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Fabulous Canadian Militiaman 1880s

Salvaged from the dust bin of history just in the nick of time!
Canadian Militiaman: At a rural farm auction in near Shelburne, Ontario, I came across a completely dirty and dusty looking print (left after restoration) in a badly damaged frame. Good! Everyone else passed it by.

Having closely inspected the item before, instead of being scared off by the dirt, I could see that the scum and soiling stains were all on the inside of the glass only and had not touched the print surface. (We have reclaimed more than one fabulous item by closely checking filthy pictures that others pass by.)

When I got it apart, just as I suspected, it was not a print at all but an original charcoal sketch, a full 16 x 20" in pristine condition. The glass and frame had absorbed the abuse of over a century and protected the sketch!

It turned out to be a Canadian militiaman of the 36th Regiment, done probably in the early 1880s. I had to dump the frame but kept the glass which needed thorough cleaning so that sketch and glass would remain together for another 120 years.

And I mounted it in a stunning frame from the period which I had found at another auction, so that it once more reflects, as it once did, the pride of a family in their son, and the fervent patriotism of another time, now long gone, of a rural people doing their part as members of a new dominion.

Confederation 1867: When Canada was granted Dominion status as an independent country, it had no standing army of its own. Just as in the past, Britain would provide professional troops in key locations (Quebec, Halifax, Esquimalt) to defend Canada, aided by the "Home Guard" of Canadian volunteer militiamen.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Canadian Militiaman, 36th Regt., Shelburne, ON c. 1880s
Charcoal sketch - Image Size - 41 x 51 cm
Found - Palgrave, ON
Canadian militia regiments were scattered across southern and eastern Ontario. Local men joined, held weekly drills, and often spent summer training at Camp Niagara, polishing their brass, and keeping the webbing sparkling white with coats of blanco.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
36th Regt. Marching on Main Street, Shelburne, ON c. 1904
Postcard - Image Size - 3.5" x 5.5"
Found - Lubbock, TX
One such regiment was the 36th, from the Shelburne area north of Toronto. Above the town stands still in 1906, as the men in full uniform, and led by the regimental band, walk down the main street on the way to the train for summer training at militia camp.

The infantryman, right, who once marched with the same group down the same street, has the Lee-Enfield Rifle and bayonet from a time when men in groups ran across fields to "have at" each other. Rifles were useful only at short ranges. These inferior weapons would soon be phased out in favour of the newer Pattern 1888 model Lee-Metford Rifle and bayonet used during the Boer War.


From Blanco to Kharki: This was also the last hurrah for the white webbing and helmet. With the astonishing accuracy of the new Mauser rifles during the Boer War, everyone spent the opening weeks of the war covering everything white, or that glittered in the sun, with khaki stain. And now only fools wanted to ride a white horse!

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000