Tales of the Nose Neighbour: Oshawa and the Moustache

By Savannah Sewell, Registrar

I was inspired to write this blog as I shuffled through seemingly endless negative film images of Oshawa Fire Department staff. The collection, which has now been entirely organized and accessioned, has a large selection of images taken in the field, at the hall, and during events. Not shockingly, the collection sports an enormous variety of absolutely stunning moustaches. Therefore, I thought that it would be MOST appropriate to display some of the beautiful moustaches we, at the Oshawa Museum, have the privilege of enjoying, both within the Oshawa Fire Department Collection and the rest of our historical images.

History of the ‘stache

Fashionably shaped facial hair is not a modern concept, and many individuals have sported a combination of beards, moustaches, goatees, and side burns for most of human history. Most historical and archaeological records indicate that facial hair has been styled since the days of early humans, often with a variety of implements such as sharpened shells or stone tools.

Facial hair has been associated with religious or community groups, but it has also been very important in the identification of military personnel. The BBC history article, The Moustache a Hairy History, details the importance of the differentiation between war and post-war times.

“When the war ended in 1856, returning soldiers were barely recognizable behind their vast crops of facial hair. Deciding that beards were the signs of heroes, British men started once again to grow their own. Beards were everywhere and moustaches were lost amongst the general “face fungus” (as Edwardian novelist Frank Richardson termed it). It was a dark time for the moustache.”

War also had a lasting impact on Canadian leadership and their facial hair. Sir Robert Borden, the 8th Prime Minister of Canada, had a very recognizable moustache. Most people would recognize him as the face on the Canadian $100 bill. Borden served from 1911 to 1920, and World War I subsequently turned his moustache a stark white from the stress. (https://canadaehx.com/2019/11/04/penny-sized-history-great-moustaches-in-canadian-history/)

Some leadership even took it into their hands to change the entire face of a population with facial hair. Peter the Great desired for Russia to present a more modern European nation during his reign. This meant that examples of the style of clothes that he desired for the population to wear were hung outside the city gates, on mannequins, and that a task force was employed to ensure that the people were following new orders. This task force when as far as to rip and cut long beards from men’s faces often against their will, as Peter deemed the look of a long beard to be too stereotypically associated to the old fashioned Russian. 

Oshawa Fire Department

According to the website Firefighter Now, a blog written by a Cleveland firefighter/paramedic, the recognizable firefighter moustaches were an early form of smoke filtration, prior to oxygen masks. The firefighters would moisten their moustaches before entering a smoky area to process the air as they breathed.

There are several reasons why firefighters still wear the stylish ‘stache: a sense of identity, fashion, and it’s often their only option for facial hair. The moustache is a symbolic image of firefighters and, as such, both in reality and popular media, provide a sense of identity and inclusion within the community. Some individuals really enjoy the look, and it’s often the only facial hair that firefighters can have! The oxygen masks that are worn in the field cannot create a tight seal when there is facial hair such as a beard, therefore, the old cookie duster is the only option.

Collection

Thomas E.B. Henry, a member of our Henry family, was an actor and had a spectacular array of images taken for his acting portfolio from various shows that he performed in. One of my personal favourites is this Western looking garb, complete with a fantastic moustache. Though I cannot be certain that the moustache is real, it can still be appreciated in all of its glory for truly transforming the actor. Some of the other images include a dapper tuxedoed Thomas E.B. Henry, complete with eyeliner, a military uniform, and even a man caught in a fight, including a sword and fake wound on his arm.

Black and white photo of a Caucasian man, wearing a western costume and striking a pose
Thomas Eben Blake Henry; from a private collection of the Henry Family

Another fantastic example of the cultural significance that moustaches have had through history is this china cup. The white china decorated with pink flowers has been designed with a special shelf. This shelf, that sits on the inside lip of the cup, was an addition meant to protect the drinker’s moustache from being dampened by the liquid that they were consuming.

969.6.2a

This is Richard Elwood Hastings Welch, who married Ruth Eunice Robinson and served as the Customs Officer of Port Oshawa. He is buried in the Port Oshawa Cemetery. This image of Mr. Welch with this fantastic example of the “mutton chop” moustache was published in The Oshawa Daily Reformer with the caption,

“Capt. Richard Elwood Hastings Welch, who was in H.M.S. Customs as Landing-Waiter at Port Oshawa at the time of Confederation and was Captain in the Third Battalion of the Durham Militia. He was the father of Miss Welch and Mrs. Samuel J. Babe of this city of the late Vicars H. Welch.”

Black and white photo of a Caucasian man
Richard Elwood Hastings Welch; Oshawa Museum archival collection

It was difficult to choose just a few photos from our collection in order to represent the complete variety of moustaches at the Oshawa Museum. If you are interested in exploring more of the content within our archive and collection, please visit the virtual database on the Oshawa Museum’s website.


Works Cited

Baird, Craig. Penny Sized History: Great Moustaches in Canadian History. Canadian History Ehx, 2019.

Hawksley, Lucinda. The moustache: A Hairy History. BBC: Culture, 2014.

Soth, Amelia. Peter the Great’s Beard Tax. JSTOR: Daily, 2021.

Blog Rewind: Easter Greetings

Happy Easter from the Oshawa Museum!  Here’s a glimpse at Easter in our collection.

From the Oshawa Museum Collection

Postcards in the Archival Collection

An Easter display at Eaton’s in the Oshawa Centre, from the Oshawa Museum photography collection (A999.19.654-658)


This post was originally published on March 30, 2018

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.

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.
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