Edmonton

Historic Steele collection returning to Canada

A piece of Canadian history known as the Sir Samuel Steele Collection that languished for years in a British attic will soon be on its way to Alberta.

Letters, photos, diaries and artifacts of famed Mounted Police and military figure Sir Samuel Steele bought for $1.8 million

Sir Sam Steele, lived from 1849 to 1919, was a major player in the policing and military history of Western Canada. ((CBC))

A piece of Canadian history known as the Sir Samuel Steele Collection that languished for years in a British attic will soon be on its way to Alberta.

The treasure trove of letters, photographs, diaries and artifacts was handed over Thursday by the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, in a ceremony at the Canadian High Commission in London's Trafalgar Square.

"It’s fantastic that somebody actually discovered all those boxes and what was contained in there and somebody actually realized the true value," the prince said during the ceremony.

"The legend, like the man, looms very large," said James Wright, Canada's high commissioner to Britain.

"History books are filled with accounts of how Sam Steele played a pivotal role … bringing law and order to the Northwest Territories but also helping shape military history."

The Sam Steele Collection was handed over Thursday in London by the Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, right, to Canadian High Commissioner to Britain James Wright. ((CBC))

Steele, who lived from 1849 to 1919,  was a member of the North-West Mounted Police and Lord Strathcona's Horse (Royal Canadians).

He policed in the Klondike during the Gold Rush, helped maintain order on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and tried to persuade Chief Sitting Bull to turn himself over to U.S. authorities. He also fought in the Boer War and the First World War.

Steele documented all of these events, filling 86 boxes that ended up being stored along with his uniform and pistol in the home of a relative in Britain.

A few years ago, his relations approached the Canadian High Commission with an offer to sell the collection. The commission, in turn, contacted various Canadian universities and art galleries.

The University of Alberta and the Glenbow Museum in Calgary decided to buy the collection for $1.8 million.

It was like Christmas morning, said one member of the Canadian delegation, because of the wealth of historical information contained in the collection.