The Bytown Antique & Bottle Club
Returns to In Person Meetings!
by Shaun Markey
After an overly long hiatus caused by Covid, the Bytown Antique & Bottle Club is pleased to announce that it has reinstated our traditional activity of holding in-person meetings.
Earlier this month on September 22, 2022, we met at a member's house to network, discuss Club business and conduct our regular "show and tell" session in which members present and describe a particular item from their collection.
It was so much fun to see old friends in real life as opposed to virtual meetings via ones computer and the Internet. In a bit of a switch, the meeting was held over the lunch hour instead of the evening, a change that was popular with the members.
After a short business meeting, in which our treasurer confirmed the positive financial health of the Club, it was on to the "show and tell".
One item that quickly got our attention was a rare Ottawa ginger beer bottle known for its unique transfer-printed label with the name Napoleon's Celebrated Buffalo Ginger Beer. As part of the design, the front of the bottle featured, of all things, the head of a buffalo! The phrase "Brewed from Pure Jamaica Herbs" and the name "N. Sarault" complete the remarkable label of this rare ginger beer bottle dating to about 1910.
Like most ginger beer of the time, the bottle and the fanciful transfer printing were completed in Edinburgh, Scotland at the Buchan, Portobello works. The brewing and bottling of the ginger beer would have been done here in Ottawa. The eight inch high bottle with the black ink label dates to about 1910. Not long after, glass bottles with paper labels came to prominence and the age of the ginger beer pottery bottle was over.
We can only guess why Napoleon Sarault chose the buffalo motif for his bottle. Maybe it was a tribute to the original Buffalo Rock Ginger Ale first concocted in the basement of a Birmingham, Alabama grocery store in 1901? The phrase "Brewed from Pure Jamaica Herbs" perhaps pays homage to ginger beer's origins that date back to the colonial spice trade with the Orient and the sugar producing islands of the Caribbean. Whatever the inspiration, Mr. Sarault was making sure to use all of the available space on the bottle front to promote the advantages of his product.
To be fair, one could look at many of the ginger beer label designs of the time in the same way. Quirky images on other ginger beers include a horse jumping through a horseshoe, a monkey with a soda siphon, and rifles crossed over a rabbit’s head, to name a few, that have no apparent logical connection to the makers of them.
Anyone at the meeting with a toe peeking through a hole in their sock would certainly relate to the next object that was presented! Back in the day, people weren't so quick to throw away items of clothing that had worn through. Family members would repair the hole by darning. Darning is a sewing technique for repairing holes in clothing. It is a type of embroidery and is accomplished with a needle and thread alone.
On this day, another member was proud to show and describe a beautiful early 19th century "darning" sampler, which included about sixteen different exceptionally detailed samples of darning patterns. The work was framed in glass so both the front and the back of the darning samples could be viewed. At the time, this type of needlework sampler was being replaced by ones that would include a date, a verse, and the name of the stitcher. Creating a sampler would teach a young girl math skills with counted cross-stitch as well as how to spell and write the letters on a work.
The member thought that this darning sampler was probably made by a teacher to show young students how to work with fabrics to repair or mend a hole. Plain weave like linen, or more complicated twills and damask would each present a different challenge.
An impressive circa 1920 pair of red breasted merganser decoys from Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia were carefully passed around for the members to examine. They were in wonderful, original paint and real treasures! Antique decoys are excellent examples of folk art.
The next item was a small landscape painting, the member had collected a few years back which featured a section of the stone and wrought iron fence that surrounds the Governor Generals' home in Ottawa. Equally fascinating was the fact that his great grandfather, Moses Chamberlain Edey (1843 - 1919) was the architect who had designed the fence and won a prestigious award for it in 1887 from the Agricultural and Arts Association of Ontario.
We have experts in the Club on many different areas of collecting including oil lamps. One member presented two "coin dot" type lamps both with flat marble bases. The base on one lamp seemed far too big but the member pointed out that the heavy, large base meant that the lamp was used on a ship. The oversized base was meant to keep the lamp from tipping over in rough seas.
On this day, we were all in for a special treat when our host took on a personal tour of her impressive collection of folk art paintings, many of them mounted on single long "art wall". She pointed out works by well known Barbara Clark-Fleming and several by the emerging folk artist, Linda Standing.
All in all, the event was a complete success. Meeting finally in person reminded us all of the importance of our Club. It reinforced the reasons for why we collect in the first place. Cultural history is fascinating. Through objects of the past we can see and touch the items that were important to those that came before us. That's important in its' own right but to share the experience with others, in person, makes even more of an impression on all of us.
Our next Club meeting is set for mid October. We're all looking forward to it, as we will convene at a house with a very important collection of antique Canadian country furniture and accessories.
Bye for now from the Bytown Antique & Bottle Club! Best wishes to all! Hope you find something great out there!