20th Century, Institutions

The Faces of Kingston Penitentiary

A young inmate from Gananoque. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4349019. (click image to go to source)

A young inmate from Gananoque. Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4349019. (click image to go to source)

There is an interesting collection of pages from old Kingston Penitentiary inmate description ledgers available on the Library and Archives Canada website. Ranging from the early 1900s to about 1919, these pages provide information such as the convict’s name, age, birthplace, crime committed, distinctive marks, and for men only, two mugshots. I’m not sure why they didn’t photograph women – or if they did, why they kept the photos elsewhere.

I don’t know much about the history of the Penitentiary and it’s never been a real interest of mine (I’m bored to tears by virtually all crime/prison books, movies, etc.) but it’s hard to deny the fascination that these pages contain. Despite the lack of information on these people, I feel a tinge of sympathy for some of them, like the boy above convicted of “Buggery,” which was, in 1919, a vague and yet very specific offence (read more about it here – scroll down to “Background”). Here are a few interesting pages from the Archives’ collection:

Library and Archives Canada, MIKAN 4349308 (click image to go to source)

The circa 1916 newspaper article above is about a woman, Louise Cull, convicted of manslaughter after a woman she performed an abortion on died. Cull “protested her innocence of any criminal intent” but there was much evidence that she regularly performed abortions and was paid for it. A widowed former nurse, originally from England, Cull’s sentence was decreased to five years’ imprisonment due to her age, fifty-seven.

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20th Century, Institutions

RMC a Century Ago

RMC circa 1920. Library and Archives Canada. (click image to go to source)

Throughout my time as a Queen’s student, I’ve sometimes forgotten that there are other institutions of higher education in Kingston. (Didn’t Queen’s have a mantra in the 60s that went, “Queen’s is the ONLY university”?) Except I’m being serious. While I sometimes forget about St. Lawrence College and its significant student population, I especially forget about that collection of buildings, over there in the distance across the Cataraqui River… Oh, right. It’s RMC.

This is perhaps not especially strange because RMC rarely makes the headlines in the paper, if you know what I mean, and you’re lucky to catch a rare glimpse of a cadet around town. (I retract this statement. I’ve had like seven come into my work recently.) It’s also on Point Frederick, physically separated from the city centre in a way that Queen’s isn’t. I used to go there quite often when I was younger, mostly for archaeology camp in the summer, but haven’t been back since I was fifteen.

My recognition of RMC was rekindled several months ago when I came across an article about its activities during the First World War. Since the blog was getting pretty war-heavy at the time I decided to file the topic away for a while, but now I think it’s been long enough that I can blow off the dust. So this is the last (?) of my unplanned series of posts on First World War activities in Kingston and the area. (The others are here, here, and here. Sorry, this stuff just falls into my lap.) The last two are about Queen’s students and there is some overlapping material. Continue reading

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19th Century, 20th Century, Institutions

The Regi Chorus

Me in Grade Twelve.

Me in Grade Twelve, apparently pointing to a drawing of myself…

Full disclosure: I went to high school at Regi, from September 2006 to June 2010. I had a relatively miserable time in high school but nevertheless thought Regi was a good place to be. Apparently the local history spark was in me even then, because in the front foyer they had class photos and memorabilia going as far back as the early 1900s, which I was always dying to look at. But I never saw anyone else doing it, and I was (okay… still am) paranoid and thought people would think I was weird for studying them intently. I shouldn’t have worried though, because I’m pretty sure everyone thought I was weird anyway.

Moving along to the point, I played clarinet in senior band, and while cleaning my room recently I found my sheet music for the Regi Chorus! This is a piece of music written before Regiopolis and Notre Dame were combined, that someone dug out one day and which the band sometimes plays at school events. I had fun playing it and will get to it in a minute, but first I’m going to go through a brief – but fun! – history of Regi, because it has signified a number of things over its long life and I didn’t know much about it myself up till now. Regi always seems slightly missing-in-action in Kingston histories (too Catholic?), despite the fact that it’s as old as the hills. There are lots and lots of dates in the next few paragraphs, but I hope it won’t be too dry.

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19th Century, 20th Century, Institutions

Christmas at Rockwood

Rockwood Hospital (my photo)

Rockwood Hospital (my photo)

A little over a month ago I visited the former Rockwood Hospital for the first time – that’s why none of these photos look very Christmasy; I remember it was Remembrance Day and something like sixteen degrees outside. But anyway, it was the first time I’d ever been there, and I found the experience really interesting. The building itself is massive and almost threatening, and has a spooky aura now that it’s been abandoned for fifteen years or so. Fluted stone steps lead down to the broken remnants of a fountain that once stood before the front door, which is boarded up and locked. Weeds grow tall within the fenced-off area, although the rest of the grounds are maintained, and otherwise the building looks strikingly fresh and new as the day it was built.

For some reason I had never been particularly interested in Rockwood, despite the pull of an abandoned psychiatric hospital. But now I wanted to know a bit more about it, and I remembered copies I had seen online of a little journal called the Rockwood Review. Although it does not contain much information about what went on within the hospital walls, I was immediately drawn to its yearly column, “Xmas at Rockwood.” Continue reading

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19th Century, Culture, Institutions, People

Hunky Guys of Kingston’s Past, Part Two

This is the second section of Hunky Guys of Kingston’s Past (see Part One here), featuring a few more contentious figures than the first section.

Read on for Part Two! Sorry it’s so long, there’s a lot to pack in here. Continue reading

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18th Century, 19th Century, Institutions, People, Surrounding Areas

Hunky Guys of Kingston’s Past, Part One

It can be easy to see historical figures as people who seem somehow disconnected from a personality. Sometimes you just can’t get excited about the old guy in the portrait, despite the laurels to his name, and history starts to appear ever more dull. Well, that doesn’t always have to be the case. To spice things up a bit – inspired by this Tumblr and others – I bring you five men from Kingston and the area who not only made history, but looked great doing it. Yes, it’s Hunky Guys of Kingston’s Past!

Due to the surprising amount of stuff that these guys did in their lives, I’ve needed to break up this post into two sections. The next one will be coming shortly. They’re arranged broadly in chronological order, for lack of a better method.

Anyway, here is Part One. Enjoy!

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20th Century, Institutions, People

KFPL’s Home Town, Home Front Project

The 46th (Queen’s) Battery in England, several weeks before heading to the Front. Queen’s Picture Collection V28 Mil-FieldCo-5. Queen’s University Archives. (click image to go to source, where you can see a larger version)

This post has been a long time coming – and I should probably warn you I’ve turned it into a 2000-word saga – but I think I’m finally ready to present my account of the soldier I received for the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s “Home Town, Home Front” project, which marks the centenary of the First World War. The idea of the project was to send postcards to older homes with the name of a soldier or nursing sister who once lived there. Then, the library provided resources for the current residents of the home to research their subject.

The house I live in is a 1986 bungalow so I obviously wasn’t counting on receiving a postcard. However, a request to the library gave me a name to research, after I specified I’d like someone from the area around Queen’s. (I didn’t care where the person lived in Kingston, but considering how much time I spend at Queen’s working and going to school, it seemed like a good option). After a short wait, the name I received was…

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19th Century, 20th Century, Institutions, Miscellaneous

Dodgy Medicine Ads

I haven't looked this up to see what it is, but it sounds weird.

“Cascara sagrada” is a potent laxative and possible carcinogen, in case you were wondering. Also, not related to this picture, but for some reason the text formatting keeps messing up in this post. I can’t seem to help it. Sorry!

I have been having a semi-terrible week (my cat went missing, among other things) so my mental energy is not really high enough to do a full-length post. Instead, let’s look at some weird advertisements posted in the Kingston Medical Quarterly around the turn of the twentieth century! This journal was a publication affiliated with the medical faculty at Queen’s which ran for at least seven years (1896-1903) and occasionally included some interesting case studies of Kingstonians. It also included ads for some pretty dodgy-sounding medicines. In case we forget, medicine was still quite touch-and-go in the early 1900s. An article in the Kingston Medical Quarterly Vol.5 No.1 of October 1900 states:

Medicine is ceasing to be empirical and becoming scientific. By empirical, I mean, as the dictionary has it, “practiced only by rote, without rational grounds.” The reign of science has not yet been completely established but we can look forward to it as the time when the physician shall be as beneficial in act as he always was benevolent in intention.

Yikes. Well, at least they were trying.

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20th Century, Institutions

Back to School: KCVI Edition

The bodacious 1945 KCVI pinup girl.

The bodacious 1945 KCVI pin-up girl.

Two weeks ago I bought some KCVI yearbooks at the flea market for the school years 1931-32, 1940-41, and 1944-45. I’ve seen other ones kicking around antique places, but I’ve never bought them because they’ve always been too expensive. I got these three for $12 apiece which is more reasonable. In these days when KCVI’s future is faltering, it seemed like a good idea to save something for posterity.

When it comes to KCVI I don’t know a terrible lot and I’ve actually never set foot inside the place, but it hopefully won’t matter too much because in this post I’m just going over a few interesting and funny things from the yearbooks, not writing the official history. I’ve gone with a “less is more” approach as opposed to copying page after page, for length and also for variety’s sake.

And by the way, I apologize about the bad picture quality – my printer does a terrible job scanning photographs, and I’ve done the best I can. With that out of the way, let’s get started!

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19th Century, 20th Century, Institutions

Back to School: Queen’s Edition

Fun fact: Arts '10 donated the gate at the Arch St. entrance to Summerhill. You can't miss it because it says

Fun fact: Arts ’10 donated the gate at the Arch St. entrance to Summerhill. You can’t miss it because it says “Arts 1910” in big letters. (click image to go to source)

I generally don’t keep this blog according to any kind of schedule (I just write what I want when I feel like it) but this week I thought I’d put something together for the back-to-school season. I recently bought a trio of KCVI yearbooks (1931-32, 1940-41, 1944-45) but haven’t had a chance to get a good look through them yet. Instead, I’ve gathered together a few interesting items from editions of the Queen’s Journal and I’ll get to the KCVI yearbooks soon.

This post is going to be a bit disjointed because I’ve selected three different items from the Journal mostly at random, but in doing so I’m attempting to highlight a few interesting events and problems Queen’s students would have encountered from the years 1880-1910.

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