Category Archives: Family

Ink, Dip Pens and Calligraphy

This blog post was prompted by a colleague sharing an picture of ink pen cartridges online….

As a lover of stationery and all things connected to pens and art, I pulled out my calligraphy box. Yes, I discovered there is a fine selection of Osmiroid and Parker ink cartridges, and much more.

My Grandfather gave me his dip-pens and nibs sometime in the 1960s. Quite fascinating collection when you look closely, many with maker’s marks.

To explain: the tiny (1″ long) lightweight silver box and lid has intricate detail around the top, and centre. There is no maker’s mark on it. Within the case are three unused nibs. They are gold plated, and stamped with J (the size) and A & N.C.S. Ltd (the maker), and date to circa 1900.

The others are well-used ink-stained pen nibs, which push into the metal tops of basic wooden pens. Some wooden handles are stamped “Made in England”. The nibs include single and double style with a back plate to hold more ink. The nibs are stamped with various  markers marks. Each has a letter or number to indicate its style or nib-width. Brands include:

  • The Haymarket Metallic Quill, 28 Haymarket, S.W. 1 (London),
  • William Mitchell’s Poster Pens, England, and
  • Reeves manuscript pen, oblique, Made in England.

With cursive handwriting being taught and practices less, calligraphy as an art form has become more popular. My first ink fountain pen used at primary school was an Osmiroid.  Over the years I have bought nib attachments (for various calligraphy styles – copperplate, italic, Gothic etc.,) and a variety ink plungers too.

So, the history…. Osmiroid pen nibs were originally created by James Perry about 1819, an educationalist who patented his nib in 1830. A meandering history continued until eventually a factory was build in Gosport, Hampshire in 1953, which is where the popular Osmiroid 65 pen was designed. E.S. Perry adopted Osmiroid as the company name. The company was sold to  Berol UK in 1989.

Popular in my home-town area in southern Hampshire and available from several small town art shops and newsagents, my favourite calligraphy pen set was made by E.S. Perry Limited, Gosport in 1981. The packaging promotes the set as “easy-change” with “hand-finished nibs with 22 carat gold plating”. I had purchased in a newsagent and tobacconist on Cosham, High Street who were Osmiroid suppliers.

The packet of cartridges, noted as “international” size, was bought in nearby from Russell’s (Havant) Ltd, an art shop.

The bottle of ink has been bought after 1989 as it is marked “Osmiroid is a registered trade mark of Berol Corproration Berol Ltd. Kings Lynn, Norfolk. Empire Berol USA, Brentwood and Berol Canada Inc, Montreal. Made in England” This black water soluble ink, has a health label, and noted in US fluid ounces and millilitres.

The above two calligraphy dip pens, are more modern. The wooden posts are stamped with a size, and “Automatic Pen, Made in England”, likely as the double styled nib holds plenty of ink! These were purchased in the mid 1980s from an art shop and gallery on Stanley Street, Southsea (now called the White Dog Gallery). These wide nibs are used for much larger poster designs and can be used with ink or watercolour paints.

I have been practicing calligraphy for many years and sharing with friends, family, with primary school students, March break camps…. and more recently with seniors at local lunch and learn sessions.

Let’s keep the skill of handwriting going….

Did you know?  A pen knife is folding pocket-knife used to cut and shape the tip of a natural feather quill, to use as a dip-pen.

Sad Demise of Thomas Cook Travel after 178 Years

Above: William and Jessie Parker

With the current news about Thomas Cook & Son closing their doors, I thought I would take a moment to share forward a connection to my family.

The company was originally founded on 9 June 1841 by a 32-year Thomas Cook (1808-1892) of Market Harborough to the nearby town of Leicester to attend a temperance meeting. His son carried on and expanded the firm that went on to become world-famous tour operators.

My Great-Grandfather, likely contributed to Thomas Cook’s early years of success. He worked as a manager/partner with Thomas Cook and family folklore tells how he was responsible for establishing their offices in Italy.

William Brewster Sidney Parker (1875-1940) was married to Emma Clayton, and they had three daughters, the eldest daughter was my Grandmother Agnes Ida (Parker) Bake (1899-1949), my Great Aunt Queenie, Gladys (1897-1980) and the youngest my Great-Aunt Margie, Margaret Cecilla (1909-1985).  Margie was in fact born in Italy in 1909, setting a date when the family were living broad.

Sometime later William married a younger woman Jessie Parker (photographed above), who lived on many years after his death, so I am told, lessening the residue of the family fortune!  However my Mother was proud to receive a small inheritance many years later when Jessie died. A legacy from her ‘famous’ Grandfather!

She often shared stories about his travels abroad. I recall my Great Aunts too discussing their experiences too. They both remained spinsters and lived near Brighton. Great Aunt Margie often visited us, she was an interesting lady, with a definite ‘Italian’ olive skin tan, and the family always wondered if she was in fact half Italian. She was active and outgoing, she danced, travelled, was way ahead of her time with knowledge about health and healthy foods. She was also the first person we knew who owned a colour box Brownie camera.

So, over the years we have always been proud of our connections to Thomas Cook & son.  During WWII the company which was owned by a Belgium company was bought back by Britain and became part of British Railways…. after the war, sold on again to a German bank. Although founded by a pioneering British gentleman, the father of touring and travelling, the company always sporting his name Thomas Cook…. I fear the company had not truly been a British affair for some years.

I was saddened to hear of stranded passengers, the many redundancies and job losses, even private investors (some 20%), but for me fondly remembering my Great-Grandfather (whose picture has become the company logo for my business Treasured Collections) and our family connection to Thomas Cook in the years gone by.

For interesting reading….  BBC Article

Family Artifact – Super Mario Egg Cup, 1990s


Artifacts and heirlooms can sometimes be an insignificant ‘every-day’ item, and not always valuable jewellery or special ceramics.  Here is such an instance.

Although not particularly old, this Super Mario egg cup has an interesting history (provenance) of its own….. it is well-traveled too!

Originally purchased by my younger sister, Lesley K (George) Johnson (1959-2001), for her children, the Johnson family of Portchester, Hampshire, England, this was one of several held in her kitchen cupboard in the late 1990s.

Following my move to Canada, bringing only essential possessions, I discovered I couldn’t find an egg cup in the local shops at that time! When visiting with my sister, she kindly shared one of two from her collection, selecting items she felt my young son might enjoy.  This is one of them.

Recently my grown nephew, his wife and teenage children visited us in Canada – the family still enjoy a keen interest for comic-style cartoons…. the egg cup has therefore returned with them to England.  A family keepsake, the Johnson’s will again enjoy!

This Super Mario Bros (TM) egg cup circa 1992 originally came in an Easter egg box with chocolate egg and sweets.  The Super Mario Bros (TM) game (1989) on NES – Ninendo Entertainment System was popular in the 1990s and still has a strong following.

This egg cup was part of a broader collection which included: Garfield, Postman Pat, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Magic Roundabout and The Fimbles. Image from the Internet shown below.

Artist Tom Thomson Family Link

Recent local travels took me to the village of Leith, near Owen Sound, Ontario.  I was thrilled to visit for two reasons – personal interest of local artists and family connections.

  1. World-famous Canadian artist Tom Thomson, my particular favourite, connected to Group of Seven had roots in the village of Leith, Ontario, Canada.
  2. My paternal Great-Grandfather Bertram Henry Symes (1976-1918) who died at the end of WWI is buried in Leith, Scotland.

The visit, however uncovered some interesting facts and local folklore!

The tiny church – Leith Church, erected 1865, closed 1969, Church of Scotland – United Church of Canada.  As the memorial plaque states right in the churchyard there is a grave for my favourite Canadian artist… Tom Thompson.

A few years ago, our family took a trip to Canoe Lake, and rowed to various memorial points there….. I had always thought he was buried at Canoe Lake.

However, local Leith village folklore tells us differently. We heard from family members from farms neighbouring the Thompson farm, that when Tom’s coffin was returned to the village, it was opened and several locals confirmed he was inside!

Tom Thomson Art Gallary Biography states…..

“…… Thomson was initially buried in a small cemetery up the hill from Mowat Lodge, overlooking Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park. But at the request of his family, the body was re-interred in the family plot beside Leith United Church.”

It’s a mystery and part of a local folklore.

I was thrilled to notice that among the graves in the churchyard were many marked for the McKeen family, including one for Isabella Thompson Ross, (1827-1917) who originally came to Canada from Leith in Scotland.

By chance my Great-Grandfather Bertram Henry Symes (1976-1918), who died in the Leith American Hospital, near Edinburgh, Scotland, while trying to return home at the end of WWI. He is buried in a communal grave, a sad end to his many years serving in the British Royal Navy, and WWI. He joined the Navy in January 1899 as a carpenter’s mate, he was a ships diver until 1906 and went on to become a Chief Shipwright after getting the bends.

Artwork and reference information about Tom Thompson can be found at:

Tom Tompson Art Gallery

McMichael Art Gallery

Leith Church

Treasured Collections helps local people, groups and businesses document the history behind their artifacts.  Follow this blog for interesting historical snippets…..



Daily “Tot” – Pusser’s Rum (1640-1970)

What’s this all about… a daily “tot” issued to Royal Navy Sailors for more than 330 years?

Treasured Collections is proud to share a story of all things nautical – sailing, yacht racing, RN, traditions, and more! Capturing the story behind a family artifact is fun and yet important to record known information, knowledge and past experience to share with future generations.

British Navy Pusser’s Rum (R) is the Single Malt of Rum that was issued daily on board ships of Great Britain’s Royal Navy for more than 330 years.  From about 1640 until 31 July 1970, a daily rational of rum was issued to sailors on board ship. Known as the “tot” it became the longest unbroken tradition of the history of the sea.

Being from a family with long traditions with the British Royal Navy, I was very aware of “Pusser’s Rum”. Imagine my surprise when in the local LCBO (our Canadian liquor store), I spied this wonderful decanter of Pusser’s Navy Rum!  Evidently with the Admiralty’s blessing this rum became available to the consumer! The Royal Navy Sailor’s Fund, a naval charity, more commonly called the “Tot Fund” benefits from the sales.

This particular ceramic decanter celebrates the magnificent sport of yachting and sailboat racing. The three images include

  1. The Schooner America August 1851 when she won the Hundred Guinea Cup (which later became the America’s Cup),
  2. Jolie Brise, a 56-foot pilot cutter winner of the first Fastnet Race in 1925, Jolie Brise is still sailing today and went on to win the 2000 Tall Ships Race Overall.
  3. A tiny sloop Spray, which wailed around the world single-handed by Captain Joshua Slocum , leaving Boston April 1895, he returned to Rhode Island June 1898.

For me, being from Portsmouth, Hampshire the home of HMS Victory, flagship of Vice-Admiral Horatio Nelson…. it was also fun to see the  the slogan “Nelson’s Blood”.

By chance, to add to the fun…. a Portsmouth area chocolate company offer Pusser’s Rum Truffles… neat!

You can see more about Pusser’s Rum and the traditions on their website or just do a Google search!

Treasured Artifacts – Edwardian Repoussé Silver Box – Capture The Story!

I love my job! What a pleasure it is to work with the wonderful treasured collections of my clients…. this silver box, for instance!

It is an exquisite 3″ Edwardian sterling silver trinket box, with a Repoussé forest design, made by Haseler Brothers, Chester, England, circa 1905.

This is one of two special items this client gave me the opportunity to work with. From the start she strongly felt, “There is no information to be collected!” and yet after a very short time, she was thrilled with the amount of information I was able to discover – to explain:

The box was given to my client by her mother, the only information available was an auctioneer’s note which detailed a value and an accurate date.

She wondered whether this might be a stamp box.  Her Grandfather had moved to London from Ireland and ran a Post Office.

As in most cases the maker’s mark can tell us lots of information….

The maker’s stamp is made up of four images on the side, and two on the lid.

  1. Silversmith’s mark – EJH NH in shield.
  2. Lion – standard lion indicates sterling silver .925 weight.
  3. The three wheat sheaves in a shield – Chester City 1701-1925.
  4. E in this style – used in 1905

The initials E J H and N H indicate the names of the silversmiths who made this Edwardian box. These initials represent the Haseler Brothers, Edward John Haseler and Noble Haseler.

The company was originally founded by William Hair Haseler in Birmingham in 1848. The business was located in Branston Street, Birmingham. This particular item was registered at the Chester Assay Office in 1905.

It is noted that a London office was opened in 1876 and in 1901 the company went into partnership with Liberty of London for the manufacture of the well-known Cymric range of silverware.  In 1946 the company became Haseler & Restall.

The textured image seen on the top of the box is known as Repoussé – hammered metalwork into relieve from the reverse side. The forest scene includes wild boar and their young.

Now we know a good deal about the box, we expanded the search into family members.  My client had large framed photographs on the wall of her Grandparents, and her maternal Great Grandmother.

A 1911 census search gave us clues for dates and family information. The package complete giving context to this wonderful artifact to ensure it is passed along down the family. The final project was produced on paper for my client and a computer version emailed to family members.

Although we couldn’t define who had bought this item, or who in the family had owned it….. we have discovered its date, maker and origin.

Amazed at the results, my client was thrilled with her package – for me it was pure joy to work with such a wonderful artifact!

If you would like to discover more information about your family heirlooms… Treasured Collections can help!

Seeking Descendants of Justin / Early Family Toronto/Streetsville Area

The Justin House, circa 1980

I was thrilled to see a fairly local historic home on a worldwide Vintage Group I belong to on FaceBook. The Justin House was located 7523 Winston Churchill Blvd. Conc 6, (WHS) West of Hurontario Street, Lot 13, (Streetsville identifier MC0688) built in 1827, the property was formerly listed on the Heritage Inventory but demolished in 1997.

Posted by Sean from St. Clair Township..  who is interested to locate family descendants as documents and images relating to the family. Let me know if you are connected to this family.

“The following description of the house is from a report, dated September 11, 1990, from R. G. B. Edmunds, Commissioner of Planning and Building, to the Chairman and members of the LACAC. “The house, known as the Justin House, was featured in the 1877 Illustrated Historical Atlas of Peel County, and was probably built in the late 1850s or early 1860s. The original owner of the property was Martin Justin, Sr., who was born in Queen’s County, Ireland, in 1790. He applied for a land grant in 1819 for the W 1/2 of Lot 13, and W 1/2 or Lot 12, Conc. 6, Toronto Township, a total of 200 acres. However, he died intestate before the land claims were finalized and was survived by his wife Eliza, and two sons. Both Eliza and the eldest son, William, applied to gain title to the land. In 1846, William Justin won legal title to both lots and sold the W 1/2 Lot 13, Conc. 6, to his brother, Martin, Jr., for £600 sterling.

Drawing taken from the 1877 Historical Atlas of Peel County


William Justin became the Magistrate of Streetsville and an upstanding member of the community.”  At the time the photo was taken (1980) the property was owned by Lisgar Twin Service and later (1990) by Entas Developments, who had made a proposal to develop the site for purposes of high-density office/commercial use. Edmunds’ report recommended that the property be designated historical, but it was demolished in 1997. Description as of December 2010.  Thanks to Jane McCormack for providing this wonderful photo.”

More recent findings are offered by Canadiana Room at Mississauga Central Library

“In Ancestry Martin James Justin notes he was married twice … first to Mary Ann Switzer by whom he had a son, but both mother and son died shortly afterwards. Martin remarried to Mary Elizabeth Cowan, and according to a tree on Ancestry, had a son who died unmarried at 18 and two daughters.  One daughter married a Frederick Early, according to the Ancestry tree, and they had two sons but as they were born in 1905 and 1907.”

Capturing Your Local Business Footprint!

Celebrating The Evening News (Portsmouth), Centenary (1877-1977)

Artifact: First Day Cover, 27 April 1977, featuring William Caxton (1476) stamps, from the collection of Mrs George of Portchester.

This blog entry refers to the local newspaper in my ‘old’ home-town, but the essence of the message is the same, wherever you are!

Marking and celebrating significant milestone anniversaries of your local business, collecting and sharing memorabilia from that event… helps plant the footprint of the business through time.

With social media advancing, and less paper promotional literature, it will become more relevant as time goes forward.

How to do this? Start an archive folder/box now!  Place in it, early business cards, letter head, literature and promotional artifacts… pens, give-aways etc. Add to the box each time your logo changes and you’ll have a ready-made running history for your business!

The Evening News (Portsmouth), Centenary (1877-1977)

The News was founded, as The Evening News, on April 27, 1877. It was launched from a former butcher’s shop at 1 Arundel Street, Landport, Portsmouth. Produced on four broadsheet pages, at the rate of 2000 copies an hour on a hand-fed press which was housed in an erstwhile slaughterhouse.  The selling price was halfpenny! The Run and managed by its founder, Mr J G Niven, who is reputed to be shown driving the dog cart in the illustration.

Another historical snippet from this story is the fact that just six months earlier than this centenary, the 500th anniversary of printing was introduced to England by William Caxton! The stamps on the First Day Cover celebration this 1476 fact!

Take a moment, and gather your artifact collection!  If you don’t know where to start, or need help. Let me know!

With plenty of experience I’ve shared my museum-gained skills with local libraries,  chamber of commerce, non-profit organizations and area businesses!

Women’s Land Army – Post WWII

Above: Joyce Bake with her gang and two cleaners. Joyce sat on van bonnet  at Brackley Hostel. 1947/48.

This post is created to share photographs belonging to Joyce Bake. They are dated and most identified with the location. Intended to assist with research for family members of those who served with W.L.A. If these images are useful, you are welcome to copy and share.

Joyce Bake (1925-1999) served during WWII with the Women’s Royal Air Force.  Wanting to learn to drive, she worked with the Women’s Land Army (WLA) from 1946-1948. She always recalled this era of her life as the most fun! Hard work and hard-play.

Among her documents are letters addressed from the Agricultural Executive Committee, the County of Northampton, that note that Miss J Bake was employed by the Committee 8 October 1946 until 9 October 1948, in the capacity of Forewoman at the Brackley W.L.A. Hostel.

Artifact: W.L.A. Armband – Joyce Bake.

Above: Joyce and her van. Noted as N.W.A.E.C. at Brackley hostel 1946/47.

Below left: Joyce with head scarf, Brackley, 1948.

Below right: More of the gang, Brackley Hostel.


Below: Joyce wearing a suit, front left. No further notes on the photograph.

Below left: Joyce and her best pal Margaret Oakie, at Brackley Hostel. Woman’s Land Army Forewoman 1946-1948.

Below right:  May 1944, Glamorgan. Paddy and friends at family farm. Threshing group.


Below left: Joyce’s friends Sheila and Glad at Brackley  1947.

Below right: Joyce Bake in centre, small image, noted as Kislingbury Hostel, N’Hants.














Vintage Dolls

Researching maker’s marks on artifacts is my thing!

With a little perseverance I recently identified a doll that had no brand stamp.  It is a German-made Kammer and Reindhardt bisque doll.  There is sometimes a curve ball in the research, as the head molds were often used by other companies and look-a-like copies were produced.

I looked into the background my two dolls. Luckily they both have brand marks, patent numbers, plus country of origin. These marks are found on the dolls back, and back of the head.

This “Rosebud” doll was bought in the mid-1950s. It is a hard-plastic doll (head and body) made by Nene Plastics Ltd, England, a company that started in 1947 and run by Eric Smith. It was Smith who registered the name “Rosebud”, by 1955 they had started experimenting with vinyl (softer plastic). In the 1960s the company was sold to Matte, dolls made in America are marked with “Rosebud Mattel”.

My second doll was given to my around 1960. This was a Palitoy Patsy Chubby Baby doll, made in England. It has a patent number registered in Britain, Australia and Canada. The head has a different number to the body.  The doll is 15 inches tall, hard plastic head, soft vinyl body, rotating legs and arms. She drinks, cries real tears, and wets her nappy. The head has molded hair, hand-painted lower lashes and eyebrows, rolling eyes with lashes. There are no join seams visible on arms and legs.

Palitoy has an interesting history. Originally Palitoy Cascelloid Company started by Alfred Edward Pallet of Coalville Leicestershire in 1919, made their first doll in 1925.

Palitoy was bought by Chad Valley toys, then General Mills who also scooped up Airfix toys, Meccano and Tri-ang – all familiar toy brands throughout my childhood. The final owners were Tonka, then Hasbo. A fun fact – The British boy doll Palitoy Action Man celebrated it’s 50th birthday in 2016!

My aunt also has a childhood doll.  Among our family photographs I found a picture of her with a doll. Although the doll’s face was similar, she confirmed the doll in the picture was donated to her by a neighbour.

In the post-WWII years there were few luxury goods or toys available. In the past, we have compared notes and discovered that my first teddy, was also her first teddy! (a rather sad, hard pink thing stuffed with straw).

On a brighter in the mid 1950s her Mum (my Nanna) bought her a  brand new state-of-the-art “Patsy” doll that could be fed, cried real tears and we its nappy. The doll has a the same patent numbers as my doll, it is slightly earlier. It has the same hard plastic head, made in two parts, but vinyl limbs are also made in two parts,  join seams are clearly visible.

She recalls thinking she was a little old for such a gift, but we figure her Mum felt she deserved a nice ‘new’ toy.

Is there a vintage doll in your family?  What is its story?

When you have noted down who owned it, where they lived and when, take a moment to research the brand name and the maker!