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Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries

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More important Canadian antique memorabilia the Museum has preserved.

Canadian Artillery Shot & Shells - 1812-1814

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Canadian Battlefield Relics, Artillery Rounds, War of 1812
Orig. cast iron relics - Size - from 1.5 to 5.4 inches
Found - Odessa, ON, Burlington, ON, Beamsville, ON
Above a gallery of historic Canadian cannon balls that range from 1.5 and 2 inch grape shot to 2lb, 6lb, 12 lb, to a 24 pdr solid shot, shown scaled to an 8 mm Mauser cartridge. All are from famous Canadian War of 1812 battlefields.

Shame! - One of the great disappointments in life, years ago, was discovering that the cannon balls at Canada's historic forts are all fakes, just modern reproductions scattered about to supposedly impart a feel for the times.

A faux feel... that is sadly catching on elsewhere...

Because a buzz from a fake cannon ball is about as gripping as discovering that your ample new girlfriend feels as if she is storing plasticine in her breasts. Now we know why she has the reputation of being "putty in your hands." We won't be dating her again, or visiting that repro fort display. We side with those who say "Give me real women and real historic sites any day."

Genuine Canadian cannon balls are rare to find. In fact fake Canadian Parks repros far outnumber the real ones that are around.

This dashes one of the great thrills people expect in a museum, to fondle the very historic items once touched by people hundreds of years ago, and allowing them, for a brief moment, to link emotionally with people that once played a dramatic part in the history of Canada.

Museums everywhere, more and more, are featuring fakes in everything: fake buildings and forts in fake locations, fake Hudson's Bay trade goods, fake tools and implements, fake clothes and uniforms, fake guns, and shells, etc. Today you can safely consider the vast majority of items you see as repros rather than as the real thing... Well they're at least as real as Disney World.

The purpose, say the curators, is to preserve the real historic items from handling wear by the public. So they store the real stuff behind the scenes where parks and museum employees can fondle them to their hearts content and get the historic buzz that the tax payers are not allowed to have even though they paid for all that stuff... Oh, and when no one is looking, to take them home for their own collections...

Missing inventory is a huge problem with museums since they have so much (well over 95%) in storage that never gets seen or checked, for decades at a time. When an enthusiastic newcomer seeks out items from the vaults it turns out that hundreds of items are apparently "lost" and are never seen again, having been spirited off by the only people with access, the employees.

The exhibits here are all colloquially called cannon balls, roundish cast iron balls fired from smoothbore (without rifling grooves inside the barrel) cannons.

Strictly speaking, the first three left are classified as cast iron solid shot of 2, 6, and 12 lbs in weight, fired from artillery guns of the same calibre. They are solid, without surface perforations for fuses, etc.

They are intended to hit and pulverize enemy personnel and fortifications in one solid punch without breaking up. (Which also makes them retrievable, intact, from old battlefields by souvenir hunters.) Or they were sent bouncing off the ground, careening wildly, here and there, cutting down horses and men.

The cannon ball below is not a shot, but a 24 pounder cast iron shell, hollow on the inside, designed to hit a target and explode into pieces. Its walls are perforated with two holes. Through the larger one, small iron, or lead, balls would be loaded, along with a solidifying mixture to prevent them from rattling about inside.

The first two pounder top is a grape shot collected from the Battle of Lundy's Lane site probably 100 years ago or more.

The bottom three - two solid shots and one shell - are from the Battle of Crysler's Farm area and were collected long ago.

We thought you'd never ask... So why do none of the shots weigh what they are called, say a six pounder weigh six pounds? Because the density and purity of iron used varied widely from one manufacturer to another. The weight didn't matter as much as the diameter of the shots and all have the correct diameter to allow firing from that calibre of gun, less usually a tenth of an inch for rusting.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

12 pdr Solid Shot, War of 1812
Orig. solid cast iron - Size - 4.5" - 14.2 lbs
Found - Odessa, ON
Another bigger solid shot retrieved from the Battle of Crysler's Farm area.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Solid (Grape) Shot, Lundy's Lane, July 25, 1812
Orig. solid cast iron - Size - 2.5" - 1.9 lbs
Found - Burlington, ON
Dundurn Castle Coll

This would have been fired as grape shot, bundled like a cluster of grapes, in a package of three tiers of 3 to 5 balls each, separated by shelves of cast iron plates bolted together with an iron pin from top to bottom. When fired the stand of 9 to 15 balls would fly apart much like a giant shotgun blast cutting and smashing its way through the enemy charge. It was an awesome anti-personnel weapon up to 300 yards and effective to 600. (See US version below)

It played its part in the fearful slaughter at the Battle of Lundy's Lane at Niagara Falls helping to turn back the advance of the American troops that sought to invade and conquer Canada in 1812.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

24 pdr Solid Shot, War of 1812
Orig. cast iron solid - Size - 5.5" - 24 lbs
Found - Odessa, ON

Another cannon ball from the Crysler's Farm area is this solid shot, the precursor to hollow ones. The small hole is the filler sprue through which the iron was poured into the mold till it came out the large vent sprue on top.

Hollow shells were either designed to explode, and break up into five or six pieces, or, they could be loaded with small iron or lead balls which sprayed out like a shotgun blast to mow down the enemy troop masses. The shells would have a hole through which balls could be loaded, along with a powder charge, before it was again closed up with a lead plug.

Some of the gunboats of British Commander William Mulcaster, which played a key role in the victory fought on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, carried 24 pdrs. In fact this relic came from this area.

HMS St. Lawrence left below the biggest warship ever built on the Great Lakes, in Navy Bay at Kingston, Ontario, in 1814, carried 40 x 24 pounders on her lower two gun decks.

This 112 gun battleship was launched when the war was over. She was, in fact, bigger than Nelson's Victory, today preserved in Portsmouth, UK. The St. Lawrence was scuttled, ignominiously, sometime in the 1830s, a total waste in labour and treasure, since the British never went to war against the US again.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

6 pdr Solid Shot, Battle of Crysler's Farm, Nov. 11-12, 1813
Orig. solid cast iron - Size - 3.5" - 7.5 lbs
Found - Odessa, ON

This old shot was designed to pulverize fortifications or bunches of men through sheer single point punching power. These could - and sometimes were - retrieved, after bouncing about on the battlefield, fired back at the original enemy gunners.

From the Battle of Crysler's Farm where an American invading force, intent on capturing Montreal, was repulsed and forced to return to the American shore.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Solid (Grape) Shot, Battle of Lundy's Lane, July 25, 1812
Orig. solid cast iron - Size - 1.5 - 2" - 8 - 13 oz
Found - Beamsville, ON

Four grape shot from the Battle of Lundy's Lane near Niagara Falls. The 1.5 inch round ones are British; the 2 inch ovals are American, originally fired as a stand like that left.

The British shots also show the mold seam which US shots do not have, caused when the two sides of the mold fit badly leaving a ridge when they are separated after the cast iron has cooled.

Because grape shot balls were packaged into stands, and fired as a package, the individual balls did not have to be uniformly round in shape. The oval grape shot relics all vary somewhat in thickness and weight.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Barrel Stencil, Crysler's Farm, c 1850
Orig. tin - Size - 12 x 49 cm
Found - Napanee, ON
Prov - Philip Shackleton Coll

All that is left of a historic farm on which the destiny of Canada was decided one fall day in 1813. Years later, John Pliny Crysler (1801-1881) used this stencil to put his name on apple barrels that he sent to market. The stencil is pressed on the barrel and swabbed with a brush of black paint.

John was 13 during the battle and helped his father bury precious family goods to keep them safe from the pillaging Americans. The family owned a huge tract of land in the area. John was a merchant in early life, and occupied extensively in the square timber trade when Canadian lumbering was in its heyday. He became a Member of Parliament and was noted as a "man of sterling worth." He lived a mile from the battlefield where he maintained a fine house. All of it, gone now...

Crysler's Farm relics are rare because the battle site was flooded, in 1958, with the creation of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The battlefield will give up no more relics. This a memorial to a Great Canadian who did his part, even though he remained a staunch Conservative...

How authentic is this item? Always ask for the provenance - its certifiable life history. This came from one of the finest Canadiana collections ever assembled, that of Philip Shackleton, from eastern Ontario. When Phil and his wife downsized to Saskatchewan, the dispersal of their collection, in Kingston, ON, May 22, 2004, was, arguably, the antique auction highlight of the 21st century.

The legendary Philip Shackleton wrote the bible on old Ontario furniture and, with his wife Audrey, rendered all Canadians an invaluable service in spending their lifetime in finding, stabilizing, and preserving, valuable antiques from Canada's past, and ultimately passing them on to similar patriotic and heritage conscious Canadian private collectors.

Two other kindred spirits who shared Phil's passion for Canadian heritage were Blake and Ruth McKendry, of Kingston Ontario, who published bibles on Canadian antiques and memorabilia, and whose auction, on Nov 21 & 22, 2003 was another milestone in the history of passing on a major collection to a successive generation of collectors.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Solid (Grape) Shot, Battle of Crysler's Farm, Nov. 11-12, 1813
Orig. solid cast iron - Size - 2" - 11.5 oz
Found - Odessa, ON

This is American grape shot, relics of another failed US invasion of Canada.

Commander William Mulcaster, who commanded the gunboats at the Battle of Crysler's Farm lost a leg to American grape shot when a few months later he led an attack on Oswego, on Lake Ontario.

One who fell victim to being killed by two grape shots like this was Sir Edward Pakenham right the brother-in-law of the Duke of Wellington.

At the Battle of New Orleans in 1814 he lost his life as well as the battle, a victim not only of grape shot but bad communications. He did not know that, while he fought, an ocean away Britain had already agreed on peace terms with the US to end the war.

He was one of the ones Johnny Horton sang about in his celebrated pop hit Ballad of the Battle of New Orleans, in 1959, "there wasn't nigh as many as there was awhile ago."

The small Ontario town of Pakenham was named after him because nothing else noteworthy ever happened there, before or since, he made a brief visit there over 200 years ago...

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure

Postcard, Old Fort Henry Beside Navy Bay
Orig. pc - Size - 9 x 13 cm
Found - Pasadena, CA

Canada's Royal Military College now occupies the site on the centre spit of land where the St. Lawrence was built near the water beside the Stone Frigate building immediately opposite Fort Henry. This was the site of the Royal Navy Dockyard during the War of 1812.

Fort Henry too is an example of huge silly over -spending on militaria, built in 1832 to protect the dockyards from American attack, a generation after the two governments had last fired in anger at each other.

Fiasco - Then & Now - The St. Lawrence fiasco in squandered money was hardly the last for Canadians.

In 2006 the Canadian Government spent unprecedented billions of dollars to buy war materiel, guns, bombs, tanks, to kill off a few Afghan freedom fighters because, it claimed - seriously - these pajama-clad tribesmen were a clear and present danger to Canada, half way around the world... Even public school children found this hard to believe - the danger that is - but Conservatives bought it hook, line, and stinker...

If you can believe the last time Canada spent money on this scale was when it was fighting the Chinese in Korea under the UN flag in 1952.

At least the government of 1812 had the excuse that the Yanks were just across the lake, and capable of war-mongering on a grand scale, a proud tradition they have never lost. Several leadership candidates, during the Presidential Primaries in 2008, hawkishly trumpeted they were for expanding the military beyond Iraq and doing so for 100 years if need be... They know they can always get votes there for war mongering.

Thank God, they now see Canadians are fellow white men and Christians, and have, fortunately for all of us civilized people who cherish Freedom and Democracy, turned their wrath elsewhere on the globe on lesser peoples and creeds...

Copyright Goldi Productions Ltd. 1996-1999-2005


by Brian S. Osborne,
President of the Kingston Historical Society

The following appeared in Limelight, the newsletter of the Kingston Historical Society (KHS) vol. 5 (December 2003): 4, as well as in the Upper Canadian, vol. 24 (January/February 2004): 5

On 30 October 2003,  Blake Ault McKendry, a loyal member and benefactor of KHS, passed away at Trillium Ridge Centre, Kingston, at the age of 84. Born 4 July 1919 in South Gower, Grenville County, he was the second son of Edward McKendry and Blanche Ault McKendry. After acquiring his B.Sc. at Queen’s University in 1941, Blake worked at RCA Victor (1941-46) and then Smart & Biggar & Fetherstonhaugh & Co. in Ottawa (1946-61).

In the mid 1950s, he and his wife, Ruth, became interested in art, rare books, and antiques, both as sellers and collectors. During this period - at a time when Canada’s decorative arts were only beginning to be appreciated -  the McKendrys owned and operated The Pioneer Shop in Ottawa (right, 1957).

In the 1970s, they restored the Snook House, a stone-farmhouse of 1820 near Elginburg where they lived until moving to Kingston in 1994. Author, scholar, and photographer, Blake McKendry leaves a significant cultural legacy, particularly in his books on Canadian art and folk art. He assisted museums and art galleries in acquiring historic Canadian paintings and sculptures, and was a recognized appraiser and consultant on Canadian art and antiques. Moreover, he and Ruth assembled an impressive private collection of Canadian folk art, antiques, and reference books. As a photographer, Blake executed the photography for some 13 books and journals, such as Ruth McKendry’s Quilts and Other Bed Coverings in the Canadian Tradition (1979), Ralph and Patricia Price’s ‘Twas Ever Thus (1979), Gerald Stevens’s Glass in Canada (1982) and Edith Fowke’s The Penguin Book of Canadian Folk Songs (1986).

Blake McKendry’s own publications include several articles in professional journals, as well as such books as Folk Art: Primitive and Naïve Art in Canada (1983), A Dictionary of Folk Artists in Canada from the 17th Century to the Present (1988), A to Z of Canadian Art, Artists & Art Terms (1997), An Illustrated Companion to Canadian Folk Art (1999), The New A to Z of Canadian Art (2001), and Key Dates in Canadian Art (with Jennifer McKendry, 2001). He continued to write into his eighties.

Always open to fresh ideas and interested in new technologies such as computers, Blake had a lively mind and was a source of inspiration to a younger generation of antique and art collectors. Blake and Ruth’s collection of early Ontario furnishings was dispersed by auction on 21 and 22 November.

He would have been pleased by the close attention paid by bidders to the artifacts’ provenances and original finishes and by the zeal with which his beloved books - numbering more than 2000 - were acquired.

The Kingston Historical Society extends sincere condolences to the McKendry family for their loss.

Photos: Blake & Ruth McKendry, Kingston Whig-Standard 1997

The following was read by Tim Potter, at the auction of the McKendry Collection, November 21, 2003, Kingston, Ontario



author of The Furniture of Old Ontario (Macmillan, 1973)

BLAKE AND RUTH MCKENDRY have lived through a period in which Canadians' attitude to their own heritage has changed immensely.

To look back fifty years and more, to recall the lack of concern for the fate of the material memorabilia left to us by predecessors, is to conjure a period that seems indeed strange.  Our awakening to the values associated with the legacy of past generations is indeed very recent.  And that awakening to such a large extent has been due to the pioneering spirit and dedicated work of collectors and dealers like Ruth and Blake.

As very active people, whose knowing hands have touched so many pieces of what we now call our own fine arts or fine crafts, they have been pace setters in nurturing the appreciation for our own domestic treasures.  And the books that they have written and published have become our standards of reference. 

As collectors they have lived with some of the finest and most fascinating material from their Canadian background.  And they have shared with fellow collectors the opportunity to enjoy, to become familiar with, and also to live with, some of the most meaningful of those treasures

One special thing about Blake: he didn't totally deny the value of public galleries and museums as custodians of reference collections.  But he had a very special regard for the private collector.  He respected and encouraged the role of the private enthusiast in seeking out, in preserving, and in establishing meaningful worth for products of the human past.

He reminded us too that a treasure in a museum is a treasure out of reach.  While the treasure held by a private collector is very likely to come back again someday to the market place.  So that new collectors will enjoy the opportunity to acquire something of the best.

We salute a personal legacy of great value. 


We treasure wonderful memories of shared friendship and shared enthusiasms. 


And we are most grateful that Blake and Ruth are sharing the fruit of their collecting years with the collectors of this day and the collectors of tomorrow.              Phil Shackleton



Ruth McKendry passed on, on Dec 16, 2006.