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Civilizing the West

Civilizing the West

The Galts and the Development of Western Canada

Publication Data: University of Alberta Press, 1982, ISBN 0-88864-071-4, hardcover; 1986 ISBN 0-88864-111-7, paper.

Dustjacket description: Alexander Tilloch Galt and his son, Elliott Torrance Galt, were two central Canadian entrepreneurs who tirelessly promoted the resources of Western Canada. During the latter half of the nineteenth and the early part of the twentieth centuries, they worked zealously to bring the symbols of civilization to the undeveloped prairies. 

Because immigrants and businesses preferred to settle in the United States, the Galts battled British and eastern Canadian reluctance to invest in the Western Canadian frontier. The competing American railways and coal industry, the unstable international financial market, and prejudice against the seemingly arid and cold southern Canadian plains also hampered their efforts. Nevertheless, the Galts maintained their family's optimistic self-confidence, stubborn perseverance, and astute business acumen. In a brief span of twenty-five years, the two bustling promoters introduced steamboats, railways, coal-mines, irrigation, and agricultural settlement to the Northwest. Aided by generous government subsidies, Alexander and Elliott Galt transformed the prairies more than centuries of winds, fires, and rains.
As a corollary to the story of the Galts, Dr. den Otter traces the birth and growth of the southern Alberta town of Lethbridge, showing how civilization came and the problems that came with it. The study concludes with a comprehensive look at the 1906 coal workers' strike as one product of the civilizing process.
Using primary sources hitherto unpublished, the author brings to light new material of interest to historians of business, labour, mining, railways, irrigation, and the early development of the West. Appendices, tables, maps, and photographs further document the fascinating period of Civilizing the West.