Adelaide c.1949

When we discuss Adelaide McLaughlin, the image that ones mind conjures is like the photograph to the left. A grandmotherly figure, who was genteel, warm and full of class and decorum.

Of course, Mrs. McLaughlin was all those things, but there is another side to her, one that many people do not think about while on tour or while participating in our programs.

Like everyone, Adelaide was once young. A farm girl who grew up in Brougham, Ontario, she went to Normal School in Ottawa and became a teacher. Her first, and last teaching placement was at Sinclair School in Whitby and the only known remaining photo Parkwood has of those days is the one attached below, courtesy of the Whitby Archives.

The photo, dated June 11, 1896, is of Miss Adelaide Mowbray’s class.

Adelaide McLaughlin third from left

Many know the McLaughlin courtship story; Sam McLaughlin was out for a Sunday bike ride, attended church service with relatives and spied the future Mrs. McLaughlin singing in the church choir. Three chaperoned buggy rides later, the two were engaged and eventually married on February 2, 1898.

There are no wedding photos of Sam and Adelaide’s wedding, but the earliest portrait we have of Mrs. McLaughlin is the one posted below.

Five daughters, the McLaughlin Buick, and the McLaughlin Chevrolet later, Adelaide McLaughlin was entertaining statesmen and the aristocracy at Parkwood, shortly followed by the creation of General Motors and the who’s who of business that started to come through the doors of her home.

Mrs.McLaughlin became society hostess, philanthropist and community activist in her own right, and has some wonderful stories of her own. Stories that Parkwood will be sharing from time to time on this blog.

The first myth to dis-spell is the myth of teatotaller Adelaide.

There is a McLaughlin Family story about Sam and Adelaide returning to Oshawa after a holiday in France in the early 1920s when they had been gifted with a crate of wine from a vineyard owner. While heading into New York harbour, the McLaughlins’ realised that that due to prohibition being in full effect in the United States, they would not be able to travel through the country with their wine.

Mrs. McLaughlin cleverly rolled each bottle of wine in her corsets, and under garments before packing her luggage, smuggling the “contraband” over the  border and home to the Parkwood wine cellar.

We also have some wonderful oral histories from the former servants’ about Mrs. McLaughlin carrying trays of lemonade out to the gardens on those hot & humid days in August to provide the staff with a short, cool reprieve from the heat, or the collection of pickled bean recipes that she was famous for making and delivering to family and friends in the community.

Edwardian Adelaide

Finally, Sam’s nickname for Adelaide was Always Late Mowbray, a play on her name Adelaide Louise Mowbray, but he admitted that it was one of his pet peeves about his spouse, since she always seemed to keep him waiting when they were trying to get ready for an evening out.