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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Over the last few weeks museum staff have been hard at work with events and exhibit preparation.  The Collections Storage Facility was highlighted on Doors Open Middlesex on September 17-18.  We had over 100 people come out and view the storage building.  If you didn’t get a chance to come out that weekend and still want to see what the Storage Facility looks like you can call 519-245-0492 and make an appointment and staff will be happy to answer any of your questions. 

Also the second installment of the ABC’s of the collection will be starting shortly, so check back often to see what items will be highlighted next.

The age old question “What came first the chicken or the egg?” won’t be answered in this blog post however we will discover some of the egg themed items within the collection.

You can eat them, paint and collect them, as well as display and study them.  From bird eggs to a felt fried egg we have it. 

Starting in the field you will find a collection of bird eggs displayed in a wooden case as well bird sketches showing the size of the egg for each bird.  When it comes to factory related items, the museum has an egg scale and stamp as well as a photo negative of Maple Lynn Foods Ltd., honouring its egg producers with an annual banquet. Thirty-five producers were awarded with plaques following 12 consecutive months of producing at least 95 percent Grade A eggs back in 1983.

Moving into the kitchen you will find an egg beater and a decorative egg cup. In the arts and crafts area we have a felt egg made by the Middlesex Women for the Support of Agriculture for educational purposes in the Fairfield Family program. There is also a photo negative of Sharon Lamont, 10, carefully decorating an egg with magic marker at Caradoc North Public School in 1983.

Next time check out F is for … FLAG

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This unique dollhouse was created between 1870-1880 by Elizabeth Prangley.  She  fully furnished it and it formed part of a set which included a barn, fence, miniature animals and people.   The furniture was all handmade. The shells used in covering the house were reportedly collected in the Delaware area.  It was at one time on display at the Western Fair in London and in the ladies’ lounge in the American Hotel in Strathroy.  Elizabeth was related to  J. W. Prangley who was a prominent business man in Strathroy and at one time owned the American Hotel (see map and postcard images of the American Hotel).

When it was donated to the museum it was without any furniture and a call went out to the community for someone who could help furnish this unique piece.  Con and Irene Steele of Strathroy were able to recreate the interior of the house. First they researched Victorian furniture designs and then they were able to design and scale the furniture to fit into the house.   The one major issue was that the dollhouse did not come apart so the furniture had to be manoeuvred into place through the windows and doors.  All of the accessories were also hand-made including the braided mat, the doilies and bedding.

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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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