Fort Edmonton, a prairie institution and icon from 1795 to 1915, was not just a physical edifice and community—it was a touchstone of western Canadian commercial history, leading to the founding of a strong prosperous city. Established in the wilderness as an outpost and pioneer commercial venture, it became the headquarters for the fur trade for the entire Saskatchewan district, and a provisioning point for all western travellers and explorers. At the same time, as a white European institution established solely for commercial exploitation and imposed on the area's First Nations, the Fort's presence lead to social chaos, the loss of sovereignty and the ultimate marginalization of those people.
The story of Fort Edmonton is a tale rich in drama and colour. There were Métis fiddlers at midnight, dwarves firing cannons, duelling clergy, never-ending public drumming, secret agents, the raising of the skull and crossbones flag, and bears quaffing cold drinks. At times it seemed like a circus had taken up residence in the Fort. It is also a chronicle of intimidation and murder, battles between whites and First Nations, epidemics and famines, destruction by fire, whisky traders, horse stealing, mutinies, rebellion and, finally, government neglect and stealthy demolition.
Over the years, a wealth of written descriptions of the Fort was produced. A rich body of visual representations was also created. It is from the accumulation of all these documents that the fascinating story of Fort Edmonton is pieced together and told here in all its glory.