Quilt Stories, Part III

This quilt story has a special meaning to me because I found my own family history on this quilt!

990.21.1 - South Oshawa Methodist Church Autograph Quilt, c. 1914
990.21.1 – South Oshawa Methodist Church Autograph Quilt, c. 1914

First, about the quilt.  This autograph quilt features over 200 names embroidered on it.  It was made c. 1914 as a fundraiser for the South Oshawa Methodist Church.  The church later went by the name Albert Street Methodist (United) Church.  For a dime, a name could be embroidered on the quilt.

In the centre of the quilt is an embroidered picture of the South Oshawa Methodist Church, and the quilt is red and cream in colour.  The quilt has been completed with the hourglass or broken dish pattern.

The original Albert Street United Church, from the Ontario Reformer, June 30, 1927
The original Albert Street United Church, from the Ontario Reformer, June 30, 1927

The church was established in 1910, operating as the South Oshawa Mission of the Methodist Church.  A small, white building was erected for this new mission in 1914, and it served the congregation until 1928 when a new building was erected at the southwest corner of Albert Street and Olive Avenue.  This building is still standing, however the Albert Street United Church closed in 1996, amalgamating with the Centennial United Church to become the Centennial-Albert United Church.  This church was described by Rev. Pogue as “a typical working class church, very family oriented, that’s what made it really strong.”

990.21.1 - Detail of quilt showing the name of Mr. G. Trainer
990.21.1 – Detail of quilt showing the name of Mr. G. Trainer

As I mentioned, names were embroidered on the quilt for 10 cents.  One of the names embroidered near the top is ‘Mr. G. Trainer.’  My grandfather was married twice; his second wife, my beloved Grandma, was born and raised in Oshawa, around St. Lawrence Street.  Her father, George Trainer, was a local barber.  He also supported the South Oshawa Methodist Church in 1914 as his name was found on this autograph quilt!  I never expected to find a little touch of my family on any of the quilts in the Oshawa Community Museum Collection, and I was quite surprised when I found this name among hundreds others.

George Trainer, a local barber in Oshawa
George Trainer, a local barber in Oshawa

‘Lest we forget – the quilters!  God bless them! They sew and sew and sew some more to fill orders for beautiful quilts.  They also raise a lot of money thereby!” – Memories of Albert Street United Church, 1990, Oshawa Community Archives.

Quilt Stories, Part II

The Oshawa Community Museum has roughly 50-70 quilts in the collection, and as of today, March 11, there are less than 10 that need to be photographed and catalogued!  This month long project is coming to a close.  It isn’t until the quilts are carefully unwrapped and unfolded that their stories are able to be fully told.  For some quilts, unfortunately, we have little information about them. They are beautifully pieced together, with a great amount of care and attention, but little information was available when they were donated to the site.  Other quilts, well, they tell stories all of their own.

There are some quilts in our collection with their history literally recorded on them.  These are our signature quilts which are simply fascinating to look at.  They are quite a bit of work to catalogue because every name on the quilt gets written down and recorded.  Some quilts have 40-50 names embroidered on them, and there was another example which had over 200 names!  This one quilt has an interesting story that I’ll share another day.

966.14.1 - Friendship Block Autograph Quilt
966.14.1 – Friendship Block Autograph Quilt

There are two quilts in our collection which are ‘mates.’  The first was donated in the 1960s and the second was donated in the late 1970s.  They feature a ‘Friendship Block’ pattern, with names embroidered in red in the centre.  Many names repeat on both quilts.  When the second quilt was donated in 1979, the donor included a history of the quilts, as follows:

May Douglas Keddie and our mother May Farewell (Mrs Everson) were very close chums as girls and they each made an autograph quilt which their mothers Mrs Keddie and Mrs AW Farewell quilted for them in 1885.  Before she died my mother gave me hers and later she gave me May Keddie’s – which Jean Keddie had given her after May Keddie died.  Some years later mother agreed that Helen should have her aunt’s [May Keddie’s] quilt.  She was very happy to have it but later I saw in the paper that she has presented it to the Oshawa museum.  I have talked to my daughters and to my sisters and the agree with me that our mother’s quilt be put in the museum in Oshawa and that we ask you to but the two quilts near together.

979.54.1 - Friendship Block Autograph Quilt
979.54.1 – Friendship Block Autograph Quilt

Both quilts are now photographed, catalogued, and are stored right beside each other.

The Month That Was… March 1922

From the Oshawa Daily Reformer

Thursday March 2, 1922:

Daughter Had to help Mother

-Now can do all her housework alone because Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable compound helped her.

Jasper, Minn, – “I saw in the paper about Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound and took it because I was having such pains in my stomach and through my back that I could not do my work. I had tried other medicines, but none did me the good that your Vegetable Compound did. Now I am able to do all my work alone while before I had my daughter staying at home to do it. I have told a number of friends what it has done for me and give you permission to use my letter as a testimonial.” – Mrs. Jesse Patterson

There is no better reason for your trying Lydia E. Pinkham’s Vegetable Compound than this- it has helped other women. So if you suffer from displacements, irregularities, backache, nervousness or are passing through the Changes of Life remember this splendid medicine. What it did for Mrs. Patterson it may do for you.

Good time For Walking

Providence Journal: Spring and the late autumn are undoubtedly the most popular seasons for walking. But at this time of the year when the snow crunches with weird sounds under the heel and the winter wind has a vigor-stirring sting in it, the walker may experience joys that have a meaning all their own. The man who walks the trodden and untrodden paths these days for the love of it need not worry much about his health.

Women are Against Travelling Carnivals

The Local Council of Women in a letter to the town Council Tuesday evening at the special meeting, heartily endorsed the stand taken by Chief of Police Friend a few weeks ago regarding the banning from the town of travelling carnivals.

The ladies asked the Town Council to endorse the stand taken by the chief, pointing out that not only did these carnivals take away a lot of money from the town and leave very little behind, but they also had an evil influence. The letter was referred by the council to the License Committee.

Saturday March 4, 1922:

Train Derailed At Whitby Today

Passengers from Oshawa intending to take the 2.50 G.T.R train points east had a long wait this afternoon.

A freight train was derailed at Whitby early in the afternoon, and the cars blocked all east bound traffic. At 4.30 o’clock this afternoon local G.T.R officials ‘had no idea when the track would be cleared, or when the passenger train would arrive. The non-arrival of the train also caused inconvenience to The reformer and delayed publication of the paper, as cuts intended for today’s paper were expected in the Toronto mail.

 

Editorial Comment

Even in the age of the women citizen one of the surest approaches to the male heart is the “line” that begins : “Oh, Mr. Jones, I don’t know a thing about politics, so won’t you please tell me what you think?”

Tuesday March 7, 1922:

Coming events

-Irish Concert March 17, Regent Theatre

-Engel’s Bargain Basement, opens Thursday morning with sensational bargains

-The Adanac Orchestra are holding a dance next Friday night in the Engel’s Assembly Hall

-Scientific Palmist – has read the hands of hundreds of distinguished people. Here all this week. Central Hotel, Room 6, hours 10 to 9: terms $1.00

Tuesday March 14, 1922:

 Presented Bride With Casserole

Gathered together at the home of Mrs. William Questard, Whiting Ave., last Wednesday evening, and presented her with a beautiful casserole on the occasion of her marriage to Mr. Questard on March 4.

Wednesday evening was most enjoyable spent, whist being played part of the evening, for which prizes were given for the highest and lowest scores and the prize winners were Mrs. Chas. Holder, ladies first, and Mr. H. Carter, gentlemen’s first, and the ladies lowest prize was won by Mrs. Lottie Thompson and the gentlemen’s lowest went to Mr. Chas. Tuson. Afterwards a nice lunch was served by Mrs. Questard and the evening finished up with a few songs.

Automotive Industry: In the Words of Col. R.S. McLaughlin

img-3011221-0001I recently came across a fascinating magazine in our archival collection.  The magazine, entitled The Canadian Military Journal featured a lengthy article on Col. Sam to celebrate his 100th birthday.

What stood out in the article were quotes from Col. Sam regarding the birth of the auto industry here in Oshawa.  The development of the auto industry in Oshawa has been well documented but this is a truly unique view from the man who played such a pivotal role.

“The day before I had wired William C. Durant, head of the young Buick company in Flint, Mich., to ask for help. The McLaughlin automobile, which we had started to make ourselves after I had failed to arrive at a co-operative manufacturing arrangement with Durant and other U.S. car makers, had run into trouble. Two days before, with the parts of our first car laid out ready for assembly – and the components of one hundred more in various stages of completion – our engineer had suffered a severe attack of pleurisy. In my wire I asked Durant to lend us an engineer until our own man recovered.

Durant arrived in Oshawa not with an engineer but with two of his top executives. He took up the discussion of our last meeting – when we had failed to get together on a manufacturing arrangement – Justas if we had merely paused for breath. “I’ve been thinking it over,” he said, “and I have the solution to the problem we couldn’t overcome in our figuring.” The deal he suggested was pretty close to what I had in mind in the first place, and I said : “ That will work.”  Durant nodded. “I thought it would,” he said, in that voice of his that was always so gentle – and always so much to the point.

We went into my father’s office with my brother George and Oliver Hezzelwood, who looked after our books, and in five minutes we had the contract settled. It ran just a page and a half and was a model agreement for lawyers to study. Chiefly it covered the terms under which we had 15-year rights to buy the Buick engine and some other parts. We could build and design out own bodies.”

What a defining moment in Oshawa’s history.  I was left wondering what could have been if the engineer hadn’t gotten sick or if Durant had sent only an engineer.  Would the McLaughlin automobile have succeeded without the Buick engine or would it have been amongst the many car companies that came and went?

Moments such as this, from those who lived it, are what make the study of history so fascinating.

Quilt Stories, pt.1

In early 2013, our museum was thrilled to learn that we received a Museum and Technology Fund Grant which would go towards digitizing Henry House.  In anticipation of our summer exhibit Common Threads: Stories from our Quilt Collection, the first artefacts to be cataloged, photographed, and digitized were our quilts!  The museum has over 75 quilts in the collection, and photographing these large artefacts has proven to be quite the challenge.

The first step was finding space to photograph the artefacts, and the upper floor of Henry House, which is off limits to the public and therefore limited traffic, proved to be an ideal space.  The entire floor area in one room, with grey photographer’s paper laying against the carpet, became the photographic studio.

The upstairs of Henry House, with our quilt photography studio set up
The upstairs of Henry House, with our quilt photography studio set up

The next challenge we needed to face was how we were going to get the picture we wanted!  Before undertaking this project, we researched how other sites photographed their large textiles, and we had a clear idea of what we liked and what we didn’t like.  Photographing our own quilts at first was a trial and error process, seeing what worked, what didn’t, and what technique got us the image we were looking for.

What technique worked for our quilts?  A camera, on a tripod, on top of a ladder.  It sounds elaborate, but we were happy with how the images were turning out.

Our set-up for photographing large quilts.
Our set-up for photographing large quilts.

We’re also trying our best to ensure we capture the whole quilt, as well as an image with the back, because quite often the fabrics on the back are quite detailed.

971.1.5_1
The front of a ‘log cabin’ patterned quilt
A 'log cabin' quilt, with the back fabric showing
A ‘log cabin’ quilt, with the back fabric showing

In the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing posts about the quilts in our collection, the patterns used, and the stories that are associated with the quilt.  This was simply the story behind the story.  Please be sure to check back often!