KPL Genealogy Fair 2016

Save the Date for the KPL Genealogy Fair!


Looking to connect with other genealogists, genealogy experts, vendors and enthusiasts? Well, then I have great news for you!  I am thrilled to announce that the 5th Kitchener Public Library Genealogy Fair will be held on Saturday 5 November 2016 at the Central Library (Kitchener Public Library, 85 Queen Street North, Kitchener, ON)! Mark your calendars for this free day-long genealogy event!

I’ll be announcing exciting news about our keynote speaker next week. Stay tuned!

Cheers, Karen


The Hands of Time

GSR Pequegnat Leader Grandfather Clock

GSR Pequegnat Leader Grandfather clock – Jan 2016

Ever since the Grace Schmidt Room re-opened in the  renovated Central Library,  it had been missing something – our Pequegnat Leader grandfather clock. When I started at the Library in 2004, the clock had been a constant presence in the GSR – stately, solid and a wonderful touchstone to Kitchener’s rich manufacturing past. During the Central Library renovations, the clock was sent to off-site storage for safekeeping. It returned in the summer in 2014, but needed a bit of attention, so it remained in our archives.

After replacement of a small glass door pane by Dave Burns of Foiled Again Stained Glass Studio of St. Jacobs and a refurbishment of the clock mechanism by John Budimlic of European Watch and Clock Repair, our Leader Grandfather clock is now happily ticking and chiming away. The gentle chimes remind me of an earlier time, when life was a little slower, reflective and deeper. It is wonderful to hear the soft chimes marking the passage of time – so much more friendly than the silent, unblinking constant glare of a digital time signal.

I’ve been searching for the age of the clock and from what I can tell from our files, the Leader grandfather clock first appeared in the 1904, 1913 and 1918 Pequegnat catalogues.

The clock was manufactured by the Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company of Kitchener. Arthur Pequegnat, who had emigrated to Berlin from Switzerland in 1874 with his parents, was a watchmaker and jeweler, who operated jewelry and repair shops in Mildmay and Berlin. He became fascinated with bicycles and opened the Berlin and Racycle Manufacturing Company in 1897 with his brother, Paul. Together, they built bikes which were sold across Canada. By 1904, Arthur had started the production of clocks and timepieces at the back of the bike factory. With the rise of the automobile, bicycle manufacturing was phased eventually phased out by 1923 and clock production became their main business. The factory was located at 53-61 Frederick Street (east side of street), near the corner at Duke .

The Arthur Pequegnat Clock Company manufactured over 80 models of clocks for hall, mantlepieces, offices, schools, parlours and precision timepieces for railways. Arthur Pequegnat died in 1927 and the business was taken over by his son, Edmond. The business discontinued operations during the Second World War due to the shortage of brass and competition from mass-produced American clocks. A repair business and a wholesale business for Westclox augmented post-war clock production. Edmond Pequegnat died in 1963 and executors wound down the business in 1964. The Kitchener Water Commission office was built on the site of the plant in 1965.

Next time that you are in the GSR, remember to listen for the sweet sound of the hands of time!

Cheers, K.

People and places

Our First Building Birthday

Berlin Public Library Building

P000288 WHS Berlin Public Library building

On this evening, 112 years ago, the new Berlin Public Library building at Queen  and Weber had its opening reception . It was a grand and dignified evening affair, by invitation only. Professor McGregor Young of the University of Toronto gave a talk on the “Monroe Doctrine”,  the foreign policy of the US regarding domination of the American continent.  His academic and rational examination of the subject won admiration from the Berlin News Record in their 9 February 1904 edition. Following the evening’s program, a Waterloo orchestra played while guests explored the Library’s rooms. The News Record reported that the reading room would be open to the public  on the following Monday, but that  the books would not be ready for circulation for a few weeks.

The Library was founded on 4 February 1884 under  By-law 310 passed by the Berlin Town Council. Mabel Dunham, in her 1934 history of the Kitchener Public Library, noted that the books of the Mechanics Institute, housed  under the stairway of the first floor of the old Town Hall, became the nucleus of the Berlin Public Library. The reading room opened to the public on 14 April 1884.  As the Library outgrew its space in the Town Hall, a lot at Queen and Weber was purchased for future development in 1897. It was not until 1902, when funding from the Andrew Carnegie Foundation was secured for the building of a new library building, was work commenced on a new facility. Although the building was ready for occupancy by the summer of 1903, the library did not open until 8 January 1904 – as books and collections were ordered and prepared according to modern library standards.

In 1908, Dunham noted that industrial managers and foremen of the town’s factories were invited to a special reception, as a means of advertising the Library to the city’s industrial workers. Library board members hosted the evening and cigars were provided in the smoking room.

Within five years of its opening, the building was to receive a glass floor, a second story added to the stack room, a fireplace was added to smoking room and the entrance was enhanced with a new flight of stone steps. Over the years, several additions and renovations took place in order to meet the growing demands for collections and services. The Waterloo Historical Society’s museum was also housed in the basement of the Library.

The Library “Now, like the ark of the covenant, it has found a permanent restingplace [sic]” proclaimed Rev. W.A. Bailey, the chair of the Berlin Free Library Board, in his remarks at the building’s opening on 8 January 1904.

And it did until 23 May 1962, when the new Kitchener Public Library opened at 85 Queen Street North.

Happy Birthday to Berlin’s dear old Carnegie Library! Gone, but not forgotten.

Be sure to visit our Berlin Public Library display in the GSR for a trip down memory lane.

Cheers, K.

People and places

New Year Wishes

New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

P009989 KPL New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

I recently came across this New Year postcard in the collection and wanted to share it with you. I think that I am feeling nostalgic for the white Christmas that we missed this year.

The postcard was postmarked 31 December 1914. It was addressed to Miss Ina Eby, Chapel Street, Berlin. It had been sent by “Lulu”.

Reverse of New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

P009989r KPL – Reverse of New Year Wishes postcard, 1914

Ina Eby was the daughter of Ezra Eby and Mary Ann Clemmer. She was born in Bridgeport on 24 January 1884.  She had 4 brothers, Ira, Ion, Leo and Odo. According to the 1911 Census of Canada, she lived at 41 Chapel Street, Berlin with her mother and worked as a sample maker in the White Wear factory. Ina died at the age of 72, on 18 February 1956, and was buried at First Mennonite Cemetery in Kitchener.

From all of us in the Grace Schmidt Room, Best Wishes for a Happy New Year!

Cheers, K.

People and places

Merry Christmas Wishes

Christmas Card

Christmas card from the GSR Christmas Card exhibit, December 2015

I have a soft spot for old greeting cards. The simplicity of their designs and the cheerful and simple messages make them reminders of an age, where people actually wrote letters and recipients anxiously awaited for the arrival of the mail each day. There was always something special about receiving a letter or card in the mail from a loved one.

Xmas Display 2015

GSR Christmas Card exhibit – December 2015

Currently, we have a display of old Christmas cards in the Grace Schmidt Room and there’s one that has always struck me as particularly charming. Although it is missing a ‘personal’ message, the simple formality of the design and wording drew me to it.

Faber Christmas card, 1928

Christmas card from Mr. & Mrs. C.A. Faber, Kitchener from the GSR Christmas Card exhibit

I did a bit of digging to find “Mr. & Mrs. C.A. Faber” of 361 Wellington Street, Kitchener. From the city directories, I was able to find that Clarence Andrew Faber and his wife, Ruth Marguerite (nee Robson), lived at this address 1928-1929. The 1929 directory lists another Wellington Street address for them – making this card likely from Christmas 1928.

Clarence was born 11 January 1904 in Berlin, Ontario. He and Ruth were married on 27 May 1926 in Kitchener. According to the city directory of 1928-1929, Clarence worked as a clerk at George Faber’s grocery store at 108 Weber Street West. By 1935, the Fabers had moved to Brantford.  Ruth passed away in 1981 and Clarence died in 1986. They are buried at the Mount Hope Cemetery in Brantford.

From all of us in the Grace Schmidt Room, we wish you a very “Merry Christmas” and “Happy Holidays”.  May 2016 bring peace, health and happiness to you.

Cheers, K.

Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Seeking Samuel Denton


Samuel and Ada Denton. Image courtesy of Neal Denton.

While researching the life and work of Ernest Denton, I didn’t want to lose sight of Samuel Denton, his brother. He appeared in Berlin (now Kitchener) with Ernest sometime in 1913-1914 and was the other half of Denton Brothers and likely a partner in the Berlin Portrait Room. But who exactly was Samuel?

While his Ontario marriage certificate and California death registration record Samuel’s birthdate as 17 May 1892, I believe that he was born in late 1889 as Simon Dembovitch in Prestwich, Lancashire. His parents were Lithuanian emigre, Eli Dembovitch, and Dora Koriensky.  Simon made his first appearance in the 1891 UK census as “Simon Dembovith” (which appears to be a misspelling of the family name) and then appears in the 1901 UK census as “Simon Denby”. In the 1911 UK census, his given name is recorded as “Sam Denby”.

Based on his age, he probably learned the photographic trade from his brothers Myer and Harris (who may have been Ernest). On his 17 April 1913 transatlantic crossing, he provided the Denby family residence at 44 Alma Street, Blackburn as his home address.

Samuel was married to Ada Frances Rowe in Toronto on 21 November 1917. The correction of “Residence when Married” from New Zealand to Toronto made me pause. Had Samuel been in New Zealand with Ernest? I did a quick check of the New Zealand Papers Past database, but it did not reveal any clues for “Samuel/Sam Denton”. Nevertheless, I’ll keep looking.


21 Nov 1917 Ontario marriage registration for Samuel Denton and Ada Rowe. Source: Ontario Marriages, 1869-1927,” database, FamilySearch ( : accessed 18 December 2015),  Ontario, Canada, Archives of Ontario, Toronto; FHL microfilm 2,130,571.

While little is known about Samuel’s early days in Berlin, there is an interesting 16 Feb 1920 “Request to Photograph Pupils of Public Schools” notice in the Kitchener News Record.


Kitchener News Record 16 Feb 1920

The article, which appeared after Samuel’s departure from Kitchener, seems to suggest that Ernest and Samuel were still working together. It may be possible that Samuel returned to visit Ernest as he travelled extensively in later life as a commercial photographer. The notice also mentions that the brothers enlisted in the 118th Battalion but were turned away due to “no fault of ours”. Searches of the attestation papers of the Canadian Expeditionary Force did not turn up Samuel or Ernest. Interestingly, the notice mentions two brothers who served overseas, one of whom was still in India. The brother in India was Louis Denby – a fact confirmed by his grandson via my Blackburn researcher. Myer Denby was likely the other brother.

A son, Douglas Ernest Denton, was born to Samuel and Ada in Victoria BC in 1918.  I was lucky to have connected with a grandson of Samuel who shared amazing stories of his father’s exploits as a young sailor and his WWII war experience in the Royal Canadian Air Force. Like his father, Douglas Denton was a photographer.

Samuel, Ada and Douglas Denton, 1942. Image courtesy of Neal Denton.

Samuel, Ada and Douglas Denton, 1942. Image courtesy of Neal Denton.

While crossing the Canada/US border in 1945, Samuel dated his US residency (in Oakland California) starting in 1919.


Samuel worked as a photographer in the Oakland area for many years and operated a camera shop with his son, Douglas, for a time. I learned from Diane Curry, curator and archivist at the Hayward Area Historical Society that Samuel took panoramic photographs of  Oakland area companies and their employees – so reminiscent of Ernest’s work here. She kindly shared these images from the Hayward Area Historical Society collection.


Del Monte cannery employees. Photograph taken by Samuel Denton. Image courtesy of the Hayward Area Historical Society


Del Monte cannery employees. Photograph taken by Samuel Denton. Image courtesy of the Hayward Area Historical Society.


Pratt-Low Preserving Company – Grand Island Branch – employees. Photograph taken by Samuel Denton. Image courtesy of the Hayward Area Historical Society.

Samuel Denton image stamp. Courtesy of the Hayward Area Historical Society.

Samuel Denton image stamp. Courtesy of the Hayward Area Historical Society.

Diane also provided an undated newspaper clipping regarding Samuel and Ada being caught in a flash flood while driving  near Castiac, California:

Oakland Tribune newspaper article. undated.

Oakland Tribune newspaper article. undated.

Samuel Sydney Denton died on 3 October 1983 in Alameda, California. As Ernest’s partner in Denton Brothers, Samuel contributed to the large body of early Denton work documenting our community and that of the cities of Oakland and Alameda California.

Cheers, Karen.

Acknowledgements: My thanks go to Neal Denton for his memories and photographs and to rych mills, Waterloo Historical Society,  Diane Curry, Hayward Area Historical SocietyKirsten Baldock, Oakland Public Library and Jared Mariconi, California State University – East Bay Library for their assistance in locating information about Samuel Denton.



Ernest Denton & Panoramic Photograpy

Denton Details

KW Real Estate Board Picnic, 28 June 1961

KW Real Estate Board Picnic, 28 June 1961. Photographer: Al Pirak. (P010378 KPL)

This post is a quick follow up on my last Ernest Denton post and my UK research on the Denton brothers’ origins.  The discovery of the Denton/Denby/Dembovitch connection led me down several interesting paths.

Like Harris (who may be Ernest Denton), Myer (nee Dembovitch) Denby disappeared after the 1901 UK census, or so I thought. One evening, while searching the British Newspaper Archives, I stumbled across the following clipping from the 22 January 1904 edition of the Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser:

Myer Denby - court case 22 Jan 1904 - Manchester

Myer Denby – Explosive cigarettes court case – Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser, 22 Jan 1904, p3.

Myer Denby appears to have been in business with his uncle Myer Franks (married to Eli Dembovitch’s sister, Betty) in early 1904 and to have been trading in “explosive cigarettes”.  It is interesting to note that Ernest’s 11 Nov 1957 obituary noted that he had photographed the 1904 New Zealand Parliament which opened in June of that year. Was Ernest actually Myer Denby who made a hasty exit from the UK following this episode? I can’t say for sure, but it does make for an interesting story.

The other connection that I made during my research was to a Lancashire researcher who kindly shared with me his Dembovitch family notes, helping to confirm the Eli and Dora Dembovitch link to Ernest and Samuel Denton.  My Dembovitch research connection is a friend of the grandson of Louis Denby – so I’ve been able to help fill in a few blank pieces in their family history – which has been a happy consequence of this project.  What I found interesting is that the family had heard a story about two brothers of Louis who travelled to America and had their passage paid by father, Eli. This seems to fit with the departure of  Ernest and Samuel, who left in 1913 for Canada. We are still looking for UK and Canadian connections to Ernest and Samuel and the extended Denby family. If you have any leads or information, please drop me a line using the contact form on the blog.

Local historian rych mills pointed me to some Kitchener Daily Record articles which detailed Ernest Denton’s interests in an apartment building near Weber and Victoria and the Tom Thumb Indoor Golf Course in the Dunke building on King Street West in the early 1930s. The articles demonstrated Ernest’s keen business sense and community involvement. Many thanks go to rych for his enthusiasm for this project and his Denton insights.

And, I wanted to also thank Laureen Harder-Gissing of the Mennonite Archives of Ontario for permission to use the image of Ernest Denton and his camera (1945) on my “Desperately Seeking Ernest” post. It was such a timely addition to the MAO online collection – especially when I had just about given up hope of finding an image of Ernest Denton.

The panoramic at the top of this post is reportedly the last image taken with Denton’s Cirkut camera. It was taken by photographer, Al Pirak, on 28 June 1961 at the Kitchener-Waterloo Real Estate Board picnic.  The camera is now part of the collection of the Canada Science and Technology Museum in Ottawa – the donation of which set in motion our blog series on Denton and the Cirkut camera. Many thanks to Michel Labrecque for his invitation to explore the history of the camera and the work of Ernest Denton.

If you take a close look at the picnic image, you’ll see a panoramic prankster. The same man appears at each end of the second row – a fleet footed picnic participant who managed to be captured twice by the rotation of the Cirkut camera.

Left end of 2nd Row (P010378)

Left end

Right end of 2nd row (P010378)

Right end


I haven’t closed the book on Ernest. I’ll be looking for him in my travels and welcome any information about him, his work and his family.

Up next, Samuel Denton’s story. Stay tuned!

Cheers, Karen