Tuesday 28 August 2018

The Glengarry Light Infantry

          During the Napoleonic Wars (1799 – 1815) the British Government created regiments known as ‘fencibles’ for home service. These fencibles began in 1803 and were created as temporary units used to protect British interests throughout North America. These fencibles were only meant to serve in uniform within Canada and not be deployed over seas. Each regiment was assigned their own unique uniform in order to distinguish themselves from the British Army’s red uniform.0

          The Glengarry Light Infantry was raised in 1812 by Alexander MacDonell of St Raphael’s. This group was made up of men throughout glengarry county, who would serve in Upper Canada and Glengarry. Their uniforms were distinguished by dark green coats and pantaloons, accompanied by a black cap with a green plume and 3 lines of silver buttons displayed on the coat. The Glengarry Fencibles participated in battles at Ogdensburg, Sackets Harbour, York, Lundy’s Lane and Cook’s Mills. The regiment was later disbanded in 1816.

          The museum has in its collection a badge from the Glengarry Light Infantry. This badge made of brass and reads “Glengarry British Fencibles” on the front. It belonged to Captain James MacMillan from the 9thof Lancaster. Captain MacMillan served in the 1st Glengarry Fencible Regiment and served in both Europe and Upper Canada with the British Army. It was donated to the museum by Rev. Somerland MacMillan of Scotland.

           If the military history of Glengarry and the fencibles that accompany it spark your interest, be sure to attend the museum’s 1812 Living History Re-Enactment! On September 29th and 30th join us for displays of military and civilian camps, daily battle re-enactments, and many great artisans and tradespeople. Its sure to be a weekend of 1812 excitement!

Wednesday 22 August 2018

Corn Harvesting

With the Harvest Fall Festival fast approaching, this blog post will be focusing on the practices and tools involved in the harvesting of corn.

Corn has always been an important crop in farmers fields creating not only a food source for humans and animals but for food production and bio-fuel as well. It has become a staple food and energy source with its production surpassing that of wheat or rice today; Canada alone produces over 10 million metric tonnes of corn per year. However, corn wasn’t always produced in such mass amounts; before the days of industrial farming and the equipment that accompanies it, all corn harvesting was done by hand with tools from the museums collection.

When harvesting time arrived in the fall, the corn had to be removed from the stalks by hand, this brought about the invention of the husking peg. A husking peg is a small wooden spike, used through mid to late the 1800s, that would be hand held or attached to the hand with a leather strap. This peg would be pushed under the husk of the corn and pulled downwards, ripping open the husk. The corn could then easily be pulled and cut from the stalk. Once all corn was harvested, the kernels would then need to be separated from the cob, this could be done by hand or with the use of a corn sheller. A corn sheller is a machine in which a single corn cob is inserted, and a wheel is turned stripping the cob of kernels. The kernels are then emptied from the bottom while the bare cob is removed from the side. These were common tools on a farm having been used from as early as the 1840s until the 1950s.

Since harvesting corn required so much effort for the small yield, work bees would often be organized to combine the work with others. These bees were often held in the evening and would be accompanied with games and music. Piles of harvested corn ears were arranged in the center of the room and people make it a competition to see how many ears of corn they can husk. These activities not only raised crop output but community morale and relationships as well.

As this year’s harvest season approaches and gardens bloom with their produce, keep the Fall Festival on September 9th in mind as we are looking for always appreciated donations. If you would like to donate preserves, baked goods, produce, or plants, please contact Barbara Newman (613-678-6845) or the museum directly.

Wednesday 8 August 2018

Hair Wreaths and Recievers

This week’s featured artifact at the museum is our hair wreaths and a receiver box.

Hair art traditions date back as far as the 12th century, however, it was during the 1800s that this tradition became increasingly more popular. This popularity came about due to two events: the American Civil War and the passing of Queen Victoria’s husband Albert in 1861. During wartime, thousands of mourning families wanted a way to respectfully honor their dead, this brought about hair collecting. Queen Victoria took to wearing all black until her death and wore a piece of hair jewelry with Alberts hair to accompany every outfit. This display made public mourning a socially acceptable practice. Later, this practice became not only a sign of mourning of those passed but as a gift of affection for current loved ones as well.

Hair of deceased as well as current loved ones would be collected in a hair receiver until enough was gathered to create an item of jewelry or a wreath. These receivers were often decorated wooden or porcelain boxes with holes in the top to collect the hair and often kept prominently on a dresser.

Once collected, the hairs were woven around wires and bent into intricate designs often including flowers and leaves. Hairs of the most recently deceased would be placed in the middle, with the other hair pieces following around the wreath. Wooden or glass beads, ribbons and buttons were also included in the designs. Hair wreath designs are often horseshoe shaped, used for good luck, and placed upwards in order to catch luck for those represented in the wreath.

When completed, the hair wreaths would be displayed in a prominent position in the household or given to loved ones as gifts. See attached photos of one of our collections’ hair wreaths and a receiver.

Wednesday 18 July 2018

The Rolmonica

     This weeks featured artifact from the museums collection is the rolmonica. The rolmonica, or mouth organ, was a revolutionary musical instrument that combined the technology of a harmonica and a self playing piano. This instrument was invented by Joseph Le Roy Banks and patented in 1925. The mouth organ used dry waxed paper rolls with specific perforations representing different notes that could be heard when air passed through them. 

     To play, the user would simultaneously blow into the mouthpiece and turn the crank allowing the prepared tune to be heard. The tune could be played on both the inhale and the exhale allowing continuous playing.The user also had a diverse choice in the prepared tune as many different rolls were available; almost any popular song of the time could be found on a rolmonica roll!

     At the time, a rolmonica could be purchased with a set of four song rolls for between one and three dollars; every extra song roll cost about 50 cents. The rolmonica became a very popular household item as it was portable, relatively inexpensive, and required no musical talent to operate and enjoy!

This rolmonica was made by the Rolmonica Music Company of Baltimore, MD. The body of the instrument was made in the USA while the harmonica piece was made in Germany. It was donated to the museums collection by Mrs K. E. MacLeod of Dunvegan. 

Sunday 8 July 2018

Featured Artifact - Climbing Spurs

This weeks featured artifact is a pair of iron climbing spurs from the Museums collection.             
          Climbing spurs were most often used by 19thand 20th century loggers to scale trees. These spurs are blacksmith made and consist of one strip of folded iron and have a sharped spur at the end.

          The spurs were attached to the foot and ankle using leather straps and were often worn with high boots to protect the leg while climbing. The climbing spurs were also used in conjunction with a flip-line (loop) that is passed around the tree and attached to the climber’s belt – a safety feature that allows the climber to work freely at height and prevents the risk of falling. 

          During a logging operation, the high climbers (often the bravest men) would scale trees for ‘topping’ which is a process of cutting down the tops of trees to make for easier felling - removing the top ensured the fall to be safer and more wind resistant. To complete this, high climbers would scale a tree up to 200ft high and then cut down 75ft or more off the top. Once cut, the climber had to hold on tight because the tree would sway up to 20ft in each direction from the impact of the fall! The climber would then make their way down the tree and begin cutting the log from the bottom with the rest of their logging group. 

For a great illustration of this amazing process make sure to watch the video below!

Wednesday 4 July 2018

The McCrimmon Querns

          A quern (kwərn) is a simple hand mill used for grinding material consisting of two circular stones. The stones have notches in them for wooden handles to be placed allowing the upper stone to be rotated on the lower one. The most common use for a quern was for the grinding of grains to make flour for bread-making. This was considered a highly important tool as the daily bread of all families would depend on them. Whomever owned a pair would be highly respected in the community as most communities would only have one pair, so it was to be shared amongst everyone. As the querns became more popular implements, they would eventually be modernized to being animal powered for large quantity milling until more efficient flour mills powered by steam and wind replaced them.

          The museum has a pair of quern stones in its collection that have quite the history for a simple tool. These querns are made of a specific kind of metamorphic stone only quarried in Argyllshire, Scotland where they originated. These stones originally belonged to William Dubh Mackenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth, and were used at his camp to provide sustenance for his regiment in the Battle of Kintail, 1715. Querns were incredibly serviceable in military campaigns as quick bread or bannock could be made on site for the men, its said that the grains could be reaped, prepared for mill, ground and baked in bannock all within a half an hour! The querns were then used by a McCrimmon in a 1719 military campaign in Strascuile, Ross-shire, having much of the same function.

      They were then passed down the McCrimmon family until they reached Catherine McCrimmon as a part of her dowry when marrying Malcolm McCuaig. The couple emigrated from Glenelg, Scotland to Glengarry County in 1802 where they used them often in their pioneering life. They later gifted the querns to their son Angus McCuaig who kept them in his possession for over 75 years. The grandnephew of McCuaig then donated them to his alma mater of Queens University for their personal museum. Today, the querns, are housed at the Glengarry Pioneer Museum thanks to the efforts of Donald Fraser, Lynn McNab, and Peter Zuuring.

          Journeying from Scotland all they way to Glengarry County, these querns definitely carry a part of very important history with them wherever they travel.

Thursday 21 June 2018

The Stereograph

Underwood&Underwood Stereoscope

This week’s interesting artifact blog post features a set of stereographs from 1901 with accompanying stereoscopes. The stereograph was the 19th century predecessor of the Polaroid. To use, two almost identical photographs were mounted side-by-side, the left photo represents what the left eye would see, as well as for the right. A stereoscope was used by looking through two lenses which contained mirrors or prisms to alter the view of the photograph. When observing the photos through the stereoscope the photos will converge into a three-dimensional image – an amazing illusion for anyone of that time.
Trondhjem, Norway. 1902. 

By the late 19th century the stereograph was so popular that it is said that they could be found in every Victorian home - regardless of class. The stereograph became the first ever mass-produced photographic image. They could be bought alone or in sets ranging from inexpensive card mounted photographs to more costly types such as those mounted on glass or porcelain.

  The Museum has a large collection of these stereographic photos, all of which are from the Underwood and Underwood company circa 1901. Underwood and Underwood, established in 1882, was the largest publisher of stereographs in the world, producing 10 million prints per year. The company produced many prints with varying themes and location, they later introduced boxed sets with themes such as travel, education and religion. Photographers also became in high demand during this time to travel the world and provide new and unique prints for the company. Overall, the Underwood and Underwood company produced 30,000-40,000 titles before discontinuing production in 1920. 

Coney Island, USA. 1908.  

Friday 8 June 2018

Artifact of the Week - Equestrian Bits

During the 1800’s, horses were relied heavily upon for travel as well as work. Having proper equipment for them was incredibly important. The design and creating of these bits was the responsibility of the blacksmith. Bits were most often made of iron as it was more freely available and easily molded into the designs required. When making these bits, two techniques were most often used: hand forging or casting. Hand forging is a process in which metal is heated to very high temperatures or red heat and then beaten or carved into shape using various tools. Casting is a process in which the chosen metal is melted down and poured into a mould.

The Glengarry Pioneer Museum has a large collection of antique equestrian bits, all made of iron but with many different uses that we will explore in this post. Our first grouping of bits was used primarily for general riding or working on horseback. They are primarily a snaffle style bit meaning a bar with a hoop at either end for the reins to attach to. These bits could either have a jointed or mullen (straight) bar for differing control: jointed bits provided more control but are considered slightly more severe while mullen bits tended to be a more gentle mouthpiece. The bars could also be made from twisted iron, which created an incredibly severe bit - they are no longer made today.

Our second and larger group of bits were primarily used for driving horses; these would have been used for pulling carts, carriages and farm equipment such as plows. Driving bits must have cheekpieces on the outside hoops to prevent the bit from slipping through a horse’s mouth while working. Large pieces or bars on the outside of the mouth also allowed for more control as you could turn the whole head more easily. Most driving bits involved a half cheekpiece (bar on one side of the hoop) as it allowed for more control without the bar getting caught in the harnesses or reins when driving. These bits could be custom made for the kind of control one needed: bits can create pressure in places such as the bridge of the nose, chin, corners of the mouth, roof of the mouth, tongue and poll (the area behind the ears), allowing the bits to be personalized for not only the horse but the rider as well.

Modern bits are still used and made in many of the same ways and styles, however, very few are made from iron anymore: they are made from lightweight and rustproof metals such as stainless steel, nickel and copper.