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Alberta, Past and Present, Historical and Biographical
Vol 2
Alexander Galbraith


"The nineteenth century belongs to the United States—the twentieth century belongs to Canada." Thus spoke one of the clearest thinkers in America several years ago. The potential wealth in the rich soil of western Canada has attracted from all quarters of the globe men anxious to secure for themselves and their families a share of the prosperity which the boundless west holds in store for those who seek it, and they have not come in vain, for to every willing worker western Canada has given freely and abundantly. Among those whose efforts are proving a dominant force in promoting the development of Alberta's millions of acres of fertile farming lands is numbered Alexander Galbraith, provincial superintendent of fairs and institutes and one of the leading authorities in North America on matters pertaining to agriculture and stock raising.

A native of the land of heather and bracken, Alexander Galbraith was born May 20, 1853, at Croy Cunningham, in the parish of Killearn, county of Stirling, not far from Loch Lomond, the scene of Sir Walter Scott's beautiful poem, "The Lady of the Lake." His parents, Alexander and Jean (Graham) Galbraith, were both natives of Scotland, and for sixty years Croy Cunningham had been the family homestead. The father not only excelled as a horse and cattle breeder, but was widely known at the Highland and other important agricultural shows, winning high honors at the first stallion exhibition in the city of Glasgow, which was held in 1836, and the son drew deeply from his environment, the lore of paddock and pasture being early impressed upon his mind. His education was acquired in the Killearn parish school and the Mechanics' Institution at Glasgow and when sixteen years of age he entered a mercantile establishment in Glasgow, ill he learned the cotton, yarn and Turkey red dye business in connection with the English and East Indian trade. For fourteen years he was identified with mercantile interests, but in 1883 his love of husbandry reasserted itself and in May of that year he sought the opportunities offered in the United States, joining his three brothers, John, Archie and James. The latter two had come to America in 1881 and the four brothers formed a partnership, engaging in business as importers and breeders of Clydesdale, Suffolk and Shire horses. During the next twelve years the firm brought to its headquarters at Janesville, Wisconsin, nearly one thousand stallions and many mares that not only won highest honours in the principal show yards of the day, but also proved of real constructive benefit to the communities which they entered.

The financial panic of 1893 brought disaster to the Galbraiths and to hundreds of others interested in the cause of improved live stock. The firm was dissolved and Mr. Galbraith moved to the Ruger farm near Janesville. In recognition of his ripe experience the authorities of the University of Wisconsin secured his services as lecturer at farmers' institutes, a forerunner of his great work of later years. In 1894 he was elected secretary of the American Clydesdale Association, retaining that office until 1901, when he was chosen vice president, and in 1907 he was honoured with the presidency, serving in that capacity until he left the United States for Canada, eight years later.

About 1900 Mr. Galbraith reentered the horse business, importing and dealing in Clydesdales, Suffolks and Percherons. He was associated with his son Graeme in this venture and the business was conducted under the style of Alexander Galbraith & Son, with headquarters at Janesville. For six years Mr. Galbraith was president of the American Shire Horse Society and he also served as secretary of the American Suffolk Horse Association from the time of its organization until 1909, when his son succeeded him in the office. The Hackney horse likewise claimed a share of his attention and for some years he was a director of the American Hackney Horse Society. In 1901 Galbraith & Son opened a branch stable in Brandon, Manitoba, from which point they distributed about three hundred stallions, and in 1908 the headquarters of the firm was moved from Janesville, Wisconsin, to DeKaIb, Illinois. Three years later, in appreciation of his work for the betterment of horse breeding and agriculture in general Mr. Galbraith was presented with an illustrated testimonial by the College of Agriculture of the University of Wisconsin.

It was in his capacity as a judge of draft horses that Mr. Galbraith made his greatest contribution to the agriculture of North America. At the Chicago World's Fair of 1893, at the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904, and at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition of 1915 at San Francisco, he was called oil adjudicate types. In the International show ring at Chicago and at Madison Square Garden in New York, his decisions are equally well known. During thirty-nine years of live stock shows in Chicago he failed only twice to appear, either as judge or exhibitor. The famous Philadelphia horse shows have called on him eight times, the state fairs of Iowa, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin, Ohio, New Jersey, Virginia and New York have sought his viewpoints, while Toronto Ottawa, Montreal, Guelph, Winnipeg, Brandon, Regina, Saskatoon, Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver have profited by his judgment and cooperation. His services have not been confined to lessons in type, but he has set up for horsemen a very high ideal of the privileges and duties of the exhibitor.

In July, 1915, at the instance of the Hon. Duncan Marshall, then minister of agriculture for Alberta, Mr. Galbraith came to Edmonton as superintendent of fairs and institutes and lecturer in the agricultural schools of the province, in which capacities he has since served. No man has ever made a more notable record iii this office and his work is characterized by the highest degree of efficiency and ability. His previous experience in this connection at the University of Wisconsin had been broadened by lectures delivered by him at the agricultural colleges and universities of Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, New York, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan, so that he entered upon his duties with a greatly broadened viewpoint. During his first seven years of service he superintended from eighty to one hundred and twelve agricultural fairs annually, appointed the judges for all, and attended the majority of them. Each year lie has assumed charge of demonstration trains that have toured the province of Alberta in the interests of better agriculture, while he has lectured frequently at the six Provincial Schools of Agriculture and has taken charge of the Short Course School, held in tents in different parts of the province during the winter season. He was recently elected secretary- treasurer of the Alberta Agricultural Fairs Association, an organization in control of all the provincial fairs in cooperation with the government.

At Glasgow, Scotland, on the 4th of June, 1879, Mr. Galbraith was united in marriage to Miss Christina Macnicol, a daughter of Peter and Jean (McFarlane) Macnicol. Mr. and Mrs. Galbraith have six children namely: Alexander Graham, who married Nelly Rumrill and resides at Janesville, Wisconsin; Peter Charles, who wedded Alice Barlow and is living at Detroit, Michigan; John Gladstone, whose home is in Chicago, Illinois, and who married Edna Ratcliffe; Victor Arrol, who is unmarried and is also a resident of that city; Christina Macnicol, who is the wife of Chester A. Morse of Mattoon, Illinois; and Jean, who is still at home with her parents.

Mr. Galbraith served for thirteen years in the Volunteer army in Glasgow, Scotland, and during more than five years of that period was a first lieutenant. He has done much to promote a knowledge of Scottish ideals and traditions on this side of the water and in 1886 he assisted in organizing the Rock County Caledonian Society in Janesville, acting as its secretary for seven years and as its president for the ensuing six years. In 1894 he introduced the game of golf to Wisconsin, setting out an eighteen-hole course on his farm, and he was the first president of the Sinnissippi Golf Club, the pioneer organization of this character in the Badger state. While a resident of the United States he voted the republican ticket and as a British subject he supports the candidates and principles of the Liberal party. He is an earnest member of the First Presbyterian church and his fraternal connections are with the Masons and the Knights of Pythias. At the time Mr. Galbraith came to Alberta his lifelong friend and coworker, R. B. Ogilvie, paid him the following tribute in a letter to the Hon. Duncan Marshall: "It will not be from Alexander Galbraith, the experienced and practical stockman, nor from Alexander Galbraith, the versatile writer, but from Alexander Galbraith, the man, that the province of Alberta will get the greatest service!" He has Preached the lesson of true equine type in every important show-yard in the United States and Canada, by demonstrating, either in the capacity of exhibitor or judge, the fundamentals of draft horse power, and in this connection his name is known from one end of this continent to the other. He has few equals and no superiors in his chosen field of labor. His life has been one of intense activity and usefulness, guided by high ideals and far-reaching and beneficial in its effects.


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