Robert James Campbell Stead (1880-1959), like many of his generation were multi-faceted characters. He begun his working life by starting a newspaper in his hometown of Cartwright, Manitoba, and was a published poet early in life but it is as a writer of novels he gained most fame. In later life he moved to Alberta where he became variously a journalist, a Car Salesman, a Civil Servant and publicist for the CPR,
Robert J. C. Stead was born on 4th September 1880 in Middleville, Lanark County, Ontario. The family moved when he was young and they were homesteading in Cartwright, Manitoba by 1882 . This was to be the basis of the locations Plainsville and Alder Creek in much of his later fiction.
Stead published his first book, “The Empire Builders and Other Poems” in 1908 This drew heavily on the styles of his two favourite writers at that time; Robert Service and Rudyard Kipling and was seen as an excessively patriotic book lauding Canada and Canadians. With the advent of the first World War his writing became even more fervant but his later novels showed a progressive shift from the gung-ho romantic to the more tolerant “prairie realism” for which he was to became famous.
For a time Stead worked for the Canadian Pacific Railway in Calgary in the immigration department. His writing natural began to reflect the clean, healthy vigour of life in the open spaces. Spaces opened up by courtesy of the CPR of course!
In 1919 he started work as a publicist for the government at the Department of Immigration and Colonization, moving to the Department of Mines and Resources in 1936 until his retirement in 1946.
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