The Way To Go – All About Chamber Pots

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Last fall, we were approached by our longtime partner, CLOCA, to participate in their Durham Children’s Watershed Festival, which shifted to online and virtual due to the pandemic. This festival is designed to for students to engage with “activities that address water conservation, water protection and the preservation of the natural environment in a fun, hands-on and interactive way. Students will learn how many of their everyday needs and choices affect interrelationships within the natural environment and their watershed community.”

When asked about contributing with a historical spin, our minds went to the fact that Victorian homes did not have indoor plumbing. Modern homes have modern bathrooms and toilets, but search as you might, a ‘bathroom’ will not be found inside Henry House. When I give tours, it’s with delight that I share that the Henrys had an ‘ensuite’ – in the corner of the bedroom, we have a washstand, water pitcher, and a chamber pot.

Chamber pots were a portable toilet, meant for nighttime use in the bedroom. Many kids will greet this artefact with a wonderful ‘ewwwww,’ but then I ask them, if it was the middle of the winter, middle of the night, would you want to get all dressed up to use the outhouse outside, or would you rather use your chamber pot? It’s often an ‘aha’ moment as they think about it and realize the convenience that the chamber pot provided.

Chamber pots were common in many cultures before the advent of indoor plumbing and flushing toilets and may still be used in places where there isn’t indoor plumbing.

We have a few examples of chamber pots and commodes in the OM collection. The one which is on display in the bedroom has a crochet cover for the lid, and this helps dampen any noise from the clattering of the porcelain – a wonderful addition if there were any roommates not wishing to be awoken by the lid.

Another interesting example is the commode – it features a lid for discrete chamber pot storage. The top of the lid has a wonderful embroidery, rather decorative when closed, and it lifts for easy access to the chamber pot nestled within.

Thank you again to CLOCA for inviting us to participate in your virtual festival!

Enjoy the video we put together all about the Chamber Pot

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The Importance of a Little Wicker Doll Set

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 1981, a collection of wicker doll toys were donated to the Oshawa Museum. The donation of a tiny rocking chair, a toy washstand, and a set of doll furniture certainly fit the collecting mandate of the Museum given that the Pankhurst family had been long time residents of Oshawa.  These toys also had deep connection to an important part of Oshawa’s history as the donor, Greta Pankhurst, was the great-granddaughter of Wealthy Andrews, the matriarch of one of Oshawa’s earliest Black families.

Early collecting practices tended to focus on collecting items that had connections to prominent early white settlers. This donation has that connection as the donor forms indicate that the items had belonged to the Conant family before coming into the ownership of Greta. This connection would have made the donation very important under these early collecting practices. While it is unclear if Greta’s connection to Wealthy was known or understood when the items were added to the Museum collection, this donation is important because of its connection to Greta and her family.

Today we are grateful for the existence of this donation as it is one of the few artefacts that we have connected to early Black setters.  Museums use artefacts or objects to help us to understand the past and to tell the story of our community. There is very little artefact or object based evidence to help us tell the history of early Black settlers in our community, and this creates a challenge when it comes to exhibiting these stories.

We are fortunate to have documentary evidence. In fact, beyond resources like census records and land records, we are incredibly fortunate to have the original marriage certificate of Greta’s grandparents, Mary Andrews and George Dunbar. We also have family photographs and an audio recording of Greta’s brother, Ward, reminiscing about growing up in Cedar Dale. Research through documentary evidence has helped us to better understand the history of early Black settlers in the area and has helped us to share this important aspect of our history.

A013.4.519: Marriage licence between Mary Andrews and George Dunbar

While we work to fill in the gaps left by earlier collecting practices, we are also working to tell the histories that were lost in that gap.  Items like the little wicker doll set are a part of work.

Continuing Into the Online World

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

The start of a new year usually brings around a lot of counting. Typically speaking (pre-pandemic, that is), I’ll spend a few days making a grand mess in the shop for the year end inventory count, and at the same time, carefully tucking our holiday merchandise away until the following November. We count and re-count attendance statistics, volunteer hours for the year, and endless social media statistics, such as follower growth, post engagement, blog hits (thanks to everyone who reads!), and how often videos get watched on YouTube. January, indeed, is a month for numbers.

COVID-19 hasn’t changed the counting that needs to get done, but it certainly has made it more challenging. As we’re primarily working from home, counting the gift shop inventory has been an ongoing process throughout the month. In addition, we are making changes to our system and how the inventory is tracked, so the project was far more laborious than in years past. But, this change will bring about good things…

In the near future, the OM hopes to launch an online shop. The OM shop is proud to carry unique items, reflective of our community. We have a large selection of local history publications; some favourite titles include:

  • To Cast a Reflection: The Henry Family in their Own Words
  • “She is One Of the Best.” A Researcher’s Notes on the Life & Times of Florence McGillivray
  • The Oshawa Street Railway
  • Until Day Dawns: Stories From Oshawa’s Union Cemetery
  • And, a favourite of many, Thomas Bouckley’s Pictorial Oshawa: Revisited

We also have a large selection of Oshawa and Oshawa Museum souvenirs (one can never have enough mugs, amirite…), gifts, and toys which are always a hit with our youngest visitors.

We hope to have a selection of items available for purchase on the online shop, with plans to launch in the coming months. Please keep an eye on the Oshawa Museum’s Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages for more information about when it will be launched and how you can continue your support of Oshawa’s heritage.

The Month That Was – February 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

February 2, 1872
Page 2
The Prosperity of Oshawa.
On every side we are seeing our town advancing. Really costly, sightly and substantial buildings of brick are being erected. The new brick hotel of Mr. Hobbs will compare favourably with almost any hotel in the Province, as to size, appearance and thoroughness. Mr. Quigley is preparing to erect a large hotel, early in the spring, on the Fuller lot, which is to be surmounted by an ornamental French roof. Let us hope that as good entertainment for travellers may be found within their walls as their exterior would seem to indicate.

In stores we have the [tasty] and commodious ones lately erected by Messrs. Cowan and Fowke. Mr. John Wilson is preparing to erect a number of stores on the ground of the late fire on King Street, which, as viewed from the drawings thereof, promises to be excelled by a few such structures in our cities. Mr. James B. Keddie, also, proposes to continue the block to the east by a structure similar in style for his own use.

Passing down Simcoe Street, we observe the compact and well-built new brick residences of Messrs. Dickie, and Thornton – both of which have ornamental roofs covered with slate. The palatial residence of TN Gibbs, Esq., is said to rivals that of the Lieutenant Governor at Toronto; and is one of which our town may be justly proud. Mr. Chas. A Mallory is already preparing to erect, early in the spring, the first-class brick dwelling upon a portion of the McGregor property. This property is thought some of the best sites for residences now available. We hope to see many residences erected during the summer on this property, as we understand the present owner, (Thomas Conant,) is about to put the whole of it on the market. This will afford sites for buildings according to the means of purchasers, as to front or back lots relatively.

Centre Street will then be opened out nearly all the way to South Oshawa, and will make one of our prettiest streets, especially for driving.

Many other residences have been erected and are in process of erection north and west of the cabinet factory.

One is almost constrained to say, that in order to keep pace with the improvements in the various parts of our town we should frequently pass through its various wards as new streets are being opened up, and new houses are being erected; we almost lose our reckoning after a few months absence. It is estimated that at least one hundred houses were erected in Oshawa last season. This is probably within the mark. Let us hope for a similar result in 1872.

Prosperity to our various manufactories, and a healthful, steady growth to Oshawa.

There is one thing we might observe, this: that as a rule houses erected are paid for by the proprietors, without incurring and incubus of debt. This fact argues volumes for a steady growth, without any such sudden inflation and corresponding depression as we have seen exemplified in some of our neighbouring towns.

One more word as we close. We have many public spirited men of means in our midst who are intimately concerned with the welfare of Oshawa, and whom, we feel sure, gladly assist new industries, which would add to the growth and wealth of the place.

Let manufacturers come along, and let us make Oshawa doubly noted throughout our Dominion for the excellence of its manufactured articles. In manufacturers alone we look for our continued prosperity.

Feb 2, 1872, p3

February 9, 1872
Page 2
The assembly in Mr. Cowan’s new store on Wednesday evening was a decided success. About seventy couples, from Toronto, Whitby, Bowmanville, Oshawa, and other places, were present, Dancing commenced at about nine o’clock and continued till between three and four in the morning.  The arrangements were complete, and all enjoyed themselves thoro’ly. The music of Davis’ quadrillo band, from  Toronto, was pronounced the best ever heard in the place. The supper was first-class; furnished by Mr. Cullen of Whitby.

The Town Hall Question – A public meeting to consider the above question will be held on Tuesday evening next, 13th inst., and not Monday, as previously announced. A full attendance of ratepayers is requested.

Feb 9, 1872, p3

February 16, 1872
Page 2
Fire – about 3:00 o’clock, on Sunday morning last, the Boot and Shoe store of H. Wilkinson was discovered to be on fire. The alarm was given, and the fire brigade soon on the spot; but, owing to the engine being frozen, it could render but little assistance. The fire quickly spread to adjoining buildings, and was only arrested in its course by the exertions of the Hook and Ladder Company, who worked well. After a little exertion on the part of the fireman, the engine was got to work, and soon all danger of the fire spreading to the Commercial Hotel, which was thought it would at one time, was past . The losses by the fire are Messrs. Wilkinson, Brennan, and Hobbs, on stock and furniture, partly covered by insurance; And Mrs. Woon and Mr. Cherry, owners of buildings.

Mr. Thomas Conant believes in encouraging manufacturers to come amongst us. He has given an acre of land to the hat manufacturing company, and yesterday instructed Mr. English to draw up a deed for the same. We believe the above company intend building a large factory, where they will give employment to 200 hands, men and women. We like to see these things going on, it is healthy for the town. Do it some more somebody else.

Page 3
For Sale
On Colborne St East, two lots and orchard, with one and one-half story frame building. Also two lots and two houses with orchard, on Brock St East, the whole contained in one block. Terms- $500 cash. Balance in yearly installments. Present rental, $250
William Deans
Oshawa, Feb 9, 1872

Feb 16, 1872, p4

February 23, 1872
Page 2
Opening of the new Baptist Church
The church was opened for divine service on Sunday last. Three sermons were preached; In the morning by the Rev. Dr. Fyfe, afternoon by the Rev. W. Stewart, and in the evening by the Rev. Dr. Davidson. At each of those services the church was filled to its utmost capacity.

On Monday evening a team meeting was held in the church, which was again crowded. After tea, TN Gibbs , Esquire, was called to the chair; And after a few introductory remarks, called on the Rev. Mr. Patterson, pastor of the church, to read the report of the building committee. …

Short speeches were then made by the chairman, the Rev. Messrs. Myers, Scott, Stewart and Davidson, each of the speakers congratulating the pastor and members of the church on the beautiful building which they had erected; and hoped that the balance yet required to pay off the debt on the church would be subscribed before the meeting closed. …

The church is a very handsome [edifice]- inside and out, built of white brick, and is of the Romanesque style of architecture, 36 x 30. The tower on the east corner of the building is not yet finished; but when completed will add greatly to the appearance of the building. The entrance is on King Street, by to doors, one on each corner; and from the one on the east corner access to the gallery is obtained, which runs across the front of the church. The pulpit is American style- a platform with a small movable desk, and is fitted up very neatly. Mr. Langley, was the architect; May brothers, masons; Gay, & J. & R.B. Dickie, carpenters ; and J. Brewer, painter and glazier.

Feb 23, 1872, p3

One year of COVID

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

January 25 – 29, 2021

Today, the news reminded me that it was one year since the announcement of the first confirmed case of COVID-19 in our area. I also learned that the government extended the current state of emergency for another two weeks. As I am typing this, it is the day after #bellletstalkday and its initiatives for mental health awareness. I have been reflecting throughout the past year, of course, but this seems more apropos. No one knows how much longer we will be dealing with COVID-19, masks, quarantines, online learning, and work from home efforts, so I thought how I would share some ways in which I have been coping.

My first line of defense during any stressful situation is to retreat to bed. Sleep. Glorious sleep can make anything go away for a few hours – assuming that one can fall asleep without worries plaguing (pun somewhat intended) their dreams. Something I have found especially beneficial is my weighted blanket. Before receiving one of the best gifts my husband has bestowed on me, I knew of the benefits of compression therapy and weighted blankets. If you are not a believer, I dare you to try sitting under a weighted blanket for just a few minutes and see how relaxing it is. I’ve had my blanket for a few years now and am very thankful I’ve had it during this stressful year.

Another item that is always close by is my iPad tablet. Working from home is a challenge for everyone who has to do it, but that challenge is compounded by slow internet speeds and poor connectivity. In the early days of the lockdown, Museum staff met every day at 10 am over Facebook Messenger. For us, this is the easiest way to stay connected to one another when we can’t be in the office together. However, like most families, mine is making do with what electronics we have at home. My old laptop doesn’t have a webcam. Enter the iPad or phone. Again, like many homes I’m sure, we are working with a combination of antiquated and ultra-modern technology. In addition to allowing me to stay connected to OM staff, my trusty iPad allows me to participate in training webinars, other museums’ COVID at home activities, a second or third screen for Ancestry searches, and so much more. A final benefit is during off work hours – apps that take my mind off things. I love a good crossword or word search app. I once completed a 10,000-word, word search challenge! Other favourites are “Anti Stress” and Garden or Homescapes. Truly mind numbing.

My final and favourite way of coping with the stress and anxiety of the past year has been yoga. I have been practicing yoga for well over a decade now and am certain that my mental health would have suffered much more during the last year if it were not for this. The studio I usually practice at is in Ajax, and I got there as often as I could, but it wasn’t as often as I’d have liked. A major benefit for me was my studio switching to livestream classes from the instructors’ homes. (See, everyone is working from home!) Not only could I take a break from work, now I could practice with instructors whose classes I hadn’t normally been able to take! I have been welcomed even more into their yoga community that I ever imagined, and that I truly value.

Knowing I have it in myself to control my breathing and mindset to get through a particularly tough day is comforting, which I think is the key to my sanity during these COVID times – comfort. I seek comfort in all of these things I’ve mentioned and hopefully if you are looking for something similar, trying one or all of them will help you too.