Thursday 21 December 2023

Christmas 1914

 The Christmas truce of 1914.

James Prescott has collected some interesting letters for 1914.
Check them out at his website below.

May you all have a peaceful and Merry Christmas.
the Victorian Society of Alberta

Letters from the Trenches, Christmas 1914

From Jame's post.

Graham Williams, London Rifle Brigade:

 I was gazing toward the German lines when suddenly lights began to appear along the top of the German trenches -- these were Christmas trees with lighted candles burning steadily in the still, frosty air! Then our opponents began to sing "Stille Nacht, Heilige Nacht".  We thought that we ought to retaliate, so we sang "The First Nowell", and when we finished they all began clapping. The Germans would sing one of their carols and then we would sing one of ours, until we started up with "O Come All Ye Faithful" and the Germans immediately joined in singing the Latin words "Adeste Fideles". This was really a most extraordinary thing -- our nations both singing the same carol in the middle of a war.

 Captain Clifton Stockwell, Royal Welch Fusiliers, 26th December:

 It froze hard on Christmas Eve, and in the morning there was a thick ground fog. Strict orders had been issued that there was to be no fraternising on Christmas Day. The sergeant suddenly ran in and said the fog had lifted and that half-a-dozen Saxons were standing on their parapet. The Saxons were shouting, "Don't shoot. We don't want to fight today. We will send you some beer." A cask was hoisted onto the parapet and three men started to roll it into the middle of No Man's Land.

 We did not like to fire as they were all unarmed, but we had strict orders and someone might have fired, so I climbed over the parapet and shouted, in my best German, for the opposing captain to appear.

 A German officer appeared and walked out into the middle of No Man's Land, so I moved out to meet him, amidst the cheers of both sides. We met and formally saluted. He introduced himself as Count something-or-other and seemed a very decent fellow. We agreed not to shoot until the following morning.

He said, "You had better take the beer. We have lots." So I called up two men to take the barrel to our side. As we had lots of plum puddings I sent for one and formally presented it to him in exchange for the beer.

Sunday 10 December 2023

Once Upon a Christmas Ramble 2023

 Yesterday, Saturday Dec 9 2023, we had a wonderful Flâneury (ramble) through Calgary's Heritage Park during their annual "Once Upon a Christmas" event.


We were able to attend for free courtesy of the members of the Heritage Park Telegraph Club who kindly donated their volunteer passes.  

We were joined by members of the Alberta World Wars Living History Association and spent the gorgeous winter day soaking up the old time Christmas atmosphere.

Then during then evening we attended the Airdrie Festival of Lights "Victorian Skating Party" as guests of the Nose Creek Valley Museum. The unseasonably warm weather prevented any skating due to lack of ice, but the previous days snowfall made it a magical night.

We even managed to do a passable job of singing Victorian Christmas Carols for the attendees.Thank you to everyone who joined us and the organizers who make these events so special.

More pictures of our rambles are below the break.
There are tons more on our Facebook and Instagram pages

Have an enjoyable Festive Season!
The Victorian Society of Alberta.

Tuesday 5 December 2023

December Book Tuesday

Tis the Season...

For Ghost Stories?!?

Here is a collection of Victorian Ghost stories to read around the tree this festive season.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Sir Walter Scott et al
Edited by Tara Moore.

The first-ever collection of Victorian Christmas ghost stories, culled from rare 19th-century periodicals

During the Victorian era, it became traditional for publishers of newspapers and magazines to print ghost stories during the Christmas season for chilling winter reading by the fireside or candlelight. Now for the first time thirteen of these tales are collected here, including a wide range of stories from a diverse group of authors, some well-known, others anonymous or forgotten. Readers whose only previous experience with Victorian Christmas ghost stories has been Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol" will be surprised and delighted at the astonishing variety of ghostly tales in this volume.

"In the sickly light I saw it lying on the bed, with its grim head on the pillow. A man? Or a corpse arisen from its unhallowed grave, and awaiting the demon that animated it?" - John Berwick Harwood, "Horror: A True Tale"

"Suddenly I aroused with a start and as ghostly a thrill of horror as ever I remember to have felt in my life. Something -- what, I knew not -- seemed near, something nameless, but unutterably awful." - Ada Buisson, "The Ghost's Summons"

"There was no longer any question what she was, or any thought of her being a living being. Upon a face which wore the fixed features of a corpse were imprinted the traces of the vilest and most hideous passions which had animated her while she lived." - Walter Scott, "The Tapestried Chamber"


Friday 17 November 2023

November Fashion Friday

This month as winter starts to bite we have something for the Gentlemen.
From the awesome Prior Attire on YouTube.

Stay Warm
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Saturday 11 November 2023

The Eleventh Hour of the Eleventh Day...


Lest we forget.

Photo by Neil Zeller

It is important to note that today as we remember those who sacrificed themselves in service to Empire and in response to the commands of their Kings and countries, that we must also remember that ALL the men and women who participated in WWI were "Victorians" and those who served in WWII were mostly "Edwardians".

These two titanic conflicts changed the worlds of these people in unimaginable ways. For the world of neither the Victorians nor the Edwardians, as we tend to study and re-create it, remained when the smoke and dust settled.

Not only did hundreds of thousands of them die, but the very cultural structures in which they had grown up were swept away.

In 1914 a farmer in Western Canada, a fisherman on the Coasts, a labourer in the factories of Eastern Canada, or a miner in the far north, went when their King called because that was what one did.
105 years ago when the guns fell silent at 11:00 am on November 11th, 1918, they did not know that everything had changed forever but they hoped that at least war was done with.

Alas their children found that was not true.

There are none alive now who remember the world of WWI and very few indeed that remember WWII.
We owe it to them that WE remember, we also owe their World, the Victorian and Edwardian World we celebrate, that it not be forgotten either.

Lest we forget.
God Save the King!


Wednesday 8 November 2023

Indigenous Veterans Day

 Each November 8th we celebrate and honour the contributions of our Indigenous brothers and Sisters to Canadian's war efforts.

This year's entry comes courtesy of the Lethbridge Historical Society's Facebook page.

The Victorian Society of Alberta.

Indigenous Veterans Day, 2023

Each November 8 is Indigenous Veterans Day, which is marked each year to honour the important contributions of Indigenous Peoples in service to Canada. It is part of Veterans Week that leads up to Remembrance Day.

There are many incredible Indigenous veterans from across southern Alberta and this year we highlight Maisstooina (Joe Crow Chief) who, with his brother Nick King, served in the First World War. Their older brother, Bumblebee, tried to enlist but was not accepted into the military.

Maisstooina’s attestation papers note that he was born in 1894 and worked as a labourer prior to enlisting. He enlisted on 15 July 1916 at Macleod, at the age of 22. He enlisted with the 91st battalion and served overseas in the 50th battalion. While overseas, Maisstooina served at many important First World War battles, including Vimy Ridge, and was wounded on 9 September 1918. He was discharged 6 June 1919.

These are the basic facts which can be discovered in his First World War personnel records – just the bare facts.

Fortunately, in 2020, Elder Charlie Crow Chief, Maisstooina’s son, was interviewed by Tim Kalinowski of the Lethbridge Herald (article ran 7 November 2020, Lethbridge Herald).

This interview provides much more detailed information about Maisstooina’s service, including that the two brothers made a pledge to each other prior to enlisting.

“The two men went to a local Sundance together in their white buckskins. On that day in 1916, Joe rode into the Sundance on a white horse and his brother, Nick, on a black horse. The two men vowed to each other when they returned after the war one day they would go to another Sundance, and this time Nick would ride the white horse and Joe the black.” This they did in 1920.

The article also provides details of Maaisstooina’s time in combat:

“One of these night raids almost cost Joe his life when his squadron came under attack from enemy mustard gas shells. Joe was the only survivor. He had lung problems for the rest of his life as a result of this 10month, prolonged exposure on the Western Front to various gas attacks.” (7 Nov 2020)

As well as of his bravery and actions at Vimy Ridge. His “was one of the first in his battalion to make it over the top. His backpack was shredded from constant fire and the heel of his boot had been shot off by the time he got there, but nonetheless Joe and his sergeant managed to get around and in behind the German defences.”

“The sergeant and my dad went right up to the barricade behind the snipers, and when my dad got on top he did the (Blackfoot) War Cry, and the Germans dropped their weapons.’”

As with so many veterans, Maaisstooina had difficulty speaking about his time in combat and would often tell his grandchildren that “he just took care of the horses.”

“When Joe returned to Canada he simply abandoned his unit in Medicine Hat and later became a farmer.”

Maaisstooina passed away on 27 July 1976. Nick King passed away in June 1957.

The photograph shows local Indigenous soldiers in the First World War.

Photo: L-R back row: George Coming Singer; Joe Crow Chief; Dave Mills; George Strangling Wolf; Mike Foxhead (Siksika).
L-R front row: Nick King; Harold Chief Moon; Sergeant Major Bryan; Joe Mountain Horse; Mike Mountain Horse.

Tuesday 7 November 2023

November Book Tuesday

This month's great review comes from VSA member Marian Gibbard!

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Butchering Art:
Joseph Lister’s Quest to Transform the Grisly World of Victorian Medicine

by Lindsey Fitzharris

Published:    2017
Time Period: 1850-1875 

To fully appreciate modern medicine, it is helpful to have some understanding of historical conditions.  The Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris will, without a doubt, leave you with a deeper regard for the current system, no matter what its flaws may be.

The book follows a young medical student, Joseph Lister, through his developing career as a surgeon in England and Scotland at a time when neither anaesthetics nor antiseptics were well known. The reader is introduced to the bloody and brutal realities of the Victorian operating theatre where a patient's odds of surviving surgery were low, and the odds of surviving the recovery wards were even lower.

Simultaneously fascinating and horrifying, this is not a book for the faint of heart or weak of stomach. The sights, sounds and smells of Joseph Lister’s world are, not infrequently, deeply disturbing and the author does not hesitate to acquaint the reader with uncomfortable realities. Even so, a sense of compassion and empathy is apparent - the author is a clinical observer, unflinchingly describing horrific injuries and their treatments, but always aware of the underlying humanity of the patient and never crossing over into becoming merely a voyeur, revelling in the blood and gore.

I would recommend this book, but with caution - not everyone will appreciate the somewhat gruesome subject matter.  I think this book will leave anyone with a deeper appreciation for the good parts of the modern medical system, and a feeling of deep relief that things could be so much worse.

Tuesday 31 October 2023

Happy Halloween!

On this spooky day we have a fascinating article from the Blog of Heritage Park in Calgary about the history of Halloween in the West.
A vintage halloween postcard featuring an illustration of a young boy running away from a jack o' lantern

The history of Halloween in Western Canada goes back to the influx of norther European settlers in the 1800s. And many Halloween traditions we take for granted first appeared here, in fact the very first recorded use of the term 'Trick or Treat" is in a 1927 newspaper article from Blackie Alberta!





Well worth checking out.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

From Tricks to Treats: Western Canadian Contributions to Halloween

Two vintage halloween postcards. One featuring a witch under a full moon with bats flying around. The other featuring an illustration of a dancing jack o' lantern and candle

In the mid-1800s, a wave of Irish and Scottish immigrants settled in North America. Shortly thereafter, references to a bewitching October celebration, now known as Halloween, began appearing in the historical record. Canadians, particularly, have embraced the ghostly holiday ever since. Arguably, it was cities in the Western provinces that established the quintessential Halloween traditions we delight in today. In fact, Albertans specifically could be responsible for transforming Halloween from a night of trickery to a night of treats!  

When first observed in Canada, All Hallows Eve was often characterized as a time of mischief and pranks. So much so that Halloween was also called ‘Cabbage Night’ or ‘Cabbage-Stump Night’ as it was common to throw cabbage stalks around your neighbourhood. Other Halloween high-jinks included breaking windows, stealing front gates off fences, and throwing flour onto passersby. This tomfoolery caused a lot of folks to fear Halloween night so much that they sent postcards reminding their loved ones to be wary in October.  

Beginning in the Canadian West, however, that fear slowly began to be eclipsed by Halloween fun! The first recorded case of children dressing up for Halloween in North America was reported in British Columbia on November 2nd, 1898. The local newspaper, the Vancouver Daily World, recounted that:  

“The young people of Vancouver have inaugurated an innovation in the manner of celebrating Hallowe’en night. It is that of paying friendly visits to the residences while disguised. The habit, if properly followed out and observed, is a harmless one. Everywhere they were warmly received and hospitably treated.” 

Continuing to innovate in the following century, the phrase ‘Trick or Treat’ is actually a Canadian-ism. According to etymologist Barry Popik, the oldest recorded use of the full phrase ‘Trick or Treat’ was printed in Blackie, Alberta, a small hamlet only 65 kilometers from Heritage Park! It comes from a 1927 edition of the local newspaper and reads:  

“Hallowe’en provided an opportunity for real strenuous fun… The youthful tormentors were at back door and front demanding edible plunder by the word ‘trick or treat’ to which the inmates gladly responded and sent the robbers away rejoicing.”

Continued at Heritage Park's Blog.

Friday 20 October 2023

October Fashion Friday Corsets

 One of the must have undergarments of Victorian and Edwardian times was the Corset.
These are essential not only for creating the required fashionable silhouette but also for support. Ladies used them in all walks of life every day and not everyone had the luxury of a maid or helper to get laced up!

Today we have two videos on Corsets.

The first video is by Prior Attire and shows an example of getting into a Victorian corset unaided.
The second is a great video discussing the pros and cons of wearing a Victorian corset by a lady who wears one nearly every day!

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday 3 October 2023

October Book Tuesday

 For this first Book Tuesday of the Fall season we have another review by VSA member Marian Gibbard.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Triumph and Tragedy in the Crowsnest Pass   
by Diana Wilson, ed.   

Published:    2005

Covering the time period: mid 1880’s to 1910’s

The history of railroads and coal mines in the Crowsnest Pass area is a classic blend of Victorian ambition, daring, and social ambitions punctuated at regular intervals with small and large scale disasters and tragedy, all set in the beautiful and rugged landscape of the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

I liked that this book wasn’t over sensationalised or dramatised, and recounted events thoroughly and factually but with evident compassion for the lives of the people impacted. The book provided excellent background information and context for a recent short and unexpected trip to the Crowsnest Pass.

If you are unable to visit the Crowsnest Pass area, or are travelling through and cannot stop, this book will give you a greater appreciation for the recent history and people of the area.

More information and places to visit in the Crowsnest Pass is available at the websites below:

Frank Slide Interpretive Centre:

Leitch Collieries Provincial Historic Site:

Crowsnest Museum in Coleman, Alberta:

Crowsnest Pass History and Heritage

Saturday 30 September 2023

Truth and Reconciliation Day



Also called "Orange Shirt Day" this day is a day to remember those children lost, the damage done to the diverse cultures and communities across this land, and to pledge to do better for our Indigenous Brothers and Sisters.

Information on Truth an Reconciliation Day is here.

The 94 Calls to Action are here.

Tuesday 5 September 2023

September Book Tuesday

 Well so much for Summer, sigh.

This Month's Book Tuesday comes courtesy of VSA member Marian Gibbard.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Motoring Costume
by  Andrew Lane

 Published in 1987 and covering the time period of 1900 to 1910, this short (32 pages) overview of what people wore while travelling in the increasingly popular motor cars of the early 20th century is fascinating.

The many photographs and illustrations provide excellent examples for those who wish to create their own, and the accompanying text provides sufficient detail and context to further understand the logic behind choosing such garments.

An quick and enjoyable read with plenty of material to spur further research if you are so inclined.

Monday 4 September 2023

Happy 118th Alberta!


Saturday, September 2, we attended an event at the Badlands Historical Centre in Drumheller. 

There was a cake in celebration of Alberta's 118th birthday, barbecued burgers in the parking lot and a silent auction, proceeds going towards a new roof for the facility.
We had the use of a desk and display table to put out artifacts and books pertaining to life in Alberta from 1880-1914 as well as the coal mining history of the area. 
It was delightful to speak to the public and share our knowledge of history.
The Badlands Historical Centre is located conveniently in downtown Drumheller. The displays are varied and informative, focusing on Drumheller history with coal mining,  prehistoric history, plus a display about the RCMP, and one on local citizens who were very artistic. 
All in all, it was a great way to spend a Saturday to help celebrate our provinces 118th birthday!
If you'd like to visit the Badlands Historical Centre yourself, they can be found at 335, 1st St East in Drumheller Alberta
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday 18 August 2023

August Fashion Friday

A question I am often asked is what colours are there in the photos? 

So for this month's Fashion Friday we present two images and a video to keep in mind when looking at historic photographs from our period.

Clothing, buildings, uniforms etc are all shades of grey of course.  However, unlike modern Black and White photos (using a system known as Panchromatic) the original photographic systems did not react to all colours the same way!

These two images give you a good idea of what colours look like in the original photos.
Note the comparison with normal Black and White in the center of the top image and the right of the bottom.

Also keep in mind that most early tintype and glass plate photos are mirror images so they are backwards from what one would expect.

A good example of how the colours don't always match up with what you would expect is this famous shot from the American Civil War of George Armstrong Custer and his friend who was a Confederate soldier.


Custer, on the right, has the typical dark jacket easily assumed to be Union Blue but, what colour are his uniform trousers?  

We know from colour lithographs of the time, and surviving examples, that they were fairly light blue. If we didn't already know that though it could easily be assumed to be grey like the Confederate's trousers.





Here is a video from VPS_Gettysburg found on Instagram, that shows some great examples.
There is a thriving Tintype photo scene for re-enactors in the States so lots of examples of the outfits in colour to compare with their tintype versions.

The Victorian Society of Alberta.


Wednesday 9 August 2023

Days of Yore 2023

 Another fantastic weekend of history in Didsbury Alberta!

Held on Saturday and Sunday Aug 5 and 6, 2023 at Rosebud Park in Didsbury the ninth edition of Days of Yore was a great success.  We were there along with historical re-enactor groups stretching from Vikings to WWII.

Members of the Victorian Society at DOY 2023
Victorian Society of Alberta Members at DOY 2023


Here is an awesome little video produced by the Edmonton House Brigade that captures the feel of the event pretty well.

Our camp was one of the largest again this year.

In addition to your editor's "Victorian Internet" Telegraph display, our camp included a WWI "Casualty Clearing Station", a period under canvas School Room, complete with portrait of Her Majesty and school books from the time, a laundry display and an active Croquet field rounded out our busy camp.

Another fantastic weekend.

Already planning and scheming for next year!

The Victorian Society of Alberta


Tuesday 1 August 2023

August Book Tuesday

 While everyone is getting ready for  Days of Yore, this months Book Tuesday is a cookbook from 1804.
A little early for our period but its 490 pages are filled with recipes that would still have been in use as "standard fare".
Available for download at the Internet Archive.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The housekeeper's instructor, or, Universal family cook : being an ample and clear display of the art of cookery in all its various branches ...

IN the primitive ages of the world, when the preservation of human existence was supported only by the simple and spontaneous productions of Nature, Mankind were totally unacquainted with every mode which has been since discovered and adopted for the gratification of sensual indulgence. As time advanced, the people became more dispersed, and nations were formed in different parts of the known world, so improvement took place as well in the Art of Cookery, as in the common transactions of life.

Every age contributed, by additional invention. enjoyment, till at length those, were simply used in their natural hate, became refined, and were rendered, by art, not only pleasing, but deliciously grateful to the palate. The means of acquiring such indulgence for the subject of this work, which the writer has, for a great number of years made it his study to obtain, and which, he flatters himself, will be found so accurate, clear, and concise, as to render every person, who follows the directions given, so professed a Cook, as to produce reputation to themselves, by giving the most ample satisfaction to those for whom they provide.

In the execution of this performance, we shall proceed in regular gradation to describe the method of properly dressing every kind of provision, as Fish, Flesh, Fowl, &c. to all of which we shall subjoin the, manner of providing their respective Sauces, as also the proper mode of Carving each Joint, Bird, or Fish, with Neatness and Dexterity ; so that the Housewife will not only be complete Mistress of The Whole Art of Cookery, but may also acquit herself at the Table with Honour and Reputation.

We shall only farther observe, that this very ample Cohesion (which, exclusive of the common Course of Provisions) will contain every thing yet invented for the gratification of the Appetite, is presented to the public as the most complete in its Nature ever yet formed, the whole being the produce of Time, Study, and Experience. As such we lay it before our Readers, not doubting but our labours will be rewarded by the advantages they will receive from being perfectly acquainted with a complete knowledge of the Culinary Art in all its respective Branches. The Receipts for each Article are formed on so easy and cheap a Plan as to be within the Purchase of all Ranks of People.

N.B. A Copious Index also is added, whereby the Reader may, with Ease, immediately refer to any Article in this valuable Collection.

Friday 21 July 2023

July Fashion Friday

 While everyone is working on getting our Days of Yore camp ready to go an often asked question is how did Victorians dress during the heat of Summer.  Days of Yore is usually very hot indeed so we have to keep it in mind.

Gentlemen were allowed to dispense with coat and waistcoat when working. Although they usually kept those items close to hand in case the boss came by and when travelling back and forth to work. Ladies, however had more constraints due to "propriety" but also simply fashion. To get the correct fashionable silhouette requires many layers so how did they handle the heat?

This fashion business was less of an issue out here in the West of course, but the propriety element was certainly still there. The result was the "Little House on the Prairie" effect. The main anachronism in the TV style is that the mother is not wearing a corset, she almost certainly would have been as there was still a need for support.

The promo pic is also missing the needed bonnets that would have always been worn when outside.

Most photographs of the period show people "dressed up" for business,  travel, and simply being in public, not necessarily for everyday work around the house, yard or fields. So it is tougher to find what people generally wore in the heat of Summer.

However the reenactor community has re-discovered how to handle it and  here are several links to interesting discussions on that very subject.  


Victorian Clothing Through the Seasons

"During the Victorian era many layers of clothing were required to achieve a fashionable silhouette and women wore dresses all year round. These facts have helped to feed misconceptions about Victorian clothing and often overshadow the logical solutions Victorian women used to regulate their body temperature and stay comfortable regardless of the weather."

Lots of photos here.

Victorian Clothing and the Heat of Summer

Our ancestors didn’t know about air conditioning, and wearing only a camisole (aka t-shirt) and men’s trousers (aka pants or shorts) would have been beyond scandalous. They couldn’t even imagine NOT being dressed in a proper chemise, drawers and petticoats then the dress (usually skirt and bodice) on top.

That’s simply how clothing was worn in the 19th century.

PLUS…. and people forget this…. the fabric used was natural – cotton and linen. Thin fabrics that breathe and keep you cool in the heat.

The comments below this post have lots of insight to the practicality of Victorian styles to today's reenactors.

And finally a fun video on the "Old West".

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday 14 July 2023

Days of Yore Info

We are working steadily to get ready for Days of Yore Aug 5 and 6 in Didsbury Alberta.
Come and join in the fun!

 If you are looking for links on all of the awesome Days of Yore info here they are:
Days of Yore Website & Tickets -
Days of Yore Facebook page -
The Victorian Society of Alberta

Wednesday 12 July 2023

Trench Warfare on the Plains

A fascinating bit of History here.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Dubbed Manitoba's "Rorkes Drift".

"In July of 1851, the Metis and the Dakota of the Council of the Seven Fires met at the battle of Grand Coteau. This would be the first step towards statehood for the Metis and the beginning of the hardest period of history for the Seven Fires Council."



Sunday 9 July 2023

Getting started on the Prairies in 1890

 A fascinating video from the National Film Board collection.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday 4 July 2023

July Book Tuesday

 Summer has arrived and for this month's Book Tuesday we have a delightful pamphlet/book produced by the CPR in 1912, and available at the Internet Archive as a PDF.

Entitled "Eastern Tours Through the Canadian Rockies" it is a delightful little guide to enjoying a Summer trip across Canada, but concentrating on the Rockies. I am curious why the title is "Eastern Tours" since most people would consider the Rockies to be in the West, but marketers then and now tended to be obscure in their creativity ☺ However the tour does start in Victoria and goes East so that might be it although the text does not follow a direct route.

Worth checking out for a look at train travel in the Edwardian times.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Eastern Tours Through the Canadian Rockies.

From the Introduction:

THE discovery of a route across the Rockies 
for the Canadian Pacific Railway took 
twelve years, but never was labor be:ter 
rewarded. The last spike connecting East and 
West was driven thirty years ago, on Novem- 
ber 7, 1885, and the millions who have since 
traveled along this wonderful highway, cut out 
of the precipitous cliffs of the Fraser Canyon, 
winding under the snow-capped peaks of three 
vast ranges, crossing and recrossing foaming 
torrents deep down below — these millions have 
one unanimous thought that for sheer grandeur 
the Canadian Pacific Railway is without rival. 
It takes twenty-four consecutive hours on an 
express train to cross the Canadian Rockies. 
The wise man breaks his journey so that he can 
see it all by daylight, and to assist this praise- 
worthy intention, the Canadian Pacific was
constructed mountain hotels at convenient 
points along the line, where one may rest and 
perhaps spend some time exploring among the 
glaciers, riding on sure-footed ponies on the 
mountain trails, or climbing with experienced 
Swiss guides the peaks which prick the sky in 
such profusion. Sicamous is a half-way house 
between Vancouver and Calgary, and those 
who have no time to stop off elsewhere, but 
still wish to make an all-daylight trip through 
the mountains will find here a comfortable hotel. 

Lots of illustrations in this dense little book:


Thursday 29 June 2023

Friday 16 June 2023

June Fashion Friday

 For this month's Fashion Friday we have a video concerning protective clothes, outer garments that protected the regular clothes when working or travelling.
These garments were common in all places during Victorian times not just the "Wild West".

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday 6 June 2023

June Book Tuesday and Recipe test

For June's post the ever resourceful Marian Gibbard has prepared a wonderful combination Book  Tuesday and Recipe test!

Combining a tasty Picnic for One with links to lots of resources at the Internet Archive to get us inspired for our Summer.

The Victoria Society of Alberta


An Early Summer Picnic Lunch

A Google search for ‘Victorian picnics’ will soon overwhelm the curious explorer with extensive menus, numerous recipes and complex social etiquette instructions. I scaled the affair down to a simple outdoor lunch for one, and put together a basket of tasty late Victorian and Edwardian style food to enjoy on a beautiful May afternoon in my backyard.

The menu:

  • Cucumber sandwich
  • Ham sandwich
  • Rhubarb cake
  • Gingersnaps
  • Blackberries (purchased)
  • Roasted and salted almonds (purchased)
  • Raspberry vinegar
  • Lemonade

Picnic for One

The recipes:

Cucumber Sandwich

From the "North End Club Cook Book".

Ham Sandwich

Based on instructions for similar sandwiches, but using modern conveniences: store bought light rye bread spread with a grainy mustard, lettuce leaves, and thin sliced deli ham.

Rhubarb Cake

A simple cake, similar to some Victorian era recipes I have seen, but using a modern recipe.  Rhubarb is often of the first fruits or vegetables available in this area, and the first picking had arrived in my kitchen the day before this picnic, making for an unexpected but welcome addition to the menu.

The recipe came from the Western Producer, a farm/agricultural newspaper, May 26, 2022 edition. You’ll find article with the Old-fashioned Rhubarb Crunch Cake and three other rhubarb recipes on their website here:


Made from a vintage family recipe, which is very similar to this one found in the "North End Club Cook Book".  

Chill the dough overnight in the fridge before slicing and baking. Leave plenty of room between  the cookies to allow for spreading when they bake, and then let them cool for a few seconds on the cookie sheet before removing them.

Raspberry Vinegar

Sweetened vinegar based syrups are an excellent way to preserve strongly flavoured berries beyond their regrettably short season as fresh fruit. This was made last summer using an old family recipe which is very similar to the instructions found in multiple period cook books.

Raspberry Vinegar

  • 3 quarts raspberries
  • 1 quart vinegar (white)
  • Let stand in crock for 2 or 3 days, mashing raspberries thoroughly. Strain.
  • To 1 pint syrup add 1 pound white sugar. Let set in cool place, stirring frequently.
  • When sugar is dissolved, strain and bottle.

To make a drink, dilute the vinegar syrup to taste - usually a spoonful or two to a glass of cold water. Stir well, and enjoy.


Made using this Lemon Syrup recipe from the "White House Cook Book".  Originally published in 1886, the "White House Cook Book" went through numerous editions; this one is from 1908.

I had made the syrup last year, and put it up in pint canning jars. A dilution of 1part lemon syrup to 6 parts water seems to work well for this batch. Preferred dilution ratios will vary with personal taste and may vary between batches of syrup.

The sources:

The "North End Club Cook Book": a collection of choice and tested recipes. 1905. North End Club, Chicago, Illinois.

The "White House Cook Book": a comprehensive cyclopedia of information for the home, containing cooking, toilet and household recipes, menus, dinner-giving, table etiquette, care of the sick, health suggestions, facts worth knowing, etc.. Fanny L. Gillette and Hugo Ziemann, editors. 1908 edition.

The Western Producer. ‘Rhubarb among Mother Nature’s first garden offerings’. May 26 2022.

Personal collection of family recipes.

It was a fine repast indeed!

Monday 22 May 2023

Happy Victoria Day!

We hope everyone is enjoying the long weekend.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Friday 19 May 2023

May Fashion Friday

 For this month's Fashion Friday we present a very interesting discussion about how Victorians created the illusion of having such tiny waists.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Tuesday 2 May 2023

May Book Tuesday

This month we feature a review by VSA member Marian Gibbard

Thanks Marian

The Victorian Society of Alberta

Title:         Thunderstruck
Author:     Erik Larson
Published:     2006
The late Victorian and Edwardian era was a time of great change, both scientifically and socially.  Transportation and communication technology were advancing rapidly. Increased access to wealth and consumer goods was causing rapid shifts in established social structures. Against this background, Erik Larson paints the seemingly unconnected stories of two men. One, Guglielmo Marconi, a scientist and inventor grappling with natural forces he barely understands; the other,  Hawley Crippen, a struggling business man and devoted husband and lover.  Both are ambitious, daring, and facing long odds of achieving their dreams.  One of them will go on to become one of the great names in wireless communication, the other will go on to be executed as a murderer.

Extensively researched and with numerous footnotes, this book reads more like an adventure novel than a non-fiction selection.  More than just a dry recitation of facts and events, considerable effort has been put into describing for the reader the small details of scene, atmosphere, and personality that brings the characters and their settings to life.  The sights and sounds of the first, primitive wireless broadcast stations are brought to life without burying the reader in excessive technical details.

This was an entirely enjoyable read, and held my attention throughout.  I would recommend it to readers who want to know more (but not too much) about the development of intercontinental wireless communication, and also those who enjoy a good ‘true Victorian crime’ story.

“Snow began to fall and soon covered the clifftop. At night sparks from the transmitter lit the descending flakes. With each concussion a pale blue aura burst across the landscape, as if the transmission house were a factory stamping out ghosts for dispersal into the ether. Three-foot daggers of ice draped wires.”

    Thunderstruck by Erik Larson, p 233