Friday, 4 May 2018

Religion, conscription and interdiction: The Guelph Novitiate Raid of 1918

At about 9:30pm on Friday, 7 June 1918, late visitors knocked on the door of Saint Stanislaus Jesuit Novitiate, situated a short distance north of Guelph. It was not a social call—the callers were a squad of military police led by Captain A.C. Macaulay, all dressed in civilian clothes. They had arrived on serious business, to look for young men evading conscription amongst the students. They meant to arrest all suspected "slackers" and take them into custody.

Thus began the notorious "Guelph Novitiate raid."


The Novitiate was a Jesuit school that had been founded only a few years before when the Jesuit Society purchased a 300-acre farm north of Guelph from Thomas Bedford (later a prime mover behind the John McCrae Memorial Garden in town.) Young men studied there to join the priesthood.


The Society built a generous structure to house the school. Happily, photographs of the Novitiate are preserved in a couple of postcards. The first is a real-photo postcard, that is, a photograph printed on postcard stock, by Lionel O'Keeffe, a Guelph photographer, ca. 1920.



The building is an impressive one, looking much like a fancy hotel, to my eye. Certainly, it must have looked commanding at the brow of the hill from the Elora Road. I wonder if Macaulay felt any trepidation when approaching it.

The second postcard shows the other side of the building. The fieldstone walls of the first and second floors were left from "Langholm", the name that an earlier owner, Charles Mickle, had given to his stone farmhouse on which the Novitiate was later built. A subsequent owner, Maurice O'Connor, called the property Mount St. Patrick and had a large portrait of the saint under the gables of his house. Perhaps it was only natural that it became the site of St. Stanislaus Novitiate later on (Mercury, 20 June 1927).



This postcard was printed by the J.J. Pinsonnault Co. of St. Jean Quebec, probably also around 1920. Together, the postcards leave an impression of a substantial building, designed to impress.

The story of the raid has been told in detail in several venues (see below). Relying on these sources, I will outline the events presently but want to set the scene first, framing the raid in the context of the Conscription Crisis of 1917 that gave rise to it.


The Great War was not going as hoped. In 1917, the situation on the western front looked grim. Germany was certainly winning the conflict in the east, where the Russian revolutions seemed destined to knock that country out of the war. In that event, the German army would be able to deploy many more forces to the western front in 1918 to launch an all-out assault. In spite of American entry into the war, prospects for victory were far from bright.


This was the situation as presented to Canada's Prime Minister Robert Borden as he attended the Imperial War Conference in London in March–April 1917. Even though Canada had contributed mightily to the war effort, and had just won a famous victory at Vimy Ridge, the ultimate outcome remained in grave doubt.


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Robert Borden (Miesianiacal - Library and Archives Canada (PA 028128)/Wikimedia Commons)

The Imperial War Cabinet wanted Canada to do yet more, mainly to supply more soldiers. Perhaps to sweeten the deal, the Cabinet adopted Resolution IX, which offered (nearly) full autonomy to the British Dominions, including Canada. Borden determined to act. He decided that the only effective response to the situation would be to introduce conscription. Although he had previously maintained that compulsory military service would not be necessary, Borden now saw things differently. The result was the Conscription Crisis of 1917.


A federal election was due late in 1917. At that point, Borden's Conservative Party had uncertain prospects of returning to power. However, the conscription issue enjoyed broad support in English Canada. So, running on a pro-conscription policy would substantially improve his chances of success. At the same time, conscription was less popular in French Canada and rural Ontario. French Canadians were more likely to view the conflict as an imperial, British affair instead of a Canadian matter. Also, many were unhappy about government policies that they viewed as anti-French, such as Ontario's Regulation 17, which severely curtailed French-language schools in the province. Farmers in rural Ontario also tended to oppose the policy, fearing that removing their young sons from the farms would threaten their livelihoods.


As a result, a policy of conscription was sure to cause upheaval along existing, social fault lines.


Borden undertook several measures to improve his odds of success. Knowing that many English Liberals supported conscription, he formed a Unionist coalition in which Conservatives and pro-conscription Liberals could both join. Hugh Guthrie, formerly a Liberal MP for Wellington South, joined this coalition.


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Hugh Guthrie (Library and Archives Canada (PA 027564)/Wikimedia Commons)

The Conservative government also passed acts to swing the electorate in their favor. The Wartime Elections Act enfranchised women in federal elections for the first time but only those with close relatives serving in the military. It also disenfranchised Canadian citizens who came from "enemy-alien" countries, that is, Germany and Austria, and were naturalized after 1902. The Military Voters Act enfranchised all soldiers in the Canadian Expeditionary Force, even those who were recent British immigrants. Military voters could vote simply for the "Government" or "Opposition", in which case the government itself would choose which riding to allocate the ballot to.


These measures were calculated to boost votes for the Unionist government and suppress votes against it.


To quell unrest in rural Ontario, Major-General Mewburn, the Minister of Militia and Defence, pledged that conscription would not be applied to farmers' sons. Mewburn's pledge was made official by an Order-in-Council.


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Major-General Sydney Mewburn (Canadian Annual Review, 1923/Wikimedia Commons)

After perhaps the bitterest and most divisive election in Canadian history, the Unionists were elected by a large majority and conscription was duly enacted. The election drove a wedge between various social groups, especially English vs. French, and Protestant vs. Catholic. It is in this context that the significance of the Guelph Novitiate Raid of 1918 should be viewed.


In English Canada, opposition to conscription among French (and therefore mainly Catholic) Canadians was regarded as unfair and perhaps treasonous. By 1918, the view that the war represented a clash between civilization, in the body of the British Empire particularly, and barbarism, in the guise of Germany especially, was well established. Thus, the very survival of Canada as a civilized country was at stake. Conscription was seen as necessary for victory, so opposition to it was viewed as tantamount to Kaiserism. Furthermore, enlistment in French Canada trailed that of English Canada, so that it appeared that French Canada was reaping the benefits of resistance to the Huns without making a fair contribution to it.


In Guelph, suspicion began to fall on the Novitiate. In no small part, this suspicion originated in a provision of the Military Service Act that exempted clergy from conscription. Among Protestants, young men studying for ordination were not regarded as clergy. Thus, they were subject to conscription. Among Catholics such as the Jesuits, on the contrary, young men studying for ordination were considered bona fide clergy. Thus, they were exempt from conscription. Not a few Protestants saw this situation as unfair. In addition, rumour had it that the Novitiate might be hiding "slackers" from elsewhere. The neighbouring riding of Waterloo North had voted Liberal, which some Guelphites thought was out of sympathy with Germany. Perhaps Hun sympathizers from Waterloo were abroad in the region, where they would, it was thought, find aid and comfort for their treasonous schemes at St. Stanislaus.


Jesuit authorities had taken measures to head off problems. In September 1917, the Bishop of Hamilton visited the Novitiate to tonsure the students, that is, to officially induct them into the Jesuit order as clergy. Also, Father Henri Bourque, the Rector, arranged for official documents to be drawn up for each student at the Novitiate, confirming their status as clergy. Students were instructed to carry these documents with them at all times when off the Novitiate grounds.


Yet, increasing pressure was put on military authorities to do something. Members of the Guelph Ministerial Association complained publicly about that the Novitiate students were in violation of the Act. Rumors began to circulate that the Jesuits had dug tunnels to keep slackers or the sons of wealthy Catholics out of the trenches. It was also speculated that the Jesuits had acquired a cannon and were stockpiling ammunition for some sort of uprising.


Henry Westoby, city alderman and registrar and secretary-treasurer of the local enlistment league, complained to military officials of Father Borque's repeated refusals to register the students for conscription. He reiterated some of the rumours in circulation and said that there was going to be an "explosion" unless military officials took action. Local Unionist MP Hugh Guthrie passed on to Major-General Mewburn the names of three men reported to be hiding out at the Novitiate. Taking this information at face value, Mewburn issued a communique to his staff to follow up, which was passed on to military police in London, Ontario, with an ambiguous note to "clear out" or "clean out" the Novitiate. (A later search failed to find the note, so its wording remains unclear.)


Captain Macaulay and nine men were duly assigned the job and arrived in Guelph, in plain clothes so as to be discrete. Macaulay and several men searched the buildings while others covered the grounds, in case any slackers or subversives tried to flee. To make a long story short, no such people were found, neither were there any tunnels or ammunition stockpiles. Of the three young men on Mewburn's list, only George Nunan was actually there, although he was in compliance with the Act.


The situation quickly became heated. Macaulay began to interrogate members of the Novitiate. As it happened, these included the Reverend Father William Power, then head of the Jesuit Order of Canada and described as "a formidable character," and Father William Hingston, an army chaplain just returned from a tour of duty in France, who appeared in his Captain's uniform. In addition, Father Bourque had got on the phone and alerted a number of people including Patrick Kerwin, their lawyer, Thomas Bedford, then Justice of the Peace, and Judge Hayes of the County Court. Judge Hayes advised Father Bourque to allow Macaulay to inspect the grounds and interrogate members of the Novitiate. This Bourque did, under protest.


Macaulay proceeded to interrogate students while making no effort to ascertain their status under the Act. That is, he did not ask for proof of their membership in the clergy, although their documentation was on hand. As it happened, one of the students was Marcus Doherty, son of Charles Doherty, the Justice Minister of the Unionist government. The younger Doherty was able to reach his father on the phone, who then contacted the Adjutant for Canada, Major-General Ashton. Ashton was put on the phone to Macaulay and told him to return to town without making any arrests. Macaulay had identified 36 people he considered suspicious and was about to take three away with him. Given the situation, he removed himself and his squad from the grounds.


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Charles Joseph Doherty (A history of Quebec: its resources and people, 1908/Wikimedia Commons)

In the end, only one person at the Novitiate could not be immediately accounted for. In fact, he turned out to be a demobilized soldier, Private O'Leary, with a distinguished service record. Father Bourque made a written complaint to General Mewburn, who replied with an official apology and blamed the affair on Macaulay. A later inquiry endorsed this view and Macaulay was reassigned to Winnipeg.


At this point, the story moves away from the Novitiate itself. Naturally, the raid was the talk of the town and beyond. The government invoked a press ban, so discussion was either informal or conveyed by clergy from their pulpits. There remained a great deal of resentment about what was seen as special treatment of Catholics in general. The Minister of Justice was seen as particularly responsible, as an Irish Catholic from Montreal who had a son of military age at the Novitiate itself. (It is worth noting that Marcus Doherty had already been declared unfit for military service by Army doctors.) Others argued that judgement should be reserved until the facts were in.


The press ban collapsed on 19 June when the Toronto Star broke the story, after which it became a cause of much discussion nationally. Press reports in the Guelph papers tended towards conciliation, as accounts of the raid came in and it was realized that the whole affair was casting the Royal City in a rather scandalous light.


After a few weeks, the press of outside events drew attention away from the raid. It was later played down. For example, no mention of it appears in the Centennial edition of the Guelph Mercury in 1927, which contained a lengthy history of the city's first century. Although the divisive issues that played a role in the raid simmered on, the raid itself was perhaps seen as part of the unpleasantness of wartime that was best left unrecalled.


The old Novitiate building soldiered on until it burned down in 1954. It was afterwards succeeded by the Ignatius Jesuit Centre, which remains on the top of old Mount St. Patrick today.




The account above is taken from the following sources:


Although largely forgotten today, the Conscription Crisis and its aftermath remain, arguably, the ugliest political upheaval in Canadian history. English and French Canadians felt unfairly treated by the other. Feelings surrounding the Guelph Novitiate Raid relate significantly to French Canadian enlistment or the apparent lack of it. French enlistment was lower than in English Canada, a point that vexed many Guelphites. However, it is worth remembering some further points. About half of all Canadians in the Canadian Corps were British born. Enlistment among Canadian born men was never equal to their proportion of the population in either French or English Canada. In no small part, this situation was a result of a massive wave of immigration of single, young men from Britain in the Edwardian era, a wave that bypassed French Canada. So, the supply of unattached young men available for service in English Canada was much higher than in French Canada, both numerically and proportionally. Details like this were largely overlooked in the heat of the moment.
























Friday, 30 March 2018

Personalizing postcards: X marks the spot

Picture postcards were introduced in the Edwardian era as souvenirs and as collectors items. Yet, as often happens with popular products, consumers soon found new uses for these cards. In particular, postcards often showed images of significant local buildings, such as churches, court houses, and schools. In Guelph, many postcards showed images of the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) and the Macdonald Institute and Hall. These cards could be sent away to show off Guelph's interesting structures or to please collectors of images in those categories.

However, postcards could also be modified to convey extra information relevant to the sender and the addressee. Anyone who collects Guelph postcards will soon notice that more than a few are marked by their senders with an "X" at a place of special significance. For example, consider the following card of the then-new Macdonald Institute and Hall, produced by Charles Nelles:


The sender, Miss Margaret Smith, has put an "X" beside a third-storey room in the middle of the top picture with the notation, "X is my room" underneath. Beside the pictures, in her meticulous handwriting, Margaret adds, "My address is Macdonald Hall, Guelph." On the reverse, she writes:
Dear Uncle:—This is a picture of our home and school. Hope you are all well, poor Carolyn is having sick time in Toronto. Lovingly, Margaret Smith.
The postmark shows that the card was mailed on 30 May 1906.

Of course, the modification is a simple one. Still, it changes what was a generic image meant for mass consumption into a personal representation, specially meaningful to Margaret and her uncle at an important time. Her stay at the Macdonald Institute may well have been Margaret's first prolonged time away from home, in a place where she would learn how to run a household of her own.

Besides their accommodations, young women at the Institute used postcards to indicate where they conducted their studies. The card below is typical:


Three Xs hover determinedly over rooms of the building. On the back, their significance is explained in the accompanying message:
Dear Auntie,—I am feeling fine and we all are. The places which I have marked are the places where we have domestic science. G.B. from G.H.
No doubt, the postcard was selected because it provided a vantage of the rooms G.B. had her classes in. It was sent in 24 Feb 1908.

The young men at the OAC were no less interested in communicating where they lived and worked on campus. One student, whose initials appear to be CTA, sent this card to his friend Keith to keep him up on current events.


In the message, we learn about the writer's academic progress and his attitude towards marriage:
O.A.C. 30/14 // Dear Keith—Mighty glad to get your card. better use multiplication table & make it a letter. I pulled turnips about as big around as a foot ball one afternoon this week. Haven’t got my false head yet. Have been doing lots of studying lately. Hear Bert Milliken is married also Russ. Feel awful sorry for them. CTA (??) I live in room X.
Careful examination of the picture shows an "X" in the third-storey window just to the left of the central mass of the Main Building (since replaced by Johnston Hall). The card is postmarked 30 October 1914.

As did the young women of the Institute, the young men of the OAC used postcards to show where they did their learning. In the card below, young R. Harris shows his Auntie Alice where he takes his dairy classes:


Four windows on the upper floor are marked with Xs while four below are marked with asterisks, as R. explains:
Dairy School 13/2/08 // Dear Aunt. // Your card received & here is one in return. I wish I could get some more pictures of the Dairy Buildings. This is the Main building with Dairy Class room up stairs with X on windows. Creamery & Butter Making Dept. downstairs marked "*" on windows. Hope you are both well. R. Harris
The Dairy Department had several structures on campus of which this "Dairy Building" was the main one (since demolished). It was indeed the only dairy edifice to be shown on commercial postcards of the era. The postcard was postmarked on 14 February 1908.

Other buildings were occasionally marked with Xs by their occupants. For example, N.N. sent a postcard of the new Macdonald Consolidated School to Miss Barbour of St. Marys, Ontario:


Instead of Xs, N.N. has used brackets and "My room" to indicate the first-floor classroom south of the main entrance, facing out onto Dundas Road (now Gordon Street). The Consolidated School was part of an attempt to improve rural education, sponsored by Sir William Macdonald, by concentrating rural students to central locations where they would have access to better facilities and teachers than were usually available in one-room schools. Assuming N.N. is a girl, she would have learned skills in cooking, sewing, nursing, and gardening in addition to the three Rs. Her room also had an excellent view of the lane next to the school where the vans would gather after class to take the children home. The card was postmarked on 18 November 1907.

Postcards of the OAC and Macdonald Institute are the ones most frequently modified in this way by consumers. This is likely because these institutions had a high turnover of occupants, many of whom wanted to inform their friends and relations about where they were off to school. However, postcards of other places were sometimes given similar treatment. For example, here is a postcard of the Opera House block in which Xs flag a couple of places of business.


The message explains:
Aug. 31/12 Hello Nellie:—This is where I am spending the holiday. Received your kind letter and will answer when I get back. The places marked x are my brother-in-law’s stores. Hope you are keeping fruit (??). Will
Interestingly, the Xs point to the Opera House Pharmacy, operated by Frederick Bogardus, the subject of an earlier blog post. The postcard was postmarked on 31 August 1912.

Since Frederick Bogardus was Will's brother-in-law, we can identify him as Wilfred Henry Hill, brother of Ada Maude Hill, who married Bogardus in 1910. Unfortunately, I have little further information about Mr. Hill to share. I hope he enjoyed spending Labour Day in Guelph!

Picture postcards could seem quite impersonal, the mass-produced ones being generic and disposable. However, people found ways to make these items more personal, such as marking Xs to designate places that were in some way special to them. Among Guelph postcards, these were often cards of the OAC and Macdonald Institute, which the young men and women, newly arrived in Guelph, would mark up to communicate some of the excitement to their friends and relations back home. When looking at old postcards, it is worth paying attention to these little signs for the glimpse they offer into the personal lives of those who put them to use.

Sunday, 25 February 2018

"A national victory": The OAC triumphs in stock judging, 1907

A cold but ebullient crowd of students presses around the Blacksmith Fountain in St. George's Square. Two of their number stand atop the fountain, handling the Blacksmith while the rest cheer them on. Bystanders gather around the margins of the Square, taking in the spectacle. A placard held by the students reads "National Victory". A spectator on the second floor of the Bank of Commerce, on the east side of the Square, grabs a nearby camera and takes a snap. This great day for the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC), Guelph and, apparently, Canada, is duly immortalized.

Later, the photo was turned into a postcard featuring the caption "O.A.C. National Victory Celebration." It can still be seen today, courtesy of the John Keleher collection:


This photo appears to capture a moment in celebrations of the OAC's third victory in competition for the Spoor Trophy, a prize awarded for achievement in stock judging. John A. Spoor was an American business man with particular interest in the livestock trade. In 1900, he became President of the International Livestock Exposition in Chicago and instituted a livestock judging competition for agricultural students. At the end of November, students from around North America converged on the Chicago exhibition to show their judging chops.

Spoor commissioned a bronze trophy for the occasion, in the form of a large bull. The OAC took an interest in the competition and began to send teams of students to take part.

The OAC offered a variety of degree programs focussed on agriculture. Students who majored in the Agriculture Option studied a number of subjects including Animal Husbandry. This included study of the principle breeds of cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses and their preferred characteristics, along with practical work in judging these on inspection. The point of this study was to enable students to continue improvements to animal breeds that they might raise on their own farms. Improvement could be measured in the financial returns that farmers realized from their stock (OAC Review, v. 25, no. 9, pp. 431–433):

... every breeder, if he expects to accomplish results as an improver of his live stock, must know the conformation consistent with each animal's utility and the type which will yield him the largest returns.
The utility of an animal depended crucially on the condition of its tissues and internal organs. These could not be viewed directly in a live animal, so the trick for students was to learn to judge these matters from an external inspection.

At the Guelph campus, judging practice often took place in the Judging Pavilion, now known appropriately as the Bullring, and shown in the Valentine & Sons postcard, ca. 1905, below:


In their Senior year, the best students in the Agriculture Option were selected and trained for the competition. At the appointed time, similar teams from agricultural colleges across North America would converge on Chicago for the ultimate test of their mettle. The contest is described in detail in the OAC Review (1910, v. 23, n. 2, pp. 67–68):
On the day of the contest they meet in the great arena and are divided into four sections. Four different classes of live stock are brought in the ring and a section goes to each class and has eighteen minutes to place the animals and write notes. After the eighteen minutes they are moved to another class of stock and twice again, until the four rings are judged. Then the boys are marshalled in four sections and take turns in going before the judges. There are four sets of judges, one set for each class of live stock. Each boy has from one to two minutes to state his reasons for his placing of the class. After giving his reasons he retires to his section and remains until all have given reasons, then the section moves along to a second set of judges, and so twice more until reasons are given on the four classes of stock. This completes one-third of the work. Again four classes of stock are brought in and the same course pursued, and yet once more. Owing to tedious delays, the contest is not usually over until ten p.m. The boys come out from giving their last reasons a wearied, jaded crowd, despondent if they discover many mistakes in placings, awfully weary, but knowing that another contest would find them better prepared in every way.
In a nutshell, each student is rated according to how well his judgment accords with that of the experts. The Spoor Trophy went to the team with the best overall score in the various categories.

Student teams from the OAC won the trophy in 1905 and 1906, so the 1907 team went south with great expectations, and their efforts were crowned with success! Because the 1907 victory was the College's third in a row, it was judged not merely a victory for the institution but for the whole nation. The Toronto Globe proclaimed, "No international prize ever brought to Canada was better won or more beneficently significant than this trophy" (Mercury, 4 Dec 1907).

The OAC Review (Jan 1908, v. 20, n. 4, pp. 179–183) contained photos of the winning teams, the Spoor Trophy, and a breathless account of the victory celebrations. Here is the winning team:


As the leading man in training the team, Professor Day gets the special, central and rectangular treatment.

Then there is the trophy itself:


This fine specimen was created by August Nicolas Cain, a French sculptor known for his portrayals of animals in bronze.

Then there is the hometown celebration, leading up to the event in St. George's Square, as related by the OAC Review:

Monday, December 2nd, 1907, will long be remembered in the annals of the college as the day on which we concentrated all the means at our disposal to celebrate the great national victory gained by our stock-judging team at Chicago. As President Creelman had granted us a half-holiday, accordingly about 2 p.m., the students, over two hundred strong, assembled in front of the dormitory. The bronze bull, mounted on a wagon decorated with red and blue, headed the procession, and with flags, pennons and streamers flying, with horns blowing and college yells filling the air, this truly great demonstration of patriotic spirit and enthusiasm filed down the college hill. Accompanied by a number of Macdonald girls in a carryall, we arrived in the city, and proceeded to make things lively. The residences of some of the various professors were visited, and the usual cheers given. The procession, then headed by J. Hugo Reed on horseback, marched back to St. George's Square and surrounded the statue while two of the students gave it a much-needed protection against the weather in the form of a liberal application of red and blue paint.
Red and blue were the College colors.

Of course, this treatment of the poor Blacksmith is reminiscent of the current practice of University of Guelph students who occasionally paint the cannon Old Jeremiah on campus today. This observation invites the question: Why didn't the OAC students paint something on campus—even Old Jeremiah itself, which sat on Johnston Green—instead of the Blacksmith in the middle of town?

I suspect that the answer is that this "national victory" called for a more prominent, public acknowledgment. Since the Blacksmith Fountain sat in the centre of Guelph, in the midst of its main thoroughfare, it was the most "national" of objects available for decorative commemoration.

This idea is confirmed by subsequent events. After the students finished with the Blacksmith, they repaired to the City Hall (now the "Old City Hall") to receive congratulations from every available public official. The students were eulogized by Mayor Newstead, M.P.P. J.P. Downey, and M.P. Hugh Guthrie. Even Police Chief Randall was roped into making a congratulatory speech. (Did he know his audience had just painted a public monument?) The Mercury (3 Dec 1907) describes the scene):

The boys in the burlesque costumes lined up on either side of the steps and gave vent to their feelings at each appreciative sally of the speakers in cheers loud and continuous. They rallied round the bull and each speaker was given three hearty cheers led by the man on the wagon.
It also records Hugh Guthrie's affirmation of the significance of their achievement:
"The judging team of the Ontario Agricultural College are a credit not only to the Institution they represent, the city of Guelph, and the Province of Ontario, but to the whole Dominion of Canada."
Glowing with this lavish praise, the crowd carried on back up Wyndham Street to the Kandy Kitchen, where they gorged themselves on treats. Then, sated and elated, they dragged themselves and their trophy back to campus perhaps for more merriment.

According to the rules of the competition, any institution that won a trophy three times in a row got to "retire" it. Accordingly, the OAC kept theirs. (Since Iowa State won the first trophy in 1901, 1902, and 1903, that version remains there.) Evidently, the trophy remains with the OAC even today.

So, we have both the trophy and the postcard to remind us of the time when, in the stockyards of Chicago, the OAC won a great victory for themselves, for Guelph, Ontario, and for their grateful nation. Perhaps the Blacksmith also remembers the event but maybe not so fondly.



Identification of this postcard with the OAC celebration on 2 Dec 1907 rests on three points:
  1. Real-photo postcards of this type became popular locally around 1905, so the image is not earlier than that year. Also, the octagonal garden around the Blacksmith Fountain was changed to a long oval in the summer of 1908, in preparation for Old Home Week that year. So, the image is not later than that year.
  2. The scene in the image matches descriptions of the celebration. It occurs in winter, involves a large crowd focussed on the Blacksmith Fountain, two of whom are handling the Blacksmith itself in a way that is consistent with painting.
  3. The OAC Review describes the 1907 win in particular as a "national victory", probably because it brought permanent possession of the Spoor Trophy to the OAC. The congratulations offered to students by Guelph's dignitaries confirms this signification. This gibes with expression "national victory" as found on a placard in the photo as well as the postcard's caption itself.
Maybe students from the OAC could be persuaded to re-stage the celebration someday, just for old-time's sake, minus the paint, of course.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

Trade cards and postcards: Selling Wm. Bell's pianos

Imagine that you are going with your family to buy a piano in late Victorian Guelph. Having looked at the different makes and models, you have settled on a Bell Piano, a quality instrument made right here in the Royal City at the Bell Organ and Piano factory on Macdonnell Street! The whole family troops excitedly to Chas. W. Kelly & Son's music store at 33 Wyndham Street (current home to City Pawnbrokers), the local sales agent for Bell.



In the store, the final decision is confirmed as everyone gathers around the piano soon to join you in the parlor of your handsome abode. Having made the financial and delivery arrangements, Charles Kelly smiles and hands you your copy of the bill of sale and, as a bonus, some trade cards. The cards have an intriguing, colored picture on one side and a drawing of the nearby Bell factory on the other. The children want the cards for their collections! Alright, but only in exchange for practicing on the piano every day! A deal is struck.



Picture postcards have long been used as advertisements for businesses. Before the advent of the picture postcard, many businesses used "trade cards" for this purpose instead. A trade card is typically a small card made out of heavy paper that combines pictures and text for the purpose of promoting a business. Trade cards originated in the 18th century in western Europe and spread to North America with the colonists (Hubbard 2012).

When picture postcards appeared in Canada in the Edwardian era, most businesses made the switch from trade cards to advertising postcards, that is, postcards that combined promotional text and pictures.

In Guelph, one of the most prolific users of trade cards was the Bell Organ and Piano Co. I have traced the history of the Company and its clock tower in a previous posting. It was founded in 1864 by William Bell and his brother Robert but soon taken over by William himself. It became quite successful, reaching its zenith in the 1880s when the new factory and clock tower were built. At the time, the company billed itself as the biggest producer of organs in the British Empire.

It was around this time that advertising cards for the Company seem to have begun to circulate. Here is an example, which is typical for American trade cards of its era:


The picture shows both the front and back. The front features a generic picture of a girl with a dolly and a basket. Space is left front and back for text that describes the business using the card.

Curiously, as the alert reader may have noticed, nowhere is there an organ or piano in sight. In fact, no trade card that I have seen for the Bell Organ and Piano Co. features a musical instrument. It was typical for instrument makers to feature instruments in their trade cards, as the Boston Public Library's gallery on Flickr demonstrates. So, the Bell Co. must have had a particular reason for not following convention, though it can only be guessed at. My own suspicion is that Bell was more concerned to show off the international reach of his business and its fit within the well-to-do lifestyle of his era. In the card above, the text emphasizes Bell organs and pianos as the "standard instruments of the world." Modern advertising psychologist Robert Cialdini calls this approach "social proof," where the implicit approval of others for a product is displayed as an inducement for the viewer to approve of the product as well. After all, if people around the world like Bell pianos, so will you!

The picture of a young girl might remind viewers of the duty of upwardly-mobile parents to ensure that their daughters have all the customary feminine accomplishments, such as being able to play and sing at the piano.

Another Bell trade card shows an even higher degree of specialization.


The front shows a colored drawing of an "Ice Palace" framed by a patriotic maple leaf and a shield identifying the advertiser. The back shows an impressive drawing of the Bell Organ and Piano factories on Carden Street, the smoke of industry belching forth from their chimneys.

The "Ice Palace" is a building made of ice for the Montreal Winter Carnival of 1883, which handily dates the trade card to the mid 1880s. The structure was made with 500 lb. blocks of ice cut from the St. Lawrence and assembled in what was then called Dominion Square.

Here is a photo of the 1883 palace, taken by noted Montreal photographer William Notman & Son:


(Courtesy of the McCord Museum, Montreal.)

Ice palaces of larger and more elaborate design were constructed for the Carnival through 1889. The Ice Palace exemplified the kind of thing that a well-to-do Canadian might travel to see as a winter tourist.

Other trade cards of the same design displayed different items of interest to well-heeled Canadians. Here are the fronts of two more (the backs are the same as above):


The top card shows an image of Niagara Falls, still a premiere regional tourist attraction today. The bottom shows a picture of the S.S. Parisian, which first sailed in 1881 on the north Atlantic route. As the drawing shows, the Parisian was a hybrid ship, propelled mainly by steam engine but also equipped with masts and sails, just in case. Today, the Parisan is best remembered as one of the ships that responded to the distress signals of the Titanic in 1912. She did not find any survivors.

As with the first one, these trade cards evoke not musical instruments as such but rather the lifestyle of the potential customers of the Bell Organ and Piano Co. The Company has its quarters in an impressive, world-class facility in Guelph, with offices throughout the province. Its products comport well with the lifestyle of upwardly-mobile Canadians who might hop on a train to Niagara Falls, Montreal, or even to take ship to the Old Country.

The variety of pictures also reflects an awareness of how trade cards of the era circulated. They were given out to customers who expressed an interest in a company's products and also with the products upon purchase. One reason was perhaps to look for repeat business. Another reason was that some people collected these cards or circulated them among family and friends. Having a variety of cards on offer might result in a broader interest in the cards and, thus, more market exposure for the Company and its offerings.

Around the same time that Bell Organ and Piano Co. started circulating these trade cards, changes began to take place in the postcard market. Previously, postcards had no illustrations; regulations stipulated that a message should appear on one side and an address on the other. (See a German example in this posting about F.C. Harrison of the O.A.C.) Yet, advances in printing technologies allowed for the inclusion of small illustrations on inexpensive cards.

Some European makers began to include small illustrations that left sufficient space for messages or addresses. Postcards featuring illustrations on the address side of the card became popular souvenirs at the World's Columbian Exhibition in Chicago in 1893. Postcards of this design were officially allowed under Canadian regulations in 1895. Businesses began to produce them for correspondence and advertising.

Ever sensitive to the latest advertising trends, Bell got in on the act. Below is a trade postcard printed for Bell and mailed to Mr. G.N. Ackerman of Norwood, Ontario, postmarked in Guelph on 8 April 1901.


Ever consistent, the card does not feature any musical instruments.

The card looks like a kind of hybrid. Like earlier trade cards, it features a picture of the Bell Organ and Piano Co. factories in Guelph as well as printed text lauding the Company. Like later postcards, it contains spaces expressly for an address and a message. Unlike later postcards, the illustration is a small one printed on the address side instead of on the opposite side, by itself.

Perhaps the most significant difference between this advertising postcard and previous trade cards was that this card could be sent through the mail just by sticking a stamp and address on it. Postcards rule!

Time moved on. The modern form of postcard found its way to Canada around 1904, where an image dominates one side while the other is divided into halves, one for an address and the other for a message. Because of this design, such cards are referred to as "divided back" among deltiologists, that is, people who study postcards.

Still keen on trade postcards, the Bell Organ and Piano Co. came out with a new set. It will not surprise you to learn that these cards do not feature organs, pianos, or other musical instruments. Instead, they feature images of young women, perhaps English actresses, whose job, it seems, is to confirm that to own a Bell piano would be a beautiful thing indeed. Here is one example:


The young lady sports a fashionable dress and broad "Merry Widow Hat," items made internationally popular by Guelph's own Lady Duff-Gordon. Perhaps this young woman should be viewed as a predecessor to the modern promotional model (or "booth babe").

This card is also the only Bell trade postcard that I know of that was actually postally used. The message reads:

from Luella Barrett // Dear Sister: I am well & hope you are the same. This girl on this card is called the Bell Princes [sic]
It is addressed to Miss Della Barrett, Natural Bridge, N.Y., Route 1 and was sent from Sydenham, Ontario (near Owen Sound). The message suggests that Luella had some experience with a Bell Co. representative. It may be that she got the card while shopping for a piano. Was she due to have music lessons?

Unfortunately, there are no later Bell Organ and Piano Co. trade postcards that I am aware of. The company was at its height in the 1880s, when its first trade cards appeared. It was sold to a British syndicate in 1888 but seems to have declined over the years. It was sold to a Brantford syndicate in 1928 but went bust in 1931, the Great Depression having administered the coup de grace.

Still, in the late Victorian era, the Bell Organ and Piano Co. was a world leader in production of those instruments. In addition to its wares, its advertising trade cards and postcards carried its name and the Royal City with it far and wide. Today, the persistence of the Company in advertising with these cards provides us with an interesting opportunity to see how they were used for commercial promotion at the dawn of the golden age of postcards.



Your piano arrives at last and it looks beautiful. The neighbors will be jealous!

Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Xmas at Summerhill, 1904

At Christmas time, it is fun to pick out a postcard with a seasonal message to investigate. This year's card conveys a scene from the campus of the Ontario Agricultural College, ca 1900. Specifically, it shows what is today known as Winegard's walk after William Winegard, the University of Guelph's second president.

(Courtesy of the John W. Keleher collection.)

In the right foreground is Day Hall (then the "Experimental building"), then, to the left of the tree, is the Gymnasium, the Chemistry Building, and the Main Building (all now demolished).

The postcard is of an early type in which the message goes on the front with the picture while the address alone goes on the back (called an "undivided back" card for that reason). The message on the front reads:

Many thanks for Xmas greetings. Wishing you a very happy new year. L.A.Y.
The addressee is Master Hyde Auld, “Summerhill”, Guelph. The card was printed by Warwick Bros. & Rutter and was postmarked on 29 Dec. 1904.

Summerhill was one of Guelph's houses grand enough to merit a special name. Summerhill was becoming quite well-known—even notorious—in the Royal City, so it could readily be used as an address, all by itself.

The history of Summerhill is well summarized in the booklet "Brooklyn and College Hill" (Guelph Arts Council, p. 11–12). It was built in 1840 by James Thompson at the centre of what was then a large estate. In 1865, it was rented to Colonel Thomas Saunders, Wellington County's first magistrate and an important local figure. He was soon to sell his large farm, "Woodlands," which later became Vimy Ridge Farm. He also figures in the Christmas post from 2015 as one of the founders of St. James church in Guelph.

Summerhill became notorious because of two of the Colonel's granddaughters who grew up there: Lucy and Elinor Sutherland. In 1860, their mother Elinor had married Douglas Sutherland, a British engineer who took her to India, South America, and then London, where the girls were born. In 1865, Douglas died of typhoid fever, prompting the widow to journey to Summerhill with her young family (Mercury, 20 July 1927).

Although shorn of its estate, Summerhill still stands at 25 Harcourt Drive and can be seen looking resplendent in the Google Street View picture below.



Even though the old laneway leading to Summerhill from Dundas Road (now Gordon Street) is now gone, the gates can still be seen halfway up College hill, on the west side of the street:



The family remained at Summerhill until 1871, when Elinor married Mr. David Kennedy and removed to his residence on Woolwich Street, next to the new St. George's Church and opposite the Court House (where the Wellington Catholic District School Board building now stands). The Mercury relates a scene from their childhood on the side of the Speed River (perhaps a recollection shared by the ladies during a later visit to town):

Here the children watched with great interest the building of the new St. George's Church, the old one being in St. George's Square, and here with one or two of their young cousins, the Saunders boys, they slid on boards through the basement [of the church], and climbed as far as possible the scaffolding about the tower, then in the process of erection.
In 1874, Mr. Kennedy took his family back to the Old Country.

A brief sketch can hardly do justice to the careers of these two woman, so let the following sketch suffice. Lucy became a dressmaker and then a noted fashion designer. In 1900, she married Sir Cosmo Duff-Gordon and, in 1903, opened "Lucile Limited" in London. Her's was the place the English glitterati got their best clothes for the next 20 years.


(Lucy Christiania, Lady Duff-Gordon (1919)/Wikimedia commons.)

Lucile was later known for surviving the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. She and her husband survived in a life boat that carried only 12 people although it had a capacity of 40. Rumors spread that Duff-Gordon had bribed the crew to leave the ship prematurely. A subsequent inquiry exonerated him.

Anyway, as the website of Lucile and Co. states today, Lucile Duff-Gordon was the "It girl" of the Belle Epoque.

Lucy's sister Elinor married Clayton Louis Glyn in 1892 but the marriage proved unworkable. As a result, Elinor Glyn began a series of affairs with various high-flying British aristocrats. If that were not scandalous enough, she began to publish risqué novels based on her experiences. The best-known is "Three weeks," about a young English nobleman who has a three-week fling with an older woman in Switzerland, and published in 1907 (and based on a true story!).

The book inspired the following bit of popular verse:

Would you like to sin
With Elinor Glyn
On a tiger skin?
Or would you prefer
To err with her
On some other fur?
The book was panned by critics as vulgar, silly, and disreputable and, naturally, sold very well.


(Elinor Glyn/Courtesy of Wikimedia commons.)

Elinor went on to write and produce screenplays for early Hollywood films. Perhaps the most famous of these was "It" (1927), about a spunky young redhead who sets her cap at her wealthy employer. The movie popularized the concept of the "It girl", a woman who possesses "It," defined by Elinor as follows:

With It, you win all men if you are a woman and all women if you are a man. It can be a quality of the mind as well as a physical attraction.
Clara Bow, who played the heroine in the movie, was thus the first official It girl.


(Poster for "It"/Courtesy Wikimedia commons.)

So, when our postcard arrived at the Guelph post office in 1904, "Summerhill" was already known as the former residence of the Sutherland girls, each making a name for herself in the Old Country.

As luck would have it, the postcard's recipient, Master Hyde Auld, was also destined to make a name for himself and the Royal City but in his own way.

James Hyde Auld was born in Guelph on 27 June 1891. He was the third child of Charles and Jessie Auld. Charles Auld was in the carriage goods business, having worked as a traveling salesman for the Guelph Carriage Goods Co. (Mercury, 20 July 1927). In 1887, Auld and his partner Augustus Woodyatt took over the Guelph Sewing Machine and Novelty Works on Nelson Crescent (now the site of a parking lot at 8 Paisley Street) and began to manufacture lawn mowers there. The business expanded quickly and was moved to the former McCrae Woolen Co. mill lands (now on Arthur Street South, below the railway bridge). By 1902, the business became part of the Taylor-Forbes Co. Besides lawnmowers, it produced steam boilers, general hardware, metal castings and, later, auto parts.

Jessie Auld, née Forbes, was a daughter of Robert Forbes, who was half of Taylor-Forbes Co. and who had bought Summerhill in 1874. Although her husband Charles is usually listed as living in the downtown area, it seems that Jessie remained at Summerhill, at least much of the time. So it was that her son James Hyde could be found there in 1904 when our postcard was dropped in the mail.

James Hyde, who went by "Hyde," signed up for the Canadian Expeditionary Force at Woodstock in November, 1915. The fact that he did so in Woodstock instead of Guelph suggests that he might not have had his mother's approval.

His profession is given as "salesman," suggesting that he had followed his father, probably at Taylor-Forbes. For reasons unknown, he was not assigned to overseas duty and signed up a second time in Toronto in June, 1916. His record notes that he suffered and attack of diphtheria in March, 1917 and so was not sent overseas until October of that year. He then seems to have suffered at attack of chicken pox in Britain, which further delayed his deployment to France until May, 1918.

There, he joined the 78th Battalion (Winnipeg Grenadiers) as a Lieutenant. On 2 Sep 1918, he was shot through the right leg just above the knee. The location near Dury and the date suggests that he was taking part in the Battle of the Hindenberg line, the Allied offensive that eventually brought about the defeat of the German army.

He was evacuated to London for treatment and rehabilitation. The wound was quite profound, and he was returned to Canada only in September, 1919. There, he was fitted with a knee brace but continued to have significant difficulty walking, which, I imagine, persisted for the rest of his life.

By the time that Hyde returned to Canada, his mother and sister had relocated to 123 Glasgow Street (north), where he and other family members remained for the rest of his life. The house remains there today, a classic Royal City residence made from local stone (dormers are a recent addition):



Hyde evidently decided on a change of career. Instead of resuming his job in sales, which may have been difficult, given his injury, he pursued a career in music. Specifically, Hyde joined the Presto music club of Guelph and began training and performing as a baritone. A short survey of his ambitious training is given in the Toronto Globe (15 Sep 1927):

His many friends will be interested to learn that Hyde Auld, Canadian baritone, is now studying in Paris with Jean Perier of the Opera Comique. During the past season Mr. Auld has been much in demand in and around New York for private musicales and soirees, and in November will make his European debut in Paris. Arriving home in December, Mr. Auld will be available for engagements in January, February and March. He then returns to Paris, going later to Italy.
His first performance that I have found is in Toronto under the tutelage of James Campbell-McInnes of that city in December, 1921. It seems that he wasted little time upon his return to Canada.

Hyde performed both classical works and folk songs. For example, he sang "Duna" and "The old road" at the grand re-opening of the Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute (Mercury, 8 Nov 1923). A notion of what this performance sounded like may be gained from the singing of "Duna" by the baritone Thomas L. Thomas in 1956:



(Courtesy of Youtube.)

On 8 May 1929, Hyde performed on a broadcast of the Imperial Oil hour on CKGW Toronto, a radio station based at the King Edward Hotel (Globe). While the Imperial Oil Symphony Orchestra played, Hyde sang "Ich liebe dich" by Grieg. (How many oil companies have symphony orchestras today?) Hyde was one of several performers on the program.

That he sang in German suggests that Hyde did not hold a grudge. This attitude seems to be confirmed by the fact that Hyde later visited Munich, Germany for advanced study in his field (Globe, 6 July 1935). One wonders what he thought of the Nazis then in power there.

Besides being a well-known Canadian baritone, Hyde took an interest in teaching. He had become a member of the Ontario Educational Association by 1939, when he is listed as a sponsor of the seventh annual concert of music students of Ontario, given in Massey Hall in Toronto (Globe, 12 April 1939). Later records give his profession variously as musician, vocalist, and music teacher. By 1957, he is listed as "retired."

James Hyde Auld died on 6 November 1981 at the age of 90 years. Although not as well-known as the Royal City's most famous tenor, Edward Johnson, Auld deserves to be remembered for his achievements in the national and international music scenes, all accomplished in the face of significant adversity.

Of course, the Xmas tableau would not be complete without mention of some significant events of the season in 1904.

On Dec 5, Mr. John Gordon of Nassagaweya lost his left leg below the knee after being run over by a train at the C.P.R. station (that is, the Priory). The Mercury explains that the event occurred on the passenger platform as Mr. Gordon jumped on and off the train as it pulled in (5 Dec). He slipped and his leg went under a wheel. The loss of his services, the article notes, would be a "serious drawback" to his wife and six children and their work on the farm.

The Street Railway (that is, the streetcar) provided free trips on Dec 13 to celebrate the installation of its battery system. The purpose of the system was to provide for more efficient use of power in driving the streetcars, as explained by Mr. Rufus N. Chamberlain, of the Gould Storage Battery Co. of Depew N.Y.:

The surplus power produced by the steam driven generator when the cars are in operation or at a standstill, as they all are at the ends of the line, or on St. George's Square, is stored, and when extra power is required for pulling cars, freight and passengers from the C.P.R. station or up the Brock Road (now Gordon Street) hill to the Agricultural College, it is drawn from the storage battery.
The principle is much the same as in hybrid engines today. Curious passengers could tour the giant battery jars in the power house behind the streetcar barns at the end of the Waterloo Avenue.

My favourite Xmas gift advertisement is for a new-fangled, Bissell carpet sweeper as available from G.B. Morris's hardware store, located at 22 Lower Wyndham Street (now the site of Lutherwood Employment Centre). Morris had opened the store in 1889 and sold it in 1906 when he became manager of the Royal Bank.


What wife wouldn't appreciate the gift of a modern carpet sweeper?

As usual, pupils in each school were allowed to show off their accomplishments. For example, pupils in Miss Rose's drawing and woodworking class in Alexandra School (next to Central School) displayed their handicrafts (Mercury, 22 Dec):

On the blackboard was the suggestive quotation from Michael Angels: "Trifles make perfection but perfection is no trifle." The motto for the term was: "Not good enough but as good as you can do." This was suggested to Miss Rose by the pupils asking frequently in connection with their work, "Is that good enough?"
...
The pupils in the senior fourth classes were restricted to key racks, match scratchers and calendar backs, and marvelous as well as beautiful were the results, some combining all three purposes in one model.
Good enough!

The usual winter recreational opportunities were open, including skating at the Street Railway rink (behind the car barns on Waterloo Avenue) and on the Speed Open Air Rink, that is, the Goldie Mill pond, with the entrance off Perth Street (now Arthur Street North).

On Dec 31, the Elliott Home was officially opened by the Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario, Mr. William Mortimer Clark. The institution was funded by the estate of Mr. George Elliott as shelter for the poor, old and infirm. The original plan was to call it by the customary name, "The Home for the Friendless." However, as the Mercury noted, such a dreary name seemed out of keeping with the times. It suggested "Fairview," a sunnier name that reflected the building's high perch in the middle of Delhi Street, which then overlooked an array of bucolic farms to the north. In the end, "The Elliott Home" stuck.

Unfortunately, the old Elliott Home was demolished in 1965 to make way for an expansion of the General Hospital, but that is a tale for another time.

Guelphites in general, and young Master Auld in particular, looked forward to a happy new year, as desired for him by his nice, new postcard.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

The Brills of Guelph

Postcard collectors know that the back of a postcard can be as interesting as the front. Just as the front may provide a picture of people, places, and events, the back of the card may provide a window on the life of its sender or addressee. That is the case with the card below:


The card shows the interior of Yeates & Thomas Confectionary Store, better known as the Kandy Kitchen. The Kandy Kitchen was a popular candy store, ice-cream parlor, soda fountain, and eatery located on Lower Wyndham Street. Although the business closed in the 1930s, the building remains today at 27 Wyndham St. N., home of Kwik Kopy.



rych mills briefly described the business in a recent Flash from the Past column.

As noted, the story for this post begins on the back of the card with the following message (25 Oct 1910):

Dear Sir:—Just a few lines to let you know that our furniture arrived all O.K. except a few scratches which could not be helped. We have the car unloaded in the house. 43 Richardson St. // Leo Brill
The postcard was addressed to Mr. J. Feathers of Owen Sound. So, who was Leo Brill and why was he bringing his furniture to Guelph?

The answer takes us back into the early history of the Royal City.

Leo Brill was a grandson of James Thomas Brill, a native of Aylesbury in Buckinghamshire, England. Born in 1828, James and his wife Louisa and son George emigrated to Canada West (as Ontario was then known) in 1855. The 1861 Census shows them living in St. Andrew's Ward, Toronto, where James was a grocer. Evidently, the Brills took a liking to the Royal City and relocated there sometime in the next few years.

Once situated, J.T. Brill entered the dairy and pork packing trades, founding the Wellington Packing House. The business prospered and, indeed, became an international concern. In 1876, J.T. Brill had a new building erected to house the work, a building that still stands at 21 Gordon Street (Couling 1996, p. 28):



We can get a sense of how the business worked in those days from a later reminiscence published by an old-timer in the Mercury (22 Feb 1948):

On the north corner there, that big stone building once housed one of the Royal City’s most prosperous business establishments. Dressed hogs were brought here by farmers from miles around and shipped to buyers throughout the country. In those days there were no abbatoirs or packing houses and the farmers killed their own hogs and sold them here. It was strictly a winter business, for the carcasses kept better in the cold weather. I can remember seeing hundreds of sleighs and wagons standing in line waiting to be weighed and unloaded.
It is interesting to imagine how this building would have looked surrounded by a crowd of wagons and sleighs, heaped with dressed hogs.

Farmers would bring their dressed hogs to the market square, where the new city hall stands today. Buyers like J.T. Brill would inspect them and purchase those they liked, which the farmers then delivered. A sense of the scale of this enterprise can be gained from the following report (Globe, 14 Dec 1868):

Pigs are not a bad institution, says the Guelph Mercury, when a man runs a mill. On Thursday, Mr. John Armstrong, Eramosa, brought to market 64 hogs of his own feeding, weighing over 18,000 lbs. He sold them to Mr. Brill of the Wellington Packing House, for $8 per cwt, realizing for the lot about $1,500.
In 1875, Brill bought 72,000 lbs. of butter in Fergus, shipping the lot to Britain in seven train car loads. In 1880, he purchased and shipped three car loads of butter and six car loads of eggs to South Africa. In 1885, he and other investors formed the Ontario Dairy Company, to consolidate their varied dairy interests.

As his business grew, J.T. Brill took prominent roles in civic life. He was a long-time member of the Guelph Board of Trade, predecessor to the current Chamber of Commerce. He was an official with the Ontario Creameries Association, and an alderman (think City Councillor) in 1884 and 1885.


(James Brill, courtesy of James Brill & Sharon A. McDonald of Teeswater, ON.)

He died at the age of 91, whereat his obituary notes that he was a member of St. George's Church and Society, which had presented him with a "handsome St. George's jewel," a Past President of the Speed Masonic Lodge, and "an ardent Britisher at all times" (Mercury, 16 Sep 1919).

George James Brill, son of James Thomas, was an employee and, likely, a partner in his father's business. Like his father, George took an interest on local politics, serving as an alderman for St. James's Ward in 1900. He was also active in the local Liberal party.

Unlike his father (so far as I can determine), George enjoyed sports, especially curling. His name arises frequently in lists of curling teams participating in local and regions competitions. For example, a team called the Grain Buyers, in which he played lead, defeated a team from the Mercury by a score of 12 to 11 in what was considered a well-played match in front of many spectators (Globe, 4 Mar 1892).

For reasons that remain unclear to me, George and his family departed for Cleveland, Ohio in 1902. Perhaps he inherited his father's need to strike out on his own.

The story continues with William Peter Brill, one of George's sons, born in Guelph in May, 1874. Like his father, he also had the peripatetic gene. On March 11, 1894, he married Minnie Evans in Lynnville, Norfolk County (near Simcoe). His profession is listed as confectioner. This skill is likely one that he learned in connection with this father and grandfather's dairy business.

The 1901 Census finds Mr. and Mrs. Brill, along with sons Leo and Clarence, living in Owen Sound, where William continued as a confectioner. Evidently, the gravitational pull of the Royal City was too great, and the family relocated to Guelph. Leo's postcard suggests that they arrived in October 1910 and took up residence at 43 Richardson, a charming duplex that remains in the same place today:



The postcard also suggests that William had already lined up a job at the Kandy Kitchen as a confectioner. He remained with the Yeates & Thomas firm, later the Royal Dairy, as a superintendant for the rest of his career.

If William delighted the children (and adults) of Guelph with candy and ice-cream, his own children became noted and important members of the community. His two older sons, Leo and Clarence joined the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) during the Great War.

Leo Keith Brill left his job as a watch maker and joined up on 28 Jan 1916. By July of the same year, he arrived in France as a Bombardier with the 11th Brigade of Canadian Field Artillery. He was transferred to the 9th Brigade in 1917 upon reorganization of the CEF. On 22 Aug 1917, he was wounded in a gas attack near Camiers. Despite recuperating from the attack, Leo continued to experience headaches, double vision, and a burning sensation in his eyes. He was declared medically unfit for duty and returned to Canada, arriving in Halifax on 7 July 1918.

Not long after the end of the war, Leo emigrated to the United States, ending up in White Plains, New York, where he got work as real estate agent. It may well be that the damage to his vision meant the end of his career as a watch maker, prompting him to make a fresh start elsewhere.

Like Leo, Clarence Brill was a young watchmaker in Guelph. He had inherited the family love of sport, having done well in events organized by the Guelph Cross Country Run and Road Association (Globe, 1 Nov 1910). Also like Leo, Clarence signed up for the CEF on 28 Sep 1915. He arrived in France as a Gunner with the 11th Brigade of the CFA in July 1916. He was also transferred to the 9th Brigade in 1917. He appears to have served out the war without major injuries and was returned to Canada in March 1919.

By the end of the year, Clarence had also emigrated to the United States, finding work as a watchmaker in Brooklyn, New York.

The younger two of William Brill's boys, Evan and Earl, were too young to serve in the war and, perhaps not by coincidence, remained in the Royal City afterwards.

The best-known of the pair was Evan. Like his older brothers, Evan Brill assumed the trade of watchmaker. However, he was mainly known for his passion and prowess for hockey. As soon as Guelph resumed placing a junior team in the Ontario Hockey Association (OHA), Evan was "in" (Globe, 3 Jan 1921). In his history of local hockey, Harold Cole describes Evan Brill's style in this way (1971, p. 5):

He was not at all the free skating smooth type of player. It was his terrific drive and utter fearlessness that commanded the respect of all his team-mates, to say nothing of his opponents. Older Guelph hockey fans will recall his drives down the ice, during which, rival players cutely attempted to tangle their sticks in his flying skates, only to see him take to the air and leap over the wood which was intended to stop him.
Somewhere along the line, Evan earned the nickname "Chesty", so that his name often appears as "Evan (Chesty) Brill" in later discussions of him. The origin of the nickname is not clear.

Perhaps the apex of "Chesty's" career was in the 1932 season during which he played for the Crescent-Hamilton Athletic Club in Brooklyn, New York. The team was a minor professional team within the Eastern Hockey League.

I cannot help but wonder if Evan was considering a move to the U.S., maybe to join his brother Clarence as a watchmaker in Brooklyn. For whatever reason, things did not work out that way and Evan returned to Guelph, where he continued to play local hockey. In 1934, he was a member of the "Hall's Red Indians", sponsored by Halls' Service Station located, as luck would have it, at 23 Gordon Street, just across Nottingham Street from the old Brill pork and dairy building (where the Drop-in Centre now stands). The team won the Guelph League hockey championship (Globe, 14 March 1934) and is pictured in a team photo standing behind their trophy:


(Courtesy of Guelph Civic Museums, 1985.61.1)

Chesty Brill is the fourth player from the left. Here is a close-up:


(Thanks to Kathleen Wall and the Guelph Civic Museums.)

Evan Brill retired from hockey as a player in 1938 (Globe, 15 Feb 1938) but continued to support the game. Most notably, he was one of the organizers of the Guelph Biltmores O.H.A. team known as the "Mad Hatters," when it was reinstituted in 1947.

Like his grandfather George and great-grandfather James, Evan was elected a city alderman in 1949 (Globe, 4 Jan 1949). However, he was unable to assume office. As a sponsor of the Biltmores, Brill had an interest in a concession contract that the City was negotiating with the team. Regulations forbade city aldermen from having such conflicts of interest. Certainly, it speaks to Chesty Brill's priorities to learn that he resigned immediately as alderman.

It is also worth noting that Evan Brill was very successful in the watchmaking trade. In 1948, Brill became the sole proprietor of Savage and Co., a jewelry business founded in Guelph in 1848, and where Evan and his brothers had learned the trade (Mercury, 22 Feb 1948). Brill decided to keep the name Savage & Co. as this remained well-known to Guelphites. The business was located at 21 Wyndham Street North, today the location of Dino's Athletic Direct and just two doors down from the old Kandy Kitchen location where his father and brothers had worked.



Certainly, there is much more that could be said about Evan Brill but it is time to move on.

Earl Brill's early career was quite similar to his older brother, Evan's. He was a particularly good track athlete, winning the overall honours at the Guelph Collegiate and Vocational Institute (GCVI) in both 1923 and 1924. In 1924, Earl set three GCVI records in his category for the 100-yard, 220-yard, and 440-yard dashes. He won the shot put event, and came in second in the pole vault and running broad jump (Globe, 4 Oct 1924).

Like Evan, Earl took to hockey like a duck to water, playing in the Royal City's junior leagues often on the same side as his older brother. He was a good player and played alongside Evan with the Crescent-Hamilton Athletic club in Brooklyn in the 1932 season. At some point along the way, he was dubbed "Curly" Brill, perhaps in honour of his hair, to distinguish him from Evan, and because "curl" rhymes with "Earl", I presume.

Curly had his jaw broken from being hit in the face by a puck shot up the boards (Globe, 5 Jan 1933). It may be no coincidence that I have not found much information about him after that date. It appears that he moved to Toronto in the next few years, perhaps to continue as a watchmaker there.

In addition to Leo, Clarence, Evan, and Earl, William and Mary Brill had two girls, Vida and Wilma. It is always harder to follow the careers of women in the usual records, which tend to concentrate on men. However, I can report that Vida had her moment of local fame when she was crowned the "Queen of the May" for Guelph (Globe, 12 May 1922). She was crowned in a ceremony at the Armouries by Lieutenant-Governor Cockshutt, who decked her with a garland of roses and bestowed upon her the golden sceptre of her office. Most likely, the ceremony was a toned-down version of those carried out in the Old Country, like the following one at Knutsford:



Keeping with tradition, a maypole dance followed on the grounds, under the Queen's supervision. Perhaps it looked like this:



Wags and sceptics may find this procedure outlandish and medieval but I say: If it helps enhance the harvest, then we'd better bring it back!

The next year, Vida married George Brydges and relocated to Toronto.

I am sorry to report that I know very little about Wilma except that she remained in Guelph and unmarried until the death of her father William (Mercury, 29 Dec 1944). It was not an unusual custom at the time for one daughter of a household to remain unmarried and at home to look after her parents and family. That role may have fallen to Wilma. By 1960, she had removed to Woodstock.

The story of the Brills of Guelph is of interest in its own right, as the family has been a part of the life of the Royal City for much of its history. It also illustrates how the historical memory of a place can be revived and illustrated by little things, such as the postcard that Leo Brill dashed off to let friends know that his family was returning to its old haunts, bringing its old furniture, and continuing its part in the life of the city.



Wait! Guelph also had a bonus Brill! James Thomas's second son, Samuel, moved from Guelph to Teeswater to manage the Teeswater Butter Factory that his father had bought in 1879. There he married and raised a family including Louisa Brill, born in 1910, who was thus a cousin to William.

The Public accounts of the Province of Ontario show that Louisa was an "instructress" at the Macdonald Institute in Guelph, first listed in 1942 and continuing until at least 1964. The OAC/OVC 1947 Yearbook provides a nice picture of her, standing in the doorway of the Institute with some of her colleagues:


Louisa is on the lower left.

Louisa was an instructor in home economics, a core subject of the Institute. Evidently, she was a good instructor as several of her pupils won accolades for their accomplishments (Globe, 3 Feb 1959):

A proud teacher and victorious student made a triumphant return to Macdonald Institute, Guelph, last Friday, after Anne Heslop emerged as Canada’s champion cherry pie maker. This was the fourth time that Miss Louisa Brill, of the Institute staff, had chaperoned an entrant, when regional winners have met in Toronto in the annual final baking competition.
Anne Heslop gives much of the credit for her success to her home economics teachers—Miss Brill at “Mac,” and Miss Winnifred Walton of Weston Collegiate, where she had her earlier training.
After her retirement from the Institute, Louisa Brill returned to southern Bruce County.