In May 1914—105 years ago—rodeo competitor and photographer A. D. “Cowboy” Kean (1882-1961) made a deal to organize and manage the cowboy sports events at that September’s Vancouver Exhibition (today’s Pacific National Exhibition). Kean was just getting started as a motion picture cameraman, and he acquired the rights to film the exhibition as well. The rodeo events, marketed as “Range Days,” proved immensely popular, and he would go on to manage them at the 1915 and 1923 Vancouver exhibitions.
Unfortunately, most of the footage shot by Kean has long since been lost or destroyed. The brief 35 mm film fragment shown above, the only extant footage of “Range Days,” shows the rough-riding event at the 1914 or 1915 exhibition. These scenes were included in his one of his few surviving films, The North British-Columbians, “Warden’s Warriors,” 102nd Battalion CEF: Historic Departure (1916). The latter shows a BC regiment departing Comox, BC, for service in the First World War; a segment called “Scenes from the Land of the North British-Columbians” features footage of BC wildlife and a few sporting events.
Kean filmed numerous BC regiments departing for war service, as well as wide range of BC places and industries. During the period 1919-1923, he was official filmmaker for the BC goverment’s Patriotic and Educational Picture Service (PEPS).
He later spent almost four years making and promoting Policing the Plains (1927), a feature-length docudrama on the history of the Royal Northwest Mounted Police. On its Toronto premiere in December 1927, the film was a commercial and critical failure, and was never screened publicly again.
Re-settling in the Toronto area, Kean became a well-known journalist, writer, and broadcaster. He was a reporter for the Toronto Daily Star, sold cowboy adventure stories to the weekend supplement Star Weekly, and was heard in radio talks and radio plays on CFCA, CFRB, and CBC Toronto.
For more about Kean and his fascinating career, take a look at the CHEK-TV/RBCM video short at my blog entry This Week in History: A. D. Kean, Cowboy Cameraman.