healy to go into Canada. Healy and Hamilton went north with wagons loaded with liquor and repeating rifles and established a trading post at the junction of the Oldman and St. Mary Rivers. Their initial profits from trading whiskey and other goods for buffalo robes were good, but the whiskey trade ended when the North West Mounted Police arrived in 1874. I. G. Baker & Co. then began selling and delivering supplies to the police. The company operated a number of other general stores in the area which were eventually purchased by the Hudson’s Bay Company.

George Houk


George Houk and Co. Wholesale Liquor. Galt Archives 19891046033
George "Daddy" Houk is regarded as the first person of European descent to visit the location that would later become Lethbridge. After serving as a sheriff in Montana, he came to southern Alberta in 1864. Houk married Victoria, a Niitsitapii (Blackfoot) woman, which helped him develop a vital trade connection with her people. In the Oldman River Valley, where he settled, he engaged in mining, ranching, hunting buffalo and trading liquor for buffalo robes. He joined Hamilton and Healy, helping to build Fort Whoop-Up. Houk would later say of himself and other whiskey traders: "It’s a wonder they didn’t get an army and kill every one of us. We deserve[d] it.” Houk operated a legal liquor business, George Houk and Co. Wholesale Liquor from 1902-1906.

By Sven Andreassen

Sven Andreassen is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia's Master of Archival Studies program. He has been volunteering in the Galt Archives since the summer and curated this exhibit.