Sunday, 27 September 2015

Curious Curator: Royal Worcester Set

Happy 100th Birthday to our Royal Worcester set in the collection!

This set is often used on the Breakfast Room table at Parkwood, and we thought we would give it a centennial birthday treat by highlighting it with a blog entry.

This hand painted enamel set, is from 1915. It is registered as 645537, pattern c897, English Bone China.

Royal Worcester was found in 1751 by a group of English businessmen. Dr. John Wall, and apothecary owner William Davis,  discovered a method of making a porcelain material, persuading a group of thirteen local businessmen to back their discovery with an investment in a new factory at Warmstry House, on the banks of the River Severn as the Worcester Tonquin Manufacture.  This new porcelain product out-shone the others because, "they obtained licences to mine soapstone in Cornwall and worcester soapstone porcelain did not crack when boiling water was poured into it; giving worcester a significant advantage over other producers."   Increased tea consumption in the 1760’s created a huge demand for teawares, bringing prosperity to the Worcester factory, especially since the porcelain did not crack under the heat of tea. The company was awarded the royal warrant in 1789.
Worcester played a major role in the development of the English porcelain tradition, going through several name changes over the years and merging or taking over other manufacturers, Worcester are now known as Royal Worcester Porcelain Co.

In 1976, Royal Worcester and Spode merge, today being called Royal Worcester and Spode.

 pattern detailing


floral close up

Monday, 31 August 2015

Curious Curator: The Moustache Cup

One of the most popular artefacts within our collection is the moustache cup that is exhibited on the desk in the Library. The novelty behind its existence, the built in moustache shelf, delights all ages when our interpreters reference it, and is among a favoured treasure in our collection among our staff and volunteer interpreters, as well.   I do not know much about the origins of the cup. There is no hallmark or provenance associated with the cup and saucer.

The invention of the moustache cup is attributed to Harvey Adams,  an English potter, c. 1860. Adams made his fortune developing a high class china company, Harvey Adams and Co., which became Hammersley & Co, after Harvey's retirement in 1885.

George, Sam, JJ & Robert McLaughlin
Novel to the 2015 consumer, the moustache cup was a huge success in the Victorian world due to the fact that moustaches were en vogue. Take a look at any photograph of the era, and you will see all sorts of fancy whiskers and moustaches adorning the faces of men.  Even among my own archives, take a look at this early 20th century photograph of the McLaughlin men., on the right. The necessity and popularity of accessories for the moustache becomes quite understandable. Add to the popularity of the moustache the requirement of the British Military who make the moustache compulsory between 1860 and 1916, since the moustachioed man imparted authority,  

Command No. 1,695 of the King’s Regulations read:
The hair of the head will be kept short. The chin and the under lip will be shaved, but not the upper lip..."
"Although the act of shaving one’s upper lip was trivial in itself, it was considered a breach of discipline. If a soldier were to do this, he faced disciplinary action by his commanding officer which could include imprisonment, an especially unsavory prospect in the Victorian era." 
Military Moustache

Moustache spoon
So, why the cup?  The moustache cup is a cup designed with a small lip on the inside intended to protect the drinker’s facial hair from whatever beverage they happen to be drinking.  In an era where the moustache was either a must have or a want to have item, gentlemen came up with a number of ways to make sure that their moustaches were maintained. One of the more popular ways to style a moustache during this time was to use wax, some men also liked to dye their moustache to give it a more vibrant appearance. The problem with both of these methods of moustache maintenance was that neither held up well to hot liquid- dye would run and wax would invariably melt and cause unsightly moustache droopage the second it came into contact with something like hot tea or coffee.
This concern also applied to soup, and eventually the moustache spoon also became a much needed item in any well appointed home.  We do not have a moustache spoon in the collection, but I bet there are a few museums that do!

By the turn of the 20th century, the invention of the safety razor led to a change in grooming habits that made moustache cups obsolete for the vast majority of men. As a result, production and sales of moustache cups slowly dried up. By 1930, this formerly commonplace item was almost unheard of.

I think at any age RSM would have been happy to have his moustache cup handy.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Sparks to Fly at Parkwood

Parkwood received a fund-matching grant from the National Cost-sharing Program for National Historic Sites, to assist with the replacement of the c. 1917 main electrical panel. This support is also related to 2017 (our 100th birthday and Canada’s 150th), and we look forward to starting the next 100 years in the best shape possible.

An electrical panel is far less beautiful or dramatic than a greenhouse restoration, previously announced with a fund matching grant investment from the federal government—but it will ensure reliable electrical service for years to come as well as safer conditions for staff and electricians. We should mention that the c. 1917 electrical panel is a popular feature of basement tours, and some would argue that it is indeed an extraordinary and beautiful thing.
It is also a highlight of the firefighter orientation Parkwood does as part of our disaster preparedness training program with the City of Oshawa Fire Services, annually.

Replacement plans will allow the original panel to be abandoned in place, with power channeled through a new panel nearby. Our preference is always to retain original elements for their interpretive value and rarity.

Watch for additional blogging material as we upgrade our electrical systems and the work our heritage architects, electrical advisors, Curator and Executive Director have in coming weeks as we debate and figure out what is preserved and maintained moving forward.