W8848 TO REV. CALVIN MCQUESTEN from his mother, Mary Baker McQuesten
Apr 19 1912
To: Calvin McQuesten 'The Manse' Bracebridge Ontario
My dearest Calvin,
Your letters are very cheerful and you seem to be getting on as well as possible, but I am sure you are busy every moment of time. It is well you have the fresh air to help you. We seem to be very busy here too. The painters have been two weeks here, getting off the old paint took a week from the porch and front door, a fearful job altho' they worked well. Our minds were greatly relieved by hearing Miss Honeycomb could come on Monday. We were beginning to despair of her1. Am glad you were treated to maple syrup; as we will have no preserves, think it would be well to get 2 gals, if there was too much for you we could bring some down here.
We saw the pictures at Thomson's yesterday, but none of us could tell if we saw them all and Thomson hadn't put them down. I'll tell you what we saw and perhaps you can remember -- Livingston the large engraving from Saturday night, Ruby's little watercolour on the river, the blue one and a brown sepia and Edna's ships2. Were there any photos?
Have scarcely been able to talk or think of any thing but the "Titanic." Such an appalling thing! Men seem of late years to have gone crazy on speed; to gain an hour or two they sacrifice any thing, it is just a craze which seems to have seized this generation3.
Heard D.C. McGee on the Social Service, on Monday p.m4. It was very good indeed. We got a very pretty covering for the sofa, it will go with any thing, but I think we'll put it in the living room. I got a picture frame at Burton's, Gentle is doing it up and Browns will put a glass in it, it will do for third bedroom over a dressing table which Hilda will rig up, perhaps with uncle's kitchen table. I think you said there was a table in your [?]. What colour is your rattan chair? I did not know if we should buy any more here, for $2.50 seemed very reasonable, of course I do not know its kind. Well, Calvin dear, next time I hope to write something more worth while, but seem stupid to-day. There are so many things on hand to distract my mind I thought it was a most encouraging thing to hear of people who would walk a mile to church.
But that afternoon meeting makes a long day for you but it will not be so bad when the roads are better. Do you need any money? The weather continues quite cold with us, but the crocus and scilla are showing themselves, but we have very few of them. Do you see any sign of a garden about The Manse? Sweet peas should be planted early. It was a good plan to start the tennis lawn. One needs to get hold of the young people in some way. Well, I must close. Do not work too hard. Your cot is just the size of one in my room. Have got the green denim and will make it here. With love from all.
Ever your loving mother
M. B. McQuesten
1 Miss Honeycomb was a seamstress, see W5709.
2 Thompson's Art Store was located at 64 King St. E. It was the oldest retail art business in Canada, Est. 1860. It started at 47 James St. N. and drew "customers from all over the Dominion" (HPL, Special Collections). Mary is likely referring to an art show or sale, in which case, some of Ruby's and Edna's paintings may have been sold. Many of their paintings are on display at Whitehern, as well as a collection of engravings. Ruby was a good artist and won acclaim at a Hamilton Art School exhibit: "In sepia work the best thing shown for years is a castor plant leaf by Ruby McQuesten" (News clipping n.d., Box 8). This work, or one similar, is on display at Whitehern.
3 The Titanic sank on April 15, 1912. She was considered unsinkable, but on her maiden voyage, at high speed, she struck an iceberg in the North Atlantic near midnight, and sank in less than three hours. There were insufficient lifeboats for all aboard so only 705 passengers were saved, and more than 1500 people perished in the icy water. The confidence in the ship was so strong that the first news reports indicated that the passengers were safe and that the wonder of the wireless had averted the disaster: "Wireless Played Noble Part in Saving of Lives: The Drama Enacted on the Atlantic To-day Would Have Been Turned Into a Tragedy But For Marconi's Invention"; "Other Liners Rushed After Getting the Flash to the Aid of the Crippled Titanic-Passengers Safely Transferred." The next day, the headlines read "OCEAN'S WORST TRAGEDY: Appalling Shipwreck Has Stunned Humanity. . . .Titanic's victims now estimated at not less than 1200"; "News was Terrible Shock After the False Reports Sent Out from Various Sources Yesterday"; "Titanic Disaster Thrilled Hamilton" (The Hamilton Spectator, April 15, 16, 1912). For a comparison with the averted disaster on the Republic, a similar ship, see W6336.
4 I have found no record for D.C. McGee. Possibly, Mary heard a reading of a speech made by Thomas D'Arcy McGee (1825-1868) a "zealous reformer," politician, journalist, poet, historian and "Probably the most eloquent Father of Confederation." He was occupied with the welfare of Irish immigrants, the settlement of the West, a transcontinental railway, and the development of a distinctly Canadian literature. McGee was assassinated "likely by a Fenian extremist" (CE 1265). The newspapers of the early twentieth century carry many reports of social reform ("Social Gospel") activists who "Attack Social Evil Vigorously" (The Hamilton Spectator headline, April 16, 1912). "Social Evil" was often the term used for prostitution. One of the reasons for setting up the YWCA was to help and to house the young women flocking to the city for work. In Victorian times it was sometimes billed as a means of preventing the corruption of the young men.