Just over a year ago now, we started posting the Alphabetical Artifact List.  With the recently completed renovation, the R.S. Williams Negative Collection as well as other projects, this one was put to the side.  Today, we are picking it up, starting back at it with the letter G: for Gown!

The King Gown comes from the Rebekah Lodge which is an international service-oriented organization and a branch of the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (IOOF).  It was initially designed as the female auxiliary of the IOOF, but now allows both female and male members.  The Strathroy branch was named the Lady Howard Lodge #321.

In the beginning, 1851, the Rebekah Lodge was designed especially for women, and its ceremony and lectures are based upon the characters of notable women in Biblical history. It is named for that woman of early Hebrew history whose kindness and hospitality to a humble and unknown stranger best portrayed the nobility and character of women.

This robe was worn during some of their fancier occasions such as award ceremonies.

The robe is made from red velvet with satin embellishments and accents.  The tasselled collar and the unique detailing on the buttons give this robe a sophisticated image, one popular with the high-class.

This robe has a fairly similar design to those that are worn at convocation ceremonies at universities and colleges today.

King Gown circa 1890

Tassel Detail

Rinsing the glass plate negatives in distilled water.

This past Friday, our Collections Assistant Crystal and our summer Intern Jordan started the long process of deep-cleaning the 3000 + glass plate negatives associated with the R.S. Williams Negative Collection.  We started with a trial of ten negatives, making sure to test a wide variety in case smudging occured or the emulsion started to flake.

The negatives were put into three different baths, being soaked for 10-15 seconds in each.  Gloves were worn to prevent finger prints and other natural oils from getting on the negatives.

The drying process was the most time consuming, taking over 8 hours.  Due to the long drying time, we will only be able to fully clean and package approximately 20 negatives per day due to lack of space in our drying racks.

Some of the negatives had what looks like red marker on the top, identifying who was in the picture.  The writing was monitored carefully as the negatives were soaked as to prevent fading and loss of information.

The description of each negative was taken, including a photograph before being treated with the wet cleaning process.  These descriptions will help to form a preliminary index for the collection.

All ten trial negatives drying.

Here at Museum Strathroy-Caradoc we have had a very busy summer so far even though it seems like it just started!  We are working on two projects right now that have created much interest in the community.

Sir Arthur Currie Project:  As some of you already know, we were awarded a grant from the federal government in order to fund the creation of a travelling exhibit about one of Strathroy’s most famous natives, General Sir Arthur Currie.  This exhibit will highlight Currie’s life as he lived it in Strathroy, his efforts in World War One and his life in Montreal.  We are currently working with our partners to create a semblance of a “creeping barrage,” one of the military tactics for which Currie was reknowned.  A creeping barrage is an artillary barrage that slowly “creeps” up the field of  battle towards the enemy lines. The primary usage of the creeping barrage is to  create cover for the soon-to-be advancing soldiers rather then kill enemy  troops.  For a history of how the creeping barrage was used, click here!







R.S. Williams Collection: As mentioned previously in a blog posting in November, the R.S. Williams Collection was discovered above a local business in Strathroy, ON.  Since its discovery, we have received $1000 from the provincial government in order to help clean and properly store the negatives.  Using guides from the Canadian Conservation Institute, we will be cleaning and storing the first 1000 negatives.  Varying in size, these negatives will be cleaned using a 4-step process.  Using three wash tubs, the neagtives will be placed in three different solutions: distilled water, distilled water and ethanol, and distilled water and PhotoFlo.  The distilled water is used so that minerals from regular do not damage the emulsion on the glass.  The ethanol helps to remove any dirt or grime that has affixed itself to the emulsion and/or glass over the years.  Finally, the PhotoFlo helps to prevent streaking.  Once the negatives have been treated in all three formulas, they are placed vertically in a drying rack, being careful to lean only the glass side of the negative against the rack.  This whole process will take about 8 1/2 hours per negative.

So it’s February 14th and love is in the air.

Why not check out the Victorian Valentine’s blog  post from last year to see how they celebrated over 100 years ago

In honour of Charles’ 200th Birthday I pulled a few Dickens books from the collection. 

The museum has 6 books written by Dickens which were used in local schools and churches.  Many are editions published in the 1930s.    Below is a sample of that collection. 

How will you be celebrating Dickens Birthday?  Reading “Nicholas Nickleby”, or “A Tale of Two Cities” or sitting down and watching an episode of “Little Dorrit” or the movie “Oliver Twist”.  All of which you can find in your local library.  If you are here in Strathroy visit the Library to find more books, movies and TV series relating to Dickens.

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Watch for my next blog on Middlesex Furniture Company.

Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee takes place this year, marking 60 years of her reign.  The Queen came to the throne on February 6, 1952 (her Coronation took place a year later on June 2, 1953).  Click HERE for more information on the British Monarchy and the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. 

All across Canada and around the world people will be celebrating, visit the Canadian Heritage website for more information.  How will you be celebrating?  Will you … have High-Tea?  Will you … use a new commemorative stamp from Canada Post?  Will you … go to New Brunswick or Saskatchewan to see Prince Charles and his wife Camilla?  Or will you …  attend a number of local events in your community? 

To see items in the collection relating to the Royal Family, see a previous blog post “Getting on the Royal Wedding Bandwagon

February is Black History Month and today I would like to highlight Henry Ward Beecher Parker, better known as Dixie Parker.                                 

“Strathroy: Red Valley”, published in 1934, includes a photo of Dixie and this description of a lively and charismatic man:

How many of our readers remember this smiling face? Those that don’t remember the face have heard of him for he was one of the town’s best known characters. Escaping from slavery in the United States, he crossed into Canada and to use his own words, “clasped Queen Victoria” ‘round the waist and shook hands with the Lion. For years Dixie was the walking advertisement for Le Royd’s Right House, 199 Front St. Once he was to leave town and the boys presented him with a watch at a public reception. In reply to this he said he had no idea they thought so much of him and so he guessed he would stay in Strathroy after all and live and die with them, which he did.”
 Henry Parker is noted as a “labourer” on the 1871 and 1881 census records for the town of Strathroy, and lived with his wife, Mary Ann Parker, and his children William, Frank, Mary, Sarah, Alice and Florence. Both Henry and Mary Ann were born in the United States, but the exact date of their arrival in Canada is unknown. The letters of Stewart Lamont indicate that Henry Parker was at one point the manager of the St. Lawrence Bank in Strathroy, and that he briefly moved to Chatham in the mid-1880s to work for a construction gang with the Canada Pacific Railway. An obituary for Mary Ann Parker was published in July of 1887; the 1891 census notes that Henry is widowed.

An obituary for Henry Parker appeared in the Strathroy Age on November 22, 1894:

“In Strathroy, on Friday forenoon, November 16th, died H.W.B. Parker, of the town of Strathroy, a man whose visage was perhaps familiar to more people than that of any other resident of Strathroy. Henry has long been a resident of Strathroy, was always a good worker, willing to attempt whatever job came to his hand. Many visitors to the town will miss his melodious voice when the bell of the auctioneer peals out the notice of cheap sales. Old residents of the town, who have left us, cherish cheery memories of Henry’s good natured face. His smile was ever broad and his remarks ever cheerful. any of those whom he has left behind might well take a leaf out of the book of his life. The funeral was conducted by Rev. F.G. Newton, on Sunday at 2 p.m. many paying a last tribute of respect by accompanying the remains to their last resting place. Mr. Parker was 65 years of age. He was twice married, his second wife having departed this life about nine months ago.”


And in the Strathroy Dispatch November 21st 1894:

Death of Mr. Henry Parker.  On Friday last the death of this well-known and useful citizen occurred at his late residence, after a short illness from kidney trouble, his age being stated at 65 years.  “Dixie,” as he was familiarly styled, was an exceedingly handy man around town, and for the past thirty years or so has filled a place among our citizens that will cause his taking away to be very much felt.  He was born in Virginia a slave, and at the breaking out of the American war sought refuge in Canada, taking up his residence here, where he has remained almost continuously ever since.  Many indeed will miss him, and many of our old citizens in other places will regret to hear of his demise.  The funeral took place on Sunday afternoon, Rev. Mr. Newton conducted the services, and a very large gathering of our townspeople being in attendance.

The above information was gathered by Brianna Hammer for exhibit development to supplement a travelling exhibit “Passages to Freedom” that was shown at Museum Strathroy-Caradoc in 2010.

Winter is finally upon us and with that I have come across a poem by Dora Fortner, who lived in Strathroy.  The museum has a large collection of her poems written from the 1920s to the 1960s and the one below is most fitting for a day like today. 

Oh! The cold winds blow,
And they tell of snow,
And the leaves go dancing away;
And the clouds pass by,
And the tree-tops sigh,
As so madly about they sway.

All the birds have fled,
And the flowers are dead,
And the earth lies cold and bare;
And the trees are gaunt,
And their limbs they flaunt,
As they toss in the frosty air.

Now, the streams run fast,
For the summer’s past,
And the sky is leaden and drear;
And the snow falls light,
Till the ground is white
And we know that winter is here.
Nov 19, 1938

A photography studio dating back to 1900 was discovered in the third-floor attic space above Bossons Pharmacy in Strathroy late last year, leading to an incredible donation to Museum Strathroy-Caradoc.

Negatives found on the 3rd floor of Bossons

Through the efforts of Louis Haan the contractor who discovered this treasure and building owner Laura Bossons nearly 3,000 glass-plate negatives have been saved ensuring an important piece of history is shared with the community.

The photography studio, run by Roger Sifton Williams, was in operation from 1900 until 1905 above Stepler’s Drug Store on Front Street (present-day Bossons Pharmacy). Williams was born in Strathroy in 1877 and, according to the 1901 Census, lived on Front Street with his wife Marion Maud Lucas.

During his short career as a photographer in Strathroy, R. S. Williams captured images of local residents and outdoor scenes. Many of the photo negatives are identified, making them valuable for genealogical and local history research.

Next steps include organizing, cleaning, cataloguing and storing these treasures so they are accessible to the public. The estimated cost of the project is $5,000, which includes the purchase of cleaning supplies and archival envelopes. A later phase of the project will include digitally reproducing the images so they are available to the public.

Photograph of Jessie Zavitz

Negative on light box

If you are interested in helping preserve these photographs for future generations please consider donating to Museum Strathroy-Caradoc and specify that you’d like the money to go toward the R. S. Williams Collection. All funds raised will go directly to purchasing supplies to clean and store the glass-plate negatives.

The moustache has gone in and out of fashion over the years but recently there has been a comeback in the form of Movember. During the month of November you will find many gentlemen around town sporting new facial hair.  You may see an Imperial, Dali, Pencil, Walrus, English or Handlebar on the faces of your co-workers or neighbours and even try one on yourself.  This phenomenon helps raise awareness and funds for prostate cancer.  For more information go to the Movember website.   

In reviewing the Museum Collection I have come across a number of items that relate to the moustache.  Below you will find photographs of men with elaborate facial hair, items that were made just to help the moustache out and ways to maintain it.

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About the Museum

Museum Strathroy-Caradoc opened to the public in 1972. As a community museum we strive to preserve and tell the story of Strathroy-Caradoc, and inspire residents to explore and understand the community around them.

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