On Exhibit: The HMS General Hunter

The Welland Historical Museum has a new, interactive shipwreck exhibit about the HMS General Hunter. The British Royal Navy 10-gun brig (built in 1806) played an active role in the War of 1812, including in the capture of Detroit and the pivotal Battle of Lake Erie, where it was captured by the Americans. The General Hunter was used as a US Army transport ship until it was washed ashore in 1816 by a fierce Lake Huron gale. Later, the ex-warship was ransacked and burned. 185 years later, the General Hunter was rediscovered as a shipwreck on the Southampton Beach in Ontario.

Ken Cassavoy was the marine archaeologist who led the excavation and identification process. In addition, he was also heavily involved in designing the museum exhibit that brings the story of the General Hunter to life. I spoke with Cassavoy about the ship’s fighting days, how he went about identifying the shipwreck, and why the exhibit may remind you of an episode of CSI. Continue reading

Women’s Fashion During the Regency Era (1810s to 1830s)

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.

Dress, Canadian (c. 1823-1825). A old rose silk taffeta and beige silk satin gown with a cotton lining. Sewn by hand. [Source: McCord Museum]

As men’s fashion moved to a more simple tailored style over the Regency era, losing the frills and certain colours along the way, women’s fashion did the opposite. It went from understated and sleek to poofy sleeves, bell-shaped skirts, elaborate hats, and ribbons galore. Corsets and multiple petticoats returned full-swing. It would take a little under a century before less constricting styles became popular again. Why the sudden change (or reversal, really) for women’s clothing? Continue reading

Men’s Fashion During the Regency Era (1810s to 1830s)

Fashion Flashback: Given that fashion was instrumental in the creation of Canada, this blog series explores the development of what Canadians wore one era at a time.


“Man’s Tailcoat.  Probably England, 1825-1830. Wool plain weave, full finish, with silk cut velvet on twill foundation” [Source]

When it comes to timelines and the Regency Era, things get a little messy. Technically the era only lasts nine years. When “mad” King George III was declared unfit to rule, the Regency Act was passed and his son George, the Prince Regent, ruled in his place. When George the III died in 1820, the Regent became King George IV. However, there is a certain “romantic feel” to the Regency Era that goes beyond that short time frame and most slap on another decade or so when establishing a timeline. (1837 is the farthest the Regency Era extends on both sides of the Atlantic however, given that’s when Queen Victoria’s reign begins and the Upper and Lower Canada Rebellions occurred). In terms of fashion, Romanticism and the influence of “dandies,” had a major impact on western men’s clothing during this time. Continue reading

Spotlight: Faith Fenton


Faith Fenton aka Alice Freeman (c. 1885) [Source: LAC]

October is Women’s History Month in Canada and instead of writing about the usual suspects, I thought I would take a look at the life of a lesser known female figure in Canadian history. Alice Freeman (1857-1936), better known as “Faith Fenton,” was a schoolteacher turned popular investigative journalist. Her life was pretty remarkable not just because Alice was one of Canada’s first female journalists but because she was one of the thousands who headed up to the Klondike in 1898–except she was looking for stories, not gold. Continue reading

Ortona: Was It Worth It?

A Canadian soldier at the Battle of Ortona. December 1943. [Source: Canada at War]

The Canadian Forces faced one of their toughest battles during World War II during December 1943. Their goal? Capture the small coastal town of Ortona, Italy. The Canadians fought their way through rubble-covered narrow streets, booby-trapped houses, machine-gun fire, and concealed landmines throughout the town. As the CBC described it, Ortona was a battle in the “courtyard of hell.” The Canadians were successful in the end, but at a cost of 2,200 casualties. Was it worth it? (Shout out to GP Cox for inspiring me to research this battle!) Continue reading

Erasing History? On Problematic Representations of the Past


An Angus Reid poll found that 55% of Canadians are against renaming schools named after Sir John A. Macdonald. When it comes to statues however, 71% are open to the idea of relocating monuments to museums where they can be viewed in proper historical context. [Source]

I’m about two weeks late on all the buzz surrounding this topic, but oh well. I have been thinking a lot about representations of history throughout 2017; how we choose to commemorate the past, as well as the politics and implications that go along with this. It’s hard not to think about, what with the #Canada150 rhetoric in full swing throughout the first half of the year, along with all of the controversies around historical place names and statues both here and in the US. This post has to do with the latter. This is not an opinion piece, rather it is a collection of the many different opinions that have emerged from the debate on statues and place names honouring problematic figures from Canadian and American history. I leave it up to you to make up your own mind. Continue reading

1917 Vs. 2017

Happy Canada Day!

Today marks our sesquicentennial aka the 150th anniversary of Confederation.

I’m currently in Ottawa taking in the festivities. As such, here is a mini post dedicated 100 years ago today–Canada’s golden year.


Dominion Day / 50th Anniversary of Confederation (1917)

The 50th anniversary of Confederation was low-key. At the time the country was consumed by the devastating Great War and was being torn apart by the Conscription Crisis. According to the Ottawa Citizen, an official ceremony took place at noon on Monday, July 2 on Parliament Hill. Prime Minister Robert Borden, Opposition Leader Wilfrid Laurier, and Governor General Victor Cavendish each gave a speech in front of the under-construction Parliament Buildings. The Centre Block had burned down the year prior.  After a choir sang O Canada, the Centre Block was officially dedicated to the Fathers of Confederation and those fighting in the Great War. The final part of the ceremony involved a parade of 7 military units, 250 veterans, Dominion police, city police, fire brigade, boy scouts, and girl guides.

While it annoys me to no end that I could not find any pictures of the ceremony in Ottawa, here are some photos of Canadians celebrating on July 1-2, 1917:

Fun Fact: Dominion Day was renamed Canada Day in 1982.


Images courtesy of:
Library and Archives Canada + “Alice’s Album”
Vancouver Public Library
Niagara Falls Public Library

Why Did the Fenians Attack Canada?

Battle of Ridgeway C.W. (c. 1869) by Unknown Artist. A famous, yet inaccurate depiction of the battle, as it was fought in a modern skirmish style (fighting and hiding behind cover), not in a Napoleonic line format. [Source]

Continuing our look at ridiculous events in Canadian history: The Fenian Raids. You know, that time Irish-Americans invaded Canada to free Ireland from British rule.

People were probably just as confused back then at this turn of events as they are now. Despite the fact that the Fenian Raids (1866-1871) all ended in failure, their history is tied up with that of Canadian Confederation. This post looks at the historical context and the myths surrounding the consequences of the Fenian Raids, as well as what exactly happened. Continue reading

Canadian History in the News: Spring 2017 Edition

Canadian History in the News: The past is always a part of the present. This blog series looks at current events and stories that have a Canadian history element to them and I offer my opinion on the subject.

Canada: The story of how to alienate viewers before the series became decent halfway through.

Sometimes I come across news articles or stories that I think would be great to talk about on this blog—–except for the fact that they are pretty short and therefore wouldn’t make for much of a blog post by themselves. Solution? Every now and then I pull a few together. This late spring edition will cover the debacle that was CBC’s The Story of US, controversy in the archival world, and different Canada 150-related articles. Continue reading