1944 Ontario Farmer’s Gasoline Tax Exemption Book

This is the Ontario Farmer’s Gasoline Tax Exemption Book that was issued to my grandfather in 1944 so he could farm his land and feed the troops.

The pages are filled with duplicates of the original 1944 Ontario Gas Tax Exemption Statements

Below is an authentic 1944 Ontario Gas Tax Exemption Statement
that was used by Percy J Campbell for 55 gallons of gas from the Shell Oil Co to use
in his Ford Tractor on his farm in Dartford, Ontario on 10 May 1944,

This is what the tractor may have looked like – 1939 Ford Tractor

Alexander Ferguson MacLaren was the Grand Fromage of 1900s Canadian Political Cheesemakers

Alexander Ferguson MacLAREN, M. P. for North Perth, was born in Perth, County of Lanark, on February 3rd, 1854. He is the son of John MacLaren, his mother being Ellen Buchanan Ferguson. Some of what I know about this man and these antique stoneware cheese pots comes from History of the County of Perth, 1825-1902
William Johnston, 1903. pp.548 and 551-552.

Dumpdiggers knows that Alexander MacLaren was a cheese buyer for a major cheese importer in the 1870s who soon after became cheesemaker in the 1880s.

In 1892 this man introduced a new dairy product to the world, “MacLaren’s Imperial Cheese.” which may have been a more spreadable food product, as it was contained in the ceramic jar seen below (after KRAFT bought it?). For distributing this perishable food product, several offices were eventually set-up in Toronto, New York, London (England), Chicago, Detroit, Mexico, China, Japan and Africa.

This one food product made Alex Maclaren rather famous, also his skill as cheese critic and buyer and seller for example although still a young man, he was chosen as sole judge in the cheese department at the Chicago World’s Fair. Canadians carried off many honours at the event.

Alexander MacLaren was a busy man. He was president of the A. F. MacLaren Imperial Cheese Co., limited; president Imperial Veneer Co., Toronto and Sudbury; president Imperial Wood Fibre Plaster Co., of Toronto; director of Slate and Cement Co., Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. with capital holdings exceeding $2,000,000. He was also director of the Industrial Fair Board, Toronto, and chairman of Dairy Committee; he was also president of the Western Dairymen’s Association from 1896 and 1897.

On April 29, 1885, Alex MacLaren married Miss Janet McLeod. Shortly after marriage MacLaren become active in politics. He was first elected to the Canadian House of Commons for the electoral district of Perth North at the general elections of 1896. A Conservative, he was re-elected in 1900 and 1904. He was defeated in 1908. MacLaren died in 1917 in Toronto from kidney problems. In 1920, MacLaren’s cheese company was purchased by J. L. Kraft and Brothers Company.

Maple Syrup Antiques at Sandy Flats Sugar Bush

Maple has a season. The Ojibwa people knew this period of the year was special, and they called this moon phase the “sugaring off” period, or the “maple moon” or “sugar month”. The tradition of sugaring off became established in communities in the deciduous forests of North America, and has survived to the present time.

On Saturday April 9th 2010, Dumpdiggers visited the Sandy Flats Sugar Bush in Warkworth Ontario.

with Hugh and Lorene Campbell, the local beekeepers / honey producers. Campbell’s Honey house is located less than 3Km away from this sugar bush, between Roseneath and Warkworth. It’s a delicious coincidence because maple syrup is a pure, natural sweetener, the only other liquid natural sweetener being honey. But unlike honey, maple syrup has more trace minerals essential to good nutrition: potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, manganese, iron, zinc, copper and tin, as well as calcium are found in concentrations 15x higher than honey. And its important to note that maple syrup contains only one-tenth as much sodium as honey.

It’s a little known fact that the manufacture of maple sugar is limited to the Maple Belt, the hardwood forest stretching from the midwestern US through Ontario, Québec and New England and into the Canadian Maritimes.

Relics of the Maple Sugar Industry at Sandy Flats Sugar Bush
Hanging on the wall of the pancake restaurant at the Sandy Flats Sugar Bush is a world class display of vintage Canadian maple sugar industry antiques. I briefly paused to admire and photograph the collection of vintage tools, and equipment, including some very valuable hand carved wooden maple sugar molds.

Maple products are harvested exclusively from the sugar maple (Acer saccharum) was known and valued by the native peoples of eastern North America long before the arrival of European settlers.

An Iroquois legend tells of the piercing of the bark of a maple and the use of the “sweet water” to cook venison, a happy accident which established the culinary tradition of maple-cured meats.

French settlers probably learned from the Indians how to tap trees to obtain sap and how to boil it to reduce it to sweet syrup or sugar slabs to be stored for later use.

George Potter’s family diary records his great great grandmother’s sap spile as being a simple cedar splint, in keeping with native practices. Here is a reprinting of the material I found on the wall.

From the diary of my great, great grandmother, Mary Mac Kenzie Ross, 1840.
“John was busy clearing around our cabin, getting a plot ready to spade for potatoes in the spring. A neighbor noticed he had several short cuts of cedar logs. ‘Mr. Ross’, said he, ‘you want to lay those aside and in the winter make sap troughs and spiles ready for the run of sap in the spring.’ Then he told him how to make maple syrup. We were quite taken back there was so much work about it, because in Scotland they thought maple trees ran syrup when they were tapped. However, we borrowed an iron kettle and tapped the maple trees in the spring, boiling the sap outside, although it was dark and smoky tasting. We thought it was a treat.”
George Potter

Other Writings on the Wall at Sandy Flats Sugar Bush

History of the Sandy Flat Sugar Bush

George, growing up as a young boy helped his father collecting and boiling syrup, so when the Potter’s first bought the property tapping the trees was just a hobby. Alice working as a schoolteacher and George owning a men’s clothing store downtown Warkworth. They began with 50 taps, 200 taps then progressed to more than 500.
What started as a hobby soon became a business as Alice and George found themselves running sap all through the night. Alice and George made a decision to retire from their current jobs and commit themselves to the Sugar Bush. As a result of their decision they began to upgrade their equipment. They soon installed a modern pipeline system to transport the sap, this meant more taps (5500), more sap. With all this extra sap a larger evaporator was needed. Today they operate 2 wood-fired evaporators and use a reverse osmosis (nicknamed R.O.) method of making maple syrup. Soon not only were they making maple syrup but maple butter, maple stirred sugar and other syrup products. All of their products are 100% pure. In 1987 the Potter’s began entering their syrup in local fairs winning ribbon after ribbon, but the local fairs were just a guideline to the larger fairs. It proved to be worth their time as it led them to winning a 4 World Championships at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Toronto, Ontario in 1988, 1990, 1993 and 1994. Just a couple weeks ago the Potter’s were inducted in the Maple Hall of Fame in the Ameliasburgh Maple Museum.

History of the Land

Over the years the tree’s on the Potter’s land have been tapped off and on since the mid 1800’s. The first owner of the Sandy Flat Sugar Bush was William R. Losie who first began tapping the maples. The Miner Family, the next owners also tapped the tree’s as well as the third owners, The Milford McVety Family who continued tapping until 1968. The bush laid dormant until George and Alice Potter started making syrup in the early 1970’s.

The History of the Maple Syrup Festival

Originally when the Sandy Flat Sugar Bush became a business they had an “Open House” policy were people were invited to come as they please, tour the grounds and enjoy a traditional maple breakfast. A few years later in 1985 the Kinsman Club decided to get involved by hosting a weekend where club members would cook outdoors for visitors who attended the event. While at the Bush you can enjoy a old fashioned horse drawn sleigh ride, taffy on the snow, compare the native, pioneer and modern methods of gathering and processing sap, educational nature trails, join the log sawing contest, and listen and watch the old thyme square dancing and Potter Band. In 1987 the service club got involved by also hosting a weekend during March. Soon there were many more people wanting to contribute their interests and include the community. The 55 Plus club started organizing other events and a Maple Syrup Festival Committee was begun. Mary Hermiston as Treasurer, Vic Taylor and Jim Horne lad a service club committee. The Percy Quilters displaying a variety of finished pieces in the Town Hall, also a newly finished quilt is raffled off on the Sunday afternoon. Wood, works and wonders is another attraction you will find at the Town Hall where there is a display of handcrafted wood products for sale. Just beside the Town Hall you will find a petting zoo and pony rides. You can visit the antique show and sale at the Percy Centennial School where local antique dealers have brought together an extensive display of treasures from the past. An art show displayed at the Heritage Centre organized by the Northumberland Hills Art Association where local artists have come together for the show. On the festival weekend approximately 8,000-10,000 people traveling from all over.

Some Basic Facts about the Modern Maple Sugar Industry
From the Canadian Encyclopedia’s page on the Maple Sugar Industry, I learned that there are currently over 16 000 maple-syrup producers in North America, with over 80% in Canada. In 1995 total world production was 18 981 kl, of which Canada produced 14 890 kl. The province of Québec produced 13 540 kl, which represents over 90% of the total Canadian production. The rest of the Canadian production came from Ontario (5%), New Brunswick (4%) and Nova Scotia (1%).
In the early part of the 1970s, the traditional buyers were the large food companies. When the US Food and Drug Administration reduced the minimum volume of maple syrup that must be listed as an ingredient in products sold as “maple syrup” and “maple sugar” from 15% to 2%, sales plunged dramatically and the industry experienced a major crisis. Efforts were made to develop a new market aimed directly at the consumer and the growth of this market has rejuvenated the industry. Maple products are now consumed in over 30 countries. Maple syrup remains one of the best natural sweetening sources in the world. It is still served mainly over pancakes, but recently it has also been considered a condiment. It is now used in fine cuisine to prepare sauces, glazes and vinaigrettes. In addition to its use as a syrup or as an ingredient in fine cuisine, and capitalizing on its magic and mystery, some consumers around the World prepare concoctions for special diets or for purification purposes or during special events such as fasting.

Its clear that by the crowds at the facility that day that family operated sugar shanties, which are so evocative of Canada’s pioneer past, will remain a thriving part of the rural Canadian landscape . In the future, Dumpdiggers believes that Canadian maple syrup industry will grow and prosper in as a natural sweetner. Much like single variety honey has found tremendous support in cuisine arts, maple sugar will rise in value in the modern food industry, and become the preferred sweetner of the world’s finest palates.

Twindmills Antiques opens in Colborne Ontario

Twindmills Antiques opened its doors today in the small town of Colborne Ontario, just in time for Christmas. This Dumpdiggers blog post, published minutes before either Ed van Egmond, a local counselor , or Lou Rinaldi the MP cuts the ribbon, celebrates the event, and marks the location as the new home of theappraiser.ca and Marshall Gummer Antiques.

One hour east of Toronto on Hwy 401 at exit #497 there’s a big red plywood apple attraction. Although I don’t wish to be negative about anything in Colborne, there is so much to be positive about. I must warn readers that the pies are not worth the price. Dumpdiggers advises all readers to ignore the landmark, and continue south into Colborne proper. The small city is famous for a rigid foam insulation forming plant that employs hundreds of people.

Explore the countryside. History abounds all through Cramahe township; there’s a dozen historic villages all along the top of Lake Ontario that date back to the early 1800s. A relic hunting road trip here might include stops in Castleton, Grafton, Dundonald, Edville, Greenleys Corners, Griffis Corners, Loughbreeze, Morganston, Purdy Corners, Salem, Shiloh, Tubbs Corners and Victoria Park. Not to mention the larger centers Brighton, Cobourg and Port Hope.

Originally named Keeler’s Creek, the Town of Colborne was named after Sir John Colborne, Lieutenant Governor of Upper Canada, by Joseph Abbott Keeler in 1829. The new Twindmills Antiques and Collectibles Market is Canada’s first green energy self-sustaining market powered by twin windmills. Thirty independent dealers offer a wide variety of items for sale from the 1800s to the 20th century including vintage clothing and accessories, old fashion business phones jewelry, fine furnishings, ceramics, crystal, carnival glass, silverware, toys, records, postcards, books, lamps, art vintage tools and signs and even a rare working salesman’s model of an 1800s threshing machine. The miniature was imported from England to give Canadians their first glimpse at mechanized farm equipment. Now it’s a wonderful showpiece and something of an attraction inside the complex.

Twindmills Stain Glass Studio and Shop
While antique hunting, seek out Heather Watt and sign up for classes in the Twindmills Stain Glass studio. Her shop includes many colourful items for sale, such as Christmas pieces, lamps, candle holders, sun catchers, panels (small to large-abstracts, portraits, wildlife, florals and landscapes) and other stained glass works; gift certificates for lessons and supplies are available as well. Her facility does church restorations and creates wonderful window art in a very creative corner of the building.

Larry in the Chip Truck
Another popular attraction exists out front, in the parking lot. Larry is a friendly guy that sells the best poutine in Ontario. This is real cheese curd with fresh cut French Fries smothered in real beef gravy – its delicious. But best of all, even though he’s almost famous now, Larry still serves up a generous medium size portion for only $4.75 a plate. That price is unbeatable. see also Larry in Chip Truck by luscious web on Posterous.

Here’s where Sandy Shibley is now!
Dumpdiggers remembers Sandy Shibley from ten years ago – she was the more attractive and polite proprietor / managing partner of the Showcase Antique Mall at Bathurst and Queen St in downtown Toronto. Dumpdiggers had a display case there in 1998 to sell the pretty blue poisons and amber sodas we found digging hard in downtown dumps – that was back when I collected anything and everything glass.

Marshall Gummer has some fine art attractions too – check out the Appraisers Treasure Blog for great pictures and stories of his stuff. Other pages detail recent appraisals which include a Frankart Lamp $2,700 or Sherman Bracelet $1,000 and some amazing Harlander pottery. Marshall’s stall is rather central, and as usual Marshall will consult, do appraisals and offer excellent advice better than most experts on the Antiques Roadshow – he’s generally the kindest and most helpful contact any Dumpdigger or home stager could ever have in the fine arts / antiques world outside of Toronto, Ontario

So take a trip east to Colborne, visit Twindmills Antiques, say hello to Marshall Gummer and Sandy Shipley, eat Larry’s amazing poutine and go shopping. The place is chock full of paintings, art deco tableware, early Canadian primitives, beds and tables, and patio furniture. There’s also collectible china, enamelware and Bakelite. Prices are affordable and shoppers will be delighted to find one-of-a-kind Christmas gifts.

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…

Introducing Malcolm Mcleod

This picture perfectly describes Malcolm Mcleod . He’s an ace in the hole. His toothy smile raises moral. His sharp tongue keeps everyone honest. At one time Malcolm was called ‘The Captain’, but now seems to have outgrown the title, as well as the hat with the ship’s wheel that inspired the moniker. On Sunday April 26th the Dumpdiggers were in a secret spot which I cannot reveal (yet…) But I can report the occasion. The day was hot and bright and became a red letter day for all Canadian diggers as Timbits and Malcolm reunited; they dug a hole together in a secluded ravine in Toronto’s Treasure Triangle.
Toronto’s Treasure Triangle?
Do you know what it means when I say they dug a hole together in the triangle? That’s the area all along the Lakeshore from The Distillery to Church and Dundas st. That’s the oldest and historically richest (albeit the economically poorest) section of Toronto – inside this huge right angled triangle is where you find the oldest stuff in the city.
But let me tell you about the initial walk and talk over the property as these two great veterans did a general survey of this secluded century old dump. With only their boots and spade shovels they probed the area. Then came two separate historical reports as they each recounted what secrets they knew about the site. Next they sunk some test pits to peak under the top soil. And then finally it happened…
The two great men pitched a hole together. Timbits and Malcolm Mcleod are among the best and most prolific diggers in the Canada. They rule the Southern Ontario scene and have contacts all over this great nation. They are also childhood friends and adventure companions. Nothing could keep them apart, but something did. What was it? Who cares because that’s old news and they’re together again now.
Taking turns we all dug hard until noon – nothing of value was recovered, but I took home the best of what was found and that included a ceramic master ink, a cobalt blue Bromo Seltzer 2 oz jar and a Union Soda bottle. Malcolm also gave me a Toronto druggist bottle with my name on it. How cool is that? I promise to photograph that piece and blog that story soon.

How To Find Old Dumps #2

Much like a Kung Fu sensei reminds an acolyte, ‘only by evolving beyond your greed will you ever become rich’, I used to feel the same truism applied to treasure hunters. The Dumpdiggers Handbook instructs each reader that ‘only by fostering a genuine passion for local history can you ever hope to uncover lost historical relics’. That’s a nice idea and I imagine that such a sincere passion for learning would be manifest in numerous and protracted visits to the archives, extensive copying and scrutinizing of old maps, and a great many trips spent probing forgotten heritage sites, etc. And only by eagerly learning and adopting new technologies and highly professional practices would anyone ever be able to find anything of any value… Do you believe that? It’s not true. When I asked some veteran Diggers on a particular niche discussion forum their secrets to find old dumps, myersdigger replied that it’s as easy as walking along small creeks just outside of town searching for rusty bits of metal in the shoreline. In the same thread, tigue710, a super member added that, ‘every 1/2 mile of town will have a different dumping area… a town with a population of 10,000 at the turn of the century will usually have at least 5 dumps, all the same period, and 5 is on the low end… one other thing, dont waste your time on the poor side town unless your getting older then 1890… go for the rich guy dumps’ Just as obvious as rusty junk sticking up out of the grass on the surface of the land, metal detectors with big search coils will sometimes get deep iron hits in gulches and bogs below the surface of the earth. Iron is a good historic dump indicator, and iron tools are of course present in both colonial age, and industrial age dumps. Depending on their collecting habits, some metal detectorists might also carry a five foot long ¾ inch steel rod that’s known as a privy rod. This simple probe is usually just a spring steel rod wielded to a short piece of grid pipe (which serves as a handle). The tip of the probe has a ball bearing with a girth slightly wider than the shaft. When users push this five foot long metal finger down into the earth they can feel the objects below – an experienced digger can recognize the feel of rusty metal cans or glass bottles or stones. Veterans will first puncture the earth with the probe, and then dig test pits to inspect the soil for ash and broken bits of pottery and glass.

Here is an 1878 Map of Warkworth Ontario, which happens to be my home town. When I look at the area and contemplate the locations of any would-be historic dumps, my eyes and experience lead me to the marshlands south of the letters R and T in the word Warkworth, on the bend in the river. That particular spot would fit all of the criteria for the first town dump. Warkworth was founded in the 1850’s and settled primarily by Scottish immigrants throughout the 1860s. These people didn’t make much garbage and most adults in this time period would have dumped medicine bottles and whiskey flasks in private – probably down their latrine holes.
I sometimes let my eyes wander about the farms all around the side of this old map. This is where I get real passionate about history. Right here it’s personal; these are my neighbor’s fields, and the fence rows of my childhood. This is where I fomented what has become the foundation of my knowledge on the subject of farm dumps, and that will be my next topic in this series.

Bottle Rush in Meaford – Part Three

On Sunday November 18th, Roberrific and Timbits shared a hole with the Ace of Spades in his secret spot in the swamp south of Meaford, Ontario. Together, the treasure hunting trio traveled back in time to the early nineteen hundreds when the town was young and important. Less than fifty years old in 1919, Meaford was already the second most valuable steamer port on Georgian Bay. It had hotels and liveries, and five huge lumber mills. The town’s population in 1919 was already 3,100 people, and it’s not much bigger today. Our gang worked tirelessly all morning and afternoon, digging through ten feet of dump that was approximately seven feet deep with a clay bottom. We hit the bottom early on, as is the practice of the Dumpdiggers to dig as deep as hole as possible, and then fork your way up in one direction. The cardinal rule is to pick one path and stick to it – never move the dump twice. The bottom three feet of our seven foot hole was absolutely stuffed with as many as five different layers of dump. One particular strata of brown ash yielded the best and most expensive household relics. This is where a local embossed amber medicine was found. Finding the distinctive brown ash on your shovel was cause for cheer – it came to signify the imminent discovery of a rich goody vein filled with all manner of assorted 1920’s hackers – and this is the layer in which we hoped to find a bumpy cobalt blue ‘Not To Be Taken’ coffin poison bottles, or perhaps a Shuttleworth poison? Or maybe even a skull and crossbones Iodine, or even an amber Hertz with a heart in the glass? No. Instead we found… A POCKET FULL OF HACKERS suddenly appeared in the bottom third of the dump. Hackers? You know what I mean – there were lots of square amber whiskey flasks with amber glass stoppers, and clear glass or aqua columned medicines, always blank. There were a dozen cork top Listerine, Castoria, and Certo bottles, and two screw top cobalt blue Milk of Magnesia in the quart size, and at least seven green wine bottles, two champagne beer bottles, and a funky shaped green mineral water, all without embossing. Sealer jars – three of them, two Crown and one Gem which I kept. Ace’s antique bottle mine has lots of rusty iron relics too, like saw blades, square rusty railroad spikes, spools, broken metal files, hinges and hooks. A sifter might have yielded many more interesting smaller prizes. But the ground was clumpy, and would have demanded a dedicated ‘sifter station’. Timbits forked out a hand blown antique light bulb and checked it for Thomas Edison’s early brand signature which he says appears on the company’s early light bulbs. This bulb was as big as his hand, and black on the open end where the base had corroded away and discolored the glass. LIKE BURROWING RODENTS we tunneled for treasure. Perhaps I should explain to anyone that’s never harvested a dump, or seen a documentary on television, or read a really good blog, just exactly how bottle diggers move through a site. There’s a method in their madness, and it’s their determination to get to the very bottom of the deposit as quickly as possible that helps preserve their prizes… let me explain. Inside the digging process there are three sub-processes; 1 sinking the shaft, 2 forking the sides, 3 cleaning the hole. In this manner the Dumpdiggers are not really diggers at all – they are burrowers. The burrowing described above continues with bottles and relics being found in all stages, but the bulk of the booty is discovered inside the forking portion of the cycle. Personally, I don’t like forking the hole. I don’t care for the shoulder strain of the exercise, nor do I like the responsibility of being the first to spot and successfully ‘fork out’ valuable glass bottles without breaking them. After a while my mind aches from repeatedly puzzling over so many promising shards. The shoulders and spouts of so many worthless specimens demand dumpdiggers’ discipline and commitment; only after each piece has been removed and examined can the senior Dumpdigger dismiss it as junk. As diggers exercise their bodies physically, they are also at the same time bending their eyes and ears and ‘listening with their shovels’ to find clues that could lead to collectibles. The best diggers don’t break anything. Usually rather quiet and reserved when digging, Tim was suddenly vocal and cried out ‘Whoa!’ when he saw it – an orange glass marble rolled down across his shovel and disappeared back into the darkness. Tim scooped away the soil looking for the sphere. He knew if he didn’t secure it now, he might never see it again and it was two or three small scoops down and running fast when Tim trapped it on his shovel. But of course it too was an absolute hacker. Made around 1912, it was fashioned from clear glass and was in very rough shape – the surface looked corroded as if the glass itself has been eaten away by acid. Tim held up the marble to look for its seams, which were hard to find. ‘To bad its junk’ he declared as he threw it up to me. The marble was indeed in terrible condition – it was so badly hacked up the seam was invisible. Was it damaged before or after it was discarded? Its very presence here made me wonder about its origins and method of manufacture? Was this marble a ‘Queenie’ or a ‘knuckler’ in some child’s game in Meaford 1919? As Timbits and the Ace of Spades discussed their favourite species of collectible marbles, their conversation listed green and black clambroth, rainbow colored onion skin, ribbon core, swirl and divided swirl as being the most coveted glass pieces. Tim seeks suphides in which statues of elephants, horses and Trojan warriors sometimes appear, right inside the glass sphere. According to Tim, the oldest marbles ever found were round semi-precious stones that were buried with an Egyptian child at Nagada in approx 3000 BC. Most of the marbles used by children in late medieval times were made of fired clay. By 1600AD some water-powered stone mills in Germany were producing small polished spheres made from the local marble and alabaster that was quarried nearby. The regions near Coburg and Oberstein gave birth to the word ‘marble’ which is derived from the German term “for the rock” and has come to mean any small, round sphere of rock. Germany was the center of marble production for three centuries. In the 18th century their mills could grind agate, limestone, brass, and gemstone, at a rate of 800 marbles an hour. Glass marbles, the most common version of the object today, came into existence only recently in the history of the toy. It’s debatable whether they originated in Venice, where glassblowing was a well-developed industry, or in the mills of Germany. Historians point to an 1846 invention known as a marbelschere (marble scissors) by a glass factory employee in Germany that evidences their skill in making glass objects. This tool resembles a pair of tongs with a small cup on one end, and a slicing device on the other. A molten glass rod would be forcefully inserted into the cup, and the worker would then twist the cup, which would help form the sphere of the marble. Squeezing the tongs shut would slice off the rest of the glass. Such marbles can be identified by their pontil marks, the two tiny tags at each end of the sphere where the cooling glass was severed from the rest of the rod. The objects were further cooled inside a wooden barrel and then taken up with an iron spoon and inserted into an annealing oven, a process which yielded a tougher piece of glass not likely to break or become brittle. North American glasshouses didn’t make marbles until much later in the 19th century, and there was no mass production of these objects until the 1920s. Marble production in North America started when Martin Frederick Christensen successfully patented a machine to manufacture near-perfect spheres of steel ball bearings. He set up a factory in his barn in Ohio and was producing 10,000 (steel?) marbles a day with 33 employees in 1910, but his company’s dependence on natural gas forced him out of business during WW I. Akro Agate Company, founded in 1911 and originally based in Akron, Ohio, became the biggest marble manufacturer in America after the first world war. Once they had streamlined production and perfected their marble-making machinery in the 1920s, they dominated the American toy market right up until the popularity of marbles declined in the 1940s and 50’s. The Meaford Stash – Pic of the Picks. It was getting on past three o’clock and I was admiring the way the light shone through our stash as I lined the bottles up atop our tallest dirt pile. It was a ‘best of the hackers collection’ featuring local milks, sodas, and a cobalt blue bromo bottle, two Brovils, a tall early WISERS whisky, a couple weird liniments, one from Montreal and one from from Kingston, an amber medicine, hmm what else was there? It doesn’t matter – it was all completely worthless. Tim had just forked the hole and this time he looked different. He set his fork down and picked up his shovel and then he set that down too. He looked up at the stash of hackers I was photographing and stepped up out of the hole. Jason jumped in and started the cycle over again, but Tim was tired and every time he looked at my pile of worthless hackers he grew more tired – we still had a two hour drive home ahead of us. And of course Jason didn’t want to stop digging yet. He shoveled more energetically as he watched Tim drink from his auxiliary water supply (Tim’s first blimp was buried in a collapse two hours ago). Jay said things like ‘its going to get real old here soon’ and ‘you know I think we’re down to 1908 right here’ as he flushed out some ginger beer coloured pottery shards. Jason kept shoveling to preserve the excitement of the dig, and I joined in for a spell – but my muscles and my mind were aching, and I was ready to quit. As if sensing the moment had come, Tim snatched up his water and the hand blown antique glass light bulb, and that antique glass marble. He put his keepsakes inside his duffel bag along with his dirty dump pants and was fixing to leave… I followed his cue and gathered my belongings. I was busy wrapping up six or eight hackers to keep as mementos, when I heard Jason cry out in the rapture of discovery… ‘I’ve got a gingerbeer’ the Ace of Spades cried out from the bottom of the hole. ‘Tim, Rob! Hold up there may be more!’ Tim looked at me and smiled. He was simply waiting for Jay to finish using his fork. I don’t think either Tim or I believed that Jason was about to find anything valuable. The fact that he chose to identify his quarry as a gingerbeer was itself rather optimistic, as only the very bottom of the pottery was visible. Timbits and I watched in envious amazement however as Jason successfully removed a medium sized, A. ROBERTSON / Mt. Forest Ontario gingerbeer bottle in good condition. For once, Tim was impressed. ‘That’s a pretty good piece’ he was heard to remark. It must have broke his heart to realize he had quit the hole too soon, and now had no claim what-so-ever to this discovery. ALEX ROBERTSON & CO was a soda water manufacturer in the once booming and now ghostly Mount Forest, Ontario which can still be found at the major intersection of Hwy 6 and Hwy 89 (Queen Street) in nearby the township of Wellington north, in Wellington county. When pressed, Tim yielded more information on Alex Robertson – the company is listed in some early industry index he has as ALEX ROBERTSON – MANUFACTURER OF SODA WATER AERATED WATERS AND POP 1893-1919.Tim sent me a photo of all four known Alex Robertson gingerbeers. Starting from left to right they are valued at approximately $900, $750, $500 and $150 respectively. Jason Hayder had found #3 in this series and his prize, slightly blemished, will probably fetch between three fifty to four hundred dollars on eBay. ‘Come on guys?’ Jason was giddy as he picked up his shovel and tried to rally us again for one last push into the breach… But Tim shook his head no and turned away. Then Jason stubbornly started shoveling again and refused to climb out of the hole; he urged us to stay and watch him complete one more cycle. But we were spent. Laughing at the cruelty of Meaford dump, and the insanity of Ace’s obsession, Tim and I walked away. My duffel bag tinkled with hackers as we tripped back to his truck.

The Quest in Campbellford Ontario

About this time last summer a digger named Little Hole went looking for Campbellford’s first municipal dump. He found it. And although it had been probed by other diggers, to his surprise it was still full of gingerbeers and early Canadian glass.

The survey map above was made in 1878 and shows Campbellford as a thriving settlement on both sides of the Trent River. Notice the black dashed line that bisects the image? That’s the proposed railway line which was to be built two years later in 1880…. That railroad line was moved south and Little Hole used this map to help find the treasures documented in this article – finding the real railway line was the key to finding the 1885 town dump.

X marks the spot! Little Hole found the place outside anyone’s thoughts or perception, but still inside the actual town of Campbellford. Here beneath his shovel was a (mostly) virgin dump and Little Hole could only imagine the historic treasures it might contain…

Little Hole immediately called for some help sinking a hole. And I of course embraced the challenge – like a borrowing rodent I moved dump.

We spent evenings and weekends at the site all summer long, and really came to know the place. The Campbellford 1885 town dump is in fact many dumps, spread out over about fifty years time. Under three feet of nondescript ash and dirt, there were about a dozen well stratified layers of trash. Each of these pockets is a period in time. Each can tell the story of the community, to anyone willing to listen. Every relic unearthed is another sentence in the chronology of Campbellford’s existence.

The pearl ash in the stratigraphy is from two major sources – very hot fires both here at the dump, and the population of the town produces furnace ashes – which was also mixed with lime and used as road paving material. Some of this ash could be road paving that’s been removed. Up until the early 1900’s the streets in Campbellford were ‘paved’ in hard packed potash made by settlers burning hardwood trees while clearing their land.

Little Hole, who collects 1800’s Ontario ginger beers bottles found this rare and special treasure on a hot night in late August. Here he is on site holding a mint James Thompson ginger beer bottle from nearby Hamilton Ontario.

August 17th 2006 was a very special day. On that day Little Hole and myself, Rob Campbell hit a big pocket of well preserved ginger beer bottles, and lots of rare whiskys and sodas. It was the mother-of-all goodie veins and we diggers chased it down, under a tree, right to the very bottom of the dump.

Before ‘flipping for picks’ (like most dumpdiggers we flip a coin to see keeps what) we lined up our symphony of dug relics to collectively admire the hoard.

Pic of the Picks The Quest in Campbellford Ontario culminated in the best cache to which I’ve ever contributed. Little Hole snapped this photo late in the afternoon and I love the patches of light on the trees in the swamp behind the dump.

The whiskeys, inks, medicines and ginger beer bottles recovered here were waiting in the earth for almost one hundred and twenty years.