Boer War Page 93t2
Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries
More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has recently preserved.
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Victorian - Edwardian Horse Memorabilia 1887-1902 - 2

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Victorian - Edwardian Horse Brass 1901-1911

Great Canadian Heritage SCAM
Queen Victoria Horse Brass - FAKE!!!, 1990s
Orig. brass casting 1990s - Size - any
Found - Any antique shop, ebay, the World
Edward VII "God Save the King," Antique Horse Brass, 1902
Orig. brass - Size - 3.5"d
Found - Clappison's Corners, ON
Victorian Horse Brass: The first horse brass we ever bought - undeniably the experience of everyone who's ever done so - was a fake (left).

We offer a comparison between a 1990s repro (left), with a genuine historic memorabilia item dating from 1902.

Fake: Fake horse brasses always have that clean "just taken out of the mold look," especially the backs, which, because they are not the display side, are roughly finished. That is where the dirt of decades should really gather, and darken the surface with varying patches of "age burn." Fake backs always look nice and clean, just as they should look if they came out of the mold a few months ago!

Compare the surface pitting on the face of Edward, and the total lack of similar grunge in the crannies of Victoria... But the back really shows the difference!

And don't believe the seller telling you that it looks that way because someone loved it and polished it. Who would do a diligent enough job to ever be able to polish age out of the cracks and gouges? And why would anyone want to?

Do not be fooled by the obvious surface gouges out of Victoria, because this repro was cast from a mold made from a genuine antique Victoria horse brass, that actually experienced the gouges and wear that are seen there, not this copy which merely mirrors them through the copying/casting process.

Brass Basics: The first thing to remember, about horse brasses, is that most of them are fake - considered as historical memorabilia items, that is.

If you are only interested in them as a decorator item, then you have thousands of possible samples to pick from, every day, on ebay.

They are also wonderful as copies of memorabilia items that once existed. So you can make a great collection of horse brasses to show the wild variety of designs that once were made - and continue to be made - to decorate horses.

99% of the horse brasses out there are exactly what you're looking for.

But, if you're looking only for genuine antique, original horse brasses, from the period when they were first designed, cast, and used, look out. You have to search far, hard, and long, before you find the real thing.

But when you do, it is a glorious discovery, to be in touch once more, with a hard working countryman who once ploughed the field, the horse who tossed his head, or the child who polished the brass, to get ready for the Fall Fair, so many, many years ago...

A modern copy just cannot carry that emotional tug that comes with memorabilia items that connect with real people from another time, now long gone...

Tradition: Two Canadians adorned with modern horse brass. Some say horse brass originated in medieval times when it was put on horses to ward off evil spirits. Others say it comes from the horse decorating tradition of the Romany peddlers who wandered across Europe centuries ago.

The Canadians: These horses belong to Canada's native "Canadian" breed. They stem from breeding stock sent to Canada's French colonies by the King of France in the 17th century. Unlike other working horse breeds, like Clydesdales, Belgians, or Percherons, "Canadians" are an all purpose breed, being a light-weight horse that can equally well, plough a field, pull a cart to market, or serve as a riding horse.

Go to
The Field Behind the Plow
International Gold Medal Winner
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Horse Brass, Victoria the Good, 1901
Orig. brass & leather - Size - "oa 13"
Found - Milton, ON

Leather: The finest horse brasses come with their original leather intact (left, and below, the reverse view) just as they were on that Victorian plough horse as it worked on a lonely field so long ago. But they are obviously extremely hard to find, compared to the mass-produced, ubiquitous, unmarked and shiny, tourist leathers that seem to back 99 percent of horse brasses found in antique stores or on ebay.

All horse brasses shown here feature "one-of-a-kind" leather backs, that are only found on genuine antique horse brasses, and all show "age burn" that testifies to their authenticity, including: gouges, cracks, discoloration, loose threads, even a spider's web (above), from where it was stored in a barn.

What repro maker could possibly reproduce the weariness of hard worn leather that all these items show. They also clealy demonstrate symbiosis... Sorry, it's the best word, and the clincher indicator which no "tourist" repro leathers ever have. All the brasses here have been in obvious long intimate contact with the leather on which they are mounted, and which has recorded a hundred years of ups and downs in that relationship...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Horse Brass, Duchess of Cornwall (future Queen Mary) 1902
Orig. brass & leather - Size - oa 11"
Found - Sherbrooke, PQ
Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
Horse Brasses, Victoria The Good, 1901 - Edward The Peacemaker, 1902
Orig. brass & leathers - Size - oa 9" brass 3.5"d
Found - Milton, ON
A "once-in-a-lifetime," rare treat is to find a set of horse brasses, on original leather, that have been together for over a century, and once tinkled together, very likely on adjoining horses...

One notes Edward as the "Peacemaker" - one of two Edward variations shown on this page - because he ended the Boer War, and brought a semblance of peace throughout Europe, by using his diplomatic power - he had relatives in every Royal Family in Europe - and charm, to smooth over the bitter feelings that conflict left everywhere.

Below, symbiosis, with the brasses turned over to show where, likely for decades, they flipped and flopped on the leather strapping. And the patina, of a hundred years, darkening the brasses.

A horse by any other name... Ontario farmers were not very inventive with their horse names. Almost everyone who had working horses, where I grew up in rural Ontario, had a King or Queen, or Queenie, for variation...

Newcomers were called Prince...

Ontario farmers were extremely loyal to the Kings and Queens who ruled the British Empire a century ago. I never did run into a horse called Prime Minister...

Many French-Canadian farmers were loyal Royalists too, and for every Separatiste or Patriote, there was a Loyalist or two.

The Boer War was widely opposed in Quebec. In spite of that many French-Canadians signed up in all the contingents to go fight for the Queen and Empire in South Africa. They were also notable among the officer corps that accompanied the contingents, and among the dead who never came back.

The horse brass, below left, found in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, may very well have belonged to a French-Canadian farmer.

Horse brass, as is evident from the Belgians ploughing above and below, could be strapped on the head, neck, back, or draped over the rump.

Ox me no questions: Naming conventions also apply to the many ox teams found in Canada's Maritime provinces. They were once used to clear logs from the land; today they are maintained for use in ox-pulling competitions.

We once asked a teamster why the Canadian oxen were all, named Bright and Lion? He replied, "It makes it easier on everyone - man and ox alike - cause this way, when we sell oxen back and forth, nobody has to learn a new name!..."

It seemed to make sense at the time...

American ox drivers apparently name all theirs Babe and Blue for the same reason...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasures
Horse Brasses, Victoria the Good, 1901 - Edward VII God Save the King, 1902
Orig. brass & leather - Size - oa 11" brass 3.5"d
Found - Sherbrooke, PQ
A very rare, OK, "twice-in-a-lifetime" pair of original horse brasses from Quebec that have been a pair, from birth, for over a century. Fabulous!
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Horse Brass, Our Monty, c 1944
Orig. brass & leather - Size - oa 13"
Found - Clappison's Corners, ON
Labelled El Alamein to Berlin Our Monty
George V & Queen Mary: Both George and Mary, who succeeded Edward when he died in 1910, had visited Canada in 1901, during the Boer War, the first Prince and Princess of Wales to do so. Canadian farmers snapped up the horse brasses (below) in their honour.

Monty: Canadians went overseas to fight, on Britain's side, two more times, during World Wars I and II. They found new British leaders to admire.

This wonderful horse brass of Field Marshall Bernard Montgomery adorned a Canadian work horse in the 1940s, probably purchased by a soldier who had served with Monty in the late war.

Again both brass and leather show all the features - gouges, varying discolouration, grunge, stressed strap holes, gleaming highlights, but not indentations, shiny from "Fall Fair" polishing, and a spider's web - that identify this as a treasured "original" memorabilia item from the 1940s, and not a modern "repro."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Horse Brass, George V & Queen Mary, Coronation, 1911
Orig. brass & leather - Size - oa 7"
Found - Kent, UK
Sadly, many heritage treasures, that once reflected life as it was lived in Canada, have disappeared, and have to be found in other corners of the world.

You Pick the Fake!!!!
Remember, they didn't need to fake Coronation horse brass in 1902; so they used the original stampings and molds.

The result is a horse brass with nice clean cut lines and good edges to the images and especially the inscribed writing.

With the decorator and antique mania for horse brass in the last few years, there was not enough vintage brass to go around. So duplicates were produced, some for the horse decorator trade - hey the horse doesn't care if it's original - some for brass design collectors, some for the notions trade, and some to deceive hard core collectors of "originals only please."

Since the original molds and stamps are long gone, new ones were created by finding a genuine old, worn, original horse brass somewhere, and using it to make a new master mold. This master would capture the imperfections and wear of the old brass; the new master would never be sharp and clear as the original molds were.

When copies were made they lost even more sharpness and the edges of lettering really started to "lose it." The lettering starts to become rounded looking and incomplete in definition. Comparing this with a genuine old brass from original molds will show you the difference quickly.

A really insurmountable problem facing the repro man was the patina - the age-burn that old metal or wood picks up by being 100 years old.


Finding shiny brass with poorly defined lettering will quickly help you spot the fake. Shortly you will start to see the uniformity of these recent repros, whether they are designed for the notions trade or to deceive antique collectors.

The first and the last (both Edwards) are probably the only ones in this collection that are antique - 100 years old. The first is probably a victim of polishing by someone who thought brass should shine, so ruining it for die-hard collectors. The last is as good as it gets. The Monty brass, above, when you compare it with the old one just above it, seems a clear dupe from a bad mold. The lettering in the old one has a sharp artistic font; the shiny one looks like the lettering is really going due to an inferior copying technique through a bad mold. Or is it a bad photograph?

c Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996 & 2000