Saturday, August 20, 2011

1939 Musical Ride of the RCMP at the New York World's Fair


To most Canadians the Musical Ride of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police is considered a national institution, even a national treasure, as well as being renowned internationally. In 1966 my parents purchased a cottage in the 30,000 Island District of Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada. The previous owner was a retired fire department chief from Avon, Ohio, Captain Floyd J. ‘Cap’ O’Neil. The cottage was renamed in his honor, ‘Cap’s Cay’. In the boat house hung a rather unique photograph, subjected to all the realities of the Georgian Bay climate for years, including the humidity of the bay and severe sub-zero winters. Surprisingly it had survived remarkably well, all things considered.

It was a panoramic photograph of the 1939 Musical Ride Troop of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in front of the Canadian National Pavilion at the New York World’s Fair. The fair was held during the summer, barely weeks before the start of World War II on 1 September 1939. They were appearing in a series of performances at the fair. While there ‘Cap’ O’Neil had been their host and guide. Out of appreciation the Troop had presented him with the photograph, signed by each and every member. The signatures were somewhat faded due to age and the environment, but still clearly visible.

I matted and framed the photograph, and recently donated the original to the RCMP Historical Collections Unit at the new museum in Regina, Saskatchewan. After an extended series of technical challenges their Forensics Section was able to provide me with a copy of the original in return. Panoramic photography is obviously still readily available, but printing equipment in the size required was not.

 Of particular interest are the WWI campaign medals of the Officer-in-Charge and a couple other NCO’s. It would be of significant interest to know how many of this group served on active duty with the Canadian Armed Forces during World War II. The most interesting detail in the picture however, is the presence of then Corporal Cyril N.K. ‘Nordie’ Kirk. Corporal Kirk would subsequently command the Musical Ride in 1953, with the rank of Superintendent. This was in due course during his series of promotions in the force, to ultimately become an Assistant Commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He had quite an illustrative and distinguished career! For those who might be interested his son has posted a web site in his honor; http://www.pwnhc.ca/programs/archives/kirk_archives.asp.

The photograph is of such size that in order to provide any detail I have to present it in two halves. I have also been able to further discover a contemporary photograph taken during one of the Ride’s performances at the fair. I have personally had the privilege of seeing them twice, once at the Calgary Stampede and at the Los Angeles County Fair in Pomona, California. For those who may be interested I have included a more recent performance by the Musical Ride of the RCMP at the Canadian National Exposition in Toronto in 2008. (Click on images to enlarge.)

The 1939 Musical Ride of the RCMP in front of the Canadian
National Pavilion at the New York World's Fair
The balance of the panoramic photograph
Then Corporal C.N.K. 'Nordie' Kirk of
the RCMP on the far right, his signature
appearing below the horse's hooves
The Musical Ride of the RCMP performing at the
1939 New York World's Fair 

2 comments:

Peter said...

I believe that my grandfather was one of the rcmp members of that musical ride for the worlds fair

Unknown said...

My father, Eugene McCabe, was the last rider on the right, the only horse that is turning his head. His regular horse, Roto, was slightly injured in the train transit to NY and Dad had to ride a spare. A woman, out of sight of the camera, was offering the horse an apple. We have this same picture.

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