Vintage Photos from the First Calgary Stampede

The first ever Calgary Exhibition happened back in 1886, when Calgary was little more than a stop along the CPR mainline and a North West Mounted Police fort. The exhibition was an opportunity for folks to share best practices for agriculture in the west and to showcase the best this part of the country had to offer. This became an annual tradition with attendance growing each year. The Calgary Exhibition and Stampede was the brainchild of Guy Weadick and greatly built on those early exhibition days. E.L. Richardson introduced Weadick to four prominent Calgary businessmen (George Lane, Pat Burns, A.J. McLean and A.E. Cross) who had the means to finance Weadick’s extraordinary vision for this event. Now known as the Big Four, these gentleman tasked Weadick with creating the “greatest thing of its kind in the world.”

The first Calgary Stampede took place in September of 1912 and had mixed success. Several days of rain, combined with uncovered grandstands, made for less than ideal conditions. The lack of infrastructure (no infield) and rules (no time limits) made for an unpleasant experience for many in attendance. Some would argue the highlights far outweighed the negatives though. The parade was a huge success, drawing some 80,000 spectators, which was double Calgary’s population at the time. The Duke of Connaught (who was the Governor General of Canada), his wife the Duchess of Connaught (Princess Louise Margaret), and their daughter Princess Patricia, all attended the parade and rodeo events to great fanfare. There were also several families from Treaty 7 Nations camped in Victoria Park, forming the original Elbow River Camp, which is still a staple of the Stampede to this day.

Since those humble beginnings the Calgary Stampede has steadily grown into the “the greatest outdoor show on earth”. Before heading out for your annual Stampede festivities this year take a look at these photos from the first event held back in 1912. It’ll give you a new appreciation for today’s modern Stampede and show you how deep our western roots really are. And remember it’s always Yahoo! not Yeehaw! Enjoy!

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Miss Fanny Sperry on bucking horse at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Bucking horse at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Saddle bronc riding at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Bronc riding at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Saddle bronc riding at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Cowboy being thrown at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Roping wild horses at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Steer roping, Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
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Calgary exhibition grandstand and racetrack, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
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Cowboys and horses in Calgary Exhibition and Stampede parade, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
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Felix Warren and stagecoach in Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
Steer roping at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
Bulldogging at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Alberta, 1912
Buffalo team and cart at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
Old Hudson’s Bay Company Trading post at Calgary Exhibition and Stampede grounds, Alberta, 1912
Ox team in Calgary Exhibition and Stampede parade, Alberta, 1912
Line up of contestants and officials of first Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Blackfoot shaman (medicine man) at Calgary Exhibition, 1912
Part of the crowd of 65 000 people in bleachers at the Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Visitors to first Calgary Exhibition having their picture taken in an automobile, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
Tipis at the first Calgary Exhibition, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
North-West Mounted Police veterans in horseback lineup at first Calgary Exhibition, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
Bull team in Calgary Exhibition parade, Calgary, Alberta, 1912
Parade at Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Colonel James Walker leading North-West Mounted Police veterans at Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Fox Tail, Sarcee and two Blackfoot, mounted at Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Group of ropers and riders at Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Group of cowgirls at Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Guy Weadick during the Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912
Miss Goldie St. Clair, world champion bucking horse rider, Calgary Exhibition, Alberta, 1912

The photos above were collected from the Glenbow Archives. Additional information can be found for each photograph on the Glenbow website by searching the identification number that is printed on each photo. There is also the option to purchase a high resolution copy. Stay tuned for additional posts featuring historical photos from across Alberta. We’d love to know what you think in the comment section below.

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About Tyler Dixon 119 Articles
Tyler is originally from Saskatchewan, and yes he cheers for the Roughriders, but don’t hold that against him as Calgary has been his home for the past eight years. He is a teacher working at a wilderness- based treatment program for youth working to overcome addiction. Tyler is also a volunteer with the GOT Parks initiative, which aims at reconnecting Canada’s youth with our national, provincial, and territorial parks. During his time away from work, Tyler enjoys outdoor activities, such as hiking, biking, and snowboarding, team sports, travelling, photography, spending time with good friends, and being at home with his wife and German Shepherd, Rome.