The Calgary area was inhabited by pre-Clovis people whose presence has been traced back at least 11,000 years. Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the area was inhabited by the Blackfoot, Blood, Peigan and the Tsuu T’ina First Nations peoples, all of which were part of the Blackfoot Confederacy. In 1787, cartographer David Thompson spent the winter with a band of Peigan encamped along the Bow River. He was a Hudson’s Bay Company trader and the first recorded European to visit the area. John Glenn was the first documented European settler in the Calgary area, in 1873.
The site became a post of the North-West Mounted Police (now the Royal Canadian Mounted Police or RCMP). The NWMP detachment was assigned in 1875 to protect the western plains from U.S. whisky traders, and to protect the fur trade. Originally named Fort Brisebois, after NWMP officer Éphrem-A. Brisebois, it was renamed Fort Calgary in 1876 by Colonel James Macleod. It was named after Calgary on the Isle of Mull, Scotland. While there is some disagreement on the naming of the town, the museum on the Isle of Mull explains that kald and gart are similar Old Norse words, meaning “cold” and “garden”, that were likely used when named by the Vikings who inhabited the Inner Hebrides. Alternatively, the name might come from the Gaelic, Cala ghearraidh, meaning ‘beach of the meadow (pasture)’.
When the Canadian Pacific Railway reached the area in 1883, and a rail station was constructed, Calgary began to grow into an important commercial and agricultural centre. The Canadian Pacific Railway headquarters moved to Calgary from Montreal in 1996. Calgary was officially incorporated as a town in 1884, and elected its first mayor, George Murdoch. In 1894, it was incorporated as “The City of Calgary” in what was then the North-West Territories.
The Calgary Fire of 1886 occurred on November 7, 1886. Fourteen buildings were destroyed with losses estimated at $103,200. Although no one was killed or injured, city officials drafted a law requiring all large downtown buildings to be built with Paskapoo sandstone, to prevent this from happening again.
After the arrival of the railway, the Dominion Government started leasing grazing land at minimal cost (up to 100,000 acres (400 km2) for one cent per acre per year). As a result of this policy, large ranching operations were established in the outlying country near Calgary. Already a transportation and distribution hub, Calgary quickly became the centre of Canada’s cattle marketing and meatpacking industries.
By the late 19th century, the Hudson’s Bay Company (HBC) expanded into the interior and established posts along rivers that later developed into the modern cities of Winnipeg, Calgary and Edmonton. In 1884, the HBC established a sales shop in Calgary. The HBC also built the first of the grand “original six” department stores in Calgary in 1913, the others that followed are Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg.
Between 1896 and 1914 settlers from all over the world poured into the area in response to the offer of free “homestead” land. Agriculture and ranching became key components of the local economy, shaping the future of Calgary for years to come. The world famous Calgary Stampede, still held annually in July, grew from a small agricultural show, and rodeo started in 1912 by four wealthy ranchers, to “the greatest outdoor show on earth”.
Oil was first discovered in Alberta in 1902, but it did not become a significant industry in the province until 1947 when reserves of it were discovered near Leduc, Calgary quickly found itself at the centre of the ensuing oil boom. The city’s economy grew when oil prices increased with the Arab Oil Embargo of 1973. The population increased by 272,000 in the eighteen years between 1971 (403,000) and 1989 (675,000) and another 345,000 in the next eighteen years (to 1,020,000 in 2007). During these boom years, skyscrapers were constructed and the relatively low-rise downtown quickly became dense with tall buildings, a trend that continues to this day.
Calgary’s economy was so closely tied to the oil industry that the city’s boom peaked with the average annual price of oil in 1981. The subsequent drops in oil prices were cited by industry as reasons for a collapse in the oil industry and consequently the overall Calgary economy. Low oil prices prevented a full recovery until the 1990s.
With the energy sector employing a huge number of Calgarians, the fallout from the economic slump of the early 1980s was understandably significant, and the unemployment rate soared. By the end of the decade, however, the economy was in recovery. Calgary quickly realized that it could not afford to put so much emphasis on oil and gas, and the city has since become much more diverse, both economically and culturally. The period during this recession marked Calgary’s transition from a mid-sized and relatively nondescript prairie city into a major cosmopolitan and diverse centre. This transition culminated in the city hosting Canada’s first Winter Olympics in 1988. The success of these Games essentially put the city on the world stage.
Thanks in part to escalating oil prices, the economy in Calgary and Alberta was booming until the end of 2009, and the region of nearly 1.1 million people was home to the fastest growing economy in the country. While the oil and gas industry comprise an important part of the economy, the city has invested a great deal into other areas such as tourism and high-tech manufacturing. Over 3.1 million people now visit the city annually for its many festivals and attractions, especially the Calgary Stampede. The nearby mountain resort towns of Banff, Lake Louise, and Canmore are also becoming increasingly popular with tourists, and are bringing people into Calgary as a result. Other modern industries include light manufacturing, high-tech, film, e-commerce, transportation, and services.
Widespread flooding throughout southern Alberta, including on the Bow and Elbow rivers, forced the evacuation of over 75,000 city residents on June 21, 2013 and left large areas of the city, including downtown, without power.
All information about Calgary courtesy of Wikipedia.