Happy National Tartan Day!

Tartan Day, taking place annually on April 6, has become a popular celebration of Scottish culture and heritage in Canada. Tartan Day can be celebrated by wearing Scottish attire, such as the kilt and sporran, performing Scottish Country Dance or Scottish Highland Dance, or eating traditional foods like haggis and black pudding. The term “tartan” denotes a pattern made up of different squares of colours. Traditional tartan clothing is made from wool and the pattern represents a particular clan, or family. Canada has a Maple Leaf Tartan, as well as each of the provinces and territories having their own tartans (excluding Nunavut).

Tartan Day was formally motioned by the Federation of Scottish Clans in Nova Scotia on March 6, 1986. One of the members, Jean MacKaracher-Watson, approached every provincial Legislative Assembly in Canada to promote the adoption of this day. Tartan Day was officially proclaimed provincially on April 6, 1987 in Nova Scotia and from 1991-1995 it was adopted in Ontario, British Columbia, Prince Edward Island, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, New Brunswick, and Newfoundland and Labrador respectively. Quebec proclaimed the day in 2003, 16 years after its beginning in Nova Scotia.

Many early settlers in the Crowland area were Scottish immigrants and United Empire Loyalists who arrived in the 1700s. These immigrants were involved in farming and also built and operated grist and lumber mills. The names are recognizable in Welland history: Bald, Goodwillie, Rose, Ross, and McAlpine to name a few.

One of the early CFUW Book Sales

Women of Welland Virtual Tour

Day 6: Helen Doris Howell and the Royal Canadian Army

Howell Family Practice - North-East Corner of Bald & Frazer Street

Dr. Helen Doris Howell was born in Welland on January 29, 1898. Her parents were Julia Reekie and Dr. J. Harrison Howell. Doris was one of the first women to practice medicine in Welland, having graduated as a medical doctor from the University of Toronto in 1926. She practiced at the family residence on the north-east intersection of Bald and Frazer Streets with her father, a building which still stands to this day and is pictured above. She carried on the family practice until 1938.

Dr. Helen Howell volunteered to serve overseas with the Red Cross in 1939 as World War II began. On May 7, 1943, she enlisted with the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, serving in Canada and Britain. She was awarded the Defence Medal and the Canadian Volunteer Service Medal in 1943 for the 18 months she spent as a volunteer outside of Canada. She was discharged from the Medical Corps on March 31, 1945.

Dr. Howell returned to medicine after the war, working as a pathologist and bacteriologist with the Government of Ontario Laboratory in Toronto. She passed on June 30, 1990 at the age of 92.

Day 5: May Bell Bald and Women’s Education

Margaret Langley, May Bell Bald and Ella Gardiner.

May Bell Bald was born in the early 1860s into a prominent Welland family. Her parents were Jane and William Archibald. Her father worked for the company responsible for construction of the Welland Courthouse. He was appointed Welland County’s coroner in 1856 and reeve in 1862. He was also a member of the first town council upon Welland’s incorporation as a village. The Bald family played an incredibly important role in the shaping and growth of Welland as we know it today.

May Bald graduated from Welland High School in 1878, just before the construction of the new Welland High School in 1879. After graduation she taught at the high school until 1884, under headmaster Mr. J. M. Dunn. Education was transforming during the 1860s and 1870s, with the 1871 Ontario School Act legislating free and compulsory elementary schooling for all people, as well as the formation of many Public School Boards.

At the time, women were not permitted to attend post-secondary classes with men in Ontario. The number of women who demanded to pursue a university education was growing so in June 1877 the University of Toronto opened its entrance exams to women. Even though women, such as May Bald, were admitted to the university they were still not permitted to attend classes with men and had to hire expensive private tutors and study on their own. Bald did well in her private studies, passing her first year at the University of Toronto in 1880. In 1884 an Order-in-Council was approved by Lieutenant Governor John Beverley Robinson to allow women to attend University classes with men.  Letitia Catherine Salter was appointed as Lady Superintendent for women students at the University of Toronto. Bald joined eight other women at the university on October 6, 1884 and graduated in June of 1885 as one of the first five women to receive a Bachelor of Arts degree from University College at the University of Toronto.

Bald went on to become an assistant teacher in July of 1885 at the Essex Centre High School in Western Ontario. She eventually moved to New York City to lecture at Columbia University and then at a private girls’ college. She passed away in New York in 1937.

Day 4: Plymouth Cordage: Industrial Nursing and the Grummet Department

Grummet Department - Plymouth Cordage - WWII

Plymouth Cordage was a staple of Welland growth beginning with its construction in 1905. Being close to the United States border and with both the Welland Canal and railway close by, transportation was integral to the decision to open the factory in Welland. Plymouth Cordage grew with the community, instituting their pre-existing housing and welfare policies from their original factory in Massachusetts which encouraged employment. Although wages were less competitive than other industries in Welland, company housing rentals and house purchases near the factory were a great benefit, as well as having company provided tradesmen to do repairs to the homes.

Industrial nursing became one of these unusual benefits. Industrial nursing was not a common practice in Canada, so when Plymouth Cordage set up its First Aid Department in 1905 Olive Bradley became the first industrial nurse in Canada. Bradley spent a month in Plymouth observing the current practices of the company. This position required treating daily cuts and scrapes, as well as providing house calls for any employee with ailments who lived within city limits. Every year the nurses provided chest x-rays and check-ups to an average of 6,000 employees. Bradley remained at the company for 32 years, and retired in 1940. Audrey Rice, Emily Jane (Taylor) Hesler, Betty (Livingstone) Tipney, Mary (Curtin) Kilgour, Rossie Rossie, and Charlotte Summersides each followed Bradley in the role of industrial nurse until at least 1947. We do not have record of who was in the position of industrial nurse in the years at Plymouth Cordage before its closing in 1969.

In addition to employing women in first aid roles, women were also instrumental during wartime at the factory. Although Plymouth Cordage’s operations were integral to the war effort, there were periods during both the First and Second World War when production faltered due to a lack of employees. Immigrants were brought in several times to sustain production but, due to xenophobia, this was met with distrust and anger in Welland.

Production demands during World War II led to women being hired in large numbers at the factory. The Grummet Department, in the image above, was located in the “Tying Twine” building and employed over a hundred women at various peaks. Grummets were made from short pieces of rope spliced into a circle. These grummets fit around different sized shell cases and prevented shells from bumping each other during shipment. Sadly, these positions at Plymouth Cordage phased out after the end of the war as men returned to their jobs and production decreased. By 1953, only three women from the closed Grummet Department still had jobs at the factory.

Day 3: Frances Turnbull and art in Welland

Frances Turnbull

Frances Caroline Turnbull (nee Heslop) was born in Port Robinson, Ontario on November 5th, 1900. Turnbull studied at the Albright-Knox Art School in Buffalo as a young woman. She married Andrew Rutherford Turnbull in Welland on July 6, 1927. Turnbull spent most of her life in Welland, moving here in 1910. She had one daughter Deborah Peddle, who worked in performance arts. Her husband passed in 1967. Turnbull passed in a fire at her River Road home on July 22, 1990 in her 90th year.

Friends described Turnbull as a woman of her times, a truly Victorian lady. She continued taking art classes throughout her life and focused her art on painting likenesses. Some of Turnbull’s works were monotypes, portraits she did for others, and landscapes in oil. Her mediums were varied as she used silk screen, oil, water colour, and black and white. She had a showing at Rodman Hall in St. Catharines shortly before she passed away. She gifted many of her paintings to friends and their families. The Welland Museum has a collection of Turnbull’s paintings, although they have yet to be displayed due to the fact many are not framed or prepared for safe display as this is an expense process. Turnbull was also involved in the community during her lifetime. She was a member of St. Andrews Presbyterian Church for over 75 years. She was a founding member in 1921 of the Joan of Arc Chapter of the Independent Order of Daughters of the Empire, which was formed as a children’s chapter and one of the four located in Welland. She was also a fan of golf and was a member of the Lookout Golf and Country Club. Upon her passing the Frances Turnbull Scholarship Fund was set up to present an award annually to a deserving art student in Niagara to further their artistic education.

Day 2: Cindy Rainville and the Welland Sports Wall of Fame

Welland Soccer Club - 469 Rice Road

Cindy Rainville is one of four individuals who received induction into the Welland Sports Wall of Fame in 2020. The ceremony to welcome the 2020 inductions is tentatively set to take place at the Seaway Mall on Sunday, May 2nd, 2021. Rainville was originally a baseball fan while growing up in Welland and spending summers playing at local diamonds. She eventually gave soccer a try at the town’s soccer dome, then located on Rice Road, and fell in love.

Rainville graduated the École Secondaire Confédération with an athletic scholarship to Division 1 University of South Alabama. She has been regarded as “perhaps the greatest player” in the history of the women’s soccer program with a school record for 45 career goals, 30 assists, and 154 shots on net. She pursued a degree in elementary education as well as graduating with a master’s degree in middle school education. The University of South Alabama inducted Rainville into their hall of fame in 2008 and she became the first women’s soccer player at the University to have her No. 2 jersey retired.

Cindy Rainville joins a collection of other women from Welland whose athletic careers have earned them a feature on the Sports Wall of Fame at the Seaway Mall. The wall is managed by the Wall of Fame Committee and Welland Sports Promotion Council. You can read more about Ruby Villard, Donna Pearson, Eleanor White-Pover, and Dorothy Martin Hare in our Sports Wall of Fame Virtual Tour: https://www.wellandmuseum.ca/virtual-tours/

Day 1: Welland and District Unit of the CFUW

Circa 1963 tea with CFUW members

One of the early CFUW Book Sales

The Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW) is a voluntary, self-funded organization focused on improving the status of women and promoting human rights, public education, social justice, and peace. The CFUW was founded in 1919 at the University of Toronto. Its parent organization, the International Federation of University Women – now Graduate Women International, was founded the same year. Over the years, CFUW Units have awarded close to $1 million dollars in scholarships to help women pursue post-secondary education. They have also provided funding and learning opportunities to their members, supported literacy and creative arts, and are commonly involved in community outreach initiatives. As of 2012, the CFUW is the largest of the 61 national affiliates of Graduate Women International.

The Welland and District Unit of the CFUW was started by a group of likeminded women in 1941. They made sure to document their activities and publish them in the Welland Tribune so future generations could follow their legacy. This has provided us with an excellent historical record of the initial chartered members and their actions over the years, which are currently housed at the Welland Museum. In 2016, the Welland and District Unit of CFUW celebrated their 75th anniversary, with an informative display at the Museum.

Today the Unit has 51 active members who meet once a month at Plymouth Cordage Retirement Centre on First Street, prior to COVID-19. Meetings would usually include a guest speaker followed by refreshments and then the official meeting. You may have heard of their popular annual Book Sale which has been running for 50 years. Two of the current members were present at the very first Book Sale ever held. The sale was started in a member’s garage and has grown over the years, now being held at the Niagara Fairgrounds. Proceeds from the Book Sale go towards providing scholarships to a female student in each of the eight Secondary Schools in Welland, Pelham, and Port Colborne. The Unit also provides gift cards and toiletries to Women’s Place, supports a yearly children’s author presentation at local libraries, as well as donates funds for book purchasing.

We are happy to hear that despite COVID-19 the Welland and District Unit of the CFUW has been hosting Zoom meetings when possible. Aside from supporting the local community, the Unit also supports each other and, prior to COVID-19, friends within the group often meet for Bridge or lunch at local restaurants. If you are interested in making a donation to the Unit or joining, you can reach their President, Carol Harding, at harding.welland@gmail.com.

Fowler's Cafe

Restaurant Virtual Tour

Day 3: Tully’s Restaurant

Tully's Restaurant

Tully’s Restaurant was located at 20 Cross Street and opened sometime between 1948 and 1950. The Tulumello brothers, Peter and Michael, owned and operated Tully’s throughout the 1950s. Their other brother Joseph was also involved in the business. Their brother Anthony Tulumello became a dentist with his office located on the same street. Before the restaurant was established, Peter, Michael, and Joe Tulumello were the proprietors of Checker Cabs and United Cabs. While the restaurant was in operation they continued to operate their taxi business, although United Cabs changed to United Taxi.

This image shows the interior of Tully’s in the 1950s. The woman on the left is unknown, while the woman on the right is Zorina Putnik, who later married Dr. Anthony Tulumello. In 1960, Tully’s Restaurant was no longer listed at the address, instead being replaced by Charlie’s Restaurant for a short time and then Colombo Caterers for a year – a business which also featured Joseph Tulumello.

The bar seating seen in this image is iconic of diners in the 1950s and 60s. Diners became popular in the post-World War II period as an easy way to start a small business. As diners were originally wagons, train cars, or trailers, bar seating was used to save room in the small area. Companies even made prefabricated buildings to sell as diners.

*Please note that changes to this tour have been made due to additional resources being provided to the Museum.

Day 2: A&W Riverside Drive

A&W Riverside Drive circa 1960s

The A&W drive-in has an iconic place in North American history that causes many people to reminisce on the golden days. A&W opened its first Canadian drive-in restaurant in 1956 in Winnipeg, Manitoba. A&W drive-ins became much more than just a place to eat. These spots were community hangouts in many towns and also had a large influence with local car enthusiasts. Iconic features, such as root beer served without ice in a chilled mug and the Great Root Bear, helped to make A&W even more popular.

The A&W on Riverside Drive was first listed in the city directory in 1962 and was a popular spot for those in Welland as well as nearby cities. Many people can remember working at A&W, going for dinner with their family, or even meeting their future spouses while hanging around the restaurant. The drive-in on Riverside Drive was also memorable for its feature of “pole sitters” in the 1960s. Pole sitters sat on top of telephone poles or sign poles for extended lengths of time to show endurance. There were records held on the length of time upon the pole, although some of the events were political statements or protests.

The A&W was renovated in the summer of 1976 to become Gillespie Pontiac. Gillespie Pontiac continued on the property, ultimately receiving word of their closure from GM in 2009. The property is currently the site of Welland Honda and some members of the public have claimed that walls of the original A&W building are still within.

Day 1: Fowler’s Café

Fowler's Cafe

Fowler’s Café was located at 145 East Main Street, on the corner of East Main Street and Hellems Avenue. The two story wooden building was built in the early 1900s and was torn down in the 1950s. The corner lot remains empty today, with a large mural of the Welland Club painted on the side of the building next to it.

W. B. Fowler was listed as proprietor of the restaurant in 1917. In 1937, Pearl Fowler was listed as the owner as she had become a widow. Fowler’s Café was sold for $1,500 to a group of partners in the late 1930s and by 1939 was renamed Majestic Lunch. The restaurant then changed to the United Café in the 1940s and remained the same until it was demolished.

We are fortunate to have an original advertisement listing information for “meal tickets” at Fowler’s Café. Meal tickets were popular in the late 1800s and early 1900s with young single workers. These workers would be employed in such roles as store clerks, office workers, or secretary positions. They often lived alone in boarding rooms that did not have kitchens and would frequently dine at local restaurants. Restaurants would sell meal tickets as a week’s worth of meals at a discount. Fowler’s Café sold meal tickets for 21 meals at a price of $5.50, meaning each meal was only around 26 cents. This would be $85.25 in today’s money, with each meal costing $4.03. This would have been a discount from the regular price of the meals. Meal tickets resurged in popularity in post-World War II Europe, as companies offered them as a benefit to employees (they were tax free) and to avoid having to build lunch areas in the workplace.

Ferguson “Fergie” Arthur Jenkins

Black History Month Resources

Ferguson “Fergie” Arthur Jenkins

We wanted to share some local resources for exploring Black heritage and notable community members. Check out these virtual collections!

Ferguson “Fergie” Arthur Jenkins is a Canadian former professional baseball pitcher who played Major League Baseball (MLB). Jenkins was born in Chatham, Ontario in 1942.He started his major league career with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1965, going on to pitch for the Texas Rangers and the Boston Red Sox. He played the majority of his career for the Chicago Cubs and retired while with the Cubs in 1983. With 284 career wins, Jenkins has the most wins by a Black pitcher in major league history. He was the first Canadian to be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1991, the first Canadian to with the Cy Yound Award, and was made a Member of the Order of Canada in 1979. In February of 2011, Canada Post issued a postage stamp honouring Jenkins for Black History Month.

Jenkins is well known for his baseball career and he is also a great supporter of humanitarian efforts through sports. The Fergie Jenkins Foundation was formed in 1999 and supports a long list of charities and fundraisers in North America. There is a Fergie Jenkins Museum through the Foundation, located in St. Catharines, ON. The Museum supports Black History and explores Jenkins’ career moments. You can take a virtual tour of the Black History Museum on the Fergie Jenkins Foundation website: http://www.fergiejenkins.ca/site/home

Norval Freeman Johnson was born at the turn of the century and was a valued member of her Niagara Falls community. She was a dedicated volunteer and member of the Cancer Society of Niagara. Johnson taught music and directed the Sunday School Choir at the Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel in Niagara Falls – which is a designated National Historic Site on the Underground Railroad. She single-handedly kept the Church in operation at times during its history.

Named in her honour, the Norval Johnson Heritage Library was opened next door to the Nathaniel Dett Memorial Chapel in March of 1991. The Library holds over 1,500 volumes on Black-Canadian History. The collection was re-located to the St. Catharines Public Library in 2009 and is accessible to the public through appointment, with the contents of the collection listed online at https://www.myscpl.ca/index.php/local-history/norval-johnson. There is also a virtual collection online titled “Remembering Niagara’s Proud Black History” which provides photographs, original documents, and stories on local notable people. The online collection can be accessed here: https://www.communitystories.ca/v1/pm_v2.php?id=story_line_index&fl=0&lg=English&ex=659&pos=1.

Did you know there is an Ontario Black History Society (OBHS) dedicated to the study, preservation and promotion of Black history and heritage in Ontario? The OBHS, established in 1978, is a non-profit registered Canadian charity currently working to build a Black History Museum in Toronto. The OBHS offers scholarships, lectures on Black History, and looks to celebrate Black heritage. One of their most recent campaigns focuses on the minimal amount of Black History found in Canadian history textbooks. If you are looking for historical background, educational resources, or information on membership you can find it on their website: https://blackhistorysociety.ca/

Black Agency Throughout History

Black History Month is a time to celebrate the legacy of Black Canadians in our community. However, it can be a difficult task when these community members have not always been given opportunities for representation.  Agency is a term many historians, and sociologists, come across when researching people – both individuals and groups. In terms of people, it means to look at their ability to take action and make their own free choices. In a sense, it is how people express their power. Different factors, such as ethnicity, can affect people’s agency.

Museums in areas with smaller Black communities may have trouble presenting the lives of those who helped shape the community. As we mentioned in our previous Black History Month blog post, Black communities in Niagara grew, especially during the 1850s due to the Fugitive Slave Law in the United States which allowed bounty hunters to search the Northern States and return runaway slaves. Programs were started in Niagara to support those who came to live in the area. Although they were free from slavery, they did not escape prejudice, racism, or discrimination here in Canada. These communities faced violence, had difficulty securing jobs, weren’t able to fully participate socially, and much more. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, many returned to the United States to support the Northern Union. Black communities in all of Niagara shrank considerably in size.

Welland was home to a small Black community throughout the area’s development. Jim Wilson, featured in our last blog post, was an escaped slave who lived in Welland for many years and started a family here. Mr. Wilson did not return to the United States, and was interviewed by the Welland Tribune in the early 1900s due to his notable life story. The fact that he stayed in the area and was here to be featured in the newspaper is the only reason we have as much information about Mr. Wilson as we do.

Mr. Wilson and other Black community members were also mentioned in passing in letters from their employers at the McCabe House. Unfortunately, those community members were never mentioned by name, and we do not have a list of these employees. One of Mr. Wilson’s children, William “Billy” Wilson, was noted in Welland’s history as he became a master mechanic working for the Robertson Machinery Company. He opened his own machine and general repair shop on North Main Street in the early 1900s. Unfortunately, his shop was not listed in City directories at the time so it isn’t possible to follow his shop’s history.

There are many other examples of gaps in Black history due to the lack of physical resources and stories. Important Black leaders and community builders were not always noted in print and their history has faded as families moved away from the area, effectively cutting off the ability to carry on their oral histories as well. Although the Welland Museum has pieces of research and photographs featuring Black teachers, business owners, politically minded community members, and more – the information is minimal and often came with a focus on others in the photograph or information. To ensure we preserve this history for the future we need help from our community. If you have any items, photographs, research, information, or family stories to share with us to celebrate Black community members please reach out and leave us a message at 905-731-2215 ext. 2775 or email us at info@wellandmuseum.ca.

Black History Month

To begin our celebration and commemoration of #BlackHistoryMonth we want to take a moment to reflect on the difficulty many people faced when making the historic and dangerous journey to our community. The Welland Museum’s travelling exhibit, “Passage to Freedom: Secrets of the Underground Railroad,” explores some of those journeys. Normally our exhibit is on loan to other museums for their visitors to enjoy but this year, like everything else, it has stayed in Welland and we are able to feature some of it virtually for the community.

The Underground Railroad was an informal network of people who assisted slaves escaping to Northern States and Canada, where they would be “free”. The term “underground” was used due to the network’s secret status, while “railroad” referred to the use of cheap rates given by railroad workers, or the necessity of hiding individuals in freight or cargo trains to move across country. The people who assisted in the Underground Railroad, known as “conductors,” gave food, shelter, directions, or transport to those needing help. This involved helping slaves travel in wooden crates, hide in attics and small spaces, and navigate crossing swamps or other dangerous terrain. Often the conductors were located in Canada where they could organize travel and safe houses from a distance. Although many conductors’ identities were kept secret, some gained high profile attention. A few are well known names locally – such as Harriet Tubman, who lived in St. Catharines for most of the decade before the start of the Civil War and helped encourage growth of the Black community in the area.

Anti-Slavery societies helped those who reached Canada start their new lives. The Refugee Slaves’ Friends Society was founded by the first mayor of St. Catharines, Elias Smith Adams, in 1852. The Society’s goal was to offer financial, housing and employment assistance to fugitives who arrived in the area. Many Black settlements grew in Niagara after the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law in the United States, which legally allowed bounty hunters to scour the Northern States and return runaway slaves to their owners. However, the fresh start in Canada was not freedom from racial persecution, and discrimination ultimately led to racial segregation among communities here in Canada. White militia units set fire to residences in Black communities in St. Catharines, and many businesses attempted to employ bans on Black people using their services. When the American Civil War broke out in 1861, many of these communities shrank as their inhabitants returned to the United States to fight with the Northern Union.

There is a notable piece of local information contained in the story of the Underground Railroad. James “Jim” Richard Wilson was a resident of Welland County who came to Canada through Detroit in 1864. He was born to slave parents on a plantation near Korent, Missouri on December 25, 1821. At the age of 10, Mr. Wilson was sold at auction for $500 to a wealthy family. He was then sold to a particularly cruel family at the age of 25. He attempted to escape this family and head to Illinois but was captured and brought back to Missouri where he was severly punished. Thirteen years of hardened labour convinced him to try again at great risk to his life. He made his way onto a Mississippi steamboat, and escaped through the Northern lines during the Civil War. Mr. Wilson joined the community of Welland and was married at the McCabe house. He worked in a variety of jobs, including on a scow in the Welland River. He passed away in his home on Church Street on March 22, 1930 at the age of 108, survived by two sons and a daughter. He was described in an article in The Welland – Port Colborne Evening Tribune dated March 22, 1930 as “Welland county’s most picturesque figure for more than 40 years.”

Groundhog Day

Groundhog Day is held every February 2nd and has been occurring for centuries in different ways. Its date is significant as it falls between winter solstice and spring equinox. The traditions can be traced back to the Celts, as Imbolc, and later evolved into Candlemas by Christians. As the years went on different legends developed, and German immigrants brought it to Pennsylvania. Determining the end of winter was often an important prospect for farmers looking for information about the season ahead. There are thoughts that Candlemas brought traditions of looking at the pattern of bears – whether they would emerge from their dens or continue hibernation.

The first Groundhog Day as we know it occurred on February 2, 1887 in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania. This name might sound familiar as it is the home of Punxsutawney Phil, a famous groundhog who emerges from his den, and with help from the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club, determines if he is afraid of his shadow or not. If he is scared back into his den by seeing his shadow due to a sunny day, there will be six more weeks of winter. If it is overcast and he is not scared of his shadow, there will be an early spring. Claims of Punxsutawney Phil’s success have been addressed by National weather networks, with both the National Climatic Data Center and the Canadian Weather Service weighing in on his success rate. Other groundhogs have better track records.

In Ontario, the most notable groundhog is Wiarton Willie, who resides in Wiarton in Bruce County. Willie’s history began in the 1980s – long after the tradition of Groundhog Day had been started in the area. The first Wiarton Groundhog Day event started in 1956, and was a great party between some of the locals. Willie’s success rate is also debated upon. What seems earnest is that cold clear sky days mark continuing winter, while wet overcast days mark the coming of spring. This year will mark the 65th annual Wiarton Willie Festival, and if you want to follow along with Willie’s virtual predictions this year you can: https://www.facebook.com/wiartonwillieofficial   

Virtual Toy Tour

Day 3: Kenwood Bicycles

For #WishlistWednesday we are taking a look back at Kenwood Bicycles from the 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue. The Kenwood Manufacturing Company, in existence from 1891-1908, was located at 153-255 South Canal Street in Chicago. Like many companies at the time, Kenwood looked to participate in the big bicycle boom at the turn of the century. Over 75 bicycle manufacturing companies in Chicago can be traced back to the 1890-1910 time period, including some like Schwinn that survived until 1992.

The 1902 Sears, Roebuck Catalogue featured both ladies’ and men’s Kenwood bicycles for the reasonable price of $10.95. The ladies’ bike featured a lower crossbar so skirts could be easily lifted over and out of the way. In addition, the chain and back tire had a fender and cover to protect skirts from getting caught. The men’s bicycle featured handlebars below the crossbar, whereas the ladies’ bicycle had handlebars above the crossbar. The advertisement in the Sears, Roebuck catalogue was a full page and promised a money back guarantee if you were not satisfied with your bicycle. The advertisement also highlighted that when buying the bike you would receive a tool bag filled with items needed to maintain it.

The Sears, Roebuck Catalogue had a large selection of bicycle parts which could be purchased individually to maintain your bicycle. Tires and seats were common repairs, with a large variety offered to purchase in the catalogue. More in depth add-ons were available, such as horns and whistles, attachable tool bags, locks, gas lamps, and trouser guards.

Day 2: Howdy Doody

Children from the 1950s may remember the Howdy Doody television show, which ran from 1947 – 1960. It aired on the NBC network in the United States and was one of the first NBC shows to broadcast in colour. The show’s host, Buffalo Bob Smith, created the voice of Howdy Doody while working as a radio announcer. As the positive response of the character grew, an idea for a television show began to take shape. A puppeteer was hired to create a Howdy Doody puppet and the stage was set as a western town.

The show’s “peanut gallery” made the show especially popular among children. A live audience of approximately 40 children sat on bleachers on the stage during filming. The show began with Buffalo Bob asking the peanut gallery, “Say kids, what time is it?” to which the kids would yell, “It’s Howdy Doody time!” There were jingles and a theme song which the audience also participated in.

Howdy Doody himself is a freckle-faced, western dressed, marionette puppet who went through different appearances during the television program’s run. Many of the original Howdy Doody puppets can be found in private collections or museums around North America. Howdy Doody dolls and marionettes began to be mass produced in the 1950s. The image above features a 1952 Howdy Doody marionette manufactured by Peter Puppet Playthings, Inc. based in New York. Howdy Doody lives in his original box here at the Welland Museum, with operating instructions, and a pamphlet on other puppets that were available for purchase from the company. He was last on display in 2017, during our Canada 150 exhibit.

Day 1: Teddy Bears & Catalogues

Earlier this week we shared a teddy bear advertisement from the 1910s Sears, Roebuck Catalogue for our #WishlistWednesday feature. As the advertisement says, teddy bears “have come to stay more popular than ever”. Stuffed bears have had many invention claims over the years, in a variety of countries around the world but the teddy bear specifically became wildly popular in the early 1900s.

The name “teddy” is in honour of the United States President at the time, Theodore Roosevelt. A political cartoon ran in The Washington Post in 1902 which illustrated President Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot a tethered bear during a hunting trip. Morris Michtom, a shop owner in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, saw the political cartoon and created a tiny stuffed bear which he then sent to Roosevelt. He asked permission to use Roosevelt’s name and, once received, placed the bear in his shop window. The bear became immediately popular in North America and led to Michtom founding the Ideal Novelty and Toy Co. in 1907. If the incident had happened to any other president at any other time, we may be calling them Georgie bears or William bears.

Toys like teddy bears could be ordered from the Sears, Roebuck Catalogue, as shown from the advertisement on Wednesday. The catalogues could be purchased for 50 cents, and once you found an item you wished to buy, you would mail the company the money for the item with a description of what you were buying. The price of teddy bears in the 1910 Sears, Robebuck Catalogue was based on the height of the bear. For those living far from stores or shops, purchasing from a catalogue was one of the only ways of getting manufactured goods.

Businesses were able to use similar ordering catalogues to order goods for customers. In this 1958 Rosbergs advertisement, placing your order over the phone and using lay-away plans were both options for shopping. Rosbergs was listed in the 1937 City Directory at 72-86 East Main Street. Stores had access to the inventory they had on location, but could also order in a variety of products.


On behalf of the Welland Museum Board of Directors and staff we would like to wish you a happy and safe Thanksgiving weekend.

When you think about this year, its strain on our families, friends and life in general. We wanted to take a minute to thank you for continuing to support us through it all. Your contributions to the Welland Museum whether monetary, shared social media comment, or attended one of our virtual events. In every way we appreciate your support and just one more we can all stay connected.

This year, more than ever, we are very thankful.

We look forward to seeing you back in the Museum soon but until then, please stay safe & wear those masks…

Greg D'Amico
Welland Museum

Canada Summer Jobs Program

The Welland Museum gratefully acknowledges the financial support of the Government of Canada through their Canada Summer Jobs program. The program has allowed the Welland Museum to employ two summer students, who assisted with collections management duties in the archives and a bilingual interpreter and programmer.