Last fall, we were approached by our longtime partner, CLOCA, to participate in their Durham Children’s Watershed Festival, which shifted to online and virtual due to the pandemic. This festival is designed to for students to engage with “activities that address water conservation, water protection and the preservation of the natural environment in a fun, hands-on and interactive way. Students will learn how many of their everyday needs and choices affect interrelationships within the natural environment and their watershed community.”
When asked about contributing with a historical spin, our minds went to the fact that Victorian homes did not have indoor plumbing. Modern homes have modern bathrooms and toilets, but search as you might, a ‘bathroom’ will not be found inside Henry House. When I give tours, it’s with delight that I share that the Henrys had an ‘ensuite’ – in the corner of the bedroom, we have a washstand, water pitcher, and a chamber pot.
Chamber pots were a portable toilet, meant for nighttime use in the bedroom. Many kids will greet this artefact with a wonderful ‘ewwwww,’ but then I ask them, if it was the middle of the winter, middle of the night, would you want to get all dressed up to use the outhouse outside, or would you rather use your chamber pot? It’s often an ‘aha’ moment as they think about it and realize the convenience that the chamber pot provided.
Chamber pots were common in many cultures before the advent of indoor plumbing and flushing toilets and may still be used in places where there isn’t indoor plumbing.
We have a few examples of chamber pots and commodes in the OM collection. The one which is on display in the bedroom has a crochet cover for the lid, and this helps dampen any noise from the clattering of the porcelain – a wonderful addition if there were any roommates not wishing to be awoken by the lid.
Another interesting example is the commode – it features a lid for discrete chamber pot storage. The top of the lid has a wonderful embroidery, rather decorative when closed, and it lifts for easy access to the chamber pot nestled within.
Thank you again to CLOCA for inviting us to participate in your virtual festival!
Enjoy the video we put together all about the Chamber Pot
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.
“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.
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.
By Dylan C., Museum Management & Curatorship Intern
Being a resident of Whitby for the better part of 24 years, I have been encouraged through sport to view Oshawa as my rival, which has led to a rather lackluster attempt to learn what Oshawa has to offer. It wasn’t until recently, that life led me to discover the Oshawa Museum for my internship as part of Fleming College’s Museum Management and Curatorship program (MMC).
After only a couple weeks on site, I have gained a considerable amount of knowledge about Oshawa by exploring the waterfront trail and by learning the history of the harbour and the surrounding structures.
Although I have ventured into Oshawa via the waterfront trail from Whitby, or from riding near Oshawa Ice Sports after hockey, I never knew how extensive the trails were in Oshawa and how they bleed out into the city streets creating a somewhat hidden bike transit system. These trails are so extensive that Oshawa and the Durham region offer Cycle Tours. The Waterfront trail extends all the way to Toronto and easily connects to GO station stops. This network can provide residents of Oshawa with a greener alternative to their daily transit, at least in the warmer months of the year.
The museum has provided me with a platform to learn and explore Oshawa, but it also taught me how to explore. Without the direction from the museum I would not have known where to start my discovery of the city.
My Experience to Date
So far, the museum has been able to provide me with a wide range of experiences from photographing and cataloguing an archaeological collection, to providing supplementary research for an education program. I have also been able to help install a Smith Potteries exhibit in Robinson House.
The archaeological dig was completed by Trent University Durham students in 2015 and uncovered 19th century waste pits surrounding Henry House. Cataloguing this archaeological collection has given me the opportunity to apply some of the skills I learned in the MMC program such as proper care and handling of artefacts, photographing, and detailed documentation practices. It has also provided me with insight into the life of the early inhabitants of the area by literally examining what was buried in their backyards. I’ve learned what animals they farmed and what items they had in their homes including ceramics, glass, nails and buttons. Handling these objects makes it easier to connect with the residents of the past because I am essentially documenting their garbage. The past owners did not bury these objects hoping that someone would dig them up 165 years later; they did it to simply discard their waste. For some reason this humanizes them more for me than even walking in their perfectly preserved homes. Perhaps, you can tell a lot about a person from their trash after all.
In the upcoming weeks I will be familiarizing myself with the museum’s database as I enter the information from the archaeological collection. I will also be working on a research project that explores the topic of audio transcriptions and engaging at-home volunteers. And lastly, I will be continuing my tour guide training as the museum adapts to the current COVID-19 regulations.
You might be asking, what exactly is “Ask a Curator” day? It started a decade ago with the intention of giving the public access to experts who work in museums, galleries, and heritage sites through the use of social media. Initially the event started on Twitter; since then it has extended to Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and more.
From the first year this online event started, it has proven to be popular, attracting cultural, heritage, and science institutions from across the world!
Here are a few questions that were asked and my responses! If you wish to view the Facebook Live event you can view it on the Oshawa Museum’s Facebook Page.
What COVID-19 artefact do you think will fascinate people 100 years from now? And why?
The inspiring move when local breweries stopped beer production and turned over to making hand sanitizer to help fight COVID-19. Initially, All or Nothing Brewhouse in Oshawa started producing exclusively for local hospitals, front-line emergency workers, and major utility companies. A can of All or Nothing Brewhouse’s Hand Sanitizer was the first COVID-19 related object to be acquired for the Oshawa Museum’s collection.
What’s the weirdest thing in your collection?
I can’t focus on just one artefact in particular, but rather a collection of artefacts. I have two collections which many may find weird, but they are also fascinating! Our Farewell Cemetery Collection which contains coffin jewellery, the decorative hardware used on coffins.
The other collection is our extensive medical collection, which was used a few different doctors in the Oshawa community prior to the opening of the hospital; when surgeries took place in the home, a kitchen table would have made a great make-shift operating table. Many of the instruments resemble the tools that are still used today but there are a few which have thankfully…changed with the times.
Do you have a particular Henry Family member that you like best?
The youngest child of Thomas and Lurenda is Jennie (Lorinda Jane) Henry. I have been fortunate to meet her granddaughter, who spent time in Jennie Henry’s home when she resided on Agnes Street (I said Elgin Street during our Facebook live). She shared stories with me about the home and has donated various items related to Jennie and her husband, John Luke McGill.
Have you ever broken an artefact?
Yes I have, and of course it was an artefact that once belonged to Thomas Henry, of Henry House. I broke his tea cup accidently because it had been left in a hutch that was being moved. Many of the large furniture pieces in Henry House are used to store smaller items such as china cups and saucers, other chinaware, stoneware, vases, glassware, and many other artefacts related to the household. Fortunately, I was able to repair the china cup because of my collection care training that was provided the Museum Management and Curatorship program offered through Fleming College.
Curator advice: MAKE SURE ALL ARTEFACTS ARE REMOVED EBFORE MOVING A HUTCH!
What is your favourite tool?
I have three tools….beside my computer that assist me greatly with my work on exhibitions and with collections. My squeegee tool, measuring tape (make sure to measure three times), and 3M Command Strips that have saved so many wall repairs. The walls of Robinson House thank us each time we use them because the walls in this house are made from lath and plaster.
Rollin, Channing, and George Henry were the three oldest sons of George and Polly Ann Henry. They seem to have been very close and were the first to continue with family trends of working in photography and fruit cultivation/agriculture.
The three boys were born in East Whitby when the family was still living at the lakefront. George and Polly Ann lived on the west side of what is now Lakeview Park on Guy’s Point (Bonnie Brae Point) with neighbours and family friends, Thomas and Margery Guy.
Rollin Hayward Henry was born in 1848 and died in 1949, living to be 101 years old. He was the only grandchild to live this long. He married Almira (Myra) Simpson on June 23, 1875 in Lincoln, Ontario. Myra’s parents were from Oakville, which may account for their marriage here; there is only 60 kilometres between Oakville and Lincoln around the eastern shore of Lake Ontario. In April 1876, Rollin’s namesake was born. In 1878, their daughter Pauline was born. When Rollin Junior was five years old, the family travelled to Leavenworth, Kansas to visit his Uncle Eben. Prior to marrying Myra, Rollin had a photography studio in Oshawa. Perhaps Rollin took his family to Leavenworth because of this shared interest. The family ended up living there for a few years because the 1880 U.S. Federal Census enumerates them here. By 1885, the family had returned to Oshawa where Rollin continued to work as a photographer on King Street. In 1900, the family spent a few years in South Bend, Indiana before settling in Pasadena, California in 1904, a town and area along State Route 210 that would become the point of convergence for many of the Henry cousins.
When Channing Ellery Henry was born on February 1, 1850, in East Whitby, his father, George, was 25 and his mother, Polly, was 24. In the 1851 Census, the family is listed as living on 200 acres of their ancestral farmland – BF, Lot 7, the same land on which Henry House still stands.
By 1861, the family, which now included a baby sister for the boys, lived in Darlington Township on Lot 11 of Concession 3. Today this is on Liberty Road and Concession 3, south of the Bowmanville Golf and Country Club.
Channing married Bertha Eliza Gamsby on June 30, 1884. In retrospect, we know that the Gamsby family came to have many close ties to the Henry family. Channing and Bertha had only one child during their marriage, Roy Lyman Henry. Through the 1890s, the family lived in Tillsonburg, Ontario, where Channing works as an apple merchant. At some point, Channing experienced an injury that resulted in a “medical deformity – left hand. Affecting ability to earn living,” as listed in his Detroit Border Crossing documentation in 1910. Ten years after his brother settled in California, Channing and Bertha made their way there as well. Channing didn’t work in California, according to the 1920 and 1930 U.S. Federal Censuses; this must have been due to his injury. Bertha taught music lessons. Channing received his naturalization just one and a half years before he died of heart disease in September 1936 at the age of 86. He is buried where many of the Californian branch of the family are – Mt. View Mortuary & Cemetery in San Bernadino.
George’s life took a very similar path as his older brothers. He was born on January 10, 1856 in East Whitby, before the family moved to Darlington. In his early twenties, the 1881 Census of Canada lists him as being a student, though it is unknown what he studied or where this took place. On June 28, 1883, in Toronto, George married Edith Grace Codd in a Christian ceremony. He was 27 and she was 19. The marriage record lists George as a Fruit Merchant. Throughout the 1800s, they went on to have two children, a boy and a girl, and moved to British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. It was while living in Maple Ridge, British Columbia that George was working as a ‘Nurseryman,’ according to Henderson’s British Columbia Gazetteer and Directory, 1891. This was only 35 minutes away from Hatzic, British Columbia, where his Uncle Jesse would later settle. Edith passed away in 1894. George remarried and had one more child, a daughter. They moved around, getting married in Detroit, living with Polly Ann in Kingsville, Ontario before she died, and then returning to Detroit before settling in Pasadena near his brothers. George passed away in 1921 and is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena, California. This is a different location from where Channing is buried (Mt. View Mortuary & Cemetery in San Bernadino).