The Month That Was – February 1863

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator
Content Warning: one article discusses a suicide

February 4, 1863
Page 2
Another Suicide

…It is our most painful task to record the death of Thos. Bartlett, Esq., by his own hands, on Monday last, between the hours of eight and nine o’clock in the morning. The deceased was a brother of the late Wm. Bartlett, Esq., who hung himself… on the 4th September last, and lived on the opposite side of the road, only a few rods distant from the last residence of the former. Soon after his brother’s sad end, the subject of the present notice was taken ill, his difficulty being a nervous affection which prevented his obtaining sleep, the consequence of which was that he began to fail in flesh. As a remedy he resorted to opium, of which he took repeated and large doses with a view only of procuring sleep as was then supposed, but when it took effect it acted powerfully as an emetic, rather than as a narcotic, otherwise the quantity would most probably have proved fatal. For some time afterwards he lay in a very critical condition…

Newspaper ad for WH Tregear, French teacher
4 Feb 1863, page 4

February 11, 1863
Page 2

The Emancipation Proclamation to be Photographed – Benjamin J Lossing has obtained permission from the president to take a photograph of the Emancipation Proclamation, which is entirely in Mr. Lincoln’s handwriting. The photograph is to form one of the illustrations in Mr. Lossing’s historical work.

Oshawa Central School
At the last meeting of the Board of School Trustees, applications were received from twelve different young ladies willing to accept one or the other of the two situations open in the staff of teachers of the Central School. Only one of them – a daughter of the Rev. Mr. Cantlon – had ever taught before, and after due consideration of the claims of others, she received the appointment as teacher of the second grade at a salary of $240 per annum. A daughter of Mr. Hurd, of Raglan, was appointed teacher of the first grade, at a salary of $150 per annum. Miss Stone was, at the same time, promoted to the third grade, without increase of salary. The Central School is now better provided with teachers than it has ever been, having two male and three female teachers. Their united salaries amount to $1550. The obnoxious “monitor system” has been dismissed from the school, and teachers are paid for their services and expected to work for the interest and benefit of the school accordingly. The attendance of pupils is very large, notwithstanding the prevalence of disease, giving the five teachers plenty to do, to attend to their proper instruction.

Skirt Lifters – This new and useful invention is becoming very popular with the ladies, and promises to form nearly as important a branch of manufacture ad trade as the hoop skirt business has become. It will be seen on reference to our advertising columns that the original article is to be had at al of our Dry Goods Stores. We see by the Toronto papers that another article designed to serve the same purpose is in the market. It is a Canadian invention called the Patent Canadian Skirt Lifter.

February 18, 1863
Page 2
Oshawa Wheat Market

Last week was one of excellent sleighing and persons having wheat to dispose of, took advantage of the good travelling to pour in the golden grain and get, in return for it, the golden coin or the equally prized green colored Ontario Bank note. At Warren’s Mill, from half a dozen to twenty loads of grain were to be seen every day, standing about, wait8ing for their turn at the door to unload, and a similar scene might be witness at that of Messrs. Gibbs & Bros., in South Oshawa. The amount of wheat purchased by the latter firm, and delivered, during the week, was 22,834 bushels; 1[  ],830 were delivered on the last 3 days of the week. The amount purchased by John Warren, Esq., and delivered at his mill, was something over 18,000 bushels during the week.

In another column we give both the Oshawa and Toronto market prices.

Page 3
Oshawa Markets
Fall Wheat: 90  95
Spring Wheat:  80  85
*note, this represents a price range per bushel

Newspaper ad for George Gurley, Tailor
18 Feb 1863, page 3

February 25, 1863
Page 2

An ice-bridge, says the St. Catharine’s Journal, has formed at the junction of the Niagara River with Lake Ontario, for the third time in the history of Canada. The cause is the prevalence of south winds for a few days and then a sudden change to the north, the first forcing the ice down the upper lakes into the river, which is prevented by the north winds from getting into Lake Ontario.

Alarm of Fire – On Saturday evening last an alarm was rung out on the fire-bell, and many ran to and fro, looking for the fire. It was at last discovered, by some, in an unoccupied house belonging to Mr. L. Butterfield, on Water Street, opposite Messrs. Warren & Co.’s Tannery. A woman was engaged in cleaning out the house, and the partitions caught fire from an improperly put up stove pipe. It was soon extinguished, before doing much damage.

Page 3
Scarcely a day (says an English paper) passes on which the journals do not record deaths from wearing Crinoline. A young woman at Dalston, for instance, was making a pudding at a table five feet from the fire, when a draught from an open window blew her extended dress into the grate, and not long afterwards she was dead. Verdict of the jury, “Died from fire while wearing crinoline.”

Newspaper ad for Seed Barley
25 Feb 1863, page 3

The Month That Was – January 1862

All articles originally appeared in the Oshawa Vindicator

January 1, 1862
Page 2
Death of Prince Albert

By the arrival of the Persia, on Monday of last week, we have the painful news of the sudden death of the husband of our beloved Queen. The telegraph announced the solemn and [startling] fact so very coolly that, coming as it did without any previous warning, or word as to his sickness, it scarcely obtained credit from the public. The following is the dispatch referred to: —

“His Royal Highness, Prince Albert, expired at noon of Sunday the 15th inst., of gastric fever. His illness was not considered dangerous until Friday.”…

The Queen and the Royal Family surrounded the death-bed of the Prince.

Page 3
Dog Lost

Lost in Oshawa on the 3rd instant, a White Bulldog with both ears cropped – the right one a little shorter than the left. He has a grey spot on his back and one on his hind parts, and a long tail. Any person returning the same to the undersigned will be liberally rewarded for their trouble. F. Prevost, Tonner. Oshawa, Dec 24th, 1861.

Black and White newspaper ad for John Warren's store
January 1, 1862, page 3

January 8, 1862
Page 2
Militia Appointments

The Hon. John A. Macdonald has been charged by His Excellency with the supervision of matters connected with the Militia of the Province, under the deisgnatin of Minister of Militia affairs.

His excellency has likewise been pleased to appoint Lt.-Colonel John Richard Nash, late of Her Majesty;’s 15th Regiment, to be Deputy Adjutant General of Militia for Upper Canada.

Oshawa Municipal Election

On Monday morning last, at 10 o’clock, the electors assembled in the courthouse for the purpose of nominating candidates for the council for 1862. The returning officer, Mr. Wm. E Mark, having taken his position, called for nominations, and in the course of 15 or 20 minutes, no less than 25 gentlemen were proposed by their friends. After the nominations were closed, the returning officer called for a show of hands, for each of the gentleman nominated; with the following results:

SB Fairbanks, 53. Thos. Eck and DF Burk, each 51. TN Gibbs, 49. D. Spaulding, 46. E. Dunn, 42. GH Grierson, 41. WW Brown, 37. J Hislop and G Wallace, 26. E Carswell, 24. John Cade, 2. Jas. Chase and Robert Graham, 20. DH Merritt, 18. A Hackett and J Carmichael, 16. RT Manuel, 15. W Dickie, 14. A Thompson, 13. Dr. McGill, 12. J. Gilchrist, 10. &c. &c.

According to the show of hands, Messrs., Fairbanks, Eck, Burk, Gibbs and Spaulding were, for the first time being, declared duly elected.

The various gentleman put in nomination, were then called upon for speeches…

The members of the Oshawa Council for 1864 are, therefore:

SB Fairbanks, Thomas Eck, DF Burk, WW Brown, Edward Dunne.

It is understood, as a matter of course, that Mr. Fairbanks will remain in the Reeve’s chair another year.

East Whitby Election

Mr. Fowke being about to remove to Oshawa, did not present himself for reelection in the Township. The other four members accepted nominations, and two new men were brought out, Mr. James O Guy, and Robert Smith – the latter, a brother of Mr. John Smith, who has been in the council ever since the division of the Township. Mr. Guy appears to be the favorite candidate, and led the poll from the commencement, closely followed by Messrs., Rob’t Smith, John Smith, and Wm Bartlett, while a close contest was, for some time, kept up between the respective friends of Messrs. Ratcliff and Doolittle. Mr. Ratcliff, however, always kept the lead, being 30 ahead at the close of the first day. At the close of the poll on Tuesday, the following gentleman were declared duly elected: —

James O. Guy, Robert Smith, Wm. Bartless, John Smith, John Ratcliff.

Page 3
$50 Reward

Whereas on the morning of the 17th day of August, 1861, there was laid at the door of William Bartless, on Lot No. 15 in the 1st concession of East Whitby, a female infant; and on the 27th of the same month, at the doors of Abram Skinner on Lot No. 3 in the 4th concession of East Whitby, a male infant; — A reward of $50 (fifty dollars) will be paid by the Corporation of East Whitby to any person who will prosecute to conviction the principal, or agent, in either of the above cases of child desertion.

Given under my hand at East Whitby aforesaid, on the 30th day of December, 1861. John Ratcliff, Town Reeve.

Black and white clippings from the newspaper
January 8, 1862, page 3

January 22, 1862
Page 2
Sleighing and Business

Until about a week ago, everybody was talking of the lack of snow, and the consequent dullness of the season, but now we have plenty of snow, splendid sleighing, and business is as brisk as the day is long. Our streets are, at times, almost blockaded with teams standing in front of stores, and passing and repassing – reminding a person of similar scenes in metropolitan streets. Enormous loads of cordwood, wheat, flour and other commodities pass along Simcoe Street every few minutes. As we write, four or five teams have passed along, each drawing the enormous load of two cords of wood on a single sleigh, for which the owners get $5.50 cash down, and hurry home to bring in another load in the afternoon before the price falls, which it mist soon do at the rate wood is coming in…

Page 3

Free Schools – We learn that the ratepayers in the School Section in Saxon’s Settlement, Darlington, have this year adopted the free school principle for the first time, without any opposition. –In the section in East Whitby, at Maxwell’s Corners, we learn that the Free School principle has been adopted this year, for the second time, by a majority of two to one, though carrid by a majority of only two or three, last year.

Stray Cattle

Three stray cattle came into the premises about the 1st of December, which may be described as follows: – One white Steer, with a few red spots; one red muley; and one red heifer with some white hairs. All, apparently, coming two years old in the spring. The owners are requested to prove property, pay damages and take them away. Thos. & Phin. Henry, Port Oshawa, January 16, 1862.

Black and White newspaper ad for David F. Burk's store
January 22, 1862, page 3

January 29 1862
Page 2
Selling Liquor Without License

On Saturday last the keepers of the British American and the Wellington houses, Messrs. RT Manuel and N Dyer, were again summoned before the Reeve on the charge of selling Intoxicating Liquors without license – the former for the third time, and the latter for the second. The charge being satisfactorily proven, the highest fine the law permits – twenty dollars – was imposed upon each. Mr. Manuel again gave notice of his intention to appeal to the Assizes, a la Spaulding. This makes the second fine of twenty dollars which he has appealed; – with what object, except to put off the date of payment, it is difficult to perceive, for it is not very likely that the fines have been illegally imposed.

Black and white newspaper ad for Dentist James Stephens
January 29, 1862, page 4

The Month That Was – November 1917

Canadian Statesman, 4 Nov 1917, p. 5
Local and Otherwise
A Grand Masquerade Carnival will be held at the Oshawa Roller Rink next Tuesday night, Nov. 6th, See large bills for list of prizes. Doors Open at 7pm. Admission 25c, skates 10c extra.

Churches
The Jubilee services of Simcoe-st Methodist Church, Oshawa, on Sunday Oct. 21 will long be remembered as an event of great importance and interest.

Newspaper ad for the Military Service Act
Port Perry Star, 8 Nov 1917, p. 8

North Ontario Observer, 22 Nov 1917, p. 2
Union Mass Meeting
Wm. Smith, Esq., ex-MP Unaniously Nominated
Meeting Large and Enthusiastic

Whitby, Nov. 17 –  Nomination as Union candidate to represent South Ontario in the Dominion Parliament was offered to an accepted by William Smith, ex-PM (sic) for the riding, at a meeting called to choose a Union candidate, held in Whitby this afternoon. There was a large attendance made up of adherence to both political parties, and on the platform were men who in the past have been lively and even better opponents. F.L. Mason, Warden of the County, was chairman. The names in first nomination comprised almost as many liberals as conservatives, and were: William Smith, ex-MP, Columbus; FL Fowke, ex-MP, Oshawa; Dr TE Kaiser, Oshawa; Dr. Captain James Moore, Brooklin; George McLaughlin, Oshawa; Robert M Holtby, Manchester; Col. JF Grierson, Oshawa; Peter Christie, Manchester. All withdrew except Wm. Smith, and on motion of Dr. TE Kaiser and Col. JE Grierson, the nomination was unanimously offered to Mr. Smith, amid prolonged and enthusiastic applause.

Mr. Smith, in a kindly and amiable address, accepted the nomination and put himself up on record as in hearty accord with the principles the motives of the motives of the Union Government. He sympathized with those who were called upon to give up the sons to this awful struggle for human liberty, but there was no other way to in victory. The Military Service Act was inevitable when voluntary recruitment failed. He pledged his loyalty and hearty support to the union government, if elected.

Black and white photo of W.E.N. Sinclair, who was nominated as the Liberal Party Candidate in 1917
Port Perry Star, 22 Nov 1917, p. 1

Canadian Statesman, 29 Nov 1917, p. 2
Oshawa Boy Pays Price
Mr. A.A. Crowle, Oshawa, has received the following telegram:

“Deeply regret to inform you 745947 Pte. Delbert Crowle, Infantry, officially reported died of wounds, 44th Clearing Station, November 3, 1917, gunshot wound head.” Pte. Crowle enlisted with the 116th Ontario County Battalion. He went overseas on July 20, and reached France on 20th October, 1916. He was on active service until the 4th of May, 1917, when he was wounded. He was in England until September 1st, when he again returned to the firing line. Delbert was well known in Oshawa being born there 22 years ago, attended school, and was his father’s able assistant in the Luke Burial Company’s office when he enlisted. Capt. Garbutt, of Simcoe Street Methodist Church, held a memorial service Sunday evening to the memory of the deceased soldier.

Page 5
Local and Otherwise
Ernest Drinkle, Oshawa, was fined $5 for allowing his son to remain out of school. We see boys of school age too often on streets during school hours.

The Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917, p. 4
The Late JO Henry

There passes away at his home on King St. east, Inst. Thursday afternoon, a member of a well known family in this County, in the person of Mr. James Orrin Henry.

He was one of the first exporters from Canada of apples to the British market, where his brand of fruit remained popular for many years. He was in his 86th year. As one of the pioneers of this locality, he had a large circle of acquaintances and many relatives.

He was the first of the twelve sons of the late Elder Thomas Henry, who was a local preacher of reputation 50 years ago. Elder Henry, along with Barton stone, founded the Christian Connection Church of Canada. Mr. Henry retired from his business 26 years ago. He is survived by two sons, Mr. EN Henry, who is a member of the Oshawa Exemption Tribunal, and Dr. Frank Henry, of Oshawa. He was a life-long Liberal and a Methodist. He was twice married. His first wife was a daughter of Samuel Hill, a pioneer of the district, and his second wife, Miss Carrie Major of Port Perry.

The funeral took place Saturday afternoon at 3:30 and was largely attended, interment taking place in Union Cemetery.

Note: James was the sixth of eleven sons for Thomas Henry, not fifth of twelve as reported.

Newspaper ad for Henderson Bros., New Linens for Xmas
Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917 Page 12

The Ontario Reformer, November 30, 1917, p. 9
Archie Law Killed in Action
Word was received Wednesday morning of last week that Lance Corpl. Archie Law, one of Oshawa’s brightest and best known young men was “killed in action” on Oct. 30th. He enlisted in Montreal with the late Will Garrow, Will Bowden, Walter Hobday and Will French, in the Princess Patricias, and they went overseas Sept. 4th, 1915. He had not been wounded before, although he was in the hospital for a short time with a throat disease incurred by drinking bad water. All of these boys have been put out of the fight. Two have paid the supreme sacrifice. Will Bowden is a prisoner in Germany, Will French was wounded, and not being able to go back to the trenches, is being used as a bombing instructor in England. Walter Hobday returned to Canada incapacitated for further service a couple of months ago, bringing with him a bride from England.

Archie Law lived with his sister, Mrs. McAndrews, and father, William St. He also has five young brothers. His mother died when he was three years old, and was working for Luke Bros. when he enlisted. He was a member of Simcoe St. Church and S.S., and a good living boy who made friends wherever he went. He was expecting a six weeks’ leave to visit friends to Ireland at Xmas time.

Page number not specified
“Tanks” Pass Through Oshawa

On Tuesday afternoon the armoured tank, three armoured cars and the armoured motor cycle, which are being used in Canada in promoting the sale of Victory Loan Bonds, passed through Oshawa on the C.P.R. The tank, which is in charge of its own crew from the front, is like a huge tractor, and travels by means of two endless chains, on the caterpillar style. It is about 25 ft. long and about 10 ft. high. On account of the short notice given of their arrival but few were at the station to see them go through.

The Month That Was – August 1932

August 2, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Garden Judging Not Completed
Winners in Competition to be Announced at Flower Show

Owing to the large number of flower and vegetable gardens entered in the Horticultural Society competition, and the extensive journeying around the city that the judges had to do yesterday to visit the different private gardens and school lawns, it has not been possible for the judges to arrive at their final decisions so that the winners may be announced in The Times to-day. By tomorrow, however, they will have completed their difficult task of judging and in the afternoon at the annual Horticultural Society Flower and Vegetable Show in the Genosha Hotel, the winners will be announced. The prizes will be given out in the evening on which occasion several officials of the Society and other prominent citizens in the city will deliver brief addresses.

August 2, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Traffic Was Heavy

Traffic was exceptionally heavy on Highway No. 2 over the weekend, particularly on Saturday and Monday. Last night, the westbound stream of cars was very steady, and at times there was a real congestion at the four corners as cars waited for the signal lights to change from red to green.

Newspaper ad for Oshawa Laundry & Dry Cleaning
Canadian Statesman, 4 August 1932, p3

August 2, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Many Out Of City

The Civic Holiday was quietly spent yesterday so far as Oshawa was concerned, there being no outstanding events in the city. Many citizens, however, took advantage of the fine weather to go for motor trips. A large number from Oshawa attended the aquatic sports day at Orillia, while many were also seen on the roads to Lindsay and Port Perry. As usual, Lakeview Park was crowded all day, there being hundreds of cars from out of town at Oshawa’s lakeside resort.

August 3, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Court Officers Badly Confused
Found Usual Entry Blocked on Account of Building Being Fumigated

Some confusion was aroused on Wednesday morning when officials of the city police court sought to gain entrance to the Old City Hall by the back entrance from the police station. When Chief of Police Friend tried to open the door he found it tightly closed and resistant to all efforts to open it. The final result was that the magistrate, lawyers and press had to file through the fire hall and mount the front stairs of the building.

It was learned later that the members of the fire department had fumigated their sleeping quarters at the front of the building the night before and in order to make sure that no one would be asphyxiated, all doors had been locked and sealed. Members of the department in the meantime found sleeping quarters on the coils of hose on the trucks and in convenient chairs, in the fire hall. As the night was rather cold sweaters and rubber coats were much in evidence and even then some of the men were of the opinion that a bed was the nicest place to sleep on.

Newspaper ad for Moffat Motor Sales
Canadian Statesman, 4 August 1932, p7

August 3, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Cargo Of Coke Is Brought To City

A substantial contribution to Oshawa’s fuel supply for next winter arrived at the local harbour yesterday afternoon when the steamer Coalhaven docked with a cargo of coke, consigned to the Canadian Fuels Limited. The shipment amounted to between 1600 and 1800 tons of coke.

Another large shipment of coke is expected in a week or ten days’ time, when the steamer Midland Prince, flagship of the Canada Steamship Lines freight fleet, will bring a load for the same firm. If this vessel is loaded to capacity, there will be about 7,000 tons in the shipment. Further advice as to the date of her arrival is expected later.

August 4, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Hen Mothers Cat, Kittens, At Port Whitby

A hen and a cat and little kittens might be considered strange companions, but at the home of Mrs. George Huntley, Port Whitby, this companionship has become a reality. Out in the barn, which serves as a chicken house, there is a cat with several little kittens, and on several occasions the old hen has played the role of mother by sitting on top of them and covering the feline and her brood with her wings, and there is not the slightest resistance. But this strange companionship goes even further, for the other day when the kittens were taken away from their mother the hen promptly scratched up some grain and carried it over to where the kittens were, just the same as if they were chickens.

August 5, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Parkwood Horses Winners at Sutton

Horses from the Parkwood Stables of R.S. McLaughlin played an important part in the events at the opening of the annual Sutton Horse Show yesterday afternoon. In two events McLaughlin animals were placed first, while in three events Oshawa horses came second. In the class for novice middleweight hunters, first place went to River and second place to Thackeray, both of these horses being entered by Mr. McLaughlin. My Delight, another Parkwood entry, was first in the class for saddle horses of 15.2 hands, while in the class for heavyweight hunters, Mr. McLaughlin’s Rathshamory took second place. In an open jumping class, over four-foot fences, with 35 entries, Mr. McLaughlin’s six year old jumper, Sahib, took second place.

Newspaper feature of the McLaughlin family. There are three rows of images - the top row features three Caucasian men, RS McLaughlin, Robert McLaughlin, and George McLaughlin. Middle row features men standing by a wooden structure. Bottom row is an aerial view of a factory
Canadian Statesman, 25 August 1932, p4

August 6, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Noted Speaker Is Coming to Rotary

Oshawa Rotarians are due to have a special treat on Monday, when the speaker at their weekly luncheon will be Mel. Hutchinson, president of the Toronto Rotary Club, who, while living in Western Canada, was district governor of the 4th district of Rotary International.  Mr. Hutchinson attended the recent convention of Rotary International at Seattle, and will give an address dealing with the high-lights of the convention.

August 8, 1932 – The Oshawa Daily Times
Swimmers Camp Opened At Lake

Oshawa’s 1932 camp for marathon swimmers at Lakeview Park is now in operation, with Captain George Corson, internationally-known swimming coach, in charge. With him in the camp, so far, are his wife, Ruth Tower Corson, who finished second in the first women’s swim at the C.N.E.; Myron Cox, Californian long-distance swimmer, who has taken part in several of the marathon swims, and Gambi, the Italian champion, who is regarded as one of the outstanding aspirants in this year’s big race. Other noted swimmers are expected here within the next few days to join the camp, which is housed in one of the cottages on the road leading up to Bonniebrae Point.

August 11, 1932, p. 5 – Port Perry Star
For Rent

Farm of 100 acres at Oshawa Harbour. Good buildings, convenient location, in godo (sic) state of cultivation. Immediate possession to plough. Apply to GD Conant, Oshawa.

Pteridomania: The Victorian Craze for Ferns

By Kes Murray, Registrar

Walking through our Henry House is like walking back into the mid-1800s. From the furniture, to the decorations, our Henry House is a good example of a Victorian home, right down to the tiniest detail. Walking through, you may notice that a lot of the decorations and motifs are floral. This is because the Victorians loved their plants! During the Victorian era, Botany became one of the most popular scientific fields within English society, due in part to colonialization and expansion of European countries into the Americas, Asia, Oceania, and Africa, and also from the scientific endeavour to collect and classify the natural world.

When thinking of the Victorian era and flowers, you may think of a few things, such as the Victorian language of flower dictionaries that grew in popularity, the emphasis on gardening and landscaping during this period, the popular pastime of collecting and pressing flowers, or the boom in greenhouses and hothouses. No aspect of life was exempt from the craze of flowers.

However, one unique plant captured this Victorian plant craze to a new extreme. This plant was that of the fern. This craze was so intense that it created its own name, called Pteridomania, meaning fern fever.

A bright room with pink wallpaper. There is a large wooden couch, and two framed items on the wall. There is a fern on a pedestal in the room as well.
Parlour, Henry House, with a fern in the corner.

How did this start?

Ferns have a long mysterious history before the Victorian era. It has long been used for medicinal purposes, commonly used for treating asthma, hair loss, kidney complaints, and worms. However, the real mystery was that of how ferns reproduced. None knew how they grew, thus myths spread that ferns has magical properties, and eating the fern seed could make one invisible.  

Throughout the 1700s, minor scientific developments happened in the study of ferns. The largest challenge to this study was the survival rate. England only had about fifty native species, but many botanist wanted the exotic ferns. Transporting ferns from Australia, for example, was extremely difficult, as ferns would not survive the harsh conditions of the trip. Just about 2% of ferns survived the journey.

However, this all changed with the invention of the Wardian case. In 1829, Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward, a doctor and an amateur naturalist, invented the Wardian case. Ward had a keen interest in ferns but faced difficulties when growing them in foggy, damp, and polluted London, England. One night in 1829, he placed the chrysalis of a moth in a sealed glass bottle with moss at the bottom. To his surprise, he noticed some days later that a seedling fern had started growing inside. We can then think of the Wardian case as a precursor to that of our modern terrariums. They acted as a protective case and also as a microenvironment.

A view into a room from a doorway. There is a window with drapery and a fern in the centre
Dining Room, Henry House, with fern in the window.

Together, Ward and friend George Loddiges, also a botanist, began experimenting with larger Wardian cases. By 1831, they had grown thirty fern species in the Wardian cases. Overall, the Wardian case allowed plants from all over the world to be brought to England and survive.

Along with new inventions, literature added to this growing fern craze. In 1840, Edward Newman wrote A History of British Ferns. In this book, Newman praised Ward for his work and wrote that only those with “good taste” would attempt growing ferns. This right here started the fern craze.

People began collecting and hunting for ferns. Different species came from all over the world. Greenhouses and ferneries were created, where one could walk through and enjoy different fern species, along with other plants, flowers, shrubs, and trees. And of course, fern motifs could be found on everything from buildings, to ceramics, to clothing.

Our own collection here at the museum contains some of this fern craze. I was delighted when I found some clothing with fern motifs and Victorian era photography with individuals wearing clothing with fern themes.

However, this fern craze came with some costs. As the rage for ferns continued, prices increased. It became more difficult to find new species of ferns, and fern hunters would put themselves into dangerous situations just to find that new fern, like climbing mountains or venturing into unknown environments. Many injuries happened. Soon, some ferns, like the Killarney fern, became nearly extinct due to this craze.

A black jar with gold lid; it has a fern motif and features the word 'Oshawa'
Oshawa souvenir, with fern decoration, made by Oshawa’s Smith Potteries (020.7.1)

Pteridomania ended in the early 1900s. But, if you come to our Henry House, you can still see the fern craze in action.


Sources consulted:

Books

  • Bailey, M. & Bailey, A. (2021). The Hidden Histories of House Plants. Hardie Grant Books.
  • Favretti, R. J., & Favretti, J. P. (1997). Landscapes and gardens for historic buildings: A handbook for reproducing and creating authentic landscape settings. Rowman Altamira.
  • Shteir, A. B. (1997). Gender and” modern” botany in Victorian England. Osiris12, 29-38.
  • Whittingham, S. (2009). The Victorian Fern Craze. Shire.

Websites

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