After more than 70 years away from The Globe and Mail, a bust of George Brown that survived fire, dust and several moves has been returned.
Brown founded The Globe newspaper in 1844. He was later elected to the legislative assembly and reorganized the Clear Grit Party.
The newspaper lent the plaster bust of Brown’s chest, neck and head to the Collingwood Museum in 1940. It survived a fire that destroyed and damaged other artifacts 23 years later, and was moved at least five times, said museum supervisor Susan Warner, who accompanied Collingwood Mayor Sandra Cooper on Tuesday to return the bust.
But at some point over the years, information about the identity and owner of the bust was lost. When Ms. Warner started at the museum in 1998, no one knew that it depicted the Scotsman, who is considered a Father of Confederation.
“We had been trying to figure out for ages who it was and who it belonged to,” she said after unwrapping the carefully packaged monument. “It was basically what we call one of our mystery artifacts.”
The case was solved last year, when a student found some aged, typewritten letters between the museum’s curator and the newspaper’s general manager, Harry Kimber, arranging the loan for an exhibition.
The letters showed that as well as sending the bust of Brown, The Globe also lent one of Sir John A. Macdonald, and placed no expiration date on the loans. The second bust is still missing, Ms. Warner said.
Phillip Crawley, the publisher and CEO of The Globe and Mail, said until he received an e-mail informing him the museum wanted to return the bust, he was unaware it existed.
“We will certainly make a feature of it in The Globe over the course of the year and just remind people about the importance,” Mr. Crawley said, adding that the newspaper also has a portrait of Brown.
The Globe will restore the roughly 20-kilogram bust, which has dark paint chipping from its outer layer and some chips on the base, Mr. Crawley said. It will be placed in the newspaper’s Toronto office, and displayed in a space dedicated to The Globe’s history when the paper moves into a new building, he said.
The newspaper that Brown started, The Globe, was sold decades after his death to a financier who also bought The Mail and Empire. It was absorbed into The Globe, and the newspaper was renamed The Globe and Mail in 1936.
It’s unknown when the bust was made or who the artist was. Also on hand for the arrival was Michael Kimber, grandson of the former general manager who lent the bust to the museum.
Mr. Kimber said his grandfather never mentioned the loan to him before he died in the 1960s. “It’s just fascinating,” he said.