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Benares House Gallery
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Title: Folding Glasses
Identifier: 2005.2.4
Donor: Marjorie Chambres
Item Date: c. 1890
Image Creator: Museums of Mississuga
Creation Date: 2005
Location: Benares Historic House

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Description: Folding brass and tortoiseshell glasses. Rectangular glass frames that are hinged in the centre so they can fold in half. There is no glass in the frames. One end of the frame attaches to a brass circle that can rotate around and allows it to slide into the case. The case is tortoise with a brass lining in the same shape that is pinned to the shell. There is a small brass shield on the front of the case. The case is rectangular in the centre and narrow at the bottom to accommodate the folded glasses. The narrow section of the case has brass wrapped around one side with a mechanism to open the glasses (broken). There is a loop to attach it to a chain.

History: This artifact was donated by Miss Marjorie Chambres. Miss Chambres inherited these items from her aunt, Mona Kay. Mona Kay was born December 22nd, 1888. She was the second daughter of Georgina and Charles Kay of Iowa. Mona and her family moved from Iowa to Streetsville and later to Erindale where they had a farm on the north side of Dundas Street. The Kays belonged to St. Peter’s Anglican Church and it was here that Georgina and Mary Harris became friends and Gwendeline Kay, Mona’s sister, married Philip Chambres. Mona never married and became a companion/caretaker for Mary Harris in the 1940’s. Mona helped to cook, clean and look after Mary Harris who died in 1954. Mona stayed on at Benares after Mary’s death helping Naomi Harris to look after her home. Mona and another caretaker, Miss Trail, stayed at Benares with Naomi until her death in 1968. Mona died in 1980 at the age of 92.
Miss Chambres spent a lot of time at Benares visiting her aunt and later helping her to look after the grounds. Miss Chambres recalls that her aunt was a “most amazing lady who could do things that others couldn’t do”. She also recalls that her aunt would often take her skating at Oughtred’s farm in Erindale where she used to work picking seasonal fruit before becoming Mary’s companion.
Victorians were very fond of tortoiseshell and used it for a variety of items as well as jewellery. Tortoiseshell is not from Tortoises but from the Hawksbill Turtle found off the coast of the West Indies and South America. Tortoiseshell is moulded using heat and then polished. It was quite expensive yet extremely popular in the 1830’s and 1840’s and again after Prince Albert’s death in 1861 when Queen Victoria and her court went into deep mourning. Tortoiseshell was considered appropriate for mourning especially in the later stages.
Copyright: Museums of Mississuaga
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