Category: EB Eddy

A Day in the Life of a WHM Volunteer at the E. B. Eddy Mill, Part 4

After many hours of photography, videography and documentation, the end of the day for the WHM volunteers at the former E. B. Eddy mill is something of a ritual. The equipment is gathered, caravanned back to the storage office, and everyone seats themselves on chairs around a conference table that once hosted planning sessions for mill managers and engineers. While the WHM representative gathers everyone’s log sheets and transfers data from multiple camera memory cards to a laptop, around him the tired but satisfied volunteers exchange stories.

“Did you see the glowing moss in that tunnel?”

“Remember the raccoon you saw looking through the cargo door last week? Well, one of his cousins left his prints all over the palette of cardboard in 502!”

“You know the control panel for the roll processor I spent all morning detailing? The digital read-outs kept changing! I finally figured out that the floor plate was a scales taking my weight – accurately, I might add. Pretty amazing considering that it was probably designed to weigh half-ton paper rolls!”

Ventilation fans, some of them the size of a cottage, could be found in every floor and ceiling.

Ventilation fans, some of them the size of a cottage, could be found in every floor and ceiling.

The light outside is dimming as the WHM rep sees off the last of the volunteers, advises the Domtar office the building is secured, nods to the night guard just coming on shift, and departs himself, already mentally planning where the team will deploy for the next scheduled day.

Even after all of the many buildings that comprise the former mill complex have been fully recorded – optimistically by late 2015 – it will be, as Winston Churchill said, just the end of the beginning. It is expected that around 100,000 images and hundreds of video clips will emerge from this effort, to become a part of WHM’s collection. The WHM Photographer will, over months or years, re-catalogue, index, and extract sub-categories of whatever images seem likely to be most useful and in demand. In recognition of the exemplary support and encouragement provided by Windmill Corporation, the project’s images will also be available for their promotional and other uses. Similarly, in recognition of their hard work and selfless hours of contribution to history preservation, the photographers will be granted license, if they request it, to the images they have taken.

A vast circulatory and nervous system for an enterprise, many of the conduits for steam, water, electricity and data still enlace the walls, floors, and ceilings.

A vast circulatory and nervous system for an enterprise, many of the conduits for steam, water, electricity and data still enlace the walls, floors, and ceilings.

WHM is already planning ways to use this new resource. It is in touch with the Canada Science and Technology Museum, which holds artifacts and archives donated to them by E. B. Eddy Corporation, and is planning a number of travelling and permanent displays, some of which may be housed in the public areas of the Windmill development itself. Another intriguing possibility is a coffee table book and gallery exhibits, since many of the images, quite apart from their historical value, are works of art in themselves. In a separate endeavour, Carleton University architecture students are using sophisticated laser scanning technology to precisely record the interiors in three dimensions, and WHM will approach them to see if its images can be overlaid to permit an online virtual walk-through of the buildings long after they have disappeared or been remodelled.

All that too is only the start. We have no way to predict what value may be mined from those images in the future. Who knows what may interest researchers a century or two from now? Much of the detail our teams record is mundane and unremarkable to us today – we know what an electrical outlet looks like – but will there even be such things in 50 or 100 years? If someone wants to know what late 20th-century industrial fire-suppression systems looked like, WHM’s collection may be one of the few places where multiple examples can be reviewed. The E. B. Eddy mill portion of the WHM collection could benefit social historians, but also students of technology, cinematographers, educators, and fields of study that do not yet exist.

A WHM videographer documents the Steam Plant.

A WHM videographer documents the Steam Plant.

All of this is made possible by far-sighted and energetic volunteers, so let me end this series with an appeal. If you are a keen photographer or someone willing to devote a day or two a week to the endeavour I’ve described, contact me. We are working Mondays and Thursdays at present, but expect to organize a Saturday or Sunday team soon. Send an email to images@workershistorymuseum.ca, and I will provide you with a detailed package on what the work involves and minimum camera specifications.

By Paul Harrison, WHM Official Photographer

A Day in the Life of a WHM Volunteer at the E. B. Eddy Mill, Part 3

In past entries, I’ve told you what a typical day at the E. B. Eddy mill is like, and what equipment we use. In this entry, I’ll briefly describe how we document the process so that the visual and other data collected will permit accurate digital reproduction of the entire complex of buildings or any tiny detail a future researcher needs to resurrect. Then, I’ll reveal some of the unexpected wonders we have encountered along the way.

To assure scale can be determined, the assistants and photographers spend much time propping tape measures up against objects to be photographed. Those who record the walls and ceilings use a pair of hand-made two-meter versions of a yard stick which appear at least once in every wall sequence.

While the floors are mostly bare, occasional cast-off parts and even workers' clothing, can still be found.

While the floors are mostly bare, occasional cast-off parts and even workers’ clothing, can still be found.

Log sheets have fields for room dimensions (determined by the laser range-finder), camera type, lens focal length, and in the case of the overviews, camera distance from wall and laterally between images. This is where the assistants come in. As the photographer is taking an image, they hurry ahead to the next spot, pacing off with tape measure or laser range-finder the spot where the next shot in the series can be taken. They also nudge the photographer for the other details, frame numbers, and so on for the log.

It is a complex series of steps, and must be endlessly adapted to fit the variables of each location, but the veteran crew after a few weeks works without confusion and minimal discussion, and splits off and organizes into groups with only the briefest suggestions from the WHM rep. Again the eerie link to the past surfaces. It is almost as if the volunteers are absorbing from the walls the spiritual imprint of experienced teams of mechanics who once swarmed with little discussion or hesitation to bring a failed winder back online.

Rendered ghostly by a long exposure, a volunteer strides down the former production line.

Rendered ghostly by a long exposure, a volunteer strides down the former production line.

All this meticulous bustle occurs in environments which vary enormously. There are offices in which documents, calendars, and even a newspaper dated the month the plant closed still lie on desks, and elaborate engineering diagrams of vanished production machines grace the walls. There are dark corners in which water drips into a pool which may be inches or meters deep. (Well, we hope it is water!) Here is a washroom where one steps over a long-dead…well, something “avian” to record for posterity a stall that features a jet-black toilet bowl with a stencilled sign on the brick above it admonishing ironically “Keep this toilet clean!”

There are tens of meters-long tunnels lined with steam or liquid pipes and electrical and digital cable. They run under floors, streets, or parking lots to multi-story underground pump rooms or whole buildings invisible from the surface above. (Needless to say, every volunteer carries a flashlight; most have powerful miner-style headlamps.) There is an alcove in which an elaborately crenulated Victorian-style circular stair leads upward to… nowhere, just the concrete ceiling.

Sporadic modern lighting gives stark illumination to an otherwise rather medieval-looking subterranean chambers.

Sporadic modern lighting gives stark illumination to an otherwise rather medieval-looking subterranean chambers.

A vast long hall lit by cathedral-sized windows once housed a series of rolling and processing machines, each the size of a cottage. They have long since been sold and removed. (“How?” we wonder.) Their place is marked by a prominent and somewhat intimidating series of rectangular holes in which they were mounted, holes through which the basement is visible, 20 feet below. And what a basement! Four ranks of 20-meter-thick columns, arrayed into the distance, with bands of light and shadow from the few arc-lamps still functioning. It gives a medieval air to that lower level; volunteers would be only mildly surprised if a dragon in pursuit of a princess dashed suddenly towards them from amongst the dim columns.

The exteriors are not neglected. Each building’s side and even the roofs receive the standard dual overview-and-detail treatment. In addition, one volunteer has provided aerial photography using a surprisingly sophisticated system that lofts a camera on a kite string. Controlled from the ground, it provides not only overhead survey shots, but also dramatic views of the site in the context of the surrounding river and city.

Day3-5

Standing on those roofs, with the vista and thunder of the Chaudière Falls before us, and the historic core of Canada’s capital behind us, we are unavoidably conscious of standing in a stream of time. Its current has carried by this place Algonquin fishermen, explorers, coureur des bois, generations of lumber barons, lumbermen, railwaymen, and mill workers – and now ourselves, for an oh-so-brief moment. Still upstream in time are generations of office and shopworkers and condo-owners, and people after them unknowable to us, who will all still see the Falls, and some remnants of the mills, helped perhaps by our efforts.

Tomorrow, in the final entry in this series, I will say a little more about what it is like to be part of our volunteer team, and what uses the vast image collection might have.

By Paul Harrison, WHM Official Photographer

A Day in the Life of a WHM Volunteer at the E. B. Eddy Mill, Part 2

Earlier I described how a team of volunteers marshalled by WHM is creating a complete visual historical snapshot of the former E. B. Eddy plant at the Chaudière Falls on the Ottawa River. But who are these people gamely spending sometimes exhausting days in often dark, dusty and damp spaces?

Many are retired, or university students, or employed in jobs that involve weekdays off. They are mostly photographers, recruited through local photo clubs, drawn by the unique opportunity to create visual images in a sometimes barren, or cluttered, sometimes magical, and always surprising environment to which few are ever granted access. Others – including students in history and library and archives programs – lend a vital hand carrying things, filling log sheets, measuring, and functioning as a second pair of eyes for the photographer, drawn not by the imagery opportunity, but by the chance to preserve history first hand.

A pressure gauge, once no doubt important to an operator, now reads a perhaps symbolic zero.

A pressure gauge, once no doubt important to an operator, now reads a perhaps symbolic zero.

A day on site for these volunteers is in many ways not unlike that of the shift-workers who once worked there. The team of four to six volunteers assembles at 8 AM. The WHM photographer in charge of the project meets the Windmill representative who unlocks the door nearest the work area of the day. The team receives assignments for the morning, and breaks into sub-groups by task.

Far more than just “taking pictures,” their endeavour is a serious and exacting one: to enable future researchers to explore the site as it exists today, and learn whatever an observer walking through the buildings today could learn. To do that, an “overview team” records each room’s floors, ceilings, and walls in overlapping image sets, while a separate team does the detail work, imaging every faucet handle, electrical instrument or machinery control panel, label, safety sign, boiler plate, light fixture, piece of furniture, or rusty unidentified… something-or-other.

Although modern control panels had long-since been installed, and stood nearby, the steam plant's massive manual valves were still in place.

Although modern control panels had long-since been installed, and stood nearby, the steam plant’s massive manual valves were still in place.

The still imagery is supplemented by video cameras, which pan and record narration from former employees who describe what each room was like in operation.

Getting to the locale of the day from the office where equipment is stored between shoots involves a caravan-like procession. Standard kit for the team includes video and still-image cameras of specified minimum capabilities, always on tripods to assure crisp images from a stable platform; a nominally “portable” gel-pack battery for power for lighting in the places where the outlets don’t function, and the hand-held and clamp-mounted lighting itself. (It seems that even modern cameras won’t auto-focus or record images in the dark. Who would have guessed?)

Volunteer Bill Woodley works among the mighty concrete basement pillars that once supported massive mill machines on the floor above.

Volunteer Bill Woodley works among the mighty concrete basement pillars that once supported massive mill machines on the floor above.

There is a case with a first aid kit, spare batteries of multiple sizes, extra pens, markers, special-purpose lenses, tape measures, log sheets, and the ever-indispensable duct tape. Then there are the more humble necessities of record-keeping: low-tech clipboards that would have been recognizable by anyone who had worked at the factory in the last hundred years, bearing log sheets specially designed by the WHM photographer for the project.

Lest the paper records somehow be lost, the team also carries equally low-tech whiteboards and dry markers, on which building number, room, date, place, photographer, and other subject information is written, and photographed at defined intervals, to become a permanent part of the image sequence.

TGIVG 04

Lunch is held in the most pleasant spot available – an outdoor picnic table in good weather, a windowed office otherwise. It consists of a home-packaged lunch brought in containers the mill workers would have recognized. The noontime talk revolves around vacations, family, and the other minutiae of life, again just as the workers would have done. Then, with a gentle nudge from the supervisor, work resumes for the afternoon. At 4 PM or so, everyone books off and heads home. There is no night shift.

Rust can add artistic detailing to mundane objects.

Rust can add artistic detailing to mundane objects.

In the next entry in this series, I’ll reveal how we assure the images collected can be used to digitally reproduce the site for future research, and some of the marvels of the complex itself.

By Paul Harrison, WHM Official Photographer

A Day in the Life of a WHM Volunteer at the E. B. Eddy Mill, Part 1

For over 150 years, the E. B. Eddy paper mill was the site of ever-expanding industrial activity. It grew to a sprawling hive of buildings that bestrode the Quebec and Ontario sides of the Chaudière Falls, employed thousands, and turned trees into an astonishing variety of paper products. Then, in 2006, the mill closed.

In the years since, in the vast halls where for decades machinery had hummed and roared, the silence was deep enough that the echo of a single footstep would reach dozens of empty rooms. Now, however, there are new sounds: the soft whirr of camera shutters, the scrape of tripods against concrete, the riffling of log book sheets, and the bleep of a laser range-finder.

Twice a week since July 2014, a team of volunteer photographers and videographers organized by the Workers’ History Museum has been recording the buildings, which are decades and in places over a hundred years old, to create a detailed visual record of a complex that is one giant historical artifact; a place of work for generations of engineers, mechanics, chemists, salesmen, forklift operators, and all the dozens of other professions needed to make paper on a huge scale.

It is a race against time. Windmill Corporation is shortly to commence refashioning the complex into offices, condominiums, and public spaces. They will incorporate as much of the existing historical buildings as possible, but many are structurally unsound and will have to come down. Those retained will be refashioned for purposes very different from their past.

 A control platform where steam flow was monitored gleams in the light of nearby windows.

A control platform where steam flow was monitored gleams in the light of nearby windows.

Conscious of the history and heritage of the site, and determined to preserve it as far as possible, Windmill (and the current owners, Domtar) welcomed a WHM proposal for an unusual, possibly unique, archival project to visually record all the dozens of buildings on site, frozen in a moment just before they are to disappear or change.

Imagine if a complete image and video record had been made of an ancient Roman military camp only hours after the site was abandoned. It would be a historical treasure. By marshalling the efforts of a score of photographers and historically minded assistants, that is what WHM is creating for the E. B. Eddy mill complex.

Like an archaeological dig – indeed, the project has been referred to as “industrial archaeology” – the images and video will enable the reconstruction, and understanding, of the environment in which workers of the 20th century functioned. Future researchers and historians will be better able to establish how industrial buildings were constructed and extended over time, and discern how safety, electrical, steam heating, and other systems functioned.

Several boxes with contents like these were found along the main paper production halls.  They are probably cast-off parts that accumulated as the great machines once housed there were dismantled for shipment after being sold.

Several boxes with contents like these were found along the main paper production halls. They are probably cast-off parts that accumulated as the great machines once housed there were dismantled for shipment after being sold.

For the next three weeks, we’ll share the stories of these people who gamely spend sometimes exhausting days in often dark, dusty, and damp spaces, and to the images they’ve captured. See you next Wednesday!

By Paul Harrison, WHM Official Photographer

The Rich Workers’ History Behind Toilet Paper

The Workers’ History Museum is excited about our upcoming E.B. Eddy exhibit, to be housed in our office at 251 Bank Street, Ottawa. The exhibit will be drawn from the Canada Science and Technology Museum Corporation (CSTMC)’s Domtar Eddy Booth collection, which contains more than 20,000 items including artifacts, photos, drawings, advertisements, and brochures.

For those who don’t already know, the E.B. Eddy Company was founded by Ezra Butler Eddy in 1851. Eddy’s first product was matches and he later expanded into making other items such as pails, doors, and sashes. In 1891, Eddy entered the pulp and paper industry making products such as toilet paper. The company was originally located on the Hull side of the river, beside the Chaudière falls and the Alexandria Bridge. Then in 1947, Eddy acquired the J.R. Booth Company. This expanded the company to both sides of the river. In 1998, E.B. Eddy was acquired by Domtar (which explains CSTMC’s official name for the collection). The Domtar plant continued until 2007, when the last paper machine of the Domtar E.B. Eddy plant was shut down.

The collection contains rich materials to provide the WHM with several avenues to interpret E.B. Eddy’s history. Today, we would like to share some of these to give you a better idea of what goes into creating an exhibit.

CSTM DEB Pho-097 - Booth Mill - Ottawa, Chaudiere Falls, High Water June 1929.

CSTM DEB Pho-097 – Booth Mill – Ottawa, Chaudiere Falls, High Water June
1929.

A possible theme for our proposed exhibit is to demonstrate the history of changes to the E.B. Eddy site from 1851 to present. The collection contains several aerial site photographs of the plant. The use of these photographs reveals the expansion of the plant and its larger implications for the growth of the working class in Hull and the surrounding area. This photograph is an example of one of many photographs the WHM could use in this comparison.

Another interesting avenue to interpret this collection is its implication on gender working class history. The photographs below illustrate women from the 1920s and 1950s working in the E.B. Eddy factory. They completed tasks such as counting sheets of paper and packing matches. Their inclusion in the factory suggests that women were thought to have the appropriate skills for the kind of tasks in the factory such as counting sheets of paper. Their specific duties also provide an indication of the type of “appropriate labour” for women in each period. Unfortunately, there is very little information associated with the photographs; further research into women’s work in pulp and paper factories is required if the topic is to be explored in greater detail in the exhibit.

CSTM DEB Pho-368 Hull U/M Fin. Dept. Female Employees Counting the Sheets of Paper, 1950s CSTM DEB Pho-372 Hull U/M Fin. Dept. Girls Fanning and Counting Sheets of Paper, 1950s
CSTM DEB Pho-368 Hull U/M Fin. Dept. Female Employees Counting the Sheets of Paper, 1950s CSTM DEB Pho-372 Hull U/M Fin. Dept. Girls Fanning and Counting Sheets of Paper, 1950s
CSTM DEB Pho-422 Packing Matches, circa 1925
CSTM DEB Pho-423 Girls Packing Boxes of Matches, circa 1925
CSTM DEB Pho-422 Packing Matches,
circa 1925
CSTM DEB Pho-423 Girls Packing Boxes
of Matches, circa 1925

Another research possibility is a partnership with the CSTMC in an oral history project. Since the plant closed in 2007, we might encourage former E.B. Eddy workers to share their experiences about the plant. Our expertise in documenting oral histories could help us to collect and preserve these stories.

Regardless of which avenue the WHM takes, the future exhibit will focus on the workers. One overall message from our visit to the CSTMC’s archives came from David McGee, CSTMC Archivist, who generously shared the contents of the collection with us. McGee stated that “the collection represents much more than a chemical process.” This is precisely how the WHM views this unique opportunity to share the workers’ history of E.B. Eddy: as a chance to present an untold story.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into the development of an exhibit from the ground up. If you would like to share your thoughts about what you would like to see in this future exhibition, please contact us.

The WHM would like to thank the Communication Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada (now part of Unifor) for funding the E.B. Eddy summer exhibit.

By Christina Stokes, Exhibits & Education Committee