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65 Years of Collecting

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Artifact Stories

Learn more about a few of the intriguing artifacts in the WDM Collection.

Conservation Case Study: The Mystery of the Watercolour Box

watercolour boxIn many museum collections there are artifacts that are “foundlings”- their stories or histories unknown. In the Western Development Museum’s collection, one such ”foundling” was discovered, but with a bit of sleuthing, its history was recovered.

Find out how this box connects to Saskatchewan suffragist Violet McNaughton >>

Narrative Threads

We are pleased to announce the launch of a new Virtual Museum of Canada project that we are a part of – Narrative Threads: Crafting the Canadian Quilt! Produced by the Textile Museum of Canada in conjunction with partners nationally including --- , this exhibit showcases a rich array of historical objects, material culture and handicrafts, highlighting the role they have played in shaping the country and its vibrant cultural landscapes. Explore a wealth of story-rich artifacts at, and contribute your own special belongings to one of the most dynamic and distinctive Canadian cultural archives. The Virtual Museum of Canada is the largest digital source of stories and experiences shared by Canada’s museums and heritage organizations.

Before E-Commerce - Ordering from Eaton's

The WDM artifact collection holds Eatonia and Viking washing machines, Eaton's treadle sewing machines, an Eaton's Bulldog stationary gas engine, autoharps and accordions, radios and razors, clocks and cameras, shoes and skates - all ordered through the T. Eaton Company's mail-order catalogues.

Find out more about the T. Eaton Company  -->

Check out a few toys from the WDM collection matched with their Eaton's catalogue listings -->

50th Anniversary of Canada’s Maple Leaf Flag

The Maple Leaf flag marked its 50th anniversary in 2015. Unfurled on Parliament Hill at noon on February 15, 1965, the new flag replaced the Canadian Red Ensign which, although commonly flown in Canada, had never been the country’s official flag.

Find out more about Canada's Maple Leaf flag -->

65+ Years of Collecting

1931 Cadillac- LaSalle RoadsterTake a look at a sampling of artifacts collected since our founding in 1949.

Check out 65+ Years of Collecting -->


Twin City 60: Monster Tractor

Twin City 60The WDM is the proud owner of a very rare Twin City 60, acquired in the late 1950s. Few, if any, other examples of this tractor are known to have survived.

Read more about the Twin City 60 -->

Wallpaper to Decorate your Home

Are you re-decorating your home or interested in the styles of the 1930, 1940s or 1950s? Why not look through wallpaper catalogues for ideas? The Library of the Western Development Museum has a few wallpaper catalogues for you to examine.

Find out more about the wallpaper catalogues available -->

WDM Calliope One of the Last of its Kind

Bright red calliope sitting on a trailer in front of the Saskatchewan LegislatureFor the past 20 years, the whistles of the Western Development Museum calliope have been a familiar sound to Saskatchewan parade-goers. But the steam organ in the candy-apple red wagon is one of the last of its kind.

Hear the Calliope played and see more photos -->

Wheat Straw Weaving

Straw weaving came to the Canadian prairies in the hearts and hands of those who immigrated in the early years of the 20th century. It was taught and practiced into the 1940s and then disappeared as technology after the Second World War modernized life on prairie farms. In the 1970s the Western Development Museum revived the traditional skill through demonstrations and classes.

See more examples of wheat straw weaving -->

Five Milestones that Changed the Way We Use the Telephone

How we make local telephone calls in SK will changed in 2014 with the introduction of 10-digit dialing and a new area code (639). It isn’t the first time that the way we make telephone calls has changed.

Check out Five Saskatchewan telephone milestones -->

Lorch Snowplane

Black and white photo of men sitting in front of a line of Lorch snowplanes. Behind them is the Spyhill Garage.Seventy years ago, Karl Lorch took his first "snowplane" for a spin around Spy Hill, Sask. and created a Canadian legend.

Karl Lorch owned a garage in Spy Hill, Sask., 200 km east of Regina. He wanted to build a machine that would replace the horse and cutter during winter months. He secured a patent for the machines in 1935, and set up a manufacturing plant in Spy Hill.

Find out more about Lorch Snowplanes -->

Farmer Invention Led to Combine

Colour image of a Hovland reaperAugust and Ole Hovland's threshing machines may have revolutionized farming, but when it came to getting credit for their inventions, they missed the harvest. Today's descendant of the Hovland brothers' "central delivery reaper" is the swather. The Hovland's other creation, the "travelling thresher", evolved into today's combine.

Find out more about the Hovland Reaper -->

Bertrand Brown Collection

The Bertrand Brown collection of photographs is the latest WDM collection to be digitized and added to the Saskatchewan History Online (SHO) website.

Bertrand Gavin Brown was born in 1908 in Saskatoon, SK. His father, David Brown homesteaded in the Glenhurst district about six miles north of Bounty, SK. The family moved to the homestead soon after Bertrand was born.

Read more about the Bertrand Brown Collection -->

Memorial Cup and Hockey History at the WDM

Did you know that Junior hockey’s Memorial Cup was first played in 1919 with the Regina Pats taking on the University of Toronto? Though the Pats lost that year, the team won bragging rights as the winner of the 1925 Cup and again in 1930.

Find out more about Saskatchewan hockey history -->

Saskatchewan Fashion Week:
Fashions by Phyllis Baker Online Exhibit

See selected designs from Phyllis Baker’s Just Looking...Thank You exhibit of art clothing that toured the province in the 1990s side-by-side with the sketches she worked from.

See Fashions by Phyllis Baker -->

Saskatchewan Fashion Week:
Fashion in the 1920s

The devastating loss of eight million men in the First World War had a significant impact on the 1920s. With so many young men killed, youth was at a premium.

See 1920s dresses from the
WDM Collection -->

Derby in WDM storageDerby Car Restoration

The Saskatoon Antique Auto Club and the WDM partnership - restoration of a 1927 Derby car. The restoration was completed in 2014 as a SAAC 50th anniversary project.

Saskatchewan InnovationSaskatchewan Innovations
Online Exhibit

Features seven Saskatchewan Innovations and their stories, including the Cobalt-60 Unit, Morris Rod Weeder, Symons Oiler, and the Flexicoil Packer.

Saskatchewan Patent Database
Search through all patents filed by Saskatchewan inventors from 1905-1976.

Sinnett, Sask. and the Sisters of Service

There is little trace of the once flourishing community of Sinnett. Its story it told by the Sisters of Service Archives in Toronto. The Sisters recently donated a 1960s grey dress and hat to the WDM and generously offered to share photographs that document their stay in Sinnett.

Regina Tornado June 30 1912 souvinir booklet2012 Marks 100th Anniversary of Regina Tornado

One witness recalled, "a wagon which was standing in front of the hotel was blown completely on top of the heavy draft horse which was attached to it and the two were carried down the street."

'Disker Takes the Lead...' advertisement for Lewis discersA New Machine: The Discer

Discers evolved from the old one-ways, disc plows and disc harrows. A discer left more trash cover, did not leave the ridging that farmers found objectionable and, because it required less power to pull, could be built bigger.

Saskatoon Streetcar SMR #12

Six shiny new streetcars set out on the inaugural run of the Saskatoon Municipal Railway (SMR) on January 1, 1913. SMR #12 is the only surviving car from the original fleet. In fact, very few streetcars of this period have survived anywhere in Canada.

Phoenix log haulerLike the Phoenix Rising from the Ashes...Phoenix Centiped Log Hauler

The Phoenix Centiped is a Shay-style locomotive mounted on endless tracks. It was made to haul seven to eighteen heavily loaded logging sleighs over snow or ice roads. Each Centiped was outfitted with a set of skis on the front. The 100 horsepower four-cylinder engine operated at 200 pounds of steam per square inch.

Teddy bear in SaskatoonTeddy Bear Comes Home

The journey took 92 years, but the beloved green teddy bear given to three-year-old Sybil Farris at the Saskatoon Canadian Pacific Railway station on April 24, 1920 is home at last.

Celebrating the Saskatchewan Legislative Building

The Province of Saskatchewan was only four years old when the corner stone was laid for the Legislative Building in Regina on October 4, 1909. The WDM collection contains a cushion cover made from approx. 40 silk ribbons given to visitors who attended the official event..

WDM Carved FiguresAn Ocean Apart

Victor Humeniuk and his girlfriend lived an ocean apart for most of their lives, but two carvings in their likeness now sit side by side.

“They tell a story of separation, of moving to a new country and leaving loved ones behind,” Bitner stated.

The carvings were separated before Humeniuk’s death when he gave the male form to neighbours. Find out how the two carvings were reunited by clicking the link above.

Man sitting inside wooden ornithopterTo Fly Like a Bird...

Ralph Vallevand of Elbow, Saskatchewan dreamed of flying like a bird. In true pioneer spirit, he set about to build a machine that would make his dream a reality.

Titanic souvenir napkin2012 Marks 100th Anniversary of Titanic Tragedy

A Titanic memorabilia industry "rapidly got into gear" after the disaster. One of those items, a napkin produced by the Palantine Printing Company, Lancashire, made its way into the WDM collection in 1990.

Man tinkering with Blowtorch's mechanical insides via a lift up flapBlowtorch, the Mechanical Horse

“The only horse in the world you have to choke to start”. Blowtorch, a life size mechanical horse, was the pet project and creation of W.J. McIntyre, a Swift Current, Saskatchewan inventor.

Brightly coloured tin peacock, long gold tailIn a Prairie Attic: Bladon Family Toys

The WDM acquired more than 1700 artifacts from the Bladon home in addition to farm machinery company pamphlets and advertising materials. The real treasure, however, was toys.

CF-SAM airplant in Moose Jaw WDMAir Ambulance Service Makes Aviation History

The Saskatchewan Air Ambulance Service (SAAS) was the first non-military, government-operated air ambulance service in the world.

Black and white photo of CF-SAM, one of Saskatchewan's early air ambulance planesPlane pioneered air ambulance service

The Norseman CF-SAM plane helped save Saskatchewan lives in the 1940s, but 30 years later, it was the one needing rescue.

American-Abell steam traction engine with threshing crew of several men44,000 Pounds of Steel
American-Abell Steam Traction Engine

The giant American-Abell “Cock of the North” 32-120 HP steam traction engine dominates the railway and machinery line-up scene in Winning the Prairie Gamble: Farm Life in Saskatchewan at the Saskatoon WDM.

Gray Tractor advertisementThe Gray Tractor:
An Unconventional Design

The Gray Tractor Company of Minneapolis, Minnesota was one of dozens of companies trying to make it big in the tractor business in the teens and 1920s. What set the Gray apart from its competitors was the large drum which took the place of rear wheels.

Two horses pulling wagon with seated man onto wooden ferrySaskatchewan's Ferry System

It was not by southern prairie trails that the first Europeans ventured into the vast wilderness of western Canada–it was the great northern rivers that brought adventurers and fur traders to the interior of the continent.

Black and white photo of a computerRare Computer a Pioneer in Canadian Industry

In 1961, Canadians designed a computer that was years ahead of its competitors, but the success of the Ferranti-Packard 6000 was cut short when the British government pulled the plug.

Fifty Golden Years

1955 ushered in a year of celebration as Saskatchewan marked 50 years as a province. And what a celebration it was. Hundreds of events in communities large and small paid tribute to the pioneers who settled Saskatchewan.

Avery undermounted engine breaking sodTeeth Talk: The Bull Dog Line
Avery Undermounted Steam Engine

Out of the Avery Company plant at Peoria, Illinois came one of the most unusual traction engines of the day. The famous undermounted engine, looking more like a railway locomotive than a conventional steam traction engine, attracted a lot of attention when it hit the agricultural market in the early 20th century.

Bates tractor in Pion-Era paradeThe Bates Steel Mule, A ‘Mechanical Horse’

The Bates Steel Mule is one of the most unusual tractors in the Western Development Museum collection. Just about everyone who sees it wonders how it worked. Unlike other tractors of its day, the Steel Mule had no seat.

Sepia photo of early diorama featuring the Citroen helf-track truck with two front wheels and a track for the back.Rumours surround legendary
Bedaux trek

Everyone said it couldn't be done, but Charles Bedaux tried anyway, and the result was the legendary Bedaux Subarctic Expedition of 1934.

The Big Four

The Big Four was a big tractor. Named for its massive four-cylinder engine, the Big Four traces its family history to the first years of the twentieth century when D.M. Hartsough, one of the fledging tractor industry's pioneer innovators, experimented with a multi-cylinder engine.

Black and white illustration of the Big BullThe Bull with the Pull

During the second decade of the 20th century, the giant gas tractors that rumbled across the prairies were just beginning to give way to their smaller, cheaper and easier to handle counterparts. The small to medium size tractor market was heating up and the Bull Tractor Company, like dozens of others, wanted a piece of the action.

Full Power All the Time! First in the Field with NEW and REVOLUTIONARY “Live” Power Take-Off

The concept of a “power take-off which would continue running when the forward motion of the tractor stopped”3 was put forward by the designers. The people at Wisconsin took up the idea, and together with Cockshutt engineers, built the first tractor equipped with live power take-off.

Black and white photo of the closed cab Comfortractor in the fieldComfortractor an idea before its time

The name said it all: The 1938 Minneapolis-Moline fortractor pioneered the convenience and safety features that are now standard in farm tractors. Its only drawback? The Comfortractor arrived 30 years too soon.

Couple standing in front of their Comford TractorAhead of its Time: Minneapolis-Moline UDLX Comfortractor

Minneapolis-Moline designed its new tractor for the comfort and safety of the operator. The Comfortactor boasted at least six tractor industry firsts: enclosed cab, heater, cigar lighter, windshield wipers, clock and radio

Man in suit posing with small model steam engineComing Home to Saskatchewan Part 3:
Fred Dalby's Model Steam Engine

History-minded donors who have long since left the province sometimes take the time and trouble to return to the province artifacts which have their roots in Saskatchewan. In Part Three of this series, a model steam engine in the WDM collection is the work of Saskatchewan pioneer Fred Dalby. The engine “came home” in 1997.

Coming Home to Saskatchewan Part 2: William Cowie's Saddle and Jacket

History-minded donors who have long since left the province sometimes take the time and trouble to return to the province artifacts which have their roots in Saskatchewan. Part Two of this three part series highlights the travels of a Depression era saddle and jacket. 

Folded quilt, white with coloured squaresComing Home to Saskatchewan
Part 1: Moose Jaw Red Cross Quilt  

History-minded donors who have long since left the province sometimes take the time and trouble to return to the province artifacts which have their roots in Saskatchewan.Part One tells the story of a quilt made by the Canadian Red Cross during World War Two and its journey across the ocean and back.

Brightly coloured tin peacock, long gold tailHorse Power and the Dynamometer
May 9, 2011

To prove the value of horses, the Horse Association of America encouraged horse-pulling competitions in the United States and Canada. Special equipment was needed to measure the drawbar pull of competing teams. University of Saskatchewan professor Evan Hardy designed and built a dynamometer, as the machines were called, in 1924.

Barr Colonists clustered around large shipLondon, Liverpool, and Lloydminster - Barr Colonists

In 1903, twenty-three year old Frank Hembrow Smith of London, England was reading a newspaper on his way to work at a local shipbuilding company. A letter in the newspaper caught his eye- it extolled the opportunities that awaited in the Canadian northwest. Like many young men at the time, he was hooked, lured by the promise of adventure.

Geiser tractorAsk the Man Who Owns One: Geiser Manufacturing Company

Back in the early 1850s, Peter Geiser of Smithburg, Maryland made history when he built his first thresher. Some say he was the inventor of the threshing machine and his name should be as familiar as John Deere’s or Cyrus McCormick’s of reaper fame.

Full Steam Ahead: Steam Power at the WDM

More than 60 years ago, the founders of Saskatchewan’s Western Development Museum were motivated by a mission to save early steam engines and gas tractors from the scrap heap. The WDM steam collection is distributed throughout its four museums and Curatorial Centre in Saskatchewan. Many examples are on exhibit, others are operated annually in summer shows, while others are currently in storage. The collection is enhanced by a library collection of original manuals, parts lists and machine company catalogues dating to the 1880s.

The Last Best West:
Homes for Millions

They came by the thousands to Western Canada, seeking opportunity and a better life in a new “promised land.” The Canadian government in the late 19th and early 20th century was anxious to populate the west with farmers and business people who would contribute to the national economy by developing the vast resources of the West. A settled west would also solidify Canada’s claim to sovereignty over the northwest.

Dreadnaughts of the Prairies: The Marshall Tractor

British tractor maker Marshall, Sons & Company had its eye on the lucrative Canadian market early in the 20th century. Marshall introduced its first tractor in 1907. Titled "Dreadnaughts of the Prairies" the company promoted its "British Colonial Tractors" with the slogan, "Built like a Battleship-Runs Like a Watch." Marshall tractors were "guaranteed of finest material and best workmanship."

Several men pose with portable steam engine, horses, and threshing machineNew for the 19th Century: Steam

Steam power revolutionized life in the 19th century. Its application to industry and transportation transformed society on both sides of the Atlantic. Portable steam engines provided the first non-animal source of power on the farm.

Pioneer tractorThe Mighty Pioneer - Pioneer 30-60 HP Tractor

The 30 was a big tractor, weighing 23,000 pounds. The drive wheels were 96 inches in diameter. It could pull an eight to ten bottom plow through tough, prairie sod or power a 36 inch cylinder threshing machine making it ideal for custom work.

Massey-Harris tractor on displayMassey-Harris Joins the Tractor Revolution

Massey-Harris was a late-comer to the tractor business. The Western Development Museum is fortunate to have acquired a Massey-Harris No. 2, 12-22 HP, in 1957. It is believed that of the 400-500 originally produced, no more than a handful remain.

Phoenix log hauler with long train of log carriersTractor Fills a Universal Need
The Manitoba Universal

One of the rarest tractors in the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum collection came out of Winnipeg about 1915. The Manitoba Universal Farm Tractor was one of a small handful of tractors manufactured in Western Canada.

Family in a Russell carThe Thoroughly Canadian Car
Made Up to a Standard, Not Down to a Price

In 1905, the Russell car made its debut. Built by Canada Cycle and Motor Company (CCM), was the first truly successful Canadian automobile.

SaundersonThe WDM’s Oldest Gas Tractor
Saunderson Universal Motor Type A

What do Pioneer Settlement in Swan Hill, Victoria, Australia and the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada have in common? These museums boast the only two Saunderson Universal Motor Type A tractors known to exist anywhere in the world.

Celebrating 100 Years

In 2005, the province marked its centennial with festivities and fireworks, pancake breakfasts and parades. Over the next few years, dozens of communities, large and small, called people home to celebrate their 100th anniversaries.

Find out about Saskatchewan's first few decades and which towns celebrated 100 years in 2013 -->

From Dominion Day to Canada Day
Celebrate Canada History Week July 1 - 7, 2013

On July 1, Canadians from coast to coast to coast celebrate the July 1, 1867 signing of the British North America Act that created Canada.

See how Saskatchewan has celebrated through the years -->