This Week in Western Canadian History
August 15 - August 21
August
19
1691

Canada is fortunate in that many of the men who first charted her unknown territories -- Champlain, Mackenzie, Thompson, and others -- kept meticulous records and detailed diaries so that today we can almost retrace their steps across the map. One of the more interesting records of exploration is that of Henry Kelsey, an employee of the Hudson's Bay Company for almost forty years, who kept a journal of his trip across the prairies between 1690 and 1692. Kelsey's diary was lost for over two hundred years until it was discovered in a library in Northern Ireland in 1926. Much of the diary is in somewhat poor doggerel, but in it, on August 19, 1691, Kelsey makes the first documented reference to the huge herds of buffalo that once covered America's great plains.

August
21
1853

In the spring of 1853, the Royal Navy's barque Breadalbane was called into service to carry supplies to Sir Edward Belcher's expedition to Canada's Arctic. Early in the morning of August 21, 1853, a slab of ice sliced into the wooden bow of the ship. Within minutes, the Breadalbane sank into the Arctic waters, where she remained under the polar ice for over 125 years. When she was found in 1980 she was the best preserved wooden ship ever found in the ocean. New techniques and technologies have been developed to study the wreck as she offers a unique opportunity to examine the effects of polar ice as well as providing valuable insights into arctic biology and geology.

August
20
1869

Surveyor's Camp Anticipating the transfer of lands from the Hudson's Bay Company to Canada in 1869, the federal government sent a crew to the Red River settlement to begin a survey of the area. The Indians and Metis of the colony were already resentful because they had not been included in any of the discussions of the transfer. When the survey crew arrived in Fort Garry on August 20, 1869, and began a resurvey of the settlement that ignored existing agreements, the situation quickly became inflamed and eventually developed into the uprising that became known as the Red River Rebellion.

August
18
1887

The Palliser Expedition of 1857-1860 was one of the major scientific and exploring expeditions organised to gain information on Canada's largely unexplored western territories. Under the leadership of John Palliser, the members of the expedition studied and described the natural resources of the region with particular reference to possible agricultural development. Their report advised against settlement. Although John Palliser died on August 18, 1887, his name survives, attached to the semiarid corner of southern Alberta and Saskatchewan that has become known as the "Palliser Triangle". Please see the "Palliser Map" on the Glenbow Library page.

August
17
1896

When George Washington Carmack and his two brothers-in-law, Skookum Jim and Tagish Charley, discovered gold on Rabbit (later Bonanza) Creek in the Yukon on August 17, 1896, it touched off a gold rush the likes of which the world had never seen. Word of the discovery did not reach the outside world until mid-July of the following year, when the steamer Portland docked in Seattle with two tonnes of gold in her cargo hold. At the time North America was experiencing a severe economic depression and unemployment was high. As the tales of sudden, and almost unbelievable, wealth spread, thousands of men, and a few women, started off on the long and arduous journey to the gold fields of the Klondike. Today, the people of the Yukon still celebrate Discovery Day on the third Monday in August.

August
18
1898

The Columbia Icefield, located between Banff and Jasper National Parks, is a vestige of the great icefields that once covered almost all of Canada. Containing about 30 distinct glaciers, it covers approximately 300 km sq. and is the largest accumulation of ice in the Rocky Mountains. There had been stories of giant peaks in the area since botanist David Douglas reported seeing them in 1827. Because of the isolation of the area, however, it was one of the last areas of the Rocky Mountains to be explored and the stories remained just that.

In the summer of 1898, British mountaineer Norman Collie set out to discover and conquer the fabled peaks. Although he did not find them, on August 18, 1898 he wrote of "... a vast icefield, probably never before seen by the human eye, and surround by entirely unknown, unnamed and unclimbed peaks." The discovery launched a new era for climbers and mountaineers and remains a high-light for visitors.

August
19
1913

Thousands of young men, mostly from the Maritime provinces, took advantage of the special one cent per mile rate for harvestors offered by the railroads to travel to Western Canada to seek employment. Local farmers' organisations were busy placing the men with farmers requiring labour to bring in the harvest.

August
16
1917

The Canadian Pacific Railway announced it would follow the government's strict new rationing orders and serve only "plain and nourishing food." The people of Canada were determined "to do everything possible to feed the brave men fighting for their country." All elaborate dishes were removed from the CPR menu, and Tuesdays and Fridays were declared meatless days.

August
19
1927

Shoppers in Calgary were advised to check all produce after a local store clerk discovered a tarantula in a bunch of bananas; another clerk found a small snake in a box of fruit. As storage techniques improved and consumers demanded more exotic fruits and vegetables, produce was imported from further and further away and sometimes came with unwanted "hitch-hikers."

August
19
1939

Local police officials advised Calgary feed stores to stop selling Indian hemp seed (from which marijuana plants could be grown) for any purpose. Although the growing of marijuana itself had been illegal for many years, customs authorities extended the ban to imported hemp seed. Farmers considered the plant an excellent windbreak and others used it to feed pet birds.

August
21
1947

There was a critical shortage of qualified nurses across Canada, although nursing schools and hospitals were graduating more nurses than ever before. Doctors in Calgary reported that the lack of trained nursing staff was making it difficult to combat the poliomyelitis epidemic in the city. The shortage of nurses was blamed on the increasing demand for skilled medical staff from industry. Canadian airlines, for example, employed only qualified nurses as stewardesses, and many young women believed that these jobs were more exciting and glamorous than jobs in hospitals. As well, more industrial and manufacturing companies were hiring qualified nurses in response to employee concerns about safety and working conditions.

August
19
1953

The Alberta government was quick to quash rumours that gamma globulin (believed to moderate the complications of polio) was being sold by physicians on the black market. Although several doctors were approached to sell the drug privately, the provincial Department of Health confirmed that all available supplies were controlled by government authorities.



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