Boer War Page 91k

Rare Boer War Discoveries

Below are some of the key items the Canadian Boer War Museum has added to its collections
in its ongoing efforts to preserve important Canadian heritage memorabilia from this period.

Great Canadian Heritage Discoveries - Jan. 2005

Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier 1841-1919 - Portraits
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Autographed & Dedicated Photograph, Sir Wilfrid Laurier 1908
Orig. photo - Image size - 12.5" x 15.5"
Found - Palgrave, ON
Orig. inscription by Sir Wilfrid Laurier, "To Calliers, from her Friend Wilfrid Laurier," Orig. frame and glass

"From her friend Wilfrid Laurier"

Prime Minister Laurier has been gone for over 80 years, but he is as well known today, in Canada, as any recent Prime Minister, because his face is on the Canadian five dollar bill. As a result, he is at the top of the list for Canadian Prime Minister memorabilia collectors.

If you look extremely hard, and long, it is possible to find an original photo of Sir Wilfrid, an autograph, or a note in his hand. But to find them all in one is impossible you say?

Recently at a small rural Ontario auction we did just that when we discovered this huge original photo portrait with original glass and frame still intact after a century.

Wonderful enough! But at the bottom of the photo was an extremely rare treasure. A personal note to a friend, and the autograph of Sir Wilfrid himself. "To Calliers from her friend Wilfrid Laurier"

Sir Wilfrid: Very rarely do you come across a special heritage treasure from one of Canada's truly great statesmen, as happened recently with regard to Sir Wilfrid Laurier, Canada's first French-Canadian Prime Minister (PM from 1896 - 1911).

Many consider him Canada's best Prime Minister as well. He practiced, to a fine art, the job of tweaking the delicate balance between French and English Canadians, who, in 1900 made up the vast proportion of Canada's population.

In an age when racial agendas - proudly - ruled in every country of the world, Sir Wilfrid rose to statesmanship by setting aside his own ethnic background, in order to speak, and to be seen to speak, for the rights of all Canadians, regardless of their backgrounds.

Reuben Benstead: Sir Wilfrid won the admiration not only of his fellow French-Canadians but of dyed-in-the-wool Anglos as well. One of my earliest recollections, as a boy of ten, was riding on a horse drawn wagon in the heart of Scotch southwestern Ontario, beside Reuben Benstead, a crusty old Anglo farmer, then in his eighties. As he clucked to his Clydesdales, Queen and King, he told me stories of Canada's past. One thing he said, and a name I had never heard before, is etched forever in my memory.

"Sir Wilfrid! He was the best Prime Minister we ever had!" He paused, lost in thought, thinking back on a good memory, in a life that was long, and well lived... That was in 1951, some 40 years after Sir Wilfrid had been in office, and lots of others had tried their hand at the top job. I don't believe Reuben - who was as steeped in the ethnic politics of the age, as anyone else - had ever met a French-Canadian, or wanted to. And his neighbours were not known as especially welcoming to non-Anglos. Could there be a more powerful encomium for a Canadian statesman, from a less impeachable source?

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Prime Minister Laurier's Liberal Cabinet - 1896
Orig. litho - Image size - 16" x 20"
Found - Inglewood, ON
Orig. frame & glass
This is the only coloured lithograph we have ever found of a nineteenth, or twentierth century, Canadian cabinet. Oddly enough it is not that rare. So popular was this French-Canadian Prime Minister - even in Anglophone Ontario - that this print turns up from time to time at rural Ontario auctions. We have seen five in the past three years, all in original glass & frame. And that is fortunate because many today regard him as Canada's finest Prime Minister.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Vanity Fair Print, Sir Wilfrid Laurier - 1897
Orig. lithograph - Image size - 8" x 14"
Found - Pocono Lake, PA
Signed Spy, Pub. Vanity Fair, Aug. 19, 1897, "Canada"
Prime Minister Lauier's came to British attention almost immediately after taking office. Queen Victoria and her Generals took pride in the ethnic diversity of the British Empire. When Laurier came to London to take part in the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration in 1897, he was knighted as Sir Wilfrid. Vanity Fair famously portrayed him as studious and intellectual, and labelled him simply as "Canada." But war with the Boers was looming on the horizon... What would "Canada" do?
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Photo Engraving, Sir Wilfrid Laurier c 1900
Orig. photo engraving - Image size - 2.75" x 4.75"
Found - Dundas, ON
Orig. frame & glass
Surviving a century of "toss outs," this tiny portrait of Sir Wilfrid, in an exquisite frame, was lovingly and carefully, preserved by someone in whose life he had made a difference.

That included hundreds of thousands of Eastern Europeans who flocked into Canada's untamed western territories and put thousands of acres of virgin prairie soil under the plough for the very first time. In 1905 he established the new provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan where they settled. They remained long and loyal supporters of Sir Wilfrid and the Liberal Party who had made their Canadian dream possible if not exactly "fulfilled."

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Oilette, Sir Wilfrid Laurier c 1908
Orig. oilette - Image size - 16" x 20"
Found - Milton, ON
Orig. frame, canvas on stretcher
This faux oil, or oilette, was another popular way to portray the Prime Minister in stores, hotels, public buildings, and homes. It is on canvas and has the appearance of an oil but is really a printed photo, treated to simulate the look and feel of an original oil painting.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Canadians at the Coronation Parade of George V, London - 1911
Orig. lithograph - Image size - 14.5" x 29.5"
Found, with brass martingale & leather straps - Vancouver, BC
Supplement Toronto Globe 1911, Signed AH Hider, Owned as a souvenir by a RNWMP trooper who was in the parade, Orig. glass & frame,
In 1911, in Laurier's last year in office, he took part in the Coronation Parade of George V and Queen Mary. He had been their host on their tour to Canada, in 1901, during the Boer War. They were the first Prince and Princess of Wales, to visit Canada.

This glorious litho was painted by renowned Canadian illustrative artist Art Hider, and shows Sir Wilfrid in his carriage, rising to salute the passing Royal North West Mounted Police contingent from Canada. The print is especially rare since it was the personal pride and joy of a RNWMP Staff Sergeant who rode in the parade that day, and spent years in the RCMP musical ride after that. Under the print is the martingale that his horse once wore on parade.

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Photograph on Tin, Sir Wilfrid Laurier c 1903
Orig. photo on tin - Image size - 4.5" x 6"
Found - Cooksville, ON
Orig. frame
Tin portraits offered an improvement over paper prints. They were far more scuff resistant, and were not subject to the staining, from moisture and wood backing, that afflicted so many paper lithos and prints from the period.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Chromolithograph, Sir Wilfrid Laurier c 1898
Orig. lithograph - Image size - 16" x 20"
Found - Canfield, ON
Labelled "Premier of Canada," period frame
This magnificent colour lithograph shows Sir Wilfrid very early in his term in office, while he still looked young and refreshed. His time in office would wear him down.
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