A carpet sweeper for Christmas

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Project Assistant

Santa holding toy sweepers with children and ad text below

A 1910 Christmas ad for Bissell Toy Sweepers that appeared in Hardware Merchandising (Oct-Dec 1910, p. 943). Source: Internet Archive.

Need a last-minute gift idea for Christmas? How about a carpet sweeper? According to this 1910 advertisement, they are a great gift for both children and adults:

The Little Folk drop all other gifts to welcome Santa Claus and his Bissel Toy Sweeper. The lady of the house will appreciate even more than the children a gift of a genuine Bissel Sweeper. She knows there is none better and that it means a great saving of hard work for the coming ten years. We offer a large line to select from, varying in price from $2.50 to $5.00

Carpet sweepers were the forerunner to vacuum cleaners, but remained popular even after vacuums became widely available. They consist of a small box at the end of a handle with rollers and brushes inside to sweep up dirt and crumbs. Although vacuum cleaners have more cleaning power, sweepers remain popular for light-duty cleaning because they can be used quietly and without electricity.

Carpet sweeper resting against general store counter

Bissell ‘Standard’ carpet sweeper on display in the General Store exhibit in the History Hall, Huron County Museum. Object ID: M950.1255.001.

We have several carpet sweepers in the museum collection, one of which is on display in the General Store exhibit. Our display sweeper is a Bissell ‘Standard’ model from around 1919, some 40 years after sweepers were first invented. Melvill R. Bissell first patented the design in 1876, and the basic technology has remained the same since then.

Image from patent US182346-0, illustrating inner workings of carpet sweeper mechanism

First patent for a carpet sweeper, granted to M. R. Bissell in 1876. Source: Google Patent Search.

So if you don’t know what to buy for that special someone, consider how dirty their floor is and whether they could benefit from the timeless utility of a carpet sweeper. Santa approves!

Santa holding a carpet sweeper with ad text below

Christmas ad for Bissell carpet sweepers that appeared in the Christian Herald in 1913. (November 26, 1913, p. 1106). Source: Internet Archive.

If in doubt what to buy for Mother, Wife, Sister or Friend, remember that a BISSELL’S “Cyco” BALL BEARING Carpet Sweeper never fails to please and will be a daily reminder of the giver for ten years or more. It is handsome in design and finish, eliminnates the drudgery and confines of the dust, making it a most practical and appropriate gift. She needs a second sweeper to keep upstairs. Price $2.75 to $5.75. At dealers everywhere. Write for booklet showing our most popular styles. Bissel Carpet Sweeper Co. Grand Rapids Mich. “We Sweep The World”

The Last Public Hanging in Canada

By Emily Beliveau, Digital Project Assistant

7 December 1869.
Earlier this month, we marked the anniversary of the last public hanging at the Huron Gaol. One hundred and forty-five years ago, Nicholas Melady was executed for the murder of his father and stepmother. The hanging took place outside the walls of the Huron Gaol in front of a few hundred spectators. We believe this was the last public hanging in Canada. It’s often difficult to make these kinds of historical determinations with total certainty, but we make this claim because we don’t know of any other hangings that occurred between then and 1 January 1870, when the law changed to prohibit public executions.

Excerpt from the Canadian statute outlawing public hangings, Act 32-33 Victoria ch. 29.

Excerpt from the Canadian statute outlawing public hangings, Act 32-33 Victoria ch. 29, 1869. (Came into effect January 1, 1870.)

Public vs. private hangings
Until the law changed in 1870, executions in Canada were public events that were held outside of jail walls and attracted spectators. (For most of Canada’s history, the only legal method of execution was hanging, and the only crimes punishable by death were rape, murder, and treason.) When public hangings were abolished, private hangings continued. Private hangings occurred within the wall of the prison, which curtailed the crowd of potential spectators, but didn’t necessarily eliminate viewing possibilities. Enterprising citizens could perhaps catch a view from a nearby rooftop or other structure.

In 1976, capitol punishment was abolished in Canada by Bill C-84. The last executions to be carried out were in 1962 at the Don Jail in Toronto (a double hanging).

Confirming the claim
At the beginning of this post, I said we believe the execution of Nicholas Melady at the Huron Gaol was the last public hanging in Canada. Why can’t we say for sure? As I mentioned, it can be very difficult to verify claims about lasts, firsts, and other seemingly definitive events in the historical record, for a number of reasons.

We have a strong case to make, but with caveats. Canada in 1869, for instance, only included the present-day provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick. Public hangings may have occurred in areas that are now part of Canada, but were out of the jurisdiction of the 1870 law at the time. These are the kinds of things that complicate the certainty of such claims.

Further reading
In 2007, Carling Marshall-Luymes, an intern at the Huron Historic Gaol, wrote a series of blog posts about researching the last public hanging. Her work contributed to the exhibit that is on display in one of the first-floor cell blocks of the Gaol.

Read her posts here:
Blogging Behind the Bars
Canada’s last public hanging
Legislating an end to public hanging…a clarification
Why did Canada abolish public hanging?
Capitol punishment: Opinion in Huron County in 1869
Semi-public? Hoag Hanging, Walkerton, 1868