Stampede on Didn't get enough Calgary Stampede this year? Reminisce about years of Stampede past with the Mount Royal Archives and Special Collections

The Blaine Canadian Sports History Collection

The Mount Royal Archives and Special Collections is home to a wide range of Calgary Stampede-related publications, records, and artifacts spanning from 1912 to 2018. These can be found in the Rodeo Series, part of the Blaine Canadian Sports History Collection, a new addition to the Archives consisting of over 7000 published and archival items relating to the history of Canadian rodeo, hockey, football, baseball, and golf. This exciting collection was donated in 2019 by Calgarian Bob Blaine, an avid sports collector. The collection is a rich source for research into the history of Canadian sport.

Calgary Stampede program, 1960 (C0011-S4-0402).
Calgary Stampede programs (0401 to 0405).

The Calgary Stampede, advertised as the "Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth", draws crowds from all over the world. The first Stampede was held in 1912 and attracted over 80,000 attendees, double Calgary's population at the time. In recent years, the Stampede has brought in millions of visitors. The 100th anniversary in 2012 broke attendance records with 1,409,371 people attending the grounds. Background photograph: Grand Stand crowd on Kid's Day, July 10th, 1954.

Early Rodeo Events
Competitors struggle to stay mounted on a wild bronco for a least 8 seconds with only a narrow leather belt around the horse’s body to hold onto. The belt can only be held with one hand and the other must remain in the air. Riders must spur their horse out of the gate and keep their legs in motion, extending the feet forward and then pulling back in a spurring motion for the duration of the ride. Successful riders have a strong wrist and back, good balance, and are generally lighter than saddled bronc competitors.
Very similar to the bareback bronc riding competition, participants must ride a bull with only a loose rope around the bull’s shoulders to hold onto. Only one hand can hold the rope and the other must remain in the air. Riders try to remain on the bull for 8 seconds after which they must jump down and quickly exit the pen. The bull frequently pursues riders and tries to gore them. Rodeo clowns are frequently used in this event to distract the bull and allow riders to safely exit.
Participants compete to quickly rope a calf around the neck while mounted on horseback. Competitors must rope their calf while mounted and then dismount to throw the animal by hand. Once the calf is down the roper ties three of the calf’s legs with pigging string, which is carried in the mouth until needed. The horse is trained to help in the roping process by keeping close to the calf’s heels during the initial toss, and by keeping the rope taut while the roper is tying up the calf.
Competitors must ride a saddled bronco with only a halter and one rein. Riders cannot lose a stirrup, and must spur the horse on the first jump for the ride to be considered successful. The rider must also keep his feet in motion, moving from the front of the horse’s neck towards the back of the saddle in time with the bronco’s bucking motion.
Unlike most Stampede events, all of the competitors compete on the field at the same time in teams of two. Each team consists of a roper and a milker. A herd of wild cows is turned into the area and mounted ropers race to catch a cow. Once a cow is roped, the milker runs forward and attempts to get at least 3-4 inches of milk in a jar. Once the milker has a sufficient amount of milk they race to the judges table on foot to be judged. Contestants compete to get the most amount of milk and to reach the judges first.
Participants compete in teams of three to saddle and ride a wild horse over the finish line. Animals are placed in chutes with a lead rope, and when the chute is opened each team member completes a specific job: one anchors the lead rope, the second tries to ‘ear down’ the horse, and the third member saddles, cinches, mounts, and rides the horse across the finish line.
A rider on horseback must catch up to a released steer before launching himself from the horse to grab the steer’s horns. The competitor drags their boot heels in the ground to halt the animal and wrestles a rubber band with a red ribbon over the horns. The rider is accompanied by a hazer who helps jockey the steer into position for the decorator’s jump but does not otherwise participate in the event.
The first chuckwagon race was held during the 1923 Calgary Stampede. The race consists of a wagon hauled by a team of four horses, a lead driver, and two to four outriders. A typical heat consists of three to four wagon outfits. Competitors load the wagon and then race to make a figure eight around two barrels, and circle the track to win.
Stampede Women

The first Calgary Stampede Queen, Patsy Rodgers, was crowned in 1946 and the competition continues to be a popular Stampede tradition. From 1946 until 1964, contestants were sponsored by communities and businesses. Supporters bought tickets to support them, and the winner was determined by whoever raised the most money. In 1964 the ticket sales were replaced with a skill-based competition where contestants competed in horsemanship and public speaking. The queen and princesses attend over 300 events during the year including parades, rodeos, trail rides, and media events.

Left: Miss Calgary Stampede winners 1947-1950. Right: Stampede queen and princesses, 1968. (0401 and 0402).

Miss Flores LaDue (born Grace Maud Bensell) was a popular trick roper and Wild West Show performer. In 1906 she married Guy Weadick, a trick roper and showman, who is credited with the initial idea of a "Frontier Days and Cowboy Championship Contest" in Calgary. Weadick and LaDue were instrumental in planning the first Calgary Stampede in 1912. LaDue became the first World Trick Roping Champion and held the title for two years before retiring undefeated. She was known for popularizing the Texas Skip, a trick where the lasso is spun vertically and the performer jumps through the spinning loop.

The collection

In addition to programs and photographs, the Rodeo collection includes schedules, invitations, ticket stubs, postcards, commemorative coins, pins, posters, and stickers. Background photograph: Calgary Stampede race admission ticket, 1928 (0400).

An invitation to tour the infield and rodeo behind-the-scenes, 1977 (0403).
Calgary Stampede family admission ticket, 1936 (0400).
Calgary Stampede ticket, 1976 (0403).

For information about the Blaine Canadian Sports History Collection and how to access it, please contact us at archives@mtroyal.ca.

Return the the Archives and Special Collections home page

Published September 24, 2020


Created with an image by Simeon Jacobson. "A bunch of us guys were working on the farm one day, and when we came in for breakfast we all threw our hats on this flower pot, and started exclaiming about how cool it looked. For me this picture shows how we felt when we were done". https://unsplash.com/photos/BF_Vxk1rHX4 All other images provided by MRU Archives and Special Collections "The History of the Calgary Stampede." The Calgary Stampede. Last modified 2019. https://www.calgarystampede.com/heritage/history/the-early-years Murray, Shannon. "History Moment: Calgary Stampede Remembers Some of our Greatest Female Contributors for International Women's Day." The Calgary Stampede Blog. Last modified March 2, 2016. https://www.calgarystampede.com/blog/2016/03/02/history-moment-calgary-stampede-remembers-some-of-our-greatest-female-contributors-for-international-womens-day/