Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Big Cheese. Last Duel.

This will be your travelog for the day, courtesy of my son, who visited the Perth Museum in Ontario and brought back this report. It's a museum of gentle proportion.

The flagship display, so to speak, comprises photos and documents related to the creation, display, and eventual disposition of the Mammoth Cheese pictured here. It was made for the 1893 World Expo. It took 207,200 pounds of milk, one day's milk from 10,000 cows. It was six feet high and 28 feet in circumference.When the cheese was fully packed, its shipping weight was 26,000 pounds (13 tons).

Dr. J. A. Ruddick who as a member of the staff of the Commissioner of Dairying and Agriculture, supervised the work of collecting the curd from the various factories and pressing it into the Mammoth Cheese. He wrote:
"The arrival of the cheese at the Exposition caused some surprise and astonishment on the part of officials. It excited other emotions when it crashed through the floor of the building while it was being moved from the car to the space prepared for it. The language of the officials who came around the next morning was rather lurid, to say the least.

"Although due to the stupidity of the men in charge of the moving, the crashing of the floor was the very thing which opened the flood gates of publicity, and publicity for the Canadian cheese industry was the only reason for the cheese being there. It was more talked about and more written up in the newspapers than any other single exhibit at the Fair. Accounts of it appeared with illustrations even in European papers. I have a large scrap book filled with newspaper clippings, illustrations, cartoons, etc. all referring to the cheese."
The cheese was bought and sent to England, but then was declared to have gone bad (after all its travels I'm not surprised).

A replica, in concrete, of the cheese was unveiled in 1943 and placed on a pedestal on the grounds of the Canadian Pacific Railway adjacent to the Perth railway station.

Well, after all that - the last remaining piece of the Mammoth Cheese is on exhibit at the Perth Musem in Lanark, Canada. My son took this picture of it. Impressive, eh?

How they made the cheese (in case you want to try); more on the cheese here and here; and here's a site devoted to big things in Ontario.

In addition to all the exciting cheese artifacts at the Perth museum, there is a curling stone on display. My son did not bring me a picture of the Perth curling stone, but this one is, I imagine, somewhat similar.

And finally, they have a collection of artifacts (including fatal love letters) and the pistols used in the "Last Fatal Duel" in Upper Canada (1833).

John Wilson and Robert Lyon fought for the love of Elizabeth Hughes. After being shot twice, Lyon died. Wilson and his second were arrested for murder but were found not guilty by a jury. Wilson married Elizabeth and they had three children together. Wilson went on to become a successful lawyer, judge and Member of Parliament.

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At 9:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Good heavens, the Canadians seem to have beaten us at cheese. The "original" Mammoth Cheese in US history, 1,200 pounds, 4 feet in diameter, was made for Jefferson's Inauguration in 1801. (It is one of my dear Professor Freeman's favorite obsessions). At that time, folks had first begun to dig up wooly mammoth bones and Jefferson was completely enchanted with them. The cheese was dubbed the "Mammoth Cheese" to poke gentle fun at Jefferson who had believed, or at least gone on the record as hoping, that the newly-purchased Louisiana Territory might have some mammoths in it. Unfortunately Lewis and Clark failed to encounter any mammoths. Like the Perth cheese, the American Mammoth Cheese hung around longer that was perhaps fortunate. Jefferson served some of it at one of his politicking dinners in 1804 and one guest, who had clearly felt obligated to choke some of it down, later wrote that it was "far from being very good." --Affairs of Honor


At 9:26 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Fascinating stuff. I do love an interesting history lesson, and you have such a great way of telling it!

At 9:59 AM, Blogger Sigmund, Carl and Alfred said...

Bug Cheese is a great story, but the last part of your post interests me.

If we allowed dueling in both Houses of Congress when compromise cannot be reached- I suspect we'd see a whole lot more compromise.

At 7:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Melinama - there's an even bigger cheese to report to you:

lovely blog, by the way,

Alastair Sweeny

At 9:03 AM, Blogger Hugh said...


For people wanting more information about Heritage Perth Ontario I could refer them to:
Downtown Heritage Perth


All About Perth

Both of these lead you to all the "official" sites about Perth.

At 4:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder if Wilson used Lyon's own gun as well. Those appear to be single shot muskets?

At 8:26 AM, Blogger dj said...


Very interesting stuff. I'm a writer who lives in Perth, Ontario and happen to have written about both the cheese and the duel, so it's interesting to see other people's takes on our local matters.

Perth's Mammoth Cheese remains the largest cheese ever made in Canada but it was bested sometime in the mid-20th century by an American cheese that came in at quite a bit bigger.

Regarding the Perth duel, Lyon was not actually shot twice. There were two exchanges of gun-fire, as the duelling code had very strict rules for various situations and, in this case, two shots were required before any apology could be made. Both men missed on the first shot; Lyon was shot through the left side on the second shot.

Interestingly, Lyon was of a military family and considered the best shot in the area, while Wilson had never fired a pistol before.

All the best,


At 5:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

This was my uncle. I am hurt over this affair. That french man should have been caught and killed.


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