A 19TH Century Canadian Time Capsule

Some of the subjects are surprising to today’s standards – I wonder at Natural Philosophy being taught to young ladies under twelve, and for those over twelve – Rhetoric (I suppose this not only covered public speaking, but also included lessons in protocol), Botany, Algebra and Italian. The school apparently employed occasional teachers such as a “Dancing Mistress”, or a “German Master”.

It’s nice to see that from its inception the school taught both English and French as core subjects, recognizing even before official bilingualism (or for that matter, even before the Dominion of Canada) – the necessity to recognize both of the major European cultures that would forever define Canada’s roots.

Art was taught at the school and the frontispiece “sketched by Miss Grove” also provides evidence that the author or at least one of her sisters was a capable artist.There are a number of paintings and sketches at the Museum of Nova Scotiaattributed to anonymous artists that were painted between 1840 and 1880. The collection is focused on Mi’kmaqculture and includes one painting that is strikingly identical to the frontispiece of “Little Grace”.

The main characters in the story visit a native encampment near Dartmouth and address the chief, his wife and niece. One of the portraits of a young Mi’kmaq woman in the above collection has the initials “A.G.” inscribed on it.

It may indeed be a giant leap to assume that the artist was Anne Grove simply because the initials match,. that she was alive in Halifax in the 1840’s, and had probably visited the native encampment on a few occasions while writing her book – but it’s a leap that has some chance of being more than coincidence in my opinion.

A few images on the site show a portrait of the same person, one of which was titled Christina Morris, by the artist – but titled Mary Christianne Paul Morris by the Museum’s site. Both names appear in the book written by Miss Grove showing she was familiar with the Mi’kmaq personalities:

On pages 51 and 52:
Martha told the boys she would give them something from a basket she had in her hand, if they would show her the wigwam of old Paul, the chief…” “… Presently they saw an old man cutting sticks with a hatchet. This old man was dressed in a brown coat, cut in the Indian fashion, with epaulets and trimming of red cloth. The cap he wore was brown like his coat, and surrounded by a band of red cloth.  In shape, it resembled a Scotch bonnet, and his white hair streamed under it over his dusky cheeks. This venerable old man was the chief of thetribe…” “…His wife was lying sick in his wigwam, and he hoped Miss Martha could think of something that would help her. The floor of the wigwam was covered with branches from the fir trees, and on this carpet wrapped in a blanket, lay the old squaw. A man was sitting at some distance from her, and Christina Morris, her neice, was working a chair-seat with bark and porcupine quills.  Mary Paul, that was the name of the sick woman…”

Additionally, a number of the works from the Museum’s collection seem to be . poor copies of even earlier artists’ works. The Museum’s web site often shows contempt for an artist’s lack of cultural knowledge in the copies.

Specifically with regards to the baby carrier, canoe shape, or headgear that are often drawn incorrectly. I’ll stretch my above coincidence a little further – what if these anonymously drawn poor replicas were the work of students. I speculate further than can be proven and wish only to point to the possibility that there are other “Time Capsule’s” from the same period that haven’t been fully examined.