Friday, 6 January 2017

Curious Curator: The RCA Victor

Label on back of console

Tucked away beneath the cantilever staircase and trumped by that very staircase, along with the Aeolian organ console and the Haines mural of the Parkwood grounds, is a 300lb 1940 RCA Victor Instrument that operates as a radio; phonograph; recorder; and public address system.
Built in Montreal, this is one of those artefacts Parkwood has in the collection that I am always in awe of the amount of information we have that tells its history and beginnings. Most who follow this blog or have encountered me, know that I like to discuss the layers of information and history that Parkwood has in terms of our collection.  The RCA Victor is an excellent example of this, an item that draws information both from its presence in the Estate, but also the supporting information that lives in the Parkwood Archives.

I opened the unit this morning to take a look at it again, before I blogged about it.
Here is the first look, a record still in position as if it had just finished playing.  The record, Fritz Kreisler and the London Philharmonic, Concerto in E Minor
Link to hear
According to Wikipedia, "Friedrich "Fritz" Kreisler (February 2, 1875 – January 29, 1962) was an Austrian-born violinist and composer.[1] One of the most noted violin masters of his or any other day, and regarded as one of the greatest violin masters of all time, he was known for his sweet tone and expressive phrasing. Like many great violinists of his generation, he produced a characteristic sound which was immediately recognizable as his own."

What is interesting about this piece is the claims in the sales manual, it was a phonograph and radio, but also a recorder and a public address system.  Among the literature that exists in the archives, are photos of the turntable systems and microphone, an artefact that Parkwood still has in the collection.
It makes me wonder if the address system was used during Sam and Adelaide's parties, perhaps their war bond drives 1939 through 1945?
Did Gracie Fields use the built in microphone to entertain the guests at the Chrysanthemum Tea bond drive when she was here? 

The turntable shows that a collection of records could be stored, ready to play, without interruption as the musical entertainment of any Parkwood event. The control mechanism demonstrates how easy it was to turn the dial to move from radio, to recorder, to turntable to broadcast.

Music was a significant attribute to the household; the Aeolian organ, the Duo-Case player mechanism for the organ, the Steinway, the daughters' instrument lessons, and impromptu performances, and the bands/orchestras hired to provide music for various occasions at the Estate, including Guy Lombardo.

However, it doesn't end there in terms of what is in the archives collection. Among the items that were saved, tucked away for safe keeping at some point among the household items, is a collection of the operating instructions booklet; a collection of needles, sharpeners for the record needles; and a homemade chart on stations and weather reporting broadcasting times.

These pieces of material culture help us to further understand the family and the Estate, albeit, I have more questions, but we do get a glimpse into the daily lives of the family, and a further understanding of music in the home and an affinity for weather reports, in the days prior to the Weather Network.


Monday, 5 December 2016

Curious Curator: Eighty Years Later; Parkwood & the Abdication of Edward VIII

Eighty years ago this week, Parkwood, as a family home and the workplace for forty servants was abuzz with activity and wonder around what King Edward VIII was going to do.  The abdication crisis fueled the imaginations, fears and thoughts of Parkwood, just like it did the world and this has been captured in the secretary's journals, as well as in Adelaide's scrapbooks.

Todays generation may be aware of the abdication crisis through pop culture references, recently The King's Speech and the Netflix  success, The Crown, however, the context around the atmosphere at Parkwood is fascinating and this is why I have chosen to examine it in this blog.

David, or Prince Edward, was a guest at the Estate during his visits to the Dominion. His car of preference was the McLaughlin-Buick, custom designed and built in Oshawa. Prince Edward, in green blazer with bowler, is even captured in the Billiard Room mural, north east corner, at the Toronto Hunt Club, with George Beardmore. I have always wondered why in a mural commissioned to showcase family hobbies, pursuits and delights, Edward and Beardmore are prevalently situated, and one can only assume a household affinity towards both must have existed when the mural was executed by Frederick Challener in 1924.

During our oral history collection several of the past serving staff have referenced this time frame within the mansion, and the tensions that existed.  At the time, a radio was situated in the servants' dining hall location, rear of the mansion off the main kitchen, and the staff would gather to listen to the reports out of London.  Household Secretary JJ English has captured the feelings in his notations within the daily journal, "everyone at high tension, rumours..."

And the abdication is broadcast worldwide :                               
Abdication Speech

Imagine the households and workplaces throughout the Empire coming to a standstill to listen to the broadcast as Edwards says farewell.

The frenzied days after the abdication and the romance of what has become acquainted with Edward's act of renouncing the throne, the fairytale of the 20th century, with the love letters, clothing and items of both Edward and Wallis Simpson selling for small fortunes, are imprinted in the newspapers, journals and collective memories of the era.  Even the McLaughlin-Buick custom made for Edward has been coined "the worlds most romantic car"
Romantic Car

In her scrapbooks, Adelaide has a collection of articles and papers that follow the legacy and life of Edward notably the abdication headlines, but also what is to occur next.

In January of 1937, Macleans Magazine publishes a series of articles analyzing the abdication and the players involved, from Baldwin to Churchill to Wallis Simpson to Westminster to the Act of Abdication, itself. 

Finally, among the items in the scrapbook is a 1947 Time Magazine article written by Edward himself, discussing his education.
It's a fitting piece for Adelaide's scrapbook, combining her love of the monarchy, but also education. It is interesting how she continued to follow Edward's life once he had left the throne.

In the following typed letter, an item I recently acquired from McLaughlin family members, there is a reference to the defunct monarchy of Edward VIII. I will elaborate on the further contents at another time, however, I enjoyed this line, as it summed up for me, the family feelings over the abdication

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Curious Curator: The Bennett School of Liberal and Applied Arts

Not Adelaide's scrapbook
While working on cataloguing Adelaide McLaughlin's scrapbooks, which my readers will know has been an ongoing project, because they do not follow typical scrapbooking methods (right), but rather a mishmash of articles and clippings, envelopes and letters, mementos, etc. stuck in between the pages of a series of hardcover large scrapbooks. This means I must go through the collection and put the pieces together to tell the story of why, what, where and when, and while compiling some items, I found among a bunch of WWII and abdication of Edward VII  newspaper articles, a 1927 program from the Bennett School of Liberal and Applied Arts, Millbrook, New York.

It is the commencement day program, June 6 1927, for youngest daughter Eleanor (Billie) McLaughlin. Complete with the list of graduating young women (see end of this entry), the program for the flow of day is presented, along with the jottings of Adelaide regarding the address, "better to know much, rather than many things" and includes a formula to happiness, "happiness equals what you've got divided by what you want"

Bennett School

According to Wikipedia, in 1907 the college moved to its final home on 22 acres in Millbrook, New York. In 1907 the school had an enrollment of 120 students and a faculty of 29. Originally a girls school, Bennett became a junior college in the nineteen teens operating a two year program until its closure in 1978.  Majors of study included art, fashion design, interior design, music, modern languages, literature, history, dance, drama, child development, equine studies, and domestic science. Activities at Bennett included gymnastics, golf, tennis, horseback riding and skiing. The school was home to a full-time teaching Nursery School for 3 and 4 year olds as well as a riding stable.

The main building of Bennett College, Halcyon Hall, was built in 1893 by HJ Davison Jr., a publisher from New York. The 200-room Queen Anne structure, was originally built as a hotel, and was comprised of 5 stories, a basement and sub-basement.


Your historic images brochure as compiled by Parkwood NHS

Welcome to the Bennett School of Liberal and Applied Arts
Generations of young women from prominent American (and Canadian) families attended Bennett over its 90-year history

Dorm Room

Common Room



Student Life at Bennett

Study Hall

Art Studio



Field Hockey

The Graduating Class of 1927

Back of Program, America the Beautiful lyrics
& the Parkwood NHS accession number

Closed in 1978, as the trend towards co-education increased saw the demise of facilities offering single sex education, Bennett has remained empty.  The following images are from an urban explorer blog in 2015. Bennett was slated for demolishing in 2015, I do not know of the outcome.