From the Historian

As I’ve been working in the archives and reading about the history of CWLC, I’ve often wondered where our early club members obtained their books.  Did they have personal libraries?  Were they ordered by mail?  Were there bookstores in Calgary in 1906? 

I read (again) the minutes of the first meeting, 1906 February 9:   “The 1st Vice President [Mrs MacDonald] was instructed to make arrangements with Osborne Bros Booksellers for the procuring of books.” 

Later, in the minutes of the first meeting in 1909, October 9:   “The question of books for the club was brought up….It was decided that each one should get hers at DJ [or PJ] Young’s bookstore.”

Who would know more about bookstores in Calgary in 1906?  Shaun Hunter, of course.   In her essay entitled “Seeds of Calgary’s Early Literary Culture” on the Chinook Country Historical Society website, she writes:   

Bookstores on 8th Avenue like Linton’s, Mackie’s and Osborne’s vied to satisfy Calgarians’ thirst for newspapers, magazines, books and educational texts. Citizens had their own private libraries, perhaps the most impressive being James and Isabella Lougheed’s, a collection said to have included 10,000 books.

Newspapers like the Weekly Herald, the Morning Albertan and the Eye Opener would have noted the progress of the city’s new public library in the final stages of construction in Central Memorial Park. The project was spearheaded not by city politicians, but by a group of avid readers: members of the Calgary Literary Women’s Club established in 1906. When the library opened in January 1912, chief librarian Alexander Calhoun noted that ‘the cupboard was bare in a few days.’ Over the decades, this jewel of a library would become a mecca for aspiring and established writers.

S. Hunter, Seeds of Calgary’s Early Literature on Chinook Country Historical Society blog, 20/11/2018

Mackies Bookstore: Located on north side of Stephen Avenue in Thompson block (112A – 8th Avenue East). Shop also contained gunsmith business started in 1886 in partnership with Walter Grant Mackay. Bookstore begun in 1901; J. S Mackie was mayor of Calgary from 1901-1903. Image sourced from the Glenbow Archives.

Shaun Hunter spoke at our AGM (via Zoom) in 2021.  She is the author of Calgary Through the Eyes of Writers and generously donated a copy of her book as the draw prize. More about Ms. Hunter and her work on literature and history can be found at

Sandra E. (CWLC Historian)

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