Student Museum Musings – In My Own Backyard?

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.

Both photos taken at Emma Street looking north to King, 1992 and 2016. The rail line is now the Michael Starr Trail

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.

Smith Potteries Collection; Picture from Dylan C.

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.

Cataloguing Station; Picture from Dylan C.

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.

Newsworthy Affairs

By Lisa Terech, Community Engagement

One of our regular series on the blog is The Month That Was. The OM started the MTW feature at least a decade ago when we used ‘Facebook Notes’ to share these newspaper stories, and when the blog got off the ground in 2013, the series migrated to this forum.

I am very grateful when our high school co-op students have helped compile the posts for various months, because this series can take quite a bit of time between reading, transcribing, finding images, and scheduling the posts. A few students especially enjoyed this task when it meant using the microfilm reader in the archives, dusting off this technology relic, and yet still a mainstay.

Every so often, when tasked with writing the MTW, I get lost in the articles. My interest piques when I see a familiar name or read about a well known historical event. Last month, I couldn’t help but share with my colleagues when I read a marriage announcement:

Married

At the residence of the bride’s father by Rev. T. Henry, on Saturday evening, the 7th inst, Mr. Albert N. Henry and Miss Harriett T. Guy, both of Port Oshawa.

Oshawa Vindicator, June 11, 1862

Sadly, Harriett died in 1866 due to a typhoid epidemic in the community.

And while I thoroughly the catchy songs in the movie musical The Greatest Showman, we know in real life, PT Barnum was not the sympathetic hero he was portrayed as by Hugh Jackman. This was remarked on in 1865:

Barnum’s expressed design of exhibiting Tom Thumb in France, has called forth a good witticism from Ledru Rollin.  “Tom Thumb should exhibit Barnum,” said he, “for the latter is the greater curiosity.”

Oshawa Vindicator, December 6, 1865

Often, I laugh at what the newspaper deems worthy to print, giggling as I type it out for others to read. For example, in 1872, the Ontario Reformer had an article devoted to the calendar make up, as follows:

The year 1872 contains 52 Sundays. September and December each begins on a Sunday; January, April and July on Monday. October is the only month beginning on a Tuesday. February begins and ends on Thursday; consequently we have five Thursdays, which will not occur again until the year 1900.  In the year 1880, February will have five Sundays which will not occur again until the year 1920.  The year 1871 began on Sunday and ended on Sunday.

Ontario Reformer, January 19, 1872

And in our latest entry for the MTW, in the Oshawa-on-the-Lake column, the following was reported:

The lake water [can] get very cold, nevertheless, a number of campers take a regular morning dip. The first lady bather of the season is Mrs. Sparks of Toronto, who is visiting with the Misses King. She ventured out alone on Wednesday afternoon.

Ontario Reformer, July 11, 1902

There are, unfortunately, gaps in Oshawa’s newspaper history, and we are very fortunate when hard copies exist and are donated to the archives. Because of this, we have sometimes looked to surrounding community’s newspapers for news items about Oshawa.

Pupils of Mae Marsh Delight Big Audience at Masonic Temple

Parents and friends strained the capacity of the Masonic Temple, Oshawa, on Saturday afternoon, to see the dance recital presented by the Lillian Mae Marsh School of Dancing.  Picturesque costumes that would have qualified for a Broadway show and a smartly paced program held the interest of the audience.

Canadian Statesman, April 4, 1952

Perhaps the MTW that looked the farthest afield was April 1937. This was the month of the strike that saw the recognition of the auto workers union, and the strike itself made headlines in Canada and the US. As reported in Indiana,

Premier Hurls New Threat in Oshawa Strike
Oshawa, Ont., April 13 (AP) – A move by Canada’s minister of labor to mediate the Oshawa strike pivoted today upon consent by General Motors of Canada, Ltd.

Meanwhile, other developments added fuel to the already heated controversy of international scope: Hugh Thompson, John L. Lewis’s right-hand man in the Oshawa strike, asserted the US supreme court decision on the Wagner act would cast the United Automobile Workers’ union in the role of sole bargaining agent for the General Motors workers here and the in the United States.

Premier Mitchell Hepburn of Ontario accused Lewis of trying to become “economic and political dictator” of both the United States and Canada and declared that, if he came to Canada and sponsored any overt act, or if any of his aids should do so, they would be jailed “for a good, long time and there wouldn’t be any bail.”

Lafayette Journal and Courier (Lafayette, Indiana), 13 April 1937

When I randomly chose the Month That Was December 1872, I was highly interested to learn that it was during this month that a great fire affected downtown Oshawa, the paper remarking Oshawa had been ‘Chicagoed’ likening this disaster to the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. I’d recommend reading this month in its entirety, HERE.

Be sure to watch our blog on the first of every month for the latest edition of The Month That Was, and I hope you enjoy reading these posts as much as I enjoy researching and writing them!

The Month That Was – July 1902

All articles originally appeared in the Ontario Reformer

July 4, 1902

Page 1
Lost. On or about the 21st of June, between Conlin’s School House and Oshawa, a finger glove used in ball playing, was lost. The finder will be liberally rewarded by leaving it at this office. July 3, 1902.

Page 4
Mr. John Goyne, formerly of Oshawa, is a member of No. 3 Field Hospital and Bearer Company, of Montreal, which won first prize in the first aid work and drill competition at St. Helen’s Island last week. The squad, which is comprised of six men, won 279 marks of a possible 300. John will be in Oshawa next week to spend his summer vacation.

Oshawa Old Boys Reunion – Many towns throughout the province have of late been holding re-union celebrations and on all occasions the event has proved successful in every respect. We think it now up to Oshawa to make a move for such a festival and suggest that action be at once taken in the matter.  There is plenty of time for a citizens committee to take hold of this scheme and make a successful demonstration here on the Annual Labour Day holiday.  We feel confident that whoever offers to take the matter in hand will receive the support of the entire community.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.

Deaths
Farewell – In Saulte Ste. Marie, on Wednesday, the 2nd inst., Dr. George M Farewell in his 65th year.  The Funeral will leave the family homestead at Harmony, on Saturday afternoon, 5th inst., at 2:30 o’clock.

Page 8
Kawartha Lakes
Before deciding on a place at which to spend the vacation this summer, it is will to take into consideration the many advantages of the Kawartha Lakes region of Ontario, Canada.  As a place for camping the region has to superior.  For the most part, the shores of the lakes are untouched by man. Nature is seen in all her grand disorder, there being nowhere that artificiality which, to the true lover of nature, often spoils landscape.  Pure air and water, each which is a factor in choosing a summering place, are assured in that region.  Transportation on the lakes is also amply provided by a steamboat line plying between Lakefield and Coboconk, a distance of 70 miles.  There is an additional attraction for the angler, as the fishing in the lakes is very good.  The gamey maskirouge (sic) and black bass are there to reward the sportsman.

July 11, 1902, page 6

July 11, 1902

Page 2
Coronation in August

Report Says that It Will Be Earlier Than Expected
A despatch from London says King Edward will be crowned between August 11 and August 15.  His recovery has been so rapid and satisfactory that the above decision was arrived at today.  No [official] announcement of the fact has yet been made, however.  The pageant through the streets and the ceremony at Westminster Abbey will be much curtailed from the original plan.  Their Majesties will drive from Buckingham Palace to the Abbey through the Mall to Whitehall and thence to the Abbey, the same route as taken at the opening of Parliament.

Page 3
Oshawa-on-the-Lake
The warm weather of the past week has at last brought down daily a large crowd of visitors who spend a few hours with us and return home much refreshed

The cottages are now all occupied, as also are the rooms over Henry’s restaurant and the campers are thoroughly enjoying all the pleasures that life at the resort affords.

The lake water [can] get very cold, nevertheless, a number of campers take a regular morning dip. The first lady bather of the season is Mrs. Sparks of Toronto, who is visiting with the Misses King. She ventured out alone on Wednesday afternoon.

Mr CA Mallory for the past few years has become prominent resident as the resort [is not] with us this year, and his familiar form is greatly missed.  He has rented his restaurant to Mr. Ed Thomas and with his wife will sail to England to spend a month or so there.

July 11, 1902, page 7

July 18, 1902

Page 1
Oshawa-on-the-Lake
A number of picnics have been booked for this month and next at AD Henry’s grounds.  To-morrow Mount Carswell Sons of Temperance will be here, and Saturday, the 25th inst. the annual picnic of the employees of the Malleable Iron Works will be help. This picnic has been setteled for the 19th but owing to the large crowd coming from out of town on that day to attend the big lacrosse match up town, the Oshawa Railway found it would be impossible to handle the crowd.

On Wednesday the Argyle brought some seven hundred from Toronto to picnic at the Park., Some of our young ladies seem to look forward with great delight to the days the boat brings picnics and remains all day.  It is nice they can find some attraction on the boat since our resort affords them none.

Page 3
To visit Khartoum
The Prince, the Khedive and Lord Kitchener
A despatch from London says – it is stated that the Prince of Wales and General Kitchener will be present with the Khedive of Egypt at the formal inauguration of the great Assouan dam in December.  The party will afterwards visit Khartoum.

July 25, 1902, page 5

July 25,1902

Page 1
Reward
The undersigned will pay the ten dollars to any person who will give information that will convict the party or parties that broke in the door of the weigh scales at the Harbor, or [     ] the name F. Finnigan on the new store house at the Harbor
Henry Salter, [       ] of Words

July 25, 1902, page 6

Page 4
Proclamation
Civic Holiday
In accordance with a resolution of the Town Council in that behalf, I hereby proclaim

Monday, the 4th day of Aug – prox. A Public Holiday for this Corporation.  Accordingly all citizens are respectfully requested to refrain from their ordinary avocations on that Day.

FL Fowke, Mayor
Mayor’s Office, July 23, 1902

Discussions about Difficult Histories

By Jennifer Weymark, Archivist

The Oshawa Historical Society’s summer 2020 newsletter is all about Henry House and the Henry family.  This year marks the 60th anniversary of the home becoming a museum, and we wanted to celebrate this occasion with a Henry House themed newsletter.  For me, writing about the Henrys inevitably turns into writing about Ebenezer Elijah Henry aka E.E. Henry or Eben. He has been an interest of mine since I first accessioned a letter that he wrote to his father into the archival collection. My newsletter contribution was about this letter and how fascinating I found this glimpse into the more personal life of the youngest of Thomas and Betsey’s sons.

EE Henry (A017.20.1)

Initially the newsletter was to include an image of this first letter along with a transcription because the original handwritten letter can be challenging to read.  After a staff meeting on June 4, we changed our approach and decided to no longer include the letter in the newsletter. Why did we decide to switch this letter for a different one written by E.E.?  Simply put, staff decided that the language used, while appropriate at the time it was written, is not only inappropriate, but it is hurtful for those who he was commenting on.

As the world reacts to the protests against police brutality in the United States, Canada is also looking at our history of anti-Black racism, how that has been white washed from our history, and the role that museums have played in this. In the letter, Henry writes about a recent American election, the controversial 1876 election that saw Rutherford B. Hayes win the election due to a decision made by the Electoral College after losing the popular vote to Samuel Tilden.  Henry notes that this election, just a decade after the abolishment of slavery in the United States, had Black Americans terrified that slavery would be reinstated. There doesn’t seem to be any merit behind Henry’s observation, but it is interesting to see his perspective on the political atmosphere in his newly adopted country. The language used by Henry to describe Black Americans is not acceptable, and staff felt sharing that language does not add to the discussion.

Are we censoring history?  Are we continuing to white wash the prevalent racism of those we study in the past?  All valid questions and all ones we weighed against the potential pain we could be adding to a community already dealing with the pain of racism.

No, we are not censoring history.  The complete letter and transcription are in the archival collection and have been printed in full in our publication To Cast a Reflection. The content of the letter is still clear in my newsletter article without including the complete transcription with the hurtful language.

I have written and spoken at length about the challenges of overcoming gaps in our archival collection due to past collecting practices. Our collection is filled with information on the wealthy white elite of our community because that was who was doing the collecting. Currently we are working to fill in those gaps, but it is not easy because much has already been lost.  Research into early Black history in our community has been challenging and rewarding, and ensuring that this community is no longer omitted in our histories is a work in progress. We are very aware that archives and museums are not neutral and we must play a role in ensuring that the community as a whole is represented in what we collect and exhibit.

This post is another way that we are working to be transparent and accountable.  Our decision to not share, at this time, the transcript of a letter with hurtful language was made after much careful reflection and consideration for current events.

The Month That Was – June 1862

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

June 4, 1862
The Municipal Election
The Election held in Oshawa on Friday and Saturday last, for the purpose of filling the vacancy in the Village Council, resulted in the return of Mr. JW Fowke by a majority of 10 over Mr John Hyland.  The votes, at the close of the poll, stood: for Fowke 99; for Hyland 89.  Most of the voting was done in the afternoon of the second day.  About 2 o’clock, Mr. Hyland was upwards of 20 votes ahead, and his friends were beginning to feel confident of success, which led Mr. Fowke’s friends to stir about, and for two hours the voting went off quite brisk, resulting as already stated.

June 4, 1862, page 1

Bill to repeal the Fugitive Slave Law
A bill was introduced in the Senate, to-day, by Mr. Sumner, repealing the fugitive slave law and prohibiting slavery in the territories existing or to be acquired, and abolishing it in all the dock-yards, forts, arsenals, etc., located in the slave states, thus relieving the national government from any connection with slavery.

June 4, 1862, page 3

June 11, 1862
Eclipse of the Moon
A total eclipse of the Moon takes place to-night, (Wednesday) or rather to-morrow morning. It will commence a few minutes before twelve o’clock, p.m.*, and end at fifteen minutes past three to-morrow morning – its duration being three hours and seventeen minutes.  The moon will be wholly immersed in the shadow of the earth – totally eclipsed – for the space of sixty-two minutes
*midnight

June 11, 1862, page 3

A Heavy Lamb – Mr. Alex Knox, of Clyde Bank, East Whitby, brought to Oshawa on Tuesday of last week,  a lamb weighing 67 lbs, live weight, at the age of fourteen weeks.  A pretty good specimen for the age, and hard to beat.

Married
At the residence of the bride’s father by Rev. T. Henry, on Saturday evening, the 7th inst, Mr. Albert N. Henry and Miss Harriett T. Guy, both of Port Oshawa.

June 18, 1862
C. Warren & Co.’s Tannery
A few days since we took a walk thro’ the above-mentioned establishment, picking up by the way, a few items of information which may possibly be interesting to some of our readers.

This tannery is not what might be termed a one-horse concern, in which no other power than that of one or two workmen, and one horse is needed to carry on its operations, but gives active employment to about a dozen workmen, whose labors are lighted by a six-horse power engine and a powerful water wheel, which do all the pumping, bark grinding, etc.  At present, from fifty to seventy hides per week are “taken in and done for,” but a large addition upon the west and north sides of the old building, is in course of erection, which, when completed, will give a capacity for working up one hundred hides per week.  Such a number of hides, as a matter of course, could not be purchased in this neighborhood, and therefore Messrs. Warren & Co. Have to draw upon distant points for stock.  Most of their hides are purchased in Chicago, and the leather, into which they are manufactured, is chiefly sold in Kingston and Montreal.  The new building, now enclosed, will contain nearly as many vats as the main one, and will be ready for operation in about a week.

June 18, 1862, page 4

Early closing.
We are much pleased to observe that the Merchants of Oshawa have signed and published an agreement to close their shops precisely at half past seven o’clock every evening, from now to The first of October. This is a very proper move, and we hope it will be rigidly adhered to by all, whatever may be the temptation to violate it. The farmers come in and transact their business in the daytime, as do also, many who live in the village, and those of the latter class who cannot make it convenient to visit the stores in the daytime, can surely get there, and find parties to wait upon them, before half past seven. In some of our stores, for some time past, there has been no regular time for closing, nor for clerks to get an hour to themselves.

We have expressed a hope that the agreement to close at half past seven would be rigidly observed by those who are parties to it. We say this because it is well known that, when a similar agreement was made on a former occasion, some parties lived up to the letter, but grossly violated the spirit of it by keeping their doors unbarred, if not unlocked, and their stores were well lit up, for hours after other merchants had really and truly closed up. Such a practice is in the highest degree unjust to those who close punctually and completely, because it robs them of many casual quarters or dollars which they might get by pursuing a similar course.

June 25, 1862
Temperance Soiree
The members of the Raglan Division announce their intention to hold a Soiree in Mr. Smith’s grove, a mile and a half east of Raglan, on Wednesday next, the 2nd of July. Several able and interesting speakers are engaged for the occasion, as also vocal and instrumental musicians, and everything promises a pleasant and profitable season.

East Whitby Division is also to have a Soiree in the grove a little north of Harmony, on the following day – Thursday the 3rd of July. A number of good speakers are also engaged for this occasion, and the music is to be supplied by the Oshawa Brass Band. The committee intend to use their best exertions to render the affair in every respect worth of large attendance.  Tea to be served at Harmony at half-past two o’clock and at Raglan at one o’clock.

June 25, 1862, page 3