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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator
5 April 1871, page 2
The House of Commons have virtually passed the bill admitting British Columbia into the Confederation. She is to enter with three members in the Senate and six in the commons. The financial arrangement, however, are the important part of the agreement. By these terms it is proposed to allow British Columbia an annual allowance of $35,000; And eighty cents per head of the population until it reaches the maximum of 400,000; an ask the debt of the provinces small, interest will be allowed upon the difference between its actual debt and the proportional indebtedness of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick…. The dominion binds herself to secure the construction of a railway to the Pacific within 10 years; And the province hands over to the dominion about 16 million acres of land, for which she, in turn, will receive $100,000 a year in half yearly installments to be paid in advance. Then it is proposed to guarantee the interest for ten years, at 5% per annum, dating from the completion of the works on a sum not to exceed 100,000 pounds sterling for the construction of a first class graving dock at Esquimault. The railway is not to be constructed by the government, but by companies, who will receive land grants and a cash bonus amounting to about 10 millions. the government have guaranteed that its construction shall not increase the taxation of the country, and are to add a rider to the bill expressive of the manner in which the road is to be built. Without the road the mere Confederation would be a farce. If the construction of the intercolonial is justifiable, the construction of the Pacific is 10 times more so, for it opens up not only a country, but almost a continent to settlement.
12 April 1871, page 2
The roads this spring have not been as bad at least, but they have been in many places almost impossible. The reach road between Oshawa and Prince Albert, has been very bad in a few places and requires a considerable outlay. We are glad to know that the council of East Whitby intend an outlay of something like $1500 including the county grant upon it. This will make the portion within the limits of the Township very fair. A rich Township like this ought to have every concession line gravelled. The outly would be amply repaid in a year or two by the saving of time, waggons and horseflesh. The council of the Township has paid great attention to this subject, and we hope that as before the ratepayers will approve and support their enlightened policy, even should they be more liberal than of old.
The constable has issued his edict against cattle running at large, and the boys are ready to carry it into effect by impounding all stray livestock.
Stealing horses from the hotel sheds seems to have become an institution here. On Monday evening about half-past six, Mr. W. May drove his horse and wagon into Hines’ shed. At half-past eight he entered the shed and found his property gone. It has probably been taken northward. A full description will be found in our advertising columns.
$25 Reward The above reward will be paid for the recovery or information leading to the recovery of my mare, light waggon, buffalo robe, and harness, stolen from the shed of Hines’ Hotel, Oshawa, last evening; and the apprehension of the thief. The mare is a light bay, nearly cream color, with dark mane and tail. She is five years old, and interferes in her hind legs. The waggon is a spring democrat, with name of maker (Lavis) on tail board. WM May Oshawa, April 11, 1871
19 April 1871, page 2
Sometime last week the barns of Mr. Petrie, on the base line, and Mr. Phillips, Cedar Dale, were entered. From the former, 10 or 12 bushels of oats and some poultry, and from the latter, a bag of clover seed, were stolen. The farmers of East Whitby will yet have to form a vigilance club to bring to justice these burn robbers. Probably all the thieving is done by one or two residents, and a proper watch on any suspicious characters would put an end to their depredations.
That portion of Moore’s Hill, in the road between Oshawa and Whitby, belonging to West Whitby is in very bad condition. One or two places require to be cross trained an additional gravel placed upon it. We hope the townships will keep up the good work begun buy them on this hill. A road with so much travel ought to be made one of the best, instead of one of the worst roads in the country. If the four municipalities interested would enter into some concerted plan this could be done at no great expense. Great improvements have been made during the last two or three years, but there is much that remains to be done. Let the councils try the union plan. A committee from each council could meet in Whitby or Oshawa and unite upon a scheme to be adopted by their respective councils. The same committee might have power to revive the Union Burial Ground question and suggest a plan for carrying out the two long neglected idea of making a cemetery worthy of the municipalities’ interested.
The horse and waggon belonging to Mr. Wm. May stolen from Hines’ shed on Monday evening last was returned on Wednesday. The horse was found next morning in the shed of Taylor’s tavern, Raglan. The advertisement inserted in the vindicator by Mr. May, identified the property on Wednesday, and the property was at once returned to the owner. Whether it was actually stolen and the thief became afraid, or whether some reckless scoundrel took it to obtain a ride to Raglan is not known. It has been taken from the shed as the altered condition of the harness testified. We regret there is no clue to the thief.
26 April 1871, page 2
The street in front of Hines’ hotel, was the scene of a most disgraceful breach of the peace on Saturday evening. It appears that a feud has existed between a number of disorderly characters in Oshawa, known as the Herring Gang, and a number of similar characters residing to the east of the town. The consequences is, that if one of them falls under after dark among his opponents, he receives a sound beating. On Saturday night, both sides mustered in force to fight it out. Constable Gurley having received notice appeared on the scene and with some aid of peaceable citizens broke up the intended fight, for which however, the belligerence appeared to have no great stomach. The Oshawa rowdies afterward marched up and down street shouting until midnight. On Monday, warrants were issued for Thos. Law, Jas. Dovey, Michael Caulfield, W. O’Driscoll, Richard Richens, Geo. Wilson, farmer, Willard Vanderhodd and J. Bladwin, who were charged with being present and aiding and abetting in the row. O’Driscoll, Wilson and Baldwin, put in an appearance before the magistrate, WH Gibbs, Esq., yesterday. The case against Wilson broke down, and he was discharged. O’Driscoll denied a longing to the Herring Gang, but was fined $2 for not leaving the crowd when ordered to by Constable Gurley, and afterwards parading the streets with the gang. Baldwin was charged with inciting the parties to fight. He was fined $5 for his share in the riot. Baldwin appears not to be a member of the gang. Of those who did not appear, Richens was fined $2 and the others $5 each. The Herring Gang are so called from wearing a fish shaped badge on their breast. They are regularly organized and some of them carry firearms and loaded bludgeons. The village authorities are determined to break them up, and anyone arrested with a weapon will at once be committed for trial. It is absolutely necessary for the peace and safety of the town that this organization shall be destroyed. Already a counter organization is said to be forming and a nice lot of faction brawls will follow.
Today, just like many days over the past week, I am faced with a wall of unknowns. An actual wall. I call this area of the archives the “Found in Collection” shelves. Many archives and museums face this challenge. Items that are found in the collection that can’t be identified either for historical content or even how they came into the museum. Every day is a new challenge.
The biggest challenge is when an item is both unknowns: no provenance or historical information. And of course, we have one such item.
The Beaver City Enterprise is truly a mystery. This newspaper was found in our collection around 2020. Searches through many archives have resulted in no answers to what this newspaper was. What we can tell from the contents of the newspaper is that it was focused on agriculture and machinery. It also dates to the late 1870s. Beyond these facts, we know nothing else.
This situation highlights the importance of proper provenance for archives and museums. In the archive/museum field, provenance is the origin of something, or the path that an item will take to come into archives/museums. For example, a person may buy something then donate it to an archive or museum. That provenance is clear. But our Beaver City Enterprise has no information of how it came to us thus making my job a little more challenging.
Although this post is a way for me to tell you all of the important and amazing work I am doing, it is also a call for information. If anyone has any information about the Beaver City Enterprise, please let us know! We want to make sure we have correct information about this unique newspaper.
Or if you are simply interested in looking through the Beaver City Enterprise, please check out the images below.
Today’s blog, as funky as it might seem, will delve into the fascinating (there’s a hat joke in there) world of hats! Hats, like any other bodily adornment, can be a socialized symbol of community inclusion, politics, fashion, or faith. The Oshawa Museum has a variety of items within our archival and physical collections that detail fascinating moments throughout history with hats.
After a fire at Guy House in 2003, the library collection took a heavy hit, and people began donating books in order to replenish options for research. One of those books was Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values by Susan Langley which I have used within this blog after finding and enjoying it as a fluke.
There are both physical and photographic representations of hats within the Oshawa Museum’s collection, and here are two examples of how hats can identify groups of people. Above we have a photo of four nurses on the steps of a building holding flowers and sporting a classic example of a nurses’ hat. Uniforms are a prime example of recognition of belonging within certain groups. Though our modern nurse’s uniforms don’t include a hat, it is still a recognizable symbol of healthcare in most of the Western world. Similarly, the firefighter’s helmet below is still a very prominent symbol of emergency services. This black style can also be seen today, or historically, in yellow, brown, red, or even orange.
Bonnets were the height of fashion for many decades, spanning from everyday wear to protect one’s hair or face from the dirt and sun of work, to a riding bonnet while riding on a wagon, to fashion bonnets. Those more dramatic and lavish styles, the fashion bonnets sometimes included complicated lace, florals, or feathers.
The Black hood bonnet shown above is lined with rose-coloured silk and would have been used somewhere between 1860-1890. The image below is from Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970; Identification and Values and shows two varieties of fashion bonnet from Godey’s Lady’s Book of February 1862. Figure 1 is a violet velvet bonnet trimmed with black velvet and lace and Figure 2 is a black velvet bonnet trimmed with Ponceau velvet and feathers.
Hats of this period did not only include bonnets but other more extravagant examples like the three worn by the lovely ladies in the photo. The photo below of unidentified women, from the archival collection, details a variety of chapeaus. They most closely compare to the stylish winter designs of the Les Modes Parisiennes “Christmas Visits” looks from Peterson’s Magazine, December 1889. Though there is no date on this photo, it can be presumed that the image was taken between 1860-1900 because of the style of dress and photography. Just imagine if our Christmas and holiday outfits included hats as lavish as these now!
The yellow, fabric rose covered pillbox hat you see below is a c. 1950s example of a very common look at the time. The pillbox, named after the pharmaceutical receptacle shape in the ’60s, was hugely popular within history, and the flat top, cylindrical hat was even seen within medieval bridal looks. Modernly, the most notable wearer of the pillbox hat was Former American First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy. The Vintage Hats and Bonnets 1770-1970 describes the “Queen of Camelot’s” influence with the deep pillbox style hat and mentioned that through the 1960s, there were many influences to the style including East Indian embroidery and beading. Can’t you just imagine a pile of hairspray lacquered curls pinned under this beauty?
Finally, let’s remember that fashionable hats span all genders, and though there might not be quite as much variety in men’s hats in our collection, we can certainly appreciate how they can elevate a look. Here are two gentlemen looking quite dashing in suits, coats, wonderfully crafted hats with corsages on their lapels.
More recently, hats have become a much more casual addition to fashion. Styles like baseball hats, snapbacks, toques, beanies, or caps can be seen in the park surrounding the Oshawa Museum daily, especially in the winter months. Can you imagine what Lakeview Park would have looked like, hat wise, through history?
Society consistently underestimates, undermines, ignores, brushes off, and otherwise condescends its youth. Sadly, in general, we assume that youth are up to no good, inexperienced, unwise, uneducated, rash, brash, and trashed. Of course, this can’t be entirely true, especially given the examples of Greta Thunberg and Malala Yousafzai, youth activists who are practically household names.
However, they are far from the only ones.
Youth consistently engage themselves in their communities and issues that matter to them, and of course that applies here in Oshawa as well. Over several years, students of different ages have organized multiple protests regarding education.
The first example I want to address was in 2012, when Bill-115, the Putting Students First Act, passed. Despite its name, clearly many students disagreed with the act, as about 50 of them walked out of G. L. Roberts high school one brisk December day. Said act would freeze teachers’ wages for two years, decrease their sick days, and prevent them from going on strike. It also included budget cuts to programs like music and sports, as well as extracurricular activities. Despite the possible threat of suspension, the protest was student-organized and led, with parent facilitation.
The next example is from 2015. After a five-week strike, teachers were forced back to work – but roughly 140 students between two Oshawa high schools, G. L. Roberts and O’Neill Collegiate, protested in support. Again, the protest was student-organized and led. Many expressed gratefulness to be back in education but concerns about the lack of resolution and the sudden, condensed workload, as well as the threat of ever-increasing class sizes and the likelihood of being treated like numbers rather than individuals.
My final example is from 2019, when 50 students from Monsignor Paul Dwyer Catholic High School protested proposed changes to the Ontario Student Assistance Program which included cuts to the autism program and low income tuition assistance and the banning of cellphones in classrooms, among other things. Students from Adelaide McLaughlin Public School and R.S. McLaughlin Collegiate and Vocational Institute also protested, all student-organized and led.
In the above examples, students collaborated through social media and in a refusal to take their protests out of the public eye in order to take a stand for themselves – their values, disabilities, beliefs, and rights. Teachers and caregivers supported them to help strengthen their youth’s voices.
Education and its policies are just a sliver of the issues in which youth voices are typically cut out, ignored, and forgotten. Instead of disempowering our youth and restricting their voices, we should be empowering them and giving them megaphones, sometimes literally! They are powerful individuals who have important and relevant values, opinions, experiences, and viewpoints right now, just as they are.
Oshawa Museum’s children and youth programs have always aimed to be engaging and inclusive in order to help kids find something that may spark a passion in them, right here in their own communities, from archaeology, history, fashion, social issues, geography, recycling, and more. As a youth myself, I’ve seen and experienced the desire Oshawa Museum has to let youth speak, lead, and create.