My Favourite Artifact: The Remington Noiseless 6 Typewriter

By Olga Kouptchinski, Visitor Host

This Typewriter is my favorite artifact at the Oshawa Community Museum. It peeks out at me from the storage attic of Robinson house, its golden buttons shining from the claustrophobic storage space. The complexity of its parts and the durability of its shell is what attracts me to this artifact. Its organised cluster of fragile, metallic components is encased in heavy steel, without having to take it apart it reveals a bisection of a 1920’s mechanism. This showcase of inner mechanisms offers a unique visual experience like looking behind the backstage curtain. This piece of equipment stands the test of time, narrowly escaping the Planned Obsolescence of the depression era economy stimulus. In other words, this heavy typewriter is part of the final line of 20th century products that were meant to last a lifetime.

004.18.1 - Remington Typewriter
004.18.1 – Remington Typewriter

I have done some research on Remington’s depression-era typewriters and I found out that aggressive marketing and a seamlessly endless variety of functions and special features allowed Remington to thrive despite the economic downturn. The Remington typewriter was not exclusively produced in the states, Canada, France, Germany, Australia and the U.K. all had their own typewriter manufacturing companies. The typewriters were all based on the Remington model, adjusting details according to the country’s typing demands. Remingtons were made in Canada by “Remington Typewriter Company of Canada, Ltd.” or later by “Remington Rand Limited.” A Canadian version is prominently marked “Made at Toronto, Canada” some may also be marked with a Union Jack decal and the phrase “British Empire Product.”

004.18.1
004.18.1

This typewriter was made sometime during 1925 and it is one of the first to feature Remington’s patented “noiseless” feature.  The noiseless mechanism is characterised by the type bar which is prevented from slamming against the platen at full force. The momentum of a small weight brings it the last few millimeters to the front of the platen, reducing the clanking sound. It’s not truly noiseless, but it is quieter than a conventional type bar typewriter.

You may recognise the company name “Remington” as a gun manufacturer, the company specialised exclusively in arms production until 1873 when they unveiled the first typewriters. The company quickly sold the typewriter business, and by 1886 the typewriter was distributed by Remington Rand, then Sperry Rand. It is interesting to think of the tiny mechanisms needed for guns as the precursor to the tiny mechanisms within this artifact. The evolution of gun mechanics into typewriter parts made me think of the “words as weapons” metaphor. Journalism can attack corrupt institutions more effectively than force and I like to think of the typewriter as another form of the gun. Like the speed and mechanical precision of the bullet, the typewriter fused quick production and the legitimacy of the printed page. This particular typewriter is unlikely to have been used as a stimulus for change, but rather as an essential part of distribution and organisation of the Lander’s Coal Company in Oshawa.

My Favourite Artifact: Brown and Sharpe Hair Clippers

Over the Victoria Day long weekend (Sun May 18/Mon May 19), the Oshawa Community Museum will open its summer exhibition, IT’Story: Stories from the OCM Collection, highlighting artifacts in our collection with fascinating stories to tell.

For the next seven weeks, our Visitor Hosts and other Museum staff will share their favourite artifacts and why they are favourites.

 

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

I have a bias when it comes to my favourite artifact.

In early 2010, my grandfather passed away, and my family was faced with the difficult task of preparing his house for sale.  In our searches through Grandpa’s house, we came across a set of old barber equipment, including clippers, razors and an early electric razor!  My parents, aunts, and uncles were a little unsure of what to do with these objects; at this time, I was a volunteer for the Oshawa Museum, and I suggested that we donate them.

A010.19.11 - The Trainor family, likely taken at their St. Lawrence Street home.  George Trainor is standing, left.
A010.19.11 – The Trainor family, likely taken at their St. Lawrence Street home. George Trainor is standing, left.

The barber tools belonged to my (step)grandmother’s father, George Trainor, who was a barber in Oshawa.  For many years, the family lived on St. Lawrence Street, while George had a shop at 789 Simcoe Street, what was the community of Cedar Dale.  In all, we donated 7 artifacts as well as archival materials relating the the Trainor family.

010.14.1b, Metal Hair Clippers
010.14.1b, Metal Hair Clippers

These clippers are imprinted:  “Made by Brown and Sharpe Mfg. Co. Prov. R.I., Pat’d in Great Britain Bte En France St. G.D.G., USA Patents July 1-79, June 3-84, Aug 23-92.”  The underside is imprinted with “No. 0,” indicating the length that this clipper would cut.

From Popular Science, August 1923, p. 86.
From Popular Science, August 1923, p. 86.

Brown and Sharpe was founded in 1833 and was known as a tool maker.  They stopped making hair clippers after World War II.  These clippers were likely made between 1892 and 1901, based on patent information and the patent dates on this set.

While I never met my grandmother’s family, these artifacts remain my favourite in the collection because they remind me of my Grandma Doreen, and they make me proud that I have a connection to Oshawa’s past.

Digitizing a Daguerreotype

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement / Programs

It started as an innocent questions; it presented an interesting digitization challenge!  While working on a presentation, I asked our archivist if we had any Daguerreotype photographs in the collection, and if we did, were there any photographs of it?  It turns out we have ONE Daguerreotype in the collection, it needs digitizing, and if I wanted to use an image of it, the job of digitizing was all mine!  Well, what a challenge it posed!

A970.53.1 - unidentified woman, daguerreotype photograph
A970.53.1 – unidentified woman, daguerreotype photograph

Firstly, what is a Daguerreotype?  It was an early form of photography, first developed in 1837.  The process involved a copper plate, coated with silver iodide,  and exposed to light in a camera.  The copper plate is then fumed with mercury vapour and fixed (made permanent) by a solution of common salt.  It was a long process, with the person having to sit for the photograph for up to 30 minutes.  This medium saw popularity from the early 1840s to the late 1850s.

A970.53.1 - our 'ghostly' Daguerreotype, disappearing at different angles
A970.53.1 – our ‘ghostly’ Daguerreotype, disappearing at different angles

Our Daguerreotype turned out to be a challenge because, over time, it has turned ‘ghostly.’ The subject is a woman, however, depending on the angle that it’s being viewed at, she is either in focus or appears faded away.  To digitize her, we needed to ensure our camera was in just the right spot!

Tabletop Digitization Studio
Tabletop Digitization Studio

We have a lovely tabletop light studio, perfect for photographing small artifacts, and it proved ideal for the Daguerreotype!  What worked the best was draping a black cloth over the studio, thereby blocking out potential reflections, having the camera square on the photograph, and setting the timer.

Challenge Accepted! Challenge Completed!

A970.53.1_4

Oshawa’s Black History: One Family’s Story, Part 1

By Lisa Terech, Youth Engagement/Programs

In early 2012, the Oshawa Community Archives was invited to participate in a Black History Month event at Trent University; specifically, we were asked to present on Black History in Oshawa.  A few months prior, while researching the Port Oshawa Pioneer Cemetery and those buried there, I came across the Dunbar family who were laid to rest there.  My initial research showed that this was a family of Black descent, a pleasantly unexpected find for this early pioneer cemetery.  Jennifer Weymark, our archivist, and I saw this Trent project to be a good chance to investigate further the Dunbar family, who they were, what was their story, and what would have brought them to Oshawa.

Black History Month at Trent University Oshawa, 2012
Black History Month at Trent University Oshawa, 2012

Two years later, and this family’s story is one that still intrigues us, and we are continually adding to our knowledge of this early settler family.  As their story can be told through several generations, we will be sharing parts of the story throughout the month of February.

 

With any story, let’s start at the beginning.  Wealthy Ann Dunbar was born in 1795 in Vermont, a daughter to Samuel Dunbar Sr.  The family would move across the border to Stanstead, Quebec.  Wealthy married a man named Peter Andrews in c. 1821 and together they had 4 known children (Sarah, Freeman, Elizabeth, and Mary) and 1 adopted daughter (Amy Jane).  We do not know for sure when Peter and Wealthy relocated to East Whitby Township, but it likely after the death of Wealthy’s father in 1843.

Given the incredibly small percentage of “coloured” people living in East Whitby, the reasoning behind moving to this area is unclear.  According to the 1852 Census of Canada West, there were 17 people listed as coloured in East Whitby Township.  This means that .2% of the population of 8479 were listed as coloured. Most of those counted were single men but there were a couple of families listed as well.  How did Jennifer find this statistic?  It’s simple.  She counted the column for “Coloured – persons – Negroes,” a statistic the enumerator had to account for.

The reasons why the Andrews moved are not known and neither are the reasons for choosing to settle in East Whitby township.  There was no black settlement in the township at that time.

That being said, we have a theory that there may have been a connection between the Andrews family and the Shipman Family which may have contributed to settling here.  Wealthy is recorded as living with John Shipman in the 1861 Census, and there are several ‘unique’ names appearing in both family trees.

Eliza Conant (nee Shipman)
Eliza Conant (nee Shipman)

As well, according to Robert Pankhurst, great-grandson of Wealthy Andrews, Wealthy and her family resided in a log house on property owned by Thomas Conant, whose wife was Eliza Shipman.  With enough small coincidences like this, we strongly feel that the Shipmans may have been the reason for settling here in Cedar Dale.

What became of the family after they moved to East Whitby?  The story continues next week.

Happy Birthday Sir John A!

January 11 marks the birthday of Canada’s first Prime Minister, Sir John Alexander Macdonald.  He was born in Scotland, raised in Kingston, and made political waves in Ottawa, and throughout the Dominion of Canada.  While Prime Minister, he saw the country grow both in population and in geography.  He was not without scandal, however he remains the second longest serving Prime Minister in Canadian history, second only to William Lyon Mackenzie King.

In honour of his 199th birthday, raise a glass (of whatever your drink of choice might be), to one of our Fathers of Confederation!  Happy Birthday Sir John A!

Sir John Alexander Macdonald, c. 1868, from Library and Archives Canada
Sir John Alexander Macdonald, c. 1868, from Library and Archives Canada
Macdonald's gravesite, Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston.  The simple stone cross marker for Sir John A.  A historical plaque and Canadian flag have been placed in his honour.
Macdonald’s gravesite, Cataraqui Cemetery, Kingston. The simple stone cross marker for Sir John A. A historical plaque and Canadian flag have been placed in his honour.
A960.19.4 - Letter in the Oshawa Community Archives Collection, from Macdonald to Thomas N. Gibbs, MP from Oshawa.
A960.19 .4 – Letter in the Oshawa Community Archives Collection, from Macdonald to Thomas N. Gibbs, MP from Oshawa.
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