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.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Curious Curator: Glimpsing into the hearts of Sam and Adelaide

One of the privileges of working at Parkwood allows staff and volunteers to interact with some of the personal items of the family.  We know the McLaughlin public side, that is something that is well documented and some would argue that Sam McLaughlin excelled at promoting himself, however there are private items and moments that we get to discover, research and explore, and from time to time, share with you.

When you have toured of the estate, you have seen the formal portraits of the family. These stunning examples of early 20th century portraiture capture an auto-baron and his family and have adorned the Dining Room, a very public location for nearly 90 years and are interpreted for our guests. What the public do not get to see, as frequently, are the photographs that were cherished and lovingly preserved and kept in private keepsakes.
Today, I am going to share and explore two of these private items with you.

Locked away among some of Adelaide's items is a black leather bound folio that folds into a neat 8" x 7" transportable package.  When fully opened the folio extends to approx. 3ft in length, exposing photographs. 
As we approach Mother's Day one would argue that this album of what we may perceive as Adelaide's favoured photographs of her daughters; (top left to right: Eileen, Mildred, Isabel, Hilda and Eleanor) is not an unusual piece to be found among ones personal items, capturing the poignant emotions of familial love, however, among these photographs are images that are not often publicly shared of the family, ponderous studio shots, private moments captured, and although professionally photographed, glimpses of moments in her daughter's lives, backstories we may never know. Did these photos capture a significant birthday?
Perhaps an accomplishment in scholastic pursuits? This is unknown, but what we do know is that these five images were selected, and treasured.

Not to be ignored, lets explore this gem in the collection, a photograph item that belonged to Colonel Sam.

Among Samuel's items, is this rather unique gold- coloured cameo/charm, measuring 1" by 1", engraved with his initials, RSM.  Currently, exhibited in the Drawing Room, in the gilt bombe display cabinet, this tiny photograph memento, is just one artefact among many lost on a glass shelf, but when opened, hides five treasures.

No bigger than a thumb nail as one opens the small book shaped charm, each page, front and back, is adorned with a tiny photograph of each daughter, inscribed with birth month and day above, and full given name, below the photograph.

From left to right: Eileen, Mildred, Isabel, Hilda, and Eleanor)  Very different images then the ones carried in Adelaide's folio, these photos capture the girls, and their personalities in a very different light, perhaps at different stages in their life stories.

Enjoy these intimate glimpses into the hearts of Sam and Adelaide McLaughlin.