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Josiah Plumb Vest

Curated Submission
Niagara Region, Ontario
1830 - 1850
DIMENSIONS in centimetres
51 x 30.5
Materials & techniques
Corded silk, muslin, brass; Hand sewing, embroidery
Josiah Burr Plumb
Niagara Historical Society and Museum 972.221
This hand-sewn vest is made of a fine cream-coloured corded silk and is decorated with embroidered green flowers. It has soft padding and a cream-coloured muslin lining. There is a small belt with a metal clasp at the back, and the front is adorned with six small brass buttons, of which only two remain. A fine garment such as this made a statement about the status, business acumen, and wealth of its wearer – Josiah Burr Plumb, former speaker of the Canadian Senate. Plumb immigrated to the Niagara region from New York State in 1865 at the age of 49 and would become the first and only speaker of the Senate who was not born in Canada.
Having enjoyed a successful career as a banker and railway developer in the United States, Plumb caught the eye of Prime Minister John A. Macdonald, who encouraged him to run for a seat in the House of Commons. Plumb won a seat in 1874, was re-elected in 1879, but was eventually defeated in 1882, after which Macdonald nominated him for an appointment to the Senate. In 1887 Plumb was appointed 9th Speaker of the Senate and served until his sudden death one year later. It was the first time a Speaker had died while serving in office and his passing sparked debate on how a successor should be appointed.
The condition of his vest is fragile but stable, and its glory can still be imagined today. Plumb’s service reflects the early political development of Canada; his American roots serve as a reminder of the long and friendly relationship between Canada and the United States.
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