Canadian art has been shaped by generations of artists finding inspiration and perspective in their life experiences. For many artists, travelling to new places is an exciting avenue to find new perspectives and discover something that sparks their imagination.
This exhibition features a variety of Canadian artists who travelled abroad to develop their artistic skills or find inspiration. Their travels often shaped their art, introducing new ideas and styles to Canadian audiences.
Canadian artists Alexandra Luke and Isabel McLaughlin were instrumental to the history and development of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG). Their invaluable support helped shape the gallery, including substantial financial support for the building and donations of artworks. Pulling together works by Luke and McLaughlin from the RMG’s collection, this exhibition celebrates these two incredible women as not only influential benefactors, but also important artists in their own right, who contributed greatly to modernist painting and abstraction in Canada.
Perspective refers to an outlook and point of view, while prospective is future-oriented, suggesting a vision of what is to come. Both this personal and aspirational approach, encompass the spirit of this student photography project. Presented in partnership with the School of Media, Art and Design at Durham College, this exhibition showcases photographs taken by students in the first year Photography and Video Production program. For the project, the students explored photovoice, a process through which photography is used to reflect lived-experience and connect through the sharing of personal perspectives. They were then invited to tell a personal story through images, documenting their environment and daily experiences.
This project was part of an integrated learning experience where the students learned about the history of the Thomas Bouckley Collection, the power of using photovoice, and the value of looking inward. The Thomas Bouckley Collection, housed at the RMG, has over 3,500 photographs that visualize the history of Oshawa. However, the collection lacks the stories and perspectives of many of Oshawa’s residents. Installed in the Thomas Bouckley Collection corridor, this project is part of The Robert McLaughlin Gallery’s ongoing effort to present diverse perspectives from the community.
The resulting photographs shared similar themes, reflecting the students’ realities and observations: empty streets or paths, solace in nature, changing environments, the visible impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, and exploration of community. We want to thank all of the participating students for sharing their lives with us through the power of photographs.
Please be sure to visit both the onsite exhibition at The Robert McLaughlin Gallery on display until June 5, 2022, as well as the online exhibition that includes all of the student’s work here.
The Robert McLaughlin Gallery (RMG) teamed up with Community Development Council Durham’s (CDCD) Community Connections Program to highlight the experiences of newcomers and immigrants in Durham Region. The Thomas Bouckley Collection, housed at the RMG, has over 3,500 photographs that visualize the history of Oshawa. However, the collection lacks the stories and perspectives of many of Oshawa’s residents. This community project is part of an ongoing effort to address these gaps, and to celebrate the community in its entirety.
The CDCD is a not-for-profit organization that has focused on enhancing the quality of life for individuals, families and communities in Durham for more than 50 years. CDCD’s Community Connections Program gives opportunities for new immigrants to Canada to practice English in conversation circles, learn about their community, meet new friends, and enjoy social events celebrating equity and inclusivity. Together, the RMG and the CDCD developed a community project aimed at giving participants an understanding about the history of their new community, as well as making them feel connected and a part of it. Following virtual workshops, the participants were tasked with taking photographs that capture their lives in their new community, and consider their important role within it. Their contributions are celebrated in this exhibition and will be added to the Thomas Bouckley Collection, upholding Bouckley’s vision to collect images that reflect the continued evolution of Oshawa.
Participants submitted a wide range of photographs including quiet moments, intimate interior views, community events, special locations and family gatherings, reflecting their experiences and daily realities of living in their new community. The RMG would like to thank all the participants for their incredible enthusiasm and willingness to share these important images of their lived experiences.
In November 2019, the RMG invited members of the community to share photographs that represent LGBTQ2+ histories and stories for inclusion in the Thomas Bouckley Collection. This project, presented in partnership with the AIDS Committee of Durham Region and The Totally Outright Program, is part of an ongoing effort to address the lack of diverse representation in the collection, and in historical accounts of Oshawa and Durham Region as a whole. While the Thomas Bouckley Collection has over 3,500 photographs that visualize Oshawa’s history, the collection lacks the stories and perspectives of many marginalized communities. This exhibition, featuring a selection of the submissions, celebrates these underrepresented stories and addresses the omission of LGBTQ2+ representation from institutional archives by adding these contributions to the Thomas Bouckley Collection for future generations.
Currently, the Thomas Bouckley Collection contains images of everything from plane crashes and floods, to snowy backyards and family picnics, capturing a wide spectrum of life in Oshawa. Similarly, the photographs in Come Out, Come Out comprise a range of images from vernacular snapshots of loved ones, to more documentary-style images of community outreach and events, most of which were taken in the last ten years. When Thomas Bouckley gifted his collection of historical photographs, he did so with the intention that the collection continue to grow and document Oshawa’s ongoing evolution. Because history is being made every day, we hope these new additions to the collection will allow future viewers to look back on the Come Out, Come Out contributions and have a better understanding of Oshawa’s shared history.
The need to collect LGBTQ2+ histories and stories does not end with this online exhibition; there is more work to be done. We continue to encourage the public to share stories and photos with us by using the hashtag #ComeOutComeOutRMG. We hope to build upon the images we have already received to continue this important project.
Marc Hall and Jean-Paul Dumond attend prom at Monsignor John Pereyma Catholic Secondary School in Oshawa, 2002. Marc Hall successfully sued the Durham Catholic District School Board for the right to bring his boyfriend to his high school prom. The case made international headlines and Hall’s story has been featured in documentaries, television movies and his story adapted to stage. His efforts were supported by various community organizations, and as a result, he became an icon for LGBTQ2+ rights in Canada.
In the 20th century printmakers began to move beyond the small, intimate, and monotone works of earlier centuries to explore scale, colour, and experimental techniques. Spurred largely by wider access to materials, the 20th century saw a burgeoning print scene begin that still exists today. This exhibition features artworks from the RMG’s Permanent Collection that showcase a variety of approaches to printmaking. The works display not only the main methods of printmaking, but also many of the artists included have combined techniques or pushed the medium’s limits in ways that make the works unique and exciting to view. As a printmaker myself, I am drawn to the various techniques, labour intensive processes, and potential for experimentation that is evident in these works.
Printmaking, as a term describes the artistic process of transferring an image from a matrix (the object on which the image or design is formed) onto another surface, often paper or fabric. There are four main printmaking methods: relief, intaglio, planographic, and stencil. Relief printing, such as woodcut and linocut, is when ink is applied to the surface of a block (stone, wood etc.) resulting in graphic images. This technique also offers the possibility of more refined line work, such as in Eric Nasmith’s Great Horned Owl (1980) where carved linework is used to create delicate textures in the foliage and owl’s feathers. Joan Marie Dean’s Isis (1977), with its smooth tones and line work is a great example of intaglio techniques – a process where ink is held in the incised lines of a plate such as with etching or engraving – allowing for a wide tonal range and fine detail.
Planographic methods such as lithography are unlike either relief or intaglio as they are printed from a flat surface. In doing so they offer unique opportunities for fine linework, details and a quality similar to drawing, exemplified by Kenojuak Ashevak’s Sun Owl and Foliage (1979) which shows has a quality similar to coloured pencil, combined with smooth planes of colour. Finally, stencil methods such as serigraph use a stencil to block out areas that are not to be printed; passing ink only to the areas that are part of the image, as seen in Lawren P. Harris’ Chevrons #3 (1973) which has layers of coloured lines laid out over the toned paper.
In each technique, there is a high level of technical process involved, from creating the image, preparing the materials, and printing the finalized artwork. Repetition of the steps becomes a type of meditation, yet at each point of the process there is opportunity for exploration and experimentation, allowing artists to push the limits of the medium. Some artists combine more than one technique. For example, Noboru Sawai’s Antique Birdcage (1979) makes strategic use of woodcut and etching techniques to create a highly detailed and colourful image held within the black lines of a cage. This captivating combination of techniques uses various formal strategies to highlight the central image.
From woodcut to etching, serigraph to lithograph, each of the artists in this exhibition have thoroughly explored and experimented with how printmaking can be used to create spectacular imagery. As a fellow printmaker, I see in these works the labour of love behind the brilliant, bold and colourful images that capture life, storytelling, and visual expression.
My fascination with Lake Ontario took hold during the winter of 2019—the first season I spent living in walking distance of the lake. As a white settler who grew up in the Oak Ridges Moraine, I certainly was aware of the lake but, up until that winter, had largely taken for granted its vitality as a life source to the region. Though it occupies the smallest surface area of all the Great Lakes, approximately one quarter of Canada’s population inhabits its watershed. The lake provides drinking water to over nine million people, and is home to countless wildlife and plant species. Over the course of that winter, I began reflecting on how those of us who live in this watershed relate to this body of water, and what shifts when we take time to listen to it.
When presented with the opportunity to curate a selection of works from both the RMG’s Permanent Collection and Thomas Bouckley Collection, I wondered what stories of the lake I might find, and how artists’ perspectives of the lake had shifted over time. What would artists’ past and contemporary perceptions of Lake Ontario reveal about our present relationship with it? This question is considered throughout the exhibition’s 29 works—ranging across painting, photography and printmaking—which emerge from both collections and span the last 150 years. It is important to note that early to mid-20th century works by European-descendant settler artists make up a significant amount of the portrayals of the lake in the collections and in this exhibition. I find it critical to bring attention to whose lived realities with the lake are largely missing from these portrayals; namely, the profound relationships Indigenous nations have had with this waterbody for millennia. I have intentionally bookended the exhibition with two works by contemporary Indigenous artists from the Great Lakes region, which are featured in the Permanent Collection. Beginning and concluding the exhibition with these works aims to impart a reminder of Indigenous nations’ relationships with the Great Lakes, and their ongoing stewardship of the region.
This exhibition attempts to construct a snapshot of how the lake has been viewed during the last century of settlement and industrialization, from the vantage point of the lake’s north shore in Durham Region. The title Water Sign: Echoes of Lake Ontario surfaced from the strategy I implemented in selecting the artworks, which involved foregrounding representations of the lake where the waterbody seemed to be telling its own version of this history. In looking and listening for signs of life from the lake in the archives, I endeavoured to highlight it as a living force. The works have been grouped by theme as well as medium to bring into focus the lake’s different geographies, and are presented in the following sequence: “Beginnings,” “The lake in front of the lens,” “Reflections in colour throughout the 20th century,” “Oshawa Creek,” “Expansive geographies of the Great Lakes,” and “The lake’s present and future ecologies.” Together, these themes narrate this recent history of representation in the collections, and provide reflection on the historical contexts that shape how we sense the lake today.
This theme considers different beginnings in relation to the lake. The first work, Nanabush and the Giant Pike (n.d.) by Blake Debassige, an Ojibwe artist from M’Chigeeng First Nation on the Georgian Bay, anchors the Great Lakes as vital to Anishinaabe culture. Here, Debassige vividly portrays Nanabush travelling across water, a protagonist in Ojibwe storytelling who is both a culture hero and trickster figure. Although it is unclear which lake this is situated on, Debassige’s work points to how the Great Lakes have sustained and been home to Indigenous cultures and ways of understanding the world for millennia. Juxtaposed with this self-representation of Indigenous culture is British-born settler artist Frederic Waistell Jopling’s idealization of French voyageur Étienne Brûlé’s travels of the Great Lakes thanks to the guidance of Indigenous tribes in Etienne Brule’s Last Lap of the Portage to Lake Ontario, 1615 (n.d). Brûlé was likely the first European to arrive to Lake Ontario four centuries ago.
Blake Debassige (Ojibwe, 1956 – 2022), Nanabush and the Giant Pike, n.d., acrylic on canvas. Gift of David and Suzanne Peacock, 2014.
F. W. Jopling (Canadian b. England, 1859 – 1945}, Etienne Brule’s Last Lap of the Portage to Lake Ontario, 1615, n.d., etching on paper. Gift of Serry and H. Max Swartz in honour of Sybil and Manning Swartz, 1987.
Lotti Thomas’s Prima Terra Nova (1984) narrates the ensuing colonization of Canada by European settlers arriving via waterways and the beginning of mass European settlement. Finally, two maps from the mid-1800s are the earliest representations of the lake in the collections, which both depict the lake as a void, negative space. These maps exemplify a settler-colonial way of seeing water and land from an elevated bird’s-eye view, as something to be controlled.
The lake in front of the lens
Taken in the early 1900s, these photographs from the Thomas Bouckley Collection reveal some of the earliest imprints of the lake itself in the gallery’s collections. Presented in black-and-white, with humans largely omitted from view, the lake is foregrounded as a living force. For instance, in Oshawa On The Lake In Winter (1919), a light leak on the photograph’s film can be interpreted as the lake transgressing the image frame; in Ice Formation, Lake Ontario (n.d.), a wave has monumentally crystalized in mid-break. Meanwhile, in Shipwreck (1921), a suspended wave occupies the bottom frame of the image, almost as if, only moments later, it overtook the photographer’s lens. Showing the wreckage of a wooden vessel in the middle ground—likely from a coal barge—the image attests to the power of the lake.
Reflections in colour throughout the 20th century
Here, an array of paintings from the Permanent Collection depict bodies of water during various seasons and times of day. Although not every painting is directly representative of Lake Ontario, these works by Southern Ontario-based artists provide reflections on the nature of water as always being in flux. The sun is dazzlingly reflected in the seascape of William Blair Bruce’s Lake Ontario (n.d.), while Florence H. McGillivray’s Moon Magic (1933) highlights the lunar influence on water’s movements. Season of Frost (1962) by Gustav Weisman uncovers a lake’s icy depths in the cold of winter. Emma May Martin’s Breakers – Ocean or Lake (n.d.) speaks to how easily Lake Ontario could be mistaken for an ocean when looking out at its wide expanse.
William Blair Bruce (Canadian, 1859 – 1906), Lake Ontario, n.d., oil on canvas. Purchased with the assistance of the Government of Canada through the Cultural Property Export and Import Act, 1986.
Florence H. McGillivray (Canadian, 1864 – 1938), Moon Magic, 1933, oil on board. Gift of Joan and W. Ross Murray, 1994.
E. May Martin (Canadian, 1865 – 1957), Breakers – Ocean or Lake, n.d., watercolour on paper. Donated by the Ontario Heritage Foundation, 1988, gift of Mr. and Mrs. Theodore Lande.
Gustav Weisman (Canadian b. Lithuania, 1926), Season of Frost, 1962, oil on masonite. Gift of the artist, 1995.
This selection of photographs spans a 100-year history of Oshawa Creek, Oshawa’s main watercourse into Lake Ontario. These images of the creek provide glimpses of the broader history of the city’s relationship with the lake and its waterways: as the backbone of industry, as a site of recreation and, at times, an infrastructural hazard. During the second half of the 19th century and early 20th century, the Oshawa Creek Valley was home to booming industry. Many of the industries made use of the creek’s waters for its production and, like in the Don River westward, unleashed high levels of pollution back into the stream, which eventually flowed out into the lake. The creek endured throughout these different periods of the city’s economic activity and today, as we see in Fred Sewell’s photograph Oshawa Creek at William Street (2011), the creek continues to flow south, sustaining the plants and beings that rely on its watershed.
Expansive geographies of the Great Lakes
Lake Ontario is critically connected to the wider Great Lakes’ network. Several works in the collections speak to this interconnection through the movement of water, as well as people and goods, across the lakes. In Jopling’s Whirlpool Rapids Illuminated – New York Side (1916), we get a sense of the sheer force of the Niagara River’s enlivened motion, which cascades between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. In Ed Bartram’s Island Forms (1973) depicting the Georgian Bay, and Valerie Palmer’s Perpetua (1993) set by Lake Superior, we are shown suspended moments of transition set against the rocky terrain of the Canadian Shield, which envelops both northern shores of Lake Huron and Lake Superior. Concerning the industrialization of the basin over the last century, large steam vessels and cargo ships—as pictured in Steam Vessel Leaving Harbour (1910) and Robert Bourdeau’s Ontario, Canada (1985)—have travelled to and from Lake Ontario’s ports throughout the decades to exchange goods across this network, on both sides of the Canada-US border.
Steam Vessel Leaving Harbour, 1910. The Thomas Bouckley Collection
F. W. Jopling (Canadian b. England, 1859 – 1945), Whirlpool Rapids Illuminated – New York Side, 1916, mezzotint and drypoint on paper. Gift of Joan and W. Ross Murray, 1976.
F. W. Jopling (Canadian b. England, 1859 – 1945), Whirlpool Rapids Illuminated – New York Side, 1916, mezzotint and drypoint on paper. Gift of Joan and W. Ross Murray, 1976.
Valerie Palmer (Canadian, b. 1950), Perpetua, 1993, oil on linen. Anonymous Gift, 2015.
Robert Bourdeau (Canadian, b. 1933), Ontario, Canada, 1985/86, silver gelatin print on paper, mounted on mat board 1/30. Gift of Sean Bourdeau, 2016.
The lake’s present and future ecologies
Ecological awareness around the importance of the lake and its integral role in sustaining a complex ecosystem has only increased in recent decades. Eric Nasmith’s Whimbrel Moving West on Lake Ontario (1976) and Barry Smylie’s Communication should come this naturally to everyone (1991) portray examples of the many species who rely on this ecosystem. Don Wotton’s Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (2011) documents the authority’s headquarters near the Oshawa Creek, established in 1958 to redress the environmental impacts of industrial activity in the region. Today, the organization continues to ensure the health of Durham Region’s watersheds. The photograph The Delegate Visits the McLaughlin Gallery (2007) by Jeff Thomas, an Iroquois artist from Six Nations Reserve and Buffalo, NY, speaks back to the stereotyped representations of Indigenous peoples and their erasure from contemporary urban spaces. Taken on the front lawn of the RMG, Thomas presents his protagonist Chief Red Robe standing next to the beavers of Mary Anne Barkhouse’s public sculpture Grace (2007) as a testament to ongoing Indigenous presence. Finally, the most recent depiction of the lake in the gallery’s collections is Morris Lum’s Diptych 3 (2017). Lum leaves us with a bisected conclusion with which to consider the future of the lake, its evolving industries and changing climate.
Don Wotton, Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority, 2011. The Thomas Bouckley Collection
Jeff Thomas (Iroquois, b. 1956), The Delegate Visits the McLaughlin Gallery, 2007, colour photograph on paper. Gift of the artist, 2009.
Barry Smylie (Canadian, b. 1948), Communication should come this naturally to everyone, 1991, lithograph on paper. Gift of the artist, 1991.
Morris Lum (Chinese Canadian b. Trinidad, 1983), Diptych 3, 2017, archival pigment print on paper. Purchased with the financial support of the Isabel McLaughlin Acquisition Fund and the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance Program, 2017.
Part of Oshawa’s charm comes from its natural and architectural heritage, which is heightened by the community’s beautiful landscape and gardens. This collection of photographs from The Thomas Bouckley Collection looks back at Oshawa’s historical gardens and celebrates the community’s long and continued tradition of producing beautiful private and public gardens.
Oshawa has various associations that promote community and public gardens, including The Oshawa Garden Club, formerly the Oshawa Horticultural Society, established in 1931. The society has long encouraged horticulture throughout the city and promoted the creation and upkeep of public gardens to enhance Oshawa’s green spaces. Its membership has always had a passion for gardening and are devoted to maintaining Oshawa’s horticultural beauty.
The City of Oshawa is also dedicated to this cause. The landscape team grows all of their own flowers in city greenhouses, designing, planting, and maintaining Oshawa’s many public gardens, flower displays and hanging baskets that brighten the downtown and park spaces. Over the last few years, the city has also increased the number of community gardens located on city-owned land. These gardens are community driven projects run by volunteers and local community groups, with a deep commitment to community engagement and learning. Additionally, Oshawa has been designated a Bee City by Bee City Canada for its commitment to maintaining and developing pollinator-friendly public gardens and amending by-laws to encourage planting and reduce mowing.
For over 20 years, Oshawa has participated in the Communities in Bloom competition. The organization evaluates communities based on landscape, gardens, community involvement and overall cleanliness, and has recognized Oshawa with numerous Provincial, National, and International awards. While these awards honour the recent history of Oshawa’s landscape, these photographs show there is no doubt that the city has always been home to beautiful public and private gardens.
George McLaughlin Home, c. 1905
Formal flowerbeds of perennials decorate the front of the house. This house was torn down in 1910 and G.W. McLaughlin had a new home built in its place.
Robert McLaughlin Home, c. 1880
Hanging pots and window boxes adorn the verandah. The curved driveway is lined by trees, shrubs, and a neatly edged lawn. This residence later served as the St. Andrew’s United Church manse for some years before it was torn down.
F.W. Cowan Residence, c. 1915
In the front of this house is a grand curving driveway and formal gardens. The house is located at Simcoe Street and McGrigor Street, the current site of Adelaide House, YWCA.
War Memorial, Memorial Park, c. 1930
The war memorial that stands today in Memorial Park is due to the efforts of Dr. T.E. Kaiser,, who along with the memorial committee, undertook a massive fundraising drive to ensure a memorial that honours those who served in WWI. It was unveiled on Nov. 11, 1924. The memorial and the surrounding gardens is called “The Garden of the Unforgotten.”
Backyard of King Street East Home, 1960
A rare glimpse of a backyard garden located at 339 King Street East.
John Ritson Home, c. 1905
Located at Ritson Road and Olive Avenue, this clapboard house has a large clematis vine covering a trellis beside the front entrance. A well cared for flower garden boarders the perimeter of the house. A wooden walkway leads past the house towards the side yard where there is a wooden windmill, which was built in 1890.
Guy House, c. 1880
This clapboard house located on Sydenham Farm at Bonniebrae Point, near Henry Street and Lakeview Park Avenue has a large front yard full of pruned shrubs and flowerbeds. Two chairs are set on the front porch for looking out to the garden.
Mothersill Home, c. 1890
A picket fence surrounds the Mothersill property that was located at Cedar Street and Thomas Street. Mature trees bracket the view of the front verandah and garden where several family members are seated. All are identified, left to right: Fred Mothersill, Mary Robinson Mothersill, Charlotte Mothersill, Howard Mothersill (son of Eugene), and Eugene Mothersill.
King Family Residence, 1890
William King, a major property owner in Oshawa, purchased this property. Later it became a hostel for men called “The House of Friendship” and later still it was used as a children’s shelter.
The matriarch of the family is sitting in a rocker on the lawn in front of the verandah decorated with hanging baskets.
Mothersill Home, Cedar Dale, c. 1905
Without the space for a garden in the front, this family decorated their home with potted plants and a cascading window box.
Children Posed in Front of Home, 1960
Four children pose in the front garden of their home at 339 King Street East.
Prospect Park, c. 1910
This privately owned park is now the site of Parkwood Estates and Gardens. The grounds were first owned by J.B Warren, who built a large wooden home here. It then came into the possession of W.H. Gibbs, who built his palatial residence that is known as “Prospect House” on this block. Succeeding owners were Colonel Mulligan and Eli Edmondson. R.S. McLaughlin had Prospect House torn down and erected the present Parkwood residence c. 1915.
Note the decorative pathways, gazebo, and electric lights.
Oshawa Fair – Robert Brooks Display, c. 1906
Members of the Brooks family are shown here in front of their vegetable display at the Oshawa Fair, which was held at Alexandra Park.
Blinkbonnie, c. 1883
Owned by John Wilson, this two storey “Regency Style” house located at the south-west corner of King Street east and Wilson Road. The former sea captain had a pond installed in his garden and named the estate Blinkbonnie. In the image, trees and shrubs fill the garden and a man can be seen in the background enjoying a ride in a steam-powered paddle-wheeler.
Robert McLaughlin Funeral, 1921
This photograph was taken at the memorial service for Robert McLaughlin at the Parkwood estate gardens.
Cedar Arch over Simcoe Street North, 1919
A vine covered cedar arch is mounted over Simcoe Street North, directly in front of Parkwood estate.
Ellesmere Hall, c. 1880
Ellesmere Hall, built c.1870, was the home of the T.N. Gibbs family. Mr. Gibbs sold the house in 1889 to the Church of England who turned it into a school for girls, Bishop Bethune College.
Ellesmere Hall, c. 1880
View of the walkway leading to the T.N. Gibbs family home. The path is lined with formal gardens. The property was located at Simcoe Street and Gibb Street.
Isabel McLaughlin in the Conservatory, Parkwood, Oshawa, 1948
Parkwood estate has long boasted one of the most beautiful gardens in Oshawa, and at one point had eleven greenhouses and a gardening staff of twenty-four. Isabel McLaughlin is shown sketching in her family’s conservatory, which was built to entertain guests.
Adelaide Mowbray McLaughlin, c. 1950
Adelaide McLaughlin poses in front of a lilac tree in her Parkwood estate garden. She was an avid and knowledgeable gardener who loved to study flower varieties. She would often host charitable events at her Parkwood gardens, and oversaw all of the estate’s gardens and greenhouses.
In case you missed it! “Oshawa in the Roaring Twenties”, a virtual talk with Nicole Adams, Local History and Genealogy Librarian at the Oshawa Public Libraries.
When one thinks of the roaring twenties it’s easy to conjure up an image of a lively Great Gatsby-like scene full of flappers, speakeasies and decadent parties. In reality, the decade reflected how the horrors and losses experienced during the First World War and the 1918 Pandemic transformed society. For some, the 1920s was a period of prosperity, political and social change, and economic growth, but it was also an age of high unemployment and racial injustice, when women had to fight for the right to be considered “persons” under the law. This exhibition brings together images from the collections of the Oshawa Museum, Oshawa Public Library and Thomas Bouckley Collection to explore what the roaring twenties meant to Oshawa.
General Motors Workers, c. 1920s. Gift of Evelyn McGrath
Two General Motors employees, Bruce Anderson and Davey Stuart, pose in front of a GM vehicle. General Motors of Canada was officially formed in 1918 and ten years later, the Oshawa GM plant employed 8,100 individuals.
In the 1920s, a push for Canadian-built cars to be exported overseas resulted in a boom at GM. High British taxes on cars made in the United States did not extend to Canadian manufacturers, resulting in an increase in production and distribution.
Town Hall, 1924
Located at Simcoe Street North and Richmond Street, Oshawa Town Hall is adorned with bunting and flags, bearing a sign saying “Welcome” for what is presumed to be the “Becoming a City” celebrations.
The growing popularity of the automotive industry resulted in an influx of Oshawa’s population, growing from 4,000 in 1915 to 15,545 in 1924. This allowed Oshawa to seek incorporation and on March 8, 1924, Oshawa received “City” status.
Industry boomed in Oshawa, particularly the auto industry, which encouraged a growth in population and infrastructure. In the 1920s, the population grew from 4,000 to 16,000, allowing for the incorporation of Oshawa as a city on March 8, 1924. Lakeview Park opened in 1920 as a public park for residents to enjoy and Memorial Park saw the dedication of the Cenotaph in 1924, remembering those lost in WWI. Meanwhile, Oshawa’s Sons of Temperance continued to advocate passionately for prohibition, but despite being popular during the war, prohibition was seen less favourably in the 1920s and ended in Ontario in 1927.
While this exhibition depicts the past, it also reflects on today, 100 years removed from the people and moments depicted. Will this next decade similarly be “roaring” as the world responds to the isolation, losses and economic hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing social and political upheavals? Oshawa is already experiencing a rise in population through real estate development; is an industrial and economic boom to follow? Either way, it is clear that the 1920s was a period of growth and change in Oshawa, which contributed to shaping the city we know today.
Traffic Signals at the Four Corners, 1920
Courtesy of the Oshawa Museum.
The Four Corners (Oshawa) bustles with activity as officer Ed Stauffer directs traffic with the manually operated traffic sign. It was not until 1924 that the first electric traffic lights were installed in Ontario.
Fire in Alger Block, 1927
A fire originated in the basement of the Biltmore Café on October 26, 1927. Despite firefighters fighting the blaze for several hours, damages on this city block were estimated at $90,000.
Harmony Bridge Damaged by Flood, 1929
The washout of the Harmony bridge led to the tragic death of two people after heavy April downpours. A car with four people was driving back to Peterborough after attending the Boy Scout Troops performance at Rotary Hall on Centre Street. Due to the heavy rain, they decided to turn back around and spend the night in Oshawa. Unfortunately, they did not know that the Harmony bridge had washed-out and they plunged into the rushing river below. Two of the occupants miraculously survived.
Old Home Week Parade, 1924
The Oshawa Elks float in the Old Home Week parade is parked in front of the Y.M.C.A (51 Simcoe Street South), where registration and billeting for the parade took place.
Old Home Week was a traditional celebration that can best be described as a town reunion. In 1924, the celebration was much larger to acknowledge that Oshawa officially became a city in March of that year. From left to right, back row: Jennie Isabella Walker, Helen Fowler, Madeline (Brown) Ward and Marjorie (Sprenthall) Elder. From left to right, front row: Marjorie Mary I. Sproule, Lorraine (Francis) Jones, Jean Hall, and an unidentified figure.
Mike’s Place, 1924
A lineup of people waiting to buy hockey tickets stands in front of Mike’s Place at 17 King Street West. During the play-offs, the lines of people often extended to Centre Street. Mike’s Place, a convenience store today, has been a staple of downtown Oshawa since 1924.
Railway Employees, 1920
A group of workers pose in front of the Shunter. The Oshawa Railway Co. was established in 1895 and operated until 1964. A Shunter is a British term for small railroad locomotives used for maneuvering railroad cars within a railyard.
From left to right: unidentified, unidentified, Mothersill, McKnight(?), Mildred Fair, George Finigan, with Joe Fair leaning out of the window of the cab.
Oshawa Daily Times Night Staff, 1928
The night shift crew poses for a group portrait at the Oshawa Daily Times. On the left is Foreman Wm. Corbett. The Oshawa Daily Times was one of at least four newspapers circulating in Oshawa in the 1920s and was known at various times as the Oshawa Times or the Oshawa Times-Gazette before finally closing in 1994.
Regent Theatre, c. 1930
Courtesy of Oshawa Public Library.
Constructed on King Street in 1919, the Regent Theatre was designed by renowned Canadian theatre designer, J. McNee Jeffrey. The theatre was home to innovative features for its time, including an air conditioning system that consisted of fans blowing over blocks of ice to cool the large auditorium. This was replaced in the late 1920s by a system that pumped cold water through the building, which proved more effective.
The Regent Theatre was sold to the University of Ontario Institute of Technology in 2009 and has since undergone several reconstructive projects to breathe new life into the building while still maintaining the integrity of the theatre.
Buffalo at Lakeview Park, 1922
Courtesy of Oshawa Public Library.
In the early 1920s, an application was submitted to the Minister of the Interior to request the loan of three buffalo for Lakeview Park. George W. McLaughlin first proposed a zoo for Lakeview Park and agreed to cover all expenses related to the relocation and transportation of the buffalo. The buffalo ended up coming from Buffalo Park in Wainwright, Alberta.
The buffalo remained at Lakeview Park until August 20, 1931, when they were relocated to Riverdale Zoo in Toronto due to residents’ complaints about their appearance and smell. When they were being moved, one briefly escaped its crate and galloped up Simcoe Street, scattering the crowd and nearly injuring a bystander.
This exhibition is part of a Cultural Tourism Initiative presented in partnership with the Pickering Museum Village, the Canadian Automotive Museum, Parkwood Estates, and Central Counties Tourism. To see more War on Whiskey programming visit the Temperance and Temptation website!
A Profession of Care: A History of Oshawa General Hospital’s School of Nursing
During this global pandemic, nurses are needed more than ever. They are essential workers in our health care system whose courage and dedication should be celebrated during normal times, let alone in the midst of the current crisis. Created in partnership with the Oshawa Public Libraries and the Oshawa Museum, this exhibition looks back at Oshawa’s history of training nurses, through the Oshawa General Hospital School of Nursing, to salute healthcare workers everywhere and celebrate their exceptional skills.The Oshawa General Hospital School of Nursing was established shortly after the first hospital building opened in 1910.
During this time, hospital-based nursing schools were opening across Canada. Demand was high for new nurses and the brochures advertising the schools would specifically target young women, often outlining requirements for entry such as, “women of superior education and culture.”
The three-year program at Oshawa General Hospital had its first three graduates in 1913, with the graduation ceremony held at the Oshawa High School (today O’Neill Collegiate & Vocational Institute), a tradition that continued for many years. Life in the early years of the training program was arduous—twelve-hour shifts, seven days a week, with four hours of free time on Sundays. Since there were no tuition fees, students were expected to fully integrate into hospital life, supporting doctors and patients around the clock. Beginning with classroom training, students would then get hands-on experience working alongside doctors and nurses with patients from various departments such as maternity, surgical and pediatric.
The first students’ residence was composed of a few small rooms in the attic of the hospital. Later, a residence was built at 47 Alexandra Street that had a capacity to house forty nursing students. The school grew in the 1920s, which led to the need to fundraise for an addition to the residence. A campaign in 1922, led by the Women’s Auxiliary, raised $15,000 to build 10 more rooms.
In the 1940s, enrollment continued to increase, and the school was in desperate need of more space. Colonel and Mrs. R.S. McLaughlin donated the funds to build a new nurses’ residence. In November of 1947, McLaughlin Hall opened and was described as being among the finest of its kind in Canada. It was also during this period that new educational requirements for enrollment were established, including Secondary School Diploma credits in mathematics and sciences.More renovations were needed in the 1960s to further accommodate the growing school.
The basement of the Oshawa General Hospital, known as the “A Wing” became the new School of Nursing. In addition, the Minister of Health for Ontario changed all three-year nursing programs to two years in order to meet the demand for nursing professionals and began to experiment with standardized curriculum. Hospitals were reluctant to make changes to the programs as each hospital had individualized training programs, and were used to the reliable and inexpensive workers.
As healthcare technology advanced, nursing schools had to adapt. In 1973, the Ontario Government closed hospital-based nursing schools and shifted training to college or university-based programs. As a result of the changes, Oshawa General Hospital’s School of Nursing closed and the program was transferred to Durham College.
In its 60-year history, the Oshawa General Hospital School of Nursing had 1,198 graduates. Throughout the years, the school grew and evolved to keep up with the ever-changing healthcare system and contributed greatly to the community’s overall healthcare services. This exhibition celebrates our local history and is a small gesture to honour the incredible work our current healthcare workers do everyday.
Oshawa General Hospital, 1911 The Thomas Bouckley Collection
Two nurses are seen on the front steps of the first Oshawa General McKay is standing beside an automobile owned by Dr. Rundle.
Oshawa General Hospital Staff, 1912 The Thomas Bouckley Collection
Photograph of the first Medical Board & Nursing Staff at the Oshawa General Hospital. All are identified. Left to right, first card: Drs. Rundle, Hoig, Kaiser, Bolt, McKay Second card: Drs. Ford, Finnigan, Walker, Carmichael Third card: Nurses Drew, Selling, Scott, Oliver, Kett, MacWilliams (Lady Superintendent), Russell, Vernon, Cheesman
Oshawa General Hospital Nurses, 1912 The Thomas Bouckley Collection
View of a group of nurses seated on the verandah at the Oshawa General Hospital. All are identified. Back card, left to right: Misses Vernon, Drew, Scott, Oliver, Kett and Cheeseman. Front card, left to right: Misses Vernon, McWilliams (Lady Superintendent), Seiling
What is a Student Nurse?
“Student nurses are to be found everywhere, underneath, on top of, running around, jumping over or slithering past patients’ beds…” – Unknown, 1963 Year Book
Student nurses are to be found everywhere, underneath, on top of, running around, jumping over or slithering past patients’ beds. Doctors overlook them, mothers worry about them and patients love them.
A student nurse is courage under a cap, a smile in snowy white, strength in starched skirts, energy that is endless, the best of young womanhood, a modern Florence Nightingale. Just when she is gaining poise and prestige, she drops a glass, breaks a syringe or steps on a doctor’s foot.
A student nurse is a composite. She eats like a team of hungry interns and works like the whole nursing staff put together. She has the speed of a gazelle, the strength of an ox, the quickness of a cat and the endurance of a flagpole sitter. To the head nurse she has the stability of mush, the fleetness of a snail, the mentality of a mule and is held together by starch, adhesive tape and strained nerves. To an alumnus, she will never work as hard, carry more trays, make more beds or scrub on more cases than her predecessors.
A student nurse likes days off, boys her own age, the O.R., affiliations, certain doctors, pretty clothes, her roommate and Mom and Dad. She is not much on working 3-11, days off with classes, alarm clocks, getting up for roll call or eating corned beef every Tuesday.
A student nurse is a wonderful creature. You can criticize her but you can’t make her quit. Might as well admit it, whether you are a head nurse, doctor, alumnus or patient, she is your personal representatives of the hospital, your living symbol of faith and sympathetic care.
Author Unknown, 1963 Year Book
Oshawa General Hospital Nursing Class of 1915 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2406
The woman at the back, Miss MacWilliams, was the Lady Superintendent of Oshawa General Hospital for over ten years. She was in charge of the nurses-in-training program. In the Oshawa General Hospital: A Short History, it describes the position as: “The Lady Superintendent….shall have control, subject to the Board of Directors, of the Oshawa General Hospital and shall instruct Nurses or cause them to be instructed in the art of nursing.”
Oshawa General Hospital Nursing Class of 1925 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2888
Miss MacWilliams, the Lady Superintendent of the Nursing School, stands on the right of the 1925 graduating class.
Maternity Ward, c. 1920 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2870
Group of nurses holding newborns in the maternity ward. The nurses in the training program received hands-on experience working in various departments of the hospital, including maternity and surgical.
Night Supervisor with Students, c. 1920 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2362
Nurse Dryden (Night Supervisor) posing with two nursing students, Miss Shearer and Miss Drimmie, outside the hospital.
Students cutting surgical dressings, c. 1925-28 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2356
Two nursing students, Miss McCohn and Miss Hutchison, making dressings in the surgical wing of the hospital.
Off Duty Nursing Students, c. 1920 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2355
After coming off duty from the night shift, two nursing students, Miss Hinton and Miss Thompson, have some fun fooling around on the grandstand at Alexandra Park.
Nursing School Staff, 1928 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2357
Nursing school staff, including Lady Superintendent Miss McWilliams (fourth from left) posing outside in formal gowns.
Nursing School Cafeteria, c. 1940 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2872
The nurses-in-training lived in residences on the hospital grounds. As the school grew, so did the need for most residence space. This cafeteria is believed to have been located in McLaughlin Hall, a state-of-the-art facility at the time.
Nursing Students at Hospital, c. 1960 Collection of the Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2244
View from behind a group of nursing students posing for a photo outside the hospital.
McLaughlin Hall, Nursing residence, c. 1960 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2403
Built in 1946 as a result of a donation by Mr. and Mrs. R. S. McLaughlin, this nurses’ residence was officially opened in November of that year. Its original address was 362 Simcoe Street North, which is now 1 Hospital Court. The building is currently used for the administrative offices of Lakeridge Health Oshawa.
Alexandra House, Nurses Residence, c. 1920 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2403
View from Alexandra Park of the Alexandra House nurses’ residence and the water tower that was located on the south-west corner of Alexandra St. and Simcoe St. North. The board fence in the middle of the photo marks the edge of the park property. Alexandra House was built in 1915 as a nurses’ residence. An expansion was built in 1932 to provide accommodation for 40 nurses. The water tower was removed in the late thirties or early forties. A new nurses’ residence was built by Mr. and Mrs. R. S. McLaughlin on the site in the 1940s.
Oshawa General Hospital School of Nursing Student Nursing Uniform, c. 1960 Oshawa Museum Collection, 012.5.2
This student nursing uniform belonged to Miss G. Gorsline when she attended the School of Nursing in Oshawa. Comprised of a blue and white pinstriped cotton dress with a white bib and apron. The uniform also included starched stiff white cuffs and a collar, white stockings and white shoes. There were strict rules regarding a nurse’s appearance in uniform. Student nurses were only allowed to wear their complete uniform while on duty or during classroom lectures.
Award Winners, 1968 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2313
Award winners of the class of 1968 pose with rose bouquets outside.
Oshawa General Hospital Nursing Class of 1962 Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2426
Operating Room in Oshawa General Hospital, c. 1940s Collection of Oshawa Public Libraries, LH 2871
Nursing students received a well-rounded education by assisting and learning from doctors and nurses from various departments. Seen here is the Surgical Department.
Oshawa General Hospital, Nurses Station, Children’s Ward, 1962 Oshawa Museum Collection, A984.4.12
This photo appeared in a 1962 brochure about Oshawa General Hospital’s new Sykes Wing. It depicts the Children’s Floor that had 88 beds exclusively for children. In the brochure it says: “Sick children need comfort and assurance. More than ever they require love and affection…a feeling of security and a faith that they will be guided back to health by the tender care of their nurse and professional skill of the doctor.”
Nursery, Sykes Wing, 1962 Oshawa Museum Collection, A984.4.12
This image appeared in a brochure launching the official opening of the new Sykes Wing. The Sykes Wing featured a large nursery and children’s ward.
Recovery Room, Oshawa General Hospital, 1973 Oshawa Museum Collection, A984.4.12
Despite the closure of the hospital-based nursing school and the transfer of the program to Durham College, students still received clinical experiences at Oshawa General Hospital in the program. This photo appeared in a brochure celebrating the official opening of the “G” Wing on October 10, 1973. The caption above the photograph says: “Constant watch in the Recovery Room.”
Bedside Nursing, Oshawa General Hospital, 1973 Oshawa Museum Collection, A984.4.12
Despite the closure of the hospital-based nursing school and the transfer of the program to Durham College, students still received clinical experiences at Oshawa General Hospital in the program. This photo appeared in a brochure celebrating the official opening of the “G” Wing on October 10, 1973 with the caption: “Tender care is part of bedside nursing.”
Online exhibition designed by Computer Programmer Analyst students, Dhara Savaliya and Damilola Sanusi.
This online exhibition was created in partnership with Oshawa Public Libraries and the Oshawa Museum.