Victorian - Edwardian Brass Memorabilia 1900-1902 - 4

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Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has recently preserved.



Victorian Doorstops

This fabulous antique brass doorstop reminds us that no general, since Alexander the Great, bestrode a horse, on the road to victory, with more authority than did Lord Roberts of Kandahar.

Bobs was the architect of probably the most famous marches of a victorious army in history: from Kabul to Kandahar (Afghanistan) in 1880, and the March to Pretoria (South Africa) in 1900. Both marches, planned by Lord Roberts, and executed with consummate precision, turned losing campaigns, fought by lesser generals, into massively popular and celebrated victories for Queen Victoria and the British Empire.

All the while he remained a general with class, in thought, word, and deed.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Doorstop, Lord Roberts - 1900
Orig. brass doorstop - Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Cambridge, UK
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
RP Pettigrew, Militia, Montreal - 1898
Orig. cabinet card - Size - 11 x 17 cm
Found - Toronto, ON
Includes: 41 Years in India - Lord Roberts
In 1895 Lord Roberts' autobiography was published, and became a rare publishing phenomenon, being reprinted in 29 editions in two years. Canadian militia officers snapped it up, eager to read about the most popular British general in history. This volume was once a prized possession in the personal library of Montreal militiaman RP Pettigrew. He signed it in 1898.

Barely a year later, the First Canadian Contingent of volunteers set sail for South Africa. But in the first few months of the Boer War the British were so badly trounced that fabled Lord Roberts was brought out of his book-signing retirement to spearhead a British victory against the guerilla Boers like he had against the tribal Afghans a generation before. Canadians rejoiced to be wrapped in the mantle of the leading general of the Age.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Doorstops, British Troopers - 1893
Orig. brass doorstops - Size - 31 cm w
Found - Toronto, ON
A very rare set of matched brass trooper doorstops from the early 1890s.

Each is a faithful mirror of what the other side of the figure would look like: carbine on the right side, of the left figure, the sabre scabbard on the opposite.

The 1890s was a period of extensive British military campaigning so doorstops like this were popular, even in non-military homes.

The registry mark certify these doorstops were patented in mid 1893. The patina on the back, dark and splotchy, with pockets of undisturbed ancient dusty granules, built up in the nooks and crannies, certify these as real antiques from that period. Disaster on the Road to Kabul - One of the biggest disasters to befall the British forces, during the 2nd Afghan War, in operations to subdue Afghan tribesmen, occurred left near Jalalabad, on the banks of the Kabul River, 70 miles east of Kabul.

On Mar. 31, 1879, General Sam Browne sent out separate columns from Jalalabad westward to disperse gathering Muslim tribesmen.

The 10th Hussars, a cavalry unit equipped like the trooper on the doorstop, was part of a column that had to cross a wide ford, which was not marked or flagged, two miles east of Jalalabad. They entered the river by simply following the mule train ahead of them.

Suddenly they were fighting for their lives in deep water as screaming horses and men, jam-packed together, were borne away by the current. They had missed the ford entirely...

It became evident, later, that the rear of the lengthy column of mules ahead had been pushed downstream of the ford by the current. When the closely packed troopers entered the ford after them they were actually entering the river below the shallow water of the ford. Soon the entire troop, pushing on from behind, and laden with sabres, carbines, and ammunition, was floundering and sinking in deep water.

The Hussars, equipped with carbines and swords, like in the doorstop above, made a desperate attempt to escape the clutches of the river as they were swept into deeper water downstream.

Some dozen horses and 46 British troopers, Including Lt. Francis Hervey Harford left drowned. Besides the Battle of Maiwand it became one of the biggest disasters of the war.

Above the ford in peaceful times and right the disaster as drawn at the time.

Months later, in action near Kabul, when precipitously falling back before an attack by overwhelming numbers of Muslim tribesmen, Roberts saw how totally useless troopers of his time were, when they became unhorsed, either losing their carbine in the boot, or if fleeing on foot, with their swords clanging around their legs as they tried to run.

If encumbered with their carbines in one hand and with the other holding down the sword, they were almost useless as fighting men. They couldn't swim; they couldn't help pull the guns out of the ditch. They couldn't help themselves or others...

Bobs became a proponent of carbines carried by a sling on the back - designed by General Sam Browne - whenever they were close to combat situations, which made the trooper much more flexible once unhorsed.

One can see here the beginning of the MIR (Mounted Infantry) of the Boer War, where troopers used horses only to get to the battlefield, then dismounted with their rifles to fight on foot, using rocks as a steady platform for shooting. (The clanging sword was lost along the way.)

Below is a typical cheap, modern repro of a late Victorian trooper doorstop, posing as an antique for the unwary collector, and worth only a few dollars, instead of the hundreds that a real Victorian brass doorstop would fetch. At first sight, the front looks passable, but the back shows the uniformity and freshness that reflect that it was only recently poured and is so without age burn of any kind.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Doorstop, Queen Alexandra - 1902
Orig. postcard - Size - 23 cm -
Found - Bristol, UK
Doorstops are curios today but in Victorian times they were important necessities in every home. With huge families jammed into crowded row housing, with too few windows and poor ventilation, open doors were necessary to provide air flow into homes in summer, especially when cooking fires turned the rooms into stifling hothouses.

The Queen Alexandra doorstop is a mirror of Lord Roberts top, but the back is troublesome. Is this a relatively recent casting from a dupe mold? There is dirt build-up in protected crannies, but the relatively bright uniformity of the back, instead of being dark and splotchy, from 100 years of age burn, might lead to the conclusion that this could be a recent repro. The jury is out on this even though the registry mark says early 1902.

Victorian Trivets

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Trivet, Lord Roberts - 1900
Orig. brass trivet - Size - 22 cm
Found - St. Catharines, ON
Simply the finest Victorian brass trivet we have seen is this fabulous Lord Roberts charmer celebrating his army's relief of Ladysmith (Feb 1900) and Mafeking (May 1900), and the capture of the Boer capitals of Bloemfontein (Mar 1900), and Pretoria (June 1900).

It is extremely rare, the only one we have ever seen, and shows the dark patina and brasso residue from affectionate polishing, long ago. It is entirely fitting that it celebrates the only general destined to leave Kandahar completely victorious, instead of like all the others, past and present, destined to go with their tail between their legs.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Trivet, Gentleman in Kharki - 1900
Orig. brass trivets - Size - 17 & 22 cm
Found - Burlington, ON
By far, the most popular trivet of Victorian times was this brass version which featured the original spelling of kharki, for the modern khaki, which, for some reason also changed the pronunciation from "car key" to "kaakey."

Victorian Misc

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Door Knocker, General French - 1914
Orig. brass door knocker - Size - 10 cm
Found - Paddock Wood, UK
A fabulous door knocker of Sir John French who was Lord Roberts' right hand man in the campaign against the Boers in South Africa. His handling of the cavalry arm of the British Army was the key ingredient - besides Lord Roberts' generalship - in the successful march to capture the Boer capitals of Bloemfontein and Pretoria.

In World War I French became the original British commander in Europe when war broke out.

This doorknocker bears registry marks #641754 on both clapper and bust dating it to late 1914.

The age burn and brasso residue make this a real antique not a recent repro.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Plaque, Sir John A Macdonald - 1880s
Orig. cast iron plaque - Size - 23 cm h; wt 1 kg
Found - Burlington, ON
The best we could do for a Canadian manufactured piece from the period is this cast iron, lovingly painted (original) face of Canada's first Prime Minister, who virtually ruled Canada - with a brief interruption - from 1867 to 1891 when he died. He was so dominant that he was succeeded by four bumblers in quick succession, until the Liberals under Sir Wilfrid Laurier were called in - in 1896 - to clean house, resulting in the longest single run - till 1911 - for a Canadian Prime Minister.

Can you image the state of the world if George Bush had such a long run? What world?

Fabulous! A deeply rusted and worn back, with ancient paint splotches, just like a real antique should have. Ancient dirt marks on top of the paint right points to an original paint job from a century ago or more. But, in all likelihood not by Tom Thomson or AY Jackson, though perhaps by Fred Varley...

The item weighs 1 kg and has an imbedded hook to hang it from.

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