Friday, March 20, 2015

Forward Condo Excavator Finds Century Old Soda Bottles at Fort York Blvd and Queen's Wharf

The excavation site of the Forward and Newton condominiums, on the S.E. corner of Bathurst and Fort York Blvd. in downtown Toronto, has exposed the site of what was once the Through Freight & Passenger Depo of the O.S. & H.R. Railway (the Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railway circa 1870), and here, on the threshold of this hole in time, I encountered a professional excavator with small treasures that were made and sold over one hundred and thirty years ago.

Professional excavators are Dumpdiggers too, and they're always curious about what they find deep underground. So when i asked to come take a look, they were more than happy to show off their finds and discuss the history of the location.

Here's Saul Beringer with an Alex Burns / Toronto aqua blob top soda.  It would have had a cork stopper. The "Blob Top" closure was stronger and was often selected by early carbonated beverage makers because it could better withstand the corking process at the bottling plant. The bottom is embossed with the word "B".  Traditionally bottles with rounded bottoms are referred to as Ballast Bottles, but I'm not sure that would apply in this case.  The specimen has no cracks or chips

The bottle was recovered by the shovel man who works in tandem with the Anpro backhoe operator and they fetch what they can from the gaping maw of their all consuming machine that must move so many tonnes of earth per day to remain on schedule.
They have a system. But honestly, between the two of them, they probably only recover about one percent of the bottles in the pit....
This is a truly lovely specimen. You can see a clean Alex Burns Belfast Ginger Ale on the Canadian Bottle Lovers page.

Who Was Alex Burns And Why Was His Bottle Found Here?

We know from old municipal records that Alexander Burns broke off his partnership with his brother William Burns of A & W Burns Beaver Soda Water Works in Toronto in late 1877. He went solo in the soda water and ginger ale business from 1878 to 1882.

Alexander Burns made Belfast Ginger Ale which was a particular recipe, not too sweet, and not fermented, so consequently its non alcoholic. It's a sparkling and clear beverage that has a most agreeable odor, and is free from any intoxicating qualities. Many early ginger ale makers professed its medical properties.  The exact composition of the 'Belfast' blend is not known, but it is generally understood that ginger, capsaicin and citric acid, especially lime juice are the chief flavoring ingredients. The addition of lime juice to ginger ale imparts a rich fruity quality acquired in no other way. A bottle of Belfast Ginger Ale probably sold for a penny or two on the steamship in the 1880s.

A mint condition 130yr old Alex Burns Belfast Ginger ale bottle sells anywhere from $30 to $60 today. The bottle was most likely made in the USA because it's so similar to others made there in this same shape, size and glass composition. However the word Toronto embossed on its side ensures there will always be a place for this specimen in Canadian antique soda bottle collections.

This bottle was not found at the very bottom of the pit. It was found above the docks that are now visible in the dig site, and above the murky water we can now see at the very bottom (but the excavators will go much deeper yet). That's because the bottle was used and discarded in the 1880s, and not the 1840s or 1850s when the first docks were buried to make way for the railroad and bigger ships. (in the late 1840s).  According to Abel DaSilva, who is friends with  the backhoe operator, the colored bottles, and the really precious Canada West bottles from the 1850s and 1860s are found in the muck below the docks (on what was once the lake bottom). The passenger ships docked there, and it was common to clean the ships while they tied up in the harbour. The sweepers always dumped the passenger's garbage overboard.

That means there's lots of older stuff down there... waiting to be uncovered. 

Below is a map from the 1850s (?) and here you can see its just one pier to the right of the Queens Wharf below the train station.
Queens Wharf Station was a railroad stop and steamship ferry port. Most of this is now buried ten feet of more under the pavement of Bathurst  I can only imagine that Fleet St got its name because a fleet of some sort was literally parked there at one time, docked along the military pier in the harbour.

1857 Canada West map of the city shows the Depot Grounds of the Ontario and Huron Railway

Below you can see the railway had just one short stocky pier in 1857.  The Queen's Wharf was presumably where the business of government and the military docked.  

The backhoe operator and other experts believe this hole in the ground is directly above the Through Freight and Passenger Depot of the O.S & HR Railway Wharf which you can see on the bottom right of the 1857 map above. Click these pictures - they expand.

This picture of the Toronto Harbour also dates from the 1850s, and shows a busy port with good rail connections. You can clearly see the old fort, and from that find the T shaped Queens Wharf (now underneath Bathurst St.) and right beside it, the busy O.S.and H.R. railway wharf is on the bottom right hand corner of the first plate (in the middle of the picture).

The Ontario, Simcoe and Huron Railway

In July 1849, the Toronto, Simcoe & Lake Huron Union Railroad was founded by Frederick Chase Capreol and Charles Albert Berczy. An act of Parliament, known as the Guarantee Act helped finance construction of the railway through the sale of bonds, with the interest guaranteed by the colonial government. But the financing was anything but stable, and there were a few sensational stories of fraud and stock 'bubbles bursting' in the newspapers of the time.

1853, May 16 - The first train in Ontario runs between Toronto and Aurora on the Ontario Simcoe and Huron Railroad Union Company line. The first train was driven by W.T. Hackett who also took the first locomotive into Kansas City. Below is a picture of Engine #2, The Toronto. 

The railway was originally known as the Ontario, Simcoe and Huron, referring to the three lakes the railway connected. The aim was to provide a portage route from the upper Great Lakes at Collingwood to Toronto, where a variety of other shipping routes were available.

The OS&HR Railway name was changed to Northern Railway of Canada on August 16, 1858 and it became part of the Northern and Northwestern Railway on June 6, 1879, (its now part of Canadian National Railway or CNR). Financial difficulties and a government bailout led to a reorganization of the company as the Northern Railway of Canada in 1859. 

These pictures expand! Click the pic to see the busy rail yard and port system of the early 1860s

The Port of Toronto is the gateway to Ontario; fast forward twenty more years and we can see how the port and the railway grows as business and commerce expands on the Canadian frontier. In 1887, the Grand Trunk Railway (GTR) gained a controlling interest, and the takeover was formalized in January 1888. Now there are four piers, each connected to a railway line.

I believe the picture above is from 1884, and now you can see it gets really busy in the bottom left corner and indeed all across the lake shore. This is when Alexander Burns was selling his pop.

Look at the intricate transite connections with their piers in 1894 above. You can see the railway yard to the right of the Queens Wharf has four piers now.

Here are steamers docking at the railway piers in 1913. Look at the smokestacks and industry in this photo and imagine all the garbage that went over the side of these boats with little or no concern for the environment. Their primitive glassware, medicines, sodas, beers, and sealer jars, whisky jugs, crocks, clay pipes, dental tooth powder jars, ceramic moustach grease containers -their most industrial garbage are among our most coveted and collectible treasures today.

 Fast forward one hundred years from this exact same spot, looking in the same direction...

Behold we see the wooden piers where the steamers docked to unload small wooden boxes filled with goods from other parts of the British Empire and America cities south of the Great Lakes.

Like Brigadoon, the Toronto waterfront is exposed to daylight again. But not for long; in the background you can see the Condos are marching 'Forward'

Forward is the name of the condominium building that will stand here in a few more years time.

Forward Condos, joins Newton Condos at the west of Concord CityPlace. The 30 and 18-storey towers are designed by Page + Steele / IBI Group Architects.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Changing Fashion For Raccoon Fur – Sell Raccoon Coats Online Today

Raccoon fur is back in fashion... in China.  So it behooves Dumpdiggers and antiques pickers to keep a sharp eye out for good quality coats in Canadian thrift stores to sell for more money online. Use Alibaba and eBay to sell this stock now, while its red hot..

Antique raccoon fur coats can be found in just about every thrift store in Toronto because they’ve been donated by society ladies on mass for the last twenty years. In the late nineteen eighties shifting consumer tastes and catchy animal rights slogans including, “I’d rather go naked than wear fur” killed the market in Europe and North America.  Dumpdiggers has reported before how the fur trade is a renewable resource and the unemployment the fashion shift caused severely impacted Native people in remote areas of northern Canada.

But a recent story in the National Post, suggests that Chinese industrialists are buying fur for fashion. They seek polar bear skins rugs and wall mounts, but also fox, mink, rabbit and even raccoon fur for fashion accessories, ornaments and coats. “The Chinese appetite for furry Canadian critters coats has single-handedly revived an industry that, in the North American and European spheres, was left for road kill more than 20 years ago.” 

Antique Raccoon Fur Coats

The fur of raccoons has always been used for clothing, especially for coats and coonskin caps. At present, it is still the material used for the inaccurately named "sealskin" cap worn by the Royal Fusiliers of Great Britain.

Historically, Native American tribes not only used the fur for winter clothing, but also used the Raccoon tails for ornament. The famous Sioux leader Spotted Tail took his name from a raccoon skin hat with the tail attached he acquired from a fur trader. And right up until the 19th century, coonskins served as means of payment in many southern States.

When the fur trade ended in the 1800s so too did the demand for Raccoon, but certain inventions and fashion whims of the next century increased demand again. The invention of the automobile increased the demand for raccoon fur when ‘automobile coats’ became popular after the turn of the 20th century. To the right is a vintage 'automobile coat' made out of raccoon fur (1906, U.S.)

In the 1920s, another fashion fad emerged among young people, when wearing a raccoon coat like the one in the picture was regarded as status symbol among college students.

Attempts to breed raccoons in fur farms in the 1920s and 1930s in North America and Europe were ultimately unprofitable, and farming was abandoned after prices for long-haired pelts dropped in the 1940s.

Fur industry experts write that to satisfy fashion’s demand for raccoon fur, the annual seasonal hunt in the 1940s  reached about one million animals (across the entire United States) and was double that in the nineteen sixties.  It lagged for a time in the early fifties but was revived in part by the broadcast of three television episodes about the frontiersman Davy Crockett and the film Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier in 1954 and 1955 which led to a high demand for coonskin caps in the United States.

In 1982, the average raccoon pelt sold for $20.  As of 1987, the raccoon was identified as the most important wild fur bearing animal in North America in terms of revenue. 

There's a 100,000 Raccoons living 'wild' in Toronto

A 2013 BlogTo Article about raccoons in Toronto estimates this wild animal's native population somewhere in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 - that's as many as 12  per square kilometer. Imagine then sleeping in garages, fighting, and poking through garbage. Now consider that each pelt is worth $20 each, and the price is climbing. How much longer will we have a raccoon problem in Toronto?

Raccoon fur coats sell for about $500 USD each on Alibaba, and the price rises in accordance with the quality, brand and particular style of the garment.

Derick McChesney of SWAT Wildlife runs a raccoon removal service in Toronto, and reports that there is no market for raccoon fur domestically, or for the animals dead or alive. He is a popular and trusted expert on raccoon removal in Toronto on Homestars and reports, "I have never been contacted by a coat maker seeking raccoon fur, not yet anyway". And he quickly adds that he's mandated by the provincial and municipal conservation authorities to release what he catches back into the wild, inside the city. He's not aware of any fur farms.  His Nuisance Animals in Toronto HubPage shows stats that his firm collects over 950 raccoons each year.

Interesting fact, most urban raccoons die from a viral disease called 'Distemper' that affects a wide variety of other animal families, including domestic and wild species of dogs, coyotes, foxes, pandas, wolves, ferrets, skunks, and large cats.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Shasha Bread Company Kitchenware Antiques

CEO Shaun Navazesh keeps ancient bread making relics on display at Shasha Bread Company headquarters in Etobicoke Ontario.

ShaSha Shaun Navazesh makes Bread from Sprouted Grains at his Bakery in Etobicoke.
Photo: Shasha Shaun Navazesh

In December 2014 Shasha Shaun Navazesh gave me a tour of his organic food store and bakery in Etobicoke Ontario to show me how he does things differently.

We began in the Shasha Bread Co Sprouted Grains dept of his large bakery facility. ShaSha Bread Co.has been sprouting organic, vegan and non-genetically modified grains since 1999. I detailed the whole process of how Shasha makes flour and bread with sprouted grains in my article on Toronto is Awesome magazine, and wrote about the science of making baking bread with sprouted grains on Fuel Ghoul. At the end of tour, Shaun gave me a loaf of Ezekiel bread and walked me out past his mini- museum and store of antique bread making items.
A corn broom and cookie rolling pins in a well crafted wrought iron flat pan.  These are African cooking implements. The corn broom could be the whisk the breadmaker uses to gather the flour dust from the common trough in which the grain was ground.
 Here is Shaun Navazesh holding such a cooking trough. This is the whole kitchen for a family in an African village - every meal is prepared in here and flour was worked into bread.
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Shasha also has Victorian Era Chocolate Easter Egg Molds

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ID: 1090624Easter eggs are a very old Christian tradition. The Easter egg symbolizes the empty tomb of Jesus. To ancient man the egg was a miracle. A chicken egg appears to be dead, like a stone, yet a living bird hatches from inside the rock. Similarly, the Easter egg, for Christians, is a reminder that Jesus also rose from such a grave, and that those who believe will also experience eternal life. This mold appears to be made of a tin and such molds were used for such confectioneries. Madelines, teacakes, and petit fours were all baked in small, stamped-tin “patty pans,”

This mold is for large chicken egg sized chocolate eggs. This relatively lightweight tin mold snaps tight to keep heat in and bake the oval objects hard with a smooth finish on the surface that happens naturally when the chocolate cools *in some processes with some types of chocolate. This is most definitely a sturdy, well-built, professional mold. Hinged on one side, it has hinges and a clapse on other side to hold it closed.
Inside, you will see that the tops of each egg have slightly different shapes which is a sure sign this piece is handmade by smiths pressing the metal. Egg mold will make four eggs at once. These small treasures and more are on display in the office of Shasha's bakery in Etobicoke. You can find out even more about the place, people and products and read about how Shasha bakes bread with sprouted grains on Smart Canucks

Friday, November 21, 2014

A History of Making Custom Cardboard Boxes at Colt Paper

Colt Paper started back in 1935 when Sidney Colt realized that there was a need for boxes in Toronto.  He began buying and selling used boxes, doing business under the name S. Colt & Sons.

For many years Sidney bought and sold cardboard boxes as enterprising wheeler dealer; his customers were store merchants and captains of industry all over the city. It was one of Toronto's earliest cardboard recycling programs.

Even today cardboard can be collected and sold to recyclers for profit.  There's money in that.  Most types of "cardboard" are recyclable, but laminates, wax coated, or boxes treated for wet-strength are more difficult to recycle. Clean cardboard, by which we mean cardboard that has not been subject to chemical coatings is usually worth recovering, although often the difference between the value it realizes and the cost of recovery is marginal. Cardboard can be recycled industrially, or used for other purposes. For example its often used as building insulation, and damaged cardboard can be shredded for animal bedding.

In the 1950’s, S. Colt & Sons started ordering new boxes direct from Canadian cardboard manufacturers. 

By the 1960’s, Colt Carton Service had become a manufacturer of corrugated boxes and pads in its own right. This was a big step forward - it required a location where machines could be set up to fold and adhere paper which came on thick reels. It required shipping and printing, cutting and waxing, design and marketing, payroll etc. It was a full fledged factory at 151 Sterling Rd.

Manufacturing cardboard boxes in Toronto followed a process that was started almost one hundred years earlier called 'pleating paper'. The process was patented in England in 1856, and the pleated paper used as a liner for tall hats, but the corrugated box board as we know it was not patented until December 20, 1871. The patent was issued to Albert Jones of New York City for single-sided (single-face) corrugated board.

Jones used the corrugated board for wrapping bottles and glass lantern chimneys and you can still get one sided bendable corrugated paper board for similar fragile object insulation purposes today. The first machine for producing large quantities of this type of corrugated paper material was built in 1874 by G. Smyth, and also in 1874 Oliver Long improved Jones' design by inventing corrugated board with liner sheets on both sides, thereby inventing a more rigid 'corrugated cardboard' as it came to be known in modern times.

This is Sterling Rd looking north from Dundas St in the early 1920s. This is the industrial park beside the railroad tracks. Colt Paper set up their factory here in the 1960s and they have been making and selling custom cardboard boxes ever since.
The corrugated box was initially only used for packaging glass and pottery containers. But in the mid-1950s, cardboard fruit boxes enabled fresh produce to be brought from the farm to the urban grocer without bruising, and quickly thereafter the demand for cardboard became industry - wide, and Colt Paper was in the thick of it!

In the 1970s and 80s, Sidney’s son Neil helped expand the company to include various products for shipping including bubble wrap, poster tubes, poly bags, packing peanuts, wooden crates, poly foam.

Neil's daughter Sari is now part of the team as well. Colt Paper has been a proud part of the Junction Triangle/Sterling Road community since the 1960’s.  Rob wrote an exploration of Colt Paper for SmartCanucks forum that goes inside and looks around the business as it exists today.

The area has changed from industrial park to an artsy entrepreneurial zone. Colt Paper is committed to supporting their local vendors, believing the communities are richer when we buy from each other.

http://www.coltpaper.comAll of the corrugated products are manufactured locally, and they were among the first to switch to starch based enviro friendly packing peanuts.   Colt Paper supports various charities, including United Way, and Sleeping Children Around the World.

Colt Paper specializes in custom manufacturing plain and printed boxes.  Colt excels in meeting the needs of entrepreneurs who want to brand themselves without committing to large quantities.

Special thanks to, Colt Paper - 151 Sterling Rd. Toronto Ontario Canada  M6R 2B2
416 - 535 - 7234   or call toll free,  1- 800 - 249 - 2658

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Dentist Acid Can for Recovering Gold Fillings Found in Markham Ontario

The old Town of Markham Ontario has lots of history and contains many venerated historians, not the least of which is Carl Parsons, seen here at the 2012 Toronto bottle show with a great big steel can that he brought to the show to challenge the other collectors' knowledge and possibly learn a thing or two himself from their vast collective experience.  That's what the annual bottle show is all about...

The can is about three feet tall and slightly pear shaped with a solid ring about the bottom which supports a round interior bottom. .. perfect for mashing..This is an important clue to what the can could be used for.

Another clue is the thick heavy lid, it's solid iron that weighs about ten pounds.  And look at the handles on the side of the pail - they are significant too...

Later on that summer, I rented the big heavy can from Carl for a week for $100 and drove to Markham to pick it up and back again to deliver it safe.. I used it on camera as a prop in a demo for a TV show about antiques called Antique Tac Toe that we were 'pitching' the CBC. More on that later,

Carl had everyone stumped at the bottle show about what the can could possibly be used for..?  and when he told us we were flabbergasted .

This 'acid can' was used one hundred years ago by a Markham dentist for acid reduction of teeth to liberate gold fillings.

That's why the lid is so heavy! And the can is so tall and acts like a stack to contain the heavy fumes that issue from the brew. At the bottom of the acid mash are the teeth that the dentist has extracted and no doubt given some credit for? to the patient's who gave up their rotten molars filled with gold.

At the end of the month he would carry the can outside and dump out the acid and hopefully find lots of shiny gold bits on the ground with little or no trace of the original teeth.

Last century's dentists used gold for teeth fillings because the metal doesn't decay or breakdown in the mouth. 

Gold has been used since prehistory for filling cavities in teeth. Several dental historians have written about the history of gold in dentistry. The subject discussion usually begins with a reference to the discovery of two molar teeth held together by a gold wire, found in a burial shaft at Giza, along with the articles that are believed to have dated from late 4th or 5th Egyptian dynasty in the third millennium B.C. (the four thousand year old gold wired molars have now been placed in Pelizaeus Museum in Hildesheim). And so its logical to assume that gold has been used in dentistry ever since.

We know for sure that gold leaf was first used to fill teeth in 1483 by Giovanni d’Arcoli, but his method was by all accounts rather tedious, and much too expensive for the average person, or even upper middle class people. Only the wealthiest class could afford to have their teeth repaired with gold in his shop.

Fast forward to North America, throughout the 1800s, where gold was by far the most popular choice for teeth fillings. The “cohesive gold foil technique” that was perfected in 1855 made gold fillings much less expensive than previous gold leaf applications, and made restoration of decayed teeth a real option for a wider range of consumers. By the 1920's its estimated the North Americans dental industry consumed 80 tons of gold per annum. And then other alternatives began to appeared in the marketplace. In some cultures, gold teeth and gold teeth caps are still a sign of wealth or a means of protecting fortunes. Some of that wealth can be recovered over the life of the patient, and that requires a big metal can filled with a corrosive agent to break down the teeth and free up the precious metals.

The science of making false teeth

Over time many substances have been used to fill and simulate our white enamel teeth. There's a common myth that George Washington had wooden teeth that were painted white? This has been denied as false, but you know I bet its true. I bet at one time he did have a set of wooden teeth lying around in a drawer somewhere. It's reported too that he had a set of teeth custom fit some made out of hippopotamus ivory, and some say he had teeth made from other human teeth using complex metal fasteners. We know he got his first set of false teeth before the Revolutionary War, and may have also undergone the infamous “tooth transplantation” procedure, perhaps even using teeth purchased from his own slaves, in the mid-1780s with the help of his personal dentist and friend, Jean-Pierre Le Mayeur.  

Today this Markham dentist uses surgical lasers and fills cavities with white porcelain compounds that look like healthy original teeth.  Fuel Ghoul recently wrote about Markham dentist using the BIOLASE ezlase 940 dental laser which does soft tissue surgery and teeth whitening.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Travel to Historic Stevenson Farms, Alliston Bed and Breakfast

On the August 2014 long weekend, myself and a couple other incorrigible dumpdiggers trekked north to Alliston Bed and Breakfast, Stevenson Farms, 5923 King Street North (County Rd. 15) Alliston, Ontario to enjoy a relaxing evening BBQ under the stars.

Owned and operated by Stephen and Susanne  Milne, our friends from twenty years ago, the pair are now successful innkeepers and spa workers at their own Harvest Spa.

Although this property is immaculately preserved, it contains all manner of Dumpdigger curiosities waiting to be discovered.

Stephen is a budding antiques collector himself, grabbing up odds and ends at sales, he's got some great stuff. Stephen Milne is glimpsed below playing a century old pump organ, which crowns a banquet hall filled with timeless reminders of another age.

The History of Stevenson Farms is so impressive they even have their own historic plaque! The metallic storyboard shown below (click the picture it expands!) reveals how in 1832, William Stevenson and his young wife Elizabeth Pringle settled on these lands having come from the Edinburgh Scotland the same year.

Their original log home was replaced in 1850 by a 12 room frame house which was was later renovated in 1927 by their illustrious grandson Theodore Loblaw; the founder of the Loblaw grocery chain. The house became a seasonal family retreat for Loblaw family, and boasted some of the finest amenities of the area including over 16 bedrooms, 15 bathrooms, 3 sun porches, and large wood paneled billiard and banquet halls. 

The farm also had one of the area’s first golf and country clubs, The Stevenson Memorial Golf Club, as well as tennis courts. After Loblaws untimely death in 1933 - the estate was purchased by William J. Wood who ran a successful dairy and livestock farm which employed the old barn that can still be seen at the back edge of the car park. The farm has since passed down through the family to its current owners - Stephen Milne is the the thrice great grandson of the Stevensons.

Steve gave us a tour of the property and I found myself snapping pictures of the furnishing and collectible knickknacks. 
Here's a salt glazed stoneware jug, J.A Welding Brantford pottery that has the signature cobalt blue glazed flower signature emblem of this historic potter. The valuable jug would sell at auction for approx $500 today, but is certainly worth holding on to for posterity as there are only a few hundred of these pieces left in circulation.  Photographed above, the 2 gallon finger jug rests on a wide window ledge in the hallway of the reading room, and as we passed its position in the busy house I wondered about its chances of it surviving another hundred and fifty years here in this busy place ...?

I explored the wreck of an old dairy barn on the property at sunset.

After we got settled into the place, I noticed one of Steve's neighbours is tearing down the old barn at the edge of the backyard that must have certainly have belonged to the Stevenson Farms property at one time.  Unsupervised, I put on my hat and boots and decided to go exploring ..
I know a lot about how to hunt for antiques and forgotten treasures found in broken down barns and old farm buildings, but this place was beyond any low energy scavenging. It was too far gone!

It looks like the majority of the barn boards and beams have already been recovered. Next someone will come along and reap the rusty sheet metal roof - when scrap prices rise again in the fall?  If I had the energy i could have combed the interior and peered atop the stone walls. Where the short stone walls end, and the wooden beams of the ceiling begin are cubby holes that inevitably yield a treasure trove of medicines, whisky flasks, beers and sometimes even cobalt blue poison bottles.  But this barn was really wrecked...

Its conceivable that Theodore Loblaw milked cows in this parlour at one time, and perhaps he sold his fresh milk at the local 'Groceteria' that started his phenominal rise to success,

The Loblaw Groceterias - in the year 1919 Theodore Pringle Loblaw and J. Milton Cork opened the first Loblaw Groceterias in Toronto. They had a new idea for grocery retailing that combined self-serve and cash-and-carry. No longer would their customers have to wait for an overworked clerk to fetch items from behind a store counter (like in those movies of the old west Dry Goods stores where the settler had an account). Within a decade, the Loblaw chain had grown to over 70 stores!

Back at the house I continued exploring and treasure hunting,

In a backroom of the original farmhouse I found what Im sure would be the heart of the Stevenson Farms Dumpdiggers episode. I uncovered the most precious merchandise that the visiting Antique Hunters and Canadian Pickers would gleefully cart away in their trucks. Behold this decrepit old couch, with its ornate carved wooden arms and (torn) crush velvet upholstery is still a valuable piece today, and one can imagine how it must have been the centerpiece of the parlour here in this historic property at one time.

The ceramic Findlay 'Super - Oval' stove is probably worth even more money than the couch.  I reckon it was used here in this farmhouse kitchen, or perhaps a 'back kitchen' or summer kitchen for years, only to be replaced about thirty years ago and regulated to storage by property managers too frugal to actually throw it away.

These items have been sitting here in the back shed under wraps for almost three decades now, and they are still waiting here today for a TV scout to log them so they can be properly discovered on camera. Would you like to make an offer? 

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Maid of the Mist Collectibles in the Age of Hornblower in Niagara Falls

The Maid of the Mist tour boat license has changed hands. The original Maid of the Mist tours, the boat that takes tourists through the mists at the base of the largest waterfalls in the world has changed hands after 150 years of service; the company lost the Canadian contract and now operates solely from the American side of the river.  True, original, authentic Maid of the Mist collectibles from many different ages of Niagara Falls tourism are expected to rise in value accordingly.

This picture above is an artist's imaginings of the very first steam powered tour of the mists below Niagara Falls in 1846, the year the original Maid of the Mist tour company launched their double stack ferry boat.

There's a lot of good history here and it starts in pre history. The native peoples recognized this place as being very spiritual - the river chasm contained the loudest sustained sound they had ever experienced. Their gods and their beliefs centered on this holy site wherein they made sacrifices.

There are a few different Maid of the Mist legends told around Niagara Falls but my favourite is the Disney esque story about La Salle's visit in the summer of 1679, the year Chief Eagle Eye's beautiful fifteen year old daughter Lela-wala was chosen for the water sacrifice - a lone canoe ride over the falls to honour the river Thunder.

In the postcard to the right, you can see Chief Eagle Eye following behind his daughter. She became the Maid of the Mist and he rules the river chasm - they both lend their voices to the sound of the river Thunder for eternity.

There are as many variations to this story as there are native American Indian bands in the area, then and now. Originally the area was Iroquoian but we know that confederation of people had many different dialects and sub languages which historians today call Laurentian.  in each story however the same rudiments exist - the maid of the mist story is a tale of human sacrifice and the tragic loss of a beautiful young person for a greater good - sometimes the reason is specified - the Cayuga version invents a water snake menace that is countered by the sacrificed girl being reborn to warn her people , for example.

Maid of the Mist Becomes Hornblower in April 2014

Hornblower has was the name of a fictitious British Navy midshipman who became an Admiral in the Age of Sail, a character invented by CS Forrester loosely modeled on the life of Horatio Nelson.

In Canada, in Niagara Falls, Ontario the word Hornblower lives on as the new name of the official tour boat company recently licensed to operate an exclusive natical tour at the base of Niagara Falls.

The boat company launches their first tours next month April 2014  after trucking in the vessel components north from a manufacturing facility in the US and assembling the prefabricated high technology tour boat on shore in front of everyone's eyes - it added to the spectacle of the frozen river and waterfalls to see a group of twenty men milling about a huge vessel surrounded by scaffolding , forklifts and cranes.

You can see the boat being delivered and assembled  in this video,

This is the future of the boat tour and it was made possible in equal parts by politics and technology, just like it was back in 1846 and on through the years. 

Over the year there have been various postcards  celebrating the Maid of the Mist tour boat vessels. The man made engineering of the craft seems a triumph as it emerges from the steamy veil at the bottom of the waterfalls and lend s itself to the cameras as a wonderful subject in an exciting location - it converts landscape photography to much more engaging vehicular portrait photography.

Here's the Maid of the Mist tour boat as photographed in 1996, the last shot in a six part series celebrating the company's 150th anniversary.

Post by on Mar 8, 2014