Brandon, Manitoba, incorporated as a city in 1882, population 51,313 (2021 census), 48,883 (2016 census). The City of Brandon, the province's second-largest city and economic hub of its southwestern region, is located on the Assiniboine River, 197 km west of Winnipeg.
Settlement and Development
From 1793 to 1832, three Hudson's Bay Company posts were established in the Brandon area. All three were called Brandon House, likely after the duke of Brandon, an ancestor of Lord Selkirk. Permanent settlement began in the late 1870s at Grand Valley, three km east, and the Brandon Hills. Protestants from Quebec and the Maritimes were among the first arrivals, followed by British and American immigrants. The present site of Brandon was chosen as a divisional point on the Canadian Pacific Railway in 1881, and Brandon grew rapidly into the transportation, distribution, service and trade centre for the surrounding hinterland.
Industry also had an early role in the economy as manufactured goods were produced in the 1880s and 1890s. Brandon was a judicial and regional medical centre and, by the end of the 19th century, had a federal agricultural research station, provincial jail, mental hospital, school of nursing, a residential school (Brandon Indian Residential School), and the Baptist-sponsored Brandon College. In the early 20th century until the beginning of the First World War (WWI), Brandon's population increased nearly threefold as its economy boomed. During this time, McKenzie Seeds grew into one of the largest seed houses in the British Commonwealth.
After the war, labour unrest and unfavourable economic conditions occurred. Both the city and Brandon College faced financial crises. During the Second World War (WWII), thousands of armed forces personnel trained in the city or at nearby Shilo and Commonwealth air schools. Following the war, economic and physical growth was steady. Brandon College became a provincial university in 1967 (see Brandon University); Assiniboine Community College was established; manufacturing began to diversify; a regional library, arts centre and museums were developed; and facilities such as the Keystone Centre, an arena-convention complex, were built.
Agriculture, trade and commerce, health care and administration are the economic mainstays of Brandon. Food processing, particularly a Maple Leaf pork processing plant, is one of a number of manufacturing industries. Most manufacturing enterprises are locally owned and regionally marketed, but Brandon has attracted some national and international firms producing fertilizers, metal products, industrial and commercial chemicals and raw estrogen for pharmaceutical use. Educational institutions and transportation (railways and trucking) also contribute to its economic base. Brandon's regional trade population extends to Portage la Prairie, eastern Saskatchewan, the international boundary and north to Dauphin.
Brandon has ready access to some of Manitoba's most attractive natural recreation areas - Spruce Woods Provincial Heritage Park to the east, Turtle Mountain Provincial Park and Brandon Hills Wildlife Management Area, both to the south, and Riding Mountain National Park to the north. The Assiniboine River Corridor, with its network of parks and pathways, stretches 17 km through the heart of the city.
The city has hosted the Canada Winter Games (1979), the World Curling Championships (1995) and the Canada Summer Games (1997). It is also known for its agricultural shows put on by the Provincial Exhibition of Manitoba - Royal Manitoba Winter Fair, Manitoba Summer Fair and Manitoba Livestock Expo, the province's largest livestock show and sale.
In addition to Brandon University and Assiniboine Community College there is a specialized post-secondary institution (emergency services). The Brandon Sun, the city's daily newspaper, has been publishing since 1882.
Brandon has a wide variety of cultural, social and sports organizations with a full range of recreational facilities. Daly House Museum in the house (built 1882) of Brandon's first mayor, Thomas Daly, traces Brandon's settlement and economic development. The Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum is dedicated to Royal Commonwealth Air Force personnel who trained and fought in the Second World War (WWII). The Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium stages entertainment ranging from symphony and dance to theatre. Works of regional artists, as well as national and international exhibitions, are presented at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba. The annual Brandon Folk Music and Arts Festival is held in July.