Portraits Page 2 Great Canadian Portraits
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Georgian 1820s Quebec Walnut (Caron/Fitzpatrick/Sevigny, Russell, Goldi) Desk

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Great Canadian Heritage Treasure Hon. Réné Edouard Caron
1800-1876

The desk was built in the 1820s for Réné Edouard Caron who was born at Sainte Anne de Beaupre, was admitted to the Bar in 1826 and became Mayor of Quebec in 1833, a job he held for almost 13 years.

He was also elected to the Legislative Assembly for Lower Canada in 1834, and also served in the Legislative Council at the Union of the two provinces in 1841.

He was voted in as Speaker of the House (of the United Canadas) three times, and also held a Cabinet post.

Together with Lafontaine, and Morin, he succeeded in getting "equal rights" for Canada East (Quebec), parallel to those awarded to Anglophone Canada West (Ontario).

Réné won acclaim not only for his patriotism, but for his disinterestedness, foregoing both personal honours and power, to better serve his province.

In 1853 he was appointed Judge of the Superior Court, and in 1855 of the Court of the Queen's Bench, an office which he discharged commendably for twenty years.

He took part in the codification of the civil laws of Quebec.

In 1872 his long career of unselfish devotion to his people and his province was crowned with his appointment to the Lieutenant-Governorship of the province of Quebec, a position which he held till his death in 1876.

Réné Caron is shown, at centre, in 1859, with his colleagues, working on the Quebec Civil Code.
Caron/Fitzpatrick/Sevigny/Russell/Goldi Desk 1820s
Orig.walnut Georgian desk - Size - 36" x 50" x 30.5"h
Found - Toronto, ON
Provenance - Réné Caron, Sir Charles Fitzpatrick, Pierre Sevigny, John Russell

The desk is late Georgian or Regency period, made of walnut, and is made in three pieces for easy transportation: the top, and the two pedestals.

The top three drawers go all the way to the back; the other six drawers are shallow to accommodate a cupboard section at the rear on each side, where probably liquor was kept at one time.

The desk is finished with the same decorative detail all the way around so it could be used in the middle of a room and look attractive from all sides.

The ultimate for an antique collector is when one finds, not only a wonderful piece of furniture, but one that has provenance as well - its life history can be documented.

An amazing bonus is to find one that also belonged to people who played important roles in early Canadian history.

Such a treasure is this desk.



Réné Edouard Caron - 1800-1876

The desk was in Réné Caron's possession through all the momentous years, before, during, and after the Rebellions of 1837 and the years of nation building that followed.

Mme. Josephine Caron: By his side, through it all, was Josephine Caron (below), much esteemed for her hospitality and benevolence to the poor. As Lord Mayoress of Quebec, in 1842, she was given the honour of opening the ball held by the Brigade of Guards in the Castle of St. Louis, to celebrate the birth of young Queen Victoria's son, the future King Edward VII. General Sir James Macdonnell, the Hero of Hougomont - at Waterloo - toasted her health, before a vast assembly.

In her memory, an 1856 14" parian bust of Prince Albert - the happy father on that occasion - now graces the desk that was part of her life for over 50 years. (bust stamped WH Kerr & Co., signed RJ Jones, sculptor)

Sir Adolphe Caron (1843 - 1908) Réné Caron's son, Adolphe, played around this desk as a boy. He grew up to be a Canadian statesman in his own right, after attending McGill and Laval Universities.

As a lawyer he became an MP in 1873, and entered the John A Macdonald cabinet in 1880 as Minister of Defence and Militia.

For his services in that post, during the Riel Rebellion in 1885, he was knighted by Queen Victoria.

Réné Caron was still using the desk at Spencer Wood, the Lieutenant-Governor's Residence at Sillery, when he died in 1876.

His funeral was an immense public spectacle testifying to the enormous regard in which he was held in the hearts of Quebeckers.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Sovenir Vase, Parliament Buildings, Quebec - c 1900
Orig. souvenir ware - Size - 13 cm
Found - Odessa, ON
Réné Caron died the year before construction on this, the current Parliament of Quebec was begun.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Souvenir Cup, Parliament Hill Library - Pre 1916
Orig. souvenir ware - Size - 7 cm
Found - Petrolia, ON
For Canadians, Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where the conniving politicians they send to represent their best interests, end up, instead, sitting with crooked lobbyists and bad girls in the back rooms of dingy bars, has long been a popular tourist destination.

Adolphe Caron and Charles Fitzpatrick were cut from a different cloth and served here with distinction.

The Library is all that remains of the Main Block in this picture. The central tower belongs to the old parliament, which burned to the ground in 1916. So it was razed and rebuilt with the new Peace Tower.

So the cup dates to before 1916, and is probably pre-war, earlier than 1914.

Go to Parliament Hill

Canadian souvenir ware is one of the great heritage treasures that, luckily, few collectors are even aware of. Good pieces are fast disappearing...

Dating Canadian Souvenir Ware
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure A fabulous original chromolithograph of Adolphe Caron.

Don't be a dupe; use a loupe, when you examine whether you have an original piece of Canadian heritage art, instead of just a modern repro.

This one is foolproof; it is found in John Charles Dent's four volume Canadian Portrait Gallery, published in Toronto, in 1881. Both bios are from it.

No patriotic Canadian home should be without its own copy.

If you look with a loupe at all the dozens of full page portraits inside, they all look like this, and show the irregular, granular pebbling of the lithographic process.

If you don't know how to tell the difference between a genuine, original high quality litho print like this, and a cheap photomechanical repro, like a Bateman "print," you'd better look here.

Go to The Fake Detector

Another portrait from the same book, of the "last decent Canadian journalist," is here:

Go to Little Mac

Chromolithograph, Adolphe Caron - 1881
Orig. litho - oval Size - 17 x 20 cm
Found - Toronto, ON




An engine proudly named after Sir Adolphe.

The Rt. Hon. Sir Charles Fitzpatrick (1853-1942)

Réné Caron's daughter, Corinne, had married Charles Fitzpatrick who was also a lawyer in Quebec.

Charles Fitzpatrick, of Irish descent, was admitted to the bar, and inherited the desk, the same year his father-in-law died, 1876.

He made himself notable in Quebec as Louis Riel's lawyer, championing his case in Regina, and before the Privy Council in London.

He sat in the Legislative Assembly of Quebec from 1890-1896.

He was elected to the House of Commons in 1896, and entered the Government of Wilfrid Laurier as one his key ministers. Under Laurier he was Solicitor General 1896-1902, and Minister of Justice 1902-1906.

He represented the Canadian Government in the negotiations to create the provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan, the negotiations over Alaska, the fisheries, and the Canada US border questions.

Through it all he used this desk.

In 1906 Charles Fitzpatrick left government, and Laurier appointed him Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Canada, in which post he served with great distinction until 1918.

In 1918 he was - like his father-in-law almost 50 years before - appointed Lt. Governor of Quebec, a post he held until 1923. The desk too, once more, returned to Spencer Wood.

By the time Sir Charles Fitzpatrick died in 1942, the desk had been in his possession for 66 years.

The Rt. Hon. Pierre Sevigny (1917- 2004)

In 1942, the desk became part of the Fitzpatrick Estate, going to his grand-daughter Corinne Kernan who also inherited all his papers from a 50 year career at the center of Canadian politics and legal issues.

Left and below during her war service. She became a mechanic, becoming one of the first women to have a "real job" in the war industries.

 

 

 

 

 

 


In 1946 Corinne Kernan became Mrs. Pierre Sevigny.

Sevigny above was a famous Canadian war hero, who now became the new owner of the desk.

Pierre Sevigny's father had been Speaker of the House of Commons in 1916, Minister of Inland Revenue in the Borden Government, and had become Chief Justice of the Quebec Superior Court.

Pierre Sevigny joined the Government of John Diefenbaker in the late 1950s.

He coined the phrase "One Canada" which the Tories used to rally the country.

He became Deputy Speaker of the Commons in 1959 (above left), and later, Associate Minister of National Defence. He resigned from politics in 1963.

It is largely through his efforts that the World's Fair was held in Montreal in 1967.

1966 - The Munsinger Affair: Pierre Sevigny's name surfaced during the Gerda Munsinger (1929-1998) scandal of 1966. He had long quit politics but his name was dropped in the Commons for an association - while he was a Government Defence Minister - with a German woman, who, at the same time, also had a relationship with a Communist East German military officer.

The "Munsinger Affair" became the scandal of the decade. The Liberals charged Sevigny with compromising Canada's security with conduct that left him wide open to blackmail.

Sevigny denied that he compromised Canada's security.

The same year Mrs. Pierre Sevigny (Corinne Kernan) took Pierre's desk away from him. (Left, Pierre sad on hearing that his desk is going.)

(At the same time, she also bequeathed her huge treasury of Sir Charles Fitzpatrick papers to the National Archives of Canada.)

But she gave the desk to John L Russell, CM, the noted dealer and collector of Canadian antiques.

John Russell kept it for the next 38 years, until his estate sold it off in 2004 at a Toronto auction.

The desk is in amazing condition after all it has been through. The keys all work on the drawers and the cupboards at the back of the sides.

The top drawers are long, running the full depth of the desk. But the lower drawers are short to allow the cupboard space at the rear on both sides.

Just like John John playing around President Kennedy's desk, can you picture young Adolphe trying to hide in here in the 1850s, and discovering his father's liquor bottles...?

Is this where Pierre hid Gerda when he heard footsteps in the hall...?

If this desk could only talk!!!

Actually, it does...

You may see a CBC special interview from 1966 where Gerda tells Norman DePoe all about how she came to be on top of the desk in Pierre Sevigny's office.
Go to Gerda Speaks...

Gerda was only 15 when the Allies invaded Germany from the East and West. She was probably one of the millions of German women who were routinely raped by the invading Allied troops, many on the Western Front.

In the early 1950s I knew a blonde German woman who immigrated to Canada with a blond German husband (he somehow survived on the Western Front.)

Her daughter was very dark with frizzy hair. Everyone knew how she got her Black offspring.

As African troops invaded from France they raped at a ferocious rate, literally millions of German women. The contempt they got for white women and men, as a result of their war experience was a huge boost to the drive for independence in Africa in the post-war years. They lost all respect for white people after what they had seen them do in the worst war in human history.

Right, all smiles (author standing far left at Aberfeldy ON) are blond German war-refugees Freda and Willie on the far right, about to start a new life in Canada in May, 1956.

Their dark secret is dark complexioned and frizzy-haired Monica in the black dress. Their Canadian dream never worked out; they returned to Germany where Willie who mentally never shook off the trauma of the war died while still young.

Gerda Munsinger - Gerda almost certainly another Allied rape victim, whose teen years were also destroyed by the war, did the best she could with what remained to her after the war ended. She emigrated to Canada, and with great success ended up servicing a number of eminent Canadians in John Diefenbaker's cabinet, including Pierre Sevigny and George Hees, considered the most powerful of Diefenbaker's ministers.

Both rich, and powerful married men lived to a ripe old age. Gerda like many women and children devastated by war died before their time, just worn out by the bad hand that God had dealt them.

Longtime Canadian historian John Goldi is the latest in a line of eminent Canadians who have done serious work to promote Canadian values while sitting behind Canada's most famous desk.

Go to Curator

 

 

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