Tom Villemaire, Special to Postmedia Network


A vintage handbill advertises recruits wanted for a lancer regiment headed by Arthur Rankin to fight in the U.S. Civil War.

Man of action, questionable results

Upper Canada, Canada West and Ontario — different names for the same place. It was built by a wide range of characters: surveyors, soldiers, politicians, miners, entrepreneurs, scrappers and showmen.

A cover of a 19th-century journal about phrenology, a discredited quackery that held intelligence could be gleaned from the shape of a person’s head and the bumps on them.

Twice-hanged London criminal headed odd exhibition

Orson Squire Fowler just happened to be in London on the day a young man was hanged for the murder of Const. Timothy Pomeroy. Fowler was an itinerant phrenologist, octagonal house proponent and an American.

One of the most infamous of 19th-century shipbuilder Melancthon Simpson's vessels, the Waubuno sank in a November storm on Georgian Bay, taking all 25 lives aboard.

Infamy sailed with Ontario shipbuilder

If you`d had the opportunity to ask shipbuilder Melancthon Simpson which was the best-known ship he`d ever built, he`d likely have had a hard time answering.

An advertisement of the day captures the big excitement from a tiny amusement, the Bertolotto flea circus.

Flea circus impresario made Ontario his stage

Flea circuses were a thing at one time — peaking in the late 1800s. They started with Louis Bertolotto, who was born in Genoa, Italy in 1802 but who moved to Ontario in 1856.

Fear inspired by mapmaker travelled far

While Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, gave his name to Fort Frontenac and ordered its construction, the actual layout and work was overseen by Hugues Randin, a soldier, mapmaker and engineer – a renaissance man who mastered numerous skills, including cartography – which in his hands, managed to spark fear in Britain and Spain.

John Fisher Wood

Principled MP a standout in bygone era

When you are frustrated with the state of politics today and hear someone say, “there were better people in the old days,” don’t discount that as just warmed-over sentimentality.