Calgary

How The Jungle Book saved an Alberta city from renaming itself Gasburg

More than a century ago British author Rudyard Kipling visited Medicine Hat and saved the city from being renamed Gasburg.

In 1910 British author Rudyard Kipling advocated against a name change for Medicine Hat

Disney's remake of The Jungle Book is now open in theatres. The author of the novel visited Medicine Hat, Alta. in the early 1900s and wrote a letter in favour of keeping the city's Blackfoot name. (Disney Enterprises)

In the year 1910 Medicine Hat almost made a boo-boo.

It almost renamed itself Gasburg.

Whoever came up with this name obviously wasn't thinking about the fart jokes of the future, but rather the city's newfound natural gas industry.

According to Philip Pype, the archivist with the Esplanade Archives in Medicine Hat, the city dodged that bullet thanks to the author of the Jungle Book, Rudyard Kipling.

At the request of the residents who Pype said were "horrified" at the thought of living in a place called Gasburg, the British writer penned a convincing letter to the editor of the Medicine Hat News.

"He basically said that if such a place as Medicine Hat were to rename itself and turn its back on its own heritage and on its own values, it might as well rename it Judasville."

His letter was published in the local newspaper and the rest — is history.

Neel Sethi appears in a scene in The Jungle Book with King Louie, voiced by Christopher Walken. (Disney Enterprises)

The Jungle Book author 'big fan' of Medicine Hat

Ironically it was the city's Blackfoot name that lured the famous author to the boonies of the British Empire.

"He was actually intrigued by the name itself and received an invitation during his trip across North America. So, he came here by train, he and his wife, and took a tour of our city and became a big fan of Medicine Hat," said Pype.

He said locals gave him the celebrity treatment and though it's not documented, there's a good chance they tried to impress him by throwing a match on a gas well.

"One of the traditions of the time was to take dignitaries out to one of the gas wells," said Pype. 

"And certainly health and safety regulations were not what they are today. They would turn on a gas pipe at full blast, light it on fire and it would flare up several hundred feet in the air."        

Forget The Jungle Book, we hear about Rudyard Kipling's adventure in Alberta over 100 years ago. 5:55

With files the Calgary Eyeopener

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