My Favourite Artifact: The Helen’s Steering Wheel

By Shawn Perron, Visitor Host

My favourite artifact at the OCM is the steering wheel of the Schooner Helen. I first uncovered the history of the Helen when compiling information from the archives related to shipping in Oshawa. This was for the opening of the Sea Shanty Exhibit a few years ago. The story goes that the ship originally started out as a somewhat shabby flat bottom barge under the name of John Pugsley – hailing from the Long Point ship-yard of Lake Erie where it was constructed in 1850. However, the barge was completely transformed and customized into a remarkable Schooner in 1873 by Captain John Goldring of Port Whitby. Fitted with a gasoline auxiliary engine, unique side-pivoting centreboard, and new helm this was referred to by some as far in the future as a flying machine.

The Schooner Helen
The Schooner Helen

Despite making several important expeditions across the Great Lakes in its prime, the times changed with new technology and the bulk of shipping work was eventually handed over to steam ships. In these conditions many schooners were reduced to stone-hooking – this is when a stones are collected from the lake floor for pier work and other forms of constriction.  Yet, even in this environment the Helen excelled. Goldring managed to stone-hook independently which was quite a challenging task for a 70ft ship. After about fifty years of brotherhood the Helen and Goldring were sadly separated when the Helen was wrecked on Bluff Point (McLaughlin Point) on the shore of Oshawa in 1921.

The steering wheel from Helen, recovered from her wreck by diver Bob Stevenson
The steering wheel from Helen, recovered from her wreck by diver Bob Stephenson

Rummaging these archive documents I stumbled upon a related document I did not expect: a donation receipt with Helen artifacts from Robert Stephenson. After recovering pieces from the Helen wreck for his own museum in 1964 R. Stephenson eventually offered these pieces to the OCM. This included Helen’s side pivoting centerboard, Goldring’s clay pipe, and steering wheel, amongst other things. I was then excited to see something which I had studied the story of – a steering wheel which had been expertly guided for half a century through different jobs and waters before remaining in a watery grave for half a century – in the Sea Shanty Exhibit. Throughout my tours I was always sure to tell the story of the Helen and Goldring and how they persevered together throughout the years. In this way we offered visitors themselves a chance at the historic wheel.


IT’Story: Stories from the OCM Collection opens on Sunday May 18, 2014.

The Month That Was – May 1928

Should Oshawa be County Seat?
May 11, 1928

Editor, The Oshawa Daily Times.

Dear Sir:

During the past winter some of my neighbors would occasionally gather in the evening and talk over County and Township matters. One night discussions arose as to the best place for the County town and the talk grew very animated. To give you all that was said would take too much space. There were only two places mentioned, one being its present situation, Whitby, and the other Oshawa.


Straw Hats
May 11, 1928

The straw-hat season will soon be here in its glory of new styles- that is, the men’s straw-hat season, for the woman have been wearing their new straw hats since February, and it will not be long until they will have begun to wear their fall and winter hats.

Straw hats were first made and worn by the Romans, However history records that it was not until many centuries later that straw hats really became popular. It was in the sixteenth century that Mary, Queen of Scots, became interested in the wearing of straw hats, and it was this same Mary who popularized the straw hat.


Uses Own Illness for Experiment
May 14, 1928

New York, May 14. –Dr. Hideyo Noguchi of the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research has made use indirectly of his own illness to identify the carrier of the deadly African yellow fever.

While Noguchi was ill from the African disease, he had a monkey inoculated with some of his own blood. Twelve days later the monkey contracted the disease and died. Additional experimentation, he says, showed the micro-organism to be a deadly member of the Leptespira family.


Volcanic Island Erupts 7,000 Times during 24 Hours
May 15, 1928

Batavia, Java, May 15 –During the past 24 hours the Volcanic Island of Krakatoa has erupted 7,000 times, some of eruptions rising 1, 3000 feet in the air, and being accompanied by a rain of ashes.

My Favourite Artifact: The Remington Noiseless 6 Typewriter

By Olga Kouptchinski, Visitor Host

This Typewriter is my favorite artifact at the Oshawa Community Museum. It peeks out at me from the storage attic of Robinson house, its golden buttons shining from the claustrophobic storage space. The complexity of its parts and the durability of its shell is what attracts me to this artifact. Its organised cluster of fragile, metallic components is encased in heavy steel, without having to take it apart it reveals a bisection of a 1920’s mechanism. This showcase of inner mechanisms offers a unique visual experience like looking behind the backstage curtain. This piece of equipment stands the test of time, narrowly escaping the Planned Obsolescence of the depression era economy stimulus. In other words, this heavy typewriter is part of the final line of 20th century products that were meant to last a lifetime.

004.18.1 - Remington Typewriter
004.18.1 – Remington Typewriter

I have done some research on Remington’s depression-era typewriters and I found out that aggressive marketing and a seamlessly endless variety of functions and special features allowed Remington to thrive despite the economic downturn. The Remington typewriter was not exclusively produced in the states, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and the U.K. all had their own typewriter manufacturing companies. The typewriters were all based on the Remington model, adjusting details according to the country’s typing demands. Remingtons were made in Canada by “Remington Typewriter Company of Canada, Ltd.” or later by “Remington Rand Limited.” A Canadian version is prominently marked “Made at Toronto, Canada” some may also be marked with a Union Jack decal and the phrase “British Empire Product.”


This typewriter was made sometime during 1925 and it is one of the first to feature Remington’s patented “noiseless” feature.  The noiseless mechanism is characterised by the type bar which is prevented from slamming against the platen at full force. The momentum of a small weight brings it the last few millimeters to the front of the platen, reducing the clanking sound. It’s not truly noiseless, but it is quieter than a conventional type bar typewriter.

You may recognise the company name “Remington” as a gun manufacturer, the company specialised exclusively in arms production until 1873 when they unveiled the first typewriters. The company quickly sold the typewriter business, and by 1886 the typewriter was distributed by Remington Rand, then Sperry Rand. It is interesting to think of the tiny mechanisms needed for guns as the precursor to the tiny mechanisms within this artifact. The evolution of gun mechanics into typewriter parts made me think of the “words as weapons” metaphor. Journalism can attack corrupt institutions more effectively than force and I like to think of the typewriter as another form of the gun. Like the speed and mechanical precision of the bullet, the typewriter fused quick production and the legitimacy of the printed page. This particular typewriter is unlikely to have been used as a stimulus for change, but rather as an essential part of distribution and organisation of the Lander’s Coal Company in Oshawa.

My Favourite Artifact: Brown and Sharpe Hair Clippers

Over the Victoria Day long weekend (Sun May 18/Mon May 19), the Oshawa Community Museum will open its summer exhibition, IT’Story: Stories from the OCM Collection, highlighting artifacts in our collection with fascinating stories to tell.

For the next seven weeks, our Visitor Hosts and other Museum staff will share their favourite artifacts and why they are favourites.


By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

I have a bias when it comes to my favourite artifact.

In early 2010, my grandfather passed away, and my family was faced with the difficult task of preparing his house for sale.  In our searches through Grandpa’s house, we came across a set of old barber equipment, including clippers, razors and an early electric razor!  My parents, aunts, and uncles were a little unsure of what to do with these objects; at this time, I was a volunteer for the Oshawa Museum, and I suggested that we donate them.

A010.19.11 - The Trainor family, likely taken at their St. Lawrence Street home.  George Trainor is standing, left.
A010.19.11 – The Trainor family, likely taken at their St. Lawrence Street home. George Trainor is standing, left.

The barber tools belonged to my (step)grandmother’s father, George Trainor, who was a barber in Oshawa.  For many years, the family lived on St. Lawrence Street, while George had a shop at 789 Simcoe Street, what was the community of Cedar Dale.  In all, we donated 7 artifacts as well as archival materials relating the the Trainor family.

010.14.1b, Metal Hair Clippers
010.14.1b, Metal Hair Clippers

These clippers are imprinted:  “Made by Brown and Sharpe Mfg. Co. Prov. R.I., Pat’d in Great Britain Bte En France St. G.D.G., USA Patents July 1-79, June 3-84, Aug 23-92.”  The underside is imprinted with “No. 0,” indicating the length that this clipper would cut.

From Popular Science, August 1923, p. 86.
From Popular Science, August 1923, p. 86.

Brown and Sharpe was founded in 1833 and was known as a tool maker.  They stopped making hair clippers after World War II.  These clippers were likely made between 1892 and 1901, based on patent information and the patent dates on this set.

While I never met my grandmother’s family, these artifacts remain my favourite in the collection because they remind me of my Grandma Doreen, and they make me proud that I have a connection to Oshawa’s past.

The Month That Was – April 1930

Gandhi Starts His Campaign Sunday Morning
April 5, 1930

Bombay, India, April 5. –Mahatma Gandhi, Indian nationalist leader, arrived today at Dandi, where tomorrow at 6:30 a.m. he intends to break the British salt laws and begin the campaign of civil disobedience which he hopes ultimately will bring his country’s independence.


Oshawa Not Alone in Facing Problem of Unemployment
April 7, 1930

Although there is no endeavor to hide from the public the unemployment situation in Oshawa at the present time a report of the Ontario employment service issued this week proves that Oshawa is by no means in any worse condition than any other city of its size or larger In Ontario. In fact there are many that are greater unemployed problems and this report shows that in some cities there are hundreds walking the streets without any prospect of work for weeks to come.


Blames Mothers for Viewpoint of Modern girls
April 7, 1930

London, -“It is always a matter of surprise to me that people should ever regard cooking and household work as degrading, while they consider typing and looking after a man’s letters as ennobling,” declared Miss Charlotte Cowdray, principal of htw Crouch End High School.

“Girls are meant to marry- there is no getting away from the fact. So many women have told me how they bitterly regret not having married when they were young and had the chance.

“The pity of it is many a modern girl does not realize this when she is young and having a good time. She earns as much and in some instances more than her young men friends. This makes the young men diffident about asking such independent young women to marry them, and if they do ask them the girls do not like the idea of giving up their own good salaries to those of the men.

“I think the modern mothers are largely to blame. I have known some who have deliberately broken off their daughter’s engagements because they thought their daughters would not be able to enjoy life as much on their fiancés salaries.”


May Introduce “P.R” System
April 11, 1930

OTTAWA, April, 11. – The government has under consideration the introduction of a measure for proportional representation. This was stated today by Prime Minister Mackenzie King. Whether or not definite action is taken at the present sessions depends, to a certain extent, on the progress which is made with legislation, but the matter is before the government, and a measure may be brought down after the Easter recess.

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