Archives Awareness Week – The David Dowsley Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist, and Savannah Sewell, Registrar

Along with the exciting promise of summer and warmer weather, the beginning of April also brings an exciting week for the field of archives and the Oshawa Museum. Archives Awareness Week is from April 4-10, a week dedicated to the consciousness and understanding of the archival process and the importance of archival work.

A022.6.164 – Durham Regional Courthouse, Oshawa Ontario, February 3, 2009. (Dowsley collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection)

Let’s do a quick breakdown of the archival process and the difference between collections and archival work. Here at the Oshawa Museum, we collect both physical and archival collections. The easiest way to separate the collections is that the physical collection is comprised of items and artefacts and the archives are committed to curating information. For example, the collection will have accessions of dresses, while the archives would acquire documents that detail the prices and origination of patterns or fabric sales.

Archival work, in turn, can be separated into two main sections – real-time research and safeguarding for the future. Our archivist, Jennifer, spends most of her day researching through the archival collection to respond to research requests from the community and other institutions. She is also, in conjunction with other museum staff, writing a book about the comprehensive history of Oshawa. On the other hand, collections are coming into the museum consistently and they need to be processed, accessioned, and appropriately homed. The collections, information, and artefacts that come to the museum will experience both the safeguarding process and the research process and a collection that we are most excited about right now is the David Dowsley Photograph Collection.

Inside a large grocery store, looking down upon the aisles.
A016.10.286 – Superstore near Taunton and Harmony, July 2013. (Dowsley collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection)

The Dowsley Collection presents the opportunity to plan for future research by contributing images of Oshawa, taken by Mr. Dowsley, that include captions describing the content and the date the photo was taken. This collection is expansive and includes images dating from the 1980s to this month. Mr. Dowsley continues to contribute to the collection, and the new images are actively being accessioned.

Two women, wearing winter jackets, standing in front of a yellow house, with the windows boarded up. There is yellow caution tape in front of the house. There is snow on the ground
A022.6.167 – “Dec. 19/03 Lakeview Park Oshawa Fire at Guy House Historical Bldg. December 17/03 Historical Soc. Employees L-R Angela Siebarth & Melissa Cole (Dowsley collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection).

The David Dowsley Photograph Collection will address some current gaps in the archives. Many of the most common research requests are individuals asking for photos of their historic homes or of buildings or businesses that no longer exist. Unfortunately, we do not currently possess many of these images and do not have many options to offer community members; however, Mr. Dowsley’s attention to detail, construction, and change in the community will provide solutions for requests like these. Mr. Dowsley takes images of houses and streetscapes including street signs, like image A022.6.13 which shows a view of Cherrydown Street at Grandview Street South on April 6, 1994.

A snowcovered streetscape with several houses and two cars on the road.
A022.6.13 – Cherrydown St., Oshawa, Ontario, Canada. April 6, 1994. (Dowsley collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection

Mr. Dowsley also includes photos of events such as image A022.6.38, the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Durham Trust Garage on November 24, 2015. Each of the individuals in this image is named and subsequent photos continue to monitor the construction of the garage until completion. These images will be simple to locate and use as they are being collected on the internal data system and digitized. Each image is given an accession number and a subsection under the collection which will make them easier to find based on the content. The subsections include houses, construction, businesses, schools, sports facilities, transportation, and waterfront, among others.

Seven people wearing hardhats, each with a shovel in hand, for a sod turning ceremony.
A022.6.38 – “Groundbreaking for the new Durham Transit Garage, Farewell Avenue Oshawa, ON, November 24, 2015; included in picture: Roger Anderson, Regional Chair and CEO Durham Region; John Henry, Mayor of Oshawa; Granville Anderson, MPP Durham. (Dowsley collection, Oshawa Museum archival collection

Archives serve as a repository of information and a means to access it. The David Dowsley Photography Collection demonstrates how modern efforts can provide invaluable context and insight into historic events. Archives Awareness Week encourages us to reflect on how archives have influenced historical accuracy and community nostalgia around us. Fortunately,  community members and the Oshawa Museum’s archives have a wealth of information available.

The Beaver City Enterprise: A Conundrum

By Kes Murray, Registrar

Today, just like many days over the past week, I am faced with a wall of unknowns. An actual wall. I call this area of the archives the “Found in Collection” shelves. Many archives and museums face this challenge. Items that are found in the collection that can’t be identified either for historical content or even how they came into the museum. Every day is a new challenge.

The “Found in Collection” Shelf

The biggest challenge is when an item is both unknowns: no provenance or historical information. And of course, we have one such item.

The Beaver City Enterprise is truly a mystery. This newspaper was found in our collection around 2020. Searches through many archives have resulted in no answers to what this newspaper was. What we can tell from the contents of the newspaper is that it was focused on agriculture and machinery. It also dates to the late 1870s. Beyond these facts, we know nothing else.

This situation highlights the importance of proper provenance for archives and museums. In the archive/museum field, provenance is the origin of something, or the path that an item will take to come into archives/museums. For example, a person may buy something then donate it to an archive or museum. That provenance is clear. But our Beaver City Enterprise has no information of how it came to us thus making my job a little more challenging.

Although this post is a way for me to tell you all of the important and amazing work I am doing, it is also a call for information. If anyone has any information about the Beaver City Enterprise, please let us know! We want to make sure we have correct information about this unique newspaper.

Or if you are simply interested in looking through the Beaver City Enterprise, please check out the images below.

The funky world of hats!

By Savannah Sewell, Registrar

Today’s blog, as funky as it might seem, will delve into the fascinating (there’s a hat joke in there) world of hats! Hats, like any other bodily adornment, can be a socialized symbol of community inclusion, politics, fashion, or faith.  The Oshawa Museum has a variety of items within our archival and physical collections that detail fascinating moments throughout history with hats.

After a fire at Guy House in 2003, the library collection took a heavy hit, and people began donating books in order to replenish options for research. One of those books was Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values by Susan Langley which I have used within this blog after finding and enjoying it as a fluke.

There are both physical and photographic representations of hats within the Oshawa Museum’s collection, and here are two examples of how hats can identify groups of people. Above we have a photo of four nurses on the steps of a building holding flowers and sporting a classic example of a nurses’ hat. Uniforms are a prime example of recognition of belonging within certain groups. Though our modern nurse’s uniforms don’t include a hat, it is still a recognizable symbol of healthcare in most of the Western world. Similarly, the firefighter’s helmet below is still a very prominent symbol of emergency services. This black style can also be seen today, or historically, in yellow, brown, red, or even orange.

Black fire fighter's helmet
73-D-394.2

Bonnets were the height of fashion for many decades, spanning from everyday wear to protect one’s hair or face from the dirt and sun of work, to a riding bonnet while riding on a wagon, to fashion bonnets. Those more dramatic and lavish styles, the fashion bonnets sometimes included complicated lace, florals, or feathers.

black bonnet lined with rose coloured silk
62-D-93.16

The Black hood bonnet shown above is lined with rose-coloured silk and would have been used somewhere between 1860-1890. The image below is from Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values and shows two varieties of fashion bonnet from Godey’s Lady’s Book of February 1862. Figure 1 is a violet velvet bonnet trimmed with black velvet and lace and Figure 2 is a black velvet bonnet trimmed with Ponceau velvet and feathers.

Godey’s Lady’s Book, February 1862; image appeared in Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values – page 84

Hats of this period did not only include bonnets but other more extravagant examples like the three worn by the lovely ladies in the photo. The photo below of unidentified women, from the archival collection, details a variety of chapeaus. They most closely compare to the stylish winter designs of the Les Modes Parisiennes “Christmas Visits” looks from Peterson’s Magazine, December 1889. Though there is no date on this photo, it can be presumed that the image was taken between 1860-1900 because of the style of dress and photography. Just imagine if our Christmas and holiday outfits included hats as lavish as these now!

The yellow, fabric rose covered pillbox hat you see below is a c. 1950s example of a very common look at the time. The pillbox, named after the pharmaceutical receptacle shape in the ’60s, was hugely popular within history, and the flat top, cylindrical hat was even seen within medieval bridal looks. Modernly, the most notable wearer of the pillbox hat was Former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970 describes the “Queen of Camelot’s” influence with the deep pillbox style hat and mentioned that through the 1960s, there were many influences to the style including East Indian embroidery and beading. Can’t you just imagine a pile of hairspray lacquered curls pinned under this beauty?

A006.18.20

Finally, let’s remember that fashionable hats span all genders, and though there might not be quite as much variety in men’s hats in our collection, we can certainly appreciate how they can elevate a look. Here are two gentlemen looking quite dashing in suits, coats, wonderfully crafted hats with corsages on their lapels.

AX994.192.46

More recently, hats have become a much more casual addition to fashion. Styles like baseball hats, snapbacks, toques, beanies, or caps can be seen in the park surrounding the Oshawa Museum daily, especially in the winter months. Can you imagine what Lakeview Park would have looked like, hat wise, through history?


Links to more hat information and history!

Hold onto Your Hats! https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/hist/hats/hat00eng.html

The Tip of the Hat to History
https://www.inthehills.ca/2016/03/tip-hat-history/

The National Hat Museum (USA) https://www.thehatmuseum.com

Citations Langley, Susan. Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values. Paducah, KY: Collector Books, 1998.

“Step on the pin, the pin will bend”

By Kes Murray, Registrar

As we continue our journey into Black History Month, we here at the Oshawa Museum are celebrating the incredible legacy of many Black Canadians in our community. One such notable Black Canadian on our radar is Dr. George Blake.

Dr. Blake was born in 1922 on Green Island, Jamaica. At age 18, he enlisted in the Royal Air Force in England and was stationed as a meteorologist in Northern Scotland. After the war, Dr. Blake worked as a government clerk in London, England. During this time, he read a book on Buddhism and decided to change his life’s path. He studied and became a samanera (novice monk) at the Sinhalese Centre in London. He received his full ordination as a Theravadan Buddhist Monk at the Wat Paknam Temple in Bangkok, Thailand in 1956.

From here, he attended the University of Edinburgh, graduating with a degree in psychology, and eventually becoming a clinical psychologist. Moving to Whitby in 1966, Dr. Blake worked at the Whitby Psychiatric Hospital (today’s Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences) and later founded the Pinewood Centre for Addiction.

Some of the cassettes that were digitized. They range from radio interviews to collections of stories.

Along with Dr. Blake’s work in psychology, he was also an incredible storyteller. Dr. Blake founded the Durham Folklore Society in September 1990. As well, he was an original founder of the Storytellers of Canada. I believe his love of storytelling came from his incredible life journey, originating in the Caribbean, to Thailand, to his clinical work.

Dr. Blake not only told stories, he collected them too. From the Caribbean, to West Africa, to India, to Germany, no story was outside his grasp.

Beginning in mid-January and ending some weeks ago, I digitized the incredible stories Dr. Blake told. Dr. Blake recorded himself telling stories over fifty-six cassette tapes. As I’m sure you are well aware of by now, the range of stories is immense, from stories of the mischievous Anancy, a character in Caribbean folklore, to Jataka tales, or stories of the Buddha. All these stories reflect the incredible life Dr. Blake lived and, foremost, his knowledge and passion for storytelling.

While Dr. Blake is no longer with us, his stories and his achievements continue to reflect the incredible person he was. As with many of his stories, I would like to end this post with a phrase Dr. Blake uses to end many of his stories.

“Step on a pin, the pin will bend, and that’s the way the story ends.”


Information gathered from:

https://www.durhamstorytellers.com/history

Oshawa Museum Archival collection, accession number: A022.1.1-3

Oshawa’s Early Postal Service

This was originally written by the Oshawa Historical Society as a Historical Information Sheet

Prior to 1850, it was necessary for settlers to go to the general store for postal services as there were no stand alone post offices.  Stage coaches and sleighs delivered the mail to the store and picked up any outgoing mail.  Trans-Atlantic mail delivery was started in 1840 when Samuel Cunard was contracted with the Admiralty to provide two trips monthly each way between Liverpool and Canada.  Mail reached Quebec from Liverpool in 18 days and from Quebec was sent to the regional centres.  In 1854 the first Post Office on rails was established.  Clerks were on board the trains sorting mail between communities in Southern Ontario.

The first post office in the area was opened in the general store operated by John and William Warren in Hamar’s Corners (now Whitby) in 1824.  Stage coaches would stop to pick up and deliver mail during their run from Kingston to York (Toronto). In 1827 Donald Campbell obtained consent from the Postmaster General to have mail carried between Hamar’s Corners and Beaverton.  Kenneth Campbell was appointed postmaster and made the trip once every two weeks.

Black and white sketch of a one and a half storey building, featuring a black and white checkerboard facade. There is a wooden sidewalk in front of it.
Edward Skae’s checkered store

In 1842 Edward Skae, owner of a general store located on the southeast corner of King and Simcoe Streets, made application to the legislature for a post office. John Hilliard Cameron, representing Skae’s Corners as part of the Home District in parliament, replied that a name other than “Corners” must be chosen for the post office as there were already too many place names containing corners.  Oshawa was chosen and Edward Skae became the first postmaster on October 6, 1842. According to the Ontario Reformer, May 19, 1905, Mr. Glenney opened the first mail bag brought to Oshawa.  It contained 4 letters, 2 British Colonists and one Examiner and from the east, and 2 Montreal Gazettes.  By 1844 Oshawa had post every day. After the opening of the Grand Trunk Railway in 1856, mail was no longer carried by stage coach.  Mr. John Bone drove the last stage coach with mail into Oshawa.

Sepia toned image of a storefront and three women and one man are standing in front of it.
Oshawa Post Office when it was located on King Street East, 1903; OM Thomas Bouckley Collection A985.41.49

In 1907 Oshawa’s first official stand alone post office was opened on the northeast corner of Ontario Street and King Street East.  Custom offices were located on the second floor of the building and the third floor was a flat for the caretaker. The central post office remained at 40 King Street East until a new building was opened at 47 Simcoe Street South in 1954-1955.  The original Romanesque Revival style post office was demolished in 1957.

Colourized image of a three storey, red brick building with prominent central tower

 List of Postmasters in the Nineteenth Century:

NameAppointmentVacancyReason
Edward Skae1842-10-06
*Gavin Burns18531861-01-07Death
David Smith1861-01-011862-04-26Resignation
Fraser Keller1862-05-011866-10-24Resignation
David Smith1867-04-011877-11-07Death
James Carmichael1877-11-01Jun-03Death

* In 1851, authority for postal administration was transferred from the Imperial Government to the Province of Ontario.  Information prior to 1853 is not available through Canada Post Archives.


References:

Post Office file – Oshawa Museum Archival Collection

Details, published by Canada Post, April-June 2001

Postcard Educational Kit – Oshawa Museum

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