Eighty years ago, in April 1937, famed aviator Amelia Earhart, travelled to Callander, to watch the Dionne Quintuplets play, and meet with Dr. Allan Dafoe. He is the man responsible for delivering and caring for the children. Earhart reportedly drove from Toronto for the day, along with her husband George Putnam and two business acquaintances. Tragically, six weeks after her visit to the area, she disappeared while attempting to be the first female pilot to circumnavigate the globe. The circumstances surrounding her disappearance remain a mystery to this day.
An exhibit about her life and her visit to Callander is currently on display at the Callander Heritage Museum. It came together as the result of a phone call to Museum Curator Natasha Wiatr.
“Back in December, I was contacted by a lady who had an unpublished photograph of Amelia Earhart and Dr. Dafoe taken in 1937, when she came to Callander to see the Quints,” said Wiatr. “She asked if the museum would like the photo. It was taken by Arthur Hill who was a reporter during that time, who did a lot of stories about the Quints.”
The museum added the photo to one it already had of Earhart sitting with Dafoe in his study.
“We thought, let’s put an exhibit together just to remind people again of the type of people and the celebrities that visited Callander during the height of the Dionne Quintuplets celebrity.”
The more museum staff researched her visit, the more they discovered the real reason behind Earhart’s visit.
Curation Assistant Emily Paul found an article, “Ad Adventures of Quaker Oats, Quints and Amelia Earheart”, written by Arthur Marquette in the late 70’s.
Quaker Oats had run a number of successful ad campaigns over the years featuring the Quintuplets. Paul discovered that company executives, inspired by Earhart’s fame, allegedly reached out to the pilot to help launch a new campaign.
“Amelia Earhart was fundraising at the time for her around the world journey, and so it was worked out that there would be a donation made to her endeavour. In return, she would be the company’s world reporter. One of the key features of the campaign would require Earhart to report on the Quints health.”
Paul says her visit to Callander was a research trip, to get an update on their physical well-being from Dr.Dafoe.
“It was not really publicized that she was going to do this. The launch of the campaign was timed for her arrival back to the United States after her world journey,” said Paul. “The gentleman who wrote the article said the Quaker Oat company was out the donation it had made to the campaign, and was left with all these full colour ads that they chose to destroy.”
Adding to the mystery and intrigue surrounding her disappearance, and flaming conspiracy theories, is the recent release of a newly discovered photo, which some experts believe was taken after her plane went down in the Marshall Islands, near the equator in the Pacific Ocean
“Allegedly a photo was discovered in the National Archives in the United States that appears to show two caucasian people sitting on a dock in the Pacific Ocean. Upon closer inspection, it looks like there is a ship in the background, potentially towing a really large object that these history investigators claim would be the plane, and that it is her sitting on the dock, but her back is to the camera. There’s also the idea that Fred Noonan, her navigator, is also in the image,” said Wiatr.
“If this photo is true it would give more credit to the theory that she was captured by the Japanese and died in captivity, as they would have thought she was a spy for the United States at the time,” explained Wiatr.
Skeptics question the validity of this latest theory. Taking into account the picture is too blurry to clearly make out the images, some experts find the whole idea to be a little far-fetched.
The History Channel aired a special based on the latest investigation. “Amelia Earnhart: The Lost Evidence” on Sunday.
The exhibit at the Callander Bay Heritage Museum, which goes into detail about her trip to Callander, also delves into some of her background, including time spent working as a nurse’s aid in Toronto during the war effort.
People are also invited to share their thoughts on what actually happened on a display board at the museum.
The exhibit will run throughout the summer.