Oshawa’s Newspapers, Past and Present

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

Preparing for our latest Sunday FUNday event at the Oshawa Museum, our first in person event since February 2020, brought me down the rabbit hole of newspapers. To celebrate Archives Awareness Week, I wanted the Sunday FUNday to be archives related, so newspapers were a good theme. We were able to bring out copies of papers from the education collection and I went Live on Facebook to talk about newspapers. Here’s a little of what I learned while getting ready for the livestream.

According to amateur historian, Samuel Pedlar, there have been newspapers in our community since the 1840s. His unpublished manuscript claimed that the earliest paper in our community was The Luminary, a Christian paper which started around 1844. Following it was a paper called The Literary Newsletter which started around 1848 and published by Oliphant and White. A name change to The Oshawa Reformer took place in 1850. According to Pedlar, “Its motto ‘cheap Government and trustworthy officials’ would indicate its purpose.” It is unknown when both of these papers ceased publishing. The 1877 County of Ontario Atlas made note of The Tribune and The Friendly Moralist, two papers they claimed to have been printed in Oshawa.

Around 1851, a new paper came onto the scene with The Oshawa Freeman, and shareholders in this paper included well known names: Dr. William McGill, Abram Farewell, Thos. N. Gibbs, and G.H. Grierson.

It appears most of these papers were short lived, but the next paper to establish itself in our community was around for decades.

Due to a fire at the Oshawa Times in 1971, the earliest archives of The Oshawa Vindicator were lost. It is unknown exactly when it started, as many sources give a different year, but it is safe to say that in the mid-1850s, James E. McMillan and James Luke purchased interests in The Oshawa Freeman; McMillan’s interests were purchased by WH Orr, and a new enterprise called The Oshawa Vindicator began. All was not lost for the Vindicator, thankfully, as issues through the 1860s were preserved on microfilm. These issues can be read online from our partner, Canadian Community Digital Archives.

The Vindicator operated with a conservative slant and supported conservative candidates and politics. In 1866, Orr was bought out by John S. Larke, and the paper ended up having a number of different owners through the years until it ultimately ceased publishing in 1917.

Offering the opposing liberal viewpoint to Oshawa readers was the Ontario Reformer. Under the direction of Mr. Climie of Bowmanville, the first issue was published in 1871. For a short time, Luke and Larke operated both the Reformer and the Vindicator until Mr. Mundy purchased the Reformer in the late 1870s.

The Reformer went through a number of name changes through the years, most notably when they became the Oshawa Daily Times in 1927. An amalgamation with the Whitby Gazette and Chronicle in 1942 resulted in the name change to The Oshawa Time Gazette, and a number of years later, the name was shortened to simply The Oshawa Times. In 1994, a labour strike impacted the paper, and this, in conjunction with the paper operating at a deficit for a number of years, led to the closure in 1994.

The oldest paper still operating today is This Week. It started in 1970 by Peter Brouwer, and through different mergers and changes, it is published today on a weekly basis by Metroland Durham Region Media Group.

From 2005 to late 2021, there had also been The Oshawa Express, another weekly paper. In late 2020, they shifted from in-print/online to a solely online news source, but there does not appear to be any new updates on their website since Fall 2021.

If you wanted to read through the historic newspapers, our microfilm collection to the 1930s and physical newspapers have been digitized and are available to read online: http://communitydigitalarchives.com/

As well, one of my favourite columns to research is The Month That Was, where we look at what was making the newspapers for a given month and year, and we publish them on this blog – you can read through the past articles by exploring the Month That Was category.


Sources

Samuel Pedlar’s unpublished manuscript

Oshawa: Canada’s Motor City, M. McIntyre Hood, 1967

DurhamRegion.com and Northumberlandnews.com About Us https://www.durhamregion.com/community-static/3839840-durhamregion-com-about-us/

This Week, 16 June 1993 – Obituary Peter Brouwer: Founder of This Week

Oshawa Express website

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.

Archives Awareness Week – Archives A to Z

Throughout March 2021, Archives took to Twitter and shared their collections from A to Z. Never one to skip social media trends, the Oshawa Museum played along with the daily #ArchivesAtoZ prompt and were excited to showcase our collection.

Here is our round up of #ArchivesAtoZ:

A is for Audio – our collection contains documents, photographs, and many hours of audio interviews! Through the pandemic, at home volunteers have been working to transcribe these audio files, making them accessible and simpler for searching!

B is for Boxes – Hollinger Boxes, to be precise. The majority of our collection is stored inside these boxes, organized by by subject, collection, or Fonds. Designed for long-term storage, they were LIFE SAVERS (or, I guess, collection savers, in the 2003 Guy House Fire.

C is for Collections – Our archival holdings have a number of collections. A favourite is the Dowsley photograph collection, a series of photo donations, images taken by Mr Dowsley through the years. It is a wonderful documentation of Oshawa through the last few decades.

Bruce Street, east of Drew taken in 1990 (Dowsley Collection, A016.10.198)

D is for Digitization – A focus within the archival field for well over a decade, the purpose of digitization is two fold: preservation and access. In one of our podcasts, our archivist looks into the process of digitizing the archives for access.

E is for Exhibit – We have a number of online exhibitions, featuring the archival collection. One of our newest was to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Lakeview Park: https://lakeviewparkoshawa.wordpress.com/

F is for Fire Insurance MapsFire Insurance Maps are one of those hidden gems within an archives as they can help a wide variety of researchers. These incredibly maps show the footprints of the buildings that existed at the time the map was created, and their original purpose was to assist insurance underwriters with determining risk when assessing insurance rates.

G is for Granny – Perhaps one of our largest archival items, the portrait of Harriet Cock. We often just call her Granny. It was donated just over a decade ago, & after some restoration and reframing, she has been on display in Guy House since 2012.

H is for House – One of our commonly asked questions is how to research the history of your house. We partnered with Heritage Oshawa and developed a guide with helpful steps on how to do this research: https://oshawahistoricalsociety.files.wordpress.com/2019/03/researching-your-house.pdf

I is for Immigration – We have been actively seeking to fill gaps in the collection, and our Displaced Persons Project came from this. We have been collecting oral histories of people who immigrated after WWII for several years now, and these stories will not only become an important part of the archival collection, they will also form the basis of an exhibition we plan on opening Summer 2021: https://oshawaimmigrationstories.weebly.com/

J is for Jennifer – Meet our archivist, Jennifer Weymark. She’s been part of the OM team since 1999 and the archivist since 2000. She manages the archival collection and ensures this information is preserved and made available to those interested in researching.

K is for King St – This is what Oshawa calls our section of Highway 2, and the story of King Street has been whimsically painted by local artist Eric Sangwine. His paintings, depicting his interpretations of local history, are a beloved part of our archival holdings.

L is for Letters – Our 2013 donation of letters, photographs, & receipts, all relating to Thomas Henry, helped us better understand one of the patriarchs of our Museum buildings. The letters formed the basis of a book, To Cast a Reflection: The Henry Family in their Own Words, and this book can be bought from our online store.

M is for Marriage Certificate – This was included in the 2013 Thomas Henry donation; he was a witness for this marriage. It was received at the same time that our research into Oshawa’s early Black History was underway. This marriage between George Dunbar and Mary Andrews was interracial, and Mary’s family was one of two Black families who settled in Oshawa in the 1850s. Research through documentary evidence has helped us to better understand the history of early Black settlers in the area and has helped us to share this important aspect of our history. While we work to fill in the gaps left by earlier collecting practices, we are also working to tell the histories that were lost in that gap. Items like the marriage certificate are a part of work.

N is for Newspapers – Our collection of early Oshawa newspapers were digitized and made available to researchers: http://communitydigitalarchives.com/newspapers.html

*These newspapers also are the resource used for the blog series: The Month That Was

O is for Oshawa – Oshawa is our mandate, to collect the history of our city from the earliest Indigenous inhabitants to present day.

P is for Photographs – Our collection is over 10,000 images & growing yearly! Photos help us understand how our community has changed, and what events & experiences were like. Our oldest images are from the c. 1860s, and our newest are the COVID-19 pandemic.

Q is for Query – Does your research have you wondering about something in Oshawa’s past? Contact our archivist with your query and we’ll do our best to help!

R is for Robson – Robson Leather was an industry in our community for almost a century. Did you know that during WWI, 70% of all upper leathers for the Canadian Expeditionary Force were produced at Robson? Learn more: https://industryinoshawa.wordpress.com/tanneries/robson-tannery/

S is for Storage – We underwent a large storage upgrade project in 2012, improving our storage room and shelving. While this project was incredibly beneficial and allowed us to increase our collecting capabilities, it was a band-aid for the larger issue we’ve faced at the Oshawa Museum for decades. We are at capacity and are in need of a purpose built museum facility to allow us to continue to collecting Oshawa’s history and open that collection up to researchers.

T is for Telegram – This is part of a special collection of correspondence of a man named William Garrow. He enlisted in 1915 & wrote letters to his sisters at home. His family received this telegram, notifying of his death in June 1916. https://lettersfromthetrenches.wordpress.com/

U is for Union Cemetery, a decades old partnership. We offer walking tours of Union, researched using archival resources. In the 1980s, the Durham OGS Chapter transcribed headstones in that cemetery, and copies of those transcriptions are part of the collection.

V is for Vacuum – Why Vacuum? We have a small vacuum that we’ll use for very carefully cleaning the spines of books.

W is for Weights – We have weights in the archives which helps our archivist hold down documents when working on them.

X is for eXamination – X is hard, ok… BUT examination of documents and photographs are an important part of archival work. In this video, Jennifer works out the critical thinking examination she uses for photographs:

Y is for Yacht Club – In 2014, our exhibit was Reflections of Oshawa, a community rooted exhibit, and one participant, Linda, shared her memorabilia from the Oshawa Yacht Club.

Z is for Zoom, the NEW way to meet the archivist! If you’re an educator and would like to book a Q & A with Jennifer, let us know! We want to help however we can with these new ways of learning.

Researching Our Collections

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

In 2002, a donation arrived in the archives related to a gentleman by the name of Jack Humphreys.  At the time, what drew me to the collection were the images of Camp Samac, the Boy Scout camp located in north Oshawa. The images showed the camp during the 1940s from the perspective of the campers and was a gap in the collection.  The collection was also interesting in that Mr. Humphreys was feted in Oshawa for several years for being the oldest citizen in the City.

a002922
A002.9.22

In November 2019, I came across a caption in the Toronto Star noting that Mr. Humphreys was a veteran of two wars: the Boer War and World War I. Immediately after reading this, I went back to the collection to see what more I could learn about this aspect of Mr.  Humphreys. What I found was a fascinating life, a story about bravery, potentially tall tales and a long life lived to its fullest.

Learning more about the life and adventures of Mr. Humphreys was amazing and highlighted the unending opportunities for research offered by archival and curatorial collections. In an ideal world, when the collection arrived at the archives in 2002, it would have been researched during or shortly after the processing of the collection, and a finding aid developed. However, given the size of staff in our archives and curatorial departments, one in each, the vast majority of collection research occurs in relation to research requests or exhibit development.

In this case, further research into the collection was due to a happy accident when I bumped into the caption. This research was then used to write a short article looking into the extraordinary life of Mr. Humphreys. Collection research also forms the basis of finding aids and resources to make searching the archival collection easier for researchers.

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Even collections that have been fairly well researched offer opportunities to learn more and to add further context. For example, the correspondence of Pvt. Garrow has been well researched.  The World War I correspondence collection has been transcribed, a finding aid created for it and an online exhibit sharing the collection is available through the Museum’s website.  This research actually connected with research I was doing into early Black history in Oshawa.  It turns out that both Garrow and Albert Pankhurst were at the Battle of Mount Sorrel. This connection has added further context to Garrow’s letters and helped to better understand the enormity of the battle.

Collection research is a vital part of life in an archives or museum. It provides context and provenance.  Research shows connections between collections and artefacts. It can make a collection of photographs showing life at Camp Samac fit into the story of the Boer War and World War I.

Archives Awareness Week: 1867/1967

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

This article originally appeared on the Durham Region Area Archives Group website to celebrate Archives Awareness Week. This annual event, held across Ontario from April 3-9, 2017, is designed to raise awareness of the many resources that can be found in archival collections around the province.


This year marks the 150th Anniversary of Confederation. The year will be filled with celebrations, retrospection and imagining where this country will be in another 150 years. To begin the celebration, member institutions of DRAAG have looked through their holdings to find the most interesting item from 1867 and 1967 in their collections!

On August 26, 1867 an Oshawa resident by the name of T.N. Gibbs received a telegram from John A. Macdonald.  The telegram is rather significant, not only because it was sent by Canada’s first Prime Minister, but it talks about the first election after Confederation.

Gibbs was not new to politics but this election would be his most notable. He ran against Reformer backed George Brown and Liberal John Sandfield Macdonald.  While Gibbs won, it was widely accepted that he do so by corrupt practices.

Gibbs was the only successful Conservative candidate in this area.  This meant that he acted as the local confidante for Sir John A. Macdonald. So much so, that we have another little note sent to Gibbs by Macdonald in our collection.

A960.19.5
A960.19.5 (60-D-19); from the archival collection of the Oshawa Museum

Canada celebrated the 100th Anniversary of Confederation on a large scale. Locally, Oshawa joined in on the celebrations as well. Between beard growing contests, NHL exhibition games and special performances, the City marked the anniversary in a prominent way. Students in Oshawa schools spent a good part of the school year preparing for a Centennial Celebration held at the Civic Auditorium. The program included songs and dances, art work and projects that highlighted the differences between life in Oshawa in 1867 and 1967. The grade 7 and 8 students from E.A. Lovell School actually put on a performance showing the differences in physical training in 1867 and 1967. In the archives, we have the binder that was developed to outline all of the activities Oshawa schools engaged in related to the Centennial.

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Be sure to visit the Durham Region Area Archives Group website to see what gems are in archives from around our Region and to learn more about local archives!

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