Ceramics Page 7

Great Canadian Ceramics

Canadian Plates - John Aynsley, Muskoka Views, 1880s

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

The Axe... the Ox... and the Hoax...

Thousands of hopeful British immigrants tried to hackhomes out of the Canadian wilderness in the early 1820s and 30s.

They were soon followed by wealthy British gentlemen tourists who hoped to taste a bit of the Canadian wilderness themselves, like Lord Milton's and Dr. Cheadle's expedition to the Rockies in 1862-63.

Today's southern Ontario was being subdued with the axe, the ox, and the hoax - unscrupulous land speculators were selling swampland, infertile scrub and cedar bog, to ignorant British families that had brought their life savings to invest in Canada.

Then, as now, it was the middle man who was getting rich, by paying low and selling high. These were, then as now, mostly town and city folk, who, as a result, had savings and disposable income. Tourism, formerly the realm of the rich, became a middle class preoccupation by the 1880s.



Plate, Mill, Bracebridge - John Aynsley, Muskoka Views, 1880s
Orig. plates - Size - 22.5 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Mazarine blue & gilt borders
City folk, crowded in by heavy urban smog from coal fires and filth - sewage in Toronto harbour was knee deep - sought escape and adventure in a quiet place where people were few, and the water drinkable, like Ontario's lake country bounding the northern edge of the arable landOne of these prime areas was the Muskoka Lakes, left.

People from urban areas further south came up by trains, which, after the 1850s, were snaking further into the hinterlands.

At the railhead they would climb aboard steamships, like the Seqwin, sill plying these same waters, as it has been doing for a hundred years, to take them still further from civilization.

Long dresses, suits and ties, straw boaters, woven picnic baskets, and parasols were de rigeur for these wilderness outings.

Picnic tables were provided by Mother Nature herself, with the granite outcroppings from the Canadian Shield that was useless land for farming.

These outings to cottage country took place for a few days or weeks in summer, then it was back to the din and smog of the crowded urban life of the increasingly polluted towns and cities further south.

To tide you over, in those dark winter months, you brought back souvenirs as a reminder of better places up north.

That's how these rare plates of Canadian topographical views came to be. They were high class plates designed for middle class families. But very few must have been made as they are exceedingly rare to turn up.

A look at the back of one of these rare plates shows the Aynsley mark, and the unique title for each scene that was hand-painted on the back of each plate.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Victorian Plates - 1880s

John Aynsley, Muskoka (Ontario, Canada) Views

12 ultra-rare Canadian commemorative plates, featuring topographical views of Muskoka in the 1880s. A set of 22 of them sold at auction in Toronto in 2006, for $57,000 Canadian.
Among the Water Bungamina, Lake Joseph
From Lamores Point, Masquash Channel Mill at Bracebridge
Monominees Channel Morris Island, Lake Joseph
North Falls, Bracebridge Pool Above South Falls
Scene on Lake Joseph The Narrow Pass, Beausoleil Island
The Narrows, Muskoka Lake View on Muskoka River
Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. - 1996, 1999, 2005
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
No Axe, No Ox - Just Hoax

When the summer tourists were tiring of rowing the punt around the lake for the umpteenth time, they could always go to the nearby Indian camp to see how the natives were doing. And that was poorly, of course, like their partners in hardship, the farmers of the nearby bogs and rocks.

Indians still lived in their traditional tipis, and followed their subsistence way of life, but were being shunted off to land the white man had no use for - the rocky shield country of rivers and lakes, or the sandy lake shores.

Left, Frederick Verner painted them in 1878 as he found them, totally unsophisticated in the wiles of white land speculators and crooked government agents who took their lands with bogus signatures, empty promises, in scores, if not hundreds, of crooked land deals that countless governments since have refused to rectify.

But the Indians were lucky in one respect; in Canada they were only being cheated and robbed by smooth talking white men in suits.

In the US their cousins were being massacred by the thousands - men, women, and children - to make way for white settlers, when they tried to speak up for their rights as the original land owners of America.

Another way Canada is different from the US...

Ojibway Family Gathering, FA Verner 1878
Orig. wc - Size - 10" x 14"
Found - Toronto, ON
An Ojibway camp, masterfully captured forever by Frederick Verner, somewhere in the norther lakes region of Ontario, at a time when Canada's First Peoples were still living in a traditional way.

Frederick has given us a good view of a typical tipi used by the Woodland Indians for thousands of years - basically a simple tripod with extra poles, and draped with large pieces of birch bark. It was wide open at the top to let smoke out. A blanket door, held in place with another pole, also could be opened up to allow more light in. What is astonishing is the small size of the tipis.