Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Mural Image and the Introduction of Mr. George W Beardmore

Recognise this image from Parkwood?  It's from the F. Challener mural on the north east side of the Billiard Room and captures HRH Edward, the Prince of Wales (in green frock coat), on a visit to Canada in 1924. The rest has always been a bit of a mystery, with minimal information available about the "hunt" and where in fact this image is suppose to be, described for many years as the Orillia Hunt Club. 
I like sleuthing, when I can, and decided I wanted to learn more about the Orillia Hunt Club and the "hunt" history in Canada. Guess what? I cannot locate any information on the Orillia Hunt Club, and am starting to think that no entity ever existed. This interpretive material, information we have inherited over the years, is proof of how here-say becomes fact, even with historians. On my own twitter account, I frequently read Tudor historians bemoaning how myth/legend become historic fact that is often repeated by generations of academics who never bother or have the time to research what they have come to know as a truth.

Imagine my delight when I began looking into hunt club histories in Ontario and I find this photo (r), with persons identified, the year and location in a book written for the sesquicentennial for the Toronto Hunt Club.
According to William M Gray, author, A History of the Toronto Hunt Club written in 1993, we have George W Beardmore (MFH), in scarlet, escorting HRH Prince of Wales at a meet in Aurora, October 1924. (MFH- Master of Foxhounds). At last we may have some information to go on about the occasion and who is in the mural image. I did double check and Edward did visit the Toronto area in 1924 and if you are knowledgeable on hunt seasons, the northern hemisphere hunt season begins in October and runs through March/April, dependent on weather (especially in Canada) and Beardmore held property, Beverly Farm, in Aurora.

Brief History of the Toronto Hunt Club
The Toronto Hunt Club has an extensive and interesting history. In 1895 land was purchased in Scarborough Heights (current Kingston road location) and architectural firm Darling and Pearson (architects of Parkwood) were commissioned to design and build the "new" club.Under the name of “The Toronto Hunt and Country Club”. The Club was first incorporated under the Provincial Letters Patent in May 1894. In 1905, it was re-incorporated under Dominion Charter as “The Toronto Hunt Limited” and finally in October 1930, it was again incorporated under Provincial Letters Patent as “The Toronto Hunt” and still operates under this Charter. In 1893, George Beardmore was elected president and held that position, as well as Master of the Fox Hounds until 1930. Polo, skeet shooting and eventually tennis were added to the pursuits of the club, but hunting with the hounds was the most popular at the club. There seems to have been a peak in terms of the hunt at the turn of the century, with a decline occurring with the introduction of the automobile and then WWI, but the hunt popularity was revived in the 1920s among society elite.

C. Churchill Mann & Billie Mann
While all this is occurring at the Scarborough "campus" of the Toronto Hunt, Beardmore is investing his own finances in a northern campus, at the then rural, Eglinton and Avenue Road location, of what becomes the Toronto and North Hunt in 1919. Beardmore instructs architects to design and create an elaborate horse facility, and houses a second pack of hounds, creating this clubhouse that many will recognise as one of the gems of Heritage Toronto today (above photo). In 1929 the Toronto and North Club is renamed the Eglinton Hunt, and is administered by Beardmore from 1929 - 1934.
The Eglinton Hunt becomes home to the first Canadian branch of the Pony Club.
As Toronto expanded, Beardmore was forced to move the hounds to his property in Aurora, Beverly Farm, and as the depression worsened, Lady Eaton provided many of the financial and property resources, neighbour to Beverly Farm, Eaton Hall, to support the hunt, through the end of the 1930s.

From 1949 to 1952, Eleanor (Billie) Mann ( nee McLaughlin) is Master of the Hunt of the Eglinton Hunt.

Introducing George W Beardmore 
Who is this George W Beardmore gent that was very influential in the club and is portrayed in the mural at Parkwood, and I know nothing of?
Beardmore came from a leather and shoe (tannery) empire, Beardmore & Co. Ltd., and is described by Gray as an "out-going, successful businessman, sportsman, and accomplished horseman".

His Toronto estate, Chudleigh, is now the Italian consulate, but stands in much of its grandeur, with the changes George W Beardmore saw it undergo through the nineteen teens and twenties.

The relationship between Beardmore and McLaughlin is unknown and may be strictly through sport. Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin were members of the Toronto Hunt, as were their daughters.  We know the successes of the McLaughlin family in terms of horses; jumpers, hunters and thoroughbreds and the legacy of Parkwood Stables.
Both the McLaughlin's and Beardmore's were in business with architects Darling and Pearson, but so were many of the "society set".
In terms of business accounts, Oshawa had its own renowned tannery, Robson Leather, and the McLaughlin Carriage Works, McLaughlin MotorCar Company and eventually General Motors seem to have done most of their tannery business dealings via this enterprise. 
The exact relationship between McLaughlin and Beardmore may be forever elusive, however, we now know what & whom the "hunt" image in the mural depicts, and an image, I believe, would have had a great importance to the McLaughlin family as it was painted onto their wall.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Curious Curator: Discovering Arthur Henry Hider

While researching some copyright questions on the artwork within the estate's collection for an upcoming location shoot at the mansion I fell upon the interesting story of Canadian painter Arthur Henry Hider.

AH Hider is one of the fab five, a group of painters identified as so, because they are considered the nations premier historical and illustrative artists. Do not worry, I had never heard of the fab five before, but this label intrigued me to learn more about Arthur. The fab five composed of Hider; JD Kelly, A Heming, CW Jeffreys and Owen Staples, emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and according to this quote from the web, "no artists, in Canadian history, have had the impact on the national psyche to compare with that of these fabulous top five painters of Canada's past."  (

AH Hider (1870-1952) worked as a painter and commercial illustrator. Working in illustration on product calendars for Gerlach Barklow in Joliet, Illinois in the early 20th century, Hider actually had his start in terms of fame, with his war art depicting the Canadians in the Boer War. He brought the actions of the first Canadian contingent engaged in an overseas war into the living rooms of the Home Front. His work was so well received and realistic, that the Toronto Lithographic Company released reprints for the public to purchase. Hider's talents continued to be in demand and with the outbreak of WWI he was commissioned to create the many war posters that we are familiar with today. Due to his popularity and success of his work, especially the commercial appeal, Hider was never what is recognised as a starving artist, having secured many contracts over the years, his art generated a living income.

Part of the success Hider saw is attributed to his painting with gouache; pigment and binding agent (and often an inert item like chalk to add to the dense consistency drying appeal), making it opaque as opposed to water colour. Gouache is the choice method of commercial artists for illustration like posters, labels, etc.


By 1900, it was widely accepted that no one in Canada could capture the likeness of a horse like Art Hider. Due to his success in painting horses, Arthur was able to not only secure many product label commissions, but also landed the contract to paint the winners at the original Woodbine racetrack in Toronto ( many knowing this as the former Greenwood Track). It is likely this contract that found him painting the Kings Plate Winners of Sam McLaughlin; 1934 Horomoter, 1946 Kingarvie and 1947 Moldy.

These paintings of the Parkwood Stables champions, adorn the walls of the Parkwood Conservatory within the recreation wing.

According to any of the histories and biographies of Hider that I have come across this last week, his legacy has not been the ad work, catalogues or horses, although viewing of Ebay or ephemera auctions will attest to his ad work popularity, but his footnote on Canadian pop culture is his work depicting history.  Or more so, his legacy is that he has captured Canadian historical events in gouache. In an idyllic notation from, the following quote references this legacy, "for countless generations of Canadian school children, Hider's pictures captured the romance of Canadian history, and remained the favourite images they long remembered into the twilight of old age."

Another discovery among the Parkwood collection and one that opened the door into the life, times and legacy of the fab five of Canadian Art and more so of Arthur Hider that I wanted to share with you.

No one really knows where a copyright question from the film industry will lead.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Curious Curator: Composition of the Bowling Balls

Being our "season", meaning we see increased public visits and larger groups of guests at this time of year, we have a variety of differing questions that come our way. This week has been the query to the composition of the bowling balls along our bowling alley, "what's it made of?" ( x 4 times this week)

To be honest, I have never thought about it or even paid attention. People assume they are wood, due to a visible grain, and the knowledge that in history the bowling ball was wooden, but I have never actually looked into it further than accessioning, watching and documenting their condition, etc. UNTIL today.
Historically, the bowling ball was made of lignum vitae, a very hard, dense wood, until, 1905 when the first rubber bowling ball "Evertrue" was introduced. With the success of Evertrue, the Brunswick Corporation produced their first rubber mineralite ball in 1914, marketing it as a "mysterious rubber compound". The cleverly advertised product was launched through a series of YMCA bowling appearances, taking the new mysterious compound ball across the USA to an inclined audience. According to sources throughout my quick research, in the early part of the 1900s no one was thinking or concerned about the relationship between the composition of the lanes and the balls. For those inclined to learn more about the chemistry of bowling, attached is an interesting article from the May/June 1992 magazine edition of the American Chemical Society, In Chemistry

As a social historian (with anthropology), and those who know where I tend to tread when it comes to history, the above bored me. I am more curious about the bowling alley and the culture that developed around it throughout the 20th century. The fact that many wealthy persons, like the McLaughlin Family, had bowling lanes included in their homes, because i)they could and ii)it was part of the keeping up with the Jones's among society folk is evident, but what about the post- war popularity and boom that everything bowling evokes? Think clothing and shoe styles, bowling as a prevalent past time on the Flintstones and everything else pop culture that developed throughout this time period. Even the White House had two lanes installed in 1947. A 1958 quote from the American Society of Planning Officials sums up the pastime succinctly, "the bowling alley is fast becoming one of the most important, if not, the most important, local centre of participant sport and recreation". The blue collar country club, in post- war prosperity the bowling lane dominated society, especially when the weekly leagues and competitive hierarchies were developed and workplaces embraced it as a means of social outings. Bowling became the social imperative for many Americans throughout this era, an era that American culture dominated the world.
(In my research what was as equally as interesting in terms of the cult of the Bowling Alley is its demise in the 21st century)

The Parkwood Bowling Balls? On close inspection and due to conjecture re: our lane was developed and installed by the Brunswick Corporation,  the bowling balls, both 5 pin and 10 pin in our collection, are rubber mineralite. The grain effect, a popular look in the early days of the rubber mineralite compound, a faux technique that was part of the composition as a throwback to the wooden bowling balls of the past.