Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
The same old girl in a new dress. By George Shepherd, Museum
Most readers of the Iron Men’s Album are aware of the
agricultural Museum at Saskatoon ‘The Museum fartherest
North’ in fact many have visited it. The coming year of 1972
marks a historic turning point in the history of the Museum. On
July first and second the Museum will be holding open house in a
new million dollar building just across the South Saskatchewan
River from the old Museum site.
The new building is the culmination of years of hopes and dreams
and will be a fitting tribute to the homestead people of Western
Canada, who came from all over the world to turn the former
desolate buffalo ranges into fruitful farms that we have in
It was almost thirty years ago that a movie was being made in
Saskatchewan called ‘Soil for Tomorrow’. This called for
the restoring and operating of some of the old style steam and gas
tractors that helped to open up the prairie lands at the turn of
the century. After the filming the idea was born that the restored
machines should not be abandoned again. This was the germ of the
idea of setting up a pioneer agricultural Museum.
Dedicated men and women in all walks of life pooled their ideas
to see what could be done. There was in Saskatchewan, at that time,
a number of airplane hangars, used to train airmen during World War
Two. After the war was over the hangars were standing idle and
empty, most suitable buildings for storing and displaying the
cumbersome machines of the homestead age, a period that was fast
slipping away. After considerable time, thought and effort, vacant
hangars were secured at North Battleford, Yorkton and Saskatoon,
the last named being the focal point of the activities. In 1949 the
Legislature of Saskatchewan set up a Western Development Museum Act
and since then the Museum has seen continuous and amazing growth.
The Museum has been a leader in its field on the North American
Continent and has achieved an International reputation.
The new Museum building is on a lovely site on the East bank of
the South Saskatchewan River, a river that rises in the foothills
of the Rocky Mountains and flows through hundreds of miles of arid
prairies, finally draining into the Arctic wastes of the
Hudson’s Bay. The formerly uninterrupted flow is now harnessed
by the Gardiner Dam, a three mile long structure some 80 miles
south of Saskatoon.
The new building, 300′ x 400′ of fire proof
construction, comprises 120,000 square feet of floor space, all
under one roof and is three times the size of the present hangar
The pioneer spirit which built Western Canada was exemplified in
great measure by the merchants and trades-men who came along in the
pioneer homestead days to supply services which were essential in
the opening up of the country. much men took the same chances as
the homesteaders in opening up a new land. This business spirit
will be ably portrayed in the display of a typical pioneer village
street. Twenty-two buildings will show life in a typical early day
village of Western Canada in the 1910 period.
Passing through the Museum entrance the visitor will be
transported back in time to the homestead days of Western Canada.
Here you will see the small business enterprises which, supported
by the boundless enthusiasm of the people, in the new land,
established forever a spirit of optimism, which still exists today.
Optimism was in the air in every homestead community where every
small town aspired to be a future Chicago. One does not need to be
a grey beard to recall the Saturday night visits to town, for the
shopping, and the neighborhood gossip exchanged there.
Already a grain elevator and railway station have been promised
for the village. A church is already in place along with a harness
shop and shoe repair. That most important of all men in the early
days, the blacksmith, will be commemorated by the village smithy.
Local organizations are rallying to the project. The local daily
newspaper plans on a printing shop while, of course, the old school
bell will sound out from the one room school. Most of these
enterprises will be in full operating order.
While this is turning a new page in the history of the Western
Development Museum the aims and objectives are still the same,
except that with enlarged facilities, everything can be greatly
expanded. An annual show will still be held and the same cordial
welcome will meet visitors in the present as in the past. The
Museum will have a strong agricultural flavor and will always
remain a grass roots organization. Visiting groups, schools and
individuals will be enchanted as they turn the clock back to the
homestead days of the West. There is a distinct and fascinating
Saskatchewan homestead culture and the Museum has captured the
bygone old-time atmosphere.
Among its more than ten thousand exhibit items the Museum
numbers some 125 steamers, 250 gas tractors and about the same
number of antique automobiles. Also included are a great variety of
grain threshers, plows, seeders, wagons, buggies and all the varied
implements used during the homestead years. In addition, the Museum
has a very large quantity of furniture and clothing for use in the
pioneer rooms and buildings portrayed in the new venture. For years
the Museum has been giving demonstrations in weaving, wool
spinning, quilting, churning and bread baking which were all part
of the prairie heritage. These will all be continued and expanded
as the project widens.
The Museum looks back over the years with fond memories. Today
the plodding ox has been replaced by the rubber tired tractor and
the sod shack by modern homes. The wagon, on winding rutted trails,
starting from nowhere and going to nowhere, has been replaced by
sleek automobiles and black top highways.
This story is all told at the new Museum building as it
consolidates its displays. They honor the men, women, yes and
children too, who bore the loneliness, isolation and hardships of
the pioneer days, with courage and fortitude. Of such life and
living as this are heroes made.
The Museum looks forward with confidence to serving in its new
and expanded field. Old friends and new are assured of a warm
welcome while re-living the colorful days of ‘When the West was