The Month That Was – April 1872

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

April 5, 1872

Barnum wants him – the man with the big cheek, who wants the Joseph Hall Works moved from Oshawa – the man who wrote to Mr. Glen offering him a “free water privilege, a liberal bonus, and freedom from taxation if he would remove to Hall Words to that town” – the town where the man lived. Oh no; the Halls Works is a big part of Oshawa, and it would spoil the looks of the town to have it removed.  It is very nicely situated, and pays well.

 

Lacrosse

A meeting of the Oshawa Lacrosse club will be held at Black’s hotel on Tuesday evening next, at 8 o’clock. All persons interested in out door sports, are invited to attend.  The Lacrosse boys have never been beaten, and intend to “go in strong” this year.  It is of the utmost importance that every member of the club should attend, and they are requested to bring along as many friends as possible.

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Earthquake

California last week experienced a most terrible earthquake.  The volcanic district in which it occurred is about four hundred miles southeast from San Francisco.  Only a slight shock was felt at the time in Northern and Central California.  The town of Low Pine, however, appears to be immediate over the centre of disturbance.  The first shock resembled the roar of artillery, fired immediately under the town. Nearly the whole population were buried beneath the ruins of the houses, and the air was filled with the cries and shrieks of the maimed and wounded, who were unable to extricate themselves, and who were calling for help.  The first shock was followed in rapid succession by three others of equal severity.  Over three hundred distinct shocks were felt between half-past two o’clock in the morning and sunrise. The fact is, the earth was in almost constant tremble and vibration for over three hours…  Over thirty persons have been killed, and more than one hundred were wounded.  Smoke and lava have issued from several of the mountain peaks in the same region of the country.

 

April 12, 1872

Clean Up

Now is the time for every householder to see that his premises are thoroughly cleaned, and disinfectants properly applied.  Tuesday afternoon last being quite warm, the stench arising from several yards we had occasion to pass, was fairly sickening; and if no remedy is applied the result can easily be foreseen.  Filth and disease go together; and if we are to escape the latter, we must set scavengers at work, and be in nowise chary in our use of disinfectants.  The work should be done now before the weather becomes warmer; and we how that our Health Inspector will at once proceed on his rounds, and make sure that the law in regard to filthy premises is fulfilled to the very letter.

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For Sale

The property on Selina St., consisting of a story and a half Frame dwelling, with stone foundation.  There is a stable and driving shed attached, and a good garden with a number of choice Fruit Trees on it: also, a never-failing well of excellent water.  For terms and other particulars apply on the premises, to Walter Fogg.

 

April 19

On Monday evening last, the members of the Oshawa fire brigade, with a few of their friends, assembled at the Town Hall to present Mr. Scott and Mr. Crockhart – who were about leaving this town for Scotland – the following address, as a token of esteem for these two gentlemen:

To David J Scott lieut. and James Crockhart ,sec’y Oshawa “Dreadnaught Hook and Ladder Company”

Dear comrades, -As you are soon to leave us on a visit to your native Scotland, we, the members of the Oshawa fire brigade, do you know that we cannot allow you to depart without an expression of the regret we feel at a temporary sundering of the connection between us.

We address you conjointly because we believe it will be agreeable to you both, who have been marked for your strong friendly attachment to each other, and because the sentiments we shall utter are equally applicable to you both.

For over two years either as private or officers, you have been members of the brigade. As private you were obedient to those in authority, and prompt and untiring in the performance of every duty and as officers you proved yourself skillful, kind and considerate.

In your private life your characters have been irreproachable, and you have ever manifested a readiness to assist in every good work.

In the illness, which is the cause of his leaving us, we deeply sympathize with Mr. James Crockhart, and pray that the breezes of his native land may restore him to vigorous health.

We also pray that Divine Providence me overrule the winds and waves that you may have a safe and pleasant Atlantic voyage, a speedy reunion with relatives and friends, and in their lovely company realize all anticipated joy.

Hoping that you may be spared to return to Oshawa to rejoin our ranks and participate in the honors and dangers of our association whose aim and ambition it is to save, we bid you an affectionate farewell.

Signed on behalf of the brigade, PH Thornton, Chief Engineer, H Barkell, Secretary

 

April 26, 1872

A big clock – the large clock at the English Parliament House is the largest in the world. The four dials of this clock are 22 feet in diameter. Every half minute the point of the minute hand moves nearly 7 inches. The clock will go eight and a half days, but it only strikes for seven and a half, thus indicating any neglect and winding it up. The mere winding up of the striking mechanism takes two hours. The pendulum is 15 feet long; the wheels are of cast iron; the hour bell is 8 feet high, and 9 feet in diameter, weighing nearly 15 tons, and the hammer alone weighs more than 400 pounds. This clock strikes the quarter hours, and by its strokes the short hand reporters in the parliament chambers regulate their labors. At every stroke a new reporter takes the place of the old one, whilst the first retires to write out the notes that he has taken during the previous 15 minutes.

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Two weeks have passed since the assembling of parliament at Ottawa, and very little has been done yet, beyond the answering of several questions by members of the government. Ministerial measures foreshadowed in the address, few as they were, are not yet ready for presentation to the house; and as a consequence the daily sittings generally last about an hour or two. The cabinet sessions are doubtless more occupied with plotting how to retain office then and maturing measures for the public weal.

 

We Are Living Through History

By Melissa Cole, Curator

We are living through history.  Museums closed their doors during one of their busiest times, March Break.  This is the quietest March Break our site and Lakeview Park has seen since I started at the Oshawa Museum 20 years ago. As institutions closed their physical doors, we turned to our digital windows.  Museums have adopted online tools to continue to deliver our missions and engage with our communities.  Here are a few sites I encourage you to visit as the Oshawa Museum works behind to scenes to continue to offer engaging content, build our collections, and share stories about our community.


I invite you to view our latest blog to capture the stories of what is happening NOW in our community during the COVID-19 Pandemic.

https://covid19oshawa.com/


Many of our events have been cancelled or postponed; this is also the case for our upcoming exhibit, Leaving Home, Finding Home in Oshawa: Displaced Persons & Stories of Immigration.  It was set to open this spring but has been postponed.  The exhibit started as an oral history project four years ago, and thanks to our community participants, it has shaped into an exhibit that will open later this year.

The Times-Gazette January 30, 1948 - copy

The work for this exhibit continues behind the scenes, and because the opening has been postponed, there is still time to contribute to this exhibit.  Your contribution may become a part of the physical exhibit or it may be featured in the online portion of our exhibit, but it will form a part of our archival collection for future generations to discover.  I invite you visit our online exhibit, Oshawa Immigration Stories, where you can learn more about this project.  More details can be found here:

https://oshawaimmigrationstories.weebly.com/


Since you can not visit us in person, I invite you to visit our online collection database, which contains artefacts and photographs from the collections held at the Oshawa Museum.

https://oshawa.pastperfectonline.com/


On a happy note, while I was at the museum this week to check on the collections, I noticed one of our members out for his walk, and I couldn’t resist opening the door to say hi and ask how he was…of course we made sure to keep our social distance!

The Williams Piano Company

Richard Williams began The Williams Piano Co. operations in Toronto in 1849.  In 1888 the Williams firm purchased the former home of the Joseph Hall Works in Oshawa and began renovating the building for the manufacture of pianos and organs.

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The building was originally constructed in 1852 and was initially used by the Oshawa Manufacturing Company.  The factory, a three storey brick building, occupied an entire town block on Richmond Street.  Williams spent more than $40,000 adapting the facilities for the production of pianos.  To this end, the buildings were re-roofed with slate, new hardwood floors were laid and new buildings built.  All of this retrofitting and new construction turned the former Hall Works into a building with enough floor space for what was the largest piano works in Canada.  The company’s total floor space was approximately 100,000 square feet.  In 1890, the new Williams Piano Factory began producing pianos and organs.  The company was also located at other locations such as the lumber yard and some other smaller buildings in Oshawa. Only this part of the business moved to Oshawa, as the centre of the business remained in Toronto.  Smaller instruments such as guitars and banjos continued to be manufactured in Toronto.

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The Town of Oshawa granted Williams $20 000 in ten annual installments as an inducement to move the plant to Oshawa.  The Town also granted the new firm a fixed taxation rate of $250 per year for a number of years.  Once in Oshawa, the newly acquired space allowed the firm to manufacture its first large church organ.  This first organ was constructed for a church in Brighton and consisted of more than 100 pipes.

The company was reorganized in 1902, and the piano was revised.  The piano was adjusted in scale, touch, case-design, acoustic, and tone. It took ten weeks to three months to make one piano.  The company constructed its pianos to “the highest degree of excellence in every detail of workmanship” and the quality of its product determined its success.  The ‘New Scale Williams Piano’ and ‘Player Piano’ soon became one of the world’s most demanded products.

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In 1903 after much hard work, Mr. R.S. Williams became ill and sold his business.  The company was renamed “Williams Piano Company”.  The president of the company was Fredrick Bull and the vice-president was E.C. Scythes.  The factory was huge and prosperous by the year 1911, and employed 250 skilled workers.  The company produced approximately 3,000 pianos/player pianos annually.

After the creation of the victrola in 1926, many people found records to be more convenient and popular than pianos.  The Williams factory was forced into the radio business.  Eventually, after three years the company became the seventh largest manufacturer.  The Williams Piano Factory even widened its horizons in order to build canoes and row boats.  The company was branching out and business was great.  People from foreign countries wanted a Williams Piano and the company exported their product on a regular basis.  The Williams piano was well known all over Canada, from coast to coast, and overseas.

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The company prospered and began to construct 4,000 pianos per annum.  The company was shipping pianos to seven different countries.  The Williams Piano was also displayed in an exhibit at the Wembley Exhibition in London, England in 1926.  In 1927, one hundred and thirty-five men worked for the company and payroll hit a high of $200,000 a year.  At this time, the company was prosperous, but it did not last forever.

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The successful company that was known to so many individuals all over the world was required to change with the times.  Unfortunately, both the depression and mass production of the neutrodyne radio contributed to the demise of the company.  After the closure of this company many other businesses occupied the premises including: Cole of California; Sklar Furniture; and Coulter Manufacturing Company.  The building even acted as a barracks during the war years.

The building was torn down in 1970 in order to make room for the Durham Region Police Headquarters and the Oshawa Times.


References:

Cselenyi-Granch.  Under the Sign of the Big Fiddle:  The R.S. Williams Family, Manufacturers and Collectors of Musical Instruments.  Winnipeg:  Hignell Printing Limited, 1996.

The Oshawa Daily Reformer, October 25, 1926.

The Oshawa Daily Reformer, June 20, 1927.

Oshawa Daily Times, December 8, 1930.

Oshawa Daily Times, September 19, 1930.

Kaiser, M.D., T.E.  Historic Sketches of Oshawa.  The Reforming Printing & Publishing Co., 1921.

 

It Isn’t Easy Being Green

Until April, our feature exhibit is called The Vintage Catwalk, looking at interesting fashions through the years.  Featured in this post are artefacts in our collection (that may or may not be on exhibition), and with St. Patrick’s Day later this month, the theme of the artefacts is green!

Be sure to visit the exhibition before it closes!

Note, the skirt appears to have repairs/changes through the years, especially notable when you look at the bottom hem.

Green hats, including one from Scouts Canada.

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From inside our 2017 feature exhibit Celebrating 60.  Our earliest donation included this green suit, owned by Premier Gordon Conant.

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Finally, our most notorious green textile – the arsenic green dress.  This dress, part of the collection of our exhibit partner The Costume People, was dyed with copper arsenite; the dye often proved fatal for the wearers and especially for the women who worked directly applying the dyes in the manufacture process.  Our summer student Lauren shared the story of these dresses in a post last summer.

Student Museum Musings: Guide Uniforms 1987 vs Today

By Victoria, co-op student

Hi everyone! My name is Victoria, and I am a co-op student at the Oshawa Museum. One of my jobs so far has been to organize and take in the items from the Oshawa Girl Guide House collection. Guide House closed in 2014, and the vast collection of artefacts has been in storage ever since. Now, the Oshawa Museum has gotten some of that collection! As a member of Girl Guides of Canada for almost ten years, seeing the items in this collection has been very interesting. Today, I’ll be comparing two Guide (Guides is the branch for girls aged 9 to 11) uniforms: one from 1987, and the latest uniform, released in 2019. From the long skirts of the 1910s, to the t-shirt of today, uniforms have changed quite a bit over the years.

This Guide uniform was released in 1987. Designed by Alfred Sung, a popular Canadian designer, it introduced several changes to the uniforms. One of the biggest changes was pants! Starting in 1991, pants were finally an official option for the “official” uniform. With the addition of pants, a white and blue striped t-shirt, and a blue sweatshirt with red maple leaves were introduced as “official” uniform pieces. Despite the changes, the uniform still retained some of the more formal options from uniforms prior, like a dress, and the belt, though both were redesigned. The uniform scarf was redesigned as well. This uniform was discontinued in 2001, but many people continued to wear it past that date.

Guiding has changed quite a bit since that uniform was introduced in 1987.  In between 2001 and 2020, there were several redesigns to the uniforms. When compared to the 1987 uniform, this latest one is wildly different. Introduced in 2019 as part of Girl Guides of Canada’s rebranding, it is a navy-blue shirt (available in several lengths/fits) with a small white trefoil on the chest. A large white trefoil logo is printed on the back of the shirt. Unlike previous uniforms, this one does not require a badge sash, or a scarf.

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Image from Girl Guides of Canada website: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Home/GGC/uniform.aspx

As you may have realized, this uniform is wildly different from previous ones. Uniforms have always changed to reflect the times, and this latest one is no different. This uniform is the first one to consist of only one piece (a t-shirt), and the first to be the same for all branches. This means that everyone, from Sparks to Guiders, has the option to wear the same uniform. And though the uniforms have changed, many of the values and ideas of Guiding stay the same. After all this time, the motto is still “Be Prepared.”


Want to read more? Jill has written about her memories of Guiding and Scouting! Give it a read!


Sources:

Girlguides.ca. (2014). Girl Guides of Canada – Guides du Canada Fun Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/uploads/File/media_room/media_kit/ggc-fun-facts.pdf.

Girlguides.ca. (2017). Our History – 1990-2009. [online] Available at: http://www.girlguides.ca/web/ON/Girl_Program/ON/Our_History/Our_History_1990_2009.aspx.

Girlguides.ca. (2019). The Girl Guide uniform – English. [online] Available at: https://www.girlguides.ca/web/GGC/Home/GGC/uniform.aspx.

Guidehistory.files.wordpress.com. (2016). Guide Uniforms. [online] Available at: https://guidehistory.files.wordpress.com/2016/03/guide-uniform1.pdf.

Szekely, R. (2014). Iconic Oshawa Girl Guide House for sale. [online] DurhamRegion.com. Available at: https://www.durhamregion.com/community-story/4439970-iconic-oshawa-girl-guide-house-for-sale/ [Accessed 2020].