A copper rectangle was recently discovered in with a box of catalogued pens, nib pens, and pencils. I opened this Pandora’s box to retrieve two thermometers.

Why were the thermometers there? Last year our Registrar of Collections discovered the discrepancy when she went to update their location fields. The thermometers needed to be stored with the other thermometers. Maia Reynard, our current Registrar of Collections, was fixing problems and needed help.

I had to look hard. The thermometers were doctor’s types, with a little clip in a black plastic tube with a lid. They looked like pens if you didn’t open them. The problem was an easy fix. They were relocated to be with others that had the same function and the location change entered in the database.

While I was at it, I started sorting and organizing the other things in the box, putting like with like in acid-free trays. A two-minute job ended up taking more than an hour. More problems were found. Who would have catalogued a plastic bread bag of miscellaneous writing utensils as one number in 1981?

The wrapping said it all

Maia had another issue to solve.

I uncovered treasure deep in this box. It was wrapped in brown paper and rectangular in shape. I unfolded the paper. Inscribed backwards in italics in copper was “C. James R. Stirling at home” and a place for someone to write a date. From...to…o’clock. It looked like a plate for printing cards.

The artefact had been catalogued as a plaque in 1988 as part of the Belli-Bivar collection. Ethel was C.J.R. Stirling’s daughter.

I thought the copper artefact was a printing plate, so I searched the internet and then emailed a photo to Gary Hucul, my print shop advisor. He had a long response that I didn’t understand.

“If the image is lower than the copper is was probably a ½ of a plate for blind embossing. If it is 1/8th or ¼ inch thick it would have been locked up in the chase- the opposite part mounted on the press- and when it ran it would give a raised image embossed into the paper.”

I was still thinking it was a printing plate (or plate, printing) for a calling card. Why would it be embossed? It would have been harder to read, white on white.

Blind embossing is a printing technique that doesn’t use ink. It is like the notary stamp. It isn’t backwards. So basically, Gary was saying the plate either raised letters of sank them. There isn’t much depth to the inscription and I was still confused.

I often think about what we leave behind because that’s what I’ve been doing for a while. Cleaning up what people leave. Or what they leave their kids to deal with.

In 1988 this artefact was in the Belli-Bivar house. Someone thought it was special. The owner, Ethel’s dad, had died in 1945. He hadn’t had any “at home” days for 43 years.

So what do we know about C.J.R? Jimmie to some, he was born in Bath December 17, 1857.

At 17 C.J.R. was commissioned in the Imperial Army and left for India. After serving in India he returned to England, coming to Canada in 1881. That’s where he met and married Frances Strathy.

The Stirlings had five children and moved back and forth across the Atlantic Ocean a few times.

 Stirling Orchard, circa 1910

In 1910 C.J.R. purchased the Salmon Arm log store that was originally the brewery and gambling house operated by Dutch Charlie, and 13 acres of the original McGuire Ranch across from the C.P.R. depot. Improvements were made and the Stirlings put the property on the market, selling it to George Ratcliff.

In 1910 the Observer announced that C.J.R. Stirling had bought 10 acres of the “Goorah-Wood” orchard from Robert Turner. He became a fruit farmer of note, winning prizes for fruit at the provincial and local exhibitions and managing the Salmon Arm fruit exhibits at the Provincial Exhibition.

What else do we know about C.J.R.? He was a prize winning lawn bowler, winning the triples championship with Sandy Reader in 1934.

 Celebrating 50 years of marriage at a picnic

C.J.R. and Frances celebrated fifty years of marriage June 3, 1935 with a picnic at Sunnybrae. James died in 1945 and Frances died thirteen months later. The couple were buried in unmarked graves at Mt. Ida Cemetery, next to their daughter Ethel.

When Ethel’s daughter, Pat Galbraith, was clearing out the family home, she found her grandfather’s printing plate. In its original brown paper wrapping announcing C.R.J. Stirling’s at home hours, it must have looked like just the thing to donate to the Salmon Arm Museum.

What is a calling card?
Popular in the 19th and early 20th centuries, they were cards visitors left when they called on social acquaintances. The etiquette for leaving a card was strict. Cards, like Stirling’s, told the recipient when they could also come by for a 20-minute visit. If you were lucky, tea would be served.

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Black and white photo of the Stirling Orchard taken by Rex Lingford. The first Stirling home was the building in the background.  In the early days of railroad construction the log house was built as a brewery and gambling house. Later owned by Charles McGuire, the building was a general store and post office. After 1909  it became Rex Lingford's studio. No one knows who owned the house in the midground.