5.000 years before European explorers and fur traders arrived in the Edmonton area, the land was populated by the Cree and Blackfoot nations. In 1795, the Hudson’s Bay Company established its first trading post near the present site of Fort Saskatchewan in order to trade fur with First Nations. The fort was moved several times, to be settled permanently in 1830 on land that is today known as Alberta Legislature Grounds.
The fur trade boomed for many decades. In 1870, the Canadian government bought the land from the Hudson’s Bay Company to open it for settlement. In 1892, Edmonton was incorporated as a town. At this time about 700 people called Edmonton their home. In 1898, the Gold Rush Edmonton became the outfitting center for many prospectors heading for the Yukon.
By 1904, Edmonton had a population of 8,350. Soon after, when Alberta joined the Confederation, Edmonton was selected as provincial capital. In 1908, the University of Alberta opened its doors. Edmonton entered a frantic boom period when Strathcona amalgamated with Edmonton in 1912, combining their population to over 40,000. In the 1930s Edmonton became the “Gateway to the North” flying medical supplies, food and mail to remote northern communities.
Edmonton’s face changed forever when oil was discovered in Leduc in 1947. Overnight Edmonton became the Oil Capital of Canada and Edmonton’s population doubled within a decade. Still today, the oil and gas industry remains the city’s economic cornerstone.
The 1960s brought the Edmonton International Airport, the Citadel Theatre, the 27-story CN Tower and the Provincial Museum of Alberta. The 1970s brought a further boost to development of Edmonton and the Northlands Coliseum (today Skyreach Centre) opened its doors to mark the NHL’s best ice surface. In 1978, Edmonton became the first city with a population smaller than 1 million to have a Light Rail Transit (LRT) system.
With the opening of West Edmonton Mall in 1981, Edmonton entered the Guinness Book of Records with the world’s largest shopping and entertainment complex. In 1995, Edmonton celebrated its 200th year.