Exciting New Find: New Local Howard Artifact Discovered!

I met with a colleague, who kindly showed me this wonderful artifact.  Having read the story in the Winter issue of In the Hills Magazine – Illuminating the Past: Personal History he was interested to share it with the Howard family.  He kindly gave Treasured Collections his blessing to share it forward.

The item is a framed “illuminated” artwork created in April 1889 by Alfred Harold “A H” Howard (1854–1916 ). Presented by the townsmen of St. Mary’s, it celebrates the retirement Mr Robert Hillyard as Manager of St. Mary’s Branch of the Bank of Montreal. Measuring 15″ x 21″, it is set in an ornate gilded frame with acid free backing and archival-glass. The signature states, “A H Howard & Wilson Designers, Toronto.”

Among the artifacts by “A H” held in local museums, archives and by family members, there are several artworks of this nature, created for specific events, such as retirements etc., many of which were for banks.

How did he come by this commission? St. Mary’s is some distance from Toronto, but “A H” did have family connections to the Mitchell and Stratford area.  He was a founding member of the Arts and Letters Club of Toronto, or maybe “A H” was so well known for his creative illustrations, that he had became the “go-to” person for the whole area.

Photograph by Frank Cooper, London, Ontario, circa 1880

After his retirement from the bank in St. Mary’s, we understand that Robert Hillyard (1822-1893), moved his family to Toronto.

The artwork was discovered during research into one of Mr Hillyard’s daughters – Caroline “Carrie” Learoyd Hillyard, (born 1866) who became an established artist, known for her portraits and landscape paintings.

Evidently, “Carrie” died with no decedents, and her many paintings were left to the housekeeper to disperse. It is believed that after Robert died, Mrs Hillyard moved to Montreal and lived beyond 100 years. There was information about a niece among the research, and connections to Oakville. The Oakville Museum held an exhibit in 2002 – Returning Home: A Carrie Hillyard Retrospective.

In time, it is hoped the artifact will join the collection of St. Mary’s area museum. For now, we are grateful to my colleague to be able to share another wonderful piece of art created by “A H” Howard.

 

 

Christmas Tree Decorations & Seasonal Family Traditions

How old is your earliest Christmas tree decoration? What can you share about it? How many of your decorations are home-made, and by who?

It is an annual event that many of us enjoy – hauling out the Christmas decorations, lights and more.  Do you rediscover a treasure trove of cute memories in your boxes?  I know that I do!

Christmas Tree Ornaments

This glass and wire hanging fir comb (pine cone) is a sole-survivor from our family home at 54 Portobello Grove, in Portchester, Hampshire, England. It dates to around the 1950s. I was particularly fond of it, because it was blue (an unusual colour for Christmas at the time), and it is also snow-covered, hence it landed in my personal collection. We saw some snow when in my younger years in Southern England, but not nearly as much as we enjoy here in Ontario, Canada.  This item, was the only early glass ornament to survive when in 1997, our tree fell onto our ceramic floor.

How many decorations on your tree have been made by your children/grandchildren?  Isn’t it lovely to revisit the memories – helping children create them, assisting with school class projects and more?

The Pickle

Does your Christmas tree have a pickle ornament? Over the last few years, I have seen several versions for sale in the stores. It has become a new tradition for some of our family households. The story goes….. the pickle is hidden among the tree decorations late on Christmas eve…. when the children visit the tree on Christmas morning, their first task is to find the pickle. This aim is to encourage them to really look at the various tree ornaments…. appreciate their origins, the history and traditions, before diving into gifts and presents.  A lovely sentiment, the Internet tells me the tradition originated in Germany, and the glass ornaments were originally imported from Germany by F W Woolworth in the 1880s.

Glitter on Christmas Cards

Many cards sparkle with glitter –  but I didn’t understand the true significance of this until moving to Canada, when, on a crisp cold winter’s day, I saw the snow outside glistening  in the sunlight.  New to me too were sun-dogs (or sun halos), and the hoar frost – who knew?

Cake Decorations

Christmas cake, with snow-effect royal icing and a layer of marzipan beneath – is a strong tradition in my family. Maybe it’s a British thing?  As I grew up, it was a ‘whole family affair’ to prepare, bake and decorate the cake. Just a handful of my family’s original decorations have survived from various eras….. they are easily broken and damaged when stuck in the ‘snow’ or washed clean! The wood and wire fir tree has seen better days, and no longer healthy to use!

Others which didn’t survive, were the red and gold paper frills, to go around the cake, wooden Santa, a swinging public house sign staying “Brickwoods”, an earlier set of reindeer and Santa’s sleigh.

The newest addition to this group is the skier, which came from a birthday cake brought from England, by friends, on a 1985 ski trip to Yugoslavia.

What traditions and items in your home that prompt fond memories at this time of year?