Origins

Ribbon Berlin Races

Meeeting Badge from the Berlin Ice Races (Obtained from the archives at the University of Guelph Library)

This ribbon is almost mythical, in the sense that its origin, like most of its information is nearly untraceable. Located in the archives of the University of Guelph Library in the Sleeman Collection, the ribbon surely has a backstory but it is woven so tightly, the threads are hard to unravel.

The embossed printing on the front indicates this ribbon was a memento from the “Berlin Ice Races”. There is also a date, “Feb. 12 & 13”. Since this ribbon is part of a collection meant to document the history of Guelph and the Sleeman family, it can be reasonably assumed that it did not originate from Germany. But where in Ontario is there a place named Berlin? It is becoming distant memory, but before the war Kitchener was known as Berlin due to the largely German population (more on that later). The name of Berlin was given to the township (later city) from 1853-1916 indicating that the ribbon must have originated within this time period (Kitchener, 2016).

Production, location, and manufacturing company remain a mystery but understanding the general method of ribbon manufacturing can help paint a sufficient story. As many ribbons were, this specific one was more than likely woven on a Jacquard or Jacquard-inspired loom (Leslie, 2007). These types of looms have extensive histories themselves, but in summary they have been said to have started the technological age (Ceruzzi, 2006). Additionally, the material the ribbon is composed of is difficult to determine since mass produced ribbons are typically polyester satin. However, polyester was not invented until the mid 1900s by which time Berlin was named Kitchener (Brown & Reinhart, 1971; Kitchener, 2016). Keeping this factor in mind, the most appropriate textile would be silk.

Following manufacturing, the ribbon must have been shipped to Berlin to be used for its intended purpose, as a “Meeting Badge” for the “Ice Races”.