“I want to ride my bicycle”

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

While there are several, earlier, unverifiable claims to the bicycle invention, the earliest verifiable claim is to a German inventor in the early 1800s. This simple mode of transportation has seen evolution, adaptations, and various safety enhancements through the years.

This post is inspired by photographs in our collection that feature bicycles and, coincidentally, is published a day before World Bicycle Day on June 3. So, in the famous words of Freddy Mercury, “Get on your bikes and ride!” Enjoy the read!

From the photograph collection:

From the Lowry Lakeview Park Collection:

From the collection:

From the blog:

Profiling: Joseph Dick

By Karen A., Visitor Host Born in Jackson Township, Stark County, Ohio, on May 28th 1840, Joseph Dick was a machinist in Oshawa from 1863 util 1874, later becoming a proprietor of his own business, Dick’s Agricultural Works, located in Canton, Ohio. What’s really interesting about Joseph is his patent from 1869 for the “improvement…

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Staying Cool: The Way The Victorians Did!

By Melissa Cole, Curator

As summer heat builds, more people will rely on air conditioning units to keep cool. No air conditioning? No problem! There were a variety of options for ‘cooling off’ on a hot summer day before the days of air conditioning! Here are a few of the creative ways people in Oshawa beat the heat at the turn of the 20th century.


Parks are a wonderful place to cool off; trees absorb heat, and ponds and lakes help further cool the temperature in the air.  The development of city parks boomed in the late 1800s and early 1900s.1 Early city parks were usually privately owned land made available, for a small fee, to the public.  This model evolved after WWII. 

An example of this type of privately owned park was Prospect Park (located where Parkwood Estate is today).  In 1880, Eli Edmondson landscaped the grounds with ornamental gardens, gazebos, and water fountains that would have provided an easy way to cool off in the summer!

Black and white photograph of a park with trees, grass, and a gazebo
Prospect Park; Oshawa Museum archival collection (A996.27.7)

One of the best parks to cool off in would be Oshawa-on-the-Lake (today’s Lakeview Park). For the citizens of our community, it is a favourite location to spend a summer’s day, swimming and relaxing along the sandy beach.  There is an abundance of large trees providing shade to sit under to escape the summer sun or to take an afternoon nap!

Black and white photograph of a busy summertime beach
Cooling off at Oshawa-on-the-Lake, 1910. The Thomas Bouckley Collection, The Robert McLaughlin Gallery

Cool Architecture

Awnings became popular as a way to block out the sun while still allowing daylight and air to enter into storefronts that needed ventilation. On rainy days, awnings made it possible for passersby to enjoy window-shopping excursions.  Throughout their history, awnings have had great appeal. Along with drapes, curtains, shutters, and blinds, they provided natural climate control in an age before air conditioning. By blocking out the sun’s rays while admitting daylight and allowing air to circulate between interior and exterior, they were efficient and cost effective.

Black and white photograph of a busy downtown streetscape
King Street, Downtown Oshawa, 1910; Oshawa Museum archival collection (AX995.194.1)

Covered porches, such as the one pictured below, helped reduce the amount of direct sunlight hitting the outside walls and downstairs windows. A covered porch also allowed people to sit outside during the evening and early in the night when it was cooler.  The porch eventually turned into a place to socialize with friends and family while cooling off after a long hot day.

Black and white photo of 12 Caucasian people posed for a photograph outside a home with a large covered porch
Members of the Lick family on the front steps of their home, Stone Lodge. Note the large covered porch; Oshawa Museum archival collection (A001.1.3)

Summer kitchens during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Ontario had a number of practical applications.  They were usually a wing constructed on the rear of the home. Often, the wood stove in the home would be disassembled and moved into the summer kitchen.2  At Henry House, the summer kitchen is located at the back of the house, off the main kitchen.  This extension of the home was used during the hot summer months to separate hot kitchen activities from the rest of the house during the warmer months – a key way to survive the summer before the advent of the modern air conditioning.       

Fresh Fashions

Fans, hats, and parasols are not just fashion accessories.  They were useful tools used to beat the heat of the summer months. Since the sun heats the earth through radiation, one of the best defences against the summer heat for a Victorian woman was protection from the sun’s rays.  Wide-brimmed hats and parasols not only protected but were essential fashion accessories. After a stroll in the sun, what better way to cool down than to let nature protect—with its cooling canopy of shade.

Colour photograph of an open parasol made of white linen with a wooden handle.
Parasol, Oshawa Museum collection (984.1.1)

  1. Von Baeyer, Edwinna. “City Park.” The Canadian Encyclopedia, March 4, 2015. https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/city-parks
  2. Bates, Christina. Out of the Old Ontario Kitchens. 18

Lambs and Lions

There is a saying that March comes in like a lion and out like a lamb. According to CNN1, its origins may be related to the movement of the constellations of Leo and Aries through the sky, but it is most often associated with the weather patterns, cold, biting winter giving way to warmer, more docile spring.

In honour of this saying and the end of March, here are items in our collection that feature lions and lambs!

  1. https://www.cnn.com/2021/03/02/weather/weather-proverb-march-lion-lamb/index.html

Smith Potteries, Revisited

By Melissa Cole, Curator

From 1925 to 1949, Oshawa was home to the largest makers of hand-painted pottery in Canada, as well as the only artware pottery in the Dominion of Canada. The company was called Smith Potteries, and to learn more about this company, please read this previous post on the blog: https://oshawamuseum.wordpress.com/2018/10/26/artefacts-oshawas-smith-potteries/

I am interested in learning more about Smith Potteries and to discover more about the “specialized pottery” made here in Oshawa.  When I started at the Oshawa Museum in 2000, there were two pieces in the collection. This collection has grown to 37 pieces.  Some of the acquired pieces have travelled back to Oshawa from as far away as the United Kingdom, purchased by visitors to the area as a memento of their time in Oshawa.

Smith Potteries’s production of a specialized semi-porcelain pottery, also known as white ware, made this company competitively successful with other countries, such as the United States, China, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Czechoslovakia.  The white ware pottery was resilient and of fine quality. 

Newspaper headline about Smith Potteries
Headline from The Oshawa Daily Times, August 15, 1929

Recently, the newspaper collection at the Oshawa Public Libraries was digitized and made available online. In the August 15, 1929 edition of The Oshawa Daily Times, there was an article titled, Substantial Industry Being Developed Just Outside City by H. Smith Potteries, which discussed a new two-storey addition and expansion of the business.  The addition included a modern office, shipping and receiving room, and the second floor was used solely as the finishing room.  The market term for wares created by Smith were known as “Velta Art Pottery.” 

The article continues to describe the raw material used to produce these fine pieces.  They are made with china clay [Kaolin], feldspar, and flint.  These ingredients were carefully combined, strained through a screen to remove any impurities and stirred in a large mixer.  The moulds were constructed of plaster, into which the liquid china was poured, and any remaining liquid was poured off.  The moulds were placed in a warm oven where the heat shrank the pottery, allowing it to be separated from the mould.  The pieces were then removed from the oven and mould and left to air dry. Once dry, the piece was placed in a kiln and subjected to a temperature of 2250 degrees for 24 hours, in a process called firing. 

Newspaper classified ad for the Smith Potteries
Decorator or Improver on pottery Ad, Oshawa Daily Times, 15 Nov 1927, p. 11

The article continues

Probably the most interesting phase is the finishing or painting of the article.  In the H. Smith Potteries this is accomplished in a large bright room by five expert artists. Various designs are employed but each piece is hand painted.  The colour schemes and designs are first planned by a talented designer… The articles are delicately shaped and tinted in exquisite colours.  All the pieces including the lamp shades are designed right in Oshawa.

Newspaper article about Smith Potteries
Oshawa Fair Ad notifying the public about local merchants that will have exhibits at the fair, include Smith Potteries. Oshawa Daily Times, 11 Sep 1929, p. 3

It is through this process that makes each piece held in the Oshawa Museum collection unique because they were all individually hand painted.  Smith Potteries produced a range of products such as vases, bowls, candlesticks, lamp bases, ashtrays, and other souvenir novelties with hand painted designs.  

The article also mentioned that the firm was in the process of manufacturing bases for the desk fountain pen sets for the Parker Duofold Co.  This company is still around today under the name, The Parker Pen.

Colour advertisement for a desk set
An example of the desk fountain sets made by Parker Duofold in 1929.

The Oshawa Museum is always looking to add more pieces made by Smith Potteries to the collection.  If you have a piece of Smith Potteries that you are interested in donating, reach out to me through email curator@oshawamuseum.org

The Reminiscences of Mr. Wardie Pankhurst

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Throughout the pandemic, volunteers were assisting the Oshawa Museum with our Audio Transcription Project. They listened to hundreds of hours of audio interviews and recordings and created transcriptions of what is being said in the audios. This not only makes the audios easier for researchers to use, but, more importantly, it makes the audio collection accessible to the deaf community and to people with hearing loss.

Of the many different community interviews, one was conducted with a man named Ward Pankhurst, which likely took place at his family home on Cedar Street. His family has become a research focus for the museum, as his mother’s family were among the first Black settlers in the area, who arrived in the 1840s.

Ward Delayfayette Pankhurst was born in 1888, the second of three children born to Henry and Margaret (nee Dunbar). Ward lived his life in Oshawa, the Cedar Dale community specifically, however, it appears he lived for some time in the US, as he was drafted into the US army in 1917. 

Ward’s interview may not provide researchers with much information about his maternal family and their history, but it has given us glimses into Oshawa in the 20th century. 

When remarked that he’s lived in Oshawa his whole life, Ward responded:

Oh! Yes, I have lived in this house, this will be, I’m going on 83rd year I’ve lived in this house. My sister was born right up here where I -where I sleep now. I’ll be 84 this year.

‘Family Homestead’ on Cedar Street, in Oshawa. This house is still standing today.

Ward touched on his family briefly, saying:

Incidentally my father he’d come out from England in 19- 1872 just be 100 years this May when he came out here, now my mother and father -or my mother came out -well my mother was born here but here people came up from Lower Canada in 1840 I think it was. You know it was just Lower Canada and Upper Canada.

Q: And they settled here?

A: Oh settled right here. Yeah, yeah.

(Other voice): She lived in Lower Canada?

A: Not my mother, no no no her people.

(Other voice): she was born here in Cedar Dale?

A: Yup.

(Other voice): So a real Cedar Dale (multiple people talking at once)

A: Oh yes there, I’m the last f the -I’m the last -I got a brother down in California, he’s 87, but he’s not -he hasn’t been here -Oh he hadn’t been here to live since the first war. No no he left in early 20s, but I’ve been here.

About schooling around the turn of the century, Ward remembered:

Oh we paid to try the entrance. Oh yes for the entrance exam. And the reason they’d said about that, they said “well that paid for your foolscap you know and your -” I don’t know what else, the ink and the pen I suppose, but you paid a dollar anyways, you know. A dollar incidentally wasn’t so easy.

Of note, he attended Cedar Dale school, a 150+ year old building which still stands today.

Pupils of the Cedar Dale Public School, c. 1890, from the Oshawa Community Archives

A prominent family in this area were the Conants.  As told by Ward:

You see this here was just farmland the whole thing was just farmland, and it was owned by -I wish my sister could find that there picture. Lovely picture of Mr. Tom Conant. But you wouldn’t see a nicer picture, and he was a stately sight of a man. He used to write for the old Globe, and he travelled around the world about four times, and this was the last time he came back. Incidentally he didn’t live no length of time. I think he was only in his early 60s when he died.

Ward also remembered different hotels in the community:

Now we had six hotels in the town here. There was the Queen’s, the Oshawa House, the Central, there was the American House, and the Brook House, and Mallet’s Hotel. Well, Mallet’s was right back in the station over here. Every station, that’s the funny thing, but at every station on the Grand Trunk there always was a hotel.

A view of a three storey building, with sign reading Queen's Hotel. There are people gathered outside, and there is a horse and buggy
Queen’s Hotel

Ward also shared stories about sports and teams associated with different local industries:

We had a ball team and they started in ’13 -we started the town league. There was the Piano Works, McLaughlins, – no. The Piano Works, the Fittings, the Town Team, and Cedar Dale, and the Steel Range, and we had a town league you know. Well that was interesting, really interesting.

Q: Where did you play?

A: Play? Right where Sam McLaughlin’s is. That was theProspect Park you know. That’s where we played, right at the back end of his place, that was beautiful. That was owned by Eli Edmondson and we had that there, and afterwards -well, we were only there two or three years and he bought that off of Eli I think in ’17 – ’16 or ’17. Well then they moved up to the Alexandra Park you see, but of course then they got into the big league they got into the central league.

Ward’s interview, in its entirety, is over 1 hour and 36 minutes long. We are grateful to the volunteers who assisted with this project, helping us open access to our collections.

You can listen to Ward, in his own words, by listening to our video podcast, available on our YouTube channel:

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