Friday 20 December 2013

The Carnegie Library

In keeping with the approach of Christmas, I thought it would be appropriate to put up a card with a Christmas message on it. This card has a picture of one of the most prominent additions to Guelph architecture during the Edwardian era, the Carnegie Library, also known as the Free Library or the Guelph Public Library.

The card has some wear, including a crease at the top near the middle. There is an odd figure standing halfway up the front steps on the left side, perhaps a child to judge from its size. The postcard was published by Warwick Bro’s & Rutter of Toronto, and was sent to Miss Mary Staples of Lifford, Ontario on 6 December 1907. The message reads:

Guelph Ont, Dec 5th/07 // Dear Mary:- I don’t think I sent you a card like this one before. it is a pretty place both inside and out[.] Wishing you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year, B.P
It seems that B. P. had sent Miss Mary some postcards before. Perhaps Mary was a collector, as were many young ladies in the Edwardian era. The use of "Xmas" for "Christmas" seems appropriate as short forms and abbreviations were often used in postcards because of the small space for writing.

B.P. remarks approvingly on the appearance of the library. In fact, its appearance was the subject of some controversy at the time that it was designed and built. By the turn of the 20th century, the citizens of Guelph had realized that their existing library facilities were too small. In 1902, the local library board, headed by lawyer James Watt, had successfully applied for a grant of $20,000 from US steel magnate Andrew Carnegie, who was noted for his promotion of public libraries.

The library board favoured a design by local architect W. Frye Colwill, done in the Beaux Art style. The style was classical in inspiration, as is evident from the dome over the main doorway, and the Corinthian columns standing astride the corner entrance, along with many other elements. The style was popular for grand public buildings in the US at the time, and Watt thought that it fit in well with the aspirations of the City of Guelph, saying that it, "would be an ornament to the city and a credit to the architect."

The officials in Carnegie's office begged to differ. In a report, one of them derided the proposed appearance as follows: "They seem to have deliberately chosen a grandiloquent and expensive exterior..." In other words, the design was far too pretentious for a simple provincial town like Guelph. However, the library board had already cashed the cheque, as it were, and so construction went ahead as planned. The cornerstone was laid on the propitious date of St. George's Day (23 April) 1903, the 76th anniversary of the founding of the Royal City. Construction proved complicated and the building did not open until September of 1905. The citizens seemed to agree with B.P. that it was indeed a pretty building.

The building was sited on the corner of Norfolk and Paisley Streets downtown. The entrance looks out over the street corner in the direction of the downtown core. Today, the corner looks somewhat different, as you can see in the Google Street View image below.

View Larger Map

As you see, the building is gone. As the Royal City grew, the library collection became too expansive for the old building. It was razed in 1964 and replaced by the current structure in the following year (which is a story for another time). The current library faces out on to Norfolk St., and turns its shoulder to the corner on Paisley St. that the Carnegie Library watched over.

Of course, time does not stand still, and the current library has, in its turn, become too small. A new public library is planned for the nearby Baker St. site, in yet another architectural style. Let us hope that it is a "pretty place inside and out" and worthy of a new postcard.

Wishing you a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year!

Friday 29 November 2013

The Wyndham St. Railway underpass

In its passage through downtown Guelph, Wyndham St. intersects with the Canadian National Railway/VIA Rail line. Rather than meet on-grade, Wyndham Street plunges beneath the tracks, emerging before the Armoury building. Over the last few years, this underpass was closed to traffic so that it could be upgraded to conform to new regulations. After about two years and $8.4 million dollars, renovations to the underpass were recently completed.

Unfortunately, the renovations have not been a complete success in all respects, as a number of trucks have had scrapes with crash beams installed underneath the tracks to protect them. The official clearance is 3.8 meters but the underpass may appear deceptively high, or some drivers may underestimate the height of their trucks. Or, perhaps the underpass is cursed: When the prominent clearance signage was temporarily removed for the 2013 Santa Claus parade, another truck went down the fateful ramp to scrape its way under the crash beams before the signs could be restored.

The Wyndham St. underpass was installed in 1911 in order to avoid scrapes between trains and vehicles on the street. Prior to that time, the intersection between Wyndham St. South—or Huskisson Street, as it was known then—and the Canadian National line—known then as the Grand Trunk Railway—was a level crossing. By the turn of the century, many Guelphites had come to view crossings like this one as an unacceptable hazard. Consider the experience of a Mr. Beaver of Morriston who was approaching the GTR crossing on nearby Gordon St. when his horse startled, apparently at the approach of a train (Guelph Mercury, 8 Nov. 1910). The animal bolted and ran down the tracks, just ahead of the approaching train! At Norfolk St., Mr. Beaver's cart got tangled with guy wires supporting a utility pole. He suffered serious injuries to his face but was able to go home after receiving medical attention. The horse was apparently uninjured. Interactions with trains at level crossings could be painful, or worse.

By 1906, the City and the GTR had reached a tentative agreement. The City would sell Jubilee Park (a small park situated where the current VIA station stands) and perhaps other land to the GTR and, in exchange, the GTR would expand its facilities in the area and construct underpasses—then called subways—to eliminate the level crossings. Unfortunately, the two sides could not agree on the price for Jubilee Park, nor on who would pay for the subways (Globe and Mail, 21 March 1906).

There the situation stood until 1908. The same day as Mr. Beaver's run-in with a train, news broke that the City was filing a lawsuit against the GTR. In part, the indictment denounced the GTR for "maintaining a public nuisance" (Mercury, 11 Nov. 1908). In other words, the GTR had neglected to fulfill its public duty to build safe railway crossings. In fact, the case for the suit was so compelling that the provincial Crown Attorney, Mr. Henry Peterson, filed the case on behalf of the City. Mr. Justice McMahon, clearly also impressed with the case, gave the indictment to a grand jury, explaining the issue to them, in part, as follows:

Another phase of the matter His Worship said was in connection with the dangerous crossings and the need for a subway and he dwelt upon the dangers at the station through the passengers having to pass over tracks to reach their trains as well as the danger of crossing the tracks after leaving the station. It was the duty of the railroad company to protect the public.
The editor of the Mercury was certainly pleased with the news. The entire indictment, with its imposing legal language, was printed on the front page of the paper. I will spare you the full text, but a taste would be appropriate, where the accusation of negligence is made (12 Nov. 1908):
Yet the said corporation [GTR] of the said railway have for many years past and still do neglect to operate and maintain the said line of railway, in and through the said municipality of the City of Guelph and along the line of streets and highways on which their aforesaid line of railway runs and others which they pass and run on with their said engines and passenger and freight cars, with due and proper safety and freedom from danger, as respects the crossings of the said streets and highways, especially as respects the running and operating of the said passenger cars and engines and the safe access thereto and egress therefrom at and in connection with their public passenger station in the said Municipality of the City of Guelph.
What a sentence! Also, I have to include the final sentence of the indictment, which conveys the vexation of the crown at this state of affairs:
The said corporation of the said Grand Trunk Railway by the said acts and neglect and in contravention and in culpable and unlawful neglect of their proper public duty and rights and obligations have committed and continue to commit a common nuisance, endangering and injuriously affecting the lawful safety, comfort and conveniences, privileges, uses and enjoyments, of the said public and His said Majesty's liege subjects in the due and lawful exercise and enjoyment of rights to which they are lawfully entitled, but are now deprived of and interfered with and injured and to the great and general disadvantage and danger and common nuisance of the liege subjects of His Majesty the King, to the evil example of all others in like cases offending, and against the peace of our Lord the King, His Crown and Dignity.
You get the idea.

Although the case was not actually decided at the November assizes, it seems that the indictment moved the GTR, somewhat. By the spring of 1909, the GTR solicitor, Mr. Pope, assured the public that the Railway meant to proceed immediately with a new station and crossings, on certain conditions (22 May 1909, Globe and Mail):

The company ... will install subways at Huskisson and Gordon streets. Neeve street is also to be diverted through a subway [at Huskisson?], the city or the company to pay the cost, according to which had the prior right of way at the crossing. The point has not yet been settled.
It seems that the GTR wanted to build two subways, one each at Huskisson and Gordon Streets. The City, however, wanted only a pedestrian subway at Huskisson St., and full subways at Neeve St. and Gordon St. Naturally, each side thought that the other one should pay most of the cost.

The matter came before the Dominion Railway Commission in October, 1909. The Commission rendered its decision (Mercury, 15 Oct. 1909): The GTR would build two full subways, one each at Huskisson and Gordon Streets. The end of Neeve St. was to be closed off, but Surrey St. was to be extended to relieve any congestion on Neeve. The cost for the Huskisson St. subway was to be split between the City and the GTR. The decision was final.

If you find some of the topography confusing, it may help to look at the map below.

View Larger Map

Of course, when I say that the decision was final, I mean that the dispute merely entered a new phase. Engineers arrived within days to begin surveying and planning the new train station and subways (Mercury, 20 Oct. 1909). Construction began in May 1910. The railway tracks were to be raised from Allan's Bridge (at the Speed) through to Glasgow St. (14 May 1910, Guelph Mercury). At the crossings of Huskisson and Gordon Streets, the tracks would be raised by about six feet. This elevation would help to keep the subways from getting too deep.

At the same time, disputes over plans and money continued. The width for the Huskisson St. subway was set by the Commission at 30 feet. Mayor Hastings suggested that the subway at Huskisson St. should perhaps be widened in order to accommodate a streetcar line that the City wanted to run into St. Patrick's Ward (Mercury, 26 Oct. 1909). The City also continued to press for a subway, if only for pedestrians, at Neeve St. The GTR was amenable, if the City granted it more land and/or concessions on the price of Jubilee Park. The GTR made plans to place switching equipment on City land and to close the end of Freshfield St., whereupon the City ordered the construction stopped (Mercury, 6 July 1910).

This phase of the dispute was not settled until December. After talks with Mr. Fitzhugh, Vice President of the GTR, the two parties settled on a price for the park ($9000) and on the nature of the Huskisson St. subway (9 Dec. 1910):

The subway at Huskisson street will be moved 25 feet further to the east than it is shown to be on the plan and will be built straight instead of with an elbow in the middle of it, as the plans indicate.
I have to say, a straight underpass sounds like the better choice.

Newspapers from early 1911 are not available, but construction seems to have proceeded. For the latter half of the year, the paper carries a series of notices in its "City News" column about the progress of construction. Here are a few examples:

Girders arrive (6 July):
The girders have arrived for the G.T.R. subway at Huskisson street crossing, and will be placed in position as soon as possible. The excavation work is progressing rapidly.

Raising the track (7 July):
Work has been commenced on raising the track between Gordon and Huskisson streets. The G.T.R. Co. have a large gang of men at work. At Huskisson street the tracks have been raised six feet, so that the company has quite a contract ahead of it.

Lavatories closed up (11 July):
Owing to the fact that they were being used by the men employed on the relaying of the G.T.R. tracks, and complaints being made, the Winter Fair lavatories have been closed up, as the Board of Works feel that the men should have one of their own. They will be opened on market days only.

Work on lower end (31 August):
The gang on the Huskisson street subway is to-day at work on the lower end of the subway, laying the storm drain and making the excavations for the retaining wall. Steps will be laid from the road leading to the Armories.

Grand Trunk officials (20 September):
An official of the Grand Trunk passed through the city this morning, staying here for a few minutes while they looked over the subways.
And so on. The subway appears to have been completed and open for the opening of the new train station on 22 November.

At the same time, dispute over the width of the subway continued. In the end, the GTR had agreed to build a subway 32 feet in width, with four feet for a sidewalk and 28 feet for vehicles (4 August 1911). In July, a number of local residents argued to City Council that the Huskisson subway should be widened by eight feet to better accommodate pedestrians (12 July). The City solicitor, Mr. Donald Guthrie [father of local MP Hugh Guthrie?] advised that the GTR was under no obligation to agree to the alteration [nor was it likely to]. After much debate, the city decided to appeal to the Railway Commission to have two pedestrian underpasses ("foot subways") built, one at Huskisson and one at Norfolk Streets (8 September). These were to be eight feet wide and high, which would leave a commodious 32 foot roadway for streetcars and vehicles, and prevent pedestrians and vehicles from having to share a single space. The Council hoped to persuade the Commission to have the GTR share the extra cost. The GTR had no objections to the extra subways (1 September) but declined to pay for them. It seems that the GTR got its way: The City decided to proceed with the two subways at its own expense (26 September). The Huskisson St. foot subway was completed concurrently with the street subway (14 October).

At last, the GTR finished the subways and all was well. Almost. It was the responsibility of the City to pave the roadway in its new subways, but different City departments had different ideas about who was liable for that work. It was expected that the Board of Works would proceed immediately with the paving (23 October). The Board recognized the something must be done about the "troubles" with the unpaved condition of these roadways but thought that the Street Railway was responsible:

Bed roads in subways (12 Dec. 1911):
The Chairman of the Board of Works claims that the Street Railway management is responsible for the keeping of the roads through the subways in condition. Whoever is responsible should do something to improve matters at once as the roads in both subways are in wretched condition.
I am uncertain who, in the end, paved the subways, or when it was done. It is interesting to note that it was the final layer of paving on the Wyndham St. underpass in 2013 that, by raising the level of the roadway, seems to have precipitated the clearance crunch experienced by some truckers downtown.

Printers of the Edwardian era did not celebrate the new subway on a postcard. However, a good image of the subway can be found in this photograph spectators sending off a troop train at the new station in 1915. Although important to the safe conduct of civic affairs, underpasses do not attract the same sort of attention as churches or bridges, perhaps because they plunge into the ground rather than soaring into the air. So, the appearance of the Huskisson Street subway is registered in only the margins of contemporary postcards. Consider the following pair, taken of the old City Hall square. The first card shows the square shortly before the subway was built.

(From the The Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., Ltd. Montreal, Toronto and Winnipeg.)

Now, have a look at this second card, from a photo taken probably around 1915.

(From the Warwick Bro’s & Rutter, Limited, Printers, Toronto; Courtesy of John Parkyn)

Notice the difference? The retaining wall on the west side of the subway is visible in the latter picture, along with the railing for the foot subway closer to the viewer. Overhead is the new hydro wire strung over the tracks following construction.

The arrival of the railways in Guelph brought many opportunities but also many challenges. The railway connected the city to the rest of the province in a way that the contemporary road system could not. However, it also bisected the downtown core, once defined by the open Market Square designated by John Galt. In so doing, it placed a sometimes dangerous obstacle in path of Guelphites. New technologies, especially concrete and electricity (the foot subway was wired for nighttime illumination in February 1912) made it feasible to address this danger with an underpass. Introducing the solution was not simple, however, because of disputes over control of the design and funding of the structure. As recent experience suggests, the adoption of the truck brought new opportunities and challenges, and those have, once more, touched off similar disputes concerning our centenarian subway.

Here is the underpass in its form before recent renovations:

View Larger Map

Sunday 27 October 2013

The Nurses' Home

Conflict erupted recently in the City over a plan by Vesterra Property Management to renovate the former Family and Children's Services building at 55 Delhi St. Local residents were happy with the plan to turn the structure into 12 condominium units. However, they were displeased with the developer's plan to put parking on the front lawn. As the Streetview image below shows, the front of the building is the site of a number of shrubs and mature trees, which the neighbours prefer to pavement.

View Larger Map

A look at the building might also suggest that it is an older building which, indeed, it is. It was built in 1910 when it was widely known as the "Nurses' Home", that is, a residence for nurses working at Guelph General Hospital just up Delhi St. In fact, the building is in Guelph’s Municipal Register of Cultural Heritage Properties as a non-registered structure. There, it is described as follows:

Georgian Revival, 2 storey + attic + basement, 7 bay, gable roofs, projecting end pavilions with pediments and half-moon windows, projecting light Tuscan columned entrance porch with balcony above, tooled stone lyg sills, wide splayed flat arches with ornamental keystone, quoins formed by recessed course at corners, plinth, console brackets to eaves and verges, entrance doorcase with sidelights, fanlight and arch with projecting denticulated head band, ornamental carved and triangular pedimented dormers, sash 6/1, 2 storey orioles at ends.
Some of these features, such as the gable roofs, half-moon windows, and quoins are visible in the image above, but foliage hides the rest.

To get a better view, you can look at this postcard published by Valentine & Sons Publishing Co., from a picture taken probably not long after its construction.

At this point, only a couple of little saplings stand between the building and street. So, it is easier to see the Tuscan columned entrance, the carved and pedimented dormers, and even the oriole windows at the near end. It is quite a dignified, even imposing structure. The Dictionary of Architects of Canada credits the design to Stewart McPhie, who had a had an office in Guelph with W. A. Mahoney. It hints that Mahoney may have had more to do with commissions in Guelph, so perhaps the credit should go to him. The Guelph Mercury notes that the "stone and brick contractors" were a local pair, Johnston and Williams (16 May 1910).

The Nurses' Home had a 10-year gestation. As noted in the Mercury of 21 June 1906, the idea and money for a residence originated with a bequest of $5000 by Mrs. Isabella Forsyth. Mrs. Forsyth was the widow of Mr. James Forsyth, who was foreman of the Ontario Agriculture College's Horticulture Department from 1880 through 1893. He died in 1899, and Isabella shortly thereafter on 19 January 1900.

Intriguingly, a copy of Mrs. Forsyth's will lies in the Archives at the University of Guelph. The Forsyths were well connected, as Mrs. Forsyth has some very upstanding Guelphites as executors including Alexander Petrie, who has been discussed in a previous post in connection with the Petrie Building. The first bequest in her will is the $5000 for the Nurses' Home:

To the Trustees of the Guelph General Hospital (out of my personal property) the sum of five thousand dollars with which they are to erect upon the Hospital grounds convenient to the said Hospital a residence for the said Hospital nurses and to be known as the Forsyth and Hepburn Cottage...
This paragraph poses some riddles. Why would Mrs. Forsyth endow a residence for nurses, and why would she want it to be called the "Forsyth and Hepburn" Cottage? The second question is easily answered, as the will identifies several relatives on her side of the family as Hepburns. So, that was her maiden name. As for the first question, the will leaves moneys to relatives and institutions in Elgin County, including a bequest of $3000 for a nurses' residence in St. Thomas. It may well be, as historical notes left with the will suggest, that Isabella trained as a nurse in St. Thomas before moving to Guelph. Perhaps she even served on the Hospital board, although that is just a speculation. In any event, she apparently took a keen interest in the welfare of nurses.

Why, then, did it take ten years for the home to be built? That is difficult to answer, but one reason might be that there was already a nurses' residence on the grounds of the hospital. The Dictionary of the Architects of Canada credits Stewart McPhie with the Nurses' Residence for the Guelph General Hospital in 1900, prior to the structure of 1910. A Mercury article of 20 Oct. 1910 describes the previous residence as temporary and inadequate, having accommodation for 12 nurses of a staff of about 30. Despite its deficiencies, the existence of a residence may have lessened the urgency the Hospital Board felt about creating a new one.

In any event, the Hospital Board bought a property on Delhi Street for the new residence from a Mr. Winstone in 1906. By this time, the bequest had increased from $5000 to $7000 due to sound investment. The author of the article in the Mercury (21 June 1906) considered the property "ideal" because it already contained a spacious residence belonging to Mr. Winstone. The property also had a shed suitable for the Hospital's bovine employees:

On the adjoining lot is a comparatively new stable, which will provide accommodation for some of the hospital cows.
The implication is that the Board was considering modifying the Winstone residence to serve as the Forsyth and Hepburn Cottage.

For reasons unknown, this plan did not work and the Board elected to build a new structure on the property. The Winstone home and cowshed met an unknown fate. The old nurses' residence was bought by Johnston and Williams—the "brick and stone" contractors for the new residence—and was moved by them to a new location around the corner on the east side of Derry St. (Mercury; 16 May 1910). I wonder if it is still there.

The cost of the new structure was about $18,000 (Mercury; 10 Sept. 1910). As this amount is much higher than $7000 or so available, the city's Young Men's Association put on a campaign to raise the extra amount. An article in the Mercury (22 Sept. 1910) notes the advantages of the new residence for the nurses, as well as the hospital, and suggests the propriety of the campaign:

The young ladies who are devoting their lives to then nobler cause of nursing, after being engaged several hours in sick rooms, night or day, require a brighter dining room than they have hitherto been furnished with, and it is singularly appropriate that the young men of the city should take upon themselves the work of defraying the cost of bettering their surroundings in all respects.
So far as I know, the campaign was successful and the contractors and architects paid in full for their efforts. At last, after a decade, the nurses had a decent place to stay during their training at the Hospital.

In due course, the new residence was immortalized as a postcard. This particular card was mailed from Leamington with the following message:

Jan. 27/15 // Dear friend :- Sorry to hear you are sick. Called your people last night. We are going to have a cake and tea social at Stillman to-night. Hope you are improving. J.
The addressee was "Miss Rosa Devereux, c/o Miss Simpson, Grace Hospital. Detroit, Mich." Considering that the recipient seems to have been a patient in Grace Hospital, perhaps the selection of a postcard featuring a Nurses' Home was a way of suggesting care and concern.

As for the Nurses' Home today, it seems that its front yard may avoid being paved. Vesterra and the neighbours have hit on a plan whereby the condo residents may be able to park in a lot at 65 Delhi St., property that the city owns and is looking to sell. In honour of this close call, I suggest that the developer throw in a little plaque finally naming Mrs. Forsyth as the lady who launched this residence with her bequest over 100 years ago.

Monday 23 September 2013

F. C. Harrison of the O.A.C.

Here is an unusual Guelph postcard, that is, one without a picture. This is the front of the card with the address:

The markings identify the card, in both German and French, as a postcard ("Postkarte - Carte Postale") authorized by the Bavarian Post Office ("Weltpostverein - Union postale universelle"). Before picture postcards made by private companies become common (a story for another time), postcards were issued by governments, pre-stamped, and to be filled in with the address on the front and the message on the back. That is what we find here.

In this case, the address is simply "F. C. Harrison // Guelph // Canada". In those days, such an apparently vague address could get a piece of mail halfway across the world and into the right in-box. The postmark shows that the card was sent from Nördlingen, Bavaria on 10 April (1899).

Who is F. C. Harrison, and why is he receiving a postcard from northern Bavaria? The message provides some answers, if you can decipher it.

If you cannot make anything out of this writing, you are in good company. It is written in a script called Kurrent, which was a common hand in Germany until the end of World War II. Based on medieval script, it is significantly different than the Copperplate that has long been common in the English-speaking world (and is now prevalent in Germany). Indeed, the hand is now so strange that some people who can still read it hire themselves out to transcribe old manuscripts for modern German speakers who are trying to read their ancestors' Nachlass.

Happily, this message is not too arduous, so I believe that I have made it out. It reads:

herrn F. C. Harrison Guelph // Im Besitze Ihres w. Schreibens v. 24-ten beehren wir uns Sie zu benachrichtigen, daß der Jahrgang 1874 der Nördlinger Bienenzeitung vollständig vergriffen ist. Wir sind daher außer Stande den gewünschten Jahrgang zu liefern. // Hochachtungsvollst C. H. Beck’sche // Buchhandlung // ??ds d. 10-ten 99
I would translate it this way:
Mr. F. C. Harrison Guelph: In possession of your letter of the 24th, we are honoured to inform you that the 1874 volume of the Nördlinger Bee Journal is completely out of stock. We are therefore unable to send you the desired volume. Respectfully, C. H. Beck’sche, Bookstore.
The register is quite formal, which seems oddly out of place as most postcards in the collection are much more chatty in tone.

In any event, the message answers the question about why F. C. Harrison is being sent a postcard from northern Bavaria. Evidently, he requested a copy of the Nördlinger Bee Journal but was to be politely disappointed by the response.

However, we now face a new question: Why did F. C. Harrison want a 25-year old issue of the Nördlinger Bee Journal?

One clue is provided by the cancellation mark on the back side, which says, "Ontario Agricultural College // Apr 24 // Guelph, Canada." F. C. Harrison was apparently Francis Charles Harrison, then professor at the College. According to Ross & Crowley ("The College on the Hill", p. 58), Harrison had been hired as a professor of Bacteriology because the College needed someone with expertise in the area to carry out research on diseases that affect livestock, especially dairy cattle. In particular, Harrison was concerned with tuberculosis in dairy cattle and the potential for contamination of cheese. As part of this work, he circulated to local farmers doses of tuberculin, a treatment for tuberculosis recently invented by German scientist Robert Koch. The effort produced modest results but may speak to Harrison's familiarity with the German language.

It also seems that Harrison's interests were not limited to diseases of dairy cattle. In 1900, he published an article entitled "Foul brood of bees" in No. 112 of the Ontario Department of Agriculture Bulletin. In this article, Harrison discusses some of the diseases that can strike bee hives, such as bee dysentery. The article summarizes past research on the disease, characterizes its symptoms, causes, and evolution, discusses its economic impact, and reviews potential treatments.

The article cites several articles from the Bienen Zeitung, including one by Butlerow in 1874. In an obituary in 1886, the British Bee Journal & Bee-keepers Advisor (vol. 14) describes Butlerow as a Professor of Chemistry at the University of St. Petersburg, who wrote some significant works on bees and bee-keeping, and as a frequent contributor to the Bienen Zeitung, among other publications. To judge from the citation in his article, it seems that Harrison was looking for a copy of Butlerow's 1874 article and found it from another source.

Hired upon graduation from the O.A.C. in 1894, Harrison wrote many articles for the Agriculture Bulletin. In addition, he is known for his design of the OAC coat of arms in 1892, displayed in stained glass in the staircase of Massey Hall. In 1903, Harrison designed the OAC crest, which is shown below:

(Courtesy of the Ontario Agricultural College)

Harrison left the O.A.C. in 1907 for McGill University in Montreal. His career there is remembered in different ways. One report suggests that he could be high-handed:

The principal of the [MacDonald] College, F. C. Harrison, was described as having 'a somewhat arbitrary manner,' and as 'inclined to treat his colleagues rather as inferiors than as equals.'
However, McGill continues to offer the F. C. Harrison Fellowships to students who achieve academic excellence in the Department of Microbiology and Immunology. Perhaps we could say that he was a complicated person.

I have found no photographs of Harrison. However, a caricature of him is viewable here from the McGill archives (Photo # PR028137), dated to about 1935. The double entendre in the title is suggestive, but scurrilous caricatures have to be treated with caution as guides to their subjects.

He seems to have remained at McGill until the early 1930s, after which I have found no further report of him. It seems fair to say that he had a successful academic career.

The issue of bee diseases continues to be relevant today. The developed world is experiencing prolonged and profound die-offs of bee colonies, a phenomenon known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Since about one third of our crop production depends on bee pollination, the invalidity of so many bee hives is a growing concern. You can hear more about it from Marla Spivak in this TED talk:

The problems facing a healthy food system are, it seems, not entirely new. Also not new is the need to communicate about them. Today, much of this communication takes place over the Internet. In the late 19th Century, the humble post card played its part.

Monday 26 August 2013

The Scotiabank Clock

The theme of civic clocks is continued in this post with some notes about the Scotiabank clock. The term "Scotiabank clock" may not be a familiar one, so let me set the scene a little.

I described earlier how the old Post Office got its clock installed in its tower, just in time for New Years in 1907. The new clock occupied a prominent place physically, three storeys above St. George's Square and also projecting out into the Square in front of the Post Office. Such a position was considered decorous because of the importance of time to civic life and of the importance of the Federal government in delineating it.

Some 53 years later, however, the old Post Office (or "Customs House", as it had become in the meantime) was demolished. The demolition was a controversial and emotional issue at the time, and a discussion of it can be found in Gilbert Stelter's "Buildings and Guelph's character" in Guelph: Perspectives on a century of change (pp. 196ff). For present purposes, what matters is that the destruction of this building in 1960 also meant the removal of the City's central timepiece.

It seems that the importance, practical or symbolic, of having a civic clock in St. George's Square was not lost on the designers of the new building. One of the first articles in the Mercury about the as-yet unnamed structure makes special note of a clock, among its other, more modern conveniences (26 Jan 1961):

St. George's Sq. to get new clock
... Eleavator service to all floors will be installed for general public and tenant convenience, and the building is to be completely air-conditioned.
... An item of interest to all citizens concerning the construction of the modern building is the fact that a clock will be installed on the face of the building where it can be conveniently seen by all.
Convenience, rather than decorum, was an important attribute of modernist architecture. So, if a clock were to make sense at all in the new building, it would have to be as a convenience.

Construction of the new building began in April, by which time it had become known that the main tenant would be the Bank of Nova Scotia (or Scotiabank). Again, the Mercury makes special note of the fact that the need for a clock has not been overlooked (5 April 1961):

... A clock will once again look down over the square, but as will be seen in the architect's sketch of the new building there is only one face. The city council, however, wish the clock to have two faces, the other on Wyndham St.
Almost everyone in Guelph must, from force of habit, have looked up to see the time on the old customs building clock in St. George's Sq. since the building was demolished late last year.
Although Guelphites would have their clock, they would still have to change their habits to find it, as the architect's sketch shows:

Whereas the Customs House clock was perched up above the main entrance in the center of the front elevation and projecting forward into space, the new clock would be between the first and second storeys, displaced to the side of the building, and flush with its surface. And just one face.

The building turned out follow the sketch closely, as can be seen in this postcard from about 1965:

(The postcard was made by the Mutual Wholesale Stationary Limited, London, Ont., and has no message written on it except for "7/19/69, Carol Ridler." Courtesy of John Parkyn.)

The convenience of this arrangement is easy to see. The clock face is close to the sidewalk, so that people need not crane their necks up or to the side to view it. Also, in minimalist, modernist fashion, the clock has no face and no numerals. Instead, in the manner of Aarne Jacobsen's "City Hall clock", it has lines to indicate the divisions of the hours. Less is more!

On Wednesday, November 15, the hands were set in motion for the first time (Mercury, 17 Nov. 1961, "Newest clock in operation"). The building itself officially opened the next Monday, November 20.

It is not clear how this clock was received by Guelphites who still looked up for the time in St. George's Square. However, Verne McIlwraith, a member of the newly-formed Guelph Historical Society, professed himself disappointed and suggested that the old Post Office clock should be kept in public view as an accoutrement to a building in Royal City Park, along with the old City Hall bell (22 Nov. 1961):

Suggests City Hall Bell located Royal City Park
Council also has the old clock that was removed from the original post office building when it was razed to be replaced by the disappointing new structure.
If desired it could be arranged so that the old clock could be housed in the same bell-tower on the Royal City Park building.
The proposed building never appeared. What become of the old clock, I do not know.

In the meantime, it seems that the people in Guelph got out of the habit of getting the time from the Scotiabank clock. It remained in place until quite recently, when it was covered up by new Scotiabank signage. Have a look at the face of the building in the Google Street View image:

View Larger Map

Notice how the orange Scotiabank sign that wraps around the building between the first and second storeys covers up the location of the clock. I believe that this new signage went up in 2006. In 2005, Scotiabank applied to the City of Guelph for a variance to put up a large new sign, to compete with the new signage on neighbouring banks. According to the City Council Meeting minutes (20 May 2005), the bank wanted to permit a "24.0 square metre first storey building sign and to permit a 18 square metre second storey building sign." The City refused. It appears that the bank went ahead later with the first storey sign, thus completing the removal of the civic clock from St. George's Square. No one appears to have noticed.

Of course, time has moved on. The correct time is just as important today as in yesteryear. However, people get it from other technologies, e.g., their cell phones. So, we look down, not up, for the local time, and our civic space reflects this fact.

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Old Home Week, 1913 - the event

As noted in my previous posting, Guelphites had planned for a big bash at the end of July, 1913. It seems that their wish was granted. Many visitors came by railway, which offered special fares, and by car. The Mercury on July 28 reported on the throngs disgorged into the city by the railways, bringing home the "old boys" and choking the length of Wyndham St. "with a seething mass of humanity."

The paper also compliments the city for its festive accoutrements:

The decorations were beautiful, and when the lights were turned on at 8.30 the vari-colored bulbs, flags, pennants and bunting presented a magnificent vista of color.
A special shout-out goes to the Mahoney's, who had a plumbing business on Quebec St., for their enormous Union Jack studded with coloured lights.

The evening was capped off with a concert from the Guelph Musical Society's Band and the Philharmonic Chorus at Exhibition Park. In addition, there were speeches from numerous important personages, which were entertaining even though perhaps inaudible:

The average speaker has not the sonorous vocal outfit to be a successful outdoor orator, and it may be amusing, although not exactly entertaining, to see the gestures, but hear no words. At any rate, the old boys and girls will now take it for granted that they are welcomed.

The program acquainted the public with the fun on tap:

During the entire week various kinds of attractions and amusements will be provided by the Committee, such as Side Shows, Animal Shows, Electrical Devices, Wax Works, Moving Pictures Shows, Ferris Wheels, Merry-go-Rounds and Galloping Horses, and everything in the amusement line that can be procured, and the Committee wish to assure the public that there will be nothing allowed that could offend the most fastidious.
In addition, there would be plenty of parades, sporting events, and musical performances.

Of course, it would not be a real party if it could not offend the most fastidious. In fact, the Mercury reports some licentious behaviour the very next day:

Many of those who attended the carnival five years ago [Old Home Week 1908] were wise in their generation, and knew what to expect. They wore their old duds. But of the others who did not know what was ahead of them—many of them had their best clothes ruined by talcum powder. The crowd ran riot, and girls and young ladies were openly seized and kissed on the street; hats were knocked off, and kicked about by the swirling crowd, and the air was full of talcum powder and confetti.
An editorial in the paper bemoaned this bacchanal on the Speed, urging police to put a stop to it, and assuring readers of "the chief offenders being the non-English speaking element." The Mercury on August 5 notes that an Italian, George Longo, pled guilty to a charge of "disorderly conduct" on Wyndham St. during Old Home Week. Was he the "non-English speaking element"?

Things seems to settle down by July 31, when the Mercury makes the following report:

There was no throwing of talcum or flour, and very little confetti showered about, the orders in that respect being well observed. "Ticklers" [paper tubes rolled into a coil that unroll and make a horn sound when blown into] were in evidence; and the vendors reaped a rich harvest, disposing of thousands of the "fun makers" as they called them.
However, the air was still thick with sexual tension:
The crowd was out for a big time, and they apparently had it, as the streets resounded with laughter, as arm in arm the boys and girls, young men and young women, promenaded the streets. Cordons were formed, and woe betide the girl that was caught in the charmed circle. Before she got out she was forced to pay toll.
This behaviour seems not to draw any reproach from the Mercury. Perhaps this suggests how the mores of Edwardian Guelph were different than the Victorian city.

Several issues of the Mercury from that week are missing, so it is hard to know which events drew the most notice. However, some items seem to stand out. First, there was a contest for best decoration, to be judged by the Committee. Many decorators, it seems, had incorporated electric lighting as an important component of their displays. The Committee seemed not to have anticipated this approach (July 31):

As the competition was for the best "decorated," not the best "decorated and illuminated" home, the judges could not take into account the electrical effect...
Thus, the Mahoney's, with their oversized and light-studded Union Jack, won only second prize. Today, decorating with lights is the norm, certainly for events such as Halloween and Christmas. In 1913, it seems, electrical decorations were still quite a novelty.

Another event worthy of note was the appearance on July 29 of Carlstrom, the "Swedish Bird Man" and his amazing Blériot aeroplane. This pilot was Victor Carlstrom, a Swedish-American aviator who was on a tour of southwestern Ontario at the time (Globe, July 25, 1913). Both he and his plane arrived in town by train. Carlstrom immediately set out to fly the plane at Exhibition Park. Unfortunately, the engine would not start and the Bird Man remained on the ground.

However, things worked out better on July 30. The Mercury of July 31 gives the following, breathless account:

With wings spread like a soaring eagle, Carlstrom, the bird man, sped over the city yesterday afternoon in his new Bleriot aeroplane. Rising from the ground at Exhibition Park, the daring aviator mounted to an elevation of a quarter of a mile, and swinging in a graceful circle, till he got his bearings, flew in a south-easterly direction.
The machine, propelled by a powerful seventy-five horse power engine, passed over Trafalgar Square, the people being made aware of the gasoline engine, which could be distinctly heard.
As the airship crossed the river and circled to the north, it was so high up that the airman at the wheel, who guided it in its evolutions, could not be seen. As it turned to the south, it dipped, and as it sped on a line, as the crow flies, on the return trip to Exhibition Park, it was much nearer to the house tops, and the aviator could be plainly seen guiding the machine.
It is not clear which Blériot model Carlson was flying, but it might have been the model XI that Blériot flew over the English Channel in 1909.

(Courtesy of Wikimedia commons)

The program states that Carlstrom's flight was the first in the City and, probably, first in the experience of most of its citizens. It must have been thrilling.

Also on the new technology front was the Grand automobile parade from the City Hall to Exhibition Park. The parade was to include "all motor cars belonging to the city of Guelph and those visiting". Unfortunately, no account of the parade survives in the Mercury. However, the idea can be better appreciated if you imagine putting on today a parade of all cars belonging to the city and to every visitor. Clearly, the automobile was still something of a novelty in town.

A couple of incidents also illustrated the problems that cars would bring. On the first evening, a celebrant named Reg Hoile (sp?), an employee of the Herald, was dazzled by a sparkler in the face and stumbled from the sidewalk in front of G. B. Ryan's dry goods store on Wyndham. There he was struck by a passing car and suffered several cuts and a sprained ankle. The August 2 issue of the Mercury wraps up its coverage of Old Home Week by noting another auto accident (among other things). On this occasion, Walter Benjamin, "a colored man", was knocked down by the Wellington Hotel bus as he tried to cross the street in front of the Post Office.

Of course, cars did not cause all the injuries that week. A woman was knocked down by the horse-drawn ambulance, for example, on the opening night. However, these collisions suggest the coming tensions between motorists and other, established users of the roadways.

By the end of the week, the Old Boys and their reunion were winding down. An article in the Mercury (August 2) notes that the crowds were dwindling, as was their enthusiasm. Perhaps the last bit of excitement was a burst pipe (apparently the second) in Exhibition Park the previous day: "... although it made rather a pretty improvised fountain, it did no damage."

On the whole, the event was considered a great success. Postcards sent from attendees of Old Home Week echo the this evaluation. One postcard (featuring the Carnegie Library on the front), gave this report:

Dear Auntie. Received that piece yesterday. You ought to have come to Guelph. We had a great time there. It was awful noisy though. Thank you very much for sending that piece. While we were at Guelph we went all to see the college. Love to all, Georg
It was postmarked on July 31 and sent to Miss E. J. Matheson, then resident in Detroit.

It seems that Old Home Week in Guelph, 1913, had it all: Noise, lights, cars, planes, talcum powder, and stolen kisses. Although the residents may have been looking forward to another one soon, the next Old Home Week would not occur until the city's centenary in 1927.

Saturday 27 July 2013

Old Home Week, 1913 - the preparations

One hundred years ago, one of the biggest occasions for the city of Guelph was Old Home Week. Old Home Week was a celebration in which former residents of Guelph were invited to return to the city to join in festivities arranged in their honour by residents. The custom originated in New England in the late 19th Century when Frank Rollins, a successful entrepreneur in Boston, returned to his native New Hampshire to run for governor. After his election, he decided that many former residents of the state shared his nostalgia for it, and arranged a homecoming for them in 1899. The event was so well received that the idea spread to neighbouring states and provinces, giving rise to many Old Home Weeks and Old Home Days (Daniell 2000, pp. 356-357). Guelph held its first Old Home Week in 1908 and, since it was such a hit, residents decided to do it again in 1913.

In 1913, Old Home Week (also known as "Old Boys Reunion" to some) took place during the last week of July, that is, Sunday July 27 through Saturday August 2. Many of the stationary stores in the city did a brisk business in postcards among other items during that stretch, as visitors wanted to share their experiences with folks who did not attend. One such postcard is shown here:

This postcard was published by The International Stationary Co., Picton, Canada, my favourite source for photos of Edwardian Guelph. It shows three ladies enjoying a leisurely row on the river. I am not sure where the photo was taken, but the growth suggests a more rural area, perhaps even the Eramosa River near Victoria Landing, where there was a boating club.

In any event, the postcard is postmarked on August 1, 1913 and has a special cancellation stamp made up for the occasion, as you can see in the upper right corner on the back of the card.

The cancellation stamp says, "Guelph’s Old Home Week 1913 July 28 Aug 2". According to the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain, these "slogan cancellations" became a popular device in 1912, and remained so for a number of years.

The message on the back of the postcard is of the usual having-a-good-time variety, apparently referring to the celebrations in town:

Well I suppose you are going on your trip. Hope you have a good time. I am just having a great time. Love to all the girls. Nita
Interestingly, I have another postcard addressed to Miss Ida Fissette in my collection, dated in 1908 and addressed to her in Simcoe.

Preparations for the event were extensive and expectations were high. On July 4, the Mercury reported that the executive committee had met and felt enthusiastic about the prospects for the event...

... and expressed the hope that every citizen would take right hold and make the reunion a great advertisement for the city as well as a time of pleasure in the meeting of old friends...
In modern terms, then, the party was not just for old time's sake but to burnish the brand of Guelph in the region. To this end, the committee had made special arrangements at the "Toronto end", which go unexplained. I assume they made a special effort to get former Guelphites from Toronto to make the trip. However, I can find no mention of Guelph's Old Home Week in the Toronto Star or the Globe.

The Mercury also makes special note of the hot weather, which persisted through the month.

Soon, city businesses began to advertise special sales for the event. On July 16, Charles Nelles (who happened to be the treasurer of the executive committee) began to advertise decorations, namely flags and "Chinese lanterns". I suspect the latter term refers to paper lanterns in the form of a ball and illuminated by an electric light. On July 21, George E. B. Grinyer advises his patrons to "Have your electrical decorations done early: We can do your work at once; next week, we'll be busy". Nelles had a stationary and wallpaper store at 101 Wyndham St., while Grinyer had a plumbing, heating, electricians and tinsmith (sheet metal) business at 124-126 Wyndham. It seems that the festivities would be well lit!

On July 24, G. Anderson & Co. advertised "A good supply of flags, tissue paper, pennants, canes, etc." In the daytime, without the benefit of electric lighting, the town spirit would depend upon flags waving and bunting twisting in the winds. Charles Anderson had a book, stationary, china, and fancy goods store at 53 Wyndham (phone 256).

As great as all this sounds, my favourite ads are those of D. E. Macdonald & Bros. The Macdonald family—Donald, Evan, Florence (not a brother, I assume), Norman, and William—had a dry goods, clothing and "mens furnishing" store at 1-9 Wyndham, and were determined to help Guelphites do it in style. Here is their ad from July 21.

That ad emphasizes the decoration needed to prepare properly for the event. The following ad, published in the Mercury during Old Home Week, emphasizes the accoutrements needed to properly enjoy it.

A straw boater and cane, or a parasol, and you're all set!

Some visitors started to arrive early in order to take full advantage. The "City News" column of the Mercury on July 22 notes the following arrival:

For Old Home Week.

Mr. J. M. Ogilvie and Mrs. Ogilvie and family motored up to the "Old Burg" for Mr. Ogilvie's vacation. They will be here for two weeks, for as Mr. Ogilvie says, "We wouldn't miss a Guelph Old Boy's Reunion for anything. That's why I got my holiday right now."
Mr. Ogilvie's arrival raises two issues regarding Old Home Week. The first is the importance of the "motor" or automobile to it. Cars were assuming an ever greater role in personal mobility, especially with the relatively inexpensive Ford Model T on the market since 1908. As we will see, cars also assumed a formal role in Old Home Week itself.

Second, the issue of how the event would affect local businesses was much discussed as July 28 approached. Clearly, goods and services vendors downtown were elated. However, factory owners were not so enthused. On July 24, Mayor Samuel Carter suggested to the city council that the August Civic Holiday—that would fall on the first Monday in August, right after Old Home Week—should be either cancelled or moved earlier to within the Week itself:

[Factory owners] claim that in all probability they will have to close down during Old Home Week, and that they cannot afford to close down again on the Monday following.
The Trades and Labor Council and the Executive Committee of Old Home Week met to discuss the matter and recommended that the Civic Holiday be moved to Tuesday, July 29, during Old Home Week. An editorial in the Mercury (July 25) inveighed against the change for the following reasons:
  • The date of the Civic Holiday was set by a by-law, which probably could not be amended in time;
  • The railways give special rates on that day and would not change the date at the last minute. Thus, Guelphites would be deprived of their chance at affordable train travel for holiday making;
  • Stores in town would have to close on Tuesday, taking away a great deal of business and inconveniencing attendees.
There are no indications that I can find that the Civic Holiday was moved.

With all obstacles removed and preparations made, it was time for the celebrations to begin...

Tuesday 16 July 2013

The Post Office clock

In a posting about the City Hall clock, I noted how clocks in civic spaces—and on civic buildings—perform more than a time-keeping function. They also help the powers that be to assert their centrality to the civic order. Here, I want to explore the theme a little further by looking at the clock in Guelph's Old Post Office/Customs House in St. George's Square. Here is a nice view of the building, from a postcard that was first presented in this posting about Guelph after dark.

The postcard was printed by The Valentine & Sons' Publishing Co., Ltd. of Montreal and Toronto. The image appears to date from 1907, after the clock was installed but before the island around the Blacksmith Fountain was renovated in 1908. The image is appropriate, in part, because it gives a view of the Square from ground level, looking up at the central tower on the Post Office.

The importance of the clock's physical position is quite plain. It is made prominent in several ways. First of all, like the City Hall clock, it is situated high up on the building. This allows it to be seen from a distance and also to cast its cyclopean gaze over the space around it. Second, also like the City Hall clock, it is centrally located in an important public area. The City Hall clock looks out over the marketplace, whereas the Post Office clock looks out over St. George's Square, the place that had become the focus of town commerce at the time. Third, and unlike the City Hall clock, the Post Office clock projects forward from the face of the building. This projection enhances the visibility of the side faces of the clock, and asserts the importance of the clock in the life of the city into which it intrudes.

This arrangement is no accident. Part of the significance of federal government structures in the young Dominion was to make visible the presence of national institutions, and to underline their importance in the greater scheme of things. The ritual of sending and receiving mail there helped to integrate the federal government into daily life. Also, use of the clock to synchronize watches amongst the townsfolk helped to reinforce the power of the government to regulate the conduct of affairs.

Beyond the symbolic importance of the clock is the interesting story of its arrival. The old Post Office had been enlarged with a third storey in 1903 (more on that another time) and blank faces had been left in the tower top to accommodate a clock at a later time. As Marc Boileau notes in "Towers of time" (2006), this procedure was not uncommon. Perhaps it helped to reduce the factor of sticker shock if the new building (or renovation, in this case) could be constructed a piece at a time. In some cases, the clock never arrived and the empty, round windows where its faces would be continued to stare blankly out over the streets.

However, three years after the raising of the roof, the Post Office received its new timepiece. In fact, the story of its arrival and installation is well told in the Guelph Evening Mercury's "Local News" columns, which I will excerpt below:

Nov. 16, 1906: New Clock Here.

The new clock for the post office tower has arrived, via C.P.R., and been cleared from the customs by Mr. W. A. Clark. The new time piece is of Boston manufacture, an eight-day Howard clock, and will have dials illuminated by electricity. A 1,500 lb. bell will be part of the equipment. The clock will be put into position as soon as the representative of the makers arrives to superintend the operation.
The maker must have been E. Howard & Co., a Boston watch and clock maker that had exported many tower clocks to Canada for similar sites over the years. The clock was a single mechanism that drove several dials via electric or pneumatic means. Probably, this model was electric.

There is no record I can find of the model of clock or its cost. The "Sessional Papers of the Dominion of Canada, 1906–7" has a line item for "Guelph Public Building—addition, improvements, furniture, etc." in the amount of $5,122.91. There is no line item for a "tower clock" for Guelph in any federal records for that year that I can find. However, line items for "tower clock" for other towns in that period vary in $750–$2,000 range. So, the $5,122.91 for Guelph must include other renovations.

The arrival of the new clock excited some admiration and expectations of its immediate installation:

Nov. 24, 1906: Installing The New Clock.

The representative of the Howard Clock Co., the makers of the new post office clock, has arrived and the work of installation commenced this morning. The huge bell weighing 1,500 lbs. is being hoisted into place this afternoon, and the work will probably be completed by the middle of next week.
The weight of the bell gets notice again. It should be quite audible, once it is working!

Expectations for a speedy installation were frustrated, however. About two weeks later, the following piece appears:

Dec. 6, 1906: What Time Is It?

The above query was heard frequently on the streets this morning. The reason is simple. The town clock discontinued operations at 8.22. It no doubt has made a gallant effort to stay in the business until the post office clock was ready, but has grown weary of waiting for the hands to appear.
It seems that part of the excitement about the arrival of the Post Office clock may have been relief over the imminent breakdown of the City Hall clock. At this point, the city finds itself without an official timepiece. In its absence, people are not sure what the time is.

The next item identifies the snafu that has thrown a wrench into the installation of the new clock:

Dec. 11, 1906: The P. O. Clock

Mr. W. A. Clark had hoped to have the P. O. [Post Office] Clock in full working order for the Winter Fair week, but the central part of the dials have gone astray in course of transportation. Although tracers have been out for several days, the efforts to locate them so far have proved unsuccessful. Should they not be found, it will take three months to replace them with new ones. The works are going, the bell strikes, and the outer portion of the dials is illuminated at night. The clock, when complete, will prove a great public convenience, and will look swell. The pity is that an unfortunate miscarriage of a portion of it will prevent its completion at this particular time.
The fact that the faces are illuminated is interesting. So far as I am aware, the City Hall clock did not have this feature. It also suggests that the clock was designed to run each face through an electrical circuit (as opposed to pneumatic control). The illumination of the clock faces also suggests how the night life of the city was changing, thanks to electric lighting. As noted in an earlier post, electric street lighting allowed decent folk to be abroad at night. Presumably, they would like to know the official time while out about their business.

The good people of Guelph did not have to wait three months to see their new clock tell time, however. Replacements for the missing dials arrived forthwith:

Dec. 29, 1906: Those Missing Dials

Mr. W. A. Clark recently ordered another set of dials for the post office clock; they were shipped some time ago, and which have been expected to arrive for some days past. Mr. Clark had hoped to have them put in to be able to start the clock the beginning of the New Year, but it would now seem that this will be impossible; however, if the dials arrive today an effort will be made to have the put in on Monday.
Now the suspense builds! Will the new dials arrive in time to bring in the New Year?

Unfortunately, the New Year's issue of the Mercury is not on record. However, it does appear that the clock was (almost) completely functional a week later:

Jan. 8, 1907: Town Clock Celebrates

At the hour of midnight last night the town clock, after clanging the requisite dozen peals, instead of stopping and commencing the new day like a respectable clock, kept on ringing for about five minutes. The care-taker says that it must have “slipped a cog,” but it is quite possible that it could not resist the opportunity to celebrate the election of Mayor Newstead by a majority which was doubtless the greatest of any election since it was installed.
The Mayoral race took place at the beginning of each year. There is no more mention of the dials, from which I infer that they were installed and thus no longer newsworthy.

The Post Office/Customs Building clock continued to tell Guelphites the official time for over 50 years.

The message written on the back of this postcard also relates to January in Guelph, although from a few years later:

Am spending the day in this town, a very small place about one hundred miles from Toronto. I hope to finish my business in Canada by January 17th. Am very anxious to get back[.] it[']s just a little too cold for me in these parts. Best regards from Sincerely Frank Kiosny (??)
The postmark bears the date of Jan. 12, 1910. His letter was addressed to Miss A. Zimmermann of 199 6th Ave. in Brooklyn, N.Y. Was she his sweetheart? At least Frank could count the hours until his warm reception in Brooklyn, day or night, by the new town clock.

More on Guelph's civic clocks to come...

Tuesday 2 July 2013

Happy (belated) Canada Day!

Although I have missed the date itself, I still would like to honour Canada's birthday with a belated posting.

Here is a postcard featuring what appears to be a Dominion Day parade, ca. 1915. The patriotic bunting is plentiful, and the floats are profusely decorated with flowers. The City Hall (and its clock) are visible in the background. The float in the foreground may be a fire engine, to judge from its shadow. Note the plumes on the horses' heads. Also in the background is are incandescent street lights of the type installed in 1912.

(Courtesy of John Parklyn)

The postcard has a white border, from the post-1915 period, and is done in a sepia-toned halftone process. It is labelled "The Armouries, Guelph, Can." and was printed by The International Stationary Co., Picton, Canada.

It is hard to get an exact match with Google Street View because of construction when the photos were taken, but here is a shot that is approximately the same. It is of Lower Wyndham St., at the intersection with Macdonell, looking towards the Armouries.

View Larger Map

I thought that it would be interesting to see what was happening on Dominion Day in Guelph 100 years ago, when these postcards were so popular. Unfortunately, the issues of the Guelph Evening Mercury from July 1st and 2nd of 1913 are missing from the archives. However, the June 30th edition is available and suggests what was happening in the city at the time.

The headline news that day was the arrival of world-famous opera singer Eddie Johnson. A Guelph native, Johnson had been in Italy for over five years, earning his living and building up his reputation. The piece notes the fame that Johnson had gained in Italy, even being ranked with "the immortal Caruso". In spite of his fame, Johnson displays a properly Canadian modesty:

With that inherent modesty, for which all true British and Canadian artists are noted, he would rather talk about anything else than that wonderful voice of his which has made all Europe proclaim him a second Caruso.
In his success, and his modesty, he displays the spirit of his country. He came with his wife and daughter to visit his parents and to rest his voice for the upcoming season in Italy.

Although Guelphites could choose to stay home and enjoy the Dominion Day parade downtown, they could also travel to distant parts, perhaps to visit their relatives. Both Canadian Pacific and the Grand Trunk Railways offered discount rates on fares for travel within the province.

If the train did not offer enough exercise for some, then there was always the chance to participate in the famous Dunlop Trophy Race. This race was an annual event co-sponsored by the Dunlop Tire & Rubber Goods Co. and CCM. In 1913, the race went from Waterloo to Preston Hill and back for a total of 20 miles.

The churches of Guelph held services on June 30 to prepare the way for the secular Dominion Day celebrations on the morrow. Many services involved themes of progress, change, and movement. The Salvation Army, for example, staged a march near the site depicted in the postcard above:

At the splendid open air service on Wyndham and Carden Streets, the band especially excelled itself. As some one said, "Who could help but march to such music? The word of the cornets was often remarked, it was perfect and always sure."
The Rev. J. D. Fitzpatrick of Norfolk St. Church observed a tension created by the mobility that modern life granted to Canadians. On the one hand, Western civilization in general, and Canada in particular, was characterized by enhanced mobility, represented by the national railways:
It was the church that discovered Japan and China and Africa. It produced the world's knowledge and commerce. Reports from missionaries in the Northwest were the original cause of the building of the Canadian Pacific Northwest Railway across the continent.
Unfortunately, the opportunities presented by the nation's transportation networks also threatened to unravel its moral fabric:
"The great foe of the Dominion," said the reverend speaker, "is materialism." No nation ever perished when she was poor; Egypt, Babylonia, Rome and Israel, were all destroyed when at the height of their material prosperity. The reforms needed in the Dominion will be brought about by the church; the evil of worldliness will be conquered by it.
Although it may be a mixed blessing, mobility is something that Canadians expect and enjoy, as their excursions on Canada Day attest.

Sunday 23 June 2013

The City Hall clock

Guelph, like most Canadian cities, has featured a number of prominent city clocks. As Marc Boileau observes in his book "Towers of time" (2006), clocks were often regarded as public works, that is, as a service that the builder rendered to the citizenry. A centrally controlled clock could, in effect, broadcast the official time to everyone in the vicinity. This function was especially important before the development of standard time and time zones, when each city determined local time for itself.

In Guelph, the first civic clock was a sundial situated on the stump of a maple tree that John Galt and his party cut down to officially found the settlement. Of course, such an arrangement was neither durable nor equal to the dignity of the town as it grew from a clearing in the woods to a regional centre.

During 1856, a handsome city hall was built in the Market Square, at what is now 59 Carden St. Designed by the prolific architect William Thomas, the structure included a short dome with a clock. There are no postcards of this structure (postcards were introduced much later), but it is nicely visible in the 1867 photograph below.

(Courtesy of Leanne Piper)

The time is not legible, but two of the clock faces are visible just below the top of the dome. The placement of the clock at the utmost possible height suggests its official function, namely to broadcast the correct time throughout the area. At the same time, the placement also helps the building to play its role as the regulator of the community. The clock faces not only show the time, they also survey their surroundings almost as if they were real faces.

In 1869, this original tower was replaced by an even taller and more prominent one. Stewart (1976, vol. 1, p. 83) states that the old dome had begun to leak and needed attention. This issue seems to have given the people in charge a reason to increase the importance of their building even further. David Allen comments (1939/2012, p. 86):

We of today can only guess the reason for this alteration, but, for one thing, taller buildings began to arise in that section [of town], and the increased height would allow more freedom for sounds of the bell to float above them, and, then again, faces of the clock could be seen from a greater distance, as the new buildings surrounding obscured the view.
Buildings sometimes compete for prominence in height (height makes right?), and Guelph's City Hall seems to have been no exception.

The City Hall with its new belfry is nicely displayed in this postcard from ca. 1900:

(Courtesy The City of Guelph)

The card is labelled "City Hall and Winter Fair Building, Guelph, Ont." and was published by Valentine & Sons. From what I can see by comparing this card with the photo above, it does not appear that the clock faces attained much more height as a result of incorporation into the new tower. However, the belfry is significantly higher, suggesting that Allen was right when he emphasized the sonic function of the new structure.

In any event, the entire tower was removed on August 8, 1961. Its absence is unlamented, as its assertive verticality seemed at odds with the horizontality of the rest of the structure, as noted in the Historic Places website:

Thomas placed a central, squat round clock tower on the roof that was replaced twice during subsequent years. Unfortunately these taller versions altered Thomas' thoughtful proportions and projected from the roof line at a rather obtrusive height. The tower was removed altogether in 1961.
Besides aesthetics, it may also be that no one could see any reason to maintain the tower when its clock and bell were no longer useful nor symbolic of the building's station in the civic order.

The post-tower appearance of City Hall is shown in this postcard from ca. 1970:

(Courtesy The City of Guelph)

All that remains is a scrawny, white flagpole.

Here is the Google Street View photo of the City Hall. It is a bit nasty since the site was under construction at the time.

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A better idea of the history of the City Hall, and its current condition, can be found at this very nice slideshow.

More on Guelph's civic clocks to come!

Sunday 9 June 2013

Bowling for dollars!

I suspect that the the title of this post will have readers scratching their heads. What does "Bowling for dollars" (BFD) have to do with Guelph postcards? Let me explain, beginning with BFD itself.

As noted on its Wikipedia page, Bowling for dollars was an American game show where contestants would bowl to win prize money. It seems to have originated in the late 1960s, and reached its zenith in the mid 1970s. Each station that aired the show ran its own version, but the format was largely the same everywhere:

The show's main set consisted of a sliding door from which the host emerged, as did the contestants, one-by-one. There was also a Jackpot light with a numeric display of its value, and a Pin Pal hopper. There were also stands set up for an audience.
Each contestant was briefly interviewed by the host and would then point out their family in the audience before the game commenced. They would then bowl two balls, and receive a prize depending on the number of pins knocked down. There was extra money for strikes and spares, and a special Jackpot for any bowler who bowled two strikes in a row.

You can get the idea from this clip from the WTAE Pittsburgh station:

You may have noticed that, after the introductions, Lori opened a hopper filled with postcards. Viewers of the show were encouraged to send postcards identifying themselves to the station. Each week, the postcards received were placed in the hopper and each contestant would pick one out. The person named on the selected card was the "Pin Pal", who would win the same amount as the contestant. The postcards served to allow viewers at home to take part in the excitement.

Two postcards in my collection were used to enter Guelphites as Pin Pals. The first postcard has on its front a photo of picnickers enjoying Riverside Park.

On the back, the card is identified as a "Traveltime product", distributed by the "Kitchener News Co. Ltd.", using the Colurychrome process. The scene is labelled as "Silver Creek Park // Guelph, Ontario // Picnic and playground area". This is confusing because, today, Silvercreek Park comprises the banks of the Speed River in the city's downtown, near Edinburgh Road. In the early 1970s, however, it seems to have denoted the southern half of what is now Riverside Park in the north end. Or, perhaps the producer was confused.

In any event, the card is addressed to: "Pin Pal // WGR TV // Box 5000 Niagara Square Station // Buffalo NY // 14202." The addressee is identified as, "Mary Pratt // 33 Inverness Dr. // Guelph Ont." The postmark is too faint to read, but might be 1978 or 1979.

The second postcard has a photo of the old OAC Biology Building, where I believe the OVC Pathology Building now stands.

On the back, the card is identified by its logo as another Traveltime product from Kitchener. The scene is labelled as "Biology Building // Guelph University // Guelph, Ontario." The card is also addressed to "Pin Pal" at WGR TV, and the addressee is "Norm. Harrison // 4 Sunnylea Cres. // Ap. 1 // Guelph Ont. // Can." The postmark reads "3 VII, 1978".

I wonder if Mary or Norm won anything.

Evidently, Guelphites were treated to the Buffalo edition of the show, hosted by Ed Kilgore who, as it happens, just recently left WGRZ Buffalo after 40 years. Ed's picture was put in the announcement of the show at its inception, placed in the Toronto Star on December 26, 1972. Check it out.

Although the heyday of the show belongs now to the distant past, it is still fixed in the memories of many. It has, for example, become a paradigm for interactive entertainment, as noted here in the Guelph Mercury (Oct. 16, 2001):

Undaunted, their [the NHL's] recommendations include elimination of on-ice activities, restriction of fireworks and laser shows where smoke or mist is a no-no. This is directed at quality ice for the players.
It's obvious this means curtailing the popular, between periods, "bowling for dollars," the sling-shotting of humans down the length of the ice into giant inflatable pins. These people are randomly selected dopes who come out of the stands with the express purpose of winning pizza and nachos for their entire row of seats.
Also, it has become an activity useful for charity fundraising, as exemplified in this item from the Kitchener Post (June 14, 2012) in an article entitled "Bowling for Dollars":
The Kitchener Lawn Bowling Club is holding a special fundraising event on June 16 in support of St. Mary's General Hospital. Funds raised will be used to purchase a portable pulse oximetry machine for the hospital's sixth-floor chest unit.
All in good fun!

Never the most gripping of shows, BFD became a byword for tedious, crass, or low-brow entertainment among some observers. Here are some interesting mentions from the Toronto Star. The first is from Would you rather (a) sleep or (b) vote? (Gary Lautens; May 24, 1977):

During paid political announcements on TV that interrupt your favorite programs, do you (a) use the time for a trip to the washroom, (b) draw a moustache on your TV screen with magic marker, (c) switch to another channel in the hope of getting Bowling for Dollars, Polka Time, or a Tide commercial instead?
The second is from Without rock, it’s tepid TV (Margaret Daly; Feb. 16, 1979):
This show [the Grammy Awards] had more sequined tuxedos than a Liberace lookalike contest. The moments of victory had all the class and none of the spontaneity of Bowling for Dollars, and the musical numbers were performed with the vitality and vibrancy you might expect from a troupe of heroin addicts on the nod.
The last is from At least the news is relatively new (Jim Bawden; July 20, 1983):
Did somebody mention the word ‘reruns’? … How about a special called Bowling for Dollar’s Finest Strikes? Or The Best Hockey Slapshots of 1983? I fear TV programmers are about to unload these on us. Certainly, they’ve tried everything else.

Whatever your view of Bowling for Dollars, it was a bit of popular culture that reached Guelph and left a lasting impression. Plus, it seems to have sold a lot of postcards. How many more Pin Pal cards from Guelph are hidden away in the attics, drawers and albums of the region?

So, if you are a Guelphite who sent in a card—or just have fond memories of the show—post a comment and let us know!

Update (13 July 2013): I just picked up another postcard, also of the Biology Building, also sent to Pin Pals at WGR TV. The postmark is smudged but might be 1978. A good year for Pin Pals, it would seem! This one is from "Mrs. N. Stanley // 40 Derry St. // Guelph" and adds, "Knock them down for yourself and me. Good luck."