Tales from the Archives: the Ambrotype

By Kes Murray, Registrar

Sometimes, working in an archive brings you new objects you would never encounter in your everyday life. In my case, it was the Ambrotype. I, of course, had heard of and seen glass plate photographs. However, I had never seen one in person, or even handle one.

In a recent collection, which we called the French House Collection, was an Ambrotype. Our archivist knew exactly what it was the moment she saw it. I, on the other hand, had never heard of an Ambrotype.

Image of a Caucasian woman, sitting in a chair. She is wearing a black dress and has rosy cheeks. The photograph is enclosed in a gold frame
An Ambrotype of an unknown woman, from the French House Collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection (A021.12.21)

So, what is an Ambrotype?

Ambrotype is a type of glass-plate photography popular during the 1850s-1880s. It followed the Daguerreotype, the first publicly available type of photography.

The Ambrotype is created using the Wet Collodion process. This process was invented in 1851 by British inventor Frederick Scott Archer, but the Ambrotype was patented in the United States by James Ambrose Cutting.

The Wet Collodion process involves coating a glass plate with chemicals that makes it sensitive to light. As the glass plate sits within the chemicals, the photographer will focus the camera and position the subject. When the glass plate is allowed the proper amount of time in the chemicals, it is then placed within a camera (see our Korona View Camera!). These steps are done in a dark room since when the chemicals set on the glass plate, it will become sensitive to light.

A large wooden camera. It has an accordian style bellows, and the lens slides along the bottom
Korona View Camera, circa 1900-1903 (008.1.1). This is the type of camera that would have taken an Ambrotype. This particular one does use glass plate negatives, but is from thirty years after the Ambrotype went out of use.

Once in the camera, the photographer will remove the lens cap and expose the glass plate to the subject and light. This exposure is done for about twenty seconds. Then the lens cap is placed back on the camera and the glass plate is removed. The glass plate is then finished in a developing solution and allowed to dry.

Back view of a wooden camera, showing where the negative gets inserted
Back view of the Korona View Camera. The glass plate fits into the grey compartment. 008.1.1

To finish, sometimes a photographer would add pigment to an Ambrotype, such as rosy cheeks or even colour for their clothing or jewelry. Our French House Collection Ambrotype has such pigment, with rosy cheeks.

Close up image of a Caucasian woman, sitting in a chair. She is wearing a black dress and has rosy cheeks
A close up of the French House Ambrotype. You can see their rosy cheeks, an added detail after the photograph was taken. A021.12.21.

The glass plate was then put into a protective case with a black backing. This black backing is crucial, as this makes the photograph visible (see the National Museums Scotland photograph for a great example of this crucial step!).

A photo of a Caucasian woman, encased in a gold frame. The left half of the photo appears to be negative while the right half is positive
An example of an Ambrotype without the black backing. As you can see, it is nearly impossible to see the person without the black backing. From the Howarth-Loomes Collection at National Museums Scotland,

By the late 1800s, the Tintype replaced the Ambrotype as the dominant photographic method.

Though the Ambrotype was only used for around thirty years, it is a fascinating type of photography and an interesting example of the development of early photography.


Sources consulted

https://asc.ucalgary.ca/photohistory/ambrotypes/#:~:text=The%20ambrotype%20was%20introduced%20in,cheaper%20and%20easier%20to%20produce.

https://blog.scienceandmediamuseum.org.uk/find-out-when-a-photo-was-taken-identify-collodion-positive-ambrotype/

https://www.britannica.com/biography/Frederick-Scott-Archer

https://www.loc.gov/collections/liljenquist-civil-war-photographs/articles-and-essays/ambrotypes-and-tintypes/

The Month That Was – June 1944

The Times-Gazette, 01 June 1944
Corvette Crew Is Welcomed

Gifts Presented At Civic Ceremony Monday At Peterborough

Peterborough, May 30 – “A sailor’s life is one of great hazard and whatever the fortunes of war may carry you, our thoughts and supplications will be with you. We hope that when the war ends you will come back to visit us, and meantime we will do all we can to help you,” said Mayor Hamilton, addressing the ship’s company of H.M.O.S. Peterborough at the welcoming ceremonies help in Riverside Bowl Monday evening.

There were six officers and 54 ratings of a crew that will eventually comprise upwards of 95 men present at the ceremony.

George McDonald, chairman of the Corvette committee, presented a box, of the same kind that every member of the ships company will receive, to one of the ratings called to the platform for the occasion, a sort of symbolic transfer of the equipment garnered by the committee to the men for whom it is intended. While many youngsters milled around the makeshift stand determined to be in on the unwrapping of the package, the sailor, a leading telegraphist from Verdun Que., proceeded to undo a large box of comforts which included face cloths, handkerchiefs, shaving soap, razor blades, toothpaste and toothbrush, comb, nail file, chewing gum, chocolate bars, tins of soup and still other gifts even unto woolen articles. While the sailor tried on a leather jacket, Mr. MacDonald commented humorously, “If it’s too large, he’ll wear it.” In a moment, however, he was able to announce with satisfaction, that the jacket did fit.

Ad for the Oshawa Rotary Fair
Canadian Statesman, 1 Jun 1944, p. 5

The Globe and Mail, 05 June 1944, 23.
Oshawa Public Schools

Require for Sept 5th, qualified lady assistants for grade positions. Must have at least 2 years experience. Initial salary according to qualifications and experience. Applications giving full particulars of qualifications and experience will be received up to and including Sat., June 10, 1944. No personal applications unless requested. W. Gordon Bunker. Business Administrator. Board of Education. Oshawa.

Black and White ad for War Work - Men and Women, Youths and Girls
Canadian Statesman, 1 Jun 1944, p. 5

Toronto Daily Star, 07 June 1944, 3.
Record RCAF Raid Helps Clear Path for Invaders

London, June 7 – (CP) – In a quick follow up to the great invasion-eve assault on the French coast, the RCAF bomber group set a record last night during its participation with the RAF in the attack on coastal defences.

Some 5,000 tons of bombs were dropped by the RAF and RCAF heavy bombers and at least 1,000 tons were dropped by the Canadians. Targets were roads, railways and bridges back of the beachheads, destruction of which would delay German reinforcements. …

The City of Oshawa squadron was the first back from the beaches in the morning. Group Capt. MacBrien led the first three Canadian squadrons, accompanied by Wing Cmdr. Lloyd Chadburn, of Aurora, Ldr. RA Buckham, of Vancouver, and Sqdn Ldr. Walter Conrad, of Richmond, Ont.

Toronto Daily Star, 7 Jun 1944, 8.
Robert beats, chokes him jeweler unconscious hour

Oshawa, June 7th- city and provincial police maintained a sharp watch over highways, rail and bus terminals last night and today for a man said to have been wearing the uniform of the US ferry command, who entered the jewelry store of Fritz von Gunten, 66. After beating and choking the proprietor the wanted man robbed the store of an undetermined amount of jewelry, police said.

Von Gunten is an awkward is in Oshawa General Hospital with cuts on his head and left hand and bruises about his throat and body. Police said he had been beaten over the head with a blunt instrument. Hospital officials said his condition was “improving.”

Inspector Wilbur Dawn of the Oshawa police said it would be impossible to assess the amount of jewelry stolen until the proprietor recovered sufficiently to check over his stock.

“We found Mr von Gunten lying in a pool of blood on the floor of his store.” Inspector Dawn stated. “His groans attracted the attention of the men in the lunch counter next door and they gave the alarm.”

James Edgar, who was painting the interior of the lunch counter, said: “ I heard an awful yell and came down from my ladder and looked into the Chinese laundry next door, but didn’t see anything.” Police said von Gunten was so badly beaten that he lay unconscious for over an hour before recovering sufficiently to call for help.

The jeweler told the police he had no warning of the assault. “The man came right in and struck me over the head and beat me before looting the showcases of rings and watches” he said.

*Note: This news event was also reported on by the Globe & Mail. They provided additional details such as the address to the store (125 King St.), and that the wanted man was seen boarding a TTC Bus for Toronto. It was Dr. FJ Rundle who gave details about the state of Mr. Von Gunten.

Black and White ad for movie times at Oshawa's Regent Theatre
Canadian Statesman, 8 Jun 1944, p. 3

The Times Gazette, 17 June, 1944
Freedom Our Birthright

Tomorrow Oshawa will celebrate the 729th anniversary of the signing of what has frequently been called, “the first Act of Parliament.” It was on June 15th, 1215, that King John, one of England’s worst kings, unwillingly signed the 48 articles of a document that during the ensuing few days was still further documented into 63 chapters of the Magna Charta. There remain now by four signed copies of the charter, but they are jealously guarded as something of priceless sentiment.

Apart from the peculiar circumstances of its origin this charter has been regarded through the years that followed its dramatic signing in the meadows of Runnymede, as a charter of wellnigh sacred principles. This is not to be wondered at, for it embodies the highest ideals of English liberty. We use the word ‘English’ advisedly for it was in England that this enunciation of the principles of the rights of free men was so harshly wrested from an unscrupulous, despotic monarch. On the clauses of its various chapters, our modern laws are based. Many additional laws have since been contributed to our wellbeing; but Magna Charts remains the standard towards which all British subjects, wherever domiciled, may look if they desire, as is their due, to draw themselves up and say, “I am free born.”

We must hold fast to this our heritage. During the stress of war we have willingly though temporarily, yielded some of our hard won freedom. But when peace returns, we must make sure that these are restored. For example, let us make sure that no one can ever delay, or deny justice to our citizens. Let us do our part also to ensure that the Four Freedoms of the Atlantic Charter of 1940 based in great measure on the Magna Charta, are not just pious hopes and eloquent phrases. The path of our forefathers since 1215 has been rough and rugged. Perfection lies still far beyond our vision. It is well that we celebrate anniversaries such as this – lest we forget. Human nature being what it is, unfortunately, we forget too soon. 

The Globe and Mail, Jun 21, 1944, 4.
Lloyd Chadburn dies of collision injuries
By Allan Nickleson

London, June 20th (CP).- Wing Commander Lloyd B Chadburn, a fighter ace who ranked with Canada’s greatest airman, was injured fatally a week ago in a collision while leading his wing on operations over France.

His plane exploded on impact with another aircraft which crashed in flames and a subsequent RCAF announcement said that the 24 year old Aurora, Ont., pilot, holder of a double DSO and the DFC, “died later of his injuries.”

The tall, quietly spoken Chadburn had a record of 14 enemy aircraft destroyed, three probably destroyed and eight damaged but you never would learn that from this ace who rose from the ranks. …

Chadburn’s first squadron was adopted by the city of Oshawa, which name it now bears. That squadron had the best Canadian record at Dieppe where Chadburn shot down one of the four aircraft the squadron destroyed without last to itself.

Black and White ad for Coca-Cola and Hambly's Beverages, using the imagery of a soldier and two young boys
Canadian Statesman, 29 Jun 1944, p. 5

Canadian Statesman, 22 Jun 1944, 1.
Dept. of Highways Post-War Program a Four-Year Plan

In the Ontario Department of Highways’ post-war program a four-year plan is being laid down by Minister George H. Doucett, calling for a total expenditure of $180,000,000 at $45,000,000 a year. Employment is expected to be given over the four years to at least 25,000 men.

It includes extensions to the existing Queen Elizabeth Way, east from Oshawa, ultimately to the Quebec boundary.

Work is now progressing east of Oshawa to Newcastle and plans are prepared to reroute the construction to fit in with the development of the St. Lawrence in Eastern Ontario…

A recent acquisition: The Canadian Red Cross Collection

By Kes Murray, Registrar

This past week, we had the pleasure of welcoming a large collection of items from the Canadian Red Cross, Durham Branch, into our collection. This new acquisition is quite vast, with objects ranging from uniforms to annual reports. And, of course, going through our newest acquisition lead me down a Red Cross history spiral…

A grey/blue uniform consisting of a knee length skirt, jacket, and bonnet style hat. The hat and jacket feature a Red Cross patch
Women’s Red Cross uniform, unknown year 022.1.1-3

The Red Cross was founded in 1859 by Henry Dunant. Dunant witnessed a battle between the French and Austrian armies in Northern Italy. Here he saw many soldiers wounded. With medics unable to cope with the volume of patients, he set up a temporary hospital. Three years later, Dunant wrote a novel proposing his idea of countries establishing a neutral and independent group of helpers that could provide care during times of conflicts. This sparked the creation of the Red Cross movement.

Here in Canada, the Red Cross movement began with the North West Resistance of 1885. Certain individuals familiar with the Red Cross movement in Europe used the Red Cross flag to act as independent medics. It was not until 1896 that Toronto surgeon and militia member Dr. George Sterling Ryerson gained permission to establish a branch of the British Red Cross in Canada.

A white pin, featuring a red cross and the year 1940
1940 Red Cross pin 022.1.4

In its early years, the Canadian Red Cross only worked during wartime. However, a turning point came at the end of the First World War.

During the war, the Canadian Red Cross had increased substantially with funding and volunteers, so much so that Canadian Red Cross leaders did not want to see the organization disappear until another war broke out. So, the Canadian Red Cross expanded their mandate to include the phrase “in times of peace.” This allowed the Red Cross to be involved in many peacetime public health and welfare work. Finally in 1927, rather than being a branch of the British Red Cross, the Canadian Red Cross officially became an independent Red Cross society.

All the photographs you see in this post are some of my favourite items in our new collection. The uniform was particularly exciting to unbox and photograph. It is a woman’s uniform, most likely made of wool and handmade. It is a most unique item as we do not have anything like the uniform in our collection.

During my research, I also learned that May 8 is World Red Cross and Red Crescent Day. This day celebrates the creation of the Red Cross movement. It seems rather fortunate, then, that I get to share with you all our newest acquisition.


Sources consulted:

https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/about-the-canadian-red-cross/historical-highlights/getting-started-1896-1913

https://www.redcross.ca/about-us/about-the-canadian-red-cross/historical-highlights/the-interwar-years-1919-1939

https://www.redcross.ca/blog/2018/5/a-reason-to-smile-world-red-cross-day

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.

ES Shrapnel Sketches – A Millerite’s Attempt to Fly

At the beginning of April, we launched our newest online exhibit, ES Shrapnel’s Upper Canada Sketches. The exhibit features the works of Edward Scrope Shrapnel as they appeared in Thomas Conant’s book, Upper Canada Sketches, (1898). The illustrations are whimsical in nature and in many cases portray people, places and events known in Oshawa history.  Each print is analyzed with historical context, and our good friend Eric Sangwine adds his own artistic perspectives for each print.

Colour drawing of a two storey brick house. There is a woman, wearing silk wings, jumping from the second storey
Sarah Terwilliger’s attempt to fly to heaven, the world to come to an end, ES Shrapnel, from Thomas Conant’s Upper Canada Sketches

A favourite print and story is A Millerite’s Attempt to Fly, the story of Sarah Terwilliger and her silk wings.

Why did Sarah fear the end of the world, and what prompted her to jump from the second storey window of her house?

We encourage you to visit the exhibit to read this story and more.


From ES Shrapnel’s Upper Canada Sketches

There was a period of time during the 1840s when Oshawa garnered some notoriety, known as one of the centres for the Millerite movement which was sweeping North America.  During the winter of 1842-1843, many people were engrossed with the teachings of William Miller, an American farmer and evangelist, who preached that the Second Advent of Christ would occur shortly. His followers believed Christ would appear in person to claim his earthly kingdom, and the world would be destroyed by fire.  Stories of local farmers giving away all their stock and implements were locally reported. One of the most interesting stories connected with this period is that of the unconventional Terwilliger sisters, Sarah and her older sister Clarissa. …

To read more, visit: https://shrapnelsketches.wordpress.com/2022/02/09/a-millerites-attempt-to-fly/

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