August 2017 - Lougheed House

Sheffield Silver

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I found a lovely box down in the archives, and was expecting some medals, or maybe a certificate or an award. I got forks instead. Really cool forks, with only two tines, and some knives with super round tips. The set belonged to the Lougheeds as part of their original furnishings when they first moved into Beaulieu. These pieces are beautiful, so I did a little digging. Probably a little too much digging. As you’ve probably come to expect from me, I went back to the beginning.

Out of spoons, forks, and knives, spoons are by far the oldest. The first spoons would’ve been fashioned out of seashells, stones, or bits of wood, and probably didn’t even have handles. The earliest evidence for a handled spoon is from 1000 BCE in Egypt, where they were made from ivory, wood, flint, or slate. These heavily-decorated spoons were used for religious rites. Medieval Europe used spoons for much the same purpose, in addition to slurping; for a while, the British coronation ceremony involved being anointed via spoon. Spoons took on their modern form around the 18th century.

Forks are much the same in their history, except for the fact that they were actually kind of abhorred for a little while by some God-fearing Christians. St. Peter Damian, a Benedictine monk in the 11th century, once wrote that “God in his wisdom has provided man with natural forks – his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to substitute artificial metallic forks for them when eating.” We eventually got over our fear of forks, though it took a few hundred years. They were popularized during the Renaissance, because people in Italy started using them to avoid getting filth on their food, and whatever the Italians were doing in the Renaissance was what everyone else wanted to do.

Knives started out as very convenient weapons – you could stab your dinner to death, and then eat it using the same tool. This worked pretty well up until the middle ages, when Louis XIV had had enough of drunk dinner guests putting holes in their cheeks (or each other’s cheeks, if they got mad). He decreed that all dinner knives would be rounded from then on, and that’s how we ended up with butter knives.

For most of its history, cutlery (from the Old French coutelier) was meant more for the upper classes. This began to change in the 18th century as manufacturing processes grew more streamlined. Even so, there were certain factories and locations that prided themselves on making high-end cutlery. The most famous is probably the English town of Sheffield, which was home to many skilled cutlers who produced exquisite cutlery sets over the last few hundred years.

The set I uncovered today is from Sheffield. Produced sometime between 1866 and 1900, this set of fruit service cutlery was made by HB&H: Harrison Brothers and Howson (who really should’ve used a clearer brand; it took me way too long to decipher their stamps). The blades are electroplated nickel silver, an imitation of the Chinese alloy paktong, and the handles are carved from mother of pearl. HB&B shut down during the Second World War, but the company was revived in 1978 and still make cutlery to this day. You can order some off their website, actually, and it looks like the quality hasn’t dropped a bit. Overall, considering that it came from Sheffield and the materials used in the construction, it’s no surprise that this cutlery set was fit for use in the sophisticated home of the Lougheeds.

-Jake, Summer Student

Golf in Alberta: A Fore-gone Conclusion

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Douglas Gordon Lougheed, youngest son of James and Isabella, was born September 3, 1901. Already a scratch golfer (one who usually shoots at or below par) by the age of seven, Douglas was practicing on the Banff Springs Hotel course at nine. Will Thompson, a professional golf coach, took young Douglas under his wing, declaring that he could be made a champion. The young Lougheed attended Western Canada College (what is now Western Canada High School, just a couple blocks from Lougheed House), where he was praised for his athleticism. He went on to study at University College in Victoria, and then spent a couple years working in Toronto insurance before returning to Calgary and joining the firm of Lougheed and Taylor.

In 1922, Douglas won the Alberta Junior Golf Championship. Two years later, he won the Alberta Amateur Golf Championship, his high-water mark in the sport. He continued to work for Lougheed and Taylor, and Pete Smith Motors, until his untimely death on October 15, 1931. Regardless, Douglas’s passion for golfing stayed with him his whole life.

 

The history of golf in Alberta begins as a story of people making do with what they had. It was brought west by the North-West Mounted Police, and then popularized with the arrival of the CPR. The first recorded game of golf played in Alberta took place at Fort Macleod in 1885 between David and Albert Browning. They used hickory clubs and balls made from sapodilla sap, a tree harvested in great numbers in eastern Asia, even though it was native to Mexico. Oh, and the sap balls sometimes exploded, since, you know, you hit them with clubs.

Also, because private citizens and nascent municipalities had more important things to do in 1885 than build real golf courses, most Alberta golfers had to play around fences, gopher holes, and indifferent cows. They had a special club, called a rutter, designed to play balls that had been caught in wagon ruts. They didn’t bother changing out of their work clothes to play, but they did supply their own sand for makeshift tees. One can only assume that they carried this sand around in their pockets all day, just in case they had to drop everything and play a couple holes. And when I say holes, I mean whatever was at hand; two determined Lethbridge golfers built a four-hole course out of tomato cans, after having the rules described to them by friends passing through town.

The first golf club (the organization, not the tool) was created by the North-West Mounted Police at Fort Macleod in 1895, and the Calgary Golf and Country Club was founded two years later. The first official golf championship was won by Charlie Hague in 1908 in Calgary, and every year afterward, the championship alternated between Calgary and Edmonton. The popularity of golf grew in lockstep with the number of wealthy Albertan citizens, but the outbreak of war in 1914 hit the golfing community hard. Many clubs, including the Fort Macleod Golf Club, were forced to close down for lack of players. Prohibition, introduced in 1916, also put the damper on things, as prohibition tends to do. Interest in golf bounced back after the war, and between 1919 and 1929, the number of Alberta golf clubs leaped from 9 to 65. In the photo below, you can see Edgar and Clarence Lougheed golfing in Banff – note the uniforms.

Since then, golf has flourished in Alberta. Its countless golf courses continue to adapt to an increasingly environmentally-conscious citizenry, using advanced water conservation and pest-management solutions to minimize the environmental impact of the sometimes obscenely huge golf courses in the province. At some point, they also started using metal clubs and normal, non-explosive balls, which, in my opinion, isn’t quite as exciting.

-Jake, Summer Student

 

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