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Rare Boer War Discoveries
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Below are more 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.

Rare Great Boer War Discoveries (Mar. 2006)


General French Lamp - 1900

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
General French Staffordshire Lamp, 1900
Orig. ceramic lamp on metal base - Size - 20"
Found - Brooklyn, NY
The Boer War era produced more commemorative items than any war before or since. This was due to the happy confluence of technological improvements and inventions during this period: advances in colour lithography (postcard craze, battle prints, sheet music, books), photography (the most photographed war in history until World War I), ceramics (Goss commemorative china ware), colour printing (commemorative handkerchiefs, flags, banners), and weaving (Stevengraphs, silk postcards, etc.)

The Anglo-Boer War was so popular at the outset that manufacturers outdid themselves in coming up with new ways to entice the buying public into displaying their patriotism by buying their wares.

This fabulous commemorative lamp was one retailer's attempt to strike out in a new direction.

It features a standard Staffordshire Boer War General - in this case General JDP French, the British cavalry commander in South Africa. A special metal base was manufactured to fit the long oval of the statue and a long rod made to support the lamp shade and carry the electric cord.

The support rod, making like a sapling growing out of the hill against which the horse is prancing, probably found its inspiration in the early 1900s craze for the leafy and flowery art nouveau style of decoration. But the pattern - unlike bark - is regular, and along with the base decoration, strongly echoes more faithfully the earlier, ordered, Empire style of Napoleon III. A much more proper decorative motif for a Boer War general than the unrestrained leafy vines favoured by dissolute artists of the day.

This lamp design was a most creative way to preserve the integrity of the original Staffordshire figure without altering - and thereby devaluing it - in any way.

(Many fine Queen Victoria busts were ruined when they were modified into lamps by drilling a hole into the top of her crown and popping out the lamp support from her head! Besides looking downright silly - as if the Queen was walking about with a lamp shade on her head - it left a large hole in the top if you got tired of the quips from passers-by and decided to remove the fixture from her head!)

An added advantage with this lamp configuration is that you can put in the Staffordshire general of your choice!

Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Queen Alexandra Lamp, 1902
Orig. ceramic & wood - Size - 25"
Found - Trenton, NJ
This fabulous Queen Alexandra lamp harkens from the very earliest days of electricity, and is the only non-Queen Victoria royalty lamp we have ever seen. It is ceramic mounted on a gilt painted wooden base.
Great Canadian Heritage Treasure
Emperor Napoleon Oil Lamp, 1874
Orig. - Size - 31"
Found - Milton, ON
The lamp is made of Bristol blue glass, a glass type begun in the 18th century by Bristol glass makers who decided there was a good market in making glassware that matched the blue and white china - like the blue willow - that was in high fashion among the wealthy at the time.
Old Boney: The most common commemorative lamps produced before the Boer War, were the Bristol glass oil lamps of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte and Empress Josephine which were manufactured by Bristol glass makers in Great Britain in the 1870s.

These lamps proved so popular that it is not all that rare to find them at Canadian auctions or on ebay.

The portrait of the defeated Emperor shows him looking "down," but it's hard to tell whether it's because his Empire has collapsed, or because he's nursing a bad case of indigestion. Or just what is Boney's hand doing there!

Large sections of southern and eastern Ontario were settled, after the Napoleonic Wars - post 1815 - by British officers and soldiers who had helped to put the frown on "Old Boney," and who now, with his defeat, found themselves unemployed and without prospects in Britain.

They were offered land grants in Canada and thousands came over and hacked new homes out the wilderness in the 1820s and 30s.

Queen Alexandra Lamp - 1902

Old Boney Lamp - 1874

Another lamp to die for is this fabulous oil lamp featuring Lord Kitchener. It may very well predate the Boer War because the transfer is one used on items celebrating his Sudan victories in 1898, when he captured Khartoum, after the Battle of Omdurman.

The crazing is often a fact of life on ceramic items where the glazes have been subjected to great variations of temperature over a period of 100 years.

Lord Kitchener Lamp - 1900

And for decades afterwards, in log cabins, in remote wilderness retreats, many an old veteran wiled away the evenings by recounting stirring adventures of the campaigns they fought against Old Boney under the Duke of Wellington.

Among the 1832 land grant claimants were future, celebrated Canadian writers, sisters Susannah Moodie ("Roughing it in the Bush," 1852 and "Life in the Clearings" 1853) and Catherine Parr Traill ("The Backwoods of Canada," 1836 and "The Canadian Settler's Guide," 1855). Both women were married to army officers who decided to become settlers in the wilds of Ontario.

Left, the portrait of Josephine, from the matching lamp is - like Napoleon's - hand painted on the glass by an artist. Later on, transfers, or decals, were used on cups and plates instead, as the machine age took another craftsman out of the manufacturing loop in favour of cheap automation. (See Kitchener below)

The two lamps are almost always found together, and are found singly only because one of them has broken during the last 130 years.

Right, the base of the lamp.


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