The Annual RTHS Bring & Brag
Presenters: RTHS Members
Article by Lucy Martin
Everyone has items with some special qualities, history or story. Once each year we share treasures or trinkets. It's our own antiques road show in which we learn about unusual artifacts and how they came to be a part of our members' lives.
Here is a summary of what 36 attendees enjoyed February 16th in the nicely-renovated basement of Knox Presbyterian Church in Manotick.
Margaret Cameron told the tale of her great-great-great grandmother, Charlotte Craig. While sailing to Canada in 1840, Charlotte was wooed by the ship's love-struck captain, who promised her a life of comfort. But there must have been doubts about the match, at least on the part of her parents, who decidedly influenced the outcome when the sea captain pressed his suit once again. But Charlotte eventually opted to marry fellow settler and neighbor, Henry Mitchell instead. The couple built a flourishing 300-acre family farm on First Line Road, part of which remains in family hands today. (This story is also found on page 66 of Kars on the Rideau, 2nd edition.)
Coral Lindsay's Cow Creamers
John Palmer mourned both the loss of historic material as it is discarded along with the suppression of dump diving. Before tightened liability and sanitation regulations, this long-cherished form of recycling continually demonstrated that one person's trash is another's treasure.
Palmer then shared numerous scrap books he rescued from Ottawa's Trail Road dump, most likely kept by someone from the Russell/Winchester area with high Tory leanings. Beginning in 1934, the over-sized books diligently compiled page after page of detailed articles and magnificent photos. Movie stars, the Dion Quints, British royalty – including the handsome, but feckless, Prince of Wales, who reigned briefly as Edward VIII (before famously abdicating the throne for a woman deemed unsuitable), and his brother, the stalwart George VI (currently depicted in the highly-acclaimed movie “The King's Speech”, with his supportive Queen and the young Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret). Other headlines foreshadowed the fearsome arrival of WW II. Truly, a fine way to better understand how such times felt to those who lived through them.
Jane Anderson had a charming collection of pitchers and measuring cups, often garnered as customer premiums from cereal companies (Corn flakes or Quaker Oats, etc.). Most came from her grandmother. Another came from her great uncle & aunt, and is actually made of pottery, though glazed as to appear metallic.
Val Lister with her lamps
Val Lister brought five more examples from her extensive collection of lamps. Lamp collecting involves different focuses (patterns, colour, miniatures, etc.). Lister specializes in the history of lighting across millennia. One was a Hoyt Lamp, with all the scarce parts (top collar, burner, original chimney). Another had two glass handles, for easy passing from hand to hand. Her Atterbury Lamp was called the Owl and Shield. Another was a kerosene (then called coal oil) lamp from 1868, the 'Neville', that Lister says might be called 'butt ugly' but it was a Canadian patent lamp, a rare thing. The tallest of the five had a metal statuette of a maid servant and practical match basket built on as decorative features.
Stuart Rogers began his turn by expanding on the greatly-missed pleasures of dump 'recycling'. He recalled an amazing visit to the dump where he and his daughter Heather sought a long and odd list of items needed to light their river skating rink, all of which presented themselves as if by magic. As they departed it began to rain and they rescued discarded texts for courses at Trent University. About three days later, Rogers' nephew stopped by and discovered most of the tossed-aside books were just what he would need, when he headed off to Trent!
Rogers then expanded on the interest he and wife Marguerite have in native culture and evidence of explorers who arguably pre-date Columbus. Touring the U.S., they encountered the Kensington rune stone in a museum in Alexandria, Minnesota. Proof, some say, of extensive Vikings exploration in North America. (Author's note: there is a long article on this rune stone in Wikipedia, including protracted debate on the item's authenticity.) The Heavener Rune stone in Oklahoma and items discovered at other sites offer additional points of discussion. Stu plans to lecture on this still-evolving topic March 30th as part of the Watson's Mill Presents lecture series.
Brian Sawyer carried up a large box and proceeded to pull out an amazing array of Victorian gadgets. The audience was invited to guess what each was. We saw: mustache cups, shaving cups, an invalid cup (for sipping in bed), a collar box, grape scissors, crumb sweeper, eye (wash) cup, measuring cups for liquids (guaranteed accurate), a fitting to make a cup into a mustache cup (!), fish forks, fancy ash trays, a match box, a nut cracker in the shape of a dog, a shell case cut down from armaments, brass knuckles, a bulk mail weight scale (a puzzler at first) and a still-unsolved mystery object, thought to be a bun warmer. Fun!
Brian Sawyer and his gagets
Scott Cameron brought a 'scribbler' tablet, courtesy of his grandmother's collection. Inscribed “Nora Morrow”, this was a typical school item up until perhaps the 1950's. (Clues – like Queen Victoria on the front –
Joan Bakker Stark with Mary Sheean
suggest this tablet may date from the 1890's) Besides blank pages it provided handy tables for sums and such, some of which have fallen out of use like the “arithmetic table”, units of measurement for cloth, land (rod, link, chain etc.) and the English currency table. (Metric does seem easier!)
Joan Bakker Stark brought her childhood doll, called “Mary Sheean” with china head, hands and feet, 1850 vintage, with original pantaloons and wool socks – and a newer dress she made herself. This doll was a favorite childhood companion, and a great listener. It originated with her great-grandmother, the real Mary Sheean, who came from a well-to-do Catholic family in Ireland. Sheean was disowned for running away to marry a Protestant. Great-grandmother had three daughters before being widowed and becoming a cook in a lumber camp at Otter Lake. The doll – and all the stories – came to Joan from her beloved Aunt Dela, described as a prim and proper, hardworking farm lady. (“Mary Sheean” usually observes life from a shelf, beside her beau, Charlie Chaplin.)
Brian Earl brought artifacts that “date from the mid 1900's”, including a wall map, Sinai desert sand, titanium ID tags, patches & hats, Arab headdress, abandoned ammunition cans, minefield markers, first aid kit, etc. All from his tour in Jan-Aug 1977 as a military observer in the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO) in Palestine. He lived in Jerusalem and worked in southern Lebanon or in the Sinai Desert. Earl recalled his favorite part: “I got paid to drive up these dunes in a jeep, tip over the top, slide down! And they paid me for that! I should have been paying them!” Other duties in the 100-degree heat were far less exciting, such as monitoring a radio or dead-slow check points.
Ellen Adamsons brought artifacts and information gained during her time in the Caribbean, specifically from the Wayana people of Suriname (or Surinam), in South America, much of which is only accessible by dugout canoe. Adamson's main display item was a large round board, “maluana” – the center piece of traditional communal round house. It was colourfully inlaid with the important creatures symbolizing Wayana heritage. It is difficult to summarize an entire culture, or country, in a short presentation, but Adamsons presented an educational overview of this little-known area.
Susan McKellar shared a lovely large, rectangular, wood-strip basket, made by North American aboriginal people. She received it from her mother-in-law, and family memory dates it to sometime prior to 1889. It was coloured at one time, but has faded back to more natural hues. It was probably made in, or near, south-western Ontario. It spent long service as a sewing basket. It was once quite common for aboriginals crafters to sell such items door-to-door.
Susan McKellar's wood strip basker
There's a cabin near Lake Simcoe that's been in Peter Satterly's family since 1910. With better planning Satterly said he could have brought many interesting items from there. He shared two small metal devices that turned out to be cherry pitters. He recalls his mother hand-pitting cherries for the pies she used to bake.
Brian Booth shared his grandmother's Bible. It originated in Yorkshire, England and demonstrates an example of chain migration. Her fiance, John Shaw had gone ahead to Canada a few years earlier and got established after finding employment at a paper mill near Trois Rivières along the St. Lawrence. The Bible was inscribed: Presented to Mary Broadhead, on the occasion of her leaving for America, with sincere love from the teachers and scholars of the young women's class the Wesleyan chapel, Meltham, May the 21st, 1903. Mary came, married her sweetheart, and they established a new family line in Canada.
Linda Reasbeck brought a pretty Paragon china cup & saucer from her late friend and mentor Ruth Shaver. It commemorates the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway, a momentous event from 1959. At that time, Reasbeck was a high school student in Alberta who knew about the grand project, but could hardly imagine the reality, or that one day she would live near the Seaway herself.
Linda Reasbeck's Paragon china cup & saucer
Coral Lindsay brought a selection of cow-shaped dairy creamers, a hobby shared by Katherine Killins as well. Some were from thrift stores, others from friends or relatives. They may be difficult to clean, but gosh are they cute! Asked who else collects cow creamers, Joan Bakker Stark allowed that she has a cow telephone, that goes “mooo” instead of “ring”. John Palmer said in the Pontiac area, cow clocks and cow salt and pepper shakers are quite popular.
As always, it was a fun and educational event. What might you bring to share next year?