Calgary looks ever forward and often moves as fast as a prairie storm; its official motto, adopted in 1884, is a single propulsive word: “Onward.” It can seem, at a glance, like a place with no past at all. By world standards, and even by Canadian ones, this isn’t much of an overstatement. To say that it is a young city is accurate demographically — its median age, 35.8, is the lowest in Canada, and its population has grown faster than any other in the country since 2001, as legions of young job seekers poured in by the tens of thousands from Regina and Mississauga and St. John’s — but it is equally true on a historical scale. In 1882, the year Sir John A. Macdonald founded the Albany Club in Toronto, Calgary was a collection of tents and shacks in the shadow of a North West Mounted Police outpost, still waiting on the arrival of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Montreal built its first skyscraper, the New York Life Building, fifteen years before Calgary got its first telephone. At the end of World War I, Winnipeg was a booming industrial city of 165,000; Calgary would not reach that benchmark until ten years after World War II ended.

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