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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Through the Great Depression and the Second World War, the harbour was a focal point of shipping for Oshawa, including huge supplies of coal, which was the primary means of heating homes in Oshawa during that time.
In the 1930s the harbour continued to expand and with the opening of the Welland Ship Canal with eight locks; this opened up Lake Ontario to larger ships, increasing business for the harbour in Oshawa. Due to a serious flood in 1937, the coal piles and roads around the harbour were significantly damaged. A new west pier was constructed by the firm William Bermingham and Sons of Kingston, Ontario. The new pier was 1,082 feet and was constructed 42 feet west of the old structure. In 1939, the outer harbour was dredged to a depth of 24 feet and the inner harbour and turning basin to 22 feet.
Unfortunately, the improvements that were being made to the harbour had a negative impact on the shoreline along Oshawa’s waterfront. The shoreline was receding and the original breakwater was extended inward. Portions of this cement wall can still be seen along the shoreline.
In 1959 the St. Lawrence Seaway opened with excitement from the shipping community. Unfortunately, it would soon be discovered that the lock system and sections of the seaway were not large enough to handle the anticipated ocean-going vessels. These issues were not a concern for Oshawa; as the harbour continued to expand, due to municipal growth, Oshawa officials lobbied for a commissioned port. Michael Starr, MP for the Ontario County riding, was instrumental in getting the Oshawa Port commissioned under an act in Parliament. Federal money would continue to flow if they became a federal port.
The new Harbour Commissioners Act, 1960, was proclaimed in 1962 and erected an autonomous body of commissioners – two federal appointees and one City appointee. The Oshawa Harbour Commission was one of seven commissioned deep-sea ports in Canada. At the time, Hamilton and Toronto were governed by their own acts, which were passed through Parliament much earlier.
The first meeting of the commissioners took place at the Genosha Hotel on December 12, 1960. Their first order of business was staff and land holdings. Staff of the harbour at the time included a wharfinger, who managed the wharf, and a harbourmaster, who booked ships. The first Harbour Commission also set out to create a yacht basin, a project that would become very controversial over time.
Large tracts of land in the port area were either purchased or acquired and included the Second Marsh and surrounding land, such as the Beaton Properties and the former Gifford Farm, where the original Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery was located. In the 1990s the City of Oshawa obtained ownership of the Second Marsh Lands and continue to work in collaboration with the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, Ducks Unlimited Canada, and Friends of Second Marsh.
Two decades later, a major recession hit Canada, and the Oshawa Harbour suffered along with the rest of the country. Competition was increasing from other modes of transportation. Through good years and bad, ships continued to call in at the Oshawa Harbour for goods of all types bound for destinations all over the world. According to an article from the Oshawa This Week, in 1992 the Oshawa Harbour handled over 52 ships; one shipment included 22,000 tons of steel products from Lasco Steel (Gerdau). That year, the first ship arrived on April 17, 1992 and its captain was welcomed with the traditional top hat ceremony.
In 2012, it was announced that the Oshawa Harbour Commission would become a Canada Port Authority. The Port of Oshawa was the last port in Canada to be overseen by a harbour commission. Between 1999 and 2001, 17 other ports in Canada became Canada Port Authorities. Oshawa couldn’t make the transformation because of an ongoing land dispute that was finally dealt with in a 2010 settlement agreement between the City of Oshawa and the federal government.
In 2014, the City of Oshawa acquired the land located on the southeast corner of Simcoe Street South and Harbour Road, land that was returnted to the City as part of Oshawa’s settlement agreement with the federal government and the Port of Oshawa. The Larry Ladd Harbour Trail on the City harbour lands opened to the public on July 1, 2018. Designed with accessibility in mind, the Larry Ladd Harbour Trail comprises a pedestrian bridge and walkway and is an important link to the Waterfront Trail, Second Marsh and Oshawa Museum, as well as to Lakeview Park.
On June 18, 2019, the Oshawa Port Authority became amalgamated with the Hamilton Port Authority, known today as the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority (HOPA Ports). Over the past decade, the Port of Oshawa has handled more than 500 vessels carrying over 3 million metric tonnes of cargo. The Port handles an average of $23 million worth of cargo annually from salt and steel products to sugar, asphalt and grain. In 2020, HOPA, completed a Land Use plan for the harbour lands in Oshawa. You can learn more through this link:
In 2021, the Oshawa Museum is excited to partner with the Hamilton Oshawa Port Authority to share the story of the Oshawa Habour in a new exhibit, From Ship to Shore: Looking at Oshawa’s Relationship with Lake Ontario.
Missed the first part of the Harbour History? Read it here: