Dressed in red uniforms with wide, brown Stetsons, the Mounties galloped across the prairies, and symbolized everything romantic about how Canada’s West was tamed. These were resourceful men, quick to make decisions, respectful, handsome, and daring.
Because of the sheer volume of population, America’s West was settled fifty years before Canada’s. The U.S. had sheriffs and marshals, whereas Canada had the North-West Mounted Police. They were formed in 1873 by the government in order to settle the prairies, rid the land of whisky traders, and maintain a lawful border with the States. In 1904, King Edward VII renamed them the Royal Canadian Mounted Police—bestowing the title of ‘royal’ because they fought so bravely in the Boer War for England.
At that time in Canada’s history, anyone from a commonwealth country was allowed to join the Force. Many signed on from the United Kingdom and the United States. Marriage was restricted. These men were expected to lead solitary lives, policing great distances on horseback, months away from home and sacrificing personal lives to serve their country. It was argued that if a Mountie constable had a wife and family, his duties would be diminished in order to protect his own homestead and family. Officers, on the other hand, weren’t so restricted.
The photos you see were taken in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. That’s me in front of an actual Mountie cabin that was used during the Klondike Gold Rush. Inside the cabin, check out that ball and chain!
My series, Alaska Cowboys and Mounties, was inspired by the beauty and history of this area.