ArteFACTS – Lancashire Clogs

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Originating from northern England, Lancashire Clogs have also gone by the names Northumberland Clogs or Yorkshire Clogs. 

Unlike the more famous Dutch clogs, Lancashire clogs have a leather upper; some lace up like ordinary shoes while others contain an engraved metal clasp, such as the ones in our collection.  Clogs were not only cheaper than leather shoes, they were safer against penetration and less likely to be adversely affected by snow, moisture and mud. They were long lasting and comfortable.  

These wooden soled shoes, with strips of steel attached underneath like a horseshoe, were the everyday footwear of working people in England.  At first glance they may look fairly simple, but in fact their simplicity is what made them popular in Britain from the 1840s until the 1920s. Although traditionally associated with Lancashire, they were worn all over the country.

The wearing of clogs in Britain became more visible with the Industrial Revolution, when industrial workers needed strong, cheap footwear. Men and women wore laced and clasped clogs respectively, the fastening clasps being of engraved brass or more commonly steel.   The soles are carved from a hard wood, such as alder and shod with irons to stop the wood from wearing away.  Nailed under the sole at the toe and heel were clog irons, generally 3/8″ wide x 1/4″ thick with a groove down the middle to protect the nail heads from wear.  The uppers are tacked onto the soles and made from leather. Each component of the shoe is made to be easily repaired. 

Symbolic of the working class, this style of shoe was worn by the thousands of people who worked in the cotton mills throughout northern England.  This particular pair of clogs was worn by Mrs. T.H. Campbell before she emigrated from England to Canada in 1910.    Wherever it was damp or wet underfoot, clogs were the preferred footwear due to their cheapness (to buy and to repair), their long-lasting wear, and their comfort.

In England, the wearing of clogs gave rise to clog dancing, a popular form of dancing that eventually developed into tap dancing. It has been suggested that clog dancing originated with workers synchronizing foot tapping with the rhythmic sounds made by the loom shuttles. The predominant style of Lancashire clog dancing was termed ‘heel and toe.’ Many of the steps emulate the sound of the shuttle and other parts of the cotton spinning and weaving machinery.

Clog dancing was a cheap form of popular entertainment. Not only was clog dancing common, it took place on street corners, there were professional clog dancers and competitions, and proficient clog dancers could improve their situation by dancing professionally in music halls.  One notable Lancashire clog dancer who ultimately succeeded was Charlie Chaplin who performed in a troupe called the ‘The Eight Lancashire Lads.’

Dancing clogs were termed ‘neet’ clogs. They did not have irons on the soles and were lighter than the heavier working clogs. The uppers were usually highly tooled (decorated) and often coloured. 

One final note on Lancashire clogs. Men who wished to settle differences frequently did so by squaring off against each other by “clog fighting.” In Lancashire it was curiously known as “purring,” with a contemporary account from Chris Brady who states the following:

It is all up and down fighting here. They fought quite naked, excepting their clogs. When one has the other down on the ground he first endeavors to choke him by squeezing his throat, then he kicks him with his clogs. Sometimes they are very severely injured.

Chris Brady

Watch Melissa talk about the Lancashire Clogs in our video podcast:

Celebrating Henry House During COVID-19

By Melissa Cole, Curator

While editing our latest issue of Historical Happenings (our quarterly newsletter for Oshawa Historical Society Members) which is dedicated to celebrating the 60th Anniversary of Henry House as a museum, I began to reflect on my time here at the museum.  My career at the Oshawa Museum started 20 years ago.  I started as a Fleming College Museum Management and Curatorship intern in the archives, working with past Archivist, Tammy Robinson.  One of my first projects was to work on a display celebrating the 40th Anniversary of Henry House officially opening as a museum: a come and go tea was held in the garden of Henry House. 

Letter from former Prime Minister, the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien acknowledging the 40th anniversary of Henry House.

Twenty years later, I never would have thought we would not be on site to celebrate the 60th anniversary of what I consider one of our largest artefacts and that we would celebrate virtually.  Before Henry House became a museum, it was the home to many families such as the Henry Family, Smith Family, and Mackie Family.  The home is furnished in belongings from various families that once lived in Oshawa.  In this post I thought I would highlight a few of my favourite pieces that are currently on display in Henry House, artefacts you would see on a tour with one of our knowledgeable Visitor Hosts.  Some of the items I will highlight belonged to the Henry family. 

Lets go on a curatorial tour!

Walking in the front door, something I miss the most is the smell of Henry House.  I realized how much I missed this smell the other day when I walked into Henry to check on the collection.  The smell is comforting, and it may have to do with the fact it has become my home away from home over the last 20 years. 

In the study, as you walk into the room you will find a beautiful mahogany spinet desk that once belonged to Dr. Franklin Luther Henry, grandson of Thomas Henry.  This particular desk was once located in Dr. F.L. Henry’s home and dental practice located at 231 King Street East in Oshawa.  This building still stands and is now home to the Harmony Health Centre. 

As you enter the parlour there is a beautiful Edwardian settee along the south-east wall, that once sat in Centre Street United Church.

Settee that once was at the Centre Street United Church

Located nearby is a beautiful embroidered child’s folding chair that once belonged to Thomas and Lurenda’s youngest child Jennie Henry.  As you enter the dining room there is another lovely artefact that once belonged to Jennie as well, a vegetable warming dish that was a wedding gift for her and John McGill.  They were married in Henry House on January 1, 1873. As you leave the dining room on the south hallway wall is a frame containing six tin types of the Henry children,

Jennie (Henry) McGill’s vegetable warmer

One of the popular rooms in the house containing the most activity was the kitchen; my favourite artefact in this room is not attributed to any particular family member.  It is a common kitchen gadget that many people still use in their home today, likely in the form of an SOS pad.  If you have visited our site in the past you have probably already named it, the pot scrubber!  You just never know what guesses our visitors will come up with for this item. 

Not on display but within the corner cupboard is chinaware similar to what was found during the 2018 archaeological dig in the backyard of Henry House.

Lastly the main floor bedroom, on the east wall is a pair of oval framed tin types of Thomas and Lurenda Henry. Further along this wall is a bird’s eye maple dresser that once belonged to the Robinson Family.  I have to mention, on top of this dresser are three exquisite pieces of hair jewellery, made from human hair.  This was a great way to recycle hair.  After brushing, the hair would be removed from the brush and kept in ceramic hair receptacles.  Sometimes the hair may have been from someone who had died, and this was made in memory of them. 

I have to be honest, all the artefacts in the home are my favourites for different reasons because these objects assist us in sharing the unique stories about our community and the people that helped shape it.  I wanted to bring a few to life today. 

To discover more about Henry House, you can check out our blog archive which goes back to 2013; the handy search bar makes searching easy.

We also have videos on our YouTube channel featuring Henry House – Our Henry House Playlist is a curated list of videos about Henry House or the Henry family: Access it HERE

Making Butter

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Since mid-March, the Oshawa Museum shifted our visitor engagement online. I had a lot of fun filming a few short videos at the Museum, with the hopes that even if you can’t physically visit the Museum, you can still experience some of our favourite tour features.  Thanks to a suggestion from my best friend, we also created a short video tutorial on how you can make your own butter at home! You can watch that video HERE.

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For many centuries, butter has been a staple in Canadian homes. For a Victorian family of the 19th century, butter making would have been a routine chore. Butter was used in the same way we use it today: as an ingredient in recipes or as a spread for bread, scones and tea biscuits, but it would also be used for barter at the local grocers.

In the video demo, and when we make butter with visitors, we use:

  • whipping cream
  • clean mason jar with tight fitting lid
  • marbles, to help with agitation (optional)
  • Salt (optional)

To make butter like we did in the video, place your cream into your container, filling it about halfway, not all the way.  This is where you can add your optional marbles, which help with agitation, and salt for flavour. Tighten the lid and start shaking.  After some time, the result of all the shaking is your butter and buttermilk.

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Victorians likely would have used churns when making their butter, and we have a few churn examples in our collection. Likely the example that comes to mind first is the churn and dash. By pumping the dasher up and down, the cream inside the churn would be agitated and eventually separation would occur – the fat and protein of the dairy, and the remaining liquid, the buttermilk.

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This churn is another example, where the crank on the outside is turned, and there are paddles on the inside which cause the agitation.

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Perhaps an artefact that is asked about on most tours is the rocker churn.  Our example was made in Fenelon Falls, and at first glance, you likely wouldn’t guess it’s a butter churn.  When the lid is removed, you can see wooden bars on the inside and yes, you guessed it, those bars act like the dash and agitate the cream.  There is even a spout near the bottom where the buttermilk could pour out.

The 1851 agricultural census gives us a snapshot of what crops Thomas Henry had on his farms and what animals were being cared for.  That year, Thomas had 11 cows: 4 bulls, oxen or steers; 3 cows/heifers; and 4 milch cows, which is a cow in milk or kept for her milk. It is likely that among the chores that Thomas’s children would have helped with, his sons would have cared for the animals, and his daughters may have turned that milk into butter.

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Be sure to check out the Museum From Home page for other at home activities to try!

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

Until April, our feature exhibit is called The Vintage Catwalk, looking at interesting fashions through the years.  Featured in this post are artefacts in our collection (that may or may not be on exhibition), and with St. Patrick’s Day later this month, the theme of the artefacts is green!

Be sure to visit the exhibition before it closes!

Note, the skirt appears to have repairs/changes through the years, especially notable when you look at the bottom hem.

Green hats, including one from Scouts Canada.

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From inside our 2017 feature exhibit Celebrating 60.  Our earliest donation included this green suit, owned by Premier Gordon Conant.

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Finally, our most notorious green textile – the arsenic green dress.  This dress, part of the collection of our exhibit partner The Costume People, was dyed with copper arsenite; the dye often proved fatal for the wearers and especially for the women who worked directly applying the dyes in the manufacture process.  Our summer student Lauren shared the story of these dresses in a post last summer.

Student Museum Musings: Guide Uniforms 1987 vs Today

By Victoria, co-op student

Hi everyone! My name is Victoria, and I am a co-op student at the Oshawa Museum. One of my jobs so far has been to organize and take in the items from the Oshawa Girl Guide House collection. Guide House closed in 2014, and the vast collection of artefacts has been in storage ever since. Now, the Oshawa Museum has gotten some of that collection! As a member of Girl Guides of Canada for almost ten years, seeing the items in this collection has been very interesting. Today, I’ll be comparing two Guide (Guides is the branch for girls aged 9 to 11) uniforms: one from 1987, and the latest uniform, released in 2019. From the long skirts of the 1910s, to the t-shirt of today, uniforms have changed quite a bit over the years.

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Image from Girl Guides of Canada Flickr Account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/girlguidesofcan/8203493766/in/album-72157625122062617/

This Guide uniform was released in 1987. Designed by Alfred Sung, a popular Canadian designer, it introduced several changes to the uniforms. One of the biggest changes was pants! Starting in 1991, pants were finally an official option for the “official” uniform. With the addition of pants, a white and blue striped t-shirt, and a blue sweatshirt with red maple leaves were introduced as “official” uniform pieces. Despite the changes, the uniform still retained some of the more formal options from uniforms prior, like a dress, and the belt, though both were redesigned. The uniform scarf was redesigned as well. This uniform was discontinued in 2001, but many people continued to wear it past that date.

Guiding has changed quite a bit since that uniform was introduced in 1987.  In between 2001 and 2020, there were several redesigns to the uniforms. When compared to the 1987 uniform, this latest one is wildly different. Introduced in 2019 as part of Girl Guides of Canada’s rebranding, it is a navy-blue shirt (available in several lengths/fits) with a small white trefoil on the chest. A large white trefoil logo is printed on the back of the shirt. Unlike previous uniforms, this one does not require a badge sash, or a scarf.

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Image from Girl Guides of Canada website: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Home/GGC/uniform.aspx

As you may have realized, this uniform is wildly different from previous ones. Uniforms have always changed to reflect the times, and this latest one is no different. This uniform is the first one to consist of only one piece (a t-shirt), and the first to be the same for all branches. This means that everyone, from Sparks to Guiders, has the option to wear the same uniform. And though the uniforms have changed, many of the values and ideas of Guiding stay the same. After all this time, the motto is still “Be Prepared.”


Want to read more? Jill has written about her memories of Guiding and Scouting! Give it a read!


Sources:

Girlguides.ca. (2014). Girl Guides of Canada – Guides du Canada Fun Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/uploads/File/media_room/media_kit/ggc-fun-facts.pdf.

Girlguides.ca. (2017). Our History – 1990-2009. [online] Available at: http://www.girlguides.ca/web/ON/Girl_Program/ON/Our_History/Our_History_1990_2009.aspx.

Girlguides.ca. (2019). The Girl Guide uniform – English. [online] Available at: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Home/GGC/uniform.aspx.

Guidehistory.files.wordpress.com. (2016). Guide Uniforms. [online] Available at: https://guidehistory.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/guide-uniform1.pdf.

Szekely, R. (2014). Iconic Oshawa Girl Guide House for sale. [online] DurhamRegion.com. Available at: https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/4439970-iconic-oshawa-girl-guide-house-for-sale/ [Accessed 2020].