Sam Steele Exhibit


The recently repatriated records of Sir Sam Steele are now on public exhibition in downtown Edmonton. “Sam Steele: The Journey of a Canadian Hero” will run until September 30th, with displays of his journals, photographs, correspondence, and other personal items. The exhibit also includes period uniforms and weapons on loan from the Glenbow Museum, the RCMP, and others.

Steele was involved in many key events in Canadian history: the Wolseley (Red River) Expedition, the North-West Mounted Police March West, the pursuit of Big Bear, policing the Klondike Gold Rush, the Boer War, the establishment of the South African Constabulary (SAC)... he even volunteered for frontline duty in the First World War at aged 70. A timeline running the length of the exhibit gives context to Steele’s life, while a short (23 min.) film personalizes him through a dramatization of his correspondence with his wife, Marie.

Several manuscript maps are in the collection and are available online through the Peel’s Prairie Provinces website. Two maps are from the 1870 Red River diary of Lt. Col. Griffiths Wainwright. One covers Fort Francis to Fort William while the other shows the Winnipeg River from Rat Portage (Lake of the Woods) to Fort Alexander (Lake Winnipeg). The other three are from Steele’s time in South Africa: the area SW of Komatiepoort, Boer Commando positions at Machadodorp, and an SAC map running north from Pretoria, all ca. 1900. None of these maps is signed.

The Richard Bonnycastle Gallery houses five spectacular lithographs depicting government victories during the North-west Rebellion. The full-colour, folio sheets, created by the publishers of the Canadian Pictorial and Illustrated War News, are on loan to the exhibit from a private collector. These really do steal the show, but my favourite item was the very sharp, blue “undress uniform”, ca. 1880 - 82. Supt. Arthur Griesbach wore the example on display. 

Capture of BatocheCapture of Batoche Sam SteeleSam Steele

The exhibit is courtesy the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta and a variety of public and private sponsors. Located downtown (rather appropriately) in the old Hudson’s Bay building (Enterprise Square Gallery, 10230 Jasper Ave.), admission is $7. Catalogues ($5) are available in person at Enterprise Square or the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library.

 All photos courtesy of the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, University of Alberta. Lithograph images courtesy the private collection of Mr. Richard Bonnycastle. Reproduced by permission. Support my local library, s.v.p.