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.

12 Reasons Why Drinking Tea is Wonderful

As our summer tea season is quickly approaching here at the Oshawa Community Museum, I thought I would take some time and share why I think tea drinking is just so wonderful. Whether you like Earl Grey or English Breakfast or prefer Peppermint or Green, tea is full of health, social and delicious benefits. Here are 12 reasons why drinking tea is wonderful:

 

1)      Tea, when consumed in moderation could have positive health results. According to Time Magazine, along with helping protect against cardiovascular and degenerative diseases, research suggests that the antioxidants in tea might also help ward off certain types of cancer.

 

2)      Tea comes in all sorts of flavours and types. Real tea is derived from the plant Camellia Sinensis and includes only four varieties: black, white, green and oolong. Anything else that is herbal, isn’t technically considered a tea because it’s infused with different plants. Nevertheless, when you visit a tea shop (whether technically tea or not) you are presented with all sorts of flavours, colours and types and there is bound to be one that will suit any taste bud.

 

3)      Tea has little to no calories, but tons of flavour. You can still brew a robust, full flavoured tea without having to consume a lot of calories. What this means? Tea is ideal for those trying to watch their waist line or trying to lose a few pounds.

 

4)      Tea is popular. Now, normally popularity isn’t a good deciding factor on whether or not something is awesome, but the facts about tea’s popularity shouldn’t be ignored. According to the Tea Association of Canada, Canadians drink almost 9 billion cups of tea each year, which in 2012 equals out to about 380 million dollars in hot tea sales. On a global scale, tea is considered the most consumed drink sitting behind water. Why is this important? Simply put, it means you can buy tea almost anywhere. Its popularity means you don’t have to go searching too far to find a cup of tea.

 

5)      You can individualize tea. Whether you take it with sugar and milk, or just milk or just lemon or you prefer iced tea. If you like dishwater tea or prefer a strong tea, one of the reasons tea is so great is that it can cater to your own unique taste.

 

6)      Tea has a long and interesting history. How many beverages can say they have been part of large political protests? Tea is a drink that has been so intertwined into the social and political fabric of many countries that its history makes for an exciting and interesting tale.

 

7)      Tea has procedure, tradition and proper etiquette. For example, it is inappropriate to lift the saucer when drinking tea, this is considered rude and not proper behaviour for a tea. Furthermore, there is a whole meal dedicated to tea, whether it is low-tea or high-tea.

 

8)      Drinking tea means cleaning fewer dishes. Regular tea drinkers will tell you that are never suppose to wash a tea pot. Apparently the tannins in tea stick to the pot and over time will make your tea better and better.

 

9)      It’s cheap! Yes, specialty teas can be disastrous on your wallet, but if you choose to stay with a traditional Orange Pekoe, each cup will cost you literally cents to make.

 

10)  Drinking tea is the perfect social drink. Doctors recommend letting tea cool before consuming, because drinking extremely hot beverages could have negative effects on your oesophagus. This means that you have to let your tea sit before consuming, giving you time to converse, shoot the breeze, and gossip.

 

11)  You can grow your own tea. Here at the Oshawa Museum we take advantage of the space we have behind Henry House and grow our own tea. This allows you to know how fresh the tea is and pick the flavours that you like best.

 

12)  Finally, tea is wonderful because you can enjoy it here in the Oshawa Community Museum’s Victorian gardens during our summer teas!

Quite picturesque!
Quite picturesque!

There you have it 12 reasons why tea is just wonderful. Why do you think tea is a wonderful?

 

Come visit us and enjoy your cup of tea on July 25 or August 8 or August 22 for our summer Victorian Teas in the garden. Cost is $10 for OHS members and $15 for non-members. Or join us on July 21 for a tea + talk, where Joyce O’Connell will be discussing how quilting has changed since the 1900s. Cost for tea + talk is $20 a person. Please note reservations are required for all teas, call museum for details.

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