Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia history explained in 50 objects

A single red clay brick got Joan Dawson thinking maybe she could write a book about Nova Scotia, in the style of Neil MacGregor's History Of The World In 100 Objects.

New book in the style of Neil MacGregor's History Of The World In 100 Objects

This red clay brick was used in the construction of a fort that was later destroyed in a dispute between French merchants. (Joan Dawson)

A single red clay brick got Joan Dawson thinking maybe she could write a book about Nova Scotia, in the style of Neil MacGregor's History Of The World In 100 Objects.

MacGregor is director of the British Museum.

The red brick Dawson started with makes its home in the Fort Point Museum in LaHave, where she's spent time volunteering.

"There was a brick in that museum which had come over as ballast in the French settlers' ships," she told Mainstreet's Stephanie Domet.

The ship came to Nova Scotia (then Acadia) in 1632, with French naval officer Isaac de Razilly. Dawson says it was used in the construction of a fort that was later destroyed in a dispute between French merchants.

The rest of the building and its foundation were washed away as a result of erosion.

Here are a few of the other objects Dawson details in her book A History Of Nova Scotia In 50 Objects, published by Nimbus.

This iron cauldron was dug up in a field in Grand Pre in the 1920s. (Joan Dawson)

This iron cooking cauldron predates the deportation of the Acadians in 1755, and was dug up in a field in Grand Pre in the 1920s.

"It was found to contain two little glass bottles in a stand, which is what's known as a cruet, and they think it was buried when the men were put on board the ships, and the women were left to pack up the objects which they wanted to take with them when they were exiled," says Dawson.

"This is thought to have been two little bottles which contained things that were used in the mass. And these were buried because they were of special significance. They didn't want them to fall into the hands of the heathen Protestant English."

It resides at the Grand Pre National Historic Site.

This fire pumper was made in England and brought to the Shelburne area by Loyalists. (Joan Dawson)

This fire pumper was made in England, and brought to the Shelburne area by Loyalists.

Until it arrived, fires were battled by a bucket brigade.

"That's probably the first fire engine that there was in Nova Scotia," says Dawson.

"It's a big wooden tank, and it has a bar at each side, and two men would stand each side, and they would pump up and down. And there was sort of a hose attached."

It was rescued and carefully restored after it was discovered in someone's front yard, where it was being used as a planter. Now you can see it at the Shelburne County Museum.

The top of this cane is made from a ram's horn. (Joan Dawson)

Richard John Uniacke's bamboo walking stick is "a long, long stick. Richard John Uniacke was a huge man," says Dawson, who likes the story attached to this object.

"The top of it is made from a ram's horn, which is all curly, and he used to take it when he went for a walk every morning... He had a prized bull of which he was particularly fond, and he used to take a treat out to this bull every morning. And one morning he forgot the treat, and the bull was very indignant and went for him. So he whacked it over the nose with the ram's horn stick."

It's kept at the Uniacke Estate Museum Park.

On this machine Joe Howe, as publisher of The Novascotian, printed the editorials in which he developed his political philosophy. (Joan Dawson)

Dawson says Joe Howe's printing press is "a treasure, and I don't know how many people know it's in the (Nova Scotia) Archives."

Joe's father, John, was an early printer in Halifax, and his son followed in his footsteps before entering politics. Dawson's book quotes Marjorie Whitelaw's book First Impressions

"On this machine in 1829 Joe Howe printed Thomas Chandler Haliburton's An Historical and Statistical Account of Nova-Scotia, and later, in 1835-36, the famous satirical sayings of Sam Slick of Slickville, one of Canada's earliest works of lasting literary significance," she said.

"On this machine Joe Howe, as publisher of The Novascotian, printed the editorials in which he developed his political philosophy; this was the very press on which the mighty battle for responsible government was argued and won."

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