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Alberta's Telephone Heritage
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J. A. MacDougall

Edmonton’s 11th mayor was elected by a landslide vote in 1908, largely on a promise that the town would get its first automated dial telephone system. He accomplished that goal, beating Toronto and New York by 20 years.

After settling in Edmonton in 1879, the independent general merchant was the chief retail competition against the Hudson’s Bay Company. By 1897, he established McDougall & Secord, wholesale and retail business that specialized in outfitting traders.

McDougall was a city leader in every sense of the word. He served as alderman from 1894-95, mayor in 1897 and 1908, Liberal Member of the Legislative Assembly, and president of the first Edmonton Board of Trade. His contributions to both government and Edmonton’s infrastructure included the amalgamation of Edmonton and Strathcona, construction of the Low Level and High Level Bridges, the promotion of the city’s first Electric Light and Power Company, the development of the Edmonton streetcar system, and the installation of the aforementioned telephone system.

McDougall was also a patron of the arts, and owned one of the finest personal collections of paintings in the country. To mark the Edmonton and Alberta centennials, in 2004 and 2005 the Provincial Museum of Alberta mounted a show of artworks from the McDougall collection.

John A. McDougall School, constructed in 1913 was named in his honour.


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