Tag Archives: Boston

Art, Forgery and Prison Romance


June 15, 1880

Hall Ceiling Painted by Pindkowsky, Government House

On June 17, 1880, the Carbonear Herald a local Newfoundland newspaper reported on the conviction of  Alexander Pindikowsky, a young artist and fresco painter, convicted for forgery. He was sentenced on June 15, 1880 to fifteen months at her Majesty’s Penitentiary.

The St. John’s newspaper, The Royal Gazette reported:

 “Pindinkowsky was ordered within five days of his release to quit the country (Newfoundland) for life, in default of which, on his return to the country at any time, he is to receive further imprisonment.”

Pindikowsky  (also Pindikowskie) arrived in Newfoundland in 1879 as a professional artist and fresco painter. He was hired by the Anglo American Telegraph Company to give art instruction to interested employees and their wives at Hearts Content Cable Office.

He was arrested on March 10, 1880 and charged with attempting forge two cheques in the name of E. Weedon, Esq. of Hearts Content, Trinity Bay.

The Polish artist’s talents as a fresco painter were brought to the attention of the authorities at the Penitentiary and they were soon put to official use, in return for a remission of five weeks on his sentence. He was set to work designing and painting frescos, to relieve the drabness of the state rooms of Government House.

Governor John Hawley Glover (1876-1885) was so delighted with the frescos that he suggested to Prime Minister William Whiteway that the prisoner Pindinkowsky also decorate the ceilings of the two legislative chambers of the Colonial Building.  Seeing an opportunity the Presentation Sisters at Cathedral Square in St. John’s who were in the process of working on their chapel and drawing room invited the talents of the young artist.

Each day Pindinowsky was brought from the penitentiary to his place of work until the frescos were complete.

It could be said that this is one of the first documented cases of  a prison rehabilitation program in Newfoundland and Labrador.


Researcher and historian, John O’Mara in his research on Government House in St. John’s discovered that Pindikowsky was also a romantic. In his research he discovered the face of a woman subtly painted into the ceiling of government house.  Some believe her to be one of the maids at government house.  She could possibly be Ellen Dormody the mother of Pindikowsky’s first child, Johanna Mary Ellen Pindikowskie, who was baptized at the Roman Catholic Cathedral (now Basilica) on May 1, 1882.

It is clear that Pindikowsky banishment from the country was withdrawn, he decided to stay in Newfoundland. In 1882 he was advertising his services in a local newspaper, as a fresco painter.

The Athenaeum, established in 1879 with it’s 1,000 seat theatre, that was central to much of the musical activity of the city hired him. He painted some very fine murals on the interior walls of the building. Unfortunately the theatre and his work were destroyed in the Great Fire of 1892.

Pindikowsky left St. John’s for the ‘Boston States’ in approximately 1882  followed a year later by Ellen Dormody. She is recorded as travelling from St. John’s to Boston on the SS Colan (or Coban) in 1883.

Life in Boston was unsettled they fist settled in Malden, Mass in 1885 where he is listed in the city directory as a painter then Brockton, Mass, in the city directories of 1887, 1888 and 1889, back to Malden for 1890, then in Newport, RI where he was listed in the city directory as a painter in 1897 and later back in Brockton, Mass.

It appears that he died between 1887 -1906.  His wife is listed in the  Brockton city directory as a nurse and a widow in 1906.

Ellen Dormody the wife of Pindikowsky would have felt very at home in the Boston area. The Commonwealth of Boston census for 1885 reports that 2851 Newfoundlanders had settled in the city and surrounding towns. That number had grown to 7,591 Newfoundlanders by 1895.  The census for Boston in 1915 reports that 13,269 residents of the Boston area claimed Newfoundland  as their place of birth.

The ‘Boston States’ and  Newfoundland  have many connections.

Recommended Archival Collection: What do we have in the ‘Rooms Archives’ on this subject? Take a look at some of the  photographs  of the interior of Government House –  100 years ago – Pindikowsky  is responsible for the ceilings. Type  Government House Interior in the search bar here: http://gencat1.eloquent-systems.com/webcat/request/DoMenuRequest?SystemName=The+Rooms+Public&UserName=wa+public&Password=&TemplateProcessID=6000_3355&bCachable=1&MenuName=The+Rooms+Archives

Recommended Reading: Art, Love and Savagery: Carolyn Moran. Flanker Press, St. John’s, 2016.

Recommended Website:  http://www.heritage.nf.ca/govhouse/govhouse/tour2.html

Recommended VisitTo see the work of Alexander Pindikowsky both Government House and Presentation Convent are available to the public by appointment.  The Colonial Building is undergoing extensive renovations and is closed.


A cake sale for the benefit of the soldiers

Archival Moment

November 27, 1914

Newfoundland women made cakes that they posted to their son's in the trenches of France.

Newfoundland women made cakes that they posted to their son’s in the trenches of France.

It was for many Newfoundlanders living in the United States disappointing that their ‘new’ country remained neutral during the first couple of years of the First World War, 1914 -1918. It was particularly difficult for the Anglophile Newfoundlanders that supported the notion of ‘King and Country’ and their British heritage.

A number of women, born in Newfoundland but in 1914 were newly minted American citizens wanted to do some small part to support the old country. The local St. John’s newspaper The Evening Telegram wrote: “Although being American citizens their sympathies are still with Old England and they express the earnest wish that success will soon crown the efforts of the allied forces.”

In Everett, Massachusetts, just outside of Boston, a number of women originally from Newfoundland decided that they wanted to do something constructive; they decided to hold “a sale of pies and cake”   at a local convenience store Booth’s Cash Market. The proprietor, Mr. Boot, an Englishman, was very accommodating.

It was announced that “the proceeds of the sale, will be devoted, to the European War Suffers Fund.”

The choice of the phrase “European War Suffers Fund” was quite interesting. From 1914 – 1917 America as part of its neutrality propaganda used the phrase ‘European War”   the rest of the World was using the phrase “Great War.”

The ladies who were all making the cakes and pies for sale were all originally from Harbour Grace;  among their lot were Mrs. A. W Parsons, Mrs. Edward Tuolls, Mrs. J. Sheppard and Mrs. A. Sheppard.

The Newfoundland ladies of Everett, Massachusetts, “carried on the affair most successfully”, doing brisk business, declaring at the end of the day “a very successful sale.”

The success of the sale was almost guaranteed, the Harbour Grace ladies would have likely been supported by the many other Newfoundlanders that were living in Everett, Massachusetts and the general Boston area. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts census for 1915 reports that there were 13, 269 Newfoundlanders in the Boston area.

The United States’ entry into World War I came in April 1917, after two and a half years of efforts by President Woodrow Wilson to keep the United States neutral during World War I.

The sentiment for neutrality was gradually abandoned, driven in some small part by these Newfoundland born women who were very aware of the great effort that the people of their home country, Newfoundland,  were giving to the effort.

The American people were eventually swayed to join the fight after news of atrocities in Belgium in 1914, and the sinking of the passenger liner RMS Lusitania in 1915 in defiance of international law began to prick the conscience of America.

Newfoundland War Cake Recipe 1914-1918

During the First World War women in Newfoundland would bake and post their “War Cake” to loved ones on the front lines. Some traditional cake ingredients were hard to come by. The “War Cake” recipe that was encouraged by the Women’s Patriotic Association (WPA) of Newfoundland and approved by the Food Control Board including the following:



1 cup of sugar

1 ½ tablespoons of salt

1 teaspoon of cloves

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

1 teaspoon of nutmeg

1 teaspoon of mace

2 cups of boiling water

Boil five minutes and cool

Add 1 ¾ cups of flour

I teaspoon of soda

Add I cup of seeded raisins

Bake in a moderate oven.

Give the recipe a try !!

Recommended Archival Collection:   From your home visit the website, The Great War: http://www.therooms.ca/regiment/part1_entering_the_great_war.asp

This site contains the military files of over 2200 soldiers from the Royal Newfoundland Regiment who served in the First World War. These files are searchable by name or by community and will therefore provide invaluable information for all viewers, but will be of particular interest to those who are conducting either family or community research.

Recommended Exhibit: Pleasantville: From Recreation to Military Installation. Level 2 Atrium Pleasantville before the First World War was the site of the St. John’s cricket grounds. With the declaration of war, Pleasantville quickly emerged as a tent city, the home of the storied “First 500”. It was here that the First Newfoundland Regiment recruits began preliminary military training during the months of September and October of 1914. This exhibition highlights some of the activities and training of the Blue Puttees up to their embarkation on the SS Florizel for overseas service.

Recommended Museum Exhibit: Flowers of Remembrance: Level 2 Museum Vitrine: A number of flowers are associated with the First World War by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, including the familiar forget-me-not and poppy. Such commemorative flowers and their role in the collective memory of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are profiled. Using artifacts and period imagery relating to The Great War commemoration, The Rooms staff explore the significant role these flowers played across the last century

Recipe Books: Do you have any Recipe Books and or recipes that have some connection to the Newfoundland Regiment and the First World War?

Exiles in Boston join in the sorrow of thousands of Newfoundlanders

Archival Moment

April 12, 1914

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives, LS 50 . Bodies of sealers on the deck of the S.S. Bellaventure.

Photo Credit: The Rooms Provincial Archives, LS 50 . Bodies of sealers on the deck of the S.S. Bellaventure.

The news of the death of the 78 sealers who died during the sealing campaign March 31 – April 2,  1914 made international headlines.  Messages of sympathy were being sent to the local government and local newspapers from throughout the world.

The people of the Boston area responded not only with letters of condolence but also with offers of financial assistance to help the families who had lost a loved one.

P.A. Buckey, a Newfoundlander who had emmigrated to Lynn, Massachusetts wrote:

It is with the deepest regret that the Newfoundlanders who reside in Boston have heard of the terrible calamity that has befallen our Island home. The first news received in itself was terrifying but when later messages announced the possible loss of the Southern Cross with 173 souls on board, the Newfoundlanders of Boston assembled decided to take immediate action in making necessary arrangements to help the bereaved so a public meeting of all Newfoundlanders was called for shall now business transacted.”

Buckey reported that on April 12, 1914:

  “a masss meeting of Newfoundlanders in Boston, ladies included assembled in the Paine Memorial Hall, Appleton Street to devise any means of providing a relief fund to help the families of our stricken countrymen at home.  Fully 500 Newfoundlanders were present which showed the sympathy expressed for our loved ones. Upon entering the hall each one was eagerly scanning at each other, either to form an acquaintance or to meet a friend that they have not seen but known since childhood days.  A reunion of Newfoundlanders such as it was never seen in Boston before, and the one topic of discussion was the dreadful tragedy that left so many homeless, destitute and fatherless.”

The meeting was chaired by another Newfoundlander who had emigrated to the Boston area James P. McCormack  of East Cambridge.  The aim of the gathering he explained was for the Committee to raise at least $20,000 that would be given over to the Newfoundland Marine Disaster Fund.

$20,000.00 in 1914 had the same buying power as $466,098.00 in 2014.

Among the ex-patriot Newfoundlanders attending the meeting were FitzGerald’s, Mansfield’s, Curley’s,  Power’s, Cantwell’s, Somerville’s, Hogan’s, Mulcathy’s, Molloy’s Kelly’s, O’Rourke’s, Halleran’s, Puddister’s, Williams, and O’Connell’s.  Also among the crowd were Bemister’s of Carbonear; Moulton’s  of the West Coast; Farrell’s  of Ferryland and Vinnicombe’s of St. John’s.

Newfoundland has had a long relationship with the Boston States.  Although Newfoundland and Labrador people moved to other countries for a wide range of reasons emigration occurred on the largest scale during the last two decades of the century when the cod fishery fell into severe decline and caused widespread economic hardship.

The largest concentrations of emigrants were going to Boston and other Massachusetts cities. Between 1885 and 1905, the number of Newfoundland and Labrador people living in Massachusetts jumped from 2,851 to 10,583.  The Commonwealth of Massachusetts  census for 1915  reports that  there were 13, 269 Newfoundlanders in the Boston area.

Many of the men and women who attended the meeting on April 12,  1914 were  new emigrants to the Boston States. Newfoundlanders who were living in the Boston area but their hearts were in Newfoundland.  Before the meeting adjourned $560.00 was raised ($560.00 in 1914 has the same buying power as $13,050.74 in 2014) for the disaster fund.

Mr Buckely wrote:

  “We exiles in Boston join in the sorrow of thousands of Newfoundlander both at home and abroad.”

Recommended Archival Collection: At the Rooms Provincial Archives see GN 121 this collection consists of the evidence taken before the Commission of Enquiry regarding the S.S. Newfoundland. The collection includes the  Sealers Crew Agreement  and the evidence given by the surviving members of the crew. Evidence entered concerning the loss of the SS Southern Cross  is also included on this collection.

Recommended Reading:  PERISHED  by Jenny Higgins (2014)  offers unique, illustrative look at the 1914 sealing disaster through pull-out facsimile archival documents.  A first for the Newfoundland and Labrador publishing industry, as readers turn the pages of Perished they’ll find maps, log book entries, telegrams, a sealer’s ticket for the SS Newfoundland, and more that can be pulled out and examined.  These are the primary source materials that ignite the imagination of history buffs and students alike and are among more than 200 rarely seen archival photos and documents that illustrate this amazing book. (NEW PUBLICATION)

Recommended Exhibit:  Death on the Front:  The Sealing Disaster 1914.  March 26 – November 16 – Level 3 Museum Alcove. This small display features artifacts from the Rooms Provincial Museum and archival imagery from The Rooms Provincial Archives connected to these tragedies. One of the artifacts featured is a  flag that was once flown on the Southern Cross. The National Film Board’s documentary 54 Hours written by Michael Crummey, using animation, survivor testimony and archival footage will be running as part of the Death at the Front exhibition. You can also view the short film from your own home at https://www.nfb.ca/film/54_hours

Crew List: In the days and months following the loss of the S.S. Southern Cross and the tragedy of the loss of the men of the S.S. Newfoundland there was much confusion about the names and the number of men that did die. You will find the definitive list of all those that did die as well as the survivors at http://www.homefromthesea.ca/