You Asked, We Answered – The Photos in the Henry Hallway

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

For two weeks, at the end of April and beginning of May, I had given tours almost every day we were open. It was a wonderful return to how Spring at the Museum looked before COVID-19.

In the hallway of Henry House, there is a frame holding six Victorian era photographs, and it felt like on every tour, I was asked, “who was in the photos?” It pained me to say that I didn’t quite know. Two of them looked very Henry like (there is a distinct look to all the siblings), but beyond that, I couldn’t say.

A photo frame, holding six black and white photos of Victorian era people.

While closing up one day, and with our Curator’s permission, I took the photo off the wall to see who was in the photos.

I was very pleased that the two that I kept identifying as Henrys were, indeed, Henrys. George Henry (top right) was the son of Thomas and his first wife, Elizabeth. His wife was Polly Henry, and we’ve profiled her before on the blog. The couple would live out their lives in nearby Bowmanville.

Also photographed are James O. Henry (bottom left) and his first wife, Adelaide Hall (bottom right). James was Thomas’s eighth child, the second born to Thomas and his second wife, Lurenda. James and Adelaide had four children together before her death, and after her passing, James remarried and had one child with his second wife. He was an enterprising man, a farmer, photographer, and exporter of apples. He was reportedly the first exporter to Britain, his brand remained popular for many years.

There are three more photos depicting four people. Their identities are still, somewhat, a mystery, although, thanks to information in the archival collection and on the back of the frame, it is very likely they are members of the Hall family, Adelaide’s relatives.

I always appreciate it when I’m asked questions on tours that I don’t know the answer to. Even after 11 years of tours, there are still ones that will leave me without an answer, and this means I have the opportunity to learn something new myself.


Information on George and James from If This House Could Talk: The Story of Henry House (Oshawa Historical Society, 2012).

A recent acquisition: The Canadian Red Cross Collection

By Kes Murray, Registrar

This past week, we had the pleasure of welcoming a large collection of items from the Canadian Red Cross, Durham Branch, into our collection. This new acquisition is quite vast, with objects ranging from uniforms to annual reports. And, of course, going through our newest acquisition lead me down a Red Cross history spiral…

A grey/blue uniform consisting of a knee length skirt, jacket, and bonnet style hat. The hat and jacket feature a Red Cross patch
Women’s Red Cross uniform, unknown year 022.1.1-3

The Red Cross was founded in 1859 by Henry Dunant. Dunant witnessed a battle between the French and Austrian armies in Northern Italy. Here he saw many soldiers wounded. With medics unable to cope with the volume of patients, he set up a temporary hospital. Three years later, Dunant wrote a novel proposing his idea of countries establishing a neutral and independent group of helpers that could provide care during times of conflicts. This sparked the creation of the Red Cross movement.

Here in Canada, the Red Cross movement began with the North West Resistance of 1885. Certain individuals familiar with the Red Cross movement in Europe used the Red Cross flag to act as independent medics. It was not until 1896 that Toronto surgeon and militia member Dr. George Sterling Ryerson gained permission to establish a branch of the British Red Cross in Canada.

A white pin, featuring a red cross and the year 1940
1940 Red Cross pin 022.1.4

In its early years, the Canadian Red Cross only worked during wartime. However, a turning point came at the end of the First World War.

During the war, the Canadian Red Cross had increased substantially with funding and volunteers, so much so that Canadian Red Cross leaders did not want to see the organization disappear until another war broke out. So, the Canadian Red Cross expanded their mandate to include the phrase “in times of peace.” This allowed the Red Cross to be involved in many peacetime public health and welfare work. Finally in 1927, rather than being a branch of the British Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross officially became an independent Red Cross society.

All the photographs you see in this post are some of my favourite items in our new collection. The uniform was particularly exciting to unbox and photograph. It is a woman’s uniform, most likely made of wool and handmade. It is a most unique item as we do not have anything like the uniform in our collection.

During my research, I also learned that May 8 is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. This day celebrates the creation of the Red Cross movement. It seems rather fortunate, then, that I get to share with you all our newest acquisition.


Sources consulted:

https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/about-the-canadian-red-cross/historical-highlights/getting-started-1896-1913

https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/about-the-canadian-red-cross/historical-highlights/the-interwar-years-1919-1939

https://www.redcross.ca/blog/2018/5/a-reason-to-smile-world-red-cross-day

ES Shrapnel Sketches – A Millerite’s Attempt to Fly

At the beginning of April, we launched our newest online exhibit, ES Shrapnel’s Upper Canada Sketches. The exhibit features the works of Edward Scrope Shrapnel as they appeared in Thomas Conant’s book, Upper Canada Sketches, (1898). The illustrations are whimsical in nature and in many cases portray people, places and events known in Oshawa history.  Each print is analyzed with historical context, and our good friend Eric Sangwine adds his own artistic perspectives for each print.

Colour drawing of a two storey brick house. There is a woman, wearing silk wings, jumping from the second storey
Sarah Terwilliger’s attempt to fly to heaven, the world to come to an end, ES Shrapnel, from Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches

A favourite print and story is A Millerite’s Attempt to Fly, the story of Sarah Terwilliger and her silk wings.

Why did Sarah fear the end of the world, and what prompted her to jump from the second storey window of her house?

We encourage you to visit the exhibit to read this story and more.


From ES Shrapnel’s Upper Canada Sketches

There was a period of time during the 1840s when Oshawa garnered some notoriety, known as one of the centres for the Millerite movement which was sweeping North America.  During the winter of 1842-1843, many people were engrossed with the teachings of William Miller, an American farmer and evangelist, who preached that the Second Advent of Christ would occur shortly. His followers believed Christ would appear in person to claim his earthly kingdom, and the world would be destroyed by fire.  Stories of local farmers giving away all their stock and implements were locally reported. One of the most interesting stories connected with this period is that of the unconventional Terwilliger sisters, Sarah and her older sister Clarissa. …

To read more, visit: https://shrapnelsketches.wordpress.com/2022/02/09/a-millerites-attempt-to-fly/

The funky world of hats!

By Savannah Sewell, Registrar

Today’s blog, as funky as it might seem, will delve into the fascinating (there’s a hat joke in there) world of hats! Hats, like any other bodily adornment, can be a socialized symbol of community inclusion, politics, fashion, or faith.  The Oshawa Museum has a variety of items within our archival and physical collections that detail fascinating moments throughout history with hats.

After a fire at Guy House in 2003, the library collection took a heavy hit, and people began donating books in order to replenish options for research. One of those books was Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values by Susan Langley which I have used within this blog after finding and enjoying it as a fluke.

There are both physical and photographic representations of hats within the Oshawa Museum’s collection, and here are two examples of how hats can identify groups of people. Above we have a photo of four nurses on the steps of a building holding flowers and sporting a classic example of a nurses’ hat. Uniforms are a prime example of recognition of belonging within certain groups. Though our modern nurse’s uniforms don’t include a hat, it is still a recognizable symbol of healthcare in most of the Western world. Similarly, the firefighter’s helmet below is still a very prominent symbol of emergency services. This black style can also be seen today, or historically, in yellow, brown, red, or even orange.

Black fire fighter's helmet
73-D-394.2

Bonnets were the height of fashion for many decades, spanning from everyday wear to protect one’s hair or face from the dirt and sun of work, to a riding bonnet while riding on a wagon, to fashion bonnets. Those more dramatic and lavish styles, the fashion bonnets sometimes included complicated lace, florals, or feathers.

black bonnet lined with rose coloured silk
62-D-93.16

The Black hood bonnet shown above is lined with rose-coloured silk and would have been used somewhere between 1860-1890. The image below is from Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values and shows two varieties of fashion bonnet from Godey’s Lady’s Book of February 1862. Figure 1 is a violet velvet bonnet trimmed with black velvet and lace and Figure 2 is a black velvet bonnet trimmed with Ponceau velvet and feathers.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, February 1862; image appeared in Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values – page 84

Hats of this period did not only include bonnets but other more extravagant examples like the three worn by the lovely ladies in the photo. The photo below of unidentified women, from the archival collection, details a variety of chapeaus. They most closely compare to the stylish winter designs of the Les Modes Parisiennes “Christmas Visits” looks from Peterson’s Magazine, December 1889. Though there is no date on this photo, it can be presumed that the image was taken between 1860-1900 because of the style of dress and photography. Just imagine if our Christmas and holiday outfits included hats as lavish as these now!

The yellow, fabric rose covered pillbox hat you see below is a c. 1950s example of a very common look at the time. The pillbox, named after the pharmaceutical receptacle shape in the ’60s, was hugely popular within history, and the flat top, cylindrical hat was even seen within medieval bridal looks. Modernly, the most notable wearer of the pillbox hat was Former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970 describes the “Queen of Camelot’s” influence with the deep pillbox style hat and mentioned that through the 1960s, there were many influences to the style including East Indian embroidery and beading. Can’t you just imagine a pile of hairspray lacquered curls pinned under this beauty?

A006.18.20

Finally, let’s remember that fashionable hats span all genders, and though there might not be quite as much variety in men’s hats in our collection, we can certainly appreciate how they can elevate a look. Here are two gentlemen looking quite dashing in suits, coats, wonderfully crafted hats with corsages on their lapels.

AX994.192.46

More recently, hats have become a much more casual addition to fashion. Styles like baseball hats, snapbacks, toques, beanies, or caps can be seen in the park surrounding the Oshawa Museum daily, especially in the winter months. Can you imagine what Lakeview Park would have looked like, hat wise, through history?


Links to more hat information and history!

Hold onto Your Hats! https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/hats/hat00eng.html

The Tip of the Hat to History
https://www.inthehills.ca/2016/03/tip-hat-history/

The National Hat Museum (USA) https://www.thehatmuseum.com

Citations Langley, Susan. Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1998.

Student Museum Musings – A Student Placed at Home

By Nova S., Trent Child & Youth Studies Intern

From the beginning of my university career, I had my eyes set on a particular fourth year course in my major. Said course allowed students to try field-based learning, a chance to gain practical experience. Students could actually apply what they were learning in the classroom.

Well, so much for that.

So much for field-learning, and heck, so much for classrooms, too.

I never minded online learning. Really, I didn’t. It seems like most people would gape at me for that, but there were benefits for someone with anxiety like me. Yes, maybe it was an escape of sorts, but at times, in-person was overwhelming sensorially, with all the people and noise. So it was, honestly, sort of a nice break. Online, I didn’t have to commute. Online, I didn’t have to face the cold. Online, I could go at my own pace, and rewind my professor as many times as I needed.

It took a while for someone with anxiety like me to miss people, but wow, do I miss people. (Some people, at least. I think my fear of crowds is worse now than ever, along with everybody else’s). The benefits of being online were all still there, but the cons began to sink in.

Somehow, moving forward from there, I made a couple of friends from my university. I also made friends out of others on the Internet in general, because where else are you supposed to hang out? Okay, I think to myself, still, being online isn’t so bad.

And then it came time for my field-based learning.

Before I was a fourth-year, I took advantage of a few other opportunities to meet and interact with kids. I guess now would be a good time to mention that my major is Child & Youth Studies.

I volunteered at my family’s church for a special day of activities. My brother was, not-so-coincidentally, assigned to be my helper. We spent the day going from station to station, corralling kids only a few years younger than my brother at the time, holding hands, making crafts for them to show their parents afterwards, and encouraging participation in song and dance. We helped each other, we kept track of each other, and we made sure we all felt included.

Though I’m not in touch with that church anymore, I’m sure special days like that are no longer running – at least on such a grand scale.

I joined the Pen Pal Club at my university, in which we were paired up with a student from an elementary school nearby. The letters were fun to write, using different colours and stickers, but it was even more fun to receive. Messy and scribbled spelling mistakes, drawings you have to squint at to figure out what they’re supposed to be, excited retellings of their accomplishments in school, and eagerness to meet you! Yes, we would meet two or three times a year at the university and have a few stations we would rotate through, where stories would be told, colouring would be done, magic would be performed, and more. And at the end of the day, the kid paired with you would hug you goodbye and file out the door with their class.

When the pandemic started, we had already established pen pals and written to them once. It was a couple of weeks before the kids were supposed to come in person to visit when the whole thing was cancelled.

Lastly, I had a part-time job at an indoor playground, mainly rented out for children’s birthday parties. Usually, supervision was the job of the host parents – whoever’s kid’s birthday it was. But, rather frequently, we helped kids down from parts of the playground they’d climbed up and then realized too late that they were scared. We served food and got thank yous. Once, even, this adorable girl asked me to help her wipe her face and hands.

My boss texted us not too long into the pandemic that we were closed until further notice. And so, I waited. And waited. It wasn’t until I tried applying for other jobs and needed them for a reference that I texted my boss and discovered that, actually, the place had closed permanently. I guess it was a smaller business that was one of the many to, unfortunately, not survive this pandemic.

And now, here I am. I have a placement, yet I am not out in the field with kids, but at home. And I finally realize that I miss the kids more than I miss adult people, probably. (Sorry).

It’s nobody’s fault, after all. We all have to continue being safe or this will really never end.

Still, it’s not all that bad. I was fortunate enough to be able to go in-person once for a brief initiation, and my supervisors, both at the museum and at the university, are determined to make sure I benefit as much as possible from it.

I was, as I’m sure many people are, never focused on history. Sure, it was fascinating, and I was fortunate enough to have a pretty good history teacher in high school. But like many others, I moved on from it after graduating with my own interests in mind.

My first duty after being accepted by Oshawa Museum was to familiarize myself with their programs, exhibitions, values, and blog. I didn’t expect to get so sucked into it. Everything looked so fascinating. I fell into a rabbit hole of sorts, clicking link after link, reading letters, viewing photographs, learning, and being fascinated.

Here at the Oshawa Museum (from my home), my main task is to improve on and build programs. Children’s programs, flexibly built for online or in-person, that are mindful and expressive of the diversity within ourselves and within others.

I’m determined to help make kids fascinated in history, because our present and our futures have roots in the past. As I have had the fortunate opportunities to see, kids are full of excitement, wonder, and curiosity. But it’s not about what those kids will be in the future – it’s about what they are now. They are fully capable of forming their own opinions and being participatory citizens, and I hope I can play a part in inspiring them to realize that they can do plenty in diversity and equality activism just as they are now. It all starts with that fascination.

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