The Big Four on the cover of the 1912 Stampede program
The Big Four were the four businessmen/ranchers responsible for funding the dreams of Guy Weadick, who saw the potential for a championship rodeo event and Wild West show in Calgary. He approached four of Calgary’s leading ranchers with his proposal. So who were these guys? Each man was an enthusiastic booster of the city of Calgary and each of them was a living example of the possibilities offered by this relatively new part of the country.
Archie McLean was a cattleman who became a politician. He was Provincial Secretary in the Sifton government and would become the Minster of Public Affairs under Premier Charles Stewart. A.E. Cross was the founder of Calgary Brewing and Malting and the owner of the A7 Ranch, which is still one of the largest ranches in the west and is still held by the Cross family. George Lane was the owner of the Bar U ranch, another large and influential ranch and Patrick Burns was the founder of P. Burns and Company, one of the world’s largest meat packing companies and the owner of the Bow Valley Ranch. Weadick convinced each of them to put up $25,000 to help realize his dream.
The Stampede was an ingenious idea for promoting the possibilities available out here in the west. It was also an exercise in nostalgia. Although the Big Four were all ranchers of one sort or another, Cross and Burns owed much of their wealth to industry, rather than the pastoral life of the plains. Calgary was becoming a metropolis and the Stampede was a nod to the past, rather than a reflection of the present.
The Community Heritage and Family History collection at the Calgary Public Library holds a great deal of information about the Stampede and the Big Four. The picture used to illustrate this entry is a scan of the cover of the program for the first Stampede. We have a very good collection of these programs. We also have a history of the Bar U ranch (The Bar U and Canadian Ranching History) as well as other ranching related materials. We also have a great collection of the postcards created from Doc Marcel photographs of the first Stampede. You can find them in our Community Heritage and Family History Digital Library by using the search terms stampede 1912.