Beauty pageant exhibit finally ready to take centre stage at the Provincial Archives of Alberta

Written by: Michael Gourlie, Government Records Archivist

As businesses and public facilities around the province slowly begin to reopen, Alberta’s museums, historic sites and archives are also excited to welcome visitors through their doors. And at the Provincial Archives of Alberta (PAA), a new exhibit 18 months in the making is finally ready to take centre stage in the gallery lobby. Prairie Royalty officially kicked off on June 10.

1948 Calgary Stampede Royalty. (Left to Right) Stampede Queen Gloria Klaver, and Ladies-in-Waiting Margaret Forsgren and Shirley Kemp. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, P5154.

Prairie Royalty explores the popularity of beauty pageants and competitions in Alberta in the decades after World War II. During this period, the coronations of young and accomplished women as Stampede Queens, Dairy Princesses, Queens of the Winter Carnival, and other local royals were highly anticipated events at community celebrations. More than mere beauty pageants, the competitions factored in community service as well as skills such as speaking ability, product knowledge, horseback riding and, for dairy princesses, their skills at milking cows.

Contestants for the Miss Snow Queen of the Canadian Rockies, 1956.  Left To Right: Nancy Knaut (Miss Camrose), Mary Basso (Miss New Westminster), Geraldine Rowe (Miss Penticton), Elizabeth Le Gras (Miss Calgary), Marina Lynch-Staunton (Miss Crowsnest Pass), Roberta Jones (1955 Snow Queen), Josephine Taborski (Miss Lethbridge), Donagh Webber (Miss Edmonton), Dalyce Smith (Miss Yukon), Elaine Swanson (Miss Medicine Hat), and Prim Heckley (Miss Jasper).  Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, PA270/6.

Inspired initially by a photograph of a Dairy Queen, development of Prairie Royalty took place steadily over a period of 18 months. Selecting the perfect images from the many beauty queens represented in the photographic holdings of the Provincial Archives was a difficult task, and the entire PAA staff pitched in to help narrow down the selection. With final images in place, the exhibit curator researched the images to understand their context more completely, including one involving a news story of a protest outside a pageant. Once the research and writing stage was completed, a designer created the perfect visual identity to capture the exhibit’s playful and nostalgic nature. After completing the installation of the framed images and other graphics in the gallery lobby, the exhibit made its big debut as soon as the PAA could open to the public.

Shirley Clark, 1968 Dairy Princess of Canada. Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta, PA4399.

One of the more interesting revelations from the research stage was that most individuals involved in these competitions later acknowledged that their fame was fleeting, and being a queen or princess was merely a brief phase in their lives and careers as teachers, mothers, lawyers, artists, activists, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.  In contrast to that perspective, there are those whose experience as prairie royalty has led to a lifetime of community involvement.  Since 1972, the Calgary Stampede Queen’s Alumni Committee, which includes past queens, ladies in waiting, and princesses, has worked with the Stampede organization to promote its events as well as to raise funds for children with special needs in the Calgary area.

Revisit that time when, just for a moment, an everyday Albertan could become Prairie Royalty.  The exhibit will be on display in the PAA’s gallery lobby at 8555 Roper Road until May 2022.  Admission is free. Please consult the PAA’s website at for the hours and operations. May Queens, Dairy Princesses, Rodeo Queens, and Snow Princesses – long may they reign!

The Big Four (Part 2 of 3)

The Big Four with HRH Edward, Prince of Wales at the EP Ranch, 1923
LtoR: Pat Burns; George Lane; Edward, The Prince of Wales; Archie McLean; and A. E. Cross.
(Provincial Archives of Alberta, A2658)

During the Centennial year of the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede, we are posting a short series about the Big Four and the geographical features named for them. The Big Four were the ranchers and businessmen that funded Guy Weadick’s 1912 wild west show and rodeo, which grew to become today’s Calgary Stampede. Part one of our series was posted on July 10, 2012 and featured Stavely area rancher George Lane and Lane Creek.  Today’s post will feature Nanton area rancher and Calgary brewer A. E. Cross and Cross Creek.

A. E. Cross: Rancher, Politician, Oilman and Brewer 

Alfred Ernest Cross was influential in many aspects of Alberta’s economy. Cross was born in 1861 at Montreal. He trained as a veterinarian and came to the North West Territories in 1884 where he was employed as a veterinarian at the Cochrane Ranche (now a Provincial Historic Resource). He left the Cochrane about a year later and started his own operation, the A7 Ranche, on Mosquito Creek, just west of Nanton. For health reasons, Cross returned to Montreal for a time. During this period, he maintained control of the A7, but he also apprenticed as a brewer. He returned to Calgary in 1891 and founded the Calgary Brewing and Malting Company and established a chain of brewery-owned hotels across Western Canada. He was active professionally and socially in the Calgary region, being a founding member of the Ranchmen’s Club, the Calgary Board of Trade and the Western Stock Growers Association. He was elected to the Legislative Assembly of the North West Territories in 1898, representing East Calgary. Cross contributed to numerous charitable causes and was a noted philanthropist in southern Alberta. He was also instrumental in establishing Alberta’s oil and gas industry; in 1912, he was a founding partner of Calgary Petroleum Products, which would discover gas at Turner Valley a few years later. Despite all of these accomplishments, Cross’ lasting legacy is in the ranching sector. By 1919, the A7 Ranche had grown to control over 25,000 acres and was one of the largest ranches, possibly even the largest, in Alberta. A. E. Cross died in 1932. The A. E. Cross House in Calgary is a designated Provincial Historic Resource. As of 2012, the A7 Ranch continues to be operated by the Cross family.

Cross Creek, a tributary of Mosquito Creek, is named for A. E. Cross. The creek flows generally north and enters Mosquito Creek in Section 15, of Township 16-1-W5, about 20 km west of the Town of Nanton. The creek flows through land that was owned and operated by A. E. Cross.

Historical recordings of Cross Creek are difficult to trace. Although a number of surveyors with the Dominion Land Survey (DLS) record the presence of a small spring fed creek in the general vicinity of Cross Creek, the creek does not appear on the DLS plans for Township 16-1-W5. However, on the plan for Township 15-1-W5, there is a feature noted as “Willow Creek” that corresponds partly to today’s Cross Creek. The name “Willow Creek” was likely abandoned in order to avoid confusion with the more substantial Willow Creek a short distance to the south.

In July 1938, a series of memos were sent between various officials and representatives of the Geographic Board of Canada (GBC) regarding the approval of names in the Stimson Creek region of southern Alberta. One of these memos concerned Cross Creek; F. P. DuVernet (a member of the federal topographical survey) suggested that the creek be named Cross Creek after “the well known family in the locality who owns or controls the land through which the creek flows.” The suggestion met the approval of the GBC, but concerns were expressed about getting the consent or opinion of the Government of Alberta. Alberta had not sent a representative to the GBC for most of the 1930s. The records of the Alberta Geographical Names Program do not include any communication with provincial officials in the 1930s, so it is not clear whether Alberta’s opinion or consent was ultimately secured. However, the name Cross Creek was officially adopted at the December 12, 1939 meeting of the Geographical Board of Canada.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator


National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 J/08 – Stimson Creek


50° 15’ 50” N & 113° 59’ 30” W (approximate location of head waters) to

50° 20′ 36″ N & 114° 03′ 30″ W (at confluence with Mosquito Creek)

Alberta Township System:

NE ¼, Sec 13 Twp 15 Rge 30 W4 (approximate location of head waters) to

SS ¼, Sec 15 Twp 16 Rge 1 W5 (at confluence with Mosquito Creek)


Flows generally northerly for approximately 21 km (10 km straight line) until it joins Mosquito Creek about 20 km west of the Town of Nanton. 

Additional Resources

More information about A. E. Cross and the A7 Ranche can be found at:

“Alfred Ernest (A. E.) Cross”, Calgary Business Hall of Fame, , available from

“A. E. Cross: Rancher and Jolly Brewer 1961-1932,” Trailblazers, available from

“About the A7 Ranche: History of the Ranche,” A7 Ranche, available from

The Big Four (Part 1 of 3)

On the morning of July 6, 2012, the 100th Calgary Exhibition and Stampede roared into life. On the west side of Stampede Park, rising from the seething mass of carnival rides, concession stands and humanity that is the Stampede midway is the Big Four Building. This building is named for the Big Four – the four Southern Alberta ranchers and businessmen who funded Guy Weadick’s proposed rodeo and wild west show in 1912. Intended to be a one-time event, the show and rodeo grew to become the Calgary Exhibition and Stampede. To say that the Big Four influenced Calgary’s popular culture would be a great understatement.

The Big Four with HRH Edward, Prince of Wales at the EP Ranch, 1923
LtoR: Pat Burns; George Lane; Edward, The Prince of Wales; Archie McLean; and A. E. Cross.
(Provincial Archives of Alberta, A2658)

However, the legacy of the Big Four extends beyond the boundaries of Stampede Park. They left their mark not only in Calgary, but on the geography of the Province of Alberta.  Today’s blog post is the first in a short series that will look at the Big Four – George Lane, A. E. Cross, Archie McLean and Pat Burns – and the places named for them.

George Lane: An American in Calgary 

George Lane was born in 1856 just outside of Des Moines, Iowa. From there his life story reads like an adventure novel. As a teenager he and his father searched for gold in the Montana Territory. He then worked as a scout for the United States Army and as a ranch hand before coming to Canada in 1884 as a foreman at the Bar U Ranch (now a National Historic Site). He left the Bar U three years later and set himself up as a cattle trader, often working in partnership with the Winnipeg-based cattle company Gordon, Ironside & Fares. Lane acquired a number of ranches in the Porcupine Hills region of southwest Alberta, including the Flying E Ranch (previously named the Victor Ranch), the YT Ranch and the Willow Creek Ranch; in 1902, Lane and his partners acquired the Bar U Ranch. Lane became known as one of the most successful cattle traders in Western Canada and at one point was raising nearly 20,000 head of cattle on these ranches and adjacent leased crown lands.

Unlike many of Alberta’s ranchers, who saw the arrival of homesteaders as a threat to their way of life, George Lane saw the shifting agricultural frontier as an opportunity. He experimented with irrigation and raised herds of draft horses for sale to the west’s new farmers. Most notably, he switched large parts of his land holdings from cattle range to grain farms, becoming, by 1915, one of Alberta’s two top grain producers.

Lane served a short stint as a Member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta, elected as a Liberal in 1913, but quickly resigning to make his seat available for a defeated cabinet minister. In 1919, Lane entertained Edward, Prince of Wales at the Bar U. The Prince was so taken with the region and the lifestyle that he soon purchased a neighbouring ranch, which became the E P Ranch (now a Provincial Historic Resource). In his later years, George Lane continued to promote settlement and investment in Alberta and occupied himself raising his prize winning Percheron horses. George Lane died at the Bar U Ranch on September 24, 1925.

Lane Creek, a tributary of Willow Creek, is named for George Lane. The creek flows southerly and enters Willow Creek in Section 6, of Township 14-29-W4, about 23 km west of the Town of Stavely.

In 1883, John Francis of the Dominion Land Survey, surveyed the Township 14-30-W4. In Sections 13, 24 and 25 he recorded a spring fed creek that was approximately six feet wide and contained about eight inches of water. Francis did not name the creek. The first official recording of the name Lane Creek appears to be on the 1902 edition of the Macleod Sectional Sheet (No. 74), printed by the Government of Canada. The creek flowed through a substantial part of the land controlled by George Lane. The section where Lane Creek joins Willow Creek was co-owned by Lane and his partners Gordon, Ironside & Fares.

Although in use for over half a century, the name Lane Creek was not officially recognized as the name for that stream until May 1957.

Written by: Ron Kelland, Historic Places Research Officer and Geographical Names Program Coordinator


National Topographic System Map Sheet: 82 I/04 – Claresholm


50° 14’ 22” N & 113° 58’ 52” W (approximate location of head waters) to

50° 08′ 28″ N & 113° 57′ 04″ W (at confluence with Willow Creek)

Alberta Township System:

SW ¼, Sec 7 Twp 15 Rge 29 W4 (approximate location of head waters) to

SW ¼, Sec 6 Twp 14 Rge 29 W4 (at confluence with Willow Creek)


Flows generally southerly from the for approximately 20 km (11 km straight line) until it joins Willow Creek about 22 km west of the Town of Stavely. 

Additional Resources 

More information about George Lane and his partnership with Gordon, Ironsides & Fares can be found in:

Evans, Simon M. “Lane, George,” Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online, edited by John English and Réal Bélanger, Vol. XV, available from

McCullough, A. B., “Winnipeg Ranchers: Gordon, Ironside and Fares,” Manitoba History, No. 41 (Spring/Summer 2001), accessed 9 July 2012, available from

The Butte Stands Guard: Stavely & District, Volume 1 (Stavely, AB: Stavely Historical Book Society, 1976), pages 14-20, 231-234.