The RTHS Annual Bring & Brag, May 2013
Presenters: Our Own Society Members
Article and Pictures by Lucy Martin
29 members and guests turned out for the annual “bring and brag” meeting held at Manotick's Knox Presbyterian Church. Fourteen presenters explained treasures they had brought – or asked for audience help guessing the purpose of mysterious items.
A summary follows, with apologies if any details were lost in transcription.
Pat Earl brought an old cookbook: Columbia Cookbook by Adelaide Hollingworth (Toronto 1892).
(Google lists the book's sub-title as “Toilet, Household, Medical, and Cooking Recipes, Flowers and Their Culture, Health Suggestions, Carving, Table Etiquette, Dinner Giving menus, Care of Sick, Facts Worth Knowing, Etc., Etc. : Embracing All the Points Necessary for Successful Housekeeping: A Complete Home Instructor”
Earl also brought along some pamphlets of a similar age, including one on “Good things and how to cook them”. It included testimonials for an herbal remedy, “Zam-buk”. The text cautioned shoppers to avoid inferior substitutes “...if Zam-buk were not the best, it would not be imitated. People only imitate the real diamond!” (Owen Cooke noted that product is still sold today.)
Georgie Tupper brought a family treasure, a glass “thumbprint with heart” compotier and six berry dishes, presented as a wedding gift in 1903 to her grandparents, Harriett (Crowe) Park and Elias Park. The pattern was made between 1898 and 1906 by the Tarnetum Glass Co, in Tarentum, Pennsylvania, est. 1866. The factory burned down in 1918.
Bill Tupper shared tools collected by local Veterinarian Ken Hartin, most of which were donated to Upper Canada Village. Tupper had a few items gleaned from that collection by his grandson, Gregory. One was a piece of iron that was used to stamp harvested lumber to identify logs back in the five generations of Hartins once associated with harvesting lumber. The “W8” stood for the Williamson Lumber Company camp # 8. This tool goes by various names, including “scaler hammer”.
Bill Tupper brought this log stamper from the Williamson Lumber Company.
Tupper also brought one of about 35 hand-made wooden handles his grandson inherited. Tupper gave many in the audience a fright by accidentally knocking the handle against his wife's heirloom berry bowl as he concluded his demonstration. (Fortunately for the bowl - and the marriage - no harm was done!)
Owen Cooke showed us a fan imprinted with a cartoon face of a “kappa” a well-known creature in Japanese culture – something like a troll of mixed disposition. Cooke included a slide show depicting kappas in legend, culture and marketing, particularly in the Sago area.
In case you have yet to see one, kappas can be green or blue. They live in rivers, smell like fish and have a depression in their head that needs to stay filled with water to retain their power. Evil and mischievous, they will drown and eat children. (Hence images of kappa are sometimes used to warn children away from bodies of water.)
These rascals like to look up womens' kimonos and fart aloud. They may challenge you to Japanese chess or wrestling – and they invariably win. So, if you meet a kappa, bow. They will be forced to bow back, which will tip the water out of their head-depression, and they will lose their power. They like cucumber,
A Kappa Fan
Susan McKellar brought a black mourning veil which belonged to her mother-in-law's grandmother, Isabella McLachan who lived from 1844 -1927. Modeling it, she remarked that it had gone missing for 5 years before she managed to find it (in a labeled box!) in a closet, just in time to share it for that night's bring & brag.
Jane Anderson brought in small items that had belonged to her mother's cousin, Bertha Fox. This included a box of Nyal yellow pills (for the liver and kidney) made in Windsor, ON, and a box of Fibre needles for a Victrola (record player). Fiber needles were easier on records than metal needles, but fibre needles need to be cut to the correct length. We also learned it is important to keep Victrolas perfectly level.
Ruth Wright shared a birthday photo and stories about her Dad, who just turned 100 on May 9th. Born in Vars, Harold Gray still lives in his own home and has written up parts of his life. Wright shared a story from her father of setting off with a loaded, steel-wheeled wagon on a fall trip to North Bay at age 17 – a reminder of the feats our predecessors undertook, sometimes at fairly tender ages. As Wright concluded her talk, Bill Tupper stood to describe Harold Gray as a “gentleman – a title you earn over a lifetime.” He was also a champion plowman who Tupper credits with being a gracious
Scott Cameron shared a gold pocket watch that had belonged to his great-great grandfather, Robert Uziah Scharf, born 1864. Robert married Emily Kettle in 1891 and they had nine children. He was a farmer whose activities also included carpentry, logging and delivering milk from different farms to the cheese factory. At one point he also went threshing in Saskatchewan, back when that activity demanded masses of human labour. The gold pocket watch still works!
Stu Rogers spoke about rocks – near and far. The far rocks were some heavy ones he encountered in South Dakota, near an old postglacial lake, in which he observed triangular holes, deeper than a finger, that seem to have been man-made. Could they possibly have been some sort of anchor rocks for early man, as far back as 16,000 BCE?
He also brought two rocks that have no official explanation. One was found near his daughter's house in Regina. Could it be a club or a pestle (mortar and pestle). Or something else, like the head of a club? The audience was polled for ideas. I thought the first rock looked quite a lot like poi pounders (used to mash taro root into paste that ferments into the staple food called poi in Hawaii). But did native peoples do that with this rock? What food might they have been mashing? We don't know.
The other rock was found on the prairie and reminds him of a small anvil. If it reflects natural erosion, it seems remarkably even in its symmetry.
Dennis Osmond showed an art-deco vase, a gift to his mother-in-law at her wedding in 1927. Research into the item revealed it to be a “Bizarre” vase, which is the actual name for a line of pottery made by the influential English ceramic artist Clarice Cliff (1899-1972).
Born to modest circumstances in an area where pottery was already long established, Cliff began working in a ceramics factory at age 13. She demonstrated unusual drive and was allowed to develop her obvious talent in a series of apprenticeships. She went on to run her own production studio where she crafted novel shapes and designs. Cliff's work was popular from the outset and remains collectable today. Osmond recounts that one 18” Bizarre vase sold for £48,000.
Coral Lindsay reminded us that when the cool May weather finally warms up, it will be time to plant. She demonstrated two antique planting devices. One was a canvas sack for broadcasting seed, perhaps to seed a lawn. The other a corn planter that pokes a hole in the ground and drops a seed in from a standing position. (Far faster than working by hand, but still laborious work!)
Val Lister brought more from her amazing lamp collection. Some came from Konia, in modern-day Turkey. One was found on the route of Alexander the Great and dates from the same period. Lister said in terms of history (and the history of lighting) they are “...super important – dollars and cents wise, they are not.” What impresses her was the evolution of the design. Starting at 3500 B.C, she traced how the bowl shape changed to better hold the wick, add multiple wicks, and try to keep bugs out (with an added lip). With the addition of a pedestal the shape eventually morphs into the great lamp.
Brian Sawyer brought a tray of miniature Toby jugs (jugs in the shape of a head). Sawyer thinks he got them at various auctions in England circa 1978-88. The audience was invited to try identify the characters depicted, which (we think) included Shakespeare, John Bull, Henry VIII , Robin Hood and Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame. (Dating tip: Sawyer says adding “made in England” stamp on the bottom of ceramics was imposed around 1894. Hence, English-made stuff that does not identify the country of origin should be over 100 years old.)
Brian Sawyer brought in a collection of toby jugs.
Ben Sorensen brought a small framed picture of a sailing ship. He made the oak frame when he lived in Kingston as a young man. It is crafted out of wood Sorensen's brother recovered from the sunken wreck of the HMS St. Laurence.
This ship was built circa 1814, but did not see action in the War of 1812 even though it was an impressive threedecker made for a crew of some 700 seaman and officers. At war's end, surplus ships were mothballed in readyreserve. Sorensen said ships built in haste (as in war time) were often made of poorly-seasoned wood and many did not last all that long as a result, falling prey to rot.
Here is Wikipedia's account of the ship's peace-time fate:
After the war in 1815, the ship was decommissioned. In January 1832, the hull was sold to Robert Drummond for £25. Between May and August, the hull was towed out of Navy Bay. It later formed the end of a pier attached to Morton's Brewery in Kingston and was used as a storage facility by the brewery, for cordwood among other materials. Later, it was sunk in 30 feet (9.1m) of water close to shore...[gives coordinates]...and is now a popular diving attraction.
We thank those who presented and remind readers it's never too early to think about what you might share at next year's “bring and brag”.
Jane Anderson’s NYAL pills