Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Robert W Campbell Bottle

Dumpdiggers visits the Toronto Archives

Three Tuesdays ago, Malcolm Mcleod surprised me with a Toronto druggist bottle on which my full name appears in the embossing. After beholding this relic, I set about a quest for more insight into my own genealogy.

Have a look at this 5 oz medicine bottle. Although a little dirty, its in good condition. The stain from the original contents is still visible inside, and that’s perfect. That’s just how I intend to preserve the treasures – as found. The slug plate on this transparent piece of Canadian history reads: ROBERT W CAMPBELL / PHARMACIST / TORONTO ONTARIO.

It actually doesn’t surprise me that there are historic objects bearing my name. As one of Scotland’s most notorious clans, the Campbells dominated the Highlands for hundreds of years, and their great leaders included several Roberts, the most famous of which is Robert Campbell of Argyll.

Today, when I type my name into Google, I find there are hundreds of contemporary examples – an actor, an architect, a fiction author and a real estate agent in southern Alabama are the most prolific; the latter owns the web domain

Generally speaking, the Campbells were always pretty good soldiers, and the surname appears on the rolls of almost every British military episode from 1709 forward… In most cases however, the highlanders fought for King and Country with an eye on settling their own farms in the colonies. Indeed the Canadian government funded a popular TV show about a family of British settlers called The Campbells in the 1980's.

This particular pharmacist, Robert W Campbell lived and worked in the City of Toronto in 1895, and I found that information and more while visiting the Toronto Archives on Friday 13th of June, 2008.

I was the first official visitor to sign into the building that morning – the doors open at 9am, and I was there at 9:05.

The City of Toronto Archives is located at 255 Spadina Road, Toronto, Ontario, M5R 2V3. This building is a short walk north of Dupont Station on the University subway line – TELEPHONE – To talk to an archivist anytime during business hours, simply call 416-397-0778. Fax the experts at 416-392-9685.

Ask for an archivist named Steve Mackinnon – he’s terrific.

Are cameras allowed inside the archives?

Don’t even mention the word ‘camera’ when you visit the Toronto Archives. It’s a bad word. It triggers a conditioned response of ‘No Cameras Allowed!’ This clause ‘special permission required’ is peppered with words like ‘appointment’, ‘request forms’ and ‘fees’… yes the Toronto Archives profits by making photographic reproductions. They charge $25 to lens each piece of public property.

Robert W Campbell appears the 1896 City of Toronto records as a Druggist with a business at 398 Spadina Ave, and a house at 41 Willcock St. Below his name appears Sarah Campbell, the widow of another Robert Campbell at 1214 King st West. Then a lawyer named Samuel Campbell, and a school teacher named Sophie Campbell follows him . Thomas S Campbell was a buyer for the T Eaton Company, while another man simply known as Tom Campbell was the chef at the Rossin Hotel. In all, there were over two dozen professionals named Campbell living and working in Toronto in the summer of 1896. I'd like to think this little bottle represents them all, and how hard they each worked to make a name for themselves…


Angelo de los Angeles said...

Hey Robert, that was a pretty wicked find. Like a message in a bottle of sorts. He could've been an ancestor of yours.

Thanks for dropping by, been too busy to update lately. I'd like to have had time to go to High Park, but I had to settle for photographing the backyard. I'm not in Los Angeles, I just have Los Angeles in my name. Cheers!

Wylie Kinson said...

Hello Robert Campbell...
thanks for visiting my blog (and yes, my book is seriously steamy and not for the faint of heart or easily embarrassed!)

You can contact me at wyliekinson at rogers dot com

btw - cool bottle!

Evel said...

Very interesting. I too am part of the 'clan' (not the klan)

Thanks for dropping by my blog.

Special K said...

You haven't any reason to fear wrath from me.

~Gina Cuff said...

Hi Robert,

Pretty cool website you have. I look forward to having more time so I can read some of your past entries. And thank you for the comment you made on my blog.

As well, you asked how you can contact me...