Calgary Stampede officials showed off a long-lost piece of its history on Wednesday: the only known surviving poster from the event in 1930.
Anyone who has wandered the upper walkway of the BMO Centre at the Stampede grounds will be familiar with the saga of the missing posters. The passage is lined with posters of Stampedes past, but with three conspicuous gaps: 1922, 1926 and 1930.
Since 2003, the Stampede has offered a $1,000 reward for anyone who finds one of the missing advertisements.
The 1930 poster unveiled on Wednesday has spent much of the past four decades in the Calgary home of Darlene and Bill Mowatt.
She was given the dusty poster decades ago by her brother-in-law, who had it in a barn.
“So I left it rolled up like that for 40 years and sort of 18 moves and then I thought maybe I should do something with it,” Darlene Mowatt said.
She said she wasn’t even aware until recently that the poster, eventually unfurled and hung in her basement, was a missing historical artefact.
“I heard it on the radio one day about six months ago that the 1930 was missing. So I went downstairs to where I had it hanging and I said, ‘That’s the one,'” she said.
“That’s when I got on with it, because I thought this is time this went to a better place.”
Christine Leppard, the Stampede’s historical specialist, admitted she was skeptical at first that the poster was the real McCoy.
“With great respect to Darlene and Bill, 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. I didn’t string two intelligent words together.”
Leppard said she had some doubts that a poster was even printed for the 1930 Stampede, so she didn’t know for sure what it would look like.
It turns out to feature the same image by American cowboy artist Edward Borein that was used in the 1919 poster and from 1923 to 1925, Leppard said.
“The question mark on 1926 still exists, so if anyone has that in their basement, give me a call,” she said.
The bottom has an advertisement about getting to Banff on “hard surfaced roads”, which was a novelty at the time.
In 1931, the design changed to actual photographs of the Stampede, but still in the long vertical style that could be wrapped around telephone poles, she said.
The poster is on display at the BMO Centre at the Calgary Stampede until July 14.
“If anybody else knows about the other two, we’d love to hear about it,” said Calgary Stampede president Dana Peers.
“To have this item is really quite something.”