An Oshawa Yuletide

Amid the global pandemic, the Oshawa Museum realized holiday programming would look very different this year. We saw this as an opportunity to try something new and creative, and, in partnership with Oshawa based Empty Cup Media, we are excited to announce the premiere of An Oshawa Yuletide.

This short film, created in considerations of COVID-19 restrictions, celebrates the magic of a traditional Victorian Christmas experience! Follow Mary Cameron along as she helps the Henry family prepare for their Christmas celebrations in Victorian Oshawa.

“The OM made the difficult decision to cancel one of our most anticipated events of the year, the Annual Lamplight Tour,” says Oshawa Museum Executive Director Laura Suchan. “Christmas has always been a favourite time at the Oshawa Museum, and the spirit of this holiday is perfectly captured in An Oshawa Yuletide. We are very proud of this film and what was created by Colin Burwell of Empty Cup Media.”

The Oshawa Museum is pleased to present this short film to the community, and we hope you enjoy the film as much as we do.

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Implicit Bias and the OM’s Archival Collection

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

What is implicit bias? 

The Kirwan Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnicity at Ohio State  University defines it as such: also known as implicit social cognition, implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner.  These biases, which encompass both favorable and unfavorable assessments, are activated involuntarily and without an individual’s awareness or intentional control. 

I have previously written about implicit bias in the development of the Oshawa Museum’s archival collection.  At that time, I was looking at how absences in the collection due to the implicit bias of those collecting has created an incomplete history of our community. The collection contains a great deal related to early industrialists, politicians, and the wealthy, with little related to the everyday person, women, or people of colour. This is true of archival collections across Canada and the Western world. It has been recognized, and archivists are working to address the issue and find ways to develop collections that better represent the entirety of our communities.

It wasn’t until this past summer that I became aware of a bias of my own.  I was working through the Lowry Collection, an amazing series of photographs of Lakeview Park during the 1930s that also happens to be one of our most racially and ethnically diverse photograph collections, that I finally noticed an issue with our database descriptions.

The photograph I was looking at was one of my favourites.  It shows a young couple, hand-in-hand, posing for the camera.  In the shadows you can see the outline of the photographer holding their brownie camera, and the popularity of the park is seen all around the subjects.  The photograph is unusual, particularly for the time period, in that it is a young Black man and a young white woman holding hands. This is where I finally took note of something I should have noted long before. 

A996.20.194

The description is as follows: “B&W photo removed from a damaged photo album. Image is of a young African-Canadian and a young woman standing beside one another. The man is wearing a white hat and shirt and dark trousers and sweater. The young woman is wearing a long white coat. The shadow of the photographer is visible. Lakeview Park. Circa 1930s”.

Do you see the implicit bias?  The assumption made that, unless otherwise noted, the people in the images are white. This is an example of implicit bias by the author of the database notation, and it is throughout the accession record for this collection and the entire archival collection.

As part of our work in the archival field, archivists are working to examine archival descriptions for implicit bias, or in some cases outright racism, and begin the work to remove the bias and make the descriptions inclusive. In fact, as part of the programme committee for the 2021 Archives Association of Ontario Conference, I had the privilege of reading several paper proposals examining this issue within different institutions and how they are working to address it.

As for me, I began addressing this starting with the Lowry Collection. Archival descriptions will be edited to remove the implicit bias, and a notation that the description has been changed and the reasoning behind the editing process added to the record.

The Month That Was – December 1867

All articles originally appeared in The Oshawa Vindicator

Please note – there are two articles, transcribed as they appeared in 1867, describing the grim death of a woman.


December 4, 1867
Page 1
A man in Toledo, Ohio, lost his wife by death at nine o’clock in the forenoon, at three o’clock in the afternoon he buried her, and at six o’clock in the evening he was married again.

Page 2
A monster hotel will be put up at Niagara next summer – Canadian side

Five hundred thousand dollars changed hands on the recent New York election

The health of Mr. McGee – We learn that Mr. McGee still continues in very ill health.  He is quite unable to take his seat in the Commons in consequence of ulceration of the ankle.  His general health is very much depressed, and though advised by his medical attendants to take stimulants to keep him up, he nevertheless refuses to act upon that advice. Under these circumstances his recovery cannot be expected to take place very rapidly.  Indeed, it is questionable whether he will be able to attend to his parliamentary duties again be the adjournment.
*This article appears to be referring to Thomas D’Arcy McGee, Father of Confederation, and the first of two Canadian political assassinations.

Mechanics Institute – on Friday evening last a sale of the periodicals for the current year was held.  Owing to the inclemency of the weather the attendance was not as large as would otherwise have been the case.  A portion only of the magazines and papers were sold, and these conditionally.  They will again be offered for sale tomorrow night. Any one not present at the last meeting will have an opportunity then to purchase any o the large number of periodicals on the list of the Institute. Those who desire to obtain the [cream] of the literature of the day at about one-half the price that they would otherwise have to pay should not fail to be present tomorrow evening at eight. A meeting of the general committee is called for seven the same evening.

The Hall Works – In order to wind up the estate of the late Joseph Hall, these extensive premises will be sold by auction on Wednesday next. The sale will be held on the premises at two o’clock. The whole of the machine shops, plant, &c., will be offered, forming one of the largest lots ever put up by auction in the Dominion.

December 4, 1867, page 2

December 11, 1867
Page 2
The Local Representation
The eligibility of Dr. McGill to a seat in the House of Assembly seems likely to create an owling amongst old and musty statues that will delight the heart of a chancery lawyer. The case has assumed complications unexpected at first sight. During the term of Mr. Mowat’s reign, over the post offices of the land, the Doctor was offered either a coronership or a magistracy, he chose the latter, and was so appointed. A year or so ago, at the solicitation of Mr. Gibbs, he was appointed a coroner. – But section 17 Cap. 100 of the consolidated Statues declare that no Coroner can be a Justice of the Peace. – The Doctor was a Justice before being a Coroner, and the question arises, does the latter invalidate the former office or vice versa. An old statute of Edward VI seems to favor the latter view. – We understand that this is the reason why Dr. McGill has received no fees for the inquest he held. Since his appointment, the Dr. has acted as a Justice of the Peace, consequently either his acts as a coroner or as a magistrate are illegal. The case may yet come before the Legislature for adjudication, and the probabilities are, there will be no election at least for some time.

December 11, 1867, page 1

Fire Alarms – On Friday evening, a fire alarm was rung. It was caused by a chimney in Pringle’s Hall being on fire. The flames were very fierce, and as the wind was very high, it for a time seemed dangerous, but it was soon put out. Shortly afterwards the chimney of Mr. Gurley caught fire. The gamins made a rush to get into the house, but Mr. Gurley knew better than that, and kept them out with his constable’s baton. Scarcely had this burned out when a chimney of Dr. Clarke’s house was discovered to be on fire. All burned themselves out without damage.

Enlargement – The congregation of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, Columbus, have made arrangements to enlarge their burial ground, and erect a new building for the Sabbath School, and also a new shed. Nearly the amounts required has been obtained, the members having subscribed very liberally.

Hotel Changes – Next spring, Mr. Pringle will move into the large new hotel now being erected by Dr. Eastwood on the old Arkland property. – Mr. Merritt has leased Woons’ hotel for a term of years and will move in when Mr. Pringle moves out.

December 11, 1867, page 2

December 18, 1867
Page 2
Frozen to Death
On Wednesday night last, about six o’clock, as a man on horseback, was going from Oshawa to Whitby, near Gadsby’s corners, he discovered a woman on the road side endeavouring to walk, but apparently unable to do so. He dismounted, picked up a bundle which he found near her, and endeavoured to lead her along. She was so benumbed with the cold that he found it impossible to get her along. He proceeded to Constable Campbell’s and notified him of the case of the unfortunate woman. The constable at once proceeded to the spot and found her speechless. He got her into Mrs. Gadsby’s hotel, but frozen as the woman was, Mrs. Gadsby refused to receive her into the house because she was colored. The constable, instead of compelling the heartless landlady to keep her, procured a cutter, put the already more than half-dead creature into it, and he and an assistant dragged her for two hours through the piercing cold of that bitter night about the streets of Whitby, seeking to obtain some place of shelter. At about midnight he got her into Spurrill’s hotel. Dr. Carson was sent for, but of course by this time the woman was frozen almost solid. He tried every remedy, but she died before morning. Such are but a portion of the facts of a case in which was manifested an utter absence of common sense and Christian charity, such as, for the credit of our civilization, seldom occurs. In the centre of a town, a human being, and that of a woman, freezes to death because no one would take her in!

Christmas Tree – A social entertainment in aid of the funds of the Sabbath School will be held in the Christian Church on Christmas Eve. One of the articles of the entertainment will be a Christmas Tree, the fruit of which will be distributed amongst the audience. Addresses will be delivered by several ministers and gentlemen of the town, and the choir and Sabbath School children will sing some of their choicest pieces. The admittance fee will be a voluntary offering at the door.

December 18, 1867, page 2

For sale.
The subscriber offers for sale, cheap, a DOUBLE PLEASURE SLEIGH, and a young Gray Horse.  Apply to John Hyland, Sen. Oshawa, Dec. 16, 1867.

December 18, 1867, page 3

Page 4
Removal – The subscriber begs to inform his customers that he has removed his Carriage Shop to Bond Street, west of H. Pedlar’s Stove and Tin Shop. Whilst returning thanks to his old customers, he hopes to retain their patronage. – Strict attention will be paid to repairing Buggies, Waggons, Sleighs, &c.; also general repairing.  J. Craig

December 25, 1867
Page 2
Dickens realized $20,000 out of his four readings in Boston.

Brazilian bug necklaces are becoming fashionable in New York.

Mr. and Mrs. Brown of Canaan, NY, have been arrested for killing their child to obtain an insurance of $85,000 on its life.

The Frozen Woman – The colored woman who was frozen to death at Whitby was named Johnson.  She had lived for some time near the lake shore, to the east of Oshawa. Some eight weeks since she came into town, and being homeless, Mr. Fletcher, the barber took her in. She left suddenly about four weeks ago, and for a time was unheard of, but after a few days she again returned, having, in the meantime, being living at an Indian camp four miles from Oshawa. She again disappeared and was not heard [from] until found frozen. The Town Council have properly resolved to investigate the circumstances of her death, and find out upon whose shoulders the responsibility rests. A special committee has been appointed for the purpose.

Christmas Cheer
We are pleased to note that the excellent idea initiated by Mr. Glen, of presenting each of his married employees with a Christmas Turkey, has been this year followed by Messrs. Whiting and Cowan. Over 120 birds were required to supply the two firms. The happy heads of the largest families were presented with the heaviest turkey, and we hope this will encourage the less fortunate paterfamilias, not to remain always in the receipt of the lesser gifts.

Earthquake – On Wednesday morning last, an earthquake was heard and felt throughout the eastern part of the Dominion and a portion of the northern part of the State of New York. A letter from Kingston under date of the 18th says: –

“At ten minutes to three o’clock this morning, I felt a tremulous motion of the earth and a loud rumbling noise, which continued about three minutes. I got up, for the bed and chamber furniture was in a state of vibratory motion. I looked, the air was clear and serene, and the rumbling sound appeared to die away to westward.”

The shock was slightly perceptible here, several persons having felt the trembling, and heard the noise. No damage was done at any place.

Provided for – Mr. Toms has for a second time provided the Vindicator Christmas dinner by presenting us with a pair of young toothsome turkeys, for which he has our best bow. It is comforting to think that even in this uncharitable age there remain some with tender hearts for the unfortunate.

December 25, 1867, page 3

Page 4
Lots for Sale.
The subscriber will sell by private sale, village lots on Centre and Avenue Street. Terms east. RG McGrigor. Oshawa, Nov 6th, 1867.

Henry Grandkids – Thomas Eben Blake Henry and “The Great Desire”

By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator

Originally, I intended this blog post to be about the life of Thomas Eben Blake Henry, the next in the planned series about Thomas Henry’s grandchildren. Initial research online confirmed all of the things we already knew from old family group sheets in the Oshawa Museum archival collection, coincidentally prepared by Ina Henry, T.E.B.’s first cousin and third wife. Further research specifically conducted on newspapers.com opened my eyes to a life that could never have been conveyed in census records and other information on Ancestry.com.

We knew that T.E.B. had been an actor based on the 1901 Census. He is listed as living at the family homestead in Darlington (today Clarington) with his parents, George and Polly, wife Mabel and daughter Lola. So presumably, he would be acting locally. But where? How do we find records from local theatres – there aren’t any in the OM collection? How do you identify actors in photos when most are in costume and makeup?

Knowing that T.E.B. ended up living in California near a number of other Henry cousins, I started a search on the newspapers.com, a large newspaper database, instead of communitydigitalarchives.com, which hosts our newspaper collection and a small number of other Ontario archival collections. Now, another problem cropped up. Under what name do I search? Fully, Thomas Eben Blake Henry is a unique name; but, without anecdotal evidence of a nickname or shortened name, researchers are usually at a loss and must come to the sad realization that you will have to explore every option of someone’s name – depending on how bad you want the information.

I did a lot of this research at home, during my out-of-office days, during this time of COVID-19. With internet connections not being good at the best of times, dialing in to access our work computers can be a bit of a nightmare. Remember the old dial-up days of the internet, with lagging conversations, getting frustrated and hitting buttons ten times only to have everything catch up and go crazy on your screen? It’s like that sometimes. So when I hit the jackpot with my T.E.B. research, I don’t remember exactly what it was that I had in my search options besides T.E.B. Henry. Like most discoveries though, I came about it somewhat accidentally. What I learned led me down a rabbit hole I wasn’t expecting.

The Atlanta Constitution wrote on June 27, 1910, “T.E.B. Henry has written a very promising play…will make good in stock or in the high-priced houses.” Set to open at the Bijou Theater in Knoxville, Tennessee in early September 1910, reviews poured in throughout major Tennessee newspapers.

Bijou Theater, c. 2010; ©Brian Stansberry, from wikipedia.com

“No expense spared for the elaborate scenic equipment,” “equal in this respect to any Broadway production,” and “the dialogue is crisp, pointed and direct in its natural simplicity,” claimed the Knoxville Sentinel.

The Chattanooga Daily Times said, “strong, vital play, full of realism, action and gripping situations,” and “it is said that every heart full of a deep purpose and desire will find a note of sympathy wrung from it by the direct personal appeal of the drama.” Meanwhile, the Chattanooga News wrote, “devoid of all lurid, clap-trap sensationalism…deep, absorbing heart interest and intense dramatic strength,” and “story is told vividly, directly and forcibly, carrying the audience through every scene with such realism as to make the pictures a living memory to all who see them.” Later, they also said, “the story is one in which pathos and humor are properly blended,” and “the scenery and effects have been especially prepared by Scenic Artist Charles DeFlesh, who declares that it is one of the best with which his name has ever been linked.”

The Bijou was hoping to draw in more people to see the play, having it open during the 1910 Appalachian Exposition, which ran from September 12 – October 12. The Exposition demonstrated progress in Southern industry and commerce and promoted conservation of natural resources. Former President of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, spoke at the Exposition, though it is unknown if he saw a performance of T.E.B’s The Great Desire.

The Chattanooga News, Chattanooga, Tennessee, Tue, Sep 06, 1910, Page 5.

A preview of the play attracted 3000 people on Monday, September 5, 1910. The play takes place in the Selkirk Mountains and “is symbolic of the eventual supremacy of the innate good or mankind over the lower and baser elements of its nature, attained through the intervention of a good man.” The Great Desire and its characters is actually based on T.E.B’s time spent in the Rocky Mountains at a mining camp sometime in the late 1880s or early 1890s. A synopsis provided by The Chattanooga News follows:

Roger McLeod, a frontier parson, a very similar parsonage to Ralph Conner’s creation, “The Sky Pilot,” visits an obscure hamlet in the Selkirk mountains in behalf of the propagation of Christianity. While engaged in his duties he falls in love with Lorraine LaRue, the daughter of Barton LaRue, over whom considerable mystery hangs, and who because of his silence upon [t]he subject enjoys the sobriquet of “Silent Barton.” The parson in the pursuit of his love-making incurs the wrath of Dan Boreland, a frontier suitor of Lorraine’s, and forces him before the latter’s eye to retract a statement he made in disparagement of Lorraine’s crippled sister Nellie.

After Boreland’s true character is shown, Lorraine repudiates him, and the interest in the plot is centered upon the outcome of a three-handed love affair between the parson and the two sisters, both of whom wish to renounce him for the other. In the last scene the crippled sister is killed by her own father in a wild frenzy occasioned by fear and superstition caused by the howling of a wolf before the door.

Upon her deathbed the girl unites the hearts of the parson and her sister, and her father and her mother. The latter had long existed in the woods as a witch, though supposed to be dead by LaRue, he having struck her in a fit similar to the one in which he killed his daughter.

An ad from the (Louisville, KY) Courier-Journal on September 18, 1910 described the play as “a thrilling tale of life in the northwest.” Evening performances cost – 15¢, 25¢, 50¢, and 75¢, while matinees on Tuesday, Thursday, or Saturday were 25¢.

It’s unknown at this time if the play toured and was shown at any other theatres.

Engaging Volunteers at Home

By Dylan C., MMC Intern

As a result of the pandemic, volunteers have not been able to return in person to the Oshawa Museum. By not being able to come into the museum, they lose the social aspect of their volunteer experience which is the biggest motivator for some.  The museum has been looking for ways to keep their volunteers engaged at home. One proposed way of keeping volunteers engaged is through the audio transcription of oral histories. But if audio transcription is going to be one of the main ways to keep volunteers engaged from home during this pandemic, then the question becomes how do we incorporate and infuse that process with a social component? One theory of mine includes hosting online discussions through zoom or other web-based programs, where volunteers can discuss what they have learned from completing the transcription. They can talk about the process of transcribing itself or discuss the history that they have learned from hearing the voices of the past.

The first transcription I worked on was an oral history from a gentleman named Wardy Pankhurst who was a life long resident of Oshawa that was born in the early 1900s. (We’ve written at length about the Pankhurst family on the blog – read through past articles HERE) I learned very quickly that I could barely understand what he was talking about between the poor audio quality and the lack of knowledge that I had in regards to Oshawa’s past. It wasn’t until I did a bit of digging myself when I began to understand what were the places and people he was referencing. For example, he is hard to hear, understandably being an elderly man born at the turn of the century, coupled with the fact he refers to places and people as if it is common knowledge, which of course would have been if you were alive during his time or if you are well versed in Oshawa history. The first word or rather name that he kept bringing up when referencing to his work past was Malleable. I could not make out what he was trying to say, so I had to ask my dad to see if he could hear because at first, I could not even distinguish what word he was trying to say. After deciphering the word “malleable,” I then still found myself in the dark. After a quick google search I found out that he was referring to the Ontario Malleable Steel Company and then all of a sudden, the entire context of what he was talking about came to fruition. It connected his tales about working for the McLaughlin’s, to travelling south of the border to Detroit then coming back to Oshawa to sell his services to the highest bidder. Doing this research to simply understand the story he was trying to tell gave me the idea that audio transcription can be more than simply turning speech into text. It could be a rewarding experience that turns social transcribers into an amateur research team that seeks to learn more about the history of Oshawa.

The second part of this is that you could turn the finished and researched transcriptions into mini history resources if you will, that have hyperlinks incorporated in them so if someone wants to read the transcription and has questions about certain topics discussed they could simply click on the highlighted word that takes them to a web page on the subject.

This mixture of independent work with a social meeting aspect may help to keep volunteers engaged even if they are restricted to their own homes. However, it is impossible to replace the in-person social aspects of volunteering but this idea gives some food for thought and perhaps gives us an avenue to engage and stay connected during these unprecedented times.


To hear Ward’s memories as relayed by him, take a listen to our video podcast:


The audio transcription project is being facilitated over our Google Drive – volunteers can sign up for which audio file they want to work on, and the MP3s are accessible from that same online folder.

If you are interested in helping with this project, please email Lisa at membership@oshawamuseum.org