Over the summer, I had the pleasure of leading tours. While in Henry House, I had multiple visitors, on different tours, ask about the music box in the parlour. Besides providing basic information that the object was a music box, I was left feeling that there was more to this music box than its appearance.
Henry House Music Box
The music box in Henry House is a pinned cylinder music box made by Langdorff & Fils. Langdorff & Fils were music box makers located in Geneva, Switzerland and active between 1850-1870. They made cylinder music boxes with their signature harp and music sheet decorated on top.
Cylinder music boxes, like ours, were the first music boxes to be widely used in homes in the mid to late 1800s. The first music box appeared in the late 1700s in Switzerland and is credited to Swiss watchmaker, Antoine Favre. Based off the advancements made in mechanical watches, early music boxes used the same movements: notes produced by a revolving disc with teeth around the edges.
Author Gilbert Bahl says, “The [cylinder] music box is actually based on a very simple principle: metal teeth which are tuned to scale in a variety of ways are plucked by pins projecting from a revolving cylinder. These pins are set in the cylinder in such a way that they pluck the teeth of the comb at precisely the right moment.”
The popularity of music boxes over the next fifty years led to many improvements, including its incorporation into decorative household items, longer and larger cylinders to play more music, and further mechanization that allowed simply pushing a button to play instead of having to hand crank the player.
Our music box is powered by hand, with a crank for the cylinder on the left side. On the right side of the box, you can see two switches. One is the stop and play switch, while the other is to repeat or change songs. As well, our music box is within a very stylish box that can be set up in any room, ours being in the parlour. The label inside the music box says the cylinder plays twelve songs, including waltzes, polka, and some opera songs, all in either French or German.
A lasting history
As I researched music boxes, I realised that I, too, had music boxes in my parents’ house. Something that spoke to me that Bahl wrote was the timelessness of the music box. I was reminded of the ballerina music box my mom had as a child and still has today and, as Bahl explores, how hearing the music from a music box connects us to the past. We realise that we are listening to music that was also listened to and enjoyed by people many years ago. Mine are not that old, but I still adore them and think that maybe someone in some future will listen to them too.
Bahl, G. (1993). Music Boxes: The Collector’s Guide to Selecting, Restoring, and Enjoying New and Vintage Music Boxes. Running Press Book Publishers.
December 2, 1922, Page 1 Cedar Dale Residents Discuss Annexation; Many Sign Petitions
Opponents of Movement Make Little Progress – Would Delay matters by Calling Vote of Ratepayers Fifty Sign Annexation Petition at Meeting – Majority Favour Proposal
Municipal Board Must Decide Issue
The majority of Cedar Dale residents desire annexation to the Town of Oshawa. They demonstrated that in no uncertain terms at an enthusiastic meeting held on Thursday evening in the Temperance Hall, Cedar Dale. At this meeting, GD Conant, one of the prime movers in the scheme, was the principal speaker. He outlined the whole proposition from beginning to end and cleared up many misunderstandings that had existed prior to this meeting. At the conclusion of his address he was the recipient of much applause and when he called upon those who were in favor of annexation to come forward and sign the petition approximately 50 electors complied and affixed their signatures to the petition…
Edward Powers, who has steadily opposed the scheme, was present with a handful of followers, but he fought a losing battle from the start and the audience did not take kindly to his suggestions. At one time during the evening Mr. Powers charged that intimidation had been used to get names on the petition favoring annexation…
Page 3 Slight Chimney Fire
Very little damage was done when fire broke out in the home of Mr. Alfred Robinson, Queen street, late yesterday afternoon. The chimney caught fire when the pipes became overheated byt it was detected in time to prevent serious consequences. An alarm was turned in and the Fire Brigade made a quick response. It was not necessary to use the hose as the fire had merely started. Precautions were taken to prevent fire from breaking out again.
December 5, 1922 page 2
The Whitby Gazette thinks that Oshawa is asking too much when we request a half million dollar harbor. Now how would it be if we waited a few years and when we annexed Whitby we could use their harbor!
December 7, 1922, Third Section Stores Doing Rushing Christmas Business
The slogan “Do Your Christmas Shopping Early” has taken a strong hold in Oshawa if the throngs on the streets and in the town’s busy stores are any criterion. Every afternoon recently has seen large crowds of shoppers out doing their Christmas purchasing and the stores along Simcoe and King Streets have found their capacities and help taxed to the limit in coping with the situation…
Christmas decorations are seen in the windows while within the stores have a gala appearance which is seen at no other time of the year. Be they grocery stores, stationers’ shops, jewelry stores or departmental stores, it makes no difference – the same atmosphere pervades them one and all…
Talking to Reformer representative AE Lovell, of Jury & Lovell, the Rexall store, said: “Business is fine and increasing daily. We anticipate a record breaking turnover during the Christmas season.”
Page 8 William T. Henry
The death of William T. Henry, well-known resident of Oshawa and for many years harbor master of the town, occurred at his residence, 92 Albert Street yesterday afternoon. Deceased had been in failing health for some time but had been confined to the house for only a few days. He was seventy-three years of age.
Surviving are his wife, two brothers, Joseph and Jesse, and three sisters, Mrs. E. Dearborn, Mrs. John McGill and Mrs. C. Stone. The funeral will be held from the late residence on Friday afternoon, Rev. ET Cotton conducting the services.
December 9, 1922, page 3 Slippery Streets
The old saying that “the wicked walk in slippery places” was well exemplified on Friday. The sleet made a glassy surface all over the sidewalks much to the delight of the school kiddies and young folk, who slid all the way to and from school or work, as the case might be. The older and more sedate took the middle of the road. Some amusing incidents took place when boys on bicycles or careless pedestrians lost their under pinnings and measured their lengths on the streets. For the young people this meant laughter, but it is somewhat of a serious thing when older people fall.
December 12, 1922, page 3 History of Oshawa as a Gift
In sending Christmas presents to distant friends do not forget Dr. Kaiser’s “History of Oshawa.” He has 100 copies left which has will dispose of at $3 each. Many public libraries in Canada, England and the United States have sent for a copy of this work for their shelves. The University of Toronto “Historic Review” speaks of it as a “creditable effort.” The public of Oshawa should show its appreciation of this work by absorbing the entire issues without personal canvass. Christmas seems a good time to remember this effort on behalf of Oshawa.
December 14, 1922, page 1 Complete Cedar Dale Annexation
Little Opposition Offered at Hearing – Some Would Have Matter Put To Vote Of Ratepayers But Board Chairman Declares Petition Makes Move Unnecessary
226 Electors Sign from Total of 350
Cedar Dale becomes a part of Oshawa. Consummation of the scheme of annexation, which has been more a less a dream of the more progressive business men of the town and village for the past eight years, occurred yesterday when the Ontario Railway and Municipal Board met in the Town Hall and ratified the agreement between the Township of East Whitby, the Town of Oshawa, and the Police Village of Cedar Dale…
GD Conant, barrister, was the chief speaker for annexation. He had left nothing undone in an effort to have the scheme materialize and for over fifteen minutes the secretary of the board was busily engaged entering as evidence a large sheaf of statutory declarations and documents presented by Mr. Conant…
Edward Powers was the next to be heard. He had circulated a counter petition to the one favoring annexation. “I am in favor of annexation but want the matter put to a vote,” said Mr. Powers. “Furthermore the petition was carried around by a police trustee. Is that legal?” he asked.
Municipal Board Views Favourably Proposal to have Village Become Part of Municipality of Oshawa
Two Councillors Will Represent each Ward as Result of Cedar Dale Annexation – Will Liven Municipal Race – New Ward to Elect Councillors
The consummation of the annexation of Cedar Dale to Oshawa will make the forthcoming municipal elections in January more interesting than ever. The satisfaction of the agreements entered into by the Township of East Whitby, Oshawa and Cedar Dale, automatically created a new ward. It also means that the new ward is entitled to representation on the council…
December 16, 1922, page 6 Public Schools Will Have Rinks
Albert Street and Centre Street Home and School Clubs will operate open air rinks this winter. The Board of Education at Thursday night’s meeting made a grant of $59 to each club for the purpose of buying the necessary lumber. The senior boys of the club will do most of the work in preparing them.
King Street School this year will have two rinks. Albert Street School did not receive a grant last year and forwarded an application to the Board which was received Thursday night. The board recognizing the necessity of rink accommodation readily granted the request.
December 19, 1922, page 1 Local Jews Are Observing Feast of the Dedication
The Feast of Chanukah, also known as the Feast of Dedication, is being observed this week in Jewish Homes in Oshawa and throughout the country, commencing last Thursday evening and continuing for eight days. This festival is a minor holiday and is reminiscent of the Maccabean victory in the battle of Israel’s faith…
During this festival all children of Jewish faith expect some token. Business places do not close, the festival being observed in the homes and in the House of God.
December 21, 1922, page 1 Christmas Rush Swamps Local Postal Staff
The post office is now in the throes of the great annual Christmas rush. Thousands of letters and parcels are pouring into the office. The stamp and registered wickets are doing a roaring business with dozens of people lining up in front of them waiting their turn.
Many people have responded to the request of the postal authorities to mail their parcels early and mark thereon the words “Do not open until Christmas Day.” This is facilitating the work of the department greatly and should result in a few, if any, gifts going astray of being misdelivered…
Mail for Santa
The usual batch of mail addressed to Santa Claus is finding its way to the post office. All of the epistles are addressed in childish hand writing and the address of good Old St. Nich is as numerous as amusing. Some of the kiddies are sending the letters to the North Pose, others to the departmental stores and others are addressed in the care of the post master. All of these little requests are considered to the Ontario Letter Bag and in some mysterious manner are turned over to Santa.
Man Has Close Escape When Car Hits Buggy
Struck by an automobile while driving along the Kingston Road E. with a horse and buggy yesterday morning about eight o’clock, Mr. Benjamin Haines narrowly escaped serious injury. The motor car collided with the buggy with considerable force with the result that Mr. Haines was thrown out and the buggt badly wrecked. It is alleged that the driver of the car did not stop but continued on into Oshawa…
Page 11 Thirty Years Ago from the Reformer
The closing of the Demill Ladies’ College was celebrated on Monday night by an address from Rev. John C. Ferguson.
The Ontario Malleable Iron Company of Oshawa, capital $100,000, has been incorporated with WF Cowan, John Cowan, RJ Cowan, Frederick W. Cowan and Susan Cowan as incorporators.
December 28, 1922, page 1 Festive Season Was Busy Time Around Oshawa
Christmas business in Oshawa this year was more extensive than in past years, according to local merchants who were interviewed today. Every local store has come in for a good share of the holiday trade and the merchants state that a marked preference has been shown by the buyers for goods of a better quality.
Shoppers seemed to have heeded the repeated warnings of the storekeepers and the exhortations of the press to do their Christmas shipping early, for although the business was heavy it likewise was quite steady over a protracted period…
Page 3 A Blustery Morning
The worthy citizens of Oshawa received a rude shock when they awakened this morning and looked out on a world of white snow being driven in high drifts by the strong wind. The mild weather of Christmas almost led people to believe that there would be no winter this year and instead of snow we would have dandelions and sunflowers, but Jack Frost has still a few kicks left in him.
It was a blustery morning, and the snow which fell was blown in drifts. There was sufficient snow on the ground to make it necessary for the street railway to have their sweeper out while the common or garden variety of citizens were busy with snow shovels and brooms. It was the first real stormy day of this winter.
Stepping into Wilson & Lee as a child I remember the awe and excitement that I felt, staring up at walls of beautiful, sparkling guitars in an amazing variety of colours and styles, and walking through rows and rows of CDs and vinyl records of every genre you could think of. The store had everything a music lover could want or need, and, if they didn’t, the Wilsons would go above and beyond to get it for you.
Being at Wilson and Lee was always an experience, even if you were just dropping by for something quick and simple. The friendly, helpful, and fun atmosphere of the store felt like visiting a friend more than a store. However, that friendliness didn’t detract from the professionalism of Wilson and Lee in anyway. It’s likely that the fact that Bill Sr., Bill Jr., and Dave Wilson all dressed in suits and ties every single day of their careers lent itself to their air of trustworthiness and expertise.
I was always so excited to go to the music store with my dad for many reasons, but in no small part because at the end of every visit, Dave would lean across the counter, conspiratorially, and open his hand within which would lay nestled a guitar pick or little music themed eraser. For most of my childhood, I had a mason jar on my dresser that I added to after every visit with a new colourful, shiny, or sparkling music store trinket.
The history of Wilson and Lee goes back long before my tiny feet crossed the threshold, but I am sure it had a similar impact on most of its customers over the nearly ten decades that it was in business. The store was opened in 1922 by William George Wilson and his sister-in-law Mary Lee and went on to be run by three generations of the Wilson family. Wilson and Lee had the distinction of being the longest running music store in all of Canada, having kept its doors open for an impressive 97 years. William came to Oshawa from Toronto to work at the Williams Piano Factory. William was blind and had trained at the CNIB (Canadian National Institute for the Blind) to be a piano tuner.
William and Mary’s partnership had its very early beginnings when she began to drive him from job to job tuning pianos in people’s homes. Through doing this, William realized a business opportunity, and he began to purchase, recondition, and resell pianos from his own home. However, as one can imagine, he quickly began to run out of room, at which point he and Mary opened the first location of Wilson and Lee. In the new store, William and Mary added player pianos and piano rolls, gramophones, and record players to their inventory.
William’s sons all joined in the family business early on. His eldest son, Bill Sr., started in 1933 before leaving to serve in the Second World War from 1939 to 1946. The next oldest brother, George, came to work in 1938, and youngest brother Ed joined the ranks in 1942 when their father passed away. Mary Lee continued to work alongside her nephews after William passed.
In 1953, the brothers bought the lot at 87 Simcoe St. N. and built the store where Wilson and Lee remained until 2019. The three brothers ran the store together until George’s retirement in 1989; at this time, the torch was passed to the next generation of Wilsons. Bill Sr.’s sons, Bill Jr. and Dave, had worked at Wilson and Lee since they were teenagers. Bill Jr. came to work as a high school student in 1953, while his younger brother Dave joined the family business in 1967 at 14 years old.
In 1995, Ed Wilson retired, and in 2002, Bill Sr. hung up his hat – sort of. He would still come into the shop three times a week, in his suit and tie, to pick up his copy of Oshawa Weekly and maybe, just maybe, to check up on things. Bill Sr. was still calling his sons nine years after he retired to see if they needed his help down at the store. Bill Sr. passed away in July 2011 at the age of 94.
The Wilsons weathered the ebbs and flows of the economy over their ten decades in business, surviving the Great Depression, a World War, and numerous recessions. They showed great adaptability in their business model as the way we experience music changed so drastically throughout the 20th century.
In the ’50s, the store installed six record booths so that customers could sample their records before making a purchase. They also made the shift from pianos as their big seller to accordions, banjos, violins, and of course the electric guitar as rock n’ roll music took off in the ’50s and ’60s. Other shifts they witnessed were 8transitions through the era of gramophones to records players, the brief competition between cassette tapes and 8-tracks, the advent of CDs, and the resurgence of vinyl records.
Bill Sr.’s sons stayed with the family business for eight more years before deciding to retire and close the doors to Wilson and Lee in December 2019. The brothers were honoured with a Lifetime Achievement Award and inducted into the Oshawa City Music Hall of Fame in April 2020, a wonderful acknowledgment by the community for the dedication of the Wilson family to modern quality products and service with a personal touch, which will be their lasting legacy in the story of Oshawa.
This past Thursday was Oshawa’s annual Bright and Merry Market. The Oshawa Museum was able to participate in this year’s event, staffing a booth along Bagot Street by the Library. In our Victorian costumes we hosted ornament decorating and promoted the Museum’s Lamplight Tours, which will be held this year on December 3.
The Bright and Merry Market is not the most traditional of Christmas Markets. It is an outgrowth of the City’s annual tree lighting ceremony, a tradition dating back over thirty years. Outdoor tree lighting ceremonies are a tradition that began in the 1920s when electrification was becoming widespread and became more widespread in the decades following the Second World War. Nonetheless, it still featured, food, song, dance, open air stalls, and ample festive spirit.
Christmas markets are part of a much older tradition. The tradition of holding a festive market in late November or early December originates in southeastern Germany and Austria during the late middle ages (ca. 1300-1500). The practice became wide spread throughout the German speaking lands during the Early Modern Period (ca. 1453-1789). These “Christkindlesmarkts” would typically be held to usher in the liturgical season of Advent.
The large influx of German immigrants in the 1800s brought the tradition to North America. Accordingly, these German Christmas Markets can be found in many cities and towns across the continent. Here in Ontario, the most largest example of these more traditional Christmas markets can be found in Kitchener, which had been settled by Germans and was known as Berlin prior to being renamed during the First World War.
Given the presence of a German community in Oshawa, it should be no surprise that a traditional Christmas market can be found here too. Club Loreley, the local German community’s cultural club, has held an annual Christmas market for over 50 years. This event will be running once more this Sunday, November 20.
Club Loreley, originally the German Canadian Club Oshawa, was established in 1955. Its members purchased a plot of land in 1957 upon which their clubhouse would be built and opened in 1961. Since then they have been regular participants in Oshawa’s Fiesta Week tradition and hold all manner of German cultural functions, of which the Christmas market is just one, through out the year.
To learn more about the influx of German immigrants and other groups into Oshawa following the Second World War, stop by the Museum to view our Leaving Home Finding Home in Oshawa exhibit.
While on tour, our Visitor Hosts are often asked questions that they may not be able to answer in that moment. However, we take note of the questions and try to find the answers afterwards. While on our Autumn Union Cemetery Tour, we were asked about the headstones for C.A. Bracey in the First World War Section.
The headstones in the World War sections of Union Cemetery all have a certain uniformity to them; when there is a stone or plot that deviates from those around it, it typically raises questions. This is what happened when we were asked about the headstone for C. A. Bracey. At the top of the plot, there is the headstone which is typical for soldiers, but in the middle of the plot, there is a separate marker.
Tour participant, Tom, was also curious about these markers and how similar the names were, so he undertook research about Bracey. We shared his write-up a few weeks ago. Thanks once again Tom for sharing what you found!
First, let’s answer one part of the question, why do some plots have more than one marker? At one point Union Cemetery allowed for two interments and four cremations in one plot (this has since changed to one interment and four cremations, as per the Cemetery’s website). When there are two markers seen on these veteran’s plots, more often than not, they are commemorating two individuals interred in the plot. A look at the names and dates helps to determine or assume the relationship. For example, just west of Bracey’s plot is a plot for the Brown family. There is a headstone for FW Brown (c. 1870 – 1932) and another marker for Leonard George Brown (1915-1997). By looking at the dates, it might be a safe assumption that there is a father and son buried in this plot.
Looking at the Bracey plot raised some questions as the names on the two markers were very similar, served with the same regiment, but there was a five year discrepancy with the birth year. Having to make a quick assumption, I wondered if it was two brothers buried together, two brothers who served together and happened to die in the same year.
To learn more, and to confirm/disprove my suspicions, I started to research. I had some information to start my search, thanks to the headstones:
Charles A Bracey
WWI Regimental Number: 814065
Served with the 139th Battalion of the CEF
Born 1867 (as per age of death), died December 22, 1933
Served with the 5th Middlesex Regiment
Also served with the 139th Battalion of the CEF
Born 1872, died 1933
The regimental number provided what I needed to find his service file, made available through Library and Archives Canada. This is the information Tom used when he set out to research Bracey. You can also use this database to search by Surname and/or Given Name. There were 14 entries for Bracey; Charles was one result, and Cecil Bracey was another. A look at Cecil’s file seemed to indicate he wasn’t related to Charles. Nothing seemed to line up, so I very highly doubted the ‘C. A. Bracey’ was Cecil. I set him aside and looked at Charles’s service file.
Charles Bracey was born in Portsmouth, England, and when he enlisted in 1915, he was living in Cobourg, working as a Labourer, and his next of kin was ‘Mrs. Francis,’ his wife. When asked if he had ever served in any military force, his reply was ’11 years in Middlesex Reg’t.’
Interesting – remember, the footstone also indicated service with Middlesex. Also, his birth date, on the Attestation Paper, was September 21, 1871.
There are two attestation papers for Charles in his military file (one in September 1915 and one in November 1915) and therefore two Regimental numbers. He initially enlisted in September but was found medically unfit on November 5 and discharged. His second attestation papers were signed and dated three days later. A second casualty form appears in the file, dated August 25, 1916, and Charles was, once again, found medically unfit and discharged. On his medical papers, stating he was discharged due to a heart condition, it reads, “Man acknowledges 48 but looks older.”
After looking through the file, we’ve learned that Charles enlisted twice, was discharged twice due to being medically unfit, and there seems to be a discrepancy with his age, as per the medical papers. So, I went to ancestry.ca to see what else I could find.
Charles Augustus Bracey was born around 1868 (as per the 1871 and 1881 England Census). On November 16, 1891, Charles enlisted for the army – his British military service files were available for review on Ancestry.ca. He would serve 18 years with the Middlesex Regiment, where it appears he served for 12 years in India (recorded as ‘East Indies’ on the military records). He was discharged in 1909.
He was married to a woman named Frances, and together, they had eight children. By 1911, they immigrated to Canada and were living in Cobourg, later Oshawa. It was while in Cobourg that Charles tried twice to enlist for the First World War. By 1921, the family had moved to Oshawa and were residing in one of the Olive Avenue Rowhouses – these townhouses are still standing today.
Charles died in Oshawa in 1933 – by this time, the family was living on Nassau Street. His death certificate states he was born in 1867, and this is the date reflected on the large headstone. The smaller headstone, likely placed at some point by the family, has a different birth year and makes a point to commemorate his involvement with the Middlesex Regiment, a military career that lasted 18 years. Unlike other plots where two grave markers might commemorate two different people, with the plot for Bracey, there are two markers commemorating one person, Charles Augustus Bracey.
Finally, the last mystery we were left with was Charles’s birth year. If we’re looking at Censuses, the 1871 and 1881 England Census indicates a birth year of c. 1868/1869, while the 1921 Canadian Census reflects a birth year of 1869/1870. Military records give birth years of 1872 (as per enlistment with Middlesex Regiment in 1891) and 1871 (as per enlistment with the CEF, where it was later noted he looked older than his reported age). Finally, upon his death, the year of his birth is recorded as 1867, which is what appears on the military headstone. After sharing the Tom’s blog post a few weeks ago, one of Charles’s grandchildren left a comment, stating his birth year was 1868! It appears the Censuses taken closest to his birth were the most accurate for this information.