1900s


We’ve been packaging up some of the artefacts that the Archives has inherited over the years. This little medicine bottle caught my eye, because of its slogan, which seems ahead of its time:

Omega Oil, It's Green

The appeal of this particular snake oil was its greenness, apparently. A bit of Internet digging surfaced a wonderful website called The Quack Doctor, which has a fascinating article all about Omega Oil, featuring advertisements for the product (it was good for corset pains, for example) and some of its history. Well worth a read!

Cole family sleigh-ride - 2010.27 (7a)

This festive photo was one of a small collection recently donated to the Archives by Bev Boomhour. It shows members of the Cole family on a sleigh ride. Bev remembers the sleigh, but doesn’t think she ever rode in it herself.

We’d like to take this end-of-the-year opportunity to thank all our donors for bringing or sending their historic materials into the Archives. We’ve had over thirty donations of photographs and other items this year. A particular vote of thanks goes to those people who gave their time and memories to the oral history component of our ‘About Deseronto’ project this year.

We’re still looking for more memories (and photos) of living, working and growing up in the town, so if you are willing to share them, please head over to the About Deseronto site and let us know what Deseronto means to you!

"One of the first steam autos"

This image is from a scrapbook that was compiled in 1904 (Accession 2010.08). The scrapbook contains many clippings from Montreal and Toronto papers relating to sporting events and teams. This cutting shows a reproduction of a painting of “one of the first steam autos”. The text reads:

The vehicle was built by Mr. Rickett, of the Castle Foundry, Buckingham, and was shown to Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in the early part of 1860. It had a 10-h.p. two-cylinder engine. The weight was 30 cwt., and with a full load-water 12 cwt., coal 3 cwt., and passengers 5 cwt. – the gross weight was 2 tons. On good roads sixteen miles per hour was attained. The tank held ninety gallons of water, enough for a ten miles’ run. The consumption of coal was 8 to 10 lbs. per mile. Of the two hind wheels one was engaged by a clutch, so that, when disengaged, they permitted the vehicle to turn in its own length without stopping. It is curious to contrast this vehicle with the touring cars of to-day.

The “cars of today”, when this article was written in 1904, being vehicles like this Ford Model A with a top speed of 28 mph (45 kph).

Ford Model A

Image from LaertesCTB on Flickr.

…then the Archives’ Flickr account is now worth a cool one million!

Today we uploaded our one thousandth photograph to Flickr. This milestone means that nearly every photograph held in our small collection is now available to view by anyone with access to the Internet. This is a huge step forward for us, as physical access to our resources is limited to our public opening times of six hours a week. Now they are available every day of the week!

One of the most exciting parts about our Flickr experiment has been the willingness of other people to share their historic photographs and objects through this medium. A fair proportion of the items in our Flickr pages are held outside of the archives. We are very grateful to the owners of those materials for their permission to share them with a wider audience.

Sharing our photographs on Flickr has been beneficial in other ways. Often, Flickr users have been able to add valuable information which has improved our knowledge of the items within our collection. Just yesterday, we received a helpful comment on this image:

HMR1-09-36: 'Tin Can Cathedral' Ukrainian Orthodox Church, Winnipeg

The only information we had about the church originally was a caption written by Harold McMurrich Rathbun, the photographer, which read “Old Greek Church, Winnipeg”. A Flickr user recognised the church as the ‘Tin Can Cathedral’, a Ukrainian Orthodox church which was situated at the junction of King Street and Stella Avenue in Winnipeg. This was North America’s first independent Ukrainian church. Another view of this church can be seen in the collection of the Glenbow Museum. That photograph shows a cupola on the roof of the church, which was missing by 1907 when Rathbun took his photograph.

This is just one example of the power of sharing our images on the Internet. With the help of other people our descriptions become more accurate and more people become aware of the interesting things we hold. Things that would once have required a determined effort (and a trip to Deseronto) to find out about. A million thanks!

Canadian Bank of Commerce, Gowganda, 1909 (HMR2-09-61a)

In an earlier post we described Harold McMurrich Rathbun’s trip by steamship and railway across the prairies to Edmonton. Two years after this excursion, the 31 year-old made took a 41-day camping journey into the wilderness of north-eastern Ontario (what is now Timiskaming District). In 1909 the area was busy with prospectors and miners as silver deposits had been discovered in Cobalt in 1903.

By 1908 silver was also being mined in Gowganda.1 Rathbun’s photograph above was therefore taken in the very early stages of the settlement of this town. It shows the Canadian Bank of Commerce’s Gowganda branch which was of sturdy log construction, in contrast to the other, more insubstantial structures depicted here. The building behind the bank has the words SILVER and THEATRE on it, suggesting that the prospectors and miners were not short of entertainment in those early years. Rathbun also took a photograph of Baxter’s Hotel, which appears to have been very newly-constructed. There were no Baxters listed as living in the area in the 1911 census, so perhaps this was only a short-lived enterprise.

Baxter's Hotel, Gowganda, 1909 (HMR2-09-61b)


1 Petruk, W. et al, ‘History of the Cobalt and Gowganda area’, The Canadian Mineralogist, December 1971; v. 11; no. 1; p. 1-11 (scanned copy available from the University of Arizona [PDF format])

In the summer of 1907 Harold McMurrich Rathburn took a trip across Canada from Deseronto to Edmonton. He took his camera with him and Deseronto Archives holds the negatives that Harold made. Luckily, the negatives were kept in two albums which were indexed by their owner, giving us useful information about the subjects of each shot. His journey took him first by steamer from Owen Sound to Port Arthur (now Thunder Bay). Below is the view of the American Soo Canal that he shot from the deck of the Canadian Pacific Railway’s steamship Alberta near Sault Ste. Marie.

"Entering American Soo Canal"

"Entering American Soo Canal"

Harold and his companion, Harry Jones, seem to have made some business-related visits while in Port Arthur. The picture below shows them standing with another man in front of an elevator which belonged to the Canadian Northern Railway. At this time, the Rathbun Company ran the Bay of Quinte Railway in Deseronto and surrounding areas, so this visit might have been related to the company’s railway interests.

"Harry & H.M.R. at C.N.R. [Canadian Northern Railway] Elevator"

"Harry & H.M.R. at C.N.R. Elevator"


The two men continued their journey on the Canadian Northern Railway which had reached Edmonton two years previously. Harold took photographs of a number of buildings in Winnipeg and Edmonton and also several snapshots at Warman Junction in Saskatchewan, including this charming photograph of a group of men watching a boy with a gopher.

"Boy with gophir"

"Boy with gophir at Warman Jct."

We are gradually digitizing all of the Harold M. Rathbun negatives and many of them are now available on our Flickr pages.

Many archivists and local historians view their environments through an historical filter. We see what is there now, but there also is a strong awareness of what was there before. The view below is of the junction between Main Street and Mill Street in Deseronto as it appears today.

Main Street and Mill Street

Main Street and Mill Street

People with a strong awareness of the town’s past cannot help but look at this view and imagine how it looked with the buildings that were there 100 years ago:

Main and Mill Streets, c.1900

Main and Mill Streets, c.1900

One might think that this is just a quirk of historians and archivists, but recently, through our Flickr account, we became aware that other people have this habit of looking at townscapes with this past-filter in place. In this instance, the point of view is that of a railway enthusiast: one who has spent a lot of time imagining the town with its early twentieth century railways and industrial sites still functioning. Not just imagining, either: this particular enthusiast has re-created the town in this image, in the form of a railway simulation.

In his words:

Deseronto Spur- This is roughly 8 miles long and will be the first part of the route that I will finish. It will be modeled as a dilapidated branchline serving several industries in the town of Deseronto. …I have tried to make it as accurate as possible… Some of the industries here will include a frozen food cannery, a steel fabricaton plant, an agricultural co-op, team track, and a lumber yard.

This information has been taken from a publicly-available web forum, which is how we became aware of this work, as the author, Jason Sills, has used images from the Deseronto Archives Flickr account to assist him in his simulation. He has created this simulated railway with tremendous attention to detail and has shared many screenshots of the line on the forum. We don’t have a contact email for him, so if you are reading this, Jason, please get in touch and let us know whether you object to us sharing your work!  In the hope that Jason won’t mind us sharing his pictures here, we are using the image below to demonstrate what he has been doing:


This picture, showing a train heading east, imagines that the Bay of Quinte Railway line is still in existence on the south side of Main Street in Deseronto, with the present-day Centennial Park in the background, next to the waterfront. The Archives has a photograph of a steam locomotive heading west along the same stretch of track in the days when the Bay of Quinte Railway was still running:

Steam locomotive heading west

Steam locomotive heading west

Jason has shared a large number of screenshots on the Train-Sim forum and it is a really intriguing mixture of imagination, creativity and history. Particularly since Jason is 15 years old and having to cope with a fair amount of school work as well as this project. Thanks to Jason for sharing his simulation and for acknowledging the Archives as a source of useful information!

In the early twentieth century the Rathbun Company had numerous industrial interests in the town of Deseronto which developed from the firm’s lumbering business in the late 1800s. Two of the Rathbun’s (perhaps) less well-known ventures were the experimental farm and gardens either side of Boundary Road at the eastern edge of the town. This newspaper advertisement, taken from the edition of The Tribune published on this day in 1903, shows some of the range of plants available for purchase from the Company’s gardener (the aptly named Mr Potter).

One of the images we added to the Archives’ Flickr account last week was this view of Deseronto’s waterfront, looking west from Mill Street:


The name of the vessel sitting on the marine railway is tantalisingly almost visible (click on the image for a larger version), but not quite. Are there any experts on Great Lakes vessels out there who can help us to identify this ship? The photograph is not dated, but is likely to have been taken in the first decade of the twentieth century. It is part of the Floyd Marlin collection, which was donated to Deseronto Archives by Sally and Wally Vick.

POSTSCRIPT: The vessel has been identified by Deseronto historian, Ken Brown, as the Armenia, one of the ships belonging to the Deseronto Navigation Company.

An appeal in the latest edition of Deseronto News and Views for historic images of the town has enabled the Archives to scan in a collection of old postcards that were lent to us by R.N. Goodfellow, a local resident.

This lovely coloured postcard of the Independent Order of Foresters’ orphanage on Foresters’ Island is one of these images. The orphanage was built by Dr. Oronhyatekha, a famous Mohawk who also had a house on the Island. (And one in Tyendinaga. And one in Toronto (he was a very successful man).) It opened in 1906 but closed in the following year: the year of Oronhyatekha’s own death.

« Previous PageNext Page »