Thursday, 30 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- Cost of Christmas Supper 1911

As I promised Vicky in my reply to her comment (27 July post), I will look more into buildings and recreation and get back to you as to what I find.

I did get a chance to look into a few ads to see what things cost in 1906-1913. I haven’t had a chance to compare yet with today’s prices. If you have a sense of what this would cost today, please let me know.

One great advertisement I found was from the Hudson’s Bay in Lethbridge. They were advertising Christmas Hampers in December 1911. They had a wide range of different ones.
Some included only alcohol.
Hamper No. 54
Price $3.00
(Weight 30 pounds)
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Niagara Port
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Sherry
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Special Native
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Calawba
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Ginger Wine
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Claret
6 bottles

Hamper No. 55
Price $4.50
(Weight 30 pounds)
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Brandy
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Claret
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay London Dock Port
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Old Rye
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Sherry
1 bottle Hudson’s Bay Scotch
6 bottles

Some were food and assorted items.

Hamper No. 66
Price $7.50
(Approximate weight 45 pounds)
10 lb. Turkey
1 lb. Cranberries
2 lb. Plum Pudding
1 package Mince Meat
1 lb. New Figs
1 can Tomatoes or Corn
1 lb. best Cluster Table Raisins
1 lb. New Season’s Mixed Nuts
1 box Somebody’s Luggage
1 lb. Finest Mocha and Java Coffee
1 lb. Finest Quality Chocolates
1 lb. Huntley & Palmer’s Fancy Mixed Biscuits
1 3 lb. can Bowlby’s Pears
1 bottle C & B Mixed Pickles
Fancy 3 lb. Tin Tetley’s Tea

They will ship to any address. Please prepay if being given as a gift. And each hampers is nicely packed in a painted box with hinged lid and fastener. The most expensive hamper was $15.00 and that was for 12 bottles of assorted alcohol. For $13.25 you could get a turkey, assorted food and 5 bottles of alcohol.

How to use this sort of information in the exhibit? Just for fun? To show how some people lived (and compare with the lives of the poor)? Still working on those questions.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- Has anything changed?

For today’s blog, I thought I would read the July 27, 1909, Lethbridge Daily Herald and see what was on the minds of Lethbridge citizens exactly a century ago.

Not surprisingly, there were many of the same concerns as today. Crime was reported – a man from Taber was given sixty days hard labour for stealing a sack of grain. There were
labour problems – there was a report on a letter sent to the Minister of Labour. This letter reported on a settlement about discrimination in the mines. The letter reminded everyone that the settlement agreed that there would be “no discrimination on the part of the companies against union men, or on the part of the union against non-union men employed.”

There were advertisements. Hudson Bay had Men’s Oxfords on for $3.25 a pair when normally they were $4.50. And Wellington Bros. had the largest and best stock of wall paper in the city.

There was a notice that for all Curlers that the curlers were having a meeting the next night. Sports scores were provided.

There were notices that you could get your palm read for 50¢ or go to the Eureka Theatre and watch one of three movies: A Mountain Feud, Mysterious Correspondent or Worthy Young Man.

There was a letter to the editor regarding water use in the city. The letter highlighted the wastefulness of “the sprinkling of the various weed beds which border the streets and equal quantity is used in watering the plank sidewalks and the edge of the road.”

There were advertised opportunities for investment and making money. “Don’t Miss This Chance Of Making Money. Invest in a few nice level building lots on Westminster Road and Fair Grounds, while we are selling them for $100 each and on easy payments. The City is building in that direction very rapidly. These lots are sure to double in value in a very short time. They are going fast.”

Except for the boys being arrested for stealing a chicken from a back yard and the coal being advertised for sale, one could almost imagine that she was reading a modern newspaper.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- What Women Built

I was speaking with one of the Galt volunteers yesterday and she said what she loves about doing history is being a detective – searching for the facts, pictures and stories you need. I agree. There is great fun in hunting down something, especially something you’ve been looking for a very long time.

But as much as we sometimes hunt down information, I think sometimes information is also waiting out there to pounce on us because often you find exactly what you’re not looking for but need.

Such was the case last night when I was researching on health laws in Alberta and came across a great write-up on the Van Haarlem Hospital. So far I had overlooked the growth of private hospitals in 1906-1913.

The Van Haarlem Hospital started in 1910. Like other hospitals both in Lethbridge and across Alberta, the Van Haarlem was started by an individual nurse. In this case, it was Marie Elizabeth Van Haarlem. The hospital became so successful that it was eventually taken over by the Sisters of St. Martha as St. Michaels Hospital in 1929. The Van Haarlem Hospital building is still standing on 7th Avenue South. Elizabeth Van Haarlem became a school nurse when she sold the hospital. Over 2000 babies were born in the Van Haarlem Hospital.

The Van Haarlem wasn’t the only private hospital opened in Lethbridge during this time. Grace Dainty opened a private maternity hospital in north Lethbridge in 1909. This hospital was transformed into a general hospital during the epidemic of 1918 and then closed in 1923. Grace Dainty went on to become the first public health nurse in Lethbridge.

Additionally, Mrs. E.M. Blue and other midwives worked in Lethbridge starting around 1909. These midwives would open up a room in their houses for expectant mothers.

It is also in this time period that the Isolation Hospital started. In 1911 Mildred Dobbs took over its operations. She worked 39 years at the hospital nursing up to 4 different contagious diseases at once without ever having a case of a patient acquiring another disease while in the hospital.

Certainly that these places all started around the same time is linked to the astonishing population growth at that time. But does it also say something about the role of nurses in these communities? Does the fact that the maternity hospitals were separate from the general hospitals tell us something about how our “treatment” of pregnancy has changed? Or does it just remind us of what pioneer women were capable of and what was built by women?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- Bricks and Blocks

Ah, serendipity. I started writing this blog and then went to the Archives to do research on another topic. I did not find what I was looking for in the Archives but found several documents relevant to this blog. Just goes to show that researchers need to be open to what they find.

Many buildings were constructed in Lethbridge from 1906-1913. Some still here: Galt Hospital, Bowman Art Gallery, Post Office, Castle Apartments, Fire Hall No. 1, Odd Fellows Building and Alec Arms. Where did the materials for these buildings come from?

A lot of the materials were locally sourced. Lethbridge had a brick plant, called the Lethbridge Brick and Terra Cotta Company. The brickyard was in the coulee just south of St. Patrick’s Cemetery. In 1963 (and now I really have to go and see if there’s anything left) the pit which was created by the removal of clay and parts of a number of foundations were still visible. Tom Arnold said that in the summer of 1907 about half a dozen “of us boys” came to Lethbridge from England and immediately found work in the brickyard. When they arrived, the yard was making 35,000 bricks a day. The public library (built in the 1920s) used 70,000 bricks.

The foundation for many of these buildings was sandstone. The Monarch sandstone quarry, called the MacLeod Quarrying and Contracting Company, was also known as the The Townsite or Scotsman’s Quarry. Quarrying began here in 1910. The quarrymen first removed the few feet of shale. Then they blasted out large slabs of sandstone which were hoisted out of the quarry by a heavy winch, loaded on carts and carried to a giant saw, which roughly cut the stone into required widths and thicknesses. Then the stone-cutters did all of the cutting, shaping and polishing necessary. Some 60 to 80 men worked there and sandstone from this quarry went to Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, Fort Macleod, High River, Calgary, Edmonton and even Regina.

In the Galt Collections is a cornerstone from the 1910 Fleetwood School. The sandstone from the cornerstone came from the Monarch Quarry. Carved into the sandstone are these words: “Trustees 1910 J.H. Fleetwood Chairman, W.S. Galbraith MD, O.H. Johnston, J.S. Stewart, O.D. Austin, C.B. Bowman Sec. Treas., Architects H.M. & W.A. Whiddington” There is history in our old buildings – not only just in the uses and the people but also in the materials and construction. Looks for these cornerstones as you’re out and about in Lethbridge. There’s more of them than you may imagine.

FYI -- Fleetwood School was built in 1910 on the present day site of Fleetwood-Bawden School. The 1910 building was demolished in 1971.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- Lethbridge's Canoeing Past

Maybe it’s the nice weather (supposed to be 28 today and 30 tomorrow), but last night I thought, why not look more deeply into Henderson Lake.

Henderson, after all, was built between 1911 and 1912 to provide recreation for the rapidly growing community and as a showcase for the Dryland Farming Congress (1912). The park was the jewel in the city Parks department. In 1911, the Exhibition moved just east of Henderson Lake and started a brisk building campaign – including a grandstand, race track and other facilities. At Henderson Lake, the city damned Slaughterhouse Slough (yes, you read it correctly), built a footbridge near the west end and enlarged, levelled and, eventually, concreted some of the shore lines. To encourage swimmers, the Rotary Club built an artificial beach while the city put up changing rooms.

When I typed in Henderson Lake, I found the article below.

Bruce Ridpath, the peerless canoe performer, who has already been “Heralded,” finds himself still weak from the accident which overtook him last fall in Toronto. The noted hockey star and canoeist has not done anything with a canoe from that day until Monday evening last when he went to Henderson Lake and gave himself a try out in a borrowed canoe. He found himself so much out of practice and lacking in strength from his enforced lay off that he will not be able to accommodate his friends and admirers here who have so urgently requested him to give one of his celebrated canoe performances at the lake during his visit to the city. Bruce, in talking to the Herald, said it would take him a considerable space of time to get in condition for the work and he will be leaving Lethbridge at the end of the week. Although he has completely recovered from the accident which laid him up for several months, he is not yet in athletic form but promises to be heard from when the hockey season opens up. He relations here wish him to give Southern Alberta serious thought as a place of residence and business, but “Riddy” has big interests in the hockey world as well as being in demand as a coach in the canoe clubs of the east.
14 August 1912 p 6 Lethbridge Daily Herald

It’s usually never difficult to get me off on a tangent and I had to know about Bruce Ridpath.

Bruce Ridpath played for the Ottawa Senators when they won the Stanley Cup in 1911. He was very high-scoring, with an average of better than a goal per game in his four years in professional hockey. His hockey career was cut short by an automobile accident that fractured his skull. While he attempted a comeback, it wasn’t to be. He was also renowned, before his accident, as a canoe racer and stunt paddler.

What brought Bruce Ridpath to Lethbridge? His brother, Thomas Ridpath, had moved to Lethbridge in 1911. Like his brother, Thomas was also an expert canoeist and on his arrival in Lethbridge was involved in helping develop the Lethbridge Aquatic Club, which sponsored canoeing and sailing on Henderson Lake. A lot of sporting and recreation clubs got their start in this 1906-1913 time period. But, I must admit, canoeing wasn’t one I was expecting to find.

Monday, 13 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- Object Lessons

I was spending some time looking again at objects we have in the museum from the 1906-1913 time period. A few sort of jumped out at me as part of this story. These are objects that at first glance seem simple but have much to tell.

The first is a steel and leather riding spur. The collected information on this spur, which is described in the records as a “rather crude spur,” is that it was one of a pair made for Thomas F. Smith, the first farm manager of the Lethbridge Provincial Jail. The spur was made by a prisoner; one of the first horse thieves convicted after the jail was completed in July 1911.
Gets me thinking. I knew the jail had a farm and, according to stories I’ve been told, it was later forced to close it because local farmers complained it had an unfair advantage (cheap labour) and the farmers couldn’t compete with it. I should learn more about the farm. What were the reasons given for the farm when they first built the jail? What was is supposed to achieve? Does it reflect an understanding of rehabilitation of that time period? Or was it a chance to get some free labour?
The spur also highlights how times have changed. Today would anyone be legally or ethically able to accept a “gift” from a prisoner under his supervision?

The second is a hydrant thawing kit from the fire department. It may seem simply a technical piece of equipment but this highlights how the fire department moved from a volunteer to a professional organization during this time period.
In the early part of the 20th century, water hauling contractors would regularly obtain their water from the water hydrants. As a result, some hydrants were broken and others became frozen during cold temperatures. This greatly increased dangers when fighting fires in winter. In January 1911 the Fire Department fought 2 fires in minute 40 degree weather. Since the hydrant was frozen shut, the fire department could not use the closest hydrant and had to run a hose to one about a block away. The weather already made fighting this fire incredibly dangerous (the newspaper described the firefighters as frozen statues) and not being able to access water greatly added to the problem. A by-law was passed making it illegal for anyone but the fire and waterworks departments to touch or operate fire hydrants.

The third is a fare box from the street car. The street car system was built as part of the feelings of expansion, prosperity and boundless optimism of the early 20th century. Since they believed Lethbridge would soon have a population of 25,000 and, eager to impress delegates of the Dry Farming Congress, a great deal of money was invested in this new public transportation system. The first 11 miles (17 km) of track was opened by Mayor Hatch in August 1912, coinciding with the annual fair being held at the Exhibition Grounds. The grand dream was not to be. The downtown line was discontinued soon after it was built. A few years later the street car staff was let go and re-hired at reduced wages. And a few years after that one of the south-side residential lines was closed.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- 1906 to 1913 Exhibits

Today’s musing about the exhibit is a bit different from ones in the past. This one isn’t about content but about how exhibits are created.

Sometimes just one sentence or two in an article or piece of writing can really get you to think and to question how you do something.

The other day I was reading an article on tips for writing for museum visitors. I’ve read articles by the author, Philip Yenawine, before and also sat in on a webinar where he was a presenter. I always enjoy his work and find it to offers a lot of ideas. Such was again true of this article.
Days later I’m still thinking about the article or, more specifically, the last two sentences:

“Sign your writing, ensuring that the reader knows that the comments come from some source that they could get to know as they do a columnist. Avoid the anonymous voice of authority.”

Right on the cover of a book it is obvious who the author is. There is usually no doubt who wrote an article. Artists sign their work. Movies proudly claim who the actors are. But for the regular museum visitor there is no “author” for an exhibit. The exhibit comes from that magical world of “authority” and “experts.”

So, why’s this the case? How would visitors react if at the beginning of an exhibit, there was a sign: Research and labels by…, Exhibit design by …, Direction and project management by … Would it make people feel as if they could better interact with the exhibit? Would it increase their involvement?

Monday, 6 July 2009

Museum Exhibit Musings -- The Darker Side

Continuing with my posts, this is some early research into the years 1906-1913. Please keep in mind that this is just bits and pieces and includes musings and early ideas for the exhibit. As always, please let me know your thoughts, concerns, ideas.

When I started I tended to look at the 1906-1913 boom as generally a good thing. But there is a lot more going on beneath the surface. Certainly not everyone benefited equally. How to balance the story to tell both the good and bad of the time period?

Looking deeper at immigration and diversity in Lethbridge shows us many of the issues facing the community and its response to these issues. On Christmas Day 1907 a riot took place in downtown Lethbridge. As the Lethbridge Herald of 1 January 1908 (p6) reported “there was a spontaneous movement to clean out the supposed murderers of Harry Smith and all their fellow-countrymen.” Approximately 500 people (many of whom may have been observers) smashed through the Columbia Restaurant, damaged the Alberta Restaurant and Joe Fong’s restaurant and accosted several Chinese workers. Other Chinese workers were forced to lock themselves into the basement of the restaurants for their own safety. Mayor Galbraith called in the Mounted Police, swore in special constables and made a speech to the rioters. “By ten o’clock everything was quiet and one of the most unfortunate and disgraceful affairs in the history of Lethbridge was over.” [Lethbridge Herald 1 January 1908 p 6]

In January 1909 City Council ordered its engineer to employ English speaking workers in preference to “foreigners.” Several restaurants, including the Hub Café, Castle Hotel and Hotel Alexandra, promoted themselves as hiring only white staff and one café went so far as to call itself White Man’s Café in recognition of its hiring policies. Even the Fashion Café, with Quon Sang proprietor, stated in its advertising that it had white waitresses.

In 1910 City Council passed by-law 83 (on the books 1911-1916). All laundries were consigned to a specifically designated area (west of 4th Street South and between 1st and 6th Avenues South). This by-law was presented as being about the prevention of fire and putting laundries in an area where there were good sewer connections. The fact that a white-owned laundry, Lethbridge Steam Laundry, while outside the area, was not required to move highlights the real purpose – to segregate the Chinese businesses and limit the number of Chinese laundries.

Why? Was it based on fear? Unemployment and economic concerns? Prejudice? Sense of superiority? What was going on then? And what is different today? Still a lot more to research.