You Asked, We Answered: 2022 Round-up

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

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. Here are a few of the questions that we were asked throughout 2022

Is John Henry, former Oshawa Mayor and current Durham Regional Chair, related to the Henry family?

We asked His Worship this question upon his first election as Mayor in 2010, and he claimed that there was no connection.

What year is the Fire Insurance Map from?

In Robinson House, in the Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa exhibit, there is a large map showcasing a neighbourhood in Oshawa with many landmarks of significance to the eastern European community. That map dates to 1948, and you can read more about it in a previous blog post!

Did the Henry family know how to speak French?

As far as we know, it doesn’t seem to be a language that was spoken at home. The 1891 Census has a column for ‘French Canadian,’ 1901 has a column for ‘Mother Tongue’ and 1911 has a column for ‘Language Commonly Spoken;’ the Henry siblings all indicate English in these columns.

In 1960, Thomas’s Granddaughter, Arlie DeGuerre, shared family history in The Life and Times of Thomas Henry. When recalling Thomas’s War of 1812 involvement, she stated,

“Thomas Henry… was employed to attend this new Judge on an official trip to Montreal. He remained in Montreal a month and learned something of the French language” (page 2).

A grain of salt is always taken when using this source as there are some inaccuracies within.

Did the Henry family have a cat/have pets?

This was one I was also asked on a tour this fall. The 1851 Agricultural Return tells us that, for livestock, they had:

  • 4 bulls, oxen or steers
  • 4 milch cows (a cow in milk or kept for her milk)
  • 3 cows/heifers
  • 3 horses
  • 27 sheep (with 100 lbs of wool)
  • 7 pigs

There is no apparently mention to pets in the Memoir of Thomas Henry, nor any mention in Arlie DeGuerre’s writings.

What year was the music box in Henry House made?

For this answer, I’ll direct you to a post written by Kes back in December.

Overhead view of an open music box. It is made of dark wood, and inside the box, there is a gold coloured cylinder.
995.1.1 Inside top view.

When did someone last live in Henry House?

The last Henry family member to live in Henry House was William. He lived there until the 1910s. Between 1917 and into the early 1920s, the Mackie family called the house home. It was used for a time as a ‘rest room’ for mothers, a place to rest while their children were playing in the park. It was home to Nasion and Emelline (Ned & Lina) Smith from the 1930s to 1942, and Harry Smith, a Parks Board of Management employee and in charge of Lakeview Park maintenance, lived in the home into the 1950s.

A sepia toned photograph of two adult women and two children posed for a picture outside. They are beside a stone house, there is snow on the ground, and they are all wearing winter clothes.
The Mackie Family and friend outside Henry House, c. 1920; from the Oshawa Museum archival collection (A983.3.8)

In 1959, the Oshawa Historical Society received word that they could use Henry House as a local museum. Doors opened in 1960, and we’ve welcomed thousands of visitors every year since.

Black and white photograph of people lined up to go inside a stone building. There is a sign outside the house that reads 'Henry House Museum' and there is a Union Jack flag flying.
Opening of Henry House, May 1960; Oshawa museum archival collection

Thank you for visiting!

Blog Look Back – Top 5 Posts of 2022

Happy New Year! Throughout 2022, we shared 61 articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing many different stories from our city’s past. 

We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2023, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2022:

Black and white photograph of a brick house. There is an orange banner overlaying the photo, with text reading "Top 5 blog posts 2022"

Oshawa’s Newspapers, Past and Present

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Preparing for our latest Sunday FUNday event at the Oshawa Museum, our first in person event since February 2020, brought me down the rabbit hole of newspapers. To celebrate Archives Awareness Week, I wanted the Sunday FUNday to be archives related, so newspapers were a good theme. We were able…

Profiling: George Kenneth Lancaster

By Sara H., Summer Student As my summer at the museum is wrapping up, it has been the perfect time to reflect on my time at the museum and how much I have learned about museums and Oshawa’s history.  My last blog post talked about past industries in Oshawa that were featured on the  Discover…

The Ocean Wave

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator In the early years of the twentieth century, a man named Jack O’Leary owned the New Lunch/O’Leary’s Restaurant at 37 King Street West in Oshawa – between the Commercial Hotel and the coal yards at Centre Street. Behind this small restaurant, a semi-permanent, Trabant/wipeout style of carnival ride existed, a…

Street Name Stories – the ‘Knitting’ Streets

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Those who know me know that I’m an avid knitter. In fact, in the past I’ve written a blog post about a WWI Sock knitting pattern, I’ve examined some of Oshawa’s early woolen industries, and I’ve done a deep dive into one of those industries, the Empire Woolen Mills, available…

These were our top 5 posts written in 2022, however, for the FIFTH year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This post was originally written in 2016 and has been the top blog post every year since 2018. The desire to know about foot warmers and window coverings must be strong with our readers!

Thank you all for reading, thank you to the OM staff, students, and guest authors who helped create content for the blog, and we hope to see you again through 2023!

The Timelessness of the Music Box

By Kes Murray, Registrar

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.

View of a closed, wooden box. There is a decorative motif of musical instruments and sheet music on top.
995.1.1 Top view. You can see the signature Langdorff & Fils stamp, although ours has wind instruments instead of a harp.

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.

Overhead view of an open music box. It is made of dark wood, and inside the box, there is a gold coloured cylinder.
995.1.1 Inside top view.

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.


Sources consulted

Bahl, G. (1993). Music Boxes: The Collector’s Guide to Selecting, Restoring, and Enjoying New and Vintage Music Boxes. Running Press Book Publishers.

https://www.britannica.com/art/music-box

https://obsoletemedia.org/music-box-cylinder/

Summer Reflections from Sara and Sarah

By Sara H. & Sarah P.

This article was originally published in Fall 2022 Historical Happenings, the quarterly newsletter of the Oshawa Historical Society. Subscriptions to Historical Happenings are available for Oshawa Historical Society members. To learn more about membership, see the OHS website: https://oshawahistoricalsociety.org/become-a-member/

Hi! We are Sarah and Sara, two of the students who were at the museum this summer. One of the main projects we worked on was a partial inventory of artefacts stored in the Robinson attic. This was a great introduction to the collection as we were able to really immerse ourselves in the artefacts, learn more about the museum, and the history of Oshawa. When we were first introduced to the attic, it was a bit daunting as neither of us had done an inventory before, and there are a lot of artefacts in our section of the attic. But, being this close to artefacts and having a “behind the scenes”’ look at the collection was a great way for us to become comfortable with the inventory process and learn about collections care and management. We also learned about the deaccession process and made some recommendations for deaccession. From the Canadian Museum Association, “deaccessioning is the formal process of removal of an object from the collection of an institution.”

The inventory and deaccessions gives us more room and more opportunities to expand our collection and represent more of Oshawa’s history.

We started by mapping out the attic and labelling everything according to its row and shelf. We went through each row and labelled them with ‘super professional’ sticky notes that had their row and shelf number. We then organized our Excel spreadsheet in the same sections so that if someone else had to find an artefact it would be easy for them to look through and figure out what section of the attic it lives in. We started going through the rows that were easiest to access, the end rows 1 and 3. These rows contained a lot of farm and yard care equipment, such as rakes, shovels and even an interesting looking baby stroller!

A wooden baby stroller sitting on a shelf. The seat for the stroller is blue wicker
Baby stroller purchased in Oshawa c. 1917 (977.018-500.1)

The middle row was more challenging to access; we had to move shelves around so we could access the objects that lived on each one. It was very EXCITING to see and work with objects made from different types of materials, from wicker baskets and suitcases, to tiny ceramic figurines, and even all sorts of metal tools. Working with this collection has opened our eyes to how large and different museum collections can be. There were many artefacts, especially in the farming sections, that neither of us had seen before, but we were able to understand their importance within the collection. Even though the Oshawa Museum is a smaller community museum, the collection tells such a big and important story about our community. As we immersed ourselves in this environment, we realized that we had our favourite artefacts in the attic that we hope will someday be displayed in future exhibits at Oshawa Museum. We were particularly intrigued by our discovery of a typewriter on the bottom shelf of row 1 as it was in fantastic condition!

Two small ceramic birds
Small duck and bird figurines found in the Robinson Attic

The photograph shows the typewriter that immediately captured Sarah P.’s attention, a Remington Noiseless 6 from 1925. Prior to this artefact’s home in our lovely attic in Robinson House, this typewriter was located at Landers Coal, which later became Landers Stark Coal and Company. Like many of the artefacts in the attic, this typewriter inspires a sense of curiosity within us concerning the people who have used this object over the years. Sarah in particular has always wanted to own an old-fashioned typewriter, as she believed it would make her a great writer. Sadly, she must continue her writing pursuits using modern technology!

A black typewriter sitting on a shelf. Written on the typewriter are the words '6 Remington Noiseless 6'
Remington Noiseless 6 typewriter (004.18.1)

Before we began this project, we usually only considered how museums acquire and exhibit their artefacts. Still, as we end the inventory process, we have been participating in recommending objects for deaccession. At first, we thought it would be difficult to consider which artefacts could be removed from the museum’s collection. However, once we were comfortable with these artefacts, we began to analyze how particular objects may no longer be relevant to the mandate and collection’s policy, or if the condition had deteriorated to the point that it was not fit for display. We also noticed numerous repeats of artefacts that often had us looking at each other, wondering how many spigots were necessary for our museum to possess. Even though we are not the individuals to make the final decision about what is removed from the collection, it was beneficial for us to learn about this critical aspect of working in a museum that is often forgotten by the general public.

A number of items sitting on a table. The photo is an overhead shot of the top of the table, showing all items on top
Our table of proposed deaccessioned objects

We also have to mention how appreciative we are of having this phenomenal experience of working at the Oshawa Museum. All of our co-workers have honestly been amazing, we have learned so much from each of them and have had a great time with them along the way! We both have gathered so many new skills and experiences that have truly helped us grow in our passion for history and pursuing a career in this field.

Wishing the best of luck to Sara and Sarah with their future studies!

The Night(mare) Tour

A story by Ainsley P.

It was a few days before Halloween and the Oshawa Museum was hosting a Halloween tour. People said that the houses were haunted but the staff knew that is wasn’t actually haunted. But little did they know that on the first few days and the last few days near Halloween that if you tell a spooky lie it comes true.

Colour photograph of Robinson House, a two storey brown brick building with several windows. The photo is slightly out of focus

So, when the tour was over and the staff went to lock up, one of the staff, Sally heard a noise coming from Robinson House. Before locking up she went in to investigate. She then discovered that the story of the museum being haunted may have come true. She rushed over to Guy House to tell the other staff and her boss. They all agreed to not tell the visitors until they knew they could handle it. They all agreed that when they went home that night or if they even went home, they would all come up with some ideas to get rid of the ghosts. But that is when the doors and windows locked.

“Looks like were not going home tonight,” Sophie said.

But then Lily had an idea. If they could just find the ghosts they could tell them to unlock the doors and leave. But they all knew it wasn’t going to be that easy. They would need to come up with some ideas to be able to see or make sure to know where they are so they didn’t escape. They came up with many good ideas but Kasey’s was the best.

Kasey had the idea to get a bunch of paint or some kind of colourful liquid so when you hear them or feel them you can splash some paint on them, and to capture them you put them in a cage because these ghosts can only travel through pure wall.

That’s it!

That is the plan were going with.

Then they all hear the ghosts! They all start running. Then Lily calls, “I CAUGHT ONE. I REALLY CAUGHT ONE!”

Then Kasey caught one, then Sally caught one! Then by that time it was daylight. The ghosts agreed to open the doors and windows for tours to go on, but all staff had to be out of the building by 5 o’clock pm or else they are locked in for the night.      

Colour photograph of a young Caucasian girl with her hair in a side braid
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