Book cover image for: Eye on the Future: Business People in Calgary and the Bow Valley, 1870-1900

Eye on the Future: Business People in Calgary and the Bow Valley, 1870-1900

Henry C. Klassen

$29.95 CAD / $34.95 USD (S)

496 pages, 90 illustrations

6 x 9 inches

978-1-55238-078-9 (Paperback)

978-1-55238-335-3 (Institutional PDF)

December 2002

Buy Now

About the Book

Meet the who’s who of business in Calgary and the Bow Valley during the late 1800 in a meticulously researched, yet eminently readable, history of Alberta economic development.

Calgary and the Bow Valley’s business climates were lively, competitive, and capitalistic in the late 1800s. Eye on the Future sheds light on the challenges of building and maintaining business in this area during this time of vast growth. It provides insight into how entrepreneurs, retailers, manufacturers, bankers, farmers, and ranchers pioneered a booming business world.

In this dynamic and readable study, Klassen considers the obstacles that faced business and civic leaders: how to promote the economic growth of the city; how to create demand for goods and services; how to finance transportation improvements such as streets, bridges, roads, and railways; and how to assimilate substantial social and political change. Weaving a strong cast of determined Albertans together with a study of the climate that supported growth and change, Klassen discusses the successes and failures of businesses in this region.

Ultimately, it is about how a few people—Isaac G. Baker, Agnes K. Bedingfeld, and James A. Lougheed—helped to create the conditions in which Calgary emerged as a city and the Bow Valley an important agricultural centre.

About the Author

Henry C. Klassen taught history for many years at the University of Calgary. He published two other books with the University of Calgary Press: Luther H. Holton: A Founding Canadian Entrepreneur and A Business History of Alberta.

Praise for Eye on the Future

Eye on the Future is a Who’s Who of Calgary’s (and the nearby rural hinterland’s) pioneer business class . . . With his superb command of the region’s history and archival sources, Klassen has produced a picture rich in intricate detail and nuance. No doubt, Eye on the Future will remain the classic reference on the first three decades of Calgary’s business history

—A.A. Den Otter, The Canadian Historical Review 

Klassen is a superb miniaturist. He deftly sketches the origins, the strengths and the foibles of scores of entrepreneurs who established the foundations of business activity in the Bow Valley during the last decades of the nineteenth century. Each cameo portrait glows with authenticity because it is based on meticulous archival research.

—Simon M. Evans, Western Historical Quarterly

The great strengths of Klassen’s approach are its inclusive view, the detailed face he is able to put on business, and his ability to see the opportunities and challenges of businesses from within the enterprise. Klassen is particularly effective in bringing previously overlooked businesspeople, like women, into his field of vision.

—H.V. Nelles, Business History Review 

Table of Contents

List of Tables

List of Illustrations




The Meeting Place

The Blackfoot

The Coming of Montana Traders
Hamilton and Healy’s Trading Post
Calgary’s Changing Business System

I.G. Baker and Co: American Enterprises in the Wagon–Row Era

I.G. Baker and Co, and its Network of Stores
Isaac Gilbert Baker and the Foundation of a Trading Company

Expansion in Montana
Trading in the Canadian Prairie Region
Establishing a General Store in Calgary
Survival and Expansion
Responding to the Needs of the Mounted People
Achieving Growth through Ties to Native People
Changing Natural Environment
Prosperity in the Mid– and Late 1980s
I.G. Baker and Co’s Relationship with its Main Competitor, Power and Bro.
Ongoing Commitment to Banking
Expanding Merchandise Sales
New Management at the Calgary Store
Sources of Beef
I.G. Baker and Co and Capitalism

Hudson’s Bay Company: British Empire in the Wagon–Road Era

Network of Trading Posts and Stores in Alberta
John Bunn and the Establishment of a Store in Calgary
Conflict between Richard Hardisty and Robert Hamilton
James A. Grahme and Calgary Business
Angus Fraser: New Manager
Charles J. Brydges and New Business Opportunities
An Uncertain Future

Charles J. Brydges’ Visit to Calgary

Rails and Marketing

Impact of the Canadian Pacific Railway
Overcoming Barriers to Inland Transportation
Richard Hardisty Responds to the Canadian Public
I.G. Baker and Co and the Canadian Pacific
Canadian Pacific and the Calgary Townsite
Business in Calgary After the Arrival of the Canadian Pacific
Coping with the Depression in the Mid–1880s
Business Opportunities during the Saskatchewan Rebellion

Peacetime Business

The Emergence of the Town of Calgary

Natural Advantages of Calgary
The Grid
George Murdoch: Harness and Saddle Maker
Isaac S. Freeze: A General Merchant
Specialization in Commerce
Rankin and Allen: Dry Goods Merchants
The Movement for Incorperation
Calgary’s Early Government
Hamlets, Villages, and Settlers in the Bow Valley

Creating Banking Services

Informal Private Credit Networks
Private Banks
Lafferty and Smith
LaJeune, Smith and Co

Lafferty and Moore: Women in the Banking Business
Chartered Banks
Imperial Bank of Canada
Bank of Montreal
Responding to the Calgary Government’s Financial Needs
Financial Environment

Building the Ranching Community

Canadian Pacific Stockyards
Land and the Rise of Big Ranch Companies in the Bow Valley

American Roots
Sever Winter of 1886–1887
Livestock Raising and the Natural Environment
Ranching in the Bow Valley: The Conrads, I.G. Baker, and the Harris Brothers
Cochrane Ranche Company
Small Ranchers
Osborne E. Brown: Elbow River Rancher
Arthur G. Wolly–Dod: Pine Creek Rancher
John Quirk and his Meidum–Sized Ranch
Improving the Canadian Pacific Stockyards

Maintatining the Family Farm

The Banister Family Farm at Davisburg
Farm Protest Movement in the Bow Valley

Emergence of the Calgary Market
Shattered and Fulfilled Dreams
Robert Findlay: Homesteader at High River
The Andrews Family Farm at Davisburg
James F. McKevitt: Midnapore Farmer

Farming at Davisburg: The David Suitor Family

Informal Economic Networks
Agricultural Societies and Fairs
Voluntary Associations in the Bow Valley
Farmers and the Natural Environment
Financial Problems
Kenneth Cameron: Okotoks Farmer
Politics and Progress

From Town to City

A Promising Place

Calgary: Southern Alberta’s Railway Hub

Making Funds Available to Settlers

The Great Fire

Postfire Calgary’s Business

Canadian Pacific Station

Business and Hotels

Sandstone City

Turning Business Ideas into Business Organizations

George Alexander and the Alexander Block

William Roper Hull: Meat Packer and Rancher
Peter A. Prince and the Eau Claire and Bow River Lumber Co.
Hutchings and Riley: Harness and Saddle Makers
Environmental Problems
Alexander Lucas and Alberta’s First City
Wesley F. Orr and a Young and Ambitious City

Department Stores and Mass Distribution

Recovering from the Great Fire
Mass Distribution in Fort Benton
Calgary’s First Department Store: I.G. Baker and Co
Credit and Cash Sales
Wholesale Division
Retail Division
Sale of I.G. Baker and Co’s Stores
A New Era in Department Store Business: Hudson’s Bay Company
Grand Opening
New Sandstone Department Store
Labour Relations
Rewarding James Thompson
Edmond Taylor: New Manager

Women in Business

Gender and Workforce

Janet Dewar and Dressmaking
Mary MacLeod: Dressmaker
Margaret Leishman: Milliner
Annie A Milder and the Millenary Trade
Frances Marie Carr: Boardinghousekeeper
Agnes Carroll and the Holy Cross Hospital
Annie and Jean Mollison and Braemar Lodge

Financing the Canadian Dream

The Canadian Dream
James A. Lougheed: Lawyer, Real Estate Entrepreneur, and Senator
Christina Kinnisten: Calgary Confectioner
Luey Dofoo and the Restaurant Business
Samuel and Helen Shaw: Midnapore Entrepreneurs

Sandy Watson: Pine Creek Farmer
Meopham Garder: Ranching in the Bragg Creek Area
James C. Linton and Books
James S. Mackie: Gunsmith and Bookseller
Service Businesses

Conclusion: Themes of an Era 1870–1900

New Technologies in Transportation and Communication
New Goods for Consumers
Business by Economic Sector