Category Archives: Family

Challenge….. What is it?

When you discover something interesting in a box of unrelated items… this can be a challenge.

What is it?

Measuring 10 1/2″ long (27 cms), it is made of an early celluloid plastic.  A tubular shape with no seams, at the wider end it measures 1/2″, with a wide hole, tapering to a narrow end which is flattened to an oval, with a very small hole.

This item is not an opaque material like Bakelite, but slightly translucent with a red/brown colour hue. There is no maker’s mark. Some slight scratches from use.

It turns out that this item is a cigarette holder that belonged to my paternal grandmother, Irene (Symes) George (1903-1996).

Before cigarette tips were introduced in the 1960s, using a holder, was thought to have filtered the smoke. Wikipedia suggests… “A holder kept tobacco flakes out of the smoker’s mouth, kept the thin cigarette paper from sticking and tearing on the smoker’s lips, prevented nicotine stains on fingers, cooled and mellowed the smoke and kept side-stream smoke from stinging the smoker’s eyes.

As with evening gloves, ladies’ cigarette holders are measured by four traditional formal standard lengths:

  • opera length, usually 16 to 20 inches/40 to 50 cm
  • theatre length, 10 to 14 inches/25 to 35 cm
  • dinner length, 4 to 6 inches/10 to 15 cm
  • cocktail length, which includes shorter holders

Traditionally, men’s cigarette holders were no more than 4 inches long.”

Used from 1910s through until late 1970s, cigarette holders were particularly popular fashion accessories during the 1920s – the days of the flapper dress, bobbed hair cuts and elegant styles.

Defining Just What Is A Family “Treasure”

As I attend various community groups, organizations and libraries…. I often hear a similar message, “…. but I don’t have any family treasures!”

I thought it was time to help everyone define what might be a family “treasure” or heirloom.

Most people immediately think we are talking about precious jewellery, expensive rare art and ceramic items… Royal Doulton, Lladro, Wedgewood and more…. high priced antiques.

WWII Woman’s Land Army Arm Band

This is not necessarily what we mean by family heirlooms…. treasured passed down through the family.  Here we are talking about an object/artifact that has been passed to you from a previous family member.

Yes, it might be a special item, as often special items are more likely to survive, but it can also be a simple item with no monetary value, even something home-made, which by itself may have no real meaning. It might be quite insignificant unless we stop and tell it’s story.

We can look at it another way too, this small object is an excuse to write down a little bit of history (a short biography) about the person who had owned it! Your grandfather, an uncle who was a war hero. It might be an item from your grandmother’s sewing box. This can bring forward not only her story, but also capture some moments in time, when everything was made quite differently, and often made at home.

It could be:

A Royal Navy military button ~ a mother-of-pearl boot hook ~ a gentleman’s collar stud, shirt armbands, a child’s christening serviette ring ~ a lace handkerchief ~ a school boy’s harmonica ~ a Women’s Land Army arm band ~ a sewing sampler ~ a lady’s cellulose cigarette holder ~ a royal commemorative mug!

If you stop to write down the story of the item, and then expand it with details of who had owned it, when, where and why…. you have a more complete story and a mini biography.

Maybe it is the only thing that survived after a move, or from a war, from a tragedy or a happy vacation!  By adding it’s story you can give it an extended life and share knowledge of its owner to pass on to future generations….

A family treasure, is just that, an item that may be treasured by your family members now and in the future!

Crested China – What’s this all about?

Crested China , what is it?

As an avid collector of crested china miniatures, this is one of my most favourite subjects!  In essence, these items are holiday souvenirs from British seaside towns, many of which are now antique.

Taking a vacation in Britain in the late 1800s, one wouldn’t travel very far. Mostly families would take by bus or train to the nearest popular seaside town, such as Blackpool, Brighton, Southsea etc. The china artifacts were created as a souvenir to take home from  to remind you of your vacation.

W M Goss (William Henry Goss, 1833-1906) was the owner of Falcon Pottery in Stoke-on-Trent, he along with his sons Adolphus and Victor were credited to making “Crested China” popular.

The items take all forms, from ashtrays, bowls, teapots, cups, butter dishes, animals, trains, cars, musical instruments, shoes, monuments, cottages, military items and more. What they all have in common however, is the official crest (or heraldic badge) and name of the town, village or county.

Goss took the ‘historic’ theme a little further, by creating replica artifacts that were featured in various museums around Britain. Each is described on the base.

Their maker’s mark is very specific – a black stamp with Falcon bird logo with text of W M Goss.

This ewer has the crest for  Southsea, the seaside resort at the south of the island of Portsmouth. The model is from an early English ewer dredged up in River Yare, now in Yarmouth Museum No  495671.

In 1995, I was seeking gifts to bring to my Canadian cousins for a visit. I hit a gold-mine when I discovered a worldwide centre for crested china right in my tiny village of Horndean.  Known as Goss & Crested China Ltd., Specialists in Heraldic Porcelain. Their website description reads….

“Established in 1970 the Goss China Club have been the leading dealers in Heraldic Porcelain and we are the leading authority on the subject, having published the definitive encyclopaedias for both Crested and Goss China and numerous other books.

It is said that by late 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, Goss china souvenirs were immensely popular. An estimate of at least 95% of homes had a piece of Goss Crested China on their mantelpiece, tallboy or whatnot. WWI caused a decline, in 1929 the Goss family sold their factory which continued to produce souvenir-ware until the end of the 1930s…..  More information.

Other popular makers were: Arcadian China, Willow Art, Grafton China, Charlton China, Swan China etc.

My personal collection was very specific – small vases, no larger than 2″ from my favourite villages and towns. Special places where I went on holiday as a youngster, where my parents were born, or lived, and small country villages in Hampshire near where I lived.  My collection is not ‘pure’, I prefer Goss items when available, but will take a good ‘other-brand’ if it is a village name on my wish list.

Visiting the village store regularly between 1995 and 1997, when I moved to Canada, I had collected most of the village names I needed. I even have one marked Dominion of Canada…. unfortunately one item on my wish-list, which I am still seeking….  is the village of Portchester, where I was raised.

Portchester village, in Hampshire, is one of the oldest in our area, with a fort that was constructed 3rd century AD by the Romans, 700 years later the Normans build a castle within it. 7000 people were held prisoner in the keep during the Napoleonic war. The church (St. Mary’s) was built in 1120.

In a map from around 1600, the village beside the castle was far more populated with homes, than most of the City (island) of Portsmouth at that time.

Lots of these souvenir items have traveled here to Canada over the years.  As our population ages, they are now finding their way into second-hand stores and antique sales. Check it out – you will nearly always spot one piece in every thrift store, or flee market.

 

 

Digital Scrapbooking – with a Purpose!

Miniature vase (circa 1885), crested china, souvenir of Southampton, Hampshire, UK. Made by W.H. Goss, Stoke-on-Trent, England. The item is a replica model of Romano-Salopian Ewer which was found at Uriconium, and held in Shewsbury Museum.

If you look at a family heirloom, and feel there is ‘nothing to write’ about it, no story to collect!  You might be wrong, let me explain!

You may feel that you know nothing about an item, why Grandma, had it, who it belonged to before her, but regardless of how little you know, there is always a story to be told.

Start with Grandma herself.  When was she born, where was she raised, who were her parents… include any dates you know with full names…..   ie Janet (Jones) Smith, (1902-1978). Include maiden and married names.

Bring the story forward, add that Grandma was married to….. the son of….. and they had ? children.  Link yourself to the child that is your direct relative.

Now we can look at the item.  Many artefacts have a maker’s mark, or stamp. There is usually a clue to who made it, where and when.  An Internet search can bring forth items similar to yours. Unfortunately, many items are part of “for sale” listings, but if you carefully cross-check the information. You may discover the date of the artifact, and where it originated.

All in all, there is plenty of information to gather into a story.

Be warned, however, if you do not start creating the story soon, and jot down what you know….. the information may well be lost over time.

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.

 

 

It’s All About The Artifacts!

We are thrilled to see that the winter issue of our wonderful local In the Hills Magazine sports an article about a project recently completed by Treasured Collections!

Treasured Collections is all about the artifacts, learning their story, noting the provenance (who had owned them, where were they from), and supplementing their story with supportive documents and photographs.

As with all our projects, it was hard to know where to start and stop. In this instance our client Robin had such a broad array of wonderful artifacts from many different members of her family.

There are artwork examples, miniature sketch books, original letters, poems, published plays, paintings and more. The earliest item dates back to 1843 and each item has its own history.

A ‘honeymoon’ booklet made in 1906, a lace christening bonnet, plus many paintings, designs and illumination examples by AH Howard, similar to those held in local and national archives and museums.

When we met with In The  Hills Magazine writer Kira, none of us knew where the article would lead! How best to narrow down this meandering story that has filled more than 100 pages of photographs and artifacts, covering so many talented family members. It was a challenge.  Kira listened, and jotted notes, next we met with photographer Pete Paterson and editor Tralee with the artifacts laid out before us. The result is truly amazing, the story weaves together a handful of artifacts, producing a heart-warming feeling for all to read about this well-known Toronto gentleman, his family roots, and a Caledon stone house (or two).

“Read about The Howard Collection”

Thank you to client Robin for the opportunity to ‘meet’ her family and thank you to In The Hills Magazine team for sharing a small part of it with the community!

From time to time, I give talks at clubs and groups. Let me know if this is a subject your organization would like to hear about.

Similarly, if you have some special family objects, that you wish to catalogue…. and don’t know where to start, drop me an email or give me a call 519-940-4877.

Digitize Your Artifacts!

Have you ever brought your wedding dress or bridal gown to the dinner table to show your friends? Likely not…. perhaps it is neatly wrapped in box and tissue, and stored in a wardrobe, quite unseen?

Treasured Collections specializes in grouping connected artifacts, documents and photographs together within a digital document.  A wedding dress is not much different.  My wedding wasn’t long ago, but in the 1990s, I wore a classic suit of the era, from one of the well known dress shop. Imagine how fabulous it would be if your grandmother’s dress was documented in this way?  In time your great-grandchildren may be interested to see this detail.

The document might include a wedding photo, the location, a picture of the dress, with close-ups of accessories and details.  Add to this a scanned wedding certificate, picture of the wedding rings, flowers, cake and more – whatever has survived in your memory box!

The digital document can be shared with friends on your iPhone, tablet or as a printed paper booklet.

Packaging artifacts in this way, can show the relationship between the artifacts and provide a neat summary of the occasion for your children and their descendants.

Sharing Bygone Art and Craft Skills

This ‘silver paper picture’ created by my mother Joyce (Bake) George (1924-1999), Portchester, Hampshire, England. It hung in my brother’s bedroom from the early 1960s.

When browsing through some family photographs, I spotted more than one picture that had been created by my mother.

Silver Paper Pictures

An art form all of its own.  My mother produced wonderful pictures to sell at the school fundraising bazaar or Christmas Fair. By the mid-1960s it was a family affair, my brother, sister and I joined in the activities.

How is was done?

In our household all coloured ‘silver paper’ sweet (candy) wrappers we collected and smoothed flat. Quality Street offered, green, purple, silver, gold and more. On the farm boy’s shirt you can see the textured pattern from a strawberry sweet. Easter eggs, provided particularly large pieces of coloured silver foil papers.

On a piece of glass, usually the size of windowpane from our lead-light windows, a simple outline image was drawn or traced from a from a children’s book. This was done with a dip pen and black Indian ink.

When it was dry, the background was painted with black oil-based craft paint.  Working from the back, the image would be reversed when complete.  Within each section foil pieces were glued in place using a strong clear craft glue. Then the edges were carefully sculptured and folded back to be contained in the section. As each layer was filled, the final piece could be placed over the whole image.

The back was covered with card. Brass hanging rings pushed through the card and pre-gummed Paspatoo tape was folded to give an even finish from the front, then dampened and used to secure the edges.

My pictures usually featured ballet dancers, animals, or clowns.

Follow this blog to see more skills from the past!

 

Look A Little Closer….

harmonica-p-c-george-1938

There are many ways to find out the age of your family artifacts.  Photographs and documents are often dated, many have name references too.

Objects are a little different.  On occasion you might be aware who had owned an item, and possibly where they got it from. Sometimes items have a date on them, such as this souvenir spoon from the 1967 International and Universal Exposition, the “Expo ’76” World Fair, held in Montreal.

montreal-1967-spoon

A stamped, or printed mark on the object by the maker can help you research the age of an item. You can discover how long was the maker’s business was in operation, and possibly view catalogues to identify the specific design.

The internet can lead you to lists of companies and dates, for lots of types of objects – ceramics, metal, wooden, glass.

Hallmarks on gold and silver are particularly interesting. If an item was British-made, a precise date can be discovered including the maker and the place.

This Echo-Luxe harmonica was made by M. Hohner, Germany. It was in my brother’s china cabinet for many years.  Now it has come into my possession.  The only thing I knew about it, was that it had belonged to my father – Peter Colin George (1926-2008).

Research tells me that Matth. Hohner AG is the oldest and largest producer of harmonicas in the world.  Based in Trossingen, Baden-Württemberg the company was founded in 1857 by Matthias Hohner (1833-1902). In the 1920s the chromatic harmonica was introduced and production of harmonicas hit 20 million.

So, how to pin down the date of this very popular, well-used harmonica which is still in its original box?

Look a little closer……

Within the box lid, handwritten in a pencil …. “Form 2B, P. George”. This identifies the harmonica as pre-WWII, circa 1938. It was used by my father while attending senior school –  Portsmouth Grammar for Boys (founded in 1732)!

harmonica-lid-p-c-george-1938

 

 

Identify Your Treasured Collections – Medals

Military Medal Named Boxes

If you are lucky enough to be the keeper of precious family artifacts, why not take a moment to clarify who they belonged to?

I am easily able to identify my two sets of family military medals (Royal Navy).  I have a keen interest in both family history and historical artifacts.

But to save these memories and pass them along to future generations, the information has to be clear.

The miniature medal set belonged to my Grandfather Harry Michael George (1899-1961) who joined the Royal Navy at age 15. He became an ERA (Engine Room Artificer), retiring from the Navy as a Chief ERA 2nd Class. His medal set consists of : WWI – British War Medal, and Victory Medal. Long Service Good Conduct Medal 1933, and WWII – Defence Medal and Second World War Medal.

The full size medals belonged to my father Peter Colin George (1925-2008) the son of H Michael George. He also joined the Royal Navy as a boy. Retiring after his fifth-five as Chief Petty Officer, Engineer, RN Fleet Air Arm. (He worked on planes on air craft carriers).  His medals include: Defence Medal (1939-1945), WWII Medal (1939-1945), and Long Service Good Conduct Medal.

Each medal set, is housed in a box and marked with the name of their owner.  I chose to buy the boxes in the UK during a trip, to have the Royal Coat of Arms emblem included.

In the past, military tailors such as Gieves & Hawkes, in Queen Street, Portsmouth would provide these boxes. Alas, no longer, the company still specializes in military uniforms, in Savile Row, London, but no store remains in Portsmouth.

I sourced these boxes via… Worcestershire Medal Services.

medal-boxes-b

Take a moment to identify your family artifacts!