Purpose and Function

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Ice Races in Ottawa (Elder, 2014)

As indicated on its face, this ribbon was used as a “meeting badge” at the ice races held in Berlin. This description is somewhat vague but with careful inspection there are clues that can lead a historian to develop a backstory for this fantastic piece of ephemera.

The largest obstacle faced when trying to pull information together about this ribbon was the lack of record on any type of ice races, especially in Berlin. Searching this event on Google (or any other search engine for that matter) will turn up next to nothing. The only record that could be located at the time of this exhibit was buried deep inside a historic issue of the Globe and Mail article. According to the article, published February 14, 1896, the Berlin Ice Races were "trotted". This clue indicates that the races were in fact horse races, not automotive, boating, or skating and looked something like the photo above with horses pulling sleds on a track. There is also mention of “purses” and their respective values which means that the races were a gambling event (The Globe and Mail, 1896). With more searching, it was discovered that these kinds of races took place all over Ontario such as Ottawa (pictured above), Hamilton, and London (The Globe and Mail, 1896).

The meaning of “meeting badge” takes a little more deciphering but the most likely modern translation would be an admission ticket. Horse races were also referred to as “meetings” which explains the wording on the ribbon. The event was likely tailored to the people who could afford to gamble as a pastime, however there is a chance that people of all ages and incomes were in attendance. The demographic of attendees along with overall tone the organizers wished to create likely could have influenced their choice of using a ribbon instead of the standard paper admission ticket. The ribbon, put simply, was a flashy way to show attendees had paid and later to show that they had attended the exhilarating event. 

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