“We have two days that are good for the economy. Now we have a day that is good for the community too.” GivingTuesday.ca
Once again the Oshawa Museum is taking part in the global movement known as GivingTuesday. Taking place the Tuesday after Black Friday and Cyber Monday, it is unofficially known as the “opening day of the giving season.” It is a time for charities, companies and individuals to join together and celebrate their favourite causes. (GivingTuesday.ca)
Our staff chose the artefact collection as the focus of the Oshawa Museum’s Giving Tuesday celebration. A great deal of our work at the Oshawa Museum (OM) centres around the collection which numbers in excess of 50,000 objects. Collecting the artefacts is only one piece of the puzzle. One of the most important aspects of the collecting process is the curation or, in other words, how the collection is accumulated and selected for acquisition, presentation and preservation. Melissa Cole and Jennifer Weymark are the staff members responsible for curating the OM’s collection. In this process they are guided by their professional knowledge and a collection policy to ensure our collection is diverse and representative of the history of Oshawa and includes the voices, stories and artefacts of all those who have called Oshawa home. In order to strategically develop the collection for future generations, we rely on donations of both money and artefacts. Donations in any amount help us to purchase items we feel will help tell a more inclusive history of our City. We are also asking you to search your attics and basements for artefacts that will help us with our work.
To help you, Jennifer and Melissa recently came up with a Curator’s Top 5 Most Wanted artefacts.
Items related to the Henry, Guy and Robinson families including photographs, land deeds, letters, artefacts.
Examples of Smith Potteries pieces or items related to the business. Currently the OM has 25 pieces of Smith Potteries, and we hope to grow this number and learn more about the business that operated in Oshawa from 1925-1949.
Oshawa historic newspapers especially from the period 1880-1930. There are large gaps in the newspaper collection during these years. Complete newspapers are great, however we also are interested in incomplete copies or single pages.
Anything related to industry and manufacturing, labour history and the 1937 strike.
A more inclusive look at Oshawa’s history means we must do a better job at telling the stories of our diverse community. Current research projects include early Black and Asian history as well as Displaced Persons.
Recently the staff was sadden to learn of the passing of one of our long time friends, Tedd Hann.
Tedd spent many years working for a bread company and then started work with the City of Oshawa. He retired more than 18 years ago. Tedd was an accomplished curler and once played on a team that scored an eight ender (a perfect score). Many of our members will recall Tedd’s Uncle Earl, one of the founding members of the OHS. Tedd said he donated to the museum in Earl’s memory, after all it was Earl who first got Tedd interested in the work of the museum. Through donations to the Artefact Fund, Tedd helped the museum purchase an exhibit case, publish our WWII book, Stories from the Homefront, repatriate a pair of Ritson Pear Trees and conserve the Granny Cock painting. Tedd said he got a “great deal of satisfaction” from supporting the museum and was happy to “continue Earl’s work.”
History organizations make their communities more attractive places in which to live, work, learn and play. A strong arts and culture community is important to the livability and vitality of a community. Would you be willing to make a donation of $25, $50, $100 or more to help us meet our goal? Please use this link to make a donation: http://bit.ly/top-5-artefacts. You can also send your donation by mail to Oshawa Historical Society, 1450 Simcoe Street South, Oshawa, Ontario L1H 8S8.
We thank you for your support to strategically manage and develop the collection as a growing resource for education and research. We also extend an invitation to you to visit the Oshawa Museum and experience first-hand Oshawa’s Home to History.
Did you know that Oshawa was once home to the largest makers of hand-painted pottery in Canada, as well as the only artware pottery in the Dominion of Canada? Smith Potteries operated in Oshawa from approximately 1925 to 1949.
This collection of artefacts held at the Oshawa Museum is remarkable in that each piece is unique, all individually hand painted. Smith Potteries produced a range of products such as vases, bowls, candlesticks, lamp bases, ashtrays, and other souvenir novelties with hand painted designs. Each piece features a maker’s mark that can be found on the bottom of the piece that was either in the form of a stamp or decal – which is most common. The decals are round with gold trim and red centres. They read “Smith Potteries / Velta Artware / registered / Made in Canada / Oshawa, / Ont.”
The business opened in 1926 and was located at 353 Kingston Road West and Alexandra Boulevard (today King Street West and Grenfell Street); it was originally owned and operated by Herbert C. Smith. Mr Smith had previously been the chief accountant for General Motors. When the plant opened, the head of the mechanical department was A.E. Barker, of Foley-Potteries, Staffordshire, England. There were seven employees when the plant first opened in Oshawa. Herbert Smith was manager of the plant from approximately 1925-38. His brother, Fred A. Smith managed the company from 1939-48.
The pottery was highly sought after and shipped across North America. Locally, two other businesses were selling Smith Potteries, D.J. Brown in Oshawa and J.M. Hicks in Whitby, while Smith Potteries also sold retail directly from the store located in the same building as the plant. Smith Potteries was so successful that they expanded their business in 1930. Their production of a specialized semi-porcelain pottery, also known as white ware, made Smith Potteries competitively successful with other countries, such as the United States, China, Britain, Japan, Germany, Sweden, and Czechoslovakia. The white ware pottery was resilient and of fine quality; it was a mixture of clay shipped from England, Kentucky and Saskatchewan. According to an article published in the Toronto Star in October 1926, they were experimenting with local clay from the area.
A keen businessman, H.C. Smith installed a gas station in the front of the store in order to attract tourists and motorists looking to purchase souvenirs. Also on the premise was another Smith family operation, Smith Sporting Goods, which was in business until 1968.
Despite the business’ success, other than basic information, little is known about the business that produced high quality pottery. We are always looking for more information about the company such as photos of the business and catalogues (if there was any).