Friday 19 January 2024

January Fashion Friday

We hope everyone had a great New Years!
For this month's Fashion Friday we a have video by Prior Attire of getting dressed in a Second Bustle era dress. 

Note she is doing it all herself no maid required, upper middle and upper class ladies would have maids of course, but most modern ladies don't!

Here is a picture of Agnes Macdonald and John A. on their first trip across Canada on the new CPR showing Mrs Macdonald in such a dress.

The Victorian Society of Alberta









Watch the video at YouTube by clicking the title below.

Tuesday 16 January 2024

January ICE Book Tuesday

 Here is a special "Polar Vortex" supplementary Book Tuesday post from VSA member Marian Gibbard.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Beautiful Snow: The Ingalls Family, the Railroads, and the Hard Winter of 1880-1881

by Cindy Wilson, 2020

Author’s website with additional background information:

Readers familiar with Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books about her life as a settler in the 1880’s American West will recall the events of the cold, hard winter described in The Long Winter.  But how many of the events of the novel can be backed up with verifiable facts? How closely does the fictionalised winter of 1880-1881 align with actual historical, first hand data and accounts of life around the town of De Smet?

Cindy Wilson’s book, ‘The Beautiful Snow’, seeks out the answers to those questions utilizing local newspapers, railway archives and other primary sources.  The result is a fascinating and educational window into six months of (mostly winter) life for white settlers in what was then known as the Dakota Territory.

The book takes us through winter of October 1880 to April 1881 month by month, chronicling changes in the weather, events in various towns, and attempts by the various rail companies to continue with ‘business as usual’ or adapt to the changing conditions.  Excerpts from local newspapers, railway records, personal letters and other sources provide first hand accounts of the struggles and triumphs as people attempted coped with the uncooperative weather.

Supply chain issues, now so familiar to us in these recent times, caused just as much frustration and uncertainty then.  Communications suffered also, as the newspapers were unable to print and telegraph lines failed.  Rumours and speculation abounded, alternately stirred and discounted by the newspapers.  Travel was restricted, and at times dangerous, and yet people travelled anyways.  

There are multiple areas of interest covered by this book - the expansion of railways on the American prairies; winter frontier life and culture; the role of newspapers in settlement and boosterism; market forces, merchandising and the economy of the American West in the 1880’s; as well as the gaps and adjustments found between a fictionalised story and actual lived experience of a series of verifiable events.

I have found this to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.  It is not totally necessary to have read ‘The Long Winter’ by Laura Ingalls Wilder before reading ‘The Beautiful Snow’  but it would be helpful to at least be reasonably familiar with the events and characters.  Additional supporting information including more maps, the full text of some newspaper articles, relevant website links, and material for a book club study is found on the author’s website at

Additional reading:

The Long Winter by Laura Ingalls Wilder

Amazon link:

Tuesday 2 January 2024

January Book Tuesday

 We hope you all had a great Christmas and New Years!

For the first Book Tuesday of 2024 we have a collection of love letters from the 1880s.
Not just anyone's love letters but those between Sam Steele, Superintendent in the North-West Mounted Police at the time, and his fiancee, soon to be wife, Marie de Lotbinière Harwood.

They had met in the summer of 1888 following his return to Fort Macleod from the Kootenay Valley. They fell in love and became engaged in October. Harwood came from a highly respected Quebec political and business family that could trace its roots to seigneurial families of New France; in December, she returned to Vaudreuil, QC to prepare for their marriage.

The book is the correspondence of the two betrothed between Oct 1888 and June 1889.
A fascinating look at the West from opposite sides of the country. 

Talk about long distance relationships.

The Victorian Society of Alberta

The Engagement Letters of Marie Harwood and Sam Steele,
Oct 1888-June 1889

Edited by Connor J. Thompson
Published by the Historical Society of Alberta, 2023

In this book, Connor Thompson has transcribed, edited, and introduced the first months of their correspondence. The letters offer insight into the personal side of Sam Steele. Readers will be immersed in their expressions of love and affection. And as Steele and Harwood prepare for their marriage and future life at Fort Macleod, they discuss their families, their family business interests, politics and religious considerations, the social and political life within the NWMP, and the life and society of Fort Macleod, their intended home. Steele writes about the dances, dinner parties, social activities, and gossip at Fort Macleod. Harwood talks about her family’s perspectives on the NWMP, on her perception of life at Fort Macleod, and on their potential life together. At the same time, they discuss the potential for promotion with the NWMP, the political issues of the era such as the Jesuit Estates controversy, and business opportunities.

The collection will be invaluable to researchers, but it is also exciting and entertaining to just read these intimate, private, and enlightening letters.