Historians have been searching far and wide for many years for key missing pieces of the early days of the Calgary Stampede.
On Wednesday, a 1930 Calgary Stampede poster — believed to have never existed — was returned to where it all began more than 100 years ago.
“This has always been a question with the organization as to whether they even existed,” chairman of the Calgary Stampede Board of Directors Dana Peers said. “So to actually be here and to unveil the 1930 poster is quite something.”
The 89-year-old poster was donated to the Stampede three weeks ago by Darlene and Bill Mowatt, who had it hanging in their basement for more than 35 years.
“I heard it on the radio one day about six months ago that the 1930 was missing,” Darlene said. “So I went downstairs where I had it hanging and I said, ‘That’s the one.’
“We wouldn’t know what to do with it, and this is its home.”
According to Mowatt, the origins of the poster are a bit of a mystery.
It was a gift to her from her brother-in-law Jack, who was given the historic piece after he found it rolled up in a dusty barn while on a business trip.
“I left it rolled up like that for 40 years and eight moves,” Mowatt said. “I thought I should maybe do something with it.
“I decided this year that the poster had to have a home.”
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Mowatt reached out to the Calgary Stampede offering to donate the poster, but the Stampede historians, like Christine Leppard, were skeptical of the find.
“When they first called me, I didn’t quite believe it,” Leppard said. “So when I got to their house and saw what they had, I was shocked.”
Up until that point, Leppard wasn’t even sure a poster was printed in 1930, simply because they’ve gone so many years without any leads to track one down.
But when she saw the poster donning the famous ‘”I-See-U” image sketched by Edward Borein, Leppard knew it was the real deal.
The image was used on the Calgary Stampede posters starting in 1919.
“This is the first one we’ve ever seen,” Leppard said. “We knew it would either be this image or photographs because in 1931, it switches. It’s still a long design so it could be wrapped around telephone poles but at that point, they moved to real images celebrating the event.”
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Finding the 1930 poster means the Stampede now only has two posters that are missing in its more than-100-year history.
The Stampede is offering a $1,000 reward and asking anyone who has any information on the whereabouts of the 1922 or the 1926 posters to contact the Stampede’s historians.
The 1930 poster will be displayed next to the original “I-See-U” sketch by Edward Borein and the 2019 Stampede poster by Rebecca Shuttleworth in the Western Oasis inside the BMO Centre.
As for Mowatt, she wants to find out more about where the poster was found and how it came into her brother-in-law’s possession all those years ago.
“I’ll be phoning him tonight,” she said.