Blog Look Back – Top 5 Posts of 2021

Happy New Year! Throughout 2021, we shared 64 articles on the Oshawa Museum Blog, showcasing many different stories from our city’s past. 

We’re planning our new and dynamic posts for 2022, but to start the year, let’s look back at our top 5 posts of 2021:

Yellow wooden house and text reading "2021 Top 5 Blog Posts"

The Oshawa Harbour – Part II

By Melissa Cole, Curator 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 … Continue reading “The Oshawa Harbour – Part II”

Oshawa’s Rotary Park

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator In 1925, Rotarians in Oshawa were looking for a worthwhile service project. One of the suggestions was a new playground near the Oshawa Creek. In 1926, they purchased land with frontage on Centre Street for $2,000. In November 1926, local industrialist and philanthropist, J.D. Storie, donated an additional $2,000 … Continue reading “Oshawa’s Rotary Park”

Union Cemetery Receiving Vault

By Laura Suchan, Executive Director A receiving vault (sometimes called a dead house) was a structure designed to temporarily store the dead during the winter months when it was too difficult to dig graves by hand.  When William Wells was exhumed in February 1895 from his grave in Union Cemetery, it took local gravediggers William … Continue reading “Union Cemetery Receiving Vault”

These were our top 5 posts written in 2021, however, for the fourth year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This streak is going strong for our Curator Melissa who wrote the post a number of years ago, but the post keeps bringing readers back!

Thank you all for reading, and we hope to see you again in 2022!

Weddings, Bridal Style, and the Oshawa Museum

By Savannah Sewell, Registrar

Regardless of whether you got married last weekend or last century (applies to this context…I promise), I’m sure you remember a variety of dramas and joys surrounding your wedding. If you have upcoming nuptials in mind, be prepared, from what I hear; there is lots of confusion, drama, and stress associated with the planning and preparation for a wedding. Regardless of how much work or loss of sleep is involved in planning your wedding, they are incredibly important days in our lives and symbolize the union of two people who love each other very much. The history of western weddings are often a lot more complicated that most think; from wedding fashions to the decision making process of picking a date, every decision was made for a reason.

Visitor Experience Coordinator, Jill, in front of Henry House on her wedding day.

Down at the Oshawa Museum, we have the pleasure of being the backdrop for weddings year-round. The Oshawa Museum rests on the shore of Lake Ontario, and our three historic houses each hold a unique colour scheme and aesthetic. The museum is also located conveniently beside the Jubilee Pavilion, a hall and event space that has existed in Oshawa since 1927! All of this combined with the picturesque views, mature trees, and beautiful gardens, Lakeview Park and the museum continue to be the perfect background for a romantic day of love and the institutional norm of marriage.

Curator, Melissa, on the front steps of Henry House, on her wedding day.

Wedding photography is a complex academic conversation, intrinsically linked with the controversial conversation surrounding marriage itself, the ownership of others, and the traditional patriarchal contract of marriage. However, when observed from a historical perspective, I find that a more appropriate conversation surrounding its evolution, is actually of the desire to capture such a monumental moment in one’s life. As Walsh and Wade explain “wedding photographs and albums symbolically demonstrate the enduring centrality of ritual in contemporary America while addressing complex issues such as social change, gender, and economics.1 Photography for weddings is a long and complicated story, growing from staged and set photos, that were often taken on separate days to the wedding, to the lifestyle aesthetic that we see most often now.

Queen Elizabeth’s wedding day was fraught with complications and restrictions, including having to request extra clothing coupons from the British government for her dress, as World War II rationing was still in effect. However, one of the most interesting stories was the loss of her wedding bouquet. Interested individuals will notice that family photos taken on November 20, 1947 do not show Her Majesty holding her bouquet, as it was misplaced sometime after the departure from Westminster Abbey. Therefore, the bride and groom’s wedding portraits were completed on their honeymoon, days later, after another bouquet could be created. Photography at the time also lent only to posed photos in a space where light could be monitored and controlled. As the cameras changed and lent to transportation, so too did wedding photos. The first wedding daguerreotypes of the 1840s evolved into wedding albums and studio portraits. The “Wedding Boom” after the Second World War also influenced photographers to make the leap from military photography to weddings, and some would show up, take photos, and then attempt to sell them to the bride and groom without a prior contract. These events forced wedding photographers to leave their studios and create their memories with the couple at their wedding location.2

Mom and Dad on their wedding day, October 19, 1991. Oshawa This Week Collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection, A997.7.124

The Oshawa Museum is in possession of the Oshawa This Week Wedding announcement photo collection and, therefore, a representation of a large variety of wedding photographs from the past century that were published in the paper. To my surprise, while writing this blog, I clicked across my own parents’ wedding, as well as an assortment of other parents and community members that I have known my entire life.

A couple on their wedding day. Oshawa This Week Collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection, A997.37.3

Within the museum’s collection, we also have a large variety of wedding items, anywhere from wedding dresses, shoes, to certificates and photos. I have a particular interest in the wedding dresses within the collection, as they represent a variety of styles throughout the years. One of the most iconic symbols of the western wedding is the bridal gown. Typically, they are white or ivory, long, and somehow elaborate, depending on the style at the time. Queen Victoria, who was married on February 10, 1840, set a trend in wedding outfits for women. Prior to her wedding, women either wore their best dress, regardless of the colour, or designed and wore new dresses of colour depending on the fashion of the season. Queen Victoria’s large and extravagant white wedding dress led to a surge in the wearing of white dresses today. Coupled with the industrial revolution and the availability of such impractical materials, the full-skirted, white, or ivory look for brides is now the norm.3

Samantha Hill’s Australien, wedding dress. C. 1875 Oshawa Museum collection.

However, some brides chose to continue with fashionable colours. One of the most extravagant examples of that is a dress which belonged to Samantha Hill. She was married in 1875 in this rusty, orange dress, the colour at the time was called Australien. The colour was inspired by the colour and landscape of the Australian outback and used in dresses-making and fashion houses through late Victorian England.

Clarissa (Henry) Stone

One of the museum’s best-known families, the Henrys of our Henry House, had several weddings held within the home. The parlour would have been host to Henry House weddings, as it was the most lavishly decorated and designed for entertaining. One of the most interesting facts concerning the weddings of Henry family children and grandchildren is the timing of the weddings within the calendar year. Many were married around the Christmas holiday, either before or after. One marriage, that of Clarissa Henry, Thomas and Lurenda’s third youngest child, was married to Cassius Stone on December 22, 1868. Clarissa and Cassius are said to have wanted to be wed on Christmas Day itself, however, the church and priest were not available, so alternative plans were made. Some reasons for these Christmas season celebrations could have been the proximity to each other during the holiday season or that the crops were tended and the harvest chores were finished, so the family was available to enjoy celebration and merriment.

The Oshawa Museum is thrilled to have a variety of representations of both modern and historical weddings, the images and collection items provide an interesting context for weddings in Oshawa and Lakeview Park. Whether it is announcing your wedding in the newspaper, using the museum’s beauty as a photography backdrop, or having your wedding gown end up in our permanent collection, we love to love and are happy to be a part of anyone’s Big Day.


Citations

  1. Walsh, Michael James and Wade, Matthew. Soundtrack for love: wedding videography, music and romantic memory. Continuum 34:1, pages 14-31, 2020.
  2. “The History of Wedding Photography.” San Francisco Wedding Photographer. Accessed November 29, 2021. https://www.iqphoto.com/history.
  3. Ehrman, Edwina. The Wedding Dress. London: V & A Publishing, 2011.

World Postcard Day

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Hello to all deltiologists – that’s postcard collectors! October 1 is World Postcard Day, a date chosen because, according to worldpostcardday.com, postcards were officially issued and recognized by a postal operator on October 1, 1869.

‘Post Cards’ had been used to communicate before 1869, however, as the website states, an Austrian professor of Economics, Dr. Emanuel Herrmann,  “wrote an article in the Neue Freie Presse pointing out that the time and effort involved in writing a letter was out of proportion to the size of the message sent. He suggested that a more practical and cheaper method should be implemented for shorter, more efficient communications.”

Dr. Herrmann must have put forth a convincing argument, as this was put into practice on October 1, 1869, resulting in the Correspondenz-Karte. It was light-brown, 8.5 x 12cm in size, and it featured space for the address on the front (obverse) and room for a short message on the back (reverse). After the Austrian government issued the first postal card, other countries soon followed – Canada in 1871 and the United States in 1873.

A013.4.464 – postcard to Thomas Henry from his brother, William. You can see the front is exclusively for the addressee while the back is the correspondence.

A few decades later, postcards began featuring images on one side, and by the 1890s, as photography’s popularity was continuing to grow, postcards began featuring photographs. At the turn of the 20th century, 2,700 cards were mailed by Canadians, but by 1913 this figure had jumped to 60 million.  Considering the population of Canada was a mere 7.2 million in 1911, this figure is all the more incredible.

Postcards were an economical way of staying in touch with friends and relatives before the era of the telephone.

The postcard collection at the Oshawa Museum is rather sizable and varied in terms of scope and subjects. We have several postcards commemorating events, such as New Years, Easter, Hallowe’en and Christmas. We have a number that feature rather Victorian/Edwardian depictions. We have a ‘Tall Tale’ postcard and a few that simply make me laugh.

Some are in the collection because of the pictures on the obverse, while others are treasured because of what it being communicated on the reverse.

We also have a few postcards made from leather! postcardhistory.net claims that postcards made from leather began around 1903 and that postcards dating before 1915 aren’t terribly uncommon.

The examples in our collection range in date from 1906 to 1908. One of the examples was destined for Saskatchewan, Northwest Territories – it is interesting to note that it is dated 1908, and Saskatchewan split from the Northwest Territories about 2 1/2 years prior.

Celebrate World Postcard Day by sending a message along to a friend! You can also tune into the Oshawa Museum’s Facebook Page for our Sunday FUNday LIVE on October 3 for a look at Postcards!

Sons of Temperance Insignia

By Melissa Cole, Curator

The Temperance movement heavily criticized excessive alcohol use, promoted abstinence, and pressured the government to completely prohibit the use of alcohol. The trend of temperance caught on in the middle of the nineteenth century, and its effects were felt in many countries around the world.  Reverend Robert Dick of Toronto arranged to form an organized Temperance movement in Oshawa. After little debate, The Sons of Temperance attained their 35th Chapter with the addition of the Oshawa Division on November 6, 1849.

Oshawa’s Sons of Temperance Hall

The Oshawa Division held their meeting at the Commercial Hotel at the corner of Centre and King Streets and later moved their meetings to the Simcoe St. Methodist (United) Church.  The group discussed many issues on the topic of temperance.  The issue of most importance was that of creating sweeping reforms that would eliminate “local groggeries” and bar rooms.  The group had a very talented orator named Edward Carswell who would travel through the United States and Canada speaking on the topic of abstinence and the evils of drink. The Oshawa Division gave the movement a strong and passionate speaker as well as a gathering place for Ontario’s annual Sons of Temperance meeting.  Any decisions that were reached and toasts that were made were all celebrated with a glass of cold water in this alcohol free environment.

The Sons of Temperance created a constitution, the primary article of which was Article 2 which stated that “No brother shall make, sell or use as a beverage, any Spirituous or Malt Liquors, Wine or Cider.”  Should a brother violate Article 2 of the constitution that brother will be investigated and a “trial” will occur and presiding over this “trial” will be a panel of 5 brothers.  Should the charge be sustained, the brother may be expelled from the organization. 

The organization had a strict set of rules and expectations for anyone who wanted to become a member. Their constitution stated that the candidate must be at least 18 years of age, be nominated by someone within the brotherhood, and have good moral character.  He must also have a proper way of earning a living and therefore have visible means of support.  Although the constitution stated that the age of maturity into this fellowship was 18, a number of their members were younger than that.  The youngest member of No. 35, the Oshawa Division, was 14 years of age.

The brotherhood provided support for each other in their constitution in case of any misfortune.  The constitution provided benefits to the family in the amount of no less than 15 dollars if a brother should die; should the wife pass away then the benefit is no less than 10 dollars towards their funeral costs.  Should a brother become ill with a sickness or disability he was entitled to no less than one dollar a week, however, if it can be proven that the sickness/disability was due to improper conduct then the brother forfeits his benefit.

In our collection, we have a wooden object that can be described as Triangular in shape, open in the middle and in the centre of that is a wooden star. There are words written on the three sides of the triangle: in white on side one is ‘PURITY;’ on another side in blue is written ‘FIDELITY;’ and, the third side features the word ‘LOVE’ written in red. 

What do these three words represent?  The Sons of Temperance held passionate moral views about the evils of excessive drinking.  Their slogan was “Love, Purity, Fidelity.”  The group had a strong international voice on the issues of temperance and survived into the new century with a large following and legislation that aided them in their quest for purity.  This particular artefact is an example of moral views that were held by the Sons of Temperance in Oshawa. 


Watch Melissa’s video podcast about the Sons of Temperance Insignia

Archives Awareness Week – Archives A to Z

Throughout March 2021, Archives took to Twitter and shared their collections from A to Z. Never one to skip social media trends, the Oshawa Museum played along with the daily #ArchivesAtoZ prompt and were excited to showcase our collection.

Here is our round up of #ArchivesAtoZ:

A is for Audio – our collection contains documents, photographs, and many hours of audio interviews! Through the pandemic, at home volunteers have been working to transcribe these audio files, making them accessible and simpler for searching!

B is for Boxes – Hollinger Boxes, to be precise. The majority of our collection is stored inside these boxes, organized by by subject, collection, or Fonds. Designed for long-term storage, they were LIFE SAVERS (or, I guess, collection savers, in the 2003 Guy House Fire.

C is for Collections – Our archival holdings have a number of collections. A favourite is the Dowsley photograph collection, a series of photo donations, images taken by Mr Dowsley through the years. It is a wonderful documentation of Oshawa through the last few decades.

Bruce Street, east of Drew taken in 1990 (Dowsley Collection, A016.10.198)

D is for Digitization – A focus within the archival field for well over a decade, the purpose of digitization is two fold: preservation and access. In one of our podcasts, our archivist looks into the process of digitizing the archives for access.

E is for Exhibit – We have a number of online exhibitions, featuring the archival collection. One of our newest was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lakeview Park: https://lakeviewparkoshawa.wordpress.com/

F is for Fire Insurance MapsFire Insurance Maps are one of those hidden gems within an archives as they can help a wide variety of researchers. These incredibly maps show the footprints of the buildings that existed at the time the map was created, and their original purpose was to assist insurance underwriters with determining risk when assessing insurance rates.

G is for Granny – Perhaps one of our largest archival items, the portrait of Harriet Cock. We often just call her Granny. It was donated just over a decade ago, & after some restoration and reframing, she has been on display in Guy House since 2012.

H is for House – One of our commonly asked questions is how to research the history of your house. We partnered with Heritage Oshawa and developed a guide with helpful steps on how to do this research: https://oshawahistoricalsociety.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/researching-your-house.pdf

I is for Immigration – We have been actively seeking to fill gaps in the collection, and our Displaced Persons Project came from this. We have been collecting oral histories of people who immigrated after WWII for several years now, and these stories will not only become an important part of the archival collection, they will also form the basis of an exhibition we plan on opening Summer 2021: https://oshawaimmigrationstories.weebly.com/

J is for Jennifer – Meet our archivist, Jennifer Weymark. She’s been part of the OM team since 1999 and the archivist since 2000. She manages the archival collection and ensures this information is preserved and made available to those interested in researching.

K is for King St – This is what Oshawa calls our section of Highway 2, and the story of King Street has been whimsically painted by local artist Eric Sangwine. His paintings, depicting his interpretations of local history, are a beloved part of our archival holdings.

L is for Letters – Our 2013 donation of letters, photographs, & receipts, all relating to Thomas Henry, helped us better understand one of the patriarchs of our Museum buildings. The letters formed the basis of a book, To Cast a Reflection: The Henry Family in their Own Words, and this book can be bought from our online store.

M is for Marriage Certificate – This was included in the 2013 Thomas Henry donation; he was a witness for this marriage. It was received at the same time that our research into Oshawa’s early Black History was underway. This marriage between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews was interracial, and Mary’s family was one of two Black families who settled in Oshawa in the 1850s. 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 marriage certificate are a part of work.

N is for Newspapers – Our collection of early Oshawa newspapers were digitized and made available to researchers: http://communitydigitalarchives.com/newspapers.html

*These newspapers also are the resource used for the blog series: The Month That Was

O is for Oshawa – Oshawa is our mandate, to collect the history of our city from the earliest Indigenous inhabitants to present day.

P is for Photographs – Our collection is over 10,000 images & growing yearly! Photos help us understand how our community has changed, and what events & experiences were like. Our oldest images are from the c. 1860s, and our newest are the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q is for Query – Does your research have you wondering about something in Oshawa’s past? Contact our archivist with your query and we’ll do our best to help!

R is for Robson – Robson Leather was an industry in our community for almost a century. Did you know that during WWI, 70% of all upper leathers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force were produced at Robson? Learn more: https://industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/tanneries/robson-tannery/

S is for Storage – We underwent a large storage upgrade project in 2012, improving our storage room and shelving. While this project was incredibly beneficial and allowed us to increase our collecting capabilities, it was a band-aid for the larger issue we’ve faced at the Oshawa Museum for decades. We are at capacity and are in need of a purpose built museum facility to allow us to continue to collecting Oshawa’s history and open that collection up to researchers.

T is for Telegram – This is part of a special collection of correspondence of a man named William Garrow. He enlisted in 1915 & wrote letters to his sisters at home. His family received this telegram, notifying of his death in June 1916. https://lettersfromthetrenches.wordpress.com/

U is for Union Cemetery, a decades old partnership. We offer walking tours of Union, researched using archival resources. In the 1980s, the Durham OGS Chapter transcribed headstones in that cemetery, and copies of those transcriptions are part of the collection.

V is for Vacuum – Why Vacuum? We have a small vacuum that we’ll use for very carefully cleaning the spines of books.

W is for Weights – We have weights in the archives which helps our archivist hold down documents when working on them.

X is for eXamination – X is hard, ok… BUT examination of documents and photographs are an important part of archival work. In this video, Jennifer works out the critical thinking examination she uses for photographs:

Y is for Yacht Club – In 2014, our exhibit was Reflections of Oshawa, a community rooted exhibit, and one participant, Linda, shared her memorabilia from the Oshawa Yacht Club.

Z is for Zoom, the NEW way to meet the archivist! If you’re an educator and would like to book a Q & A with Jennifer, let us know! We want to help however we can with these new ways of learning.

%d bloggers like this: