Conservation of our Wax Floral Study

By Melissa Cole, Curator

If you had a fine home during the Victorian Era, (1860-1880), you most likely had a Parlour Dome, at least one, in your Parlour.  These oddly fascinating pieces could contain anything from artful displays of flora, fauna, and food made from wax, paper, human hair, wool, muslin, feathers, seashells, and buttons.  Sometimes there were even real animals such as canaries, pheasants, and even terriers that had been preserved by skilled taxidermists that enchanted the Victorians.  The hand-blown, removable domes with their still life interiors may seem weird by today’s standards, but one must understand that the 19th century was an exciting period of exploration, innovation, and experimentation.

The Oshawa Community Museum recently received a Wax Floral Study as a donation.  I had been looking to acquire an arrangement like this to place in the parlour of Henry House.  This particular intricate wax floral arrangement is made from beeswax, silk, wire and feather, the model contains a large arching spray that is 31 cm wide and 41 cm in length.

012.10.1 - Floral Wax Study
012.10.1 – Floral Wax Study before Conservation Treatments – note the condition of the base, and the number of fallen flowers

Correspondence with the donor indicates that this piece was on display for many years in her grandmother’s parlour, a room she was not allowed to play.  As a child she was always interested in the flower arrangement that sat in this room. It is estimated that this particular Wax Floral Dome is from 1910; therefore it is possibly over 100 years old.

When the Wax Floral Study arrived at the museum many of the flowers were cracked and some pieces had broken away and fell to the bottom of the dome.  This is to be expected considering the age of the wax flowers.

Close up of 012.10.1
Close up of 012.10.1, before conservation

Overtime exposure to fluctuating temperatures causes the wax to soften, peel and crack, and allowed dirt and dust to permeate the surface of the arrangement, and over time more dust accumulated.

The project was carried out in stages over a year. Wax model conservation is a slow and painstaking process and the extreme fragility of the objects makes their conservation difficult.

Small pieces of the broken wax were analysed to determine the composition, so that suitable materials could be chosen for the repairs. Conservator, Miriam Harris had to research what type of glue would be suitable for repairing the wax flowers.  Each individual wax flower was cleaned and restored.  The arrangement was carefully packaged for transport back to the museum.

The Waxed Flower Study is currently on display in the parlour of Henry House and can be viewed by visitors to the Oshawa Community Museum.

012.10.1 - Floral Wax Study, after conservation, on display in the Henry House Parlour
012.10.1 – Floral Wax Study, after conservation, on display in the Henry House Parlour
Detail of 012.10.1, after conservation
Detail of 012.10.1, after conservation

Student Museum Musings – Jodie

By Jodie, Collections Assistant Co-op Student

Hello, my name is Jodie and I am a co-op student that started my placement with the museum in early September. My placement here is based around archaeological studies and the aspects of those that are found in the museum. I have been given the amazing opportunity to work with the Harmony Road Farewell Pioneer Cemetery artifacts and I have been cataloging and photographing the collection pieces.

My first day here I was taken on a tour of the houses and taught some facts about the families that lived there and about the other collections that are open to the public. I was then shown the collection storage areas where they keep all of the items that are not on display at the moment and afterwards was shown the boxes of artifacts that I would be working with for the next few weeks. I spent the next few days going over the archaeological report of the site and over articles of the families and other articles that pertain to the site and the families that were buried there for background information and so I would know what to expect when I started to work with the artifacts themselves.

Working on the actual boxes has been incredible; almost all of the coffin decorations are in very good shape and have intricate designs on them and some of the name plate engagements are still legible.  This has been an amazing learning opportunity for me as an archaeology student and I am very thankful to the wonderful people here at the Oshawa Museum for this experience.


The following are artifacts that Jodie has photographed and cataloged from the Farewell Cemetery Archaeological Collection (994.28)

994.28.5d, Coffin Hardware
994.28.5d, Coffin Hardware
994.28.14q - Coffin Handle
994.28.14q – Coffin Handle
994.28.32x - 'At Rest'
994.28.32x – ‘At Rest’
994.28.4a - Portion of coffin hardware
994.28.4a – Portion of coffin hardware

Tod’s Bakery

Oshawa’s largest bakery, Tod’s Bread Limited, was established in 1890 by David M. Tod.  Mr. Tod was born in November 1865 in Bowmanville to Mr. and Mrs. Charles Tod.  At the age of 13, D.M. Tod quit school and began working in his father’s bakery.  After a few years there, he travelled to the United States but eventually returned to Oshawa.

Tod's Bakery circa 1919 at 37 Church Street
Tod’s Bakery circa 1919 at 37 Church Street

D.M. Tod’s bakery was located at the corner of Bond and Centre Streets.  It was a solid brick, one storey building, sixty-six feet long and sixty feet wide.  In this building was the flour store room, the shipping room, wagon shed and the bread shop proper as well as the latest machinery known to the science of bread making.  The stable, which was located behind the bakery, was large enough to house 10 horses and had a separate harness room.  It was also equipped with running water and electricity.

Interior view of D.M. Tod's Confectionary circa 1895 at 20 King Street West
Interior view of D.M. Tod’s Confectionary circa 1895 at 20 King Street West

In 1895, a confectionery shop was opened by D.M. Tod at 20 King St. W., the old McChesney Bakery property.  Here people were able to purchase some of his bakery products as well as visit the light lunch parlour, where ice cream was served in the summer and hot drinks in the winter.  At the rear of the parlour was the confectionery shop where the “home made” taffies and chocolates were available.

D.M. Tod's Confectionary circa 1895
D.M. Tod’s Confectionary circa 1895

In 1909, the bakery was averaging 1600 loaves of bread daily with an additional 1000 on Saturdays to meet the demand for their fine products.  The bakery employed 5 bread makers, 3 fancy bakers, 5 delivery drivers, a stable hand and several clerks to run the operation.  The delivery wagons were traveling throughout Oshawa, Port Perry, Brooklin, Myrtle, Ashburn, Raglan and Columbus on a daily basis.

In 1915, the confectionery shop located at 20 King St. W. was sold to Mr. J. Welsh.

Advertisement for Tod's Bread
Advertisement for Tod’s Bread

By 1927, the bakery had prospered.  D.M. Tod now had his son-in-law, R.L. Gray working as Assistant General Manager of the business.  The bakery was equipped with more state of the art machinery that allowed for the output of 800 loaves of bread every 45 minutes.  There were 20 employees whose combined wages totaled $30,000.  The bakery had 10 delivery wagons on the road daily as well as delivery trucks for long distance hauls.  The delivery trucks would travel 30 to 50 miles from Oshawa to reach the ever growing demand for their popular products.  The bakery was the second largest industry in Oshawa to provide group insurance for its employees.

On October 26, 1930, there was an explosion of an oil furnace at the bakery resulted in an excess of $1,000 damage.  However, due to the use of another oven, the bakery was still able to take care of business as usual and get their products out to the many patrons that came to expect the excellent service of Tod’s Bread Limited.

At the time of D.M. Tod’s death on December 26, 1949, his grandson, R.T. Gray was President and Managing director of Tod’s Bread Limited.

It is unknown when the bakery went out of business; however, the 1954 City Directory lists the property at Bond and Centre as vacant.  In 1966 the building was demolished and today in 1998, the Bond Towers stands at this particular site.

Tod's Bakery display in Guy House, with a bread basket used by the business, along with a scale.
Tod’s Bakery display in Guy House, with a bread basket used by the business, along with a scale.

Student’s Museum Musings – Emily

By Emily Dafoe, Visitor Host

Over the past few months I was able to spend my time working on the upcoming Guy House book, the next book in the If This House Could Talk collection. Similar to the Henry House and Robinson House books, this upcoming book focuses on the various stages that Guy House has gone through over its lifetime. Through the time I’ve spent designing this book, I have been able to take a look at the history of Guy House as told through photographs held here at the OCM. I have truly enjoyed the experience that working on this book has provided me with. The history of Guy House differs greatly from that of Henry and Robinson House, which can be seen throughout the book.

Some of the most interesting aspects of Guy House’s history that I have discovered while working on this book, are the many different stages that this building has gone through in its time. For instance, during the mid 1900s Guy House was used as a triplex, and contained three separate apartments. While mapping out where the apartments were located can get quite confusing, I find it fascinating that this building was once used in such a way.

Guy House, May 1965
Guy House, May 1965

My favourite photograph that I came across this summer was the one pictured above. I really enjoy this photograph because it paints an atmosphere of Guy House for the audience that is so vastly different from Guy House as I came to know it when I was first introduced to this house. The combination of the house, street sign, and vehicles that are present in the photograph, it is clear that there is such a rich history to, not only Guy House, but the park as well. While this is not the oldest photograph of Guy House being featured in the book, this photograph creates such a different of the park and area than what I grew to know it as today.

By reflecting on my time spent working at the OCM these past two summers, it is clear that the time here has provided me with immeasurable experience within the information field. I have gained so much through my experience at the OCM, whether it be my speaking and interpretation skills that I have gained through the numerous tours I have given, or the software skills I’ve gained through my time spent on the Guy House book and in the database, or even the skills I’ve have gained for the information field in general. These are skills that I will be able to take with me into my future in this field, and the value in that is immeasurable. I never truly understood how important and interesting the concept of local history was prior to my time here, but I can now say that I will take my new-found appreciation for this type of history into my future.


On behalf of the OCM, thank you Emily for your hard work! Best of luck with your new school year!

Student Museum Musings – A Wreath Made of What?

By Emily Dafoe, Visitor Host

When guests come through the Oshawa Community Museum for tours, one of the few artifacts that you can always rely on to elicits a large, and in most cases repulsed, reaction are the hair wreaths and jewelry. Within Henry House, one of the three historical houses at our museum, there are two hair wreaths hanging up, one in the Parlour, and a second one in the Dining Room, as well there are a few pieces of jewelry made of hair in the Bedroom of the house. Without fail, guests always feel the need to do a second take upon learning the materials of which these artifacts are made out of. While guests are usually quite freaked out by the hair artifacts, what most of the guests do not realize is that this type of handicraft was very common practice for young girls living in the Victorian Period.

970.49.5 - Hair Wreath on display in the Henry House Parlour
970.49.5 – Hair Wreath on display in the Henry House Parlour

Upon researching I came across this ( book from Internet Archive that was published in 1867, which is titled Art of Hair Work: Dressing Hair, Making Curls, Switches, and Braids, and Hair Jewelry for Every Description, and was written by Mark Campbell. This book from the Victorian Period acts as an instructional book for every hair craft related, and was fascinating to read through. This book walks the reader through the making of various different braids that can be done with hair, as well as various types of crafts and jewelry that these braids can help one create. Campbell teaches his audience to create these hair braids through the use of a braiding table. While there are other ways of creating hair crafts, a braiding table seems to be one of the most popular. Hair would be braided around wires, which gave the craft a stronger structure.

971.4.14 - Hair brooch on display in the Henry House Bedroom.  It is believed the hair came from members of the Ritson family (after whom Ritson Road is named)
971.4.14 – Hair brooch on display in the Henry House Bedroom. It is believed the hair came from members of the Ritson family (after whom Ritson Road is named)

Hair crafts, such as the ones displayed throughout Henry House, were a common way that loved ones were remembered by a family. At times when a loved one passed away some hair may have been saved to create a memorial wreath to remember them. However, that is not the only way that hair was acquired for the wreath. A lot of the hair used in a hair wreath would also come from hair from hairbrushes of Victorian women.

Something that I believe is lost in the reactions to the hair artifacts are the skills, time, and work that went into these crafts. Next time you’re down by Lakeview Park, stop by and come check out the hair crafts that we have in Henry House, you may be surprised by how impressive they are.


Works Cited

Campbell, Mark.  Art of Hair Work: Dressing Hair, Making Curls, Switches, and Braids, and Hair Jewelry for Every Description. (1867).

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