Albertans did it first: See for yourself at the Provincial Archives of Alberta

PAA - 150 Firsts Ad

From human rights to sports and politics to environmental protection, Albertans did it first.

In honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary, the Provincial Archives of Alberta has put together a new exhibit full of Canadian firsts that were done by Albertans, titled, 150 Firsts: How Alberta Changed Canada…Forever.

The exhibit highlights everything from well-known firsts like Calgary being the first Canadian city to host a Winter Olympics (in 1988) to some firsts that might surprise you such as Canada’s first UFO landing pad was built in St. Paul in 1967 and Edmonton played host to the first Canadian performances of the bands ABBA and KISS.

For decades, Albertans have been at the forefront of Canadian innovations in arts and literature, science, environmental protection, politics, inclusion and diversity, as well as sports and leisure. Opening on July 1, you can explore this exhibit to see for yourself how Albertans changed Canada… forever.

For example, did you know that:

  • Bear-tight bins were invented by an Alberta company (Haul-All Equipment of Lethbridge);
  • Louise McKinney of Claresholm was the first women elected to a legislative body in the British Empire;
  • James Gladstone (Akay-na-muka) of the Kainai First Nation served as Canada’s first Indigenous senator;
  • Raymond Lemieux of the University of Alberta was the first to synthesize sucrose; and
  • Beverley McLachlin of Pincher Creek became Canada’s first female Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada in 2000.

Additionally, if you’ve eaten at a Boston Pizza, Earls, Pizza 73, Hy’s Steakhouse, or Smitty’s, you’ve tasted a Canadian first originating in Alberta.

Other firsts highlighted within the exhibit include some of the darker parts of our history: The Sexual Sterilization Act of 1928, considered groundbreaking at the time, was the first eugenics legislation in Canada.


The Advisory Board on Objectionable Publications was created in December 1954 by the Government of Alberta with the mandate to “study and investigate the question of crime and other objectionable comics and salacious magazines and to recommend effective action to prevent their sale and distribution in the Province”. What’s wrong with comic books? was a pamphlet to raise awareness about ‘objectionable’ materials in society. The agency was disbanded in 1976, and records were donated to the Provincial Archives of Alberta in 1979 (GR0065.001SF)

Alberta’s Advisory Board on Objectionable Publications (active from 1954 to 1972) attempted to restrict access to certain comic books and tabloid newspapers, the first provincial board in Canada with such a mandate. Also, the Accurate News and Information Act of 1938 marked the first time a provincial government tried to curb freedom of the press, and the Edmonton Journal’s successful fight against the Act resulted in the Journal winning the first Pulitzer Prize awarded in Canada.

There’s so much to learn! Visit the exhibit between July 1, 2017 and August 1, 2018 at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, located at 8555 Roper Road in Edmonton. For more information, visit or find them online on Facebook and Twitter.

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