I am interested in learning more about Smith Potteries and to discover more about the “specialized pottery” made here in Oshawa. When I started at the Oshawa Museum in 2000, there were two pieces in the collection. This collection has grown to 37 pieces. Some of the acquired pieces have travelled back to Oshawa from as far away as the United Kingdom, purchased by visitors to the area as a memento of their time in Oshawa.
Smith Potteries’s production of a specialized semi-porcelain pottery, also known as white ware, made this company competitively successful with other countries, such as the United States, China, Great Britain, Japan, Germany, Sweden and Czechoslovakia. The white ware pottery was resilient and of fine quality.
Recently, the newspaper collection at the Oshawa Public Libraries was digitized and made available online. In the August 15, 1929 edition of The Oshawa Daily Times, there was an article titled, Substantial Industry Being Developed Just Outside City by H. Smith Potteries, which discussed a new two-storey addition and expansion of the business. The addition included a modern office, shipping and receiving room, and the second floor was used solely as the finishing room. The market term for wares created by Smith were known as “Velta Art Pottery.”
The article continues to describe the raw material used to produce these fine pieces. They are made with china clay [Kaolin], feldspar, and flint. These ingredients were carefully combined, strained through a screen to remove any impurities and stirred in a large mixer. The moulds were constructed of plaster, into which the liquid china was poured, and any remaining liquid was poured off. The moulds were placed in a warm oven where the heat shrank the pottery, allowing it to be separated from the mould. The pieces were then removed from the oven and mould and left to air dry. Once dry, the piece was placed in a kiln and subjected to a temperature of 2250 degrees for 24 hours, in a process called firing.
The article continues
Probably the most interesting phase is the finishing or painting of the article. In the H. Smith Potteries this is accomplished in a large bright room by five expert artists. Various designs are employed but each piece is hand painted. The colour schemes and designs are first planned by a talented designer… The articles are delicately shaped and tinted in exquisite colours. All the pieces including the lamp shades are designed right in Oshawa.
It is through this process that makes each piece held in the Oshawa Museum collection unique because they were all individually hand painted. Smith Potteries produced a range of products such as vases, bowls, candlesticks, lamp bases, ashtrays, and other souvenir novelties with hand painted designs.
The article also mentioned that the firm was in the process of manufacturing bases for the desk fountain pen sets for the Parker Duofold Co. This company is still around today under the name, The Parker Pen.
The Oshawa Museum is always looking to add more pieces made by Smith Potteries to the collection. If you have a piece of Smith Potteries that you are interested in donating, reach out to me through email email@example.com
By Mia Vujcic, Visitor Host When we are asked to share something about our heritage or ethnic background, food is often the first thing that springs to mind. In a number of previous blog posts, I explored different aspects of the research behind Leaving Home Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons and Stories of Immigration…
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…
By Sara H., Summer Student As my summer at the museum is wrapping up, it has been the perfect time to reflect on my time at the museum and how much I have learned about museums and Oshawa’s history. My last blog post talked about past industries in Oshawa that were featured on the Discover…
By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Coordinator In the early years of the twentieth century, a man named Jack O’Leary owned the New Lunch/O’Leary’s Restaurant at 37 King Street West in Oshawa – between the Commercial Hotel and the coal yards at Centre Street. Behind this small restaurant, a semi-permanent, Trabant/wipeout style of carnival ride existed, a…
By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Those who know me know that I’m an avid knitter. In fact, in the past I’ve written a blog post about a WWI Sock knitting pattern, I’ve examined some of Oshawa’s early woolen industries, and I’ve done a deep dive into one of those industries, the Empire Woolen Mills, available…
These were our top 5 posts written in 2022, however, for the FIFTH year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This post was originally written in 2016 and has been the top blog post every year since 2018. The desire to know about foot warmers and window coverings must be strong with our readers!
Thank you all for reading, thank you to the OM staff, students, and guest authors who helped create content for the blog, and we hope to see you again through 2023!
By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement Oshawa has one Catholic cemetery, St. Gregory’s, which is today located along Simcoe Street North, just north of Beatrice Street. It was originally located beside St. Gregory’s Church, around Simcoe St. N. and Adelaide (then Louisa), but was moved to its present location around 1893 to facilitate expansion of the…
By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement This is a slight departure for this regular blog series, but as it pertains to street history, I’ve lumped it with other blog posts about street histories. As one does (or, perhaps, as one with a huge interest in local history does), I was going through Oshawa’s historical newspapers, and…
By Melissa Cole, Curator Through the Great Depression and the Second World War, the harbour was a focal point of shipping for Oshawa, including huge supplies of coal, which was the primary means of heating homes in Oshawa during that time. In the 1930s the harbour continued to expand, and with the opening of the…
By Jill Passmore, Visitor Experience Co-ordinator In 1925, Rotarians in Oshawa were looking for a worthwhile service project. One of the suggestions was a new playground near the Oshawa Creek. In 1926, they purchased land with frontage on Centre Street for $2,000. In November 1926, local industrialist and philanthropist, J.D. Storie, donated an additional $2,000…
By Laura Suchan, Executive Director A receiving vault (sometimes called a dead house) was a structure designed to temporarily store the dead during the winter months when it was too difficult to dig graves by hand. When William Wells was exhumed in February 1895 from his grave in Union Cemetery, it took local gravediggers William…
These were our top 5 posts written in 2021, however, for the fourth year, our top viewed post was once again Keeping Warm: The Ways The Victorians Did! This streak is going strong for our Curator Melissa who wrote the post a number of years ago, but the post keeps bringing readers back!
Thank you all for reading, and we hope to see you again in 2022!
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.
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 Maps – Fire 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.
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.
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!
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.