Archeology Site at the Dusty Victorian

Garbage has been a problem going back to ancient Greece. People burned waste, fed it to animals, buried it, and most commonly, tossed it wherever they could. Some cities built over the waste, and pioneered new ways to combat vermin and disease. But before garbage collection and city dumps, most people used their backyards to dispose of their waste. Evidence of this surfacing every spring from the Dusty Victorian's backyard.

Because the end of the yard is on a slope, each spring the melting snow washes away sediment and exposes broken bits of glass, earthenware and porcelain. Quite a nightmare when one has dogs. It's a miracle that none of them have been injured by the shards of broken glass.

This square bottle looks like it came from a Victorian apothecary, perhaps filled with the very addictive laudanum.

As soon as the snow starts to melt, I'm like a hawk hunting for bits that could injure my dogs. These were collected over a one-month span. There was much more this spring than last spring, I think it may have had something to do with the very irregular temperatures this past winter.

These shards were stuck under the roots of a tree.

Here is a little piece of porcelain, pastel colours on white background, perhaps from a tea cup or saucer.

Another piece of porcelain, with gold flecks still visible, and a piece of earthenware with a vivid teal blue flower pattern.

Logically, the oldest pieces would be buried the deepest, so most of what I'm finding is probably depression era to pre-Second World War.

This being said, I'm more of a gardener than an archeologist and what I'm finding has no real value except to trigger my imagination with ghostly images of the past. These dishes and glass pieces were used by residents of the Dusty Victorian - and to me, this is rich. But like weeds, they have to be extracted and disposed of for the sake of my dogs.


Victorian Cats

Cats were often present in households of the past, mostly for utilitarian purposes. Kept in the kitchen areas to hunt for mice and rats, they endeared themselves first to the "downstairs help". It was only a matter of time before the cat made its silent way upstairs and comfortably settled in higher, warmer and more posh surroundings. They are especially favoured amongst writers for their low maintenance and quiet nature. My husband Brian, even surrounded by dogs, remains a fervent cat lover.

Here are a few photographs of Victorian ladies and their cats (much less common than Victorian dogs) from Montreal's McCord Museum .

Victorian Dogs

The long reign of Queen Victoria has left a deep imprint on peoples lives, in so many different fields, noticeable even today, but I will limit this posts to the Victorian dog lovers. The dog, as a pet, has been popular with aristocrats going back centuries, but the Victorian era and the industrial revolution dramatically changed the status of the dog in the home. The new wealthy merchant class wanting to emulate the lifestyle of the upper class made the dog a must in their acquisitions. It can be said that the Victorians are the source of the breeding problems many dogs have today. Breeding genetic anomalies in dogs for esthetic purposes only. This said, the Victorians fell hard and deeply for their dogs and the love affair still continues today.

Here are old photographs from Montreal's McCord Museum, held in their Notman Photographic Archives (William Notman), depicting wealthy Montrealers and their dogs. In some cases, the dog in the photographs belonged to the subject, but often, a dog was added as a "prop" because it symbolized wealth and status. The photographs of the dogs alone, are particularly significant, in my opinion, since the owner held his/her dog in such high regards and affection that it was worth the expense.

Margaret Marshall Saunders, a very special Victorian lady and author of Beautiful Joe, was awarded the C.B.E. in recognition of her contribution toward securing humane treatment for animals. Please drop by my Studio Vignette to learn more about her.