Stampede History

In March 1912, Guy Weadick arrived in Calgary to pitch a 6-day spectacle titled the “Frontier Day Celebration and Championship.” Weadick, a successful vaudeville performer who had travelled throughout North America and Europe as a trick roper, envisioned a world-class rodeo competition that would celebrate the romance and culture of the “disappearing” Old West. He received support for the event he called the “Stampede” from four prosperous southern Alberta ranchers: A.E. Cross, George Lane, Pat Burns and A.J. McLean, collectively known as the Big Four. First held in September of 1912, the Stampede featured roping and bronc events with competitors from throughout the North American West. Women participated in the saddlebronc and trick riding competitions. Members of the Treaty 7 Nations participated in the events as well. The title of world champion bareback bronc rider went to Tom Three Persons of the Kainai (Blood) Nation who was the first person to stay on Cyclone, the famous horse unbeaten by 129 other riders before Three Persons rode him to a standstill. Despite the rainy weather, the first Stampede drew large crowds and was a success.

Due to the onset of an economic depression followed by the outbreak of the First World War, Weadick’s hopes of making the Stampede an annual event were dashed. But in 1919, the Big Four and Ernie L. Richardson, the Secretary of the Calgary Exhibition, called him back to the city to hold a Victory Stampede that would celebrate peace and the end of the First World War. Once again, the Stampede was a successful rodeo competition and western event.

In 1923, the Stampede joined with the Exhibition holding one event – the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede – in July. This was also the first year of the pancake breakfast, started by Jack Morton offering breakfast to visitors and locals alike from the back of his chuckwagon parked downtown. Within a few years, attendance broke 200,000 and the spectacle continued to grow into the Stampede we enjoy today. It remains a celebration of the Old West out of which Calgary grew and showcases the modern, multicultural and cosmopolitan city it has become. Like the Stampede, Calgary’s past and present are firmly rooted in the traditions of western heritage and values.

The SAM Centre

Thanks to a generous endowment from Calgary philanthropist Don Taylor, the Stampede will be opening the SAM Centre, a western heritage interpretive centre. It will be a permanent place for Calgarians and visitors to learn more about our history and heritage.

Stampede Archives

The Calgary Stampede Archives collects and preserves materials that help tell the story of the Stampede, its role in the community and western heritage and values from the mid-1880s to the present. Its collection contains digital images, souvenir programs, corporate records, artifacts and more. We are proud to make this information available to the public and extend our appreciation to the University of Calgary for digitizing materials as well as to the Alberta Lottery Fund's Community Initiatives Program for partially funding the project.

If you have historic items that you would like to donate to the Calgary Stampede Archives, or if you would like to conduct research in the Archives, please contact Historical Specialist Christine Leppard at cleppard@calgarystampede.com or 403-261-0407. The Archives are accessible five days a week, by appointment only.

The Calgary Stampede Historical committee

The Historical committee preserves, presents and promotes the history of the Calgary Stampede starting from its earliest days as a fair in 1884, to the first Stampede in 1912, all the way to present day. Its annual activities include: maintaining and creating exhibits on and off Stampede Park, assisting with the preservation of artifacts in the Calgary Stampede Archives and hosting historic events on and off Stampede Park. If you have a passion for history and are interested in joining the Historical committee, please contact the Calgary Stampede’s volunteer services.

Further Resources

The Heritage of Rodeo
Historic Images
Chronological History of the Calgary Stampede
Historic Stampede Park
Calgary Stampede Digital Archives
Further Reading