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The Latvian Rolling Pin

Latvian Rolling Pin, circa 1909It’s a simple tool: a rolling pin made from a single piece of wood, fashioned into a two-foot long rod tapered at both ends. Sometimes these are called French rolling pins, but this one was made in Latvia over one hundred years ago and made its way to Winnipeg in 1909. A young woman named Rytze (1885-1962) followed her married sister to Canada, and the rolling pin was part of Rytze’s trousseau (items gathered together for a woman to bring into her household once she was married). And in fact Rytze did marry a man named Schmul Aron in Winnipeg on January 10, 1910. It was an outdoor wedding (strange for January) held in the yard of their Rabbi’s house. Rytze and Schmul knew each other from their childhood in Latvia, where they grew up in neighbouring villages.
Schmul (Simon) Aron was avoiding military conscription in Latvia when he decided to leave his homeland in 1909. He travelled through France, Spain, Germany, Argentina and Boston before deciding on Winnipeg as a final destination, where friends and family awaited him. According to family legend, Mr. Aron had earned over $500 tailoring and selling bananas on the ship from Argentina to Boston, but it was all stolen by the captain! By the 1920s, Mr. Aron had set up a tailor shop on Main St. which served the people of Winnipeg for decades.
The Arons’ daughter Sophie Shinewald, who is now 98 years old, donated the rolling pin to the museum this summer, and with it the memories of her life and her parents. Artefacts, no matter how humble or seemingly commonplace, often act as a touchstone of stories and forgotten journeys. Together, the artefacts at The Manitoba Museum tell our shared history through the charming, strange, and sometimes heartbreaking stories of our ancestors.
A special thanks to Sophie Shinewald for the donation of the rolling pin and her family stories.

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Roland Sawatzky

Curator of History

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Roland Sawatzky joined The Manitoba Museum in 2011. Roland received his B.A. in Anthropology from the University of Winnipeg, M.A. in Anthropology from the University of South Carolina, and Ph.D. in Archaeology from Simon Fraser University (2005). Roland conducts research, is responsible for acquisitions, and develops exhibits related to the settlement period in Manitoba, including the development of Winnipeg. His research interests include the social meaning of material culture, 19th Century settlement in Manitoba, life in the home and historical archaeology.