Wednesday, May 31, 2017

World War Wednesdays: "Fine and Dandy:" Letters Home from Ellis Sifton

Postcard sent home by Sifton showing soldiers in their Recreation room, which he captioned "Our Recreation rooms look alright don't they," Elgin County Archives
     This week's post was intended to be a follow-up to last week's look at H. W. Cooper's drawings, with a focus on some of the letters in his First World War correspondence. Unfortunately, I was unable to clearly view the letters in order to transcribe them, so we'll have to get a rain check on that one, but I did come across some other correspondence in Elgin County Archives that became another jumping off point. While Ellis Sifton's letters home were in a similar hard-to-read format, they are summarized and contextualized quite nicely by Ted Barris in his book Victory at Vimy: Canada Comes of Age: April 9-12, 1917. I thought I'd include an excerpt from that and intersperse it with some fascinating images that aren't often shared from Ellis's life.

"Unlike many of the others in the 18th Battalion, Ellis Sifton had not received much mail during that first week of April. In fact, when he wrote to his sisters a few days before the attack, he noted that 'there have not been any letters from you people for about ten days.' L/Cpl. Sifton had written to members of his family several times a week from the moment he enlisted in October 1914 and left the family farm near Wallacetown, Ontario, right up to his arrival at Vimy. In training at Wolseley Barracks in London, Ontario, he proudly announced to his sisters, Ella and Millie, that he'd scored twenty-six of thirty-five in target practice, 'third place in our company' and that army life 'seems more a dream than anything else.' He dashed off fourteen letters and six postcards during the battalion's transatlantic crossing, posting them when he arrived at Sandling Camp. 'If the people of Canada realized how serious it is over here,' he wrote, 'they would wake up and do about three times what they are doing.' And he applauded his British hosts because they 'all have a smile for the boys from the maple leaf.'

Photograph from the Sifton family album with handwritten caption on back, "Flash Lawrence Ellis took it," Elgin County Archives
By the fall of 1915, L/Cpl. Sifton was return-addressing his letters according to regulation 'Somewhere in France' or 'Somewhere in Belgium.' He began most letters saying he was 'fine and dandy,' even when the cold, mud, and lice from living in trenches and dugouts could barely be tolerated. He even sugar-coated his references to battalion casualties with 'but we must expect that.' Most of the following year, his 'C' Company of the 18th Battalion worked in reserve in Belgium and France, as Sifton himself helped with the transport horses, wash wagon detail, handling ammunition, and running rations to the forward battalions- what he called 'bomb-proof jobs.' 
A group of people with Ellis Sifton identified in the front row,Elgin County Archives
Sifton's letters reflected his own experience and that of the Canadian Corps soldiers around him. One moment he chafed at Prime Minister Robert Borden's delay in legislating conscription and the next entreated his family to send a coat, gloves, and boots to fend off the elements. Naturally, when the young lance corporal saw French farmers seeding or haying behind the lines, he longed to be doing the same at home in southwestern Ontario. But most of all he hoped 'that the courage will be mine at the right moment if I am called upon to stare death in the face.'
Ellis Sifton's New Testament, with a photo of St. Peter's Anglican Church, Tyrconnell, Elgin County Archives
In the new year at Vimy (he didn't identify where he was), Sifton explained he had suddenly been returned to his old company and had rejoined 'a few of the originals that are left. There have been so many changes.' As gently as he could describe it, the winter weather had turned severe, the regimen more strenuous and despite his hopes of getting a respite in England or Scotland, all leave had been cancelled. The 18th Battalion had served eighteen months in Europe, and though his sisters did not know it, their brother was about to go over the top for the first time against the enemy. In the letter he wrote lamenting no mail just before Easter, as he waited for final assembly in the Zivy Subway, Ellis signed off with the best news he had. 'Do not be anxious if you do not receive any news, as it is not always convenient to write. This is a very short scribble... Good night. Love to all from your loving brother Ellis W. Sifton.' And he added, 'P.S. They have promoted me to sergeant.'..."
Postcard sent home by Ellis Sifton with photo of World War One soldiers in uniform at the changing of the guard. Ellis Sifton is in the photo. Verso: "The old and the new guard. I am in the old guard. This is a picture of my first guard at this camp. June 3rd, 1915. Can you find me? I have forgotten if I sent one home or not," Elgin County Archives
Sifton went over the top with his Western Ontario Battalion in the 2nd Division sector not long after the opening barrage. His commanders had received a call for relief from their sister regiment- the 21st (Eastern Ontario) Battalion at the Black Line. It had taken 106 prisoners, but had also sustained 215 casualties in reaching the next German line of defence. Buoyed by his field promotion to sergeant just days before, Sifton advanced quickly to help reinforce the 4th Brigade's push to Les Tilleuls. But even the fresh troops of the 18th began taking casualties from the German strongpoints. Just 100 yards from the objective, a leading officer in 'A' Company, Lt. W. J. McLean, was killed. Soon after, Lt. P. Jordan had to take over 'B' Company when it lost a commanding officer. Meanwhile, a hidden machine gun had pinned down the men in 'C' Company, including Sgt. Sifton.
Letter from King George V accompanying 1914 - 1915 Star, Elgin County Archives
Between gun bursts, Sifton decided to act alone. He suddenly dashed forward into the enemy trench and overthrew the gun, before its crew could react. He turned on the gunners with his bayonet, killing or wounding every one of them. When a group of Germans charged Sifton from further down the trench, he fended them off by wielding his bayonet and rifle as a club. Sifton was soon supported by other 'C' Company infantrymen. Together they beat back the German counterattack. In the hand-to-hand fighting, however, a wounded German soldier managed to pick up a rifle and shoot Sifton dead.
The twenty-five-year-old farmer from Western Ontario, who had brooded over his own fate, wondered in letters home whether 'courage will be mine at the right moment if I am called upon to stare death in the face,' had found the courage. And though he had died in the rush, Sifton had, in the words of the Victoria Cross citation, 'saved many lives and contributed largely to the success of the operation.'" (76-121)
Photograph from the Sifton Family Photo Album. Photo of family members visiting Memorial at Vimy Ridge bearing the name of Ellis W. Sifton, Elgin County Archives
I hope this post provides a bit of a different glimpse into Sifton's life as we honour the hundredth anniversary of his death this year. Barris's research and book lends some unique insight into his personality and the details of his final weeks, and I recommend checking out this and his other work.
     Thanks for reading, 
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Friday, May 26, 2017

Family History Resources

This week I thought I would share some online resources that I subscribe to for tips and tricks when researching genealogy.  
Image result for ontario genealogical society logoFirst you should become a member of your local branch of the Ontario Genealogical Society.  The OGS sends an email to their members each Saturday filled with lots of articles, upcoming workshops and more.  Local branches usually have a monthly email and a meeting, usually with a speaker.  I suggest joining your local branch and maybe the one or two where you are currently researching.  Most branches have members only resources you can access to assist with your family tree.  Here's the link to the Elgin County Branch.     

Image result for british home child group international logoYou may have an ancestor who was a British Home Child, sent to Canada between 1869-1948.  Join the British Home Child Group International which is free.  Here's a link to their latest newsletter.  Find out how the BHC system worked (or didn't in some cases) and view the database and see if one of your ancestors is there or should be there.

Image result for ancestry logo  Are you a user of (or .com)?  I highly recommend watching their YouTube videos especially for the monthly What's New at Ancestry.  They add new features on a regular basis and it's important to know what those are because it could help you break through a brick wall.  My favourite YouTuber in this area is Crista Cowan, the Barefoot Genealogist.  Just search "Barefoot Genealogist" and watch whatever videos come up.  You will learn so much, but don't get caught up in binge watching.  Watch one or two and put that knowledge into action, then come back for a couple more.  I believe she works for or with Ancestry so she is a great resource.

Hope these three ideas assist you in your research.  Don't forget that we have an archives here at Backus-Page House Museum, along with a small library and the holdings of the West Elgin Genealogical & Historical Society.  All these are available during regular operating hours or by appointment.
- Angela Bobier, Cultural Manager

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Dutton Events May 27, 2017

Backus-Page House Museum will have a display at the Dutton Child Care Centre with information about our summer day camps and pioneer toys to play with.  

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The First World War Chronicles of H. W. Cooper, Part One

H. W. Cooper ca. 1917, Elgin County Archives
     I recently came across a vast repository of some remarkable pen and ink drawings from the First World War in the Elgin County Archives, and wanted to do a bit of a different post that would allow me to include as many of them as possible. Each one provides a unique glimpse into life during the First World War and the Canadian soldier's experience, and it is fascinating to see these snapshots of moments in time through the artist's perspective. It's not immediately clear how ECA became the home of so many of these valuable records, but we're lucky to have them in safe keeping close to home. Here is ECA's biography of artist H. W. Cooper, 1893-1976:
As a child, Herbert W. Cooper lived with his family in Australia, where he attended boarding school and worked in a mining camp. At some point he emigrated to Canada where, preceding and during the first two years of the First World War he served as a Quarter Master Sergeant and military recruiter at a military depot in Toronto, while also working as a freelance illustrator and writer for Macleans magazine.
In 1916, Cooper was posted to active war service in Europe as a non-commissioned officer with the Canadian Expeditionary Force, serving as a Transport Staff Sergeant with the mounted ambulance corps in Belgium and as a Quarter Master Sergeant in France.
In January, 1918, Cooper was assigned to the Topographic Section, Intelligence Branch, Canadian Corps Headquarters, France, where he worked constructing scale models in clay of the Canadian front lines, based on maps, aerial photographs and other materials.
In July, 1918, Cooper returned to front line duty, first with the Royal Flying Corps (R.F.C.) and then with the Canadian Corps Survey Section working as an observer, flash spotter and document runner.
From December, 1918 to January, 1919, Cooper was posted to Canadian Corps Headquarters in occupied Bonn, Germany and was then transferred to Jodoigne, Belgium, where he served until early April, 1919 when he was transferred to the Canadian War Narrative Section (CWNS), Canadian Corps Camp, Bramshott, Hants, England.
In June, 1919, Cooper was transferred with the CWNS to Ottawa, Canada. His letters indicate that he planned to continue serving with the CWNS until early autumn, 1919, when he intended to seek his discharge papers and relocate to New York City to seek work in “the advertising business” as a copy writer/ illustrator.

     Further, here is their description of the collection of Cooper's records:
Fonds consists of pen and ink drawings and letters depicting scenes of daily life involving the Canadian Expeditionary Force in France, Belgium and Germany during and immediately after the First World War. Includes descriptions and images of Albert, France; Neuville St. Vaast, France; Notre Dame de Lorette, France; Lievin, France; Ypres, Belgium; Camblain L'Abbe, France; Mont St. Eloi, France; Andenne, Belgium; Bonn, Germany; and Cologne, Germany; as well as descriptions of Cooper's work with the Canadian War Narrative Section in Bramshoot, Hants, England and Ottawa, Ontario in 1919.

     Without further ado, I will let these works speak for themselves:
Church and Statue, Albert, France, ca. 1916-1917
Soldiers at Rest and Play, ca. 1916-1917

The Most Comfortable Spot on a Winter Night, ca. 1916-1917
In the Underground Y.M.C.A., ca. 1917
Some Signs on a Street Corner- Lievin, France, ca. 1917
Artist Acknowledging Gift of Socks, ca. 1916
Scenes in Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1917
French Kids Doing Homework in an Estaminet, ca. 1917-1918
Refugees, ca. 1918
Sentry Guarding German Prisoners of War, ca. 1918
     I hope you enjoyed these fantastic works and their realist portrayals of the people and places we read about so often in First World War history. If you're interested in seeing more, check out @HWCooper510199 on Twitter to see more of the drawings, and stay tuned for next week's discussion of Cooper's wartime letters!
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Monday, May 22, 2017

Happy Victoria Day

from all of us at Backus-Page House Museum and Tyrconnell Heritage Society!

We're open today from noon-4:30pm for museum tours.  Adults $5, children $2

Thursday, May 18, 2017

May 20 & 21 The Road to Culloden A Scottish Living History Event

Don't be an Outlander!  Join us at Backus-Page House Museum this weekend for new battles and surprises.  Meet Bonnie Prince Charlie and his loyal Jacobites!  Visit Colonel John Campbell and an historic Sutler's Tavern.  Food available for purchase.  Museum open for tours with the new I Am Canadian exhibit on the second floor and wood stove cooking in the back kitchen.

No debit on site, but credit card available for gate and food upon request.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The First World War Munitions Industry in St. Thomas and Beyond

Female workers making munitions at St. Thomas Metallic Vaults plant, St. Thomas, ON, during the First World War, Elgin County Archives
     Something I feel like I haven’t written much about so far is the industrial aspect of war and how the Elgin County area was implicated by manufacturing demands. I was a bit disappointed to find that there really isn’t much written on this topic in the local context, and hope to see some more resources in the future. This week, I’ve compiled what I was able to find in terms of the First World War! 

     To begin, I think it's of interest and importance to mention the state of hydroelectric power in Ontario at the time that the war broke out. As an example for all my local readers, the town of Dutton did not get hydro until August 1915, and was the first municipality in the province to receive its power by using the existing telephone lines along the Pere Marquette Railroad. When that was achieved, Dutton became the 121st municipality in Ontario to get hydro. Thus, hydroelectricity in the area was in its infancy at a time when it was on the precipice of its greatest possible demand. Great Britain had declared war on Germany on 4 August 1914 (automatically including Canada as well), and as an historical record compiled by Entegrus observes, "To manufacture weapons of war, munitions factories needed ever greater amounts of power, The demands made on the Hydro Electric Power Commission system increased enormously."

     According to a pamphlet compiled from government records called "Shell and Fuse Scandals: A Million-Dollar Rake-off," "The history of the war shows that the British Government was quite unprepared, at its outbreak to furnish the necessary supply of munitions. Realizing this- strenuous efforts were made to manufacture quickly large quantities of shells to cope with this situation and the enormous reserves which Germany had for years piled up. Shells were of vital importance; shells meant protecting the lives of our Canadian and British soldiers. Shells were the one thing that was needed."

     The pamphlet also observes that "The Canadian Government was asked to assist in the manufacture of shells and were given an initial order of 200,000. The Government appointed a shell committee composed of four military and four civilian members [the Dominion Shell Committee]." recognizes that "having a strong industrial base was as important as having good men at the front. Furthermore, Sam Hughes, Minister of Militia, impressed upon the Dominion Shell Committee that all components of the shells to be used on the front be produced in Canada." However, the process of awarding manufacturing contracts was more complex than would be expected. The site highlights that industrial contracts for munitions production "were very difficult to come by as there was a very strict set of conditions and standards that had to be met, but again, the demand was for locally produced munitions." Contracts were secured through the efforts of local politicians and Boards of Trade, who had to impress the Dominion Shell Committee and Minister of Militia. 

     At that time, the city of St. Thomas was among a group of similarly-sized municipalities for manufacturing and industry which included Stratford and Guelph, which were cited as examples of 'organizing cities' whose wartime industrial production secured a viable economic future that would carry on into peacetime. 

     Elgin County Archives holds only one accessible example of a wartime munitions factory in St. Thomas, though I am sure there are others. This is the St. Thomas Metallic Grave Vaults Ltd. plant, which was located at 155 Curtis Street, on the northwest corner of Curtis and St. Catharine Streets (now the site of the St. Thomas Police and Administration of Justice Building). A publication by the Elgin County Board of Trade and Publicity Association from around 1930 describes the peacetime purpose was for the factory: "The St. Thomas Metallic Vault Co., in their large two story brick building, are making vaults of a new type for inclosing [sic] coffins for interment, which are burglar proof, the demand for which is growing apace." Here are some photos of the interior of the factory when it was producing shells for the war, ca. 1917:

     There is very little information regarding that period in the factory's history besides these images, or the rest of its operation. A St. Thomas Times-Journal article published February 18, 1961 was captioned: "St. Thomas Metallic Industries Ltd., a direct subsidiary of H.A. Astlett & Co. (Canada) Ltd. has been sheet metal fabricators in St. Thomas for over 49 years. The principal items manufactured being "ST. THOMAS" metallic grave vaults which are produced in various sizes and distinctive colors. In recent years other products such as roofers' maintenance kettles, road maintenance equipment, portable torches, salamanders, and steel door frames have been fabricated for municipalities, contractors and railroad companies. Equipment for the tobacco industry has also been made and custom machining done for local industries." 

     Please let me know if you have any more details to help me fill in the blanks! 
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

World War Wednesdays: Glow: The "Radium Girls" During and After WWI

Employees of the U.S. Radium Corp. paint numbers on the faces of wristwatches using dangerous radioactive paint. 
  I'd like to thank my sister Lexi for bringing this week's topic to my attention, and hope you find this tragic story as interesting as we did.

     Beginning around the turn of the century in America, the chemical element radium was popularly seen as a scientific miracle that could cure a variety of ailments, including cancer, upon ingestion of the so-called "liquid sunshine." Because the magical substance glowed and fizzed, the radium craze saw its application in numerous other capacities, most notably in the production of glow-in-the-dark wrist watches. During the teens and the First World War period, the watches were largely manufactured for the U.S. military due to their obvious benefit in trench and combat conditions, before the 1920s gave way to their popularity as a hot new gadget among civilians.

     The watches were manufactured in factories across America owned by the U.S. Radium Corp., which were predominantly staffed by working-class young women. Bill Kovarik describes the production conditions and process: "Racks of dials waiting to be painted sat next to each woman's chair. They mixed up glue, water and radium powder into a glowing greenish-white paint, and carefully applied it with a camel hair brush to the dial numbers. After a few strokes, the brushes would lose their shape, and the women couldn't paint accurately." He quotes former employee Grace Fryer: "'Our instructors told us to point them with our lips,' she said. 'I think I pointed mine with my lips about six times to every watch dial. It didn't taste funny. It didn't have any taste, and I didn't know it was harmful.'" The workers were thus regularly ingesting the radium as part of their job, which reflects how harmless it was thought to be at the time. In addition, they would even paint their nails and teeth with it to surprise their boyfriends when the lights went out.

     Continuing with Grace's story, Kovarik describes how she came to realize that her time working with the glowing substance proved detrimental to her health:
     "Grace quit the factory in 1920 for a better job as a bank teller. About two years later, her teeth started falling out and her jaw developed a painful abscess. The hazel eyes that had charmed her friends now clouded with pain. She consulted a series of doctors, but none had seen a problem like it. X-ray photos of her mouth and back showed the development of a serious bone decay. Finally, in July 1925, one doctor suggested that the problems may have been caused by her former occupation. As she began to investigate the possibility, Columbia University specialist Frederick Flynn, who said he was referred by friends, asked to examine her. The results, he said, showed that her health was as good as his. A consultant who happened to be present emphatically agreed. Later, Fryer found out that this examination was part of a campaign of misinformation started by the U.S. Radium Corporation. The Columbia specialist was not licensed to practice medicine -- he was an industrial toxicologist on contract with her former employer. The colleague had no medical training either -- he was a vice president of U.S. Radium."

     The Corporation was thus an active conspirator in the illusion of radium's harmlessness, and we know today that it was fully aware of its dangerous side effects as recognized by scientists at the time. As with all significant historical moments, the intellectual and moral conditions of the time played a major role in the outcome of Fryer's and the Corporation's story. The realization that her health issues were related to the circumstances of her former employment coincided with the latter portion of the Progressive Movement in America, when intellectuals and activists undertook the effort to cure societal ills that had been brought about by rapid industrialization beginning in the last quarter of the nineteenth century. This meant increasing professionalization and the proliferation of organizations, in addition to a strong role played by women spearheading those initiatives. In Orange, NJ, the location of one of the Radium Corp. factories, a city health department official brought the New Jersey Consumers League into an investigation of the mysterious deaths of four radium factory workers between 1922 and 1924, who then enlisted other experts to contribute to the study.

     Kovarik describes the lawsuit that followed from the investigation: "Although it meant flying in the face of some medical opinion, Grace Fryer decided to sue U.S. Radium, but it took her two years to find an attorney willing to take the case. On May 18, 1927, Raymond Berry, a young Newark attorney, took the case on contingency and filed a lawsuit in a New Jersey court on her behalf. Four other women with severe medical problems quickly joined the lawsuit. They were Edna Hussman, Katherine Schaub, and sisters Quinta McDonald and Albina Larice. Each asked for $250,000 in compensation for medical expenses and pain. The five eventually became known in newspaper articles carried in papers throughout the U.S. and Europe as 'the Radium Girls.'"

 Clipping from The Bee, Danville, Virginia, 1928
  Another trend that was becoming prominent around the time of the radium girls story and Progressivism was the role of the media in influencing public opinion surrounding news events. A publicity blizzard surrounded the story, led by New York World editor Walter Lipmann, which outraged readers and shifted opinion in favour of the victims while pressurizing the U.S. Radium Corp. to settle the case. Kovarik describes how the story was able to reach French scientist Marie Curie, who had discovered radium: "Curie heard about the reaction and, on June 4, said: "I am not a doctor, so I cannot venture an opinion on whether the New Jersey girls will die. But from newspaper descriptions of the manner in which they worked, I think it imperative to change the method of using radium."Curie herself died of radium poisoning in 1934."

     Eventually, an out-of-court settlement was reached between the Corp. and the radium girls, who received annual payments while they lived and had all medical and legal expenses paid by the company. In addition, a conference endorsed by numerous public officials including Eleanor Roosevelt called for the establishment of two committees: one to investigate existing conditions and another to recommend the best known means of protection for workers. A Public Health Service official, James P. Leake, commended the Consumers League and others who had worked on behalf of public health and worker safety. "By focusing public attention on some of these horrible examples," Leake said, "the broader problems of disease prevention... can be greatly reduced. It was so in the tetra-ethyl lead work." He added: "The martyrdom of a few may save many." Thus, while the five radium girls eventually succumbed to their exposure during the 1920s and 1930s, their experiences set a new precedent for legal working conditions in America in addition to a standard for public health.

     If you're interested in some fascinating further reading, here is an article discussing a radium-exposed factory worker who miraculously lived to be 107 and died in 2014:
     All information courtesy of "The Radium Girls" by Bill Kovarik, which you can read in full here:
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)


Wednesday, May 3, 2017

World War Wednesdays: The Canadian Club of London During Wartime

     Yes, you read correctly, WWW is still up and running! My apologies for the missing post last week. I'm thrilled to be able to say that after a bit of a stressful month, I've wrapped up my undergraduate degree at the University of Ottawa and am looking forward to grad school at Western in the fall. Just before I came back home to Elgin County, I had the pleasure of attending a luncheon with the Canadian Club of Ottawa in the Chateau Laurier ballroom as a representative of the University and the Daughters of the Vote program. By coincidence, I was researching some potential topics for this week and came across some resources for Canadian Clubs closer to home and their wartime transformations. I find the Club very interesting and am always looking for local connections, and I hope you will enjoy both of those elements.

     To begin, here's a description of the club from the London edition's website:
The Canadian Club of London has a long and distinguished history of uninterrupted service in the community since its founding July 31, 1906.  During the past 110 years, the club has been host to more than 1000 Canadian and international leaders who have shared their views with enthusiastic London audiences, making the Canadian Club one of the longest-standing organizations in the city. Each month, from September to June, the club brings prominent Canadians to the city to speak on topical issues of national and international interest in the arts, history, business, finance, education, law and politics.
Meetings are generally held over lunch  and are hosted at the Double Tree by Hilton. Members and guests take delight in spirited engagement with speakers and intelligent discussion. Our events provide outstanding opportunities for networking and engaging with prominent members of the business community in London.
Club membership is open to anyone. Members receive a monthly newsletter giving advanced details of upcoming speakers along with discounted rates on event tickets.
     According to Elgin County Archives, St. Thomas also had a Canadian Club at one time, which featured patriotic programming during the First World War, but I was unable to locate those records in the database. The Elgin County Museum has the Club's minutebook, and its description in the inventory holdings reads that it "raised funds to sponsor the war effort and sponsored lectures on war topics." The entry also mentions that the Club was founded with the purpose of fostering patriotism for the war, so perhaps St. Thomas established its own model of the London version for that specific purpose. This is one of the unfortunate parts of being a historian with questions that aren't always easily answered! Sometimes we just have to go where the material is so we're headed to the big city to look at how the London Club's meetings were affected by both World Wars.
     In the "Our History" section of the Canadian Club of London's website, it appears as though the club did not hold meetings between 1914 and 1918, during the First World War, or there are no records for that period. 1913 saw a "joint meeting with the Women’s Canadian Club" with "Col. Charles R. McCullogh of Hamilton, the acknowledged founder of the Canadian Club movement as the speaker." In May 1919, the speaker was Dr. William Roche, one of Western’s first two graduates and the newly appointed Chancellor for the university.
     During the Second World War, however, the meetings closely reflected the geopolitical conditions at the time. "There were regular speakers from the military as well as representatives of Poland and other countries overrun by Germany and Russia expressing hope their countries would be re-established after the war. A speaker from China in 1942 said his country could win over the Japanese as long as the allies didn’t introduce some kind of “Munich” agreement that would create a withdrawal of support." 
     What is significant about this club is that it brings together a city's leading citizens to discuss important issues and ideas of the day. With such a long history, it is fascinating to see how the speakers and their topics change over time and gain an idea of what the popular opinions were. When the wartime context becomes a factor, those gatherings become even more significant and their messages reflect important concerns and ideas. What historians can take away from such sources as meeting minutes and summaries from clubs like this is what types of speakers and themes were being included in the programming in order to understand what the popular opinions of upper class urban residents would have been at the time. 
     Information comes from Elgin County Archives and the Canadian Club of London website. Stay tuned in the next few weeks for some exciting local history posts, it's that time of year when I come home and things get local!
     Thanks for reading,
Delany (@DLeitchHistory on Twitter)

Monday, May 1, 2017

Museum Visitors Meme Monday

Image result for museum memes

Backus-Page House Museum is different!  We let you touch, open, sit on and explore about 80% of our collection.  You need to visit us to find out and we open TOMORROW! 
Regular operating hours begin May 2, 2017.  Tuesday to Friday 10am - 4:30pm; Saturdays, Sundays and Holiday Mondays 12:00pm - 4:30pm.  All other times by appointment 519-762-3072
Admission $5/adult, $2/child.  Group rates for 6 or more adults $3/adult.