hide You are viewing an archived web page, collected at the request of University of Alberta using Archive-It. This page was captured on 17:00:52 Dec 08, 2010, and is part of the HCF Alberta Online Encyclopedia collection. The information on this web page may be out of date. See All versions of this archived page. Loading media information
Heritage Community Foundation Presents
Alberta Online Encyclopedia
Alberta Inventors and Inventions - A Century of Patents homeinfosearchsitemapcontactedukit

Heritage Community Foundation
Alberta Innovation and Science
Canada's Digital Collections
Visit AlbertaSource.ca


A. Brooke farmAgriculture has always played a significant role in Alberta's economy, and in the early part of the 20th century, it was the dominant way of life in the province. This fact is reflected in the Canadian Patent Office Record, where numerous, prominent agricultural innovations of the 1910s, 1920s and 1930s are recorded.

Record of the Gopher Destroying DeviceThe patent record likely represents only a fraction of innovative activity that took place within agriculture at the time. The nature of the agricultural way of life necessitated improvisation, and farmers were constantly having to invent, change, adjust or jury-rig their tools to adapt to various obstacles, challenges or aggravations. Hence we have the twine holder, invented by Samuel James Currey of Innisfail in 1910; a gopher destroying device by Samuel D. Yeomans in 1913; and the hoe-rake, invented by Frances Kallal of Tofield in 1943.

Red Deer Coat of ArmsUsually these inventions, patented by individuals, were not widely used. While they were often useful, most people lacked the marketing skills or the investment capital to start mass production. There were a few exceptions, including the Van Slyke plow, invented in 1910 by Frank Van Slyke. It was well used in the Red Deer area, with more than 1,400 in use by 1922, and even became something of a local legend. It was eventually incorporated into the City of Red Deer coat of arms.

The Necessity of Invention
Sharman and jersey calfOften problems that farmers encountered were regional, inherent to specific parts of the environment. The arid lands of southern Alberta, for instance, required new methods and implements to keep moisture in the soil and prevent soil erosion. When methods including plowless summer fallowing and strip farming proved imperfect, for instance, Charles Noble, in 1935, came up with the Noble blade, considered to be one of the true breakthrough ideas developed in Alberta.

Others invented machinery to more efficiently harvest crops more suited to the dry-land environment. The Kirchner family, for example, developed machinery to improve the production of sugar beets, including harvesters, thinners and top savers that allowed the tops of the plants to be saved for livestock feed.

Noble turning the sodLivestock production has always been a significant part of agriculture in Alberta. Inventions involving cattle have included a  calf weaner, invented by Ernest Leitch in 1968 and a cattle stall by John Joseph McHugh of Calgary in 1911. Lucky local pigs received a new kind of slop pail, invented by Berton C. Groat of Edmonton in 1906. Austin Hilliard, of Hinton, came up with a better kind of horseshoe in 1913. And in the 1930s and 1940s, Martin Gallivan, from the Calgary area, developed a new formula for chicken feed, which he called Radium Laying Mash.

Research Farms
Research farms have long played a significant role in agricultural innovation, with the first facility established at Lethbridge in 1906. These farms developed new agricultural methods, and tested equipment invented by local farmers; several of Charles Nobles' first customers, for instance, were research facilities. Often the inventions developed at such farms were not patented, as they were intended to be for the benefit of local farmers.

Taking soil samplesThe role of research institutions including universities has become increasingly important in Alberta as agriculture has moved toward technologically advanced equipment and solutions, and thus largely beyond the capabilities of the individual working alone. Cutler wheat, for example, was an early maturing wheat developed by Dr. Keith Briggs under the auspices of the wheat breeding program at the University of Alberta. Dr. Briggs also developed laser wheat, for areas with short growing seasons.

[<<back] timeline

Albertasource.ca | Contact Us | Partnerships
For more on innovation and invention in Alberta , visit Peel’s Prairie Provinces.
Copyright © Heritage Communty Foundation All Rights Reserved