At first glance, today’s photograph captures a simple float that travelled Hurontario Street during Collingwood’s Civic Holiday Parade in August 1914.
The Huron Institute Catalogue describes the photograph in three short words: “Civic Holiday celebration.” With a little research by museum staff, a more detailed story emerges.
The man standing in front of the horse is believed to be Collingwood boat builder Robert J. Morrill.
According to Vernon’s Collingwood Directory, 1912-13, R.J. Morrill operated his business on “Harbor Street”. His residence was on Napier Street. Only two boat builders are listed in this year: R. J Morrill and W. Watts & Sons.
The Morrill family was instrumental in Collingwood’s boat-building trade, beginning in 1867. Later generations would go on to work at the Collingwood Shipyards.
The identities of the two men on the float are unknown; however, the man standing and pointing directly at the photographer is eerily reminiscent of the “Uncle Sam” recruitment posters that would first appear in the United States in a few short years.
The exact date of Collingwood’s 1914 parade was unknown at the time of printing; however, the Civic Holiday fell on August 4. The British Empire declared war on Germany just one day earlier.
The Collingwood Bulletin reported on August 13 that the 35th Regiment was receiving recruits and a military guard was placed on Collingwood’s docks. A few details were provided about the parade, namely that the day was stifling hot, races were held by the driving club, and that the band played in front of the municipal buildings in the rain.
A second photograph of Morrill’s 1914 parade float was discovered in a collection of scrapbooks donated to the Collingwood Museum in 2011. This picture is included as today’s second photograph. Here, the missing part of the float’s main banner is visible, reading “Hospital Ship”.
The men aboard the cart are present and surrounded by a number of women, one of whom is dressed as a nurse. Women and children also stand inside the boat with flags that read “Collingwood” and “Welcome”. Quite possibly, the women and children were not captured in today’s featured photograph as they were parading in front of, or behind, the float.
If you have any information to share about today’s featured photographs, or the history of boat building in Collingwood, please contact Collingwood Museum staff at [email protected].
Remember This is a weekly series of historic photographs submitted by the Collingwood Museum to CollingwoodToday.ca. These photographs were originally collected and documented by the Huron Institute in an historical catalogue entitled Huron Institute Paper and Records: Volume III. Much of Collingwood’s early history has been preserved due to the dedication and foresight of the early museum’s founders, namely its secretary-curator David Williams, upon its establishment in 1904.