There are millions of stories that can be found in the Archives & Special Collections. Every now and then, we get to dive a little deeper into such topics and create digital exhibits using the records in this department.
Enjoy these glimpses into our history. And come visit us to find even more.
In 1860, Albert Edward, the Prince of Wales and heir apparent to England’s throne, embarked on a goodwill tour to Canada and the United States. Historically, this would become the first royal visit to British North America.
They left Plymouth Sound, England in July 10 on the ship the HMS Hero. The first stop of the tour was in St. John’s, Newfoundland. From there, the party made its way west towards Ontario. At most stops, the 18 year old Prince was met with great enthusiasm. Each city welcomed Albert Edward with elaborate speeches and presentations. By September 14, the Prince had made his way to Niagara.
Alexander Hamilton managed to get involved in just about everything in his 49 years of life. His formal schooling was in Scotland. He returned to Niagara to assume his father’s mercantile and shipping empire that tied him closely with the Canadian fur trade. He was an officer in the Niagara Light Dragoons during the War of 1812 seeing action at Detroit, Queenston and throughout the Niagara Peninsula. When business failed after the war, Alexander obtained a number of civic offices such as Justice of the Peace, Sheriff, Steward, Judge, and Postmaster. All based out of Queenston, Ontario. His work placed him right in the middle of a number of key events in Canada’s early history.
This exhibit details the varied careers and experiences of this ambitious figure.
Anne Adams created an online exhibit looking at shopping in downtown St. Catharines from 1876 to 1888. The Woodruff family lived and worked near the downtown core and they did not throw away their receipts. The family preserved these little bits of paper for generations.
Anne details the products that were purchased and linked these to what is known about the Woodruffs. She also delves into the histories of the store owners – from food to medicine, jewelry to hardware, even an undertaker’s bill makes an appearance. This illustrated exhibit covers 38 businesses.
A pattern emerged…
The records of a project to document 19th century tombstones in Niagara are held in the Brock University Archives. While working with these materials, Edie Williams noticed something interesting. Many women in the 1800s spelled the name Catharine like that of the city of St. Catharines which is unique compared to the common spelling today – Catherine.
With this inspiration, Edie created an online exhibit highlighting the lives of eighteen of these Catharines. These women came from all parts of the Western world and settled throughout the Niagara area. For some, it may have been a long time since their stories have been told.
Dorothy Rungeling (1911-2018) managed to pack a lot into her 106 years on Earth. Raised by Canadian poet Ethelwyn Wetherald in Fonthill, Dorothy embraced every opportunity presented to her – family, music, horsemanship, working during WWII, local government, writing, and more. She is most noted for her pioneering career as a pilot – her accomplishments leading to her being on a Canadian postage stamp and having a local airport named after her.
This exhibit will look at the varied career of this incredible woman.
Local boy does good… Very good.
Born and raised in St. Catharines, Terry O’Malley, known as ‘The Legend’ by his peers, had a successful 40-year career in marketing and advertising. Starting as a copywriter, Terry made his way up to President and Executive Creative Director of Vickers & Benson – one of the largest ad agencies in Canada at the time.
In 2003, Terry donated his professional records to the Brock University Archives. Terry’s work is filled with a clientele that runs the gamut of the commercial world from ales to zippers – McDonald’s, Hockey Canada, Ford, Carling Red Cap, Loblaws, Tourism Ontario, Gulf Oil, Nabisco, and so much more. If you watched any television from the 1960s through the 1990s, you will recognize Terry’s work.
View the exhibit.
Was there virtual reality equipment 150 years ago? No. But the closest you could get was a stereoscope.
A stereoscope is a device through which two nearly identical images on a card can be viewed through a lens to create a three-dimensional image. They were popular from the 1850s to the 1930s as home entertainment devices and often depicted famous tourist destinations. It is said that of all of the locations in the world, Niagara Falls was the most photographed for stereo cards.
These are some of the stereo cards in the Brock University Archives’ collection.
In 1837, William Lyon Mackenzie organized a ragtag mob, led an armed occupation of an American island, created rumour and chaos everywhere, caused an international incident, inflicted damages that took more than a decade to rectify, and saw his captured compatriots executed or sent to the prison colony of Van Diemen’s Land / Australia. Tough year.
Much of the action of the Upper Canada Rebellion of 1837 and 1838 took place in the Niagara area. The impact was widespread and intense – even presidents and British foreign ministers got involved.
This digital exhibit retells the history of the Rebellions in Niagara through primary records found in the Brock University Archives.
Arthur’s accomplishments include: World War I veteran; husband, father, grandfather; CEO / Chairman of the Ontario Paper Company; helped establish a new town Baie Comeau in Quebec; Chairman of the Founding Committee of Brock University; Chairman of Board of Governors for the St. Catharines Hospital; Governor of Ridley College; Citizen of the Year for St. Catharines in 1964; and much more.
This exhibit looks at the life of one of modern Niagara’s exceptional people.
Laura Blackwell was born in St. Catharines in 1875. Her talents as an opera singer allowed her to travel all over Canada, the United States, and the world. She met her husband, Count Stanislas De Turczynowicz of Poland, when performing in Europe. During World War I, the Prussian army invaded Poland. Stanislas was taken prisoner and Laura and her family were made to serve Prussian officers at the family home. Laura and her children were among the first to escape occupied Poland for the United States. There, she wrote a book about their ordeal and used her singing talents and artistic connections to raise funds for the relief of the people of Poland. Her humanitarian organization was called the Grey Samaritans.
After the war, Laura continued to work in the arts setting up opera companies and writing in California, Toronto, Winnipeg, and Vancouver.
Using archival materials in the Brock University Archives and other repositories, this exhibit highlights the life of a woman who always used her voice – artistically and charitably – for the benefit of others.
Agnes Ethelwyn Wetherald (1857-1940) is a well-known Canadian poet who used her surroundings as her inspiration and focused on nature. She has been acclaimed for her contributions to both her poetry and journalism. She wrote numerous articles for the Toronto Globe, held a position as Women’s editor of the Globe and later she was part of the Advertiser’s editorial staff in London, Ontario. Wetherald continued writing after she was finished with the papers and published six volumes of poetry between 1895 and 1931.
Her work was known and admired by many, but also attracted the attention of Earl Grey, Governor-General of Canada in 1907 and Sir Wilfred Laurier, Prime Minster of Canada in 1911.
Loretto Academy was established in 1861 on land obtained from the owner of the Canada House Tavern overlooking Niagara Falls. The school was run by Catholic nuns and taught a predominantly female student population from the community, through Ontario, and across the river for over 140 years. Anne Adams, a graduate from Loretto, put together a digital exhibit chronicling the history of this special school.
Sean O’Sullivan (1952-1989), a Brock University alum, was elected to the Canadian House of Commons in 1972. He was twenty years old at the time, making him the youngest Member of Parliament in Canada. A chance meeting with Prime Minister John Diefenbaker in 1963, when Sean was just eleven years old, marked the beginning of his involvement with the Progressive Conservative Party.
Sean’s political career began shortly after his meeting with Diefenbaker. He quickly rose to prominence when appointed as Diefenbaker’s Executive Assistant in 1971, followed by his election to the House of Commons for Hamilton-Wentworth in 1972. Many people thought that he was certain to be a Canadian politician of great prominence, perhaps even Prime Minister. However, he abruptly left politics in 1977 to pursue another career – a Catholic priest.
The Brock University Archives are filled with millions of stories. Some are epic, some are short. All of them are fascinating. This is an ongoing collection of brief histories based on materials found in the Brock University Archives.
From 1896 to 1933, Lake Lodge School on the shores of Lake Ontario in Grimsby prepared young men and one girl for secondary and post-secondary education. The school drew students from all over Canada, the United States and beyond. The learning was well-rounded including academics, morality, athletics, and patriotism. The school’s motto was “Industria Omnia Vincit” meaning “Work Conquers All.”
Built on the historic lands of the Nelles family and connected to the War of 1812, Lake Lodge school was a pillar of the community during its short existence. This exhibit will provide a glimpse into the school life at Lake Lodge.
The Welland Canal cuts right through the Niagara Peninsula and allows ships to bypass Niagara Falls and deliver goods throughout the Great Lakes. Without the varied bridges and tunnels crossing the Canal, cars and trucks would be waiting twenty minutes or more for these large vessels to pass. The local traffic would be horrendous.
This exhibit details a number of the bridges and tunnels built during the 20th century from Port Colbourne to St. Catharines.
Samuel Jarvis was a notable figure in Niagara and Upper Canada. He held several important political posts, served in many battles during the War of 1812, and was involved in some historically notable events. His duel with John Ridout and raid on William Lyon Mackenzie’s print shop illustrate a tendency to act rashly which likely hurt his career prospects. He remains an important and interesting person in the history of Upper Canada.
This exhibit explores some of the highlights of Samuel Jarvis’ life using material primarily found in the Jarvis Family fonds in the Brock University Archives.
Niagara is renowned for its natural beauty. During the cold winter months, ice and snow alter the landscape. Mist from the Falls drifts and settles in surrounding parks coating trees and bridges in ice. With the right weather conditions, an ice bridge would form below the Falls when enough ice accumulated between the American and Canadian shores. This winter wonderland would attract tourists who wanted to see the spectacle of the Falls transformed by winter.
While beautiful, the ice and snow would also prove to be dangerous and destructive. The solid blocks of ice were not always as stable as they appeared. Ice in the Niagara River could wreak havoc on bridges and hydroelectric power plants. As people became more aware of these hazards, more caution was exercised and better engineering practices developed. This exhibit reveals the beauty and the burden of winter in Niagara Falls.
This one has everything – industry, engineering, World War II, women in the factory, sports, social groups, and feline employees. This is the story of the English Electric Company of St. Catharines.
Using information from English Electric’s employee magazine “Highlights,” Anne Adams retells the story of the company from its earliest beginnings as a 15 person shop to a major industrial factory through the 1950s.
Nature has provided us with good arable land, significant waterways, and impressive landscapes that give the Niagara area its unique character. It is also steeped in human history filled with triumphs and tragedies.
For generations, organizations and individuals have worked hard to protect and maintain the elements that make Niagara special. In further acts of preservation, they donated their records to the Brock University Archives so that their work will not be forgotten.
This exhibit/guide introduces some of the collections in the Brock University Archives that chronicle such preservation efforts from the distant past to the present. These materials touch every part of the region including:
• Niagara Falls and the Niagara River
• The Niagara Escarpment
• Agricultural Lands
• Welland Canals
• Local Heritage and Architecture
Samuel DeVeaux Woodruff was the son of Alfred Sanderson Woodruff and Georgina Ross Woodruff of St. Catharines. Samuel worked as a clerk and was engaged to Gladyse Wanita Palling when he was called to serve in World War I. He was a Lieutenant in the 176th unit of the Queen’s Battalion when he left Canada. Samuel was killed in action on July 13, 1918 as a member of the 116th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (Central Ontario Regiment). His grave is in Wailly Orchard Cemetery.
The Brock University Archives holds the George Field fonds and the Field Family fonds. These archival resources contain identified and many unidentified photographs, copied diagrams and war loss claims.
This digital display is an attempt to draw the lines between the individuals identified in the photographs to George Field and his wife Elizabeth Mary Smith and their family.
Every city or town has its firsts. In the political arena, Estelle Cuffe Hawley was the first female elected to St. Catharines’ City Council. This was back in 1938. A few years later, she ran for mayor.
Estelle’s professional career was varied, determined, and full of heart. She strived to help the people in her community. As a woman in a male-dominated sphere, she had to work extra hard to succeed. Estelle had to change the opinion of her colleagues to get things done. And she did.
James Alexander Gibson, 1912-2003 was the founding president of Brock University. Hired in 1963 by the board of governors chairman Arthur Schmon, Dr. Gibson gave life and breath to the vision of the Allanburg Women’s Institute for a university for the Niagara Region.
His contributions as founding president were enormous and have lingering affects on a well established University in the Niagara Region more than fifty years later.
The Welland Canal not only crosses through the centre of the Niagara Peninsula, but it also is central to much of our history. Transportation, shipbuilding, factories, historical / preservation organizations, much of the livelihood of Niagara residents have been affected by the Canals for centuries.
Chantal Cameron has completed an online exhibit that gives a great overview of this long history using materials that can be found in the Brock University Archives and Library and Archives Canada. There are numerous images, an interactive map, and an illustrated timeline to flip through. It is a lot of fun.
Lachlan McCallum of Stromness / Dunnville began his career as a businessman who built vessels for the Great Lakes and used them for a freight carrying. He was captain of the Dunnville Naval Brigade and as such was involved in defending against the Fenian attack on Fort Erie in June 1866.
McCallum served as a Member of Parliament from 1874 to 1887 and as a Senator from 1889 to his death in 1903. During his political career, McCallum was a vocal advocate for the enlargement of the canals, the building of an all-Canadian railway, and a supporter of the National Policy.
This exhibit will explore some of the highlights of McCallum’s life and some of the political issues of the time as discussed in a series of correspondence between McCallum and Prime Minister John A. Macdonald.
The Women’s Literary Club of St. Catharines began in 1892 under the leadership of local author Emma Currie. Meeting monthly for over 100 years, women from St. Catharines and the surrounding area gathered to discuss literature, recite original works, perform music, and ponder the current news. They also organized public events and had an annual pilgrimage to a site of historic or cultural importance.
This digital display outlines the history of this energetic and learned group of women using materials that can be found in the Brock University Archives.
The Archives and Special Collections of Brock University contains a plethora of local history as well as information and memorabilia about the University itself. Topics such as the War of 1812, tourism, agriculture, politics, major clubs, and organizations, the Welland Canal are covered in great detail. Through painstaking detail and connections to valued donors, Brock Archives opens the door the past.
But what about the details that might get missed? Some of the treasures in the collection are easily overlooked. Families and businesses have donated unusual items. Magic, spiritualism, hobbies, and medicine are just a few of different topics that are included within the collection. We are offering a few of our more unusual items for display in Archival Oddities.
Niagara Falls is a place of fact and fiction. And there is a whole lot of in between… that nebulous grey area.
In 1903, David Young wrote, “Historical Facts and Thrilling Incidents of the Niagara Frontier,” a text heavy book that recounts some of the more well-known tales of Niagara.
In a new digital exhibit, Anne Adams updated some of these and other Niagara based stories while also adding images to bring these accounts to life.
In a tidy box in the Brock Archives, there are eleven notebooks that once belonged to the Lincoln County Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. These books are filled with meeting minutes, letters, newspaper clippings, handouts and other materials that detail 70 years of this energetic organization.
No matter how one may feel about their views on alcohol, these women did a lot for the community. They opened Alexandra Hall in St. Catharines as a safe boarding house for young single women, advocated against child labour, provided care packages to soldiers in wartime, promoted healthy lifestyles in schools, and were among the first to push for women’s right to vote in Canada. This digital exhibit that chronicles the history of the WCTU in Niagara.
Stamford Village is a charming neighbourhood just outside of the sprawl of Niagara Falls. Close enough to enjoy the thrill of the Falls, far enough to have its unique identity, businesses, and history.
With loving memories of this community, Anne Adams created a digital exhibit that looks at Stamford Village’s past and present focusing on the businesses and plazas that made the area special. You can see the changes that have occurred over time.
The Canadian Niagara Power Company was the first business to develop hydroelectric power on the Canadian side of the Niagara River. CNP not only boasted engineering accomplishments like having the largest generators in the world in1905 but the architecture of the station was an attraction in of itself.
The history of the Canadian Niagara Power Company is long, rich, and significant to the Niagara area and also to all of Canada. The Brock University Archives have four archival collections on CNP – one that was designated as nationally important by the Department of Canadian Heritage.
“We are having a lovely time.”
“Wish you were here.”
In recent years, postcards have been deemed the social media and text messages of their era. At the peak of its popularity (1900-1915), billions of postcards were mailed globally.
This is an online exhibit featuring Niagara based postcards found in the Brock University Archives. These are organized in themes of tourism, souvenirs, street scenes, news, advertisements, novelty, and special events. Postcards’ uses were so diverse.
What is the connection between Beethoven, Chopin, Czerny, and Niagara Falls? Harold Bradley.
At age 20, a young and talented Harold Bradley had to choose to pursue baseball or piano. He chose piano which led him to master teacher Isidor Philipp whose pedigree as a music educator linked back to the masters noted above.
In 1930, Bradley and Philipp established the Bradley Institute for Music Research Ltd. in Paris, France which later was moved to Niagara Falls. The two had, at the time, novel ideas on music education:
– everyone has musical ability if it is nurtured at an early age
– music develops the left and right sides of the brain
– both hands should be trained equally from the beginning
This made their school stand out.
Louis Shickluna was one of the most important shipbuilders on the Great Lakes during the 19th century. He was known as an innovator – designing ships best suited to sail the interior waterways of Canada and the United States. His shipyard, based on the Twelve Mile Creek along the Welland Canal, was also a place for ships to come to be repaired or modified.
This website displays the documentary records of Louis Shickluna and his shipyard that can be found in the Brock University Archives & Special Collections.
A student archival project
I remember as a child, taking off my shoes and socks, having the waves cleanse my feet. I also would look out into the horizon and see sailboats, embarking on another adventure. Finally, I would take a nickel, hand it to the attendant, and bob up and down on the animals at the carousel listening to the organ in my childhood glory.
This is the story of Port Dalhousie – a history that combines shipping and recreation. Next time you visit , try to imagine the ships bobbing up and down in the horizon, or the silent drone of the long-extinct rides.