Sunday 30 December 2018

Xmas at Tiffany's, 1910

The Xmas season is upon us once again and memories of times past return to mind. Some of these glances back are prompted by ephemera like postcards. Below is picture of an Xmas message printed on a festive greeting card:

In some ways, the card is easy to understand. It conveys a common message, wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, accompanied by picture of candles and festive plants in the shape of a wreath. It also gives the names "Mr. and Mrs. Thomas R. Logan," who are presumably the senders of the good wishes, and the address 12 Tiffany St. East in Guelph. Although it is not a postcard nor a folding Christmas card of the common type, it seems straightforward enough.

The location of 12 Tiffany Street East is easy enough to find with Google Street View:

The house is an example of the Queen Anne revival style, built in the late 1800s, likely at about the same time as its two neighbours closer to Woolwich Street.

However, Mr. & Mrs. Thomas R. Logan remain something of an enigma. No Guelph address book that I have consulted lists them, and their name never appears as residents of 12 Tiffany Street East. The card does have the text "$1.00 per dozen" written in the bottom right corner, suggesting that it may be a salesman's sample. Perhaps Mr. & Mrs. Logan were printers and this card is an advertisement.

So, instead of discussing the Logans, we can discuss Tiffany Street. According to Irwin (2008), the street was named after George Tiffany, the man who carried out the first survey of the Guelph town plot in 1827 at the direction of its founder, John Galt.

George Sylvester Tiffany was born in 1805 in Schohaire, New York and moved with his family to Upper Canada in 1812. He studied to become a land surveyor and the job with the Canada Company in Guelph must have been one of his first gigs (Tiffany 1901, pp. 45–46). Apparently not satisfied with this profession, he studied law and became a lawyer and relocated to Ancaster in 1836. During the Upper Canada rebellion of 1837, Tiffany went to Toronto under the command of Sir Allan Napier McNab to put down the revolt. He later became a reeve and then the second mayor of Hamilton.

A.E. Byerly (1935, p. 73) points out that, in 1836, Tiffany married Eliza Ann Strange, daughter of Henry Strange, a former governor of Demerera, West Indies, and who was an important figure in early Guelph history and an occupant of the Priory for a time. He went on to found Strange's Mills, now Rockwood, near Guelph.

Both men were immortalized in Guelph's street names. As with with their namesakes, Tiffany street and Strange street intersected. Strange street was the segment of what is now Dufferin Street, reaching from Kerr Street to Clarence Street, parallel to the river. Tiffany Street East spanned the block from Woolwich to Strange Streets. See the map below.

(The intersection of Tiffany Street East and Strange Street, inside the oval, Wellington County Atlas 1877.)

Both streets have since been changed. As Irwin (2008) notes, street names were not much regulated in Guelph's early years, resulting in some peculiarities. For example, Strange Street continued Mill Street from the south and was itself continued by Dufferin Street to the north, making three streets out of one continuous roadway that spanned only a few blocks. In 1907, the Post Office Department threatened to delay door-to-door delivery until confusing street names and numberings were sorted out. Several streets were rationalized in 1910. At this time, Mary Street, which continued Tiffany Street from Strange Street to the Speed River, was eliminated in favor of more Tiffany Street East.

However, it was not until 1956 that Strange Street was eliminated in favour of Dufferin Street. The name Strange Street can still be seen engraved in the sidewalk at the intersection of Dufferin and Powell Streets.

In view of the extension of Tiffany Street East in 1910, it seemed appropriate to look into what was happening in Guelph during Christmas time of that year.

The year 1910 was an important one for several Guelph institutions. The Armouries on Huskisson Street (now Wyndham Street South) were completed. Construction began on the Ontario Reformatory, then commonly known as the Prison Farm, on York Road just east of town. Today, its is known as the York Lands Green Hub.

However, perhaps the biggest change was the arrival of Niagara power.

Before its adoption, electricity in Ontario was typically provided by small, local outfits, either local utilities or generators purchased by companies to run their factories. However, with the development of large hydropower generating stations such as those at Niagara Falls, there was a considerable push to establish what later became known as "the Grid", that is, a publicly-owned, province-wide system of electricity generation and distribution. This effort was led by Adam Beck, a graduate of Rockwood Academy, who was later knighted for his efforts. The chief advantage of this system was to provide electricity broadly across the province, in abundance, and cheaply.

(Sir Adam Beck, as Mayor of London, 1902; Courtesy London Room Photograph Archives - PG F191.)

Niagara power was first connected to Guelph's electricity grid in September of 1910, and adopted industrially by the Taylor-Forbes plant in November. The transition did not go smoothly at first. On 4 December, a generator at the City's Light and Heat Commission (L&HC) blew out, leaving the residential area of Guelph in darkness. Manager John Heeg explained that the strain of serving the extra demand for lighting at the annual Winter Fair had proved too much for the Commission's ancient generators (Mercury, 5 December). For some years, in anticipation of Niagara power, the City had ceased to upgrade its own equipment and was now paying the piper.

The residential lights went out again the next night as another old generator bit the dust (Mercury, 6 December). Manager Heeg repeated his previous explanation. Also, he promised to expedite work on getting the new power substation up and running, which would allow the city to access enough Niagara power to make up for the shortfall in expired generators.

Of course, this work was tricky, as the substation had to transform electricity transmitted at 2,200 volts to 100 volts and 60 Hz, which was the new standard for domestic use. Furthermore, the new power configuration would mean that many people's old fans and other equipment would no longer function, since they were designed for the 125 Hz power previously provided by the city. Still, some power would be better than no power in mid-December.

Manager Heeg also urged the good citizens of Guelph to moderate their demand for electricity so that the remaining equipment might survive until Niagara power could be brought fully to bear.

Unfortunately, the Royal City's power woes continued to mount. On 8 December, the lights went out again although this time on Wyndham Street and in many of the city's factories. Blackouts continued each evening. On 10 December, the lights went out three times!

Complaints were beginning to mount and Samuel Carter, Commissioner of the L&HC, gave a statement to the press (Mercury, 12 December): The City continued to experience difficulties with its ancient generators. Furthermore, Guelphites had not moderated their demand for electricity. If anything, demand continued to increase.

The LH&C had pressed its new substation into service to meet the emergency. However, the new equipment had not been properly checked out and broken in, and so failed after only a few hours of operation. The LH&C pressed its reserve generators into service. Alas, these also failed to perform. These generators had been exposed to a lot of dust as a result of an earlier fire in the substation and their bearings quickly seized up. Five out of the city's six generators were now out of commission.

Then, for the coup de grâce, the power feed from Niagara failed. The cause of this disconnection was not entirely clear, although speculation was that high winds in the Niagara region were playing havoc with the power lines there (Mercury, 14 December 1910). Adam Beck assured Ontarians that these glitches would be worked out and, after a few days, the juice did seem to flow consistently (Mercury, 19 December 1910). The Royal City's factories continued to hum and its businesses were able to carry out their Christmas trade even after dark.

Many seasonal items were available for the delectation of Guelph shoppers. The D.E. Macdonald store on Macdonnell Street featured "everything in Xmas presents for everybody," especially Christmas furs. C.W. Kelly's music store had a deal on Victor & Berliner's "Victrola" gram-o-phone record players plus many records to play on them. The Bond Hardware store offered a wide selection of sleighs.

Perhaps the best gift notion was proposed by the Gowdy Bros. company on the Market Square, which placed the ad below in the Mercury's Christmas extra issue:

Who wouldn't want a ton of coal for Christmas? In an era when houses were often heated by coal stoves and furnaces, the connotation of receiving Lehigh and Scranton's anthracite from St. Nick would have been different than it is today. (In fact, coal was only just becoming a punitive gift at the time.)

Of course, there remained the problem of what to get for the person who has everything. In this case, the Guelph School of Telegraphy in St. George's Square had the perfect suggestion (Mercury, 21 December 1910):

Give your son or daughter a course in telegraph operating for Xmas. It will be an everlasting reminder and benefit to them.
If the gift card were spelled out in Morse code, the recipient would have to take the course to truly appreciate it.

For provident souls who had done their shopping, Griffin's Opera House on Wyndham street had a special entertainment treat in store (Mercury, 19 December 1910). For a warm up, they had three great reels of moving pictures straight from the Edison, Essanay & Selig factories. After that came the Thaten Duo, featuring real Holland wooden shoe dancing and singing, straight from Rotterdam! For versimilitude, the act featured backdrops of quaint scenes from old Holland, presumably including dykes and windmills.

I like to think that the act looked something like this:

Finally, patrons would be amazed at the Kols Brothers, vaudeville contortionists widely known as the Human Serpents!

As today, turkey featured prominently in plans for the holiday season. Perhaps mindful of what happened to Ebenezer Scrooge in Dickins' "A Christmas Carol," J.W. Lyon, then President of the Board of the Radial Railway (the streetcar) gave each married man among its employees a turkey for Christmas (Mercury, 22 December 1910). The single men each received a box of cigars instead. Clearly, cooking a turkey was more than could be expected of any bachelor.

The Mercury also contained some more surprising, turkey-related news (22 December 1910):

Jarvis, Ont., Dec. 22—The body found in a barrel in Montreal yesterday labelled "turkeys" was that of Matthew Johnston, caretaker of the Presbyterian church here. He was buried November 18th, and when the grave was opened this morning, the body was found missing. The casket had been cut and the corpse dragged out. John McSorley, formerly a medical student and eccentric character, is held here by the police.
Apparently, Mr. McSorley's eccentricities included resurrectionism, that is, digging up fresh corpses to sell to medical schools for doctor training. Montreal was a frequent destination for the proceeds of this practice (Belyea, 2016), although shipping "turkeys" all the way from Jarvis seems exceptional.

What Guelphites of the day or you, dear reader, should make of these two, turkey-related tales I leave for you to determine.

Happy holidays!

Wednesday 28 November 2018

Bee-coming a college: Beekeeping and the Apiculture Building at the OAC

On 27 June 2018, Guelph officially became a "bee city". The distinction is applied by Bee City Canada to cities that make specific efforts to offer refuge to bees. Amongst items bestowed on the insects is a bee condo now placed on the green roof of the new City Hall.

This designation does not mean that the Royal City has no previous history with bees. Quite the contrary, they have always been an important part of the local fauna, although not always to the comfort of the citizens, as illustrated by this incident described in the Mercury (25 August 1932):

Swarm of bees caused plenty of excitement for citizens on downtown streets yesterday
Rampaging insects settle on motor car and battle with owner
Cause traffic trouble

Excitement galore was provided for shoppers on the lower Wyndham Street section of the city yesterday afternoon, at about four o’clock, when a swarm of bees, escaped from a hive in the city, made matters rather interesting for well on toward an hour before the rampaging insects were finally subdued.
The swarm materialized literally out of a blue sky and was first noticed at the Wyndham-Macdonnell Street intersection at the south-east corner. The bees were apparently without their queen leader and appeared to be headed for nowhere in particular.
Citizens tried to wave the bees away with their hats but to no avail and were forced into retreat.
The bees then commenced to mill about in the centre of the street and as they kept buzzing around in circle, at about a height of four or five feet from the pavement, they caused no little consternation among motorists.

Some amusing sights were witnessed as automobiles drove along the street and headed into the bees, before the drivers realized the trouble ahead. Then, there was wild ducking, sudden swerves of the machines and made twisting of handles to close the windows. Traffic was more or less demoralized for a time.

Finally, the swarm settled on a hydrant on the south side of the street and the excitement quieted down. Some one sent for help from the Apiary Department of the O.A.C., and Dr. E. J. Drew came down to clear up the situation.

No queen bee was available to lure the insects back to their hive so it was finally necessary to put them to sleep and so ended about an hour of interesting amusement.
How fortunate for Guelphites that they had an apiarist they could call in for just such an emergency!

In fact, it was not just good fortune. The Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) just up the hill had been closely connected to bees since before its inception. Indeed, the OAC was the only school in Canada to have an entire building dedicated the bees, namely the Apiculture Building. This building can be seen in the postcard below, mailed in 1945:

The postcard was produced by the F.H. Leslie company of Niagara Falls, and features a correction to the caption, which mistakenly read "Horticulture" when first printed.

The Apiculture Building was constructed in 1919–1920. In spite of its post-war date, I would say it belongs to the Edwardian Classical style of architecture, with a simplified, boxy shape, hipped roof, olde-tyme 6-over-9 windows, all decorated with a strong Flemish bond brick pattern, arches and keystones over the first-floor windows, and a projecting entranceway. I wonder if the arches over the windows, particularly on the front face, are meant to evoke beehives.

(The newly opened Apiculture Building, O.A.C. Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library, TS-2-125-GO-254.)

The OAC Review (Jan. 1920; v. 32, n. 5, p. 228): provides some physical details:

It is built of red brick, two storeys high with stone basement. The dimensions are 64 ft. 6 in. x 47 ft. 3 in. The basement will be specially insulated for wintering bees. Laboratories for practical and scientific work and class-rooms will occupy the two main floors. ... The sum of $40,000 was voted for its erection.
The new structure was apparently the first one in North America to be dedicated to the study of beekeeping (Stead 2002, p. 23). It certainly speaks to the importance that the OAC attached to the subject.

Still, the new structure did not impress the pants off of everybody. Morley Pettit, who had been head of the Apiculture Department at the OAC from 1908 until 1917, praised it as "fairly presentable" and noted the trouble he had experienced in trying to get an Apiculture Building for the campus on his watch (OAC Review 1921, v. 35. n. 4, pp. 125–126):

When the federal grant to agriculture first began to loosen the purse strings of the Ontario Department of Agriculture, I was naturally one of the first ones to ask for a building, having a rapidly growing department and no building at all. We were voted the magnificent sum of $8,000.00. When the most modest plans I could draw called for $16,000.00 the whole project fell flat, and the Apiculture Department had to struggle on until a little later it cost four times that amount to put up a building and then some.
However, Pettit did allow that the new building was much better than the basement of the Macdonald Institute, where the Apiculture Department was previously housed.

As noted above, the College's association with beekeeping went back to its foundation—even earlier, in fact. The notion of establishing an agricultural college in Canada had been kicking around for a number of years but received new impetus with Confederation in 1867. In 1868, John Carling, the the Commissioner of Agriculture in the Macdonald government of Ontario, called for a report about establishing such a college in Ontario ("The Agricultural College," Toronto Globe, 2 July 1904). The task of making the report was given to Reverend William F. Clarke, then the pastor of the Congregational Church of Guelph.

Rev. Clarke was an obvious choice to do the job. Born in Coventry, England in 1824, the son of a Congregationalist minister, he emigrated to Canada by 1837 and attended the Congregational College of British North America in Toronto (Cochrane 1893, p. 337). He was the pastor of the Guelph church from 1860–1872 and must have liked it since he later retired to the Royal City.

(Reverend William F. Clarke, from Cochrane 1893, p. 337.)

Moreover, he was very involved in regional agriculture. He founded and worked for several agricultural journals, including the Canada Farmer, Ontario Farmer, and the Rural Canadian. He was particularly interested in beekeeping: he was editor of The American Bee Journal of Chicago for two years and was a founder of the Guelph Central Bee-Keepers’ Association in 1886. That same year, he published the monograph "A Bird's-Eye View of Bee-Keeping."

To fulfill his errand, Rev. Clarke visited two state agricultural colleges, in Massachusetts and Michigan. His report was submitted in 1870 and recommended the establishment of an Agricultural College in Ontario, along similar lines to the American institutions with some local adjustments. A site in Mimico was selected initially, apparently for political reasons as conditions there were not suited the needs of an agriculture institute. As fortune would have it, a timely change in government brought about a change of heart and Frederick Stone's farm south of Guelph was purchased in 1873.

Rev. Clarke was appointed rector of the College while one Henry McCandless was hired from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, as President. Classes began on 1 May 1874. However, McCandless proved inadequate to the task and a salacious scandal soon broke out. McCandless was accused of being an out-of-touch tyrant, unable to discipline unruly students and issuing foolish directives from his ivory tower office. For his part, McCandless complained of politically motivated staff appointments and impugned the honour of some of the female staff. He accused Rev. Clarke of flogging rhubarb roots to the College at an “exorbitant price” and of playing cards with the students. The details aside, the scandal caused Rev. Clarke to resign in protest. An investigation cleared Rev. Clarke and the staff of the College, whereupon McCandless left his position. Affairs were afterwards placed on a more even keel.

In any event, Rev. Clarke gave the College lectures in apiculture until 1895 (OAC Review; June 1928, v. 40. n. 10 p. 378). What these lectures were like is not clear, although a later account gives a cryptic hint as to the "many humorous incidents" associated with them (OAC Review; Nov. 1921, v. 34. n. 3 p. 90). Perhaps students were nervous about handling the insects. Perhaps Rev. Clarke demonstrated the notorious "beard of bees." Whatever the case, the lectures seem to have been memorable.

Subsequent apiculturalists developed the beekeeping program. In particular, Morley Pettit, quoted above, built the program and made a serious case for a dedicated building. Although he left before his intention was realized, it seems that the stature of apiculture and the presence of the Apiculture Building on campus owed much to his efforts.

As Sejpesteijn (1987, p. 118) points out, the Apiculture Building also helped to define a new space on the campus. Previously, campus buildings had been sited around what is now Johnston Green. Now, the Apiculture Building, the Field Husbandry Building (now Zavitz Hall) and the Raithby House began to define another common, open space to the south, now known as Branion Plaza.

The former location of the Apiculture Building can be ascertained by overlapping a campus map from ca. 1963 (the "Federated Colleges Visitors' Guide") with a satellite photo of Branion Plaza from Google Maps. See below.

In this image, a semi-transparent detail from the campus map is superimposed on the colour satellite image. The maps were aligned by superimposing buildings common to both, including Zavitz Hall, the Hutt Building, the Bullring, and the Richards Building. The location of the Apiculture Building is picked out with a white diamond just right of the "University Centre" label. The comparison reveals that the Apiculture Building stood at the northern corner of what is now the entrance to the University Centre from Branion Plaza.

The little Apiculture Building was eventually doomed by progress. The formation of the University of Guelph in 1964 brought with it a push to enlarge and modernize the campus. With many new departments and colleges, it needed bigger facilities. In keeping with its new, university status, it was to look less rural and more urban and up-to-date.

As part of this development, the main entrance to the University was to be located away from the Gordon and College streets to a "mall" leading north from Stone Road (Mercury, 10 July 1972). This mall would cross the South Ring Road and end at an imposing University Centre, the fulcrum of the new institution. The Apiculture Building stood in the way and was demolished in June 1972. University President William Winegard regarded the demolition as unfortunate but necessary:

University President W.C. Winegard admits that of the 13 buildings originally selected for oblivion 10 years ago, loss of the Apiculture Building alone can be lamented. “It was a functional building serving a purpose, but to leave it would have changed our plans for the campus entrance off Stone Rd.” Dr. Winegard said.
Zavitz Hall, also slated for demolition, was later saved.

Though the Apiculture Building is no more, apiculture lives on at the University of Guelph in the Honey Bee Research Centre. There, you can find bees, as well as University of Guelph honey and related products for sale.

Perhaps, if a swarm of bees every menaces the fire hydrants of Guelph again, instructors and staff could be called upon to save the day once more.

Saturday 13 October 2018

The early days of Guelph Bay

Have you never heard of Guelph Bay? In spite of delving into the history of the city of Guelph for a number of years, neither had I. Yet, there in front of me was a photo of that very place, with four smart, gabled cottages whose generous verandahs overlooked Ahmic Lake, near Magnetawan, Ontario.

The picture is the front of a real-photo postcard (RPPC), a photograph printed on postcard stock to be sent through the mail. Unfortunately, there is no message, address, cancellation stamp, or other specific dating information on the back, so it is hard to say when this picture was printed.

Adding to the mystery, although Ahmic Lake is easily to be found in online maps, "Guelph Bay" is not. Even so, a connection seemed likely just because "Guelph" is not a common place name and all the other "Guelphs" in North America are closely connected with the Royal City.

To make a long story short, there is indeed a close connection between Guelph and Guelph Bay and it takes us back to the early days of settlement of the Parry Sound district.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, the district was inhabited by Algonkian-speaking peoples later identified largely with the Ottawa, though the area was a confluence of Objibwa, Huron, and other indigenous groups (Lovisek 1991). It afforded opportunities for fishing, trapping, and passage between Georgian Bay and the Ottawa River by canoe.

Early in the 19th Century, there was some official notion of recognizing the region as a reservation for indigenous peoples. However, the region was opened for settlement in 1868 with the Free Grants and Homestead Act, providing free land to would-be farmers while the Crown retained lumber and mineral rights. Soil conditions did not favour agriculture but the lumber trade prospered and train and steamboat travel were established in the Magnetawan river system by 1880. By 1886, a series of locks on the river had made it straightforward for people to take the Grand Trunk Railway to Burk's Falls and then ride a steamboat to any number of locations on Ahmic Lake. As a result, the region experienced a boom in the tourist trade.

Along with other southern Ontarions, several Guelphites took an interest in the district. In Looking Back with the Magnetawan Women's Institute (1997), we get the following information:

Thomas Gowdy and two friends first came to Ahmic Lake in the summer of 1889. They found some crown land in the area now known as Guelph Bay. His patent was issued in 1893.
The identity of the two friends is suggested by a notice in the Guelph Mercury the next year (24 July 1890):
Mayor Gowdy and family, comprising eleven members, and Mr. C.W. Kelly and family left this afternoon for Guelph Bay, Parry Sound. Rev. Mr. Turk intends to join them this week, if he is sufficiently recovered.
It appears that the three amigos who founded Guelph Bay were Thomas Gowdy, Charles. W. Kelly, and the Reverend George Turk.

Thomas Gowdy was then the Mayor of Guelph. Born in Toronto in 1831, he located to Guelph in 1853. Young Thomas had a good head for business and became a wealthy and important member of the community. Gowdy started out as a plasterer in the building trade and entered into a partnership with builder John Stewart. He got into the building materials business, becoming president of the Toronto Lime Co., a position he held until his death in 1913 (Mercury, 11 Dec. 1913). He was also on the board of directors of many Guelph concerns, such as the General Hospital, the Dominion Life Co. and the Guelph Junction Railway. He was perhaps best known as the owner of Thomas Gowdy & Co., Agricultural Works. Gowdy took over Cossitt's factory at Suffolk and Yorkshire streets in 1880 and ran a tight ship, described as follows (Industries of Canada 1886, p. 108):

The works contain the latest and most approved machinery, which is turned by a 50-horse power engine. Over 40 skilled workmen are employed, all under competent foremen. The firm manufacture all kinds of reapers, mowers, sulky rakes, fanning mills, land rollers, root cutters, turnip sowers, straw cutters, sulky ploughs, gang ploughs, single ploughs of all kinds, harrows, lawn mowers, etc.
He served as an alderman (councillor) for many years and was mayor in 1889 and 1890.

(Thomas Gowdy, ca. 1890, courtesy of the Guelph Public Library, F38-0-4-0-0-6)

Gowdy's mayoral ambitions were nearly derailed when his opponents reminded voters of some unfortunate comments Gowdy had made about Irish people after returning from a visit to the Emerald Isle in 1881 (Nash-Chambers 1988, p. 101):

The Irish were a lazy, drunken lot who if they did more work and drank less whiskey would never need to come as beggars to the civilized world.
Having reconsidered his views of the Irish en masse, Gowdy apologized and was successful in his electoral bid.

Charles Wesley Kelly (always "C.W. Kelly") was born in Guelph in 1856. His father John (always "J.W.B. Kelly") was a successful cabinet maker who had located to town in 1842. According to the Wellington County Historical Atlas (1906), the Kelly family was for a time owners of the Priory, where C.W. probably lived as a boy. A Methodist family, they hosted Methodist services there prior to the construction of the Methodist church (now Dublin Street United).

J.W.B. had a store/factory at the west bank of the Speed River near the Eramosa bridge. The firm diversified into selling and repairing the contents of cabinets, such as sewing machines, melodeons, organs, and pianos (Mercury, 8 Apr. 1947). Although he tried his hand at agriculture, young C.W. was drawn back into the music business. In 1877, he founded the firm of "C.W. Kelly" on Quebec Street, where the Masonic building now stands. The store sold a variety of musical instruments and accessories. The Atlas states that Kelly was one of the first dealers to sell Guelph-made Bell pianos and organs and eventually controlled Bell's whole retail piano and organ trade for Guelph, South Wellington and Halton. As sales of Bell pianos and organs were brisk in the 1880s, Kelly's local monopoly was undoubtedly lucrative for him.

Although not a politician, C.W. was active in running of Guelph in other ways. For example, he was a long-time member of the Board of Education. He was also Chairman of the Light and Heat commission when the incandescent system was installed in 1911. He had the honor of pushing the button in Trafalgar Square that turned on all the new lights downtown simultaneously (Mercury, 15 Jan. 1948).

Here is a picture of C.W. from the Historical Atlas of 1908:

Although the Rev. George Richard Turk plays only a brief role in the story of Guelph Bay, his appearance does confirm the ties that bound him, Thomas Gowdy and C.W. Kelly together. Rev. Turk was born in Vienna, Ont. in 1857, and took an early interest in the Methodist church. By 1888, he had been the pastor of a number of Methodist churches in Ontario, moving in that year from Galt to the Dublin Street Methodist (now United) church in Guelph.

Both Thomas Gowdy and C.W. Kelly were members of the church. In fact, J.W.B. Kelly had been on the local Methodist Church board when the Dublin Street church was founded in 1874. Thomas Gowdy's daughter Isabella was married there to James Talbot on 24 Aug. 1889 by Rev. Turk himself. So, the three of them had much in common.

By 1891, Rev. Turk had moved on to Owen Sound, one of the many positions he held on his way to the prestigious pastorates of Grace Church in Winnipeg in 1892 and Carleton Street in Toronto in 1897. Upon his move to the Queen City, the Toronto Globe observed (1 July 1897):

He is noted for the eloquence and effectiveness of his preaching, and for the indefatigable and successful character of his pastoral work.
In addition, the Globe published the following drawing.

So it was that Thomas Gowdy, C.W. Kelly, and George R. Turk travelled to the Parry Sound district in the summer of 1889 to enjoy its sights and amenities and to bring a little bit of Guelph with them.

At this point, the matter of the location of Guelph Bay comes back into focus. Happily, Margaret Welliver pointed me in the right direction. Mrs. Welliver is a great grand-daughter of Thomas Gowdy, and met her husband at the Gowdy cottage in the 1950s. Guelph Bay is still labelled on the Ahmic Lake Cottagers Association map, which places it at the location below:

Guelph Bay is the horseshoe-shaped bay lying between the main shore along the bottom and Kelly's Point sticking northwestward into Ahmic Lake. If you zoom in, you can make out the cottages in the postcard at the end of the bay. Zoom out for more context.

It appears that the three men established camps on the spot and obtained a patent on the land from the Crown. Land title was purchased in 1908, with taxes imposed back to 1893, suggesting that the cottages may have been built at that point.

The early appearance of these cottages is shown by an early photo taken from the southwest, courtesy of Margaret Welliver.

Each cottage is a simple, two-storey, gabled wooden structure, apparently finished with board-and-batten siding. No verandahs are yet present. Stumps are visible in the foreground, suggesting the newness of the clearing in which the cottages sit. The cottage on the right-hand side belonged to Rev. Turk, the middle one to Thomas Gowdy, and the left-hand one to C.W. Kelly. At the left-hand edge of the photo is a tent, perhaps suggesting what the original encampments would have looked like.

Later photos show two more structures, one on either side of the original three cottages, along with lawns, paths, and extensive docks. For example, here is a postcard issued A.J. Collins of Burks Falls, issued around 1910. (Courtesy of the Toronto Public Library, PC-ON 1693.)

Guelph Bay became a hot spot for summering for well-to-do Guelph families, where they enjoyed fishing, boating, hunting and, no doubt, beautiful sunsets. For example, the social page of the Toronto Globe records the following item (19 Aug 1901):

A big pickerel.
Rhoad’s Island, Aug. 17.—Mrs. D. Young while trawling to-day with her husband, the Principal of the Guelph Public Schools, caught an enormous pickerel, the largest caught here. It weighed six pounds, measured 27 ¼ inches in length and 13 inches around, and was weighed and measured by Mr. Sam Gowdy of Guelph and Mr. McCalum, Bursar O.A.C., and afterwards photographed by Mr. Gowdy at Guelph Bay. It was caught in Ahmic Lake, near Rhoad’s Island where Mr. Young and his family are spending the vacation.
A propos of fishing, there is a photo of C.W. Kelly with a fine catch from Ahmic lake, taken at the steamer dock at Kelly's Point (to which Kelly relocated in 1908), courtesy of Nora Kelly, great granddaughter of C.W.:

Another pickerel?

Of course, socializing was also a central occupation. Visitors could be entertained and the cottages were rented out from time to time. For example, there was this notice in Acta Victoriana, the yearbook of Victoria University in Toronto (Oct. 1905):

Mr. C.B. Kelly was summering at Guelph Bay during July and August. In that vicinity there were upwards of twenty young ladies, while C.B. was the only man. He claims to have had his hands full. Only your hands, Belfry?
Charles Belfry was a son of C.W. Kelly.

Visitors to Guelph Bay included the formidable J.B. Reynolds, president of the Ontario Agricultural College from 1920 to 1928, after whom the Reynolds Building was named. Sir William Hearst, Ontario Premier 1910–1919, and his wife spent July of 1928 at Guelph Bay, according to the Globe (5 July 1928).

Perhaps the visitor best known today was John McCrae, author of "In Flanders Fields." In his reminiscences about McCrae (The Torch 1940, pp. 7–17), Henry Hewitt recalls time he spent with McCrae at Guelph Bay around 1890:

One summer father sent the family to Lake Ahmic. Accompanying me was a young friend of mine who with myself had collected an arsenal, which we proposed to use in the north country. Jack McCrae who was spending the summer with us was sent along to keep us out of danger. We lived together, fished together and hunted together for nearly three months, and when we returned, all of us in the pink of condition, he had endeared himself to everyone, especially to my friend and myself.
At Lake Ahmic one night the weather suddenly became cold and my friend and I went out to get wood. It was rather a tedious job to cut down a tree, as we returned with a supply of wood we had taken without permission from a neighboring site. I remember he laughed and apparently suspected where we obtained the wood. On attempting to use it, the logs were found to be too long for our fireplace, so they had to be cut. A saw was borrowed and we were about to use it when Jack asked, “Where did you get the saw?” We told him. “Where did you get the wood?” We told him. It happened to be the same place.
Then he said, “I don’t mind you stealing his wood, but I’ll be damned if I’ll let you borrow his saw to cut it with.” That decision was final.
During this visit, John McCrae drew a pencil sketch "From the Pier Guelph Bay Magnetawan", in a sketchbook in the possession of the Guelph Civic Museums (M1968X.449.1, p. 38):

The cottage on the left appears to be that built for Rev. Turk.

Though Guelph Bay continues to be a favored summer residence for people from Ontario and the Midwest, its connection with the Royal City has faded from the memory of Guelphites, though the link remains yet in the captions of photos and postcards of former years.

Thank you to Margaret Welliver, Nora Kelly, John Macfie, and Andy Hauser for sharing their knowledge and photographs of Guelph Bay and its cast of characters. I hope that much more of the history of this charming place will be told soon (including perhaps in the comments below)!

How did Gowdy, Kelly, Turk and others get from Guelph to Guelph Bay? The short answer is by train and steamship. Smiley's Canadian Summer Resort Guide (1907) reveals that one could get to Guelph Bay by first taking the Grand Trunk train to Burk's Falls. From there, travelers could ride a small steamboat along the Magnetewan and get off at a variety of docks along the route to Ahmic Harbor. The fare to Guelph Bay from Hamilton was $10.35, the same as to the neighboring sites of "Cedar Croft," "Camp Kentuck," and "Forest Nook."

A lovely show of what it was like to travel this way along the Magnetewan is provided in the slideshow "Sailing along the Magnetewan", by the Almaguin Highlands Digital Collection. Do have a look at the exhibit, which features many period postcards. Click on the image below and pay special attention to the Wanita (shown):

Saturday 25 August 2018

The zone post: Guelph gets safety first

Oddly, the postcard below was the one that got me interested in postcards of Guelph in the first place. Have a look and see if there is anything unusual there:

The card was printed by the Valentine-Black Co. of Toronto and published in the mid 1920s.

Here is a similar view today, courtesy of Google Street View:

Picking this card casually out of a box at an antique market, I was struck by the peculiar orange post in the middle of the intersection at Wyndham and Carden streets, rhyming visually with the campanile tower of the train station in the background. Who would plant a post in the middle of a busy intersection? I surmised it was some sort of traffic control measure. Being interested in the history of cars and cities, I bought the card and decided to find out.

It turned out that I was right. The post is apparently an example of what was called a "safety zone post" or just "zone post" for short. These posts were one of the first attempts to regulate the flow of automobile traffic in cities as that became both voluminous and dangerous.

From their introduction until about 1910, automobiles were mainly a curiosity for the well-to-do. In the summertime, when roads dried up enough to be passable, people who could afford motor cars (also called "motors" or "machines") would take them out of town for picnics or other recreations. This activity was pleasant for the motorists and mainly mildly amusing or annoying for other users of the roads.

However, with the introduction of cheaper cars like the Ford Model T in 1908, cars began to account for a substantial amount of traffic. The behaviour of motorists began to determine traffic conditions on streets and in a way that was significantly different from conditions on the streets before.

As Peter Norton (2008) explains in "Fighting traffic," city streets were common property, available for any members of the public to use more-or-less as they saw fit. If you had a mind to, you could stand in the street all day, or set up your peanut cart there, or play in the street, and that was normally your privilege.

Traffic was not usually very dangerous. It went at a slow pace and drivers or cyclists could maneuver around people who were hanging out on the street. Horses were normally smart enough not to run into people or other vehicles. Streetcars went slowly and along predictable paths.

This situation is illustrated in the following video of New York City around 1900. Note how people navigate or park in the streets without much concern for traffic.

As automobiles came to dominate the streets, this situation changed. They were large and heavy and went increasingly fast, so that being hit by one was a major problem. Their steering and brakes were not particularly responsive or even reliable, so they could be difficult to control. With their increased degrees of freedom, and few rules about who went where, automobile movements could be hard to anticipate.

The result was increasing levels of conflict and frustration. That Guelphites of this period were similarly affected is suggested by the following cartoon printed on the front page of the Guelph Evening Mercury (13 Nov 1915):

People began to think about how to deal with the risks posed by automobile traffic. An important, early response to this problem was the "Safety First" movement. Peter Norton (2015) points out that the Safety First movement originated in attempts to improve workplace safety and was transferred to railways and roads in the early 1900s. The slogan implies that safety should be the highest priority in traffic flow, over other priorities such as speed and convenience.

Furthermore, automobiles were seen as intruders in the streetscape and were thus the focus of traffic control. An interesting Maclean's article ("Two years of Safety First," 1 Nov 1915) gives a list of laws prompted by the Safety First movement aimed at regulating the configuration and maneuvers of automobiles on the roads:

We have seen the inauguration of automatic control of traffic which has minimized accidents; we have laws in several states and in most large cities compelling the use of dimming devices on headlights; we have seen the passing of the muffler cutout, the coming in of short radius turns on the automobiles themselves, and we have witnessed a strong effort on the part of various states to being about the enforcement of universal lighting laws which will compel every vehicle, no matter whether motor-propelled or horse-driven, to show lights at night.
For our purposes, the mention of "short radius turns" is significant. In early days, automobiles would often execute left turns by passing just next to the street corner on their left. Sometimes, this sort of turn is known as "cutting the corner." Drivers liked it because it was gradual and easy to execute rather than sudden and strenuous (remember, there was no power steering), and could be done without slowing down much. Geometrically, this turn is a "big radius" turn because a car following it would describe a big circle if it kept on turning.

As you can imagine, though, this turn is not very safe. An automobile cutting a corner could collide head-on with another vehicle approaching the corner on the cross-road. Since this turn was taken at high speed, the results of a collision could be severe. As the Safety First movement placed safety above speed, this sort of turn had to be prevented.

That is where the zone post came in. The zone post worked as a "keep right" sign. By placing a zone post in the middle of the intersection of Wyndham and Carden streets, it forced motorists who planned to make a left turn to drive to the middle of the intersection, slow down, and turn sharply left around the post. By replacing high-radius left turns at high speed with small radius left turns at low speed, the zone post helped to increase road safety.

In effect, the zone post turned an intersection into a very small roundabout.

Looking at the postcard again, many of the automobiles parked at the Grand Trunk station probably came down Wyndham street and made a left turn around the zone post in the picture before driving to the station entrance.

Zone posts were used at busy intersections for this purpose. However, their primary use was to designate "safety zones"—thus the name "safety zone post." A safety zone was a region of roadway that automobiles were not supposed to enter. The most common example was a zone around streetcar stops, which were often in the middle of roads. Since automobiles were prohibited from driving through safety zones, riders could wait inside them for streetcars and get on and off them without being menaced by motorists. At least, that was the theory.

In Guelph, the central point of the city's streetcar network was St. George's Square. People often stood in the Square around the streetcar tracks (standing on the grass around the Blacksmith Fountain was prohibited) while waiting for streetcars to arrive. As more automobiles took to the streets, this practice made these riders vulnerable.

In November 1915, the City of Guelph By-Laws and Markets Committee recommended a by-law to establish a safety zone around the streetcar tracks in St. George's Square. Although this notion seemed to meet with general approval, the zone was not enacted until nearly two years later. Finally, Guelph got its first safety zones and zone posts (Evening Mercury, 15 Sep 1917):

After a great deal of agitation and hard work Chief Randall has finally got zone posts placed at St. George’s Square. Three posts on each side of the square are in position, and they should go a long way in diverting traffic to the proper channel, and be a source of protection to pedestrians. The chief will also have the zone posts placed at the corner of Wyndham and Macdonnell streets, Wilson and Macdonnell, and the intersection at the Public Library.
There is a photograph in the Guelph Public Library archives of the safety zone in the Square, ca. 1920:

(Courtesy of the Guelph Public Library, C6-0-0-0-0-144.)

The zone posts are the skinny, metal sticks arranged around the Blacksmith Fountain garden, outside of the streetcar tracks. Painted on the top disk of each post is the instruction, "Keep to right." The posts were supposed to remind motorists to pass around the outside of the posts and in a counter-clockwise direction. In effect, St. George's Square became a large traffic circle.

I assume this measure helped to mitigate the danger of people being hit by automobiles in the middle of the Square. However, the zone posts were not fixed to the ground in order that they would not severely damage any cars that did hit them by mistake. A byproduct of this design was that the zone posts became objects of mischief. Indeed, they became auto-mobile themselves, especially at night (Evening Mercury, 9 Oct 1917):

Magistrate Watt made it very plain at the Police Court this morning that no nonsense, playful, willful or otherwise, around Chief Randall’s zone posts will be tolerated. His attention was called to the fact through a charge laid by Sergt. Rae against a young man, who was caught swinging one of the St. George’s Square posts around in the air on Sunday night. Although the youth pleaded not guilty, he had no defence to make, and was fined $2 and costs. The magistrate issued a warning that if any other case came before him of a like nature he would deal harshly with the offender. Chief Randall also informed His Worship that some time during last night the zone post at the corner of Wyndham and Macdonnell streets was removed and carried half a block up Macdonnell street. Another one at the Square was carried off some distance.
Indeed, the Mercury seemed to delight in reporting on the nocturnal perambulations of these "silent policemen" and how this habit affected the poor Police Chief (Evening Mercury, 2 Sep 1919):
For the second time this week the zone post which stands guard at the Public Library corner was removed during last night, and carried to Oxford Street. Chief Rae was very wrathy this morning when he heard of the matter, and stated he would pay $5.00 out of his own pocket for information that would lead to the arrest of the guilty party.
One more for good measure (Evening Mercury, 12 Nov 1919):
Apparently some person was laboring under the impression that last night was Hallowe’en, and as usual Chief Rae’s zone posts were the targets for the jokers. The Chief’s silent policeman which does duty at the corner of Woolwich and Norwich Streets, was removed during the night and taken to Hamilton’s marble works [now the site of Speedy Muffler], and this morning the “Keep to the Right” post was doing sentinel duty on top of a large monument. The post was still on monumental duty at noon today.
These long-suffering "dummy cops" kept their vigil in St. George's Square until 1923 when they were deemed unnecessary after the changes to the street car alignment there. However, zone posts continued to regulate left turns in downtown Guelph intersections for many years to come.

Some safety zones are still with us. School safety zones typically mandate reduced speed limits on roads around schools in order to reduce risk to children who cross streets there.

Another kind of safety zone is the crosswalk. In addition to zone posts, safety zones could be delineated by white lines painted on paved road surfaces. One sort of safety zones that cities began to mark in this way were lanes for pedestrians to cross streets at their corners. These markings were sometimes referred to as "jay lines" since they were provided, in part, to prevent people from crossing streets at mid-block, a practice still known as "jay walking." All is explained in this article from the Harrisburg Telegraph (1 Jun 1915):

“Jay lines,” for pedestrians will be placed at busy street intersections in Harrisburg. These lines will be painted in white and will mark the space to be used by pedestrians when crossing streets.

Colonel Joseph B. Hutchison arranged with Superintendent of Streets William H. Lynch to have “jay lines” at the busy corners, and to keep them in good condition. In explaining the new safety first project to-day Colonel Hutchison said:

“Two lines will be painted at each crossing. The lines will be separated, allowing a space equal to the width of the sidewalk. When a traffic officer orders an automobile, street car or any other vehicle to stop, it will not mean that the vehicle can run halfway over the crossing, but must stay beyond the “jay lines.” It will also mean greater safety to pedestrians, as they will be able to cross a street without the necessity of running around a vehicle that has stopped halfway on a crossing or taking chances of being hit by an automobile or wagon coming from another direction.”
Although the Safety First movement and its zone posts disappeared in the 1930s, its legacy lives on in the form of these "jay lines," including in St. George's Square.

A recent proposal for redevelopment of St. George's Square includes turning it into a traffic circle. As we have seen, this plan is, in a way, a case of back to the future.

Because you asked, traffic in New York in 1928. And, yes, that is the Bambino in the car. Note how the car drives through a safety zone at the video's end.

Friday 20 July 2018

Isabella Preston and the Creelman lillies of the OAC

The postcard below, mailed in 1937, conveys a pleasant view of the Administration Building (now Johnston Hall), constructed only a few years earlier, with reflecting pond and the canon, Old Jeremiah, in the foreground.

The card was published by the Photogelatine Engraving Company of Ottawa, a prolific source of Guelph postcards in that era. (From the John Keleher collection.)

However, the most interesting feature of this postcard is the message on the back, sent by "M" to Mrs. Gerald Badke of Kitchener, Ontario:

55 Dundas Rd. Guelph // July 19/37 // Dear Sister.—Before I go to bed I want to write this to tell you that the Creelman Lilies are just out in perfection now and in case any of you wish to see them come this week. They are beautiful. I counted 1st on one stem with the buds to-day. I am tired to-night. We try Field Husbandry to-morrow. Love. M.
The "Creelman Lilies" refers to both one of the great success stories of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and one of its longest-standing mysteries.

As luck would have it, there is a photograph of the very lilies that M. was writing about:

This picture was published in the OAC Review (1937, v. 49, n. 8, p. 479), so very likely shows the bed of Creelman lilies—very plainly labelled—planted that year beside Zavitz Hall. (Courtesy of University of Guelph Library McLaughlin Archives, RE3 OAC A005037.) I hope that "M"s family went to see them.

First, to the success story. The "Creelman lily" (officially Lilium princeps x "George C. Creelman") was a hybrid of two lilies from southern China, L. regale and L. sargentiae. The crossing was made by Isabella Preston, a young horticulturalist working in the OAC greenhouses. In her book "Garden lilies" (1929, p. 110), she described the process as follows:

On July 20th, 1916, when I was attached to Mr. Crow’s Department at the Ontario Agricultural College, Guelph, Ont., I pollenized L. sargentiae (growing in the greenhouse) with L. regale. Three seedpods formed, the seed was sown in pots in the greenhouse and the seedlings began to germinate on January 15th, 1917. These were transplanted to a cold frame and bloomed well in 1919. It was named G.C. Creelman [the OAC President] by the Guelph Department in 1923.
Isabella Preston (1881–1965) herself was a crossing, a young English woman who had emigrated to Canada with her sister Margaret after their mother's death in 1912. She was determined to work in horticulture and the prior lack of professional, female horticulturalists did not dissuade her. Upon her arrival in Guelph, she immediately enrolled in the subject at the OAC.

(Isabella Preston. Courtesy of the Ontario Agricultural College.)

After a year's study, Miss Preston entered a self-study course and took up work full-time in the greenhouse headed by Professor James W. Crow. There she was introduced to the art and science of hybridization. Apparently enthralled, she read "all the books in the library" on the subject and began to experiment, with special attention to lilies. Both her talent and her hard work paid off handsomely.

The Creelman lily won immediate and universal praise. In 1939, Howard L. Hutt, Emeritus Professor of Horticulture at the OAC, recalled his initial response to the appearance of the lily (quoted in von Baeyer, 1987, p. 131):

I can well remember seeing their first bloom, four and five immense white flowers on sturdy stems about three feet tall. And I thought well here is a worth while new lily. But when I happened to be at the College a week later and saw two or three of the original plants at least five feet high and bearing fifteen blooms I felt like taking off my hat, even if I did not throw it up in the air.
In 1923, after four years of trials, the new Creelman lily was put on the market. It was a smash hit and eventually spread around the country and even overseas.

Like her new lily, Isabella Preston's career began to bloom. In 1920, she left the OAC for the Botanic Garden at the Central Experimental Farm at Ottawa. There, she developed many new botanic hybrids but remained best known for her work with lilies. As testimony to her reputation, von Baeyer (1987, p. 125) relates the following anecdote:

After World War II, a Japanese admiral was brought to the United States as part of a friendship promotion program. He was asked if there was any special attraction he would like to see—Niagara Falls perhaps? The admiral thanked his hosts very politely and then answered (in rough translation), "I would really like to travel to Canada to meet Miss Isabella Preston." He was a lily enthusiast.
In 1946, at age 65, Preston had retired from her long and productive official career. She spent a year in England but found that, like her flowers, she was no longer adapted to that climate. So, she returned to Canada and settled in Georgetown, Ontario where she kept a large garden in which Creelman lilies were likely a prominent feature.

Isabella Preston, 1957. Courtesy of the Isabella Preston Collection, Royal Botanical Gardens Archives.

Now, to the mystery. Creelman lilies remained a popular choice for gardens and special occasions for many years. Of course, there is the large bed on the OAC campus in 1937, shown above. In addition, news items from the Guelph region mention the flower in various connections. For example, it was used to decorate a home in Georgetown for a wedding that same year (Georgetown Herald, 11 August 1937):

Miss Ruth Evelyn Giffen, daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. John Giffen, of Ashgrove, became the bride of Howard C. Wrigglesworth, son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Wrigglesworth, Ashgrove, at the home of her sister, Mrs. Elmer May, Hornby, on Saturday afternoon. Rev. B. Eyre, of Ashgrove United Church officiated. The home was decorated with pink and white gladiolus, white Creelman lilies and fern.
Then, there was the wedding of Muriel Ricketts, married at her parents' house on Grove Street in Guelph, in which Creelman lilies also featured prominently (Acton Free Press, 30 July 1942):
The house decorations were in pink and white, harmonizing prettily with the gowns of the bride and bridesmaid. Bouquets of Creelman lilies, roses and baby’s breath added to the charm of the home, while the wedding cake was attractively placed on the festive table with tall white tapers.
Creelman lilies continued to be grown by enthusiasts in the region. Special mention must be made of Mr. & Mrs. Arthur K. Thomas of Rockwood, who were well-known for their dedication to Creelman lilies throughout the 1950s. Indeed, the Acton Free Press gives a full report of his entry in the North American Lily Show in 1958 (24 July 1958):
Rockwood flower gardens specialize in Creelman lilies

Enthusiastic flower lovers, Mr. and Mrs. A.K. Thomas, Guelph St., Rockwood, took a special joy in their garden this past week for their George C. Creelman lilies, despite cool weather, began to bloom in time for the North American lily show, held in Hart House, Toronto.
The beautiful lilies thrive in the Thomas garden and many lily growers visit the spot, envious of the beautiful blooms. There are a dozen other lily varieties there as well as the Creelman but none are half as lovely as these splendid blooms.

25 years ago
Mr. Thomas bought his first clump over 25 years ago from William Harris. The great mass of thousands of fragrant flowers in the garden today have grown from that one plant.
Mr. Thomas recalls paying three dollars for it and thinking at the time that the price was somewhat high. Today, however, he feels it was very little to pay.
The lily was developed at the O.A.C. by Miss Isabella Preston and named after Dr. George C. Creelman.

Blooms specially packed
New at entering flowers in a show, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas found the idea exciting and full of interest. The blooms had to be packed with cotton to keep the petals clean.
The spikes cut for the show had to be chosen carefully. A tinge of frost bite on the leaves was one item that had to be watched for.
As Miss Preston and the Thomases frequented the same, local flower shows, it seems a safe bet that they were well known to one another. I imagine that Miss Preston was flattered.

However, mention of the Creelman lily falls away by the 1960s. The reason is obscure but is hinted at in Miss Preston's obituary in the Georgetown Herald (6 January 1966):

She continued working at the Ontario Agricultural College in Guelph, crossing various strains of lilies. The well known George C. Creelman is an ancestor of most of the white tubular lilies that are so popular now. Crow’s Triumph is the other and was more favoured by florists.
It seems that the fashion in flowers moved on and the Creelman lily, like many a reigning monarch, was finally supplanted by its offspring.

Though the plant itself apparently vanished, knowledge of it did not fade entirely. In 2007, Alex Henderson, curator of living collections at the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG) in Burlington, Ontario, received a napkin with the words "George C. Creelman," "Isabella Preston," and "Allan Goddard" scrawled on it. The item was given to him by a colleague who had encountered Allan Goddard, Creelman's great-grandson, at a bar (Giaimo 2017). Henderson knew of the flower by reputation and looked for it in the archives but came up empty-handed. “We didn’t have it, but I went into our plant records, and we used to have it,” he said. On inquiring further, a similar story emerged from other nurseries both near and far. Though once extremely popular, specimens of the lily had not been kept anywhere.

Alex Henderson continued his search. In 2009, Rodger Tschanz from the University of Guelph thought he had some and gave Mr. Henderson some bulbs. These were duly grown and the flowers examined by expert botanists, who Mr. Henderson locked in a room with the plants for two hours. The determination rests on how well the flowers match written descriptions made by Isabella Preston and some early, hand-colored photographs. Their verdict: Close but not quite. The flowers may be near relatives of the Creelman but just not the same.

However, the story may yet have a happy ending. In July 2017, a caller phoned into the CBC Radio talk show Ontario Today ("CSI of horticulture," 24 July 2017) to solicit information from master gardener Ed Lawrence. Cynthia Culp phoned in from Bancroft to ask: How rare were her Creelman lilies? She explained that her grandmother had obtained them from a neighbour who worked at the University of Guelph and had purchased them at a University plant sale around 1950. Ms. Culp's grandmother grew them until she moved house in the 1990s, at which point Ms. Culp's mother brought them home, mentioning that the variety was "Creelman". In 2014, Cynthia Culp rescued the plants from her brother, who planned to sod over the garden.

As the lilies took hold in her garden, Ms. Culp searched on the Internet for current information on the variety. Frustrated in her search, she phoned in to the CBC's gardening show. She was advised that there was someone at the RBG who would be most anxious to hear from her. Alex Henderson politely asked her if she would share some of the plant material with the Royal Botanical Gardens. The answer was "yes."

These materials were duly transplanted and have been grown in pots at the RBG this year. This May, the lilies flowered with the results shown in the following, beautiful photographs:

(Courtesy of Dr. David A. Galbraith/Royal Botanical Gardens, Burlington, Ontario.)

The verdict? So far, so good. Alex Henderson holds the conclusion that these are Creelman lilies to be "tentatively correct." The final verdict will have to wait for at least another year, so that the plants can be grown outside and their normal habit of growth observed. He is cautiously optimistic that another season will put any doubts to bed.

So, it seems that Mr. Henderson's improbable search has borne fruit and Miss Preston's legacy is secured for future generations. I hope that, some day soon, the Creelman lily will grace the gardens of the University of Guelph and beyond once again!

Thanks to Alex Henderson and Dr. David A. Galbraith of the RBG for their kind responses to my queries about the status of the Creelman lily. Keep up the good work!

Thursday 31 May 2018

The May Pole dance: Merrie England at the Macdonald Institute

The sun shone down brightly on the greensward. A double line of young women, dressed in white gowns and carrying wildflowers, fresh boughs, and staffs proceeded onto the field. With a rope, they marked out the regal circle and prepared for the arrival of the Queen. The May Pole, the trunk of a tree chosen specially for the occasion, was brought forth and erected in the middle of the space. The girls formed an aisle and the Queen emerged, carrying her hallowed boughs, followed by her maids of honour, and processed to her throne, there to be crowned and preside over the day's festivities.

("The graduating class", featuring the May Queen on her throne with her entourage. OAC Review, v. 23 n. 11, July 1911, p. 570)

The time was 4:30pm on 26 May 1911 and the place of this seemingly pagan ritual was the campus of the Macdonald Institute, just outside of Guelph, Ontario. On the face of it, it seems odd that an archaic, medieval ceremony should be undertaken in Edwardian Guelph. Indeed, the reasons for it are not altogether clear. Yet, the ritual does seem to represent an effort to bring a greater sense of Englishness to the young women at the Institute just outside the Royal City.

As explained by Anne Bloomfield (2001), the May Pole dance was originally part of the May Day festivities practiced in medieval England, as well as much of the rest of Europe. In the springtime, a pole was selected and cut from a nearby forest, trimmed, decorated, and erected on a special site. A May Queen was crowned and festivities, including many dances, were enjoyed.

Celebration of May Day was forbidden by royal edict in 1644, perhaps to appease Puritans during the English Civil War (McDermott 1859, p. 12). Although the edict was repealed with the Restoration of 1660, May Day did not return to its former popularity.

However, May Day festivities were revived during the Victorian era. In Britain and all over Europe, increasing industrialization and urbanization were accompanied by nostalgic attitudes towards lifestyles of the medieval and renaissance eras. Combined with growing nationalism, one result was increasing interest in rural folk culture, including folk music, dances, and celebrations. True Englishness, it was thought, could be found in these elements of times gone by.

In the course of the 19th century, more and more English cities began to revive—or introduce—May Day festivals. They began to compete with each other to attract more visitors and tourists. For example, Knutsford became noted for its May Day celebrations and remains so today. Eventually, many such festivals dried up as their market share shrank or people's interests changed.

May Day festivities also become integrated into public education. In particular, the influential public intellectual John Ruskin incorporated the celebrations into his teacher training curriculum. He felt that May Day rituals and dances inculcated British youth with a proper sense of their heritage from the rose-tinted "Merrie England" of yore. However, like many revivalists, he did not balk at modifying traditions to suit contemporary tastes. For example, instead of the usual, very tall May Pole with decorations attached to the top, Ruskin promoted a shorter pole with ribbons hung from the top that could be woven into patterns by dancers. In fact, this sort of pole and dance may have originated in Italy. In any event, Ruskin thought it comely and his influence ensured that this version of the pole became widespread.

In Britain, May Day celebrations continued to be promoted to children during the Edwardian era, when the Macdonald Institute was created. There is very little discussion of the importation of May Day festivals into Canada but it seems likely that it arrived here along with the many British immigrants of the time.

It is unclear what caused the festival to be introduced at the Macdonald Institute in 1910. Snell (2003, pp. 50–51) notes that the ceremony was chosen by the Macdonald students themselves as a fitting representation of their values on graduation, apparently cultivation and femininity as these qualities were then understood. Ross & Crowley (1999, pp. 96–97) describe the proceedings as follows:

A queen was chosen, the Macdonald gymnasium decorated profusely in flowers assembled from around the campus, and young women attired in dainty white frocks. Twenty maidens entered the gym carrying brown and gold shepherds’ crooks adorned with buttercups. They then formed an arch through which the other students, carrying flowers, entered. The May pole bearers came next. When the queen entered surrounded by her maids of honour, she knelt to receive her crown from principal Mary Urie Watson before ascending to her throne on a specially constructed stage adorned with foliage. Once the pole had been decorated and dancing was finished, president Creelman and the May queen led the way for the planting of the graduation tree. Tea on the lawn followed, with an evening program that included Victrola selections and fireworks to cap off a perfect student planned performance.
Sounds like good fun!

The event was a hit and it was decided to hold another one the following year. This time, photographers were on hand in force. The 1911 May Day fete was fulsomely described in the OAC Review (v. 23, n. 10, pp. 570–572). The author notes that the event was held not on May first, as in England, but on May 26, because the greater length of Canadian winters precluded the appropriate activities until a later and warmer time of the month. The proceedings are described as follows:

At 4:30 o’clock, on May Day, the Macdonald girls in dainty white frocks all assembled in the gymnasium and after forming in a line two they marched out to the campus where the events were to occur. First came about twenty of the girls each carrying a brown and gold shepherd’s crook and butter cups. The crooks were joined together at the right distance by a slender rope which when each girl took her proper place, marked off a large space on the green for the dances and crowning of the Queen. Then came the rest of the Juniors carrying blossom covered boughs and wildflowers. Following these came the May Pole bearers, who carried out, and placed in position the May Pole. The girls formed in a long double line through which the Queen was to pass followed by her maids of honor.
The postcard below is a real-photo card (a photograph printed on postcard stock) showing the Juniors emerging from the gymnasium of the Macdonald Hall to take their places within the rope enclosure.

Then, the ceremony continues:
Two tiny tots—dainty little flower-girls—led the way strewing the path to the platform with blossoms. How sweetly gracious and stately looked the Queen as she went to her crowning followed by two train bearers! The Queen took her place, her maids of honor grouped about her and she knelt to receive the crown [Macdonald Institute Principal] Miss Watson placed on her queenly head.

The picture below shows the flower girls leading the May Queen from the gymnasium and into the regal enclosure, followed by her train bearers.

The Queen's name is give as "Miss Wink Frank", a byname that I am unable to decipher. It would be interesting to know her real name.

The next photograph shows the Queen, duly crowned, seated on her throne and attended by the maids of honor and her flower girls. Note that this photograph is identical to the one printed in the OAC Review above, conforming that these pictures are of the 1911 event.

Then came the dances:
After the May Pole had been decorated and the several dainty dances were finished, [OAC] President Creelman and the May Queen led the way to the spot chosen for the planting of the 1911 graduation tree, and the time-honored class ceremony was performed.

The pictures below are of these dainty dances around the May Pole. The OAC Review names two of the dances, the "Rheilander" and the Pole Dance.

The most obvious feature of the "Rheilander" is that it is danced in pairs and does not involve direct interaction with the May pole.

I assume that "Rheilander" is a misspelling of "Rheinlander", which is a 19th century German polka. However, the postures of the dancers shown in the pictures suggest something more like the "May pole minuet" depicted in some of Barbara Irwin's postcards of Edwardian, American maypole dances.

Then there is the May Pole dance, which seems to involve each dancer holding a ribbon and weaving a pattern through their dance.

Since the dancers seems to be going in opposite directions and dodging in and out, this dance is likely a version of the Plait, in which the dancers weave their ribbons into a fabric against the pole. Here is a modern rendition:

After this, tea was served by the Housekeeping class, accompanied by speeches, songs, and tunes on the Victrola. After dark, fireworks were again launched from atop the Institute, courtesy of President Creelman. The assembled then went into the gymnasium of the Hall for the remainder of the evening.

It is interesting to note how the May Day fete was an entirely feminine affair. Traditional May Day festivities included men, particularly as mummers and in sword dances. However, masculine education in Edwardian Canada had been largely militarized by this time, so that young men were more involved with marching, camping, and, of course, playing football. Thus, it made sense to all to hold a May Day fete involving only the young women of the Institute.

Although the May Day celebrations were a hit at the the time, they did not persist. Snell (2003, p. 113) notes that the occasion was superseded by the Daisy Chain graduation ceremony in the 1920s, although a May Pole dance remained a part of this event into the 1930s. Perhaps the onset of the Jazz age and the rigors of the Depression made this slice of Merrie England seem out of place.

In case you are keen to see more postcards of maypole dances, then point your browser to the late Barbara Irwin collection site.

Let's not forget that the City of Guelph held its own May Day events in the 1920s, featuring Miss Vida Brill as the May Queen in 1922!

If you are keen to stage a genuine, early 20th Century May Day event of the type conducted at the Macdonald Institute, there are many manuals from that era to consult. Here is one to start: