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What did you get from Santa?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 868

Parade along 8th Avenue (handwriting indicating "Papa's store" with arrow pointing to Linton Bros.), 1908

Postcards from the Past, PC 868

I no longer have little ones to buy presents for at Christmas, which is a shame because I love toys. I reminisce about my Mrs. Beasley doll and my Easy-Bake oven, or the little French telephone set and my Kenner Knit-O-Matic, all of which I see now advertised as vintage antiques. Sigh.

I know that this year kids will be asking for all kinds of electronics (although I’m heartened to see that one of the hottest toys this year is the Kendama, which doesn’t require batteries, a plug-in or any high-tech savvy.) And, as is my wont, I get to wondering about the history of it all. What kinds of things did kids in Calgary a hundred years ago get from Santa? I went rooting through my resources in the Local History room and found a wonderful resource at the Calgary Public Library for just this kind of browsing: the Eaton’s Catalogues on microfilm (which I am told is kind of an antique in itself). When I was a kid I got all of the items on my Santa list from the Eaton’s wish book. And it appears it was always thus.

Long before there was the internet, there was mail-order. The catalogues would arrive by mail, you would send your orders by mail (or later, you could order by telephone) and your stuff would be sent by mail. That could take some time, but you could also get things that weren’t easily available in your local community. That was especially important in remote areas, which was most of Western Canada back in the late 19th century. In fact, according to Collections Canada, the Eaton’s catalogue was sometimes called the Prairie Bible. You can access a great digitized collection of mail order catalogues at the Collections Canada site.

Train set

A page from the toy section of the 1913 Fall/Winter Eaton's Catalogue

So what did kids get for Christmas? There were some really cool things on offer. In the 1915 winter catalogue there were toy grocery store items, a submarine game, a big-game hunter set with a target bear, dollies, tea sets, cowboy outfits, a clothes washing set, complete with washboard and wringer and even a Ouija board!

What about earlier, though. Kids in 1897 might wish for a tricycle or a toy wheelbarrow. In 1886 the list of toys in the Eaton’s catalogue include dolls and accessories for them, dominoes and other games, a whistling steam engine, magic lanterns, musical instruments and riding, driving and dog whips (really!). Skates seem to have been a very popular item. There were sleighs and wagons and rocking horses to be had closer to home, however, as Linton’s had a Toyland on the second floor. Treats such as oranges, candy, figs, nuts and raisins, were also brought in by retailers for the season.

Whatever the gifts, Christmas has always been a time for family. Have a wonderful time with yours.

How To Set a Christmas Table

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 814

Christmas wished from Calgary Milling Co. Limited. 191?

Postcards from the Past, PC 814

(Flour companies often published cookbooks)

I love my old cookbooks. Not that I cook that much, but having a collection of cookbooks from my family members is like having those family members with me. I still use my mom’s Purity cookbook to make the foods I remember from my childhood like banana bread and dream squares (and a horrible concoction of caramel syrup and dough gobs that my sister christened “death balls”). I look upon cookbooks as historical documents that not only tell us what our ancestors were eating, but how they conducted their lives. I mean, do we still have Bridge Teas? Doesn’t the very fact of a bridge tea speak to a different way of life?

The Local History room at the Central Library has an interesting collection of cookbooks, all with a relevance to the history of Calgary. It was in the Royal Purple Lodge No. 7 cookbook that I found the suggested menu for a Bridge Tea, complete with ribbon sandwiches and American Beauty salad. What really caught my eye, though, was the suggested menu for Christmas dinner in the Blue Bird Cook Book by the Domestic Science Department of the American Women’s Club of Calgary. The Christmas menu contains nothing, besides the turkey, that I recognize (or would eat, really). The starter is Oyster Cocktails and Salted Wafers. The soup course is consommé with toasted bread rings (made with day old bread and a doughnut cutter). The turkey was stuffed with a mixture of milk and cracker crumbs and served with cranberry mold, potato baskets and Christmas salad (grapefruit and orange sections laid out in a wreath shape with red pepper and garnished with a pickled cherry). Dessert was a choice of pineapple sherbet or Christmas cake, with a holly garnish made from candied peel and cinnamon candies. Yummy.

This would all be served on a table laid out as below. Note that this was for a family dinner, without the service of a maid. One hopes the maid would be given the day off to be with her family. This suggested setting comes from the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, 17th edition. The book also gives advice about serving protocol and admonishes against the use of intoxicating liquors. (The recipes in the book substitute fruit juice for booze and, in the case of brandy for the fruit cake, two tablespoons of molasses are said to be an excellent substitute).

 

How to set a table

How to set a table, from the Blue Ribbon Cook Book, ca 1930s?

Whatever Happened to the Amazon Statue?

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther

Mounted Amazon Attacked by a Panther, by August Kiss

Altes Museum, Berlin

Here at the library, we are sometimes asked questions for which we can’t find answers. Generally we are happy that we have given it our best shot, exhausted all of our resources and, usually, referred the customer on to someone who may be able to find more information. Because we are the kinds of people who work in libraries (read: nerds) sometimes we can’t let a question go and we continue to keep our eye out for anything relating to this elusive quest. One such question that has plagued me since I started here back in the cardaceous period (when card catalogs roamed the earth) is the question of what happened to the Amazon statue that once stood in front of the Memorial Park Library. We have been asked about this statue innumerable times and we were especially driven to find an answer when Brian Brennan was writing our official centennial history. We still have no definitive answer, but we feel we may be close.

There was an excellent article written about the Amazon sculpture by Daniel Lindley for the May issue of the magazine Stephen (page 28), which is put out by the Epcor Centre. In it he quotes from the Parks Department reports of Superintendent Richard Iverson in which he lays out his plans for the development of Central Park, proposing elevation changes, mass plantings, the building of a bandstand and summer houses and the incorporation of two statues, the Boer War Memorial and an “Amazon Group”. Many of Iverson’s plans were executed and we know that there was a statue of an Amazon, riding a horse which was being attacked by a panther, installed in the flower bed in front of the library. You can see the rear view of the statue on the far right of this postcard of the library.

PC 1989

Central Library in Memorial Park, ca 1920?

Postcards from the Past, PC 1989

This statue was reportedly a copy of a famous statue by August Kiss, made for the entrance of the Altes Museum in Berlin. A copy was made from the original for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Other copies appeared in various places. Our Amazon was a smaller, slightly altered, copy of the original. As described to the board by Superintendent Iverson, the statue was of an “Amazonian lady mounted on her trusty cayuse when a panther or some such animal started to chew the pony’s head off about the neck, whereupon the lady deftly inserted a spear into a section of his anatomy where it was likely to do the most harm. The board thought this was very fine but James Marr, with a twinkle in his eye, suggested the lady should be shown ‘wi’ a kilt. But it is likely that the lady’s chief adornment will be bronze.” (CH Mar 12, 1912)

The fate of our Amazon was sealed in 1922 when the I.O.D.E. received permission to place a memorial stature by Coeur-de-Lion McCarthy in the park. William Reader, the Superintendent at the time, suggested that it be installed near where the Amazon stood. He proposed that the Amazon be moved to Tompkins Park. By 1924, the Amazon and her “incongruous” perch were gone. As you may notice in the postcard below, a cannon was installed on the front lawn as well. This cannon (and its companions) had been captured from the German army. There were several in the city including one at the gates of Riley Park. It seems as though the ethos of the time preferred arms to bosoms.

PC 943

Central Library in Memorial Park, ca 1933

Postcards from the Past, PC 943

So what of the Amazon? The recommendation was to move it to Tompkins Park, but somehow it ended up in storage. In 1934 it was mounted on a piece of Tindall stone left over from the building of the Post Office and then placed in South Mount Royal Park where it was subsequently “mutilated and disfigured beyond repair by vandals.” This does not bode well for our Amazon. Did she end up in a landfill? Was she sold for scrap? We hope to find some more information about her fate so if you know anything please get in touch.

Xmas Gifts for the History Buff on Your List

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Concrete Centenarian

There is nothing like a blizzard to get me started thinking about Christmas shopping. In particular, how much I don’t want to be out shopping in weather like this. So, with that in mind I thought I would pull together a little list of books and some other suggestions for gifts for the history lover in our lives.

This was a really good publishing year for local history. Many of our favourite historians released books that would be great presents not just for local history buffs, but for family or friends who don’t know our city, but should.

Here’s my list, in no particular order:

Development Derailed: Calgary and the CPR, 1962-1964by Max Foran. In June of 1962, the Canadian Pacific Railway announced a proposal to redevelop part of its reserved land in the heart of downtown Calgary. In an effort to bolster its waning revenues and to redefine its urban presence, the CPR proposed a multimillion dollar development project that included retail, office, and convention facilities, along with a major transportation centre.

The Flood of 2013: A Summer of Angry Rivers in Southern Alberta by the Calgary Herald; foreword by Mayor Naheed Nenshi. The Flood of 2013 chronicles an unforgettable summer of angry rivers, unprecedented flooding and undeniable human spirit. This gift is a “double give” as a portion of proceeds from the sale will go to the Calgary Foundation’s Flood Rebuilding fund.

Calgary LRT Walks: South Stations and Northwest Stations by David Peyto (available from Peyto Lake Books. One of the best ways to learn more about Calgary, to appreciate and enjoy the city, is on foot. Calgary LRT Walks describes many walks from LRT stations and include information on routes, buses, bathrooms and eateries.

River throws a tantrum by Rona Altrows; illustrated by Sarah-Joy Geddes is about one boy’s perception of the flood and evacuation. It was published by Pages Bookstore and read at one of their story times by Mayor Nenshi.

Concrete Centenarian: The Life and Death of Calgary’s Canadian Government Elevator by Scott Jolliffe looks at the history and demolition of the old Government elevator in Ogden. It is richly illustrated with the author’s photographs. Concrete Centenarian is available at many of the bookstores mentioned below. It is also available directly from the Calgary Heritage Authority for $30. For the CHA, email elevatorbookinfo@gmail.com

Marion Nicoll: Silence and Alchemy by Ann Davis, Elizabeth Herbert, Jennifer Salahub. Marion Nicoll is a widely acknowledged founder of Alberta art and certainly one of a dedicated few that brought abstraction into practice in the province. Her life and career is a story of determination, of dedication to her vision regardless of professional or personal challenges. She was the first female instructor hired by the school that is now ACAD.

Unbuilt Calgary: A History of the City That Might Have Been by Stephanie White. There have always been great plans afoot for Calgary. Stephanie White looks at some of the plans and what they would have meant for the city.

Wild Horses, Wild Wolves: Legends at risk at the foot of the Canadian Rockies by Maureen Enns. Ghost River Wilderness Area, located along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains in southern Alberta, is one of only three provincially designated wilderness areas in the province. It is in this beautiful, threatened and geographically remote area that Maureen Enns, a well-known artist, author, educator and conservationist, has come to discover an incredible world inhabited by wild horses, one of the region’s most elusive and iconic creatures.

Any one of these titles would make a great gift. Many of these books can be purchased at Chapters/Indigo but also check our local booksellers such as the Glenbow Museum Shop, Pages on Kensington, Shelf Life Books and Owl’s Nest.

Do you have a suggestion for a great local history book to give as a present? Please put your title in the comments and we'll add it to our list.

We're on Youtube

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

YouTube

We may be over 100 years old, but we’re not antiques yet. We have a new collection of Local History materials, not in a physical format, per se, but a wonderful collection all the same. On Calgary Public Library’s YouTube channel (yes, we do have a YouTube channel) we have uploaded a number of local history talks by some of our favourite local historians. We have just uploaded the series “Calgary Stories” recorded during our Heritage Weekend and featuring Harry Sanders, John Gilpin and David Finch each talking about a different aspect of Calgary’s history.

We have also uploaded our instructional program Research the History of Your House presented as part of the Century Homes project by members of Calgary Public Library’s Community Heritage and Family History department, an archivist from the City of Calgary, Corporate Records, Archives and a librarian from the Glenbow Museum, Library and Archives. It is a great resource for anyone interested in researching buildings or the people who lived in them. Check it out.

We are very excited to be able to have these available for our customers and anyone else who is interested in the history of the city. But the YouTube collection is not just about history, there are other videos available as well, including the wonderful talk given by Lawrence Hill for the launch of One Book One Calgary and talks by other authors who have visited Calgary Public Library. If you missed Jo Nesbo or Guy Gavriel Kay you can check out their presentations as well. We are constantly adding recordings, so visit early and visit often!

Pets in Your Family Tree

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

Dad and Peggy the dog

My Dad and his dog Peggy, 1931

Some people love their pets to the point of distraction. I may fall into that category (well, not quite) but I was tickled by some of the recent information I’ve found in my genealogical travels. What triggered this (no pun intended) was a search in findmypast.ie (this is a private, fee-based). I turned up tons of Sheridans and on further examination found that they were listed because they had licensed their dogs. Yes, dog license registrations for parts of Ireland are on Find My Past!

One might wonder what could possibly be gained by knowing that great uncle James owned several sheep dogs and a mastiff. Well, the first thing we would know is that great uncle James was a sheep farmer (granted, not a huge leap of imagination given that the man lived in Donegal, but still.) However, we have found the place where great uncle James lived and in Ireland, where any record is a good record, that is a very important piece of information.

Once I’d found these registers, I had to explore further. Most of the licenses are for working dogs like sheep dogs and terriers, some are for racing dogs—which is what I was hoping to find for the Sheridans who raised great racing dogs—but some are a little harder to fathom, like Mr. Coll in Rathmullen who owned two black poodles. Yes I know poodles are actually a sporting dog, but in a sea of terriers and sheepdogs, the poodles do say something about the man, don’t you think?

Another indication of the importance of pets in our lives is their inclusion in the census records. I was reading one of the many blogs that I regularly peruse and came across the story of Bobs, the black cat, who was enumerated in the 1911 British Census. It appears that in Britain, the householder filled out the census form, unlike in Canada, where people were enumerated and their names put on a list. I had to pursue this further and came across another posting, this time for a dog that listed not only her name but that she was a “faithful Irish terrier”—hence the name Biddy, the fact that she was a “demon on cats and vermin” and that she was 11 years old.

Again, this says as much about the person who owned her as it does about Biddy and it reminded me of visiting my husband’s aunt who kept a small Parson’s terrier on her farm in Cavan. He was a charmer and my husband mentioned this fact to his aunt who said “Aye, and he’s a great ratter” driving home the vast difference between her rural life and our, more sheltered, urban one.

So, scoff as you may about the keeping of seemingly useless records—there is no such thing in genealogical research.

Building Curiosity

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

James McMenamin

'Building Curiosity'

The Calgary Education Centre

by James McMenamin

The preservation of our built heritage involves many people and many partnerships. We are very lucky, here at the Calgary Public Library, to have many good friends and partners in our work to collect and make available material that furthers the cause of heritage preservation in the city.

One of our partners to this end is the Calgary Heritage Authority. We are proud to join with them in launching a new collection of photographs intended to create a visual record of the buildings and landscapes included in the City of Calgary’s Inventory of Evaluated Historic Sites.

 

Photo by James McMenamin

Eamon's Camp by James McMenamin

City of Calgary Heritage Inventory Collection, ECP JM 018

These photographs are an important part of the historic resource documentation process. They will be readily available to all interested researchers and will give them access to detailed building information that might otherwise be lost, particularly if the building has been demolished. The initial collection is by photographers James McMenamin and Michael Knudsen. It offers a detailed look at three important buildings in Calgary’s history: The Harvey Block, The Barron Building and Eamon’s Bungalow Camp.

 

Harvey Block

Harvey Block by Michael Knudsen

City of Calgary Heritage Inventory Collection

 

James McMenamin is also exhibiting at the Kasian Gallery at the University of Calgary. The exhibition ‘Building Curiousity’ is a visual record of a very unique space, the brutalist Calgary Education Centre. It includes interior and exterior views and the ideas generated by MoDA Architecture, Nyhoff Architecture and SPECTACLE for the reuse of the building. The research work of Lindsay Horan, Leanne Junnila and Phil Wilson will also be displayed.

'Building Curiosity' also features photographs of other spaces that were ripe for reinvigoration. A public reception will be held on Friday November 22 from 6:00 to 7:30 PM at the Kasian Gallery, which is located in the Faculty of Environmental Design, room 2145 of the Professional Faculties Building on the University of Calgary campus.

Lest We Forget

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

 

PC 1478

I.O.D.E. War Memorial in front of Memorial Park Library, ca 1920s

Postcards from the Past, PC 1478

 

Next Monday is Remembrance Day. It is the time of the year when we pay homage to those men and women who served our country. A great way to honour our military ancestors is to tell their story. I’ve pulled together a few sources to help you access information about Canada’s military.

I was recently made aware of couple of new databases that include information about our military ancestors. Last night the Jewish Historical Society of Southern Alberta launched its new database, Southern Alberta Jewish Veterans of World War I & II. The database aims to include those Jewish veterans of the two World Wars who spent a part of their lives in Southern Alberta.

The second database is of veterans of a much earlier war. The War of 1812 Veteran Graveside Project will provide a database of biographical information on thousands of veterans of the War of 1812. There is currently no national recognition for these veterans and many Canadians are unaware of the importance of this war to the founding of our country. The research for this database is done by historians, students and other interested parties. If you have an ancestor for whom you would like a graveside marker you can apply through the site.

There is a wealth of information for researching your military ancestor in Canada. AncestryLE (accessible at your Calgary Public Library branch) has a great selection of Canadian military records including selected records of soldiers who died in WWII, militia lists, lists of prisoners held by the Royal Navy in Canada at the beginning of the 19th century, and Canadian War Graves Registers, just to name a few.

 

PC 1590

Four Soldiers in Uniform in Calgary, ca 1915

Postcards from the Past, PC 1590

There is also very good access to military records through the Canadian Genealogy Centre. Records there date back to the French Regime and include links to war diaries and loyalist information. There are also service records from WWI and for those killed in action in World War II, as well as records from the rebellions and the Boer War.

Included in this treasure trove of military records is information about the Black Loyalists. This provides a great segue to our One Book One Calgary launch this Friday, November 8 where we will kick off the event with author Lawrence Hill and The Book of Negroes. Among the information provided under “Loyalists” in the military records at Library and Archives Canada is a link to the actual Book of Negroes which gave the novel its title. This list contains the names and information about many Black Loyalists and is a great resource for anyone researching their ancestors or anyone who is interested in the hidden history of the Black pioneers. Keep an eye on our website or check our program guide to find out about the great programs we have lined up to celebrate One Book One Calgary.

15th Light Horse Band

Postcards from the Past, PC 1264

PC 1264

Scary Calgary

by Christine H

AJ 1273

Fire Hall Number 3/Inglewood Community Association, ca 1960s

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 1273

Hallowe’en is nearly upon us. I know that because it snowed this weekend and it’s cold outside. What would hallowe’en be without frost on the pumpkins? So with the cold weather, the approach of hallowe’en and the success of our Century Homes ghost tour on Saturday, I thought I’d have a look at some of the favourite ghosts haunts in Calgary.

Even though our city is relatively young, in the scheme of things paranormal we do have our share of strange and inexplicable happenings. Inglewood, as it is one of the oldest communities and still has a fairly good stock of original buildings, seems to be a focus for supernatural activities. One in particular is the old Fire Hall #3. This Fire Hall was built when Captain James “Cappy” Smart saw a need for emergency services in the quickly growing east end of the city. The members of the fire department were very much a part of the community and kept pets, in addition to the horses that pulled the fire wagons. One of these pets was a beloved monkey named Barney. Accounts vary but Barney met a bad end and was buried, on the grounds of the fire hall, in a specially made casket. Could this have been because Captain Smart, in addition to being one of our first fire chiefs was also one of the provinces first undertakers? However it happened, the ghost of Barney is thought to inhabit the old fire hall which is now the Hose and Hound Pub. Strange “monkey-business” takes place in the kitchen, with pots flying and ovens opening on their own. Barney is not alone, as a horse named Lightning, who lost his life in a fire, also makes the pub his home. His hoof beats are sometimes heard in the hallway.

AJ 0308

Gaspe Lodge/Deane House, ca 1965

Alison Jackson Photograph Collection, AJ 0308

Deane House is another reportedly haunted home in the Inglewood area. The house was built for Superintendent Richard Burton Deane at Fort Calgary. It was moved to its present location in 1929. It eventually became a rooming house called the Gaspe Lodge. Rooming houses were notorious dens of iniquity (at least that’s what I was told when I was young) so it isn’t surprising that some unsavoury events took place. Stories abound about murders and suicides that have left the spirits of the dead restless and ripe for a haunt. There have been reports of floating torsos, smoking gentlemen and reappearing blood stains. The ghosts of Deane house, are benign, however, and cause no problems for the staff.

These are just two of a long list of buildings that are home to the ghosts of our city. Even our City Hall is believed to have two supernatural inhabitants. If you’re interested in more of Calgary’s haunted history, visit us in the Local History room at the Central Library. We have lots of stories, and maybe even a ghost or two.

Skull and books from istock

History and Kids: Have a Blast with the Past

by Christine H - 0 Comment(s)

PC 620

Stoney (Nakoda) Children on a Travois, 1922

Postcards from the Past, PC 620

Part of our Heritage Weekend this year is a program for young people at the Nose Hill Library on Sunday October 27 from 12 to 3 p.m. We have folks coming in from Heritage Park, Fort Calgary, Military Museums, Archaeological Society of Alberta Calgary Centre, the 78th Fraser Highlanders, Lougheed House, the Aerospace Museum, and the History Wrangler. There will be lots of stuff to see and do and it’s a great way to get our young people enthused about our history.

Getting young people interested in history can be somewhat challenging, although I find when we do school tours there are always a few students who think that a one hundred year old business directory is “sick” (for us oldsters, that means really cool) or who think the old maps are “killer” (also means good). I even had one young man tell his friend that, no, history wasn’t boring, it was “awesome”!

So, in many cases the interest is there, but sometimes isn’t tapped until they can get their hands on a buffalo skull, or an artifact from a museum, or until they hear the stories of the everyday people who made this province. That is what we are going to do at the Family Heritage Fair. So if you have a budding historian in your life or even if you’d just like to take the kids to see what’s neat at the library, pop in on Sunday and have a blast with the past.

 

CPL 103 15 01

Children's Story Hour at the Library, 1912

Calgary Public Library Archives: Our Story in Pictures, 103-15-01

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