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Edward Odlum was born in Peel County, Ontario. He attended Victoria University and taught in public schools in Ontario. In 1889 he came to Vancouver and in 1892 was elected alderman for Ward 4. At the end of his term he was sent to England by the provincial government as a lecturer to interest Britishers in emigrating to Canada; he was also selected by the B.C. government to study educational systems in other provinces. In 1904 Odlum was again elected to City Council. He was active in the central executive of ratepayers' associations and the Carnegie Library Board.