Fonds F1490 - George and Norma Piper Pocaterra fonds

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George and Norma Piper Pocaterra fonds


  • 1848-1979, predominant 1905-1979 (Creation)

Level of description


Extent and medium

2.75 m of textual records. -- 6882 photographs. -- 8 sound recordings

Context area

Name of creator

Biographical history

George William Pocaterra, 1882-1972, was born in Italy, the son of an aristocratic family. In 1903 he came to Canada and worked in Winnipeg, and as a cowboy on the Bar D Ranch near High River, Alberta before he established the Buffalo Head Ranch on the Highwood River in 1905. There he developed a close relationship with the Stoneys, and explored and mapped much of the Kananaskis area. In 1924 he turned the Buffalo Head into a successful dude (guest) ranch. When his father died in 1933 he sold the ranch and returned to Italy to settle family affairs. There, in 1934, he met Norma Piper, who was studying opera singing in Milan.

Norma, 1898-1983, was born in Leamington, Ontario. Her family moved to Calgary in 1918 where her father, Dr. W.A. Piper, practiced as a dentist. Norma made her Canadian debut as a coloratura soprano in 1930 and left for Italy in 1934 to further her musical career. George and Norma married in 1936, and George managed his wife's rising operatic career until it was cut short by Second World War. They returned to North America and in 1941 settled on the Ghost River. Norma became a voice instructor at Mount Royal College in 1942, and taught singing in Calgary until the 1970s. The Pocaterras moved to Calgary in 1955.

For further information see The Diva & the Rancher : The Story of Norma Piper and George Pocaterra / Jennifer Hamblin and David Finch. -- Calgary : Rocky Mountain Books, 2006. See also Jennifer Hamblin's article "The Career of Operatic Soprano, Norma Piper Pocaterra" in Citymakers : Calgarians after the Frontier / Max Foran and Sheilagh S. Jameson, eds. -- Calgary : Historical Society of Alberta, Chinook Country Chapter, 1987.


Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gifts of George and Norma Pocaterra and William Piper, 1963-1983.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

The fonds consists of George's diaries (1935-1969), correspondence (1905-1971), ranching records, reminiscences, obituary, recorded speech and interview; Norma's diaries (1935-1940, 1970-1979), correspondence (1925-1978), musical career records (publicity, programs, recordings of her singing, etc.), reminiscences, her biography of George, and two recorded interviews; and the Pocaterra's financial records, tax returns, scrapbooks, and photographs and slides of Kananaskis, ranches, Italy, opera, and family members. Includes Dr. W.A. Piper's correspondence, speeches, oil company prospectuses and dentistry photographs.

Appraisal, destruction and scheduling


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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

No restrictions on access.

Conditions governing reproduction

Language of material

Script of material

Language and script notes

The material is predominantly in English, but some of the correspondence from George to Norma is in Italian.

Physical characteristics and technical requirements

Finding aids

Inventory and interview outlines available. Please consult before requesting material.

Allied materials area

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

In 1976 Library and Archives Canada copied some of this fonds into MG 30 B 84 (their microfilm M-4294). George's memoir of the Stoneys was published as "Among the Nomadic Stoneys" in Alberta Historical Review, vol.11, no.3 (1963), p. 12-19.

Related units of description

There is an interview with Norma in the Sierra Club of Western Canada Oral History Project at Glenbow (RCT-618-43).

Notes area


Title based on contents of records.


AR 19 are four painted portraits. They have not been included in the extent or description.


RAT 33 is a copy of RAD 14.


M-4132 is a photocopy of M-6752 and should be deaccessioned.


Includes file 91 from M-4843 Riveredge collection

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Level of detail

Dates of creation revision deletion

Tuesday, July 31, 2018




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