Inks Found near Toronto’s First Racetrack

Dumpdiggers walked Queen St west all the way to Roncesvalles yesterday. This part of Toronto is littered with cut-rate junk shops trying to be couture and proffer fine collectibles, but their contents are mostly crap. The exception is Pickwick’s Choice Antiques at 1698 Queen St West. Harold Barrett is an old friend of the Dumpdiggers, and I have personally traded bottles and stories with him since 1996. I see written here on his card that he has been in the antiques business since 1974. Today he sells mostly small furniture and the stuff that young urban professionals use to furnish their 600 sq ft condos, but there was a time when his store was crammed with perfume bottles, pottery, coins, silver cutlery, art deco ashtrays and crystal glassware. Those were happy days when kitsch was cool and old bottles were all the rage. After some easy conversation on the sidewalk I followed Harold into his store and found two crude English inks basking in the sunlight on an oak table just inside the front door. Lyons Ink. Less than 3 inches tall. B.I.M., shearlip. Aqua glass. Embossed LYONS INK in a circular pattern at the base of square bottle. ‘Where did you get these inks Harold?’ ‘They were found by a backhoe operator working near the old racetrack in Weston.’ ‘Hmm… Where is Weston again?’ Inside what is now the City of Toronto, at the intersection of Lawrence and Old Weston Rd, there was once a small mill town on the quiet banks of the Humber river. My research tells me that Carleton Track was located on the southeast corner lots of Keele and Dundas St more than one hundred and fifty years ago. This was the very place in which the Queens Plate was inaugurated on Wednesday, June 27, 1860. Its not really in Weston and not really in Toronto – the Carleton Track was located in between the two urban centers in a place still called ‘The Junction’.
Could these inks have been used by Sir Casimir Gzowski or Thomas Patteson to write to Queen Victoria in Buckingham Palace on April 1, 1859 on behalf of the Toronto Turf Club to petition a plate of fifty guineas for a horse race in Upper Canada? Today the actual trophy, the ‘Queen’s Plate’ they position in front of the TV cameras, is actually a gold cup, about a foot high? It should be called the Queen’s Gold Cup or something more appropriate.
Back in 1860, Sir Casimir Gzowski was a distinguished engineer whose father had been a Polish officer in the Russian Imperial Guard. He wrote a lot of letters and was probably one of the most well connected men in Toronto, which had a population of about 45,000 people.
Here is a photo of Weston Rd in rush hour in the year 1920. Look at how the horse drawn buggies and fine carriages still compete with cars for the road, and I do believe that’s an electric streetcar in the background…? If so that same mass transit system must have connected with Toronto.
Back in 1860, by successfully establishing an annual ‘Queen’s Plate’ incentive, Sir Casimir and Mr. Patteson had made Canadian horse racing “the sport of royalty”.
The Carleton racetrack disappeared as horseracing moved down to the lakeshore area of Toronto to a track called Woodbine (Greenwood) in 1874. A retired innkeeper, Joseph Duggan sold a large parcel of land on what is today Lakeshore Boulevard to gentlemen named Pardee and Howell who ran an unsavory horse racing racket and were soon run out of town. When legitimate horse racing solidified at Woodbine there was both thoroughbred and standardbred races, the latter was harness racing with sulkys. Gambling was tolerated and police were usually present at each match. The Origin of American Standardbred Racehorses According to Betty and Jack on this Ontario harness racing fan site, John Jacob Astor bought an imported British horse named Messenger in 1788 and bred him ‘with any easy equine he could get his hands on…’ and he had some fast children. Over time, Messenger’s sons had foals of their own. One odd looking horse in particular, a big-rumped stallion named Hambletonian, was particularly fast. Over the next 24 years Hambletonian became North America’s premier stud horse producing more than 1,300 foals. Today, the lineage of virtually all American Standardbred racehorses can be traced back to four of Hambletonian’s sons. Bad News! This ink bottle is just not that old. This vessel was made in England in 1885 tops. Veteran Dumpdiggers tell me that LYONS INK is cheap English crap. They look old because they’re so crude, but in fact they are probably turn-of-the-century manufacture. Was this blown into a mold? Yes and yes that crude top was tooled off in the factory and no attention paid to the appearance of the closure as long as the cork fit snugly in the mouth. Because I want to know how much its really worth (if anything?) , I put this early aqua LYONS INK on eBay. DESCRIPTION: Sometimes called a snap bottle, this vessel was made in England in the late 1800s and filled with India ink then packed in wooden gross (144 units) crates and shipped to markets all over the world (in this case, Canada). Sheer top, this aqua colored ink has pronounced vertical ridges on three sides. The fourth side is flat and no doubt once accommodated a paper label. The 3 x3 inch bottle was blown into a mold? I think so. And as you can see in the second picture, there’s some embossing in a circular stamp on the bottom of the vessel that reads ‘LYONS INK’

The bottle is in ‘as found’ condition. The stains and blemishes on the glass are well detailed in the third photo. There is also some recent damage to the top. Does anyone have anything to add about this ink?

The Robert W Campbell Bottle

Dumpdiggers visits the Toronto Archives Three Tuesdays ago, Malcolm Mcleod surprised me with a Toronto druggist bottle on which my full name appears in the embossing. After beholding this relic, I set about a quest for more insight into my own genealogy.
Have a look at this 5 oz medicine bottle. Although a little dirty, its in good condition. The stain from the original contents is still visible inside, and that’s perfect. That’s just how I intend to preserve the treasures – as found. The slug plate on this transparent piece of Canadian history reads: ROBERT W CAMPBELL / PHARMACIST / TORONTO ONTARIO. It actually doesn’t surprise me that there are historic objects bearing my name. As one of Scotland’s most notorious clans, the Campbells dominated the Highlands for hundreds of years, and their great leaders included several Roberts, the most famous of which is Robert Campbell of Argyll. Today, when I type my name into Google, I find there are hundreds of contemporary examples – an actor, an architect, a fiction author and a real estate agent in southern Alabama are the most prolific; the latter owns the web domain RobCampbell.com Generally speaking, the Campbells were always pretty good soldiers, and the surname appears on the rolls of almost every British military episode from 1709 forward… In most cases however, the highlanders fought for King and Country with an eye on settling their own farms in the colonies. Indeed the Canadian government funded a popular TV show about a family of British settlers called The Campbells in the 1980’s. This particular pharmacist, Robert W Campbell lived and worked in the City of Toronto in 1895, and I found that information and more while visiting the Toronto Archives on Friday 13th of June, 2008. I was the first official visitor to sign into the building that morning – the doors open at 9am, and I was there at 9:05.

The City of Toronto Archives is located at 255 Spadina Road, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 2V3. This building is a short walk north of Dupont Station on the University subway line – TELEPHONE – To talk to an archivist anytime during business hours, simply call 416-397-0778. Fax the experts at 416-392-9685. Ask for an archivist named Steve Mackinnon – he’s terrific.

Are cameras allowed inside the archives? Don’t even mention the word ‘camera’ when you visit the Toronto Archives. It’s a bad word. It triggers a conditioned response of ‘No Cameras Allowed!’ This clause ‘special permission required’ is peppered with words like ‘appointment’, ‘request forms’ and ‘fees’… yes the Toronto Archives profits by making photographic reproductions. They charge $25 to lens each piece of public property. Robert W Campbell appears the 1896 City of Toronto records as a Druggist with a business at 398 Spadina Ave, and a house at 41 Willcock St. Below his name appears Sarah Campbell, the widow of another Robert Campbell at 1214 King st West. Then a lawyer named Samuel Campbell, and a school teacher named Sophie Campbell follows him . Thomas S Campbell was a buyer for the T Eaton Company, while another man simply known as Tom Campbell was the chef at the Rossin Hotel. In all, there were over two dozen professionals named Campbell living and working in Toronto in the summer of 1896. I’d like to think this little bottle represents them all, and how hard they each worked to make a name for themselves…

WWII Canada Meat Ration Token


meat ration token1
Originally uploaded by roberrific

This stiff navy blue cardboard token was issued to the Canadian people during and after World War II. There were several reasons why food was tightly rationed during the ‘war years’. This is a reminder of that time. Sugar, coffee and tea were strictly limited because they were imported products. Meat was another story altogether. It was exported to feed the troops.

Dumpdiggers found this token while rooting through old cupboards in a farm work shed. I wondered what something like this might be worth? Its made of cardboard, ugly and mass produced… what do you think?

Here is this same Canada Meat Ration token offered for sale on eBay. At the time of this post, there’s three days left in the auction… The Seller started the item at 1$ and there have been NO bids yet.

Albert from Golden Treasure Metal Detectors

Earlier this spring, Dumpdiggers met Albert Anderson, the charismatic proprietor of Golden Treasure Metal Detectors – Canada’s premier metal detector dealership.

On the phone Albert’s voice crackles like Jim Rockford’s answering machine, but the resemblance is purely audio; Albert doesn’t look anything like James Garner.
On Tuesday May 6th 2008, Dumpdiggers tripped around to to test some gear with Albert Anderson. We visited a strange site in close proximity to his home. Mr. Anderson was equipped with Troy Custom Detectors, Shadow X5, while Timbits used the Tesoro, Cibola.

Here’s a picture of Albert holding a two-box detector along with his trusty Troy X5, and some other accessories.

Our hunt happened out on the Scarborough Bluffs in the vicinity of East Point Park. The property in question had once belonged to the Bennett Family – they were granted the land in the early 1800’s. One hundred years later, the land was appropriated by the City of Toronto for municipal purposes and this site is the scene of some environmentally questionable activity today. Golden Treasure Metal Detectors is almost certainly Canada’s premier treasure hunting gadget retailer; so it fits that GMTD occupies a converted residential garage in East Scarborough. Although the business has been around for twenty five years, Albert only bought the name and contents ten years ago… Before he owned the place it was operated by a real old timer who was also named Albert. The switch fooled Tim who had purchased gear from the old Albert back in the 80’s. He did a double take when he saw and heard the new proprietor answer to the name Albert – he must have wondered if the old timer had found Ponce de Leon’s Fountain of Youth? Sorry blatant keyword acquisition tactic there. Together we tested Albert’s machines in the open fields near his house. Because it’s only May, there’s no grass or shrubbery to impede the coil swinging or impair the quality of the signal. As we worked, Albert explained that Golden Treasure Metal Detectors is the official Canadian Distributor for White’s Electronics. He is an official Dealer for DetectorPro, Fisher, Garrett, Minelab, and Tesoro. He has something for everyone and commented on how the high price of gold is creating more amateur prospectors – one nugget could pay for your hobby. Other popular trends include scuba diving with underwater metal detectors – Albert stocks everything necessary for this activity too, except the scuba gear. Local Toronto Treasure Story As we walking along the bluffs Albert related a tenacious local myth – the Lost Treasure of Highland Creek. I find it highly unlikely, but the story that took place during the war of 1812: It seems a British sailing vessel was being pursued by an American gunboat and rather than risk capture, they put in to the mouth of Highland Creek on the Eastern most edge of what is today East Point Park. Here the Captain dumped or somehow buried or hid his ship’s cargo. It has been suggested that it was a wide range of treasures, from gold coins to copper kettles and pots. Many people have looked, but nobody has ever recovered any items from this creek. Hurricane Hazel in 1954 altered the course of the river and now the items maybe anywhere in that estuary, if in fact they ever existed. What did we find? Well for once we found exactly what we were looking for, an excellent local metal detector connection.