Student Museum ‘Musings’ – Emily

Hi there, it’s Emily again, and I’ve continued the transcribing of the Thomas Henry Correspondence Collection, which I mentioned in my previous post. Through the transcribing and digitizing I have looked at numerous very interesting pieces related to Thomas Henry, and the Henry Family. But there are two pieces in particular that stand out for me within this collection. One of which is a photograph taken by E.E. Henry, the son of Elder Thomas Henry. This photograph is titled a “Spirit Picture,” and contains the image of two men and one women, one of the men however is deceased, being “[b]orn again into the spirit life, July 20th, 1825.” The second piece from this collection that is very interesting is a correspondence letter, which was written by Thomas Henry, June 10th, 1873, and addressed to E.E. Henry. This letter is especially interesting because it is Thomas Henry’s response to the Spirit Picture sent to him by his son.

A013.4.449 - Spirit Photograph
A013.4.449 – Spirit Photograph

The elder Henry’s response to his son is a very interesting read after looking at the Spirit Picture, because being a Christian Minister, one could assume that Thomas Henry has very firm beliefs in regards to the spirit word. The correspondence letter sent to E.E. is strongly worded, long, and firm, scolding his son for taking part in what Thomas believes is unsavory activities. Thomas states in his letter, “I do not dispute but what the picture has been taken. It is not of god, in my humble opinion, But of the Divil[SIC], and show very clearly to me a falling away from God, and disbelieving his word.” Thomas Henry continues through his letter to argue to his son the abomination that is the Spirit Picture sent to him, and writes of the story of King Saul, Samuel, and the Medium at Endor.

Ebenezer Elijah Henry, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection
Ebenezer Elijah Henry, from the Oshawa Community Archives Collection

The relationship between Thomas and E.E. Henry is very fascinating because after scolding his son through this letter, and yet Thomas ends is letter by writing, “you might have taken the old prophets picture, and now I would not wonder, but what Dr. Taylor and his medium might get a picture of some of your friends if so send me one.” In another unrelated letter from this collection E.E. writes to his father, “you well know you have left me out in the cold as it were, and I have had to paddle my own canoe for myself. You have as you say in your letter helped all the rest, but me, and now you tell me that I am the favorite. Well God knows I am glad and hope it is so.” It seems to me that parental approval was one of, if not the most important aspects of life for Victorians. And that the Spirit Picture may have been a way that E.E. was seeking that approval by showing to his father his work.

 

This collection has been fascinating to go through, and has helped me understand the Henry family, and Victorians, much more than I had before by the digitizing and transcribing of these letters and pictures.

Memories of Mr. Joseph Wood

By Melissa Cole, Curator

Throughout the summer months the museum has been very busy with research and writing for our latest publication on Robinson House.  I was writing a small part about the collection and exhibits at Robinson House throughout the years and I wanted to highlight past exhibits that had been on display from 1970 to today.  Summer staff member Caitlin and myself were trying to determine what exhibitions were displayed at Robinson House so we decided to go through the old Oshawa Historical Society newsletters in the archives – we were not only successful at finding out about past exhibitions but we also found other interesting stories such as this one about the Oshawa Street Railway.   This little excerpt is from an interview with Mr. Joseph Wood that took place with Norah Herd the archivist at the Oshawa Community Archives in the 1960s.

Mr. Wood retired from the Board of Works in 1964 this interview took place after his retirement.

Before the turn of the century, Oshawa’s main streets were evil-smelling mud holes filled with water after every rain.  Simcoe and King Streets were unsafe to drive over because they were full of deep ruts.  Large stoned were used to fill them in but traffic would displace them.  Driving to the railway station from the centre of town without mishap was almost impossible.  A wagon taking a load of trunks to the station might lose one or two of them enroute. 

The Commercial Hotel, from the Oshawa Community Archives
The Commercial Hotel, from the Oshawa Community Archives

 

In 1920, the streetcars operated on Simcoe Street from Rossland Road to the Lake, and the fare was five cents.  At that time also, the Oshawa Railway tracks ran along King Street for a block each way from Simcoe Street.  The motorman would alight and switch the streetcar east on King Street and travel the one block to the Post Office where he would pick up the mail to be taken to the railway station.  This was the old Post Office at King and Wellington, which later became known as Ontario Street.  Then he would drive to the Commercial Hotel, one block west of Simcoe.  This hotel was the biggest and best one at the time.  Then the streetcar backed up to the Four Corners, switched again to Simcoe Street and then continued south the C.N.R. Station where passengers and mail were deposited, then south again to the Lake.  Quite a ride for a five cent fare.  

How Oshawa Celebrates the Civic Holiday – McLaughlin Day

As the dog days of summer carry on, the long weekend in August comes as a nice break.  The Civic Holiday is known by several names across the country;  British Columbians enjoy British Columbia Day, Saskatchewaners take in Saskatchewan Day, and New Brunswickers celebrate, you guessed it, New Brunswick Day.

Generally, the holiday is known as the Civic Holiday in Ontario, although different regions have their own names for the day, many of them taking the day as an opportunity to recognize important citizens or founders.  Toronto recognizes the day as Simcoe Day, it is Colonel By Day in Ottawa, Joseph Brant Day in Burlington, Peter Robinson Day in Peterborough, and John Galt Day in Guelph.  

RS McLaughlin
RS McLaughlin, from the Oshawa Community Archives

Oshawa is no exception.  We honour one of our favourite citizens every Civic Day, where we proclaim the first Monday of August to be McLaughlin Day after Col. RS McLaughlin.  Sam McLaughlin was an automotive pioneer and philanthropist, and he loved this City as much as the City loved him.

A983.39.1 - button created to celebrate McLaughlin Week
A983.39.1 – button created to celebrate McLaughlin Week

McLaughlin Day was first celebrated in 1983, and Oshawans were encouraged to visit the Robert McLaughlin Gallery, Parkwood, and the Automotive Museum, and even though it rained, ‘spirits were high,’ and the day ended with fireworks in Lakeview Park!  McLaughlin Day was the beginning of a week long celebration known as McLaughlin Celebration Week.

Parkwood National Historic Site
Parkwood National Historic Site

This McLaughlin Day, visit RS McLaughlin’s former home, Parkwood National Historic Site for special basement tours, or come down to the Oshawa Community Museum and regale in the history of the City that Sam so loved.  We are offering tours from 12-4 on Monday, August 5.

“I love the old town and am always glad to do anything towards its improvement.” 
-Col. RS McLaughlin

 

Happy McLaughlin Day!

References:

The Canadian Encyclopedia, “Civic Holiday”, from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.com/articles/civic-holiday

Canada Info, “First Monday in August Holiday,” from http://www.craigmarlatt.com/canada/symbols_facts&lists/august_holiday.html

Oshawa This Week, ‘Hats off to McLaughlin Day,’ August 3, 1983

From Exploding Cigars to Whoopie Cushions! Novelty Items

By: Melissa Cole, Oshawa Community Museum Curator

So what does a Joy Buzzer, Whoopee Cushion, chattering teeth and the old “fly in the ice cube” have in common……they are novelty items.  Throughout history people have loved to play practical jokes on each other.  From one of the earliest being the exploding cigar to the Whoopee cushion, which is still funny today.  Novelty items became a lucrative business in the 19th and still are today.

Recently the museum received a large donation of items that belonged to Gladys Muriel Mowbray (Adelaide McLaughlin’s sister).  This collection contained over 50 items that included a wedding dress, jewellery, shoes, hats and many personal items including a few novelty items that were practical jokes.  At first I thought the one was a tin that resembled others that were already in the collection held at the OCM so I inspected the items further and realized they were novelty items.  This is something that I do not come across often in a donation to a local museum.   I wanted to find out a bit more about the two novelty items that were donated and discover more about the history of practical jokes in general.

The first novelty item is called Adams Salted Mixed Nuts also known as the “snake nut can”.

013.3.12 - an 'innocent' can of Adam's Salted Mixed Nuts
013.3.12 – an ‘innocent’ can of Adam’s Salted Mixed Nuts

The “snake nut can” is a practical joke device that closely resembles a can of nuts but contains a wire spring covered in cloth or vinyl, some are even printed like snake skin but not this particular one, which  leaps out of the can and startles the unsuspecting victim.  This could have been me….. I was very thankful to the donor who actually informed me of what the tin contained before I proceeded to open the tin of “Salted Mixed Nuts”.  The reason I always open the tins when a donation comes in is because quite often they are filled with little treasures that even the donor may not be aware of.

013.3.12 - not so innocent!
013.3.12 – not so innocent!

The “snake nut can” was invented by Soren Sorenson Adams, was known as Sam Adams, the king of Professional Pranksters,  of the S.S. Adams Co. circa 1915.  Adams’ wife Emily had been complaining about the jam jar, saying that it wasn’t properly closed or that it was sticky.  Adams was inspired by her nagging, then invented a spring snake – coil of wire wrapped in a cloth skin and compressed the two-foot snake into a little jam jar so that it would jump out when the lid was removed.  The snake jam jar then evolved into the snake nut can.  In 1928, S.S. Adams created the Joy Buzzer, and in later years also sold the squirting nickel and fake plastic ice cubes with bugs in them.  He was considered the industry leader in the field of practical jokes after creating over 650 novelty joke items.    He actively managed his company until the time he passed away in the 1963 at the age of 84.

The second item was a New Shaving Kit – with the headline WHAT EVERY MAN WANTS – NO BRUSH NO LATHER NO ELECTRICTY.

013.3.11 - The New Shaving Kit
013.3.11 – The New Shaving Kit

Around the edge of the lid are line drawings of assorted razors but inside the box is a fake pocket knife, a few sticks of wood and wood shavings.   It has a 1939 copyright date by H. Fish love & Co. of Chicago. Stamped lightly on the front is; Souvenir of Wichita, Kansas. The back of the box is a mailer label with a place for To and From and it could be mailed anywhere in the U.S.A. for only 3c.  The Howard Fishlove company was known for their fake vomit called “Whoops” the company manufactured 60, 000 units per year.

Practical jokes and novelty items have been making people laugh since the 19th century I am sure these two novelty items highlighted here have brought back memories for many.   

References:

Demaris, Kirk (2006). Life of The Party: A Visual History of the S.S. Adams Company. Neptune, NJ: S.S. Adams Co.

Newgarden, Mark (2004). Cheap Laffs: The Art of the Novelty Item. New York: Abrams.

Rauscher, William (2002). S.S. Adams: High Priest of Pranks and Merchant of Magic. Oxford, CT: David E. Haversat.

Month That Was – August 1951

Wednesday August 1, 1951

Ontario Spotlight:
Contest First Seats
Bronte (CP) – Ten candidates were nominated last night for the five seats on the council of this Lake Ontario community which finally attained status of a village after more than 100 years of trying. An election will be held Aug. 13.

Lost 50 years
Dundalk (CP) – Fifty years ago, Charles Wale of Hopeville, Ont., lost his gold watch in a field here, Alex Richardson, 12, recently found it and returned it to Mr. Wale, now ever 80. It was in fair condition, considering the length of time it lay in the field. The gold was tarnished and some of the wheels were rusty.

Sparking Lamp
A Canadian sparking lamp was shown at a lecture in Peterborough on life 100 years ago. It was explained that when a young man went to call on his girl friend in those days the girl’s mother lit the lamp. When it burnt out the caller had to leave.

Editorial Notes
Work is being done on the development of aeroplanes to fly five times faster than sound.  How, then, will the fellow in the control tower ever be able to get a message to them.

 

Thursday August 2, 1951

Dies Whiles Signing Will Bequest Ruled Invalid
Sydney, Australia (CP) – An ex-serviceman’s last wish to leave all his possessions, valued at more than $300, to a lifelong woman friend was nullified here when he died in the act of signing the will.

A justice of the peace and other witnesses were present when the man began to sign the document, but collapsed and died after writing his Christian names.

As he has no relatives and no dependents, he is officially assumed to have died intestate. Proceeds of the sale of his real and personal property will be transferred to general revenue.

A.A. House, deputy public trustee, explained that a will is not valid unless signed by witnesses in the presence of the executor. Even if the executor lost consciousness while witnesses were signing, the will would not be valid.

 

Friday August 3, 1951

Cow on Rampage
Reading, England (CP) – It wasn’t a bull in a china shop that caused the damage in this Berkshire town. It was a cow in a furniture shop. The animal escaped from a cattle market and did heavy damage to furniture before it was shot.

 

Saturday August 4, 1951

Joke Not Funny To Robber Hubby
Birmingham, Ala. (CP) – A jealous wife tipped police that her husband was a robber, then said it was all a joke.

But by that time the joke had gone too far, Detective C. L. Pierce said Thursday night – the husband had confessed to four holdups.

Pierce said Forrest Ford, 34, a former loan company employee, admitted the holdups.

The trip came in a letter from Mrs. Mable Ford, who later told officers she had written it only as a joke to “get even” with her husband.

Mrs. Ford said she was angry with her husband because he paid too much attention to another woman at party.

 

Thursday August 9, 1951

August 1951 - Laff-A-Day

 

Thursday April 16, 1951

Beat Labor Problem With 21 Children
A stork which for 24 years has been dive-bombing the home of Adelbert Smith, 56, Zurich, Ont. Farmer, paid another visit recently and brought, Mrs. Smith her 21st child, 19 whom are still living. The 45-year-old mother welcomed the latest arrival, a boy, and declared she is in favour of large families, for “folks who have them will never be lonely.’ Pop pa Smith experiences no farm labor problems, for his thirteen boys have become experts with tractors, and are ideal “handymen.” The happy couple are accustomed to large families as Mr. Smith was one of a family of 14, and his wife had five brothers and sisters.

 

Tuesday August 21, 1951

2 - August 1951 - Laff-A-Day

 

Monday August 27, 1951

What is a Canadian?
We are citizens of Canada, either by birth or by adoption and naturalization. We are citizens of the Commonwealth.

Our skins may be brown, or yellow or black or white, but we are Canadians. Our name may be Podolski, Fraser, Wong, Spermanti, Dubois, Schmidt or Jones. Our forefathers may have come from Glasgow, Prague, Tokyo, from Dublin, Bordeaux, Roterdam or Newcastle. We may be laborer, student, doctor, merchant, or machinist.

Whatever we are, whatever our occupation, whatever our background, if we accept Canada as our country, and with it the democratic way of life, we are Canadians.

We have the right to speak freely, to worship freely, but with these rights we must learn our duties, to speak wisely, to worship wisely, to choose our leaders wisely.

We inherit, along with 14million Canadians a vast continent, abounding in resources and opportunities for a good, healthy and a happy life.

We inherit two great cultures – the Anglo-saxon and the French – and more than thirty others as well. We are creating out of these a new and growing Canadian culture. We are at the dawn of great things, for us and our country. We are the builders of a great and free nation, of a great and free people.

It’s great to be a Canadian.  – Kiwanis International Magazine