A 19TH Century Canadian Time Capsule


And a challenge to the art students:
‘Grace’s mother said, she thought the scene between Argall and Biencourt would make a good picture. The Frenchmen, their English rivals, and the mediating savage who wonders why those who seem to him of the same nation, should be at st rife.
“And the meadow, and the ships in the harbour,” said Grace
“And the ruined fort,” added George.
“Perhaps,” said their father, Nova Scotia may hereafter have among her sons, some artist to illustrate his country’s history, who may select this incident for his pencil.”

Teacher’s pep talk:

Her mother understood this feeling of discouragement, which all students have experienced in a greater or less degree…” “Her mother promised to hear her read a chapter every morning. The little girl, perfectly happy, placed herself beside her brother, with her books in her lap.” I’ve given a lot of praise to the apparent knowledge of this fictional 8-9 year old in the 1840’s. However, even if this is an accurate representation of a typical student of Miss Grove’s school, it may not be fair to say it was the norm throughout the colony.

The school was described as “an exclusive finishing school for girls of country districts“, and thus this may represent the knowledge base of a student from a specific portion of Nova Scotian society.

The book probably provided for instruction to older girls as the prospectus provided earlier showed Botany was one of the subjects taught to young ladies over twelve years of age. Nonetheless, Miss Grove has provided us with a unique look into Halifax’s educational system of the 1840’s.

Social Life in Halifax 1843-1846

As you’ve now viewed some of the treasured items stored away in this little fiction you can see how well prepared the time capsule really was. Further study will show what Little Grace’s home life was like.

The setting that the fictional family lived in was what appears to be a typical English home in downtown Halifax. The house was within walking distance of the Dartmouth ferry – Considering the only alternate mode of transportation was the horse and buggy, most of Halifax was within walking distance.

The family had hired servants that filled the roles of Nanny (or nurse), Cook, and Coachman, as well as performing other duties such as bringing coal for the fire.

The bedrooms were all on the second floor with the Nanny/nurse’s room situated adjacent to the little girl’s room. There was a breakfast room on the first floor where George comfortably spent some time drawing.

The family consists of only two children with a large gap in their ages. Although George’s age was never revealed he travels to Windsor (Kings College) for the school year and doesn’t appear to be chaperoned by adults at any time. There are casual references to the social relationship between this family, their servants, and others, innocently reflecting their inherent class prejudices.