Yesterday a package came in the mail from Borden, Saskatchewan, the village near which I was born. It contained a large hard-cover receipt book with the carbon copies of receipts from a machinery business operating in the early 1900s in Borden. The names on the receipts are the early pioneers of the area who did business with the shop. The descendants of many of those people still live in the Borden district.
This component of the book is fascinating in itself, but this is not the reason the book was lent to me. In about a third of the book, drawn on onion-skin and tipped in are tiny exquisite pencil drawings.
Edward McCheane, a member of one of the five Quaker families which immigrated to Canada in the early years of the last century, had trained as a commercial artist in England, and later in the United States. The drawings are mostly accompanied by color notes, information about estimates given, where the original was submitted and when. Most of the pages of this one-third of the book are dated in the early and middle 1920s.
Edward McCheane was my uncle by marriage. Several years ago I put together a book about him and his journal and his art; at that time I did not know of the existence of the present book.
He had homesteaded in the early years of the last century, then had participated in the machinery business in Borden, then had taken up his intended vocation as a commercial artist. He also grew into a landscape artist in oils and other media. He had married my father's older sister Edith in 1920 when he was 37, and while they lived in the Borden area for a time after they married, they soon moved to Saskatoon where he established himself in his commercial art business, Globe Signs. From the best of my analysis, the sketch-record of his commercial art found in the receipt book comes from his early days of establishing himself as a commercial artist.
I had put together the earlier book about him when his journal recording his coming to Canada and the early days of homesteading came into my hands. At that time I collected everything I could find about him to include in the book, incorporating material from his son and other family sources, and from the Saskatchewan Archives Board. Now, it seems, I have the material for another book.
The Borden artist, my second cousin once removed Nancy Penner Henn who lent me the book tells me she doesn't need to have it back, as long as she gets a copy of the book I will make of Ed McCheane's drawings. She feels that the original should ultimately go to the Saskatchewan Archives Board. This decision relieves me of the pressure to get the book copied and returned promptly, but does not relieve the pressure of working on the book itself. And much of the labour will fall on David, with his skill at extracting the best images from a faded, discolored and fragile source.
It is now three weeks later, and David has nearly finished scanning and fixing those hundreds of images. From pages in the original in which the pencil image was barely discernible, he produces pages showing the sketches clearly. I am left with collating the sets of copies and writing explanatory material.
The challenge of what to do with the names of the pioneers in the receipt book remains. That will be another project.