The Month That Was – October 1870

Oshawa Vindicator, October 5, 1870, page 1

For Sale
A Brick House, 36 x 24, 2 ½ stories high, with stable, shed, driving house, &c., connected to the Lot on which they stand, being 58 square perches, the property of John Robinson, Port Oshawa. Terms liberal. Apply to either Ralph Robinson, Oshawa, or John Thompson, Paitley Mills, Whitby.

Newspaper ad for Weaving at Columbus
Oshawa Vindicator, 5 October 1870, page 1

Page 2
Whitby and East Whitby Fair
Every preparation is being made by the directors to make the Fall Fair to be held here on the 26th, better than any that has preceded it. Fifty three dollars have been collected in the town, as special prizes for equestrianship. Two of these are a portrait valued at $15, to be given to the best lady rider, and one valued at $8, to the best lady equestrian under fifteen years of age, both presented by Mr. JE Hoitt. The prizes for equestrianship have been divided into four classes, three prizes being offered to young ladies under 15, and three to boys under 16 years of age. Several new prizes have been offered in the photographic department, for the purpose of inducing a strong competition. Mr. J Porter offers for special prizes of $18, for suckling colts after Sir Walter Scott. The bills have been issued to the several directors and can be had of them.

Newspaper ad for Walter Wigg & Son, furniture & undertaking
Oshawa Vindicator, 5 Oct 1870, p 3

Died
In Oshawa, on the 4th inst., Louisa, wife of JB Warren, Esq., aged 64 years. The funeral will leave the residence of her husband for St. George’s Burial ground, at 3pm to-morrow (Thursday).

Newspaper ad for Wolfenden's Marble Works
Whitby Chronicle, 6 Oct 1870 p4

Oshawa Vindicator, October 12, 1870, page 2
As the funeral of the late Mrs. Warren was on its way to the St. George’s Burial Ground Thursday, it was met by the waggon of the Dominion Telegraph Company, which frightened some of the horses. In the fright, the carriages were backed upon each other, and one, that of Mr. Burk, of Bowmanville, was forced into the ditch and broken.

Mr. W. Rundle has a bill against the town of $17.50 for damages done to his horse by a broken street crossing. The hole is repaired now.

Wanted
A first-class servant girl, two kept in the family. Good wages given. Mrs. JO Guy. Port Oshawa, Oct 10, 1870

Newspaper ad for George Gurley's tailoring business
Oshawa Vindicator, 12 Oct 1870, p 3

Whitby Gazette, October 13, 1870, page 2
The Harvest of 1870
The following is the annual report of the GTR officials of the harvest in this locality: …

Oshawa – hay, very light and not an average crop; Wheat, very light crop, average not over 10 bushels per acre; Barley, average 15 bushels per acre; Peas, average 20 bushels per acre; Oats, an average crop; root crops good; Quality of grain very fine, having been secured in splendid condition.

Oshawa Vindicator, October 19, 1870, page 2
The schooner Kate, of this port, was blown ashore in the gale Monday night, near Cobourg. She was loaded with barley belonging to R & A Smith. The grain was insured. No one was lost.

In the same blow, a schooner loaded in the harbor carried off posts and a portion of the wharf to which she was fastened.

By the New York papers we see that Mr. Carswell is keeping up his old time reputation in that city. He leaves soon on a lecturing tour in the Southern States, under the auspices of the National Division of the Sons.

Stolen or Strayed
From Lot 6 2nd Concession East Whitby, on the 2nd Oct., a RED COW, with white spots on left hip and left shoulder, with star in her forehead, three years old. Anyone returing the same will be liberally rewarded.
Sarah Terry, East Whitby, Oct. 18, 1870

Newspaper ad for Atkinson's Drug Store
Oshawa Vindicator, 19 Oct 1870, p 3

Whitby Gazette, October 20, 1870, page 2
Masonic Charts – We have received from Dr. Vars, of Oshawa a sett of masonic charts, copies of which should be in the hands of every “brother of the mystic” in the country. The charts are magnificently engraved, and cleanly and neatly printed and, besides illustrating the different grades and forms of Masonry, are beautiful ornaments for the parlor at home. Parties can be supplied with the charts by Dr. Vars, Oshawa, or at this office.

Newspaper ad for hats
Whitby Gazette, 27 Oct 1870, p 4

Oshawa Vindicator, October 26, 1870, page 2
Oshawa Fire Brigade – The following offices were duly elected at the regular annual election for 1871:

Brigade Officers – PH Thornton, re-elected Chief Engineer and Treasurer; Jos. Craig, Assistance Chief Engineer; R. Dillon, Brigade Secretary

Fire Co. Rescue No. 1 – Thos. Hall, Captain; R. Burdge, 1st Lieut; T. Kirby, 2nd Lieut; B. Robinson, 1st Branch; E Martin, 2nd Branch; ——- Best, 3rd Branch; W. Trewin, Sec’y; T. Lukes, Treasurerl T Hern, Steward.

Hose Co. Rescue No. 1 – O. Manuel, Captain; G. Graham, 1st Lieut; J Mitchel, 2nd Lieut; Ed. Nickle, Sec’y; Geo. Wilson, Treasurer.

Dreadnought Hook & Ladder Co. – Geo. Kelly, Captain; C. French, Lieut; A. Cameron, Treasurer. Sec’y not elected.

All members in connection with the Oshawa Fire Brigade, are requested to meet at the Fire Hall to-day, at one o’clock, sharp. They will muster in the evening at the appointed time to form a torchlight procession, (weather permitting).

Newspaper ad for Village taxes to be paid
Oshawa Vindicator, 26 Oct 1870, p 3

Whitby Gazette, October 27, 1870, page 2
DEATH OF DR. ROLPH
Dr. Rolph died at Mitchell on Wednesday afternoon of last week, at the advanced age of 78 years. As his name and efforts have been very intimately connected with the history of Canada, it is but right that his death should receive more than a passing notice. He was a man of most excellent parts –in science and the law, as well as in politics. Referring to him, a contemporary, the London Free Press, says: He was a reformer that always had a “policy,” and the downfall of the family compact was due, in a great measure, to his exertions. Being implicated in the rebellion of 1837 intentionally or by mistake…, but after the subsidence of political troubles returned to it, and entered the government in 1851 under Mr. now Sir Frances, Hincks. During his day he aided in the settlement of the Clergy Reserves difficulty; saw Reciprocity gained; was present at the birth of the Railways in Canada; and witnessed Upper Canada rise from the condition of a wilderness to the dignity of a nationality. In later years he established the Medical School, in connection with the Victoria College, and labored assiduously and with much success as it Principal. He was a man of kind heart, and a sound head. His natural abilities were great, but were heightened by a wide culture. As an orator his eloquence was proverbial, and no man of the day was listened to with more pleasure and instruction by the people than the “old ma eloquent.” The flow of his language was steady and uninterrupted, his articulation sweet and distinct, and he always made a deep impression.

His life has been a most useful one ; devoted to his fellow-creatures rather than to himself, and his memory will be dear to all that knew him or were acquainted with his career. Since 1856 he has not taken any active prominent part in political affairs, though his counsel was not neglected. He leaves behind him an honored name an unblemished reputation, which will long live, and with may make the wise prevail, upon recounting his history, that there were more like “good old Dr. Rolph.”

Newspaper ad for Lowes & Powells
Whitby Gazette, 27 Oct 1870, p 4

Page 2
THAT EARTHQUAKE – On Thursday morning last, between the hours of ten and eleven o’clock, Canada was visited by a slight shock of earthquake. The “quake” appears to have visited nearly every place in Ontario and Quebec, (if we are to believe the telegraph reports.) and to have shaken several towns in the United States. At Greenwood village, the shock was felt by Mr. Fred Meen, in his store, and by Mr. Samuel Green, while a person a few years distant in a hotel was entirely ignorant that there had been an earthquake. Again, some men working in a barn, a mill or so from Greenwood, were terribly frightened at the shaking of the building, and ran out, fearing it would fall. The shock appears also to have visited Whitby, and – a telegram to the Toronto paper affirms – lasted from three to five minutes. This startling item may be true, but, after diligent inquiry, we have not found the first person that knew a word about the earthquake, until the Toronto papers were received on the following morning. Nevertheless, the report MAY be true ; and of such be the case, the people of Whitby ought to be ashamed of themselves, to have a real live earthquake in their midst and to be ignorant of its whereabouts. It is really too bad. Where, we ask, were the police? We will candidly admits that, at the time mentioned, there was a good deal of shaking in town; but we really thought it was caused by the Court of Assizes, then in session. Most assuredly there was staggering, but, honestly, in our innocence, we believed that rot-gut played a lone hand in it. But we may have been mistaken, and a real earthquake might have been with us. If so, we are really sorry that we didn’t know.

Married
On the 19th inst., at the residence of the bride’s brother, in East Whitby, by the Rev. Dr. Jeffers, John S. Larke, Esq., publisher and editor of the Oshawa “Vindicator,” to Miss Elizabeth Baine, of Oshawa.

The Month That Was – September 1868

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

2 Sept 1868, Page 2

Runaway – On Wednesday last, a horse belonging to Mr. King, hitched to a light waggon, ran away. Mr. King was engaged in moving some rubbish preparatory to putting up an addition to his store occupied by Messrs. R. and A. Smith, when the horse walked off and became frightened by the load. Turning down Simcoe street, it tipped load and waggon against the horse and carriage of Mr. Morgan, hitched to a post. The latter was seized and quieted before it could make off, and further damage was saved. The damage to Mr. King’s waggon was slight.

Another Horse Shot – As one of the volunteers was practicing quick loading with a Snider riddle, in the rear of the premises of Messrs. Gibbs, Lobb & Co., the cartridge was exploded. The ball passed through the wood shed of Mr. JO Henry, into the stable of TN Gibbs, MP. It then entered the right shoulder of one of his carriage horses, a valuable blood made. Mr. Smith, of the Toronto Veterinary College, was telegraphed for and came down, but he could not find the ball. The mare is doing as well as can be expected, and may possibly recover.

Patents – The list of patents granted for the year past has been published. It is of unusual length, numbering 379. The following are those to persons in this county. They are all for fourteen years

No 2659, Joseph Dick, the younger, of Oshawa, Machinist, ‘A certain new and useful improvement in the rake, in ordinary use, in connections with the Reaping Machine, for removing the Grain, as cut from the table thereof, to be called ‘Joseph Dick’s Junior, Improved Harvester Rake.’ – (Dated 26th June, 1868.)

Newspaper ad for Hawthorn's Boot and Shoe Manufactory, and there is a picture of a boot on the ad
Oshawa Vindicator, 2 Sept 1868, page 3

Advertisements
Photographs
Mr. JO Henry’s Photograph Gallery Will be opened on Saturday next, with every facility for a first class business. Oshawa, Aug. 26th, 1868.

Page 4
Union Burying Ground
Near the residence of Rev. Dr. Thornton, Main Road
As these grounds are very desireable for location and beauty, parties wishing to purchase lots are respectfully informed that they may have an opportunity by applying to the undersigned or to the care taker, James Carruthers, on the premises.
Alex Burnet
Chairman of the Committee
Oshawa, March 2nd, 1868

September 9, 1868, Page 2
Assault – On Saturday night about twelve o’clock, a stranger coming from Whitby was struck on the back with a large stone thrown by some person secreted near the bridge, over the creek. He was [seriously] injured and was found by constable Gurley lying upon the sidewalk. He recovered soon after and was enabled to walk off. The miscreant who threw the missle is yet unknown, although one or two are suspected, and a sharp eye is kept upon them, Had the man been struck on the head, his life would have been endangered.

Newspaper ad for St Joseph's Select School, Oshawa
Oshawa Vindicator, 9 Sept 1868, page 2

Mammoth Plums – The Vindicator establishment was favored with a basket of mammoth plums, from JO Guy, Esq., Reeve of East Whitby. – Twelve of them weighed nineteen ounces. They are the Duane Purple. We hope Mr. Guy’s trees may never be troubled with worm or robber.

16 Sept 1868, Page 2
Changed the Date – The Fall show of the Whitby and East Whitby Union Agricultural Society, will be held on Thursday the 15th of October, and not the 22nd as announced last week. This change has been made as it has been found that it will not interfere with the fair at Bowmanville, as nothing will be done there other than receiving a few entries, on that day.

Newspaper ad for RC Steele & Co., Grocers
Oshawa Vindicator, 16 Sept 1868, page 3

23 Sept 1868, Page 2
Whalen – Whalen has behaved himself in a less violent manner since the trial than before. It is reported that the reason for the long delay between the sentence and the date of execution, was to give the Local Government an opportunity to introduce and carry a bill to have all prisoners condemned to death executed in private. American papers, as well as Canadian, agree that the verdict of the jury is a righteous one. The American Fenians have indulged in a little threatening, but upon the whole are comparatively mild. The Doctors have examined Buckley, and report that his insanity is feigned. Eagleson and Enright have not yet been admitted to bail.

Note – this article is discussing the verdict of the Thomas D’Arcy McGee murder trial.  McGee was shot and killed in Ottawa in April 1868. He denounced the Fenian Movement, a group dedicated to Irish independence, and was found assassinated outside of his Ottawa home. Patrick James Whelan, a tailor, was arrested. He was found guilty and sentenced to death on September 15, 1868; the public execution took place on 11 Feb 1869. At the time of the initial arrest, 40 others were also arrested, including Buckley, Sir John Alexander Macdonald’s cabman, and Peter Eagleson, a tailor in Ottawa, likely who is being referenced in the article.

House and Lot For Sale
The House and Lot now occupied by Mr. Robinson, South Oshawa. For terms, apply to Mr. John Bone, South Oshawa. E Bone, Oshawa, Sept 16, 1868

Newspaper ad for JO Henry's Boot and Shoe Store
Oshawa Vindicator, 16 Sept 1868, page 1

30 Sept 1868, Page 1
Dr. Clarke begs to announce to his friends that he has resumed the practice of his profession, and may be found, as heretofore, at his own Cottage, corner of Athol and Centre Streets, Oshawa. Nov 25th, 1867.

Oshawa – The Manchester of Canada

By Sara H., Summer Student

Even though I have lived in Oshawa my entire life, there is still so much I have to learn about the city!  Working at Parkwood and the McLaughlin Branch of the Oshawa Public Library has given me a great starting point to learn about some of the significant people and industries that made up our city.  The Oshawa Museum has allowed me to continue this research and given me new ways to discover more about Oshawa. For example, Oshawa was once known as the “Manchester of Canada” due to the many industries that set up shop here and helped Oshawa thrive.  We all know about General Motors Canada and the legacy of the McLaughlin family, but what about the other industries that made up the “Manchester of Canada?”  Well look no further than this blog post as I have rounded up some information on these industries from the museum’s Discover Historic Oshawa site!  

Ontario Malleable Iron was established in 1872 by William and John Cowan.  Both men previously worked at the Ontario Malleable Iron Co., and had a great deal of skill and experience from previously running a variety of small businesses.  John served as the first president of the company until his death in 1915 when William succeeded him.  The company was sold to Grinnel Co. of Canada Ltd in 1929, and unfortunately closed in 1977 after a lengthy labour dispute.  The site was acquired by Knob Hill Farms, a Canadian grocery chain, which operated a store there from 1981 until they closed in 2000. 

Black and white photograph of a large industrial brick building. There is a road in front of it with lots of wooden electrical poles and wires running alongside
Exterior of the Ontario Malleable Iron Co., Buildings No. 5 and 7 from Front St.; Oshawa Museum archival collection (A996.1.7)

Smith Potteries was the largest maker of hand-made pottery in Canada, and operated in Oshawa from 1925 to 1949.  They produced a range of hand-painted products such as vases, bowls, and other souvenirs.  The company was very successful and the quality of their white ware pottery put them in competition with other countries such as China, Japan, and Germany.  Herbert C. Smith owned and operated the business from 1925-1938, and installed a gas station at the front of the store to attract motorists and tourists wanting to purchase souvenirs.  Smith Sporting Goods, another business operated by the Smith family, opened on the property and was in business until 1968. 

Our curator has previously written about Smith Potteries: ArteFACTS – Oshawa’s Smith Potteries

Cooper-Smith Co. was located at 19 Celina Street and changed ownership quite a bit before the company was created.  It was once owned by James Odgers Guy, yes, the same Guy from Guy House at the museum, who ran a “flour and feed” store there.  Elgin Cooper bought the property from James Guy in 1905 and turned it into a larger store that sold grain, as well as seeds, oats, and other types of feed.  The company was known for a specialized seed for homing pigeons that gave them increased stamina, and their garden seeds.  The company was forced into receivership and closed in July 1982, but reopened in August 1982 under new owners who were still a part of the Smith family.  Unfortunately, in January 1988 the property was destroyed by a fire. 

A large iron scale, standing in front of square shelves
Cooper-Smith Scale; Oshawa Museum Collection (011.16.1)

Pedlar People Limited was opened by Henry Pedlar in 1861 as a kitchenware shop.  George Pedlar, his son, inherited the company after his father’s death and established a metal stamping plant.  By 1894 the company was the “largest sheet metal factory in the British Empire.”   During the Second World War, Pedlar People was contracted to make a variety of military munitions and materials such as autocannon and artillery shells, army huts and munition shelters.  The company received high praise from the Canadian government and wartime authorities due to their service and quality of products made.  In 1976, the company was bought by a Toronto firm who opened Pedlar Storage Products in the Stevenson Industrial Park.  The Simcoe Street plant was demolished in 1981 to make way for a new shopping centre, and Pedlar Storage Products closed in 1982. 

Williams Piano Factory was started by Richard Williams in Toronto in 1849.  In 1888, the Williams firm purchased the former factory of Joseph Hall Works in Oshawa and began renovations to the building to make it suitable to manufacture pianos.  In 1890 the factory began producing pianos and organs, and the company constructed their first church organ that was sent to Brighton and consisted of more than 100 pipes!  It took ten weeks to three months to make one piano, but each piano was constructed to the “highest degree of excellence in every detail of workmanship”.  The company was globally known as a manufacturer of quality products, but due to the depression and increased mass production of the radio, they closed due to lack of demand.  However, the factory building remained and many other businesses occupied the premises, and the building was even a barracks during the war years.  The factory was demolished in 1970 to make way for the Durham Region Police Headquarters and the Oshawa Times building.  

A brown upright piano with a three pedals and a stool. There is a sign above the piano that reads 'New Scale Williams Pianos, Oshawa, Canada'
Williams Piano, 1903, in Guy House; Oshawa Museum Collection

If you want to find out more information on any of these sites, or find out more information about what used to be in Oshawa, please feel free to visit either of the museum’s websites in the “For More Information” section, or take a look at the Library’s History Pin site! 


For More Information:

Discover Historic Oshawa – Oshawa Museum

Industry in Oshawa – Oshawa Museum

History Pin: Oshawa Street Scenes – Oshawa Public Library


Sources Consulted:

Ontario Malleable Iron – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/ontario-malleable-iron/

Smith Potteries – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/smith-potteries/

Cooper Smith Co. – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/cooper-smith-co/

Pedlar People Ltd. – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/pedlar-people-limited/

Pedlar People Ltd. From Industry in Oshawa – https://industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/foundries/pedlar-people-ltd/

Williams Piano Company – http://discoverhistoricoshawa.com/listings/williams-piano-company/   

July 1 Retrospectives

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator

When working on specific projects, I always like to see how different events affected the Henry, Guy, and Robinson families. Read on for some trivia and perspective on modern Canada Day celebrations.

Upon taking a closer look at how people in Oshawa celebrated Dominion Day, I wondered who lived in the Museum homes when Confederation occurred.

In 1867, Thomas and Lurenda were married for 37 years. Likely, their children Joseph, Jesse, Clarissa, William, and Jennie were still living at home. Despite being in their early and mid-twenties, Joseph, Jesse, and Clarissa were unmarried. William and Jennie were 18 and 15 years old.

(Ruth) Eunice Robinson and Richard Welch were married for eight years with two young children at home. Connie was 7, Vicars was six, and Hedley would be born in September 1867.

James Guy and Rachel Luke were married for 15 years with six children living at home from 15 – 4 years old.

William and Jennie Henry were probably friends and went to school with Frederick August Guy. I wonder if Jennie babysat for the neighbouring kids or if that was even a thing back then.

A big picnic was held somewhere in Cedardale (up the street from the Henry farm), and Thomas and Lurenda might have took the children there.

Dr. D.S. Hoig attended Centre Street School in 1867 and remembered no recognition of the event. According to him, teachers may have thought it an experiment as there had been rumours of unification many times before, and it took a few years to produce textbooks with new maps.

In 1868 there was a similar picnic just north of Union Cemetery in Morris’s Grove. Games and races included:

  • flat race – 100 yards
  • boys foot race – 100 yards
  • three-legged race – 100 yards
  • short race – 100 yards
  • foot race – 500 yards
  • sack race – 100 yards
  • girls race (under 14 years of age)
  • hurdle race – 6 hurdles, 3 feet high, 1000 yards
  • standing jump
  • running jump
  • running high jump
  • running hop step & jump
  • putting heavy stone – weight 21 pounds
  • putting light stone – 6 pounds
  • tossing the caber
  • pitching quoits

There were so many children near the three OM houses that they might have played similar games and races at the 1867 picnic.

In 1869, a picnic and games started at 10 am, with a reunion and strawberry festival at 7:30 (the newspaper article doesn’t say morning or afternoon, so presumably evening.) The entrance fee was 10 cents per person so that everyone could come. Women served strawberries, ice cream, soda water, and other refreshments, and the musical program consisted of songs (both humorous and pathetic – according to the original article), duets and choruses. Address and a patriotic poem were read by local orator Edward Carswell with fireworks at 10 pm.

In 1870, the festivities began early with morning Reveille at 8 am. The Fire Brigade (in new uniforms) and Regiment Band paraded to the Post Office (area – probably the Armouries) to test various fire engines before the crowds.

At 9 am of the same year, the ‘Grand Union Picnic’ was held at Annis’s Grove (same as 1869.) The Clearwater Quadrille Band provided other music throughout the day; games included a foot race match between Oshawa and Whitby with a $25 prize. Visitors also played croquet and football, with swings provided. Fireworks were purchased in Toronto.

While people in the present still celebrate Canada Day, there is an undertone of quiet embarrassment among some. It feels uncomfortable being as patriotic and observing as I once did, with all of the Indigenous atrocities coming to light over the last few years. However, I am thankful I have my son’s birthday to celebrate, so the focus isn’t entirely on Canada Day.

This year, the Oshawa Museum will have Henry House open for tours, with costumed interpretation. As much as we are Indigenous allies, three of the OM’s most significant artefacts are the houses here in Lakeview Park, and there is no way of ignoring that. So if you decide to celebrate Canada Day this year, we hope to see you at Henry House – our first time in two years, opening on July 1st.


From the blog archives:

Oshawa Celebrates Canada Day

On July 1, 1867, The British North America Act came into effect on July 1, 1867, uniting the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick as “One Dominion under the name of Canada. “ In Oshawa, the passing of the BNA Act was a relatively quiet affair, even though it had been designated … Continue reading “Oshawa Celebrates Canada Day”

Canada: 150 Years… or is it?

This blog series comes from our dedicated and awesome Visitor Host staff, and topics range from favourite artifacts, thoughts on our latest exhibits, and anything else in between! By Sarah C., Visitor Host This year is Canada’s 150th birthday!  It has been 150 years since Canada became a Dominion. But oddly enough, we have only … Continue reading “Canada: 150 Years… or is it?”

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/

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