Friday, December 7, 2007

Mystery of the Brass Pet Collar

The Relic:
This antique brass pet collar once identified John Clegg's property.

The Mystery: Who was John Clegg? When did he live in Toronto? What did he do for a living? and what happened to GENNIE?

Brief: Twenty years ago, while digging in the bottom of the Hotel Novotel construction site in Toronto, (on south side of Esplanade east of Yonge St) Timbits found a brass collar marked "GENNIE" /John Clegg, Owner / 79 Edward St. / Toronto.

Tim states that he found the object twenty feet down below the sidewalks in the mud at the bottom of the piers of the old 1890s Toronto waterfront. When I asked him the age of the piece, he only shrugged and remarked that it came out of the bottom of the site and therefore had to be over one hundred and twenty years old.

My Research: Inside the digitally archived pages of the 1893 Ontario Gazetteer, I found a grocer named Clegg with a partner named James Bamford that sold vegetables at 19 St Lawrence Street. Check the left margin twenty names down. This directory lists Clegg's business as 'produce', and so I assume that means he was a grocer who sold farm fresh vegetables to urban consumers.

This 1895 Map of Toronto shows Esplanade as a busy harbour through way, and perhaps the source of much of Clegg and Bamford's produce. In the 1890s, Toronto's City Hall was the present day St Lawrence Market and you can see on the map that it enjoyed prominence in Toronto's harbour.

My Hunch: The Clegg family gave their pets ostentatious collars to draw attention to their legitimate existence in the busy street, and narrow lane, in front of and behind their produce shop . I also believe that poor Gennie suffered a tragic death late one night on the waterfront. She must have. A collar like that wouldn't be discarded in the lake. If Gennie had died of natural causes, or even if she had died of foul play, and her body was recovered, the collar would have been buried with the body in a proper grave on land.

Your Input:
This case will be reviewed later and all reader's input will be tabulated in the next report. Hopefully we can together solve the mystery of John Clegg and his brass pet collar.


Likely Guy said...

According to there were 12 John Clegg's living in Canada during the 1881 census, all of which lived in Ontario.

Only one was living in Toronto 'proper' at the time, he was an 18 year old tailor, the son of Irish parents; 43 year old shoemaker Joseph and 44 year old Catherine. He also had a 15 year old brother named Thomas. They lived in St. John's Ward, Toronto.

Historically, if the Edwards St. address lies within St. John's Ward, I'd say that that's your guy, maybe. Good luck!

Robert Campbell said...

Likely Guy,
I read your post on the Treasure Net discussion forum Mystery of the Brass Dog Collar and I want to thank you for doing the leg work and solving the mystery.

Robert Campbell said...

This relic appears on Arob's table in the Underground Show and Sale on the new website.