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

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Remembering 1857 Birth of Listowel Ontario in Queen's Bush as we Buy Yarn and Knitting Supplies from Spinrite Factory Outlet Store

Last weekend we traveled to buy knitting supplies and write a blog review of the Spinrite Factory Outlet Store in Listowel Ontario, and as we drove along those long flat roads bisecting snow covered cornfields beside sprawling dairy farms, I considered how this area might have looked two hundred years ago, when it was a last bastion of impenetrable wilderness called The Queen's Bush.

There was a time when all of southern Ontario was covered in trees and the only roads were rivers and Indian trails. Life was tough. Read Susanna Moodie Roughing It In The Bush  for her description of pioneer life near Peterborough Ontario in the late 1830s. 

So to say that someone was the first take up residence here or there in a particular area means that the hardy pioneer in question must have cut his way into the bush and camped and slept in the rain until he or she had erected basic shelter, and then a log home. Such was the case when Settler John Binning arrived in what is today the town of Listowel Ontario in 1857.

John Binning 1812-1899 was born in Somerset, England and became the Founding Father of Listowel Ontario.  He started life as a British regular, signing up with the 46th regiment of Light Infantry at the late age of 24 yrs old; for the next eleven years he saw the world as a red coat.  During this period he was stationed in Gibraltar and the West Indies.   In 1846 his regiment came to Lower Canada, and he was for some time stationed near Montreal and yearned to explore and make a place for himself in the rapidly expanding Upper Canada territory, he obtained his discharge, and retired from service with the rank of corporal.

In 1849 Jon Binning married a daughter of Mr. G. W. Dodds, and moved in 1851 to what is now Listowel, taking possession of a shanty already erected by an earlier pioneer named Henry.

This Henry chap had set up a 'right of priority in possession' claim on a gorgeous plot that was right beside a lovely bend in the river simply by building the shack. This structure and surrounding land John and his wife eventually bought from Mr. Henry at the cost of one rifle.  John then marched off to nearby Glen Allen wherein he brought a supply of provisions, and thus commenced his pioneer life.
Listowel1   
The Wellington County Historical Society and the Township of Mapleton Historical Society unveiled a provincial plaque at Glen Allan Park in Glen Allan, Ontario, to commemorate the Queen’s Bush Settlement, 1820-1867.

A plaque was erected on August 2, 2008, by the Ontario Heritage Trust. The above photo is on the Ontario Heritage Plaques website photo credit to Alan L Brown.

 The bilingual plaque reads as follows:

THE QUEEN’S BUSH SETTLEMENT, 1820-1867
In the early 19th century the vast unsettled area between Waterloo County and Lake Huron was known as the “Queen’s Bush.” More than 1,500 free and formerly enslaved Blacks pioneered scattered farms throughout the Queen’s Bush, starting in about 1820. Many settled along the Peel and Wellesley Township border, with Glen Allan, Hawkesville and Wallenstein as important centers. Working together, these industrious and self-reliant settlers built churches, schools, and a strong and vibrant community life.  American missionaries taught local Black children at the Mount Hope and Mount Pleasant Schools. In the 1840s the government ordered the district surveyed and many of the settlers could not afford to purchase the land they had laboured so hard to clear. By 1850 migration out of the Queen’s Bush had begun. Today African Canadians whose ancestors pioneered the Queen’s Bush are represented in communities across Ontario.

Spinrite in Listowel Ontario

The first water wheel powered mills on the Maitland River at Listowel Ontario were for grinding wheat into flour and belonged to Mr. D. D. Hay.  The water powered machinery made life a lot easier as previous to its development the wheat had to be hauled by oxen and sled to Hawkesville, where it was made into flour - a round trip took three days.

Next mill would no doubt be a saw mill, and them much later wool mill.  One historian in 1881 speculates that ".. a woollen mill is perhaps the earliest manufacturing business in Listowel - now, and for over a quarter of a century, operated and owned by B. F. Brook."

I also discovered that there is a property in town called“Rosebank”, and it was built in 1872 by the Brook family, owners of the woolen mill.

In an 1888 Ontario Manufacturing Directory, B.F. Brook is listed as being of the  'Textile industry and fabrics', The exact listing reads: LISTOWEL, Perth Co. G T RR. Tel. Am Ex. Brook, B. F. Blankets, Flannels and Yarns. 1 Set Cards. 4 Looms.

Three years later in 1891 Listowel Business Diretcory there is mention of "Brook, B.F. M, 45, Head, ENG, ENG, ENG, PRESB, Manu Of W Goods,".

When the first world war happened, did the mill made something in connection with the war effort? The Perfect Knit company was here in the 1950s and 60s I believe.

Spinrite is here today. I'm still looking to fill in more of the blanks; let me know in the comments if you can help and what I should research online to get the entire story of the woolen mills in Listowel.

Is this the Maitland River? or... is this just a creek? Toronto movers
What is the name of this water system?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Watching the Waterproofing Work on What was Once Gooderham and Worts

The nether regions just two feet under the cobblestones of the Distillery District have been uncovered and explored by contractors off and on for the last hundred years, but there's always lots of little treasures here to uncover...

While fixing the drainage systems under the cobblestone lanes and passages in the Distillery District, the DryShield waterproofing solutions technicians doing this work were focused on excavating the site to install drainage systems, but I went looking for stuff buried under the cobblestones. I found railroad spikes and all manner of round and square nails, bullets, nuts and cotter pins and a key.

The work done here by Historical Restorations  inc is detailed on the Distillery District blog post about pointing bricks on the exterior of Victorian architecture and how that relates to wet basements and spring floods.

Roberrific on Bizcovering writes on how internal gutters are most common remedy for wet basement wall and they are dug below the wall , about eight inches wides or just wide enough to accommodate a course plastic pipe, wrapped in a nylon 'hose' filter.

The wall is covered with a thick plastic membrane which really does become a dry shield.

The barrier has specially designed nipples and rivulets that encourage water to flow straight down and into the freshly excavated gutter at the base of the wall.
The internal gutter excavation and ABS pipe installation is part of DryShield waterproofing solution in this residential house basement where waterproofing contractors install the membrane as remedy to moisture on cement walls and excessive run off during spring floods from a shared driveway above.;

Basement waterproofing article on Fuel Ghoul explains how contractors can do the work entirely inside the house. This is a common practice when floods have destroyed walls and water damaged drywall and wet and moldy fiberglass insulation  has to be removed anyway.

Tearing out these walls reveals everything that was in the wall (period newspapers) and used to make the wall or was lost in the wall.  

Experienced contractors look for pennies and coins used to level trim and rings and earrings swept under floorboards.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tearing Down an Old Barn Reveals Hydraulic Ram

Tearing down an old barn in a small town outside of Oshawa Ontario yields a treasure trove of timeless trinkets.This picture brought to you by basement flooring for a warm and dry bottom layer. This picture brought to you by insulated wall panels for easy-to-install, warm and secure walls.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Toronto Basement Waterproofing Company Finds Privy Pits Loaded With Antique Glass Bottles

When downtown Toronto was growing up in the late 1800s, the engineers buried all the little creeks and streams that used to course across the land.  They just filled them in with whatever was handy, and quite often that was garbage - two dozen wagon loads of smelly household trash could be easily diverted from regular pickup to fill a ravine and plug up a creek on the outskirts of town. Finding those plugs is what keeps Dumpdiggers awake at night...

I did a story on a Lost Creek in Toronto and showed how property developers removed rusty metal and glass from the bottom of their excavation at King and St. Lawrence, and how they unlocked a small stream that soon made a large pond on the bottom of the pit. The condo building that exists there today has installed permanent pumps to drain the water away from the north wall and into the storm sewers on the south side of the property.

To the right is a detail from P.A. Gross' Lithographic Bird's Eye View of Toronto (1876), showing Garrison Creek a decade before it was buried by urban developers. 

Garrison Creek is a famous example of a water system that was forced underground, and you can see here on Vanishing Point Garrison Creek history website that it runs inside a brick lined sewer tunnel under or near the basements of hundreds of homes and under two dozen streets, all the way from its origins near Lawrence and Weston Rd, down old Keele, down through the College and Dufferin area, all the way down to Lake Ontario.

Basement Waterproofing Contractors Thrive in Toronto's Garrison Creek Flood Plane

The water flow in the city is much different now than it was when creeks were on the surface of the land. Today the autumn rain and melting snow in the spring seems to find little pockets of houses where it floods basements. A reputable basement waterproofing contractor in Toronto can make a killing in the Garrison Creek flood plane.
 
Right up until the 1970s Canadian home builders really didn’t have the technology or available products to offer a cost effective basement waterproofing solution. The best  home builders did some 'damp proofing', and Victorian era landscape architects are famous for making drainage contours and berms to avert a flash flood water courses, but basement waterproofing was heretofore unknown.

Today the accepted practice is to dig trenches and drain the excess moisture away from the cement walls from the outside using specially perforated plastic pipe that has capacity to rapidly drain the water from soil.

The basement waterproofing contractor has a hard job that is filled with back breaking labour, because he or she is usually digging so close to the walls of the structure the work really cannot be mechanized to any great extent. However this discomfort is quite often remedied by numerous discoveries of coins and small bottles and many other valuable things that accumulate near walls over the years.

Coins are commonly found when digging foundation walls at the sides of houses and barns. That’s because the wall has been there for a long time and it has always been handy for leaning against or even sitting up against in any season, and inverted pockets dump coins. Ask any archeologists and they will tell you that they find coins on both sides of any wall with equal frequency.

Bottles are uncovered in privy pits dug below latrines which once existed up against the side of the house. Before there was indoor plumbing, whole families used outdoor facilities and these holes were also the most commonly used trash receptacle for nonburnable refuse like old bottles, broken stoneware crocks, porcelain dolls, tools and dead pets.

Here's the excavation team showing off their best finds to the homeowner - they were uncovering bottles that were discarded over a hundred years ago.

These guys don't know they're digging out a pioneer family's privy pits, but not that it matters much, as that was over a hundred years ago and the chemical structure of the soil around the bottles has changed as much as the structures on top of the land above.

Post by on Mar 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Toronto Bottle Collectors Club Meeting, March 2013 Celebrated Animal Themes on Bottles and Stoneware

And the animals came out that night...

Brian Johnston holds a gorgeous salt glazed stoneware six gallon crock with pretty hand drawn bird figural pattern and distinctive cobalt blue slip tails. The piece originated from White's Pottery, in Upstate New York (Utica) and there are a few variations of their bird including this running bird, but also a sitting bird, and a perched bird. All are very collectible of course, and this piece is absolutely gorgeous. Highly coveted by ornithological collectors (bird nuts who grab up anything that has a bird on it)  a most conservative appraisal would estimate this piece of 18th century clay kitchenware to be worth approx $550 dollars.

On the evening of March 16th 2013 the Four Seasons Bottle Collectors club got together for coffee and cookies and long talks centered around organizing the upcoming bottle show

The 2013 Toronto Bottle Show is Sunday 21st of April!

This is the 20th year anniversary of the show! So mark your calendars and plan to attend - its going to be special. The club is working on a new logo for the anniversary occasion and  Paul Huntley brought in a light box so Darren Spindler could use his fancy camera and they could make spiffy new logos for the FSBC. There is a surprise coming, and something special will be handed out to dealers at this year's event but I can't say anymore on the subject.

In the center of that group you might recognize a Whipper's Beverages soda bottle, a very collectible ACL soda made by a famous Canadian wrestler.

Whipper's Beverages, Whipper Billy Watson Cream Soda Pop Bottle Label Illustrated Wrestling Moves for Athletes

The bottle caught my eye right at the start of the meeting. Jim Dixon put two colourful soda bottles down on the table - his contribution to animal night.  The Cardinal soda bottle in my hand is from the Gold Belt Brewery in Timmins Ontario and behind that you can see the likeness of Whipper Billy Watson.

WHIPPER'S BEVERAGES was spawned by the eternal fame of Canadian wrestler Whipper Billy Watson or  William John Potts who was born on June 25, 1915 and died  on the 4th of Feb 1990. He was an international celebrity, a Canadian professional wrestler that was famous throughout the British Empire as "Whipper" Billy Watson; he was a two-time world heavyweight wrestling champion.

The short story is that the young Whipper was born in East York which is now part of Toronto, and he grew up in the city in the 1920s and sold the Toronto Star as a newspaper boy on the Danforth in the 1930s until someone challenged him to a wrestling match which he won. He went on tour in England and then returned and wrestled at Maple Leaf Gardens during World War II. He never got a headline match until one night in 1942 he defeated four contenders to win that particular tournament .

Watson soon became a crowd favourite, one of Toronto's most popular citizens. Within a few years he was a mainstream celebrity made famous by his repeated wrestling victories and their coverage on newsreels. Frank Tunney a famous wrestling promoter in Toronto estimated that Whipper Watson drew more than five million people into main events at Maple Leaf Gardens over the span of his long career. As one of the most popular wrestlers in the city’s history, Watson spent 31 years entertaining fans. His debut at Maple Leaf Gardens was on October 3, 1940, and his last match was held there on November 28, 1971.[1]  when he teamed up with Bulldog Brower to beat Diego the Sundowner and Man Mountain Cannon in less than five minutes.

Whipper Beverages of Toronto or Breckles Beverages of Toronto had several lines including Ginger Ale, Orange, and Cream Soda in the mid 1960's to early 1970's. The spokesperson owner was "Whipper" Billy Watson, former Canadian pro wrestler, philathropist and East Yorker .

The green glass varietals of this same bottle generally fetch more money at auction as they are rare and very pretty and definitely part of Toronto and Canada's history.  Paul Huntley tells me that he has "... seen them go from $25.00 each to $250.00 each depending on who was there or not there (at the auction)." but he adds that "...not many of them out there as they are collectable in the soda world. You see about two a year come back out to auction."

In wrestling, Whipper Billy Watson was known for executing two signature wrestling moves; the Canuck Commando Unconscious move which was essentially a sleeper hold, and what wrestling fans would call a finishing move, and the Irish Whip which was a another hold, and although it was a dramatic gesture, which was invoked with 'lots of velocity' from what the commentators say, I can't figure out exactly what it was ... Some more research is required, to learn exactly what the maneuver was, and how it was executed. Perhaps I should look on the backs of the soda pop bottles, for according to Jim Dixon there are as many as eight different wrestling moves illustrated on the backs of these rare pop bottles and that makes collecting these specimens even more challenging. Now that I think on it, I'm not really sure why Jim Dixon put his Whipper on the table as it doesn't really match the theme of 'Animal Night', unless he was suggesting that Whipper Billy Watson was an animal, in the ring.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MInd8zjzRwM
Above is a link to a video made by Igor Enriques of Centennial Sports TV detailing Whipper Billy Watson's career and professional wrestling in Canada.
Here is a classic video of  Whipper Billy Watson vs Chief Chewaki  that thrilled wrestling fans all over the world in the mid 1950s, recorded on 16mm film for newsreels live from Maple Leaf Gardens. Whipper ends the match with a controversial move

More Antique Bottles with Animals on their Labels

HUTCHINSON Colic & Kidney Cure from Brampton Ontario was priced at $1.50 per bottle.
Darren Spindler brought in this Brampton Ontario horse medicine, a colic and kidney cure that he reported as being exceptionally effective.

Brian Johnston brought in the Brandon Manitoba ginger beer bottle below with a beaver arranged like an acorn cap on a beech tree leaf.



Four popular Ontario ginger beer bottles with animals on their labels. This is a quintessential gathering of Victorian ear alcohol industry advertising logos.


NAPOLEON'S CELEBRATED BUFFALO GINGER BEER, sold by N. SARAULT has a boar's head logo and proudly boasts that its 'brewed from pure Jamaica herb'

Milk Bottles with Animals in Applied Colour Labels

Paul Huntley brought in several examples of painted label milk bottles with animals on the logos. The Pelican is a round ACL milk of the 1940 to 1950's era. This bottle was produced for Hoover's Dairy of Port Rown Ontario. It is considered a collectable Ontario dairy bottle and would fetch $200.00 or more at most bottle auctions and collectable shows. "Only a Pelican is proud of a big bill. Economize with DAIRY PRODUCTS."
 
The silk screening process or applied colour lettering (ACL) for milk bottles was started by Consumers and Dominion Glass companies in Canada in 1939. These bottles were a new technology offered by the glass companies on their dairy bottles, but many dairies opted to keep to the more familiar embossed glass milk bottle with cap seat of the early 1900's right up to the introduction of square milk bottles in Canada in 1949. The silk screening process of annealing paint to glass from a stencil image through high heat temparature was established by the US Owens Glass company in 1937 and adopted by Canadian glass manufacturers for sodas and milks.

Bottle salesman would travel to the various dairies to sell their bottles, and the slogans they offered often had catchy and clever ideas meant to encourage local patrons to buy more milk. The dairy's name, phone number and sometimes location were usually placed on the 'front' side of the bottle, and the slogan on the reverse side. A dairy name on a bottle would help the business collect its bottles back to the facility. As the bottle was the dairy's property, and expensive to produce and replace, having your name on the bottle meant the vessel was more likely to be returned and so could be washed and reused several times extending its delivery life. Average number of trips for a dairy bottle was only about sixty complete cycles, and dairies needed to have at least three glass bottles for every one customer. One bottle would at the dairy being washed and filled, and one in a route wagon coming or going, and one in the patron's ice box. Breakage was highest in the winter months due to the changing temperatures.

During the Second World War, Canada experienced a glass shortage and many dairies adopted a bottle deposit system where the patrons would pay for the milk and a bottle deposit that would be refunded, or not charged in exchange for a full bottle if the homeowner or retail customer returned the vessel. This encouraged the bottle's return to the dairy rather than it being discarded or used for something other than dairy and was adopted into the retail sales system. The bottle deposit charge varied from 5 to 10 cents over the dairy's operating years prior to the carton and jug era of the mid 60's replacing most glass bottle deliveries.  Today in 2013 the four Ontario Micro dairies that still sell milk in glass bottles, and still charge a bottle deposit to encourage the glass bottle return to their dairy only now that charge is $2.00 for the bottle plus an additional charge for the milk.

There is a resurgence of selling milk in glass bottles and buying local that has not been seen since Avon Dairies of Stratford reintroduced horse drawn delivery for a short period in the late 1990's.
http://www.ecbw.ca/ontario_dairies/main.htm

The alligator below is NOT a torture device used to pinch fingers, but rather a cast iron cork crimper for apothecaries that had to put fresh corks in small bottles all day.

Post by on Mar 17, 2013