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About Old Time Photos

Life During the Turn of the Century (1880-1905)

Cowboys of the American West | True Cowboys & the Canadian West | The History of Photography | Turn of the Century Fashion

True Cowboys, Ranching in Canada, and the Calgary Stampede

Over time, the cowboys of the American West developed a personal culture of their own, a blend of frontier and Victorian values that even retained vestiges of chivalry. Such hazardous work in isolated conditions also bred a tradition of self-dependence and individualism, with great value put on personal honesty, exemplified in their songs and poetry.

Fletch Fairchild was typical of the thousands of courageous young men who helped tame the Wild West but whose names and stories have since been largely forgotten. For every Wild Bill Hickok or Wyatt Earp immortalized by the dramatic exaggerations of dime novelists and sensationalistic journalists, the West had dozens of men like John Fletcher Fairchild, who quietly did their duty with little fanfare, celebration, or thanks.

In today's society, there is little understanding of the daily realities of actual agricultural life. Cowboys are more often associated with Indian-fighting than with their actual life of ranch work and cattle-tending. The reality was that, while cowboys were armed against both predators and human thieves, and often used their guns to run off people of any race who attempted to steal, or rustle cattle, nearly all actual armed conflicts occurred between Indian people and cavalry units of the U.S. Army. Actors such as John Wayne are thought of as exemplifying a cowboy ideal, even though western movies seldom bear much resemblance to real cowboy life.

Ranching in Canada has traditionally been dominated by Alberta. The most successful early settlers of the province were the ranchers, who found Alberta's foothills to be ideal for raising cattle. Most of Alberta's ranchers were English settlers, but cowboys such as John Ware — who brought the first cattle into the province in 1876 — were American. American style open range dryland ranching began to dominate southern Alberta (and, to a lesser extent, Saskatchewan) by the 1880s. Calgary became the centre of the Canadian cattle industry, earning it the nickname "Cowtown". In 1912, the Calgary Stampede began, and today it is the world’s richest cash rodeo.

Calgary Stampede Historical Timeline Calgary Stampede Poster 1908

  • 1884 Agricultural Society formed
  • 1886 First Calgary Exhibition held
  • 1889 Stampede Park was purchased from the Government of Canada
  • 1908 Dominion Exhibition held (Canada was then known as a Dominion of the United Kingdom)
  • 1912 Guy Weadick arrived in Calgary. He envisaged a Wild West Extravaganza, arranged financing from the "Big 4" (Lane, McLean, Burns and Cross) for $100,000 and in September 1912, the first Calgary Stampede was held - it was a success
  • 1922 Calgary Industrial Exhibition held
  • 1923 The Stampede hosted the first competitive Chuckwagon Races
  • 1925 The American silent film, titled The Calgary Stampede was released throughout North America. It was a Western about love, murder, and the rodeo. It included substantial footage of the actual rodeo competition at the Calgary Stampede. It helped make the Stampede known throughout North America.

History of the combined Calgary Exhibition and Stampede:

  • 1923 The Calgary Exhibition joined with the Stampede to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. From this point on, the term Stampede refers to the entire combined organization and related events.
  • 1953 Guy Weadick dies
  • 1964 The Young Canadians of the Calgary Stampede came into being
  • 1967-1968 The Stampede stretches from 6 to 10 days; its current length.
  • 1968 Additional land purchased to allow for Stampede Park expansion
  • 1971 The Calgary Stampede Showband is formed
  • 1976 Stampede attendance surpasses one million for the first time
  • 1982 Prize money for the rodeo is raised to $500,000
  • 1997 Completion of the $8.2 million permanent infield structure complete with 23 deluxe box suites and increased rodeo prize money announced
  • 2000 Attendance was 1,218,851; which was the highest so far for the Stampede
  • 2004 The rodeo prize goes from $500,000 to $1,000,000 to keep the Stampede on par with other major rodeos such as the Cheyenne Frontier Days Rodeo.
  • 2005 Attendance sets a new record through ten days at 1,242,928.
  • 2006 The rodeo is no longer sanctioned by the PRCA (Pro Rodeo Cowboy Association), or the CPRA (Canadian Pro Rodeo Association), and has become an invite-only rodeo event to the top competitors from the NFR (National Finals Rodeo), CFR (Canadian Finals Rodeo), and PBR (Professional Bull Riders) - a first in rodeo. Prize money for the six rodeo events is upped to $1.6 million, while the famous chuckwagon races is $1 million.
  • 2006 Attendance records are beat for the third year in a row at 1,262,518.

On To the History of Photography...