Artifact Corner: Silhouettes

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at these two charming silhouettes. These pictures are of Betsey Delord’s parents, Joseph Ketchum Jr. and Phebe Moore Ketchum. On the back of Joseph’s silhouette, written in ink, it says, “found in my grandmother’s old family bible, Francis D. Hall.” Betsey’s granddaughter, Fannie Delord Hall must have come across these while going through the family bible, and that level of context helps us connect these portraits to our family. Also imprinted on the back of Jospeh’s card it says, “cut with common scissors by Master Hubard, without drawing or machine.” So, what are silhouettes, and why were they so popular? Let’s learn a bit more about this beautiful portraits.

Some other common terms for a silhouette are “profile”, “shade”, “shadow portrait” or “likeness,” but the actual name, silhouette actually comes from a person. Etienne de Silhouette was a French finance minister in the mid 1700’s, and was rumored to cut these portraits in his spare time. Because his name was synonymous with doing things cheaply and because he was fond of making these images himself, this art-form was named after him. Silhouettes were incredibly popular throughout Europe from the mid 18th Century through the mid 19th Century. Silhouettes were most popular in America from the 1780’s though the 1840’s. Silhouettes were done not only of people, but also animals, and specific places, like a persons home. Silhouettes were so popular because they were far less costly than a painted portrait. Painted portraits not only cost a great deal, but they also required a great deal of time. The average person didn’t have days to sit for a painting, and the silhouettes could be done very quickly, and cheaply.

So, how does one make a silhouette? Your subject will sit in front of a light source, creating a shadow. This shadow is then drawn around and cut out out of black paper. The cut-out can then be placed against a light background to show the silhouette. Most silhouettes were just plain black profile images, like the ones we have of Joseph and Phebe, but others could be more elaborately painted and shaded to add detail to the portrait. Portraits could be done by the average person, but mostly people would go to a professional silhouette artist. Some portrait artists traveled from rural town to rural town, finding their clientele in their own houses. While others frequented the resort towns in the high seasons, hoping to generate business from the tourist trade. Some artists claimed the highest social status of the artisan class, due to their work with the nobility and royalty, because even though these pieces were inexpensive, they were all the rage, and therefore even the nobility wanted them done.

The decline of the silhouette craze really came about with the advent of photography. Initially, having your picture taken was very expensive, and therefore not an option for the average person. But, by the 1880’s having your picture taken had become quite affordable, and the silhouette trade all but disappeared. Our silhouettes are in quite good condition, and are the only portraits we have of Betsey’s parents! We are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Treasures from the Attic Intro

Hi Everyone! Today we are taking a break from our regularly scheduled artifact corner videos to tell you about our special event happening this weekend. May 6th – May 8th, from 10 to 4, we will be opening up our most rare and unique artifacts for the public to see. This may be the only time you can see them out on exhibit due to how fragile many of them are. Admission for the event is $25 or $20 if you are already a museum member, and we can take cash or check at the door. We recommend that if you are attending, you bring your cell phone and some headphones, as we have many video and audio accompaniments to the artifacts. This is a can’t miss event for all of the history lovers in our community! We hope to see you this weekend!

Artifact Corner: Victorian Gold Ring

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very small gold ring. This ring used to contain stones that would have formed a flower, but at some point the stones were removed. We don’t know why that was done. This ring is the modern equivalent of a size 4, which is pretty delicate. We know that our Frances Henrietta and Fannie Delord Webb Hall were very small women. We have examples of their clothing and their shoes, and they were both short in stature, and very petite. So, the size of this ring fit with what we know about the inhabitants of our house. Let’s learn more about the history of rings.

A ring is a round band, usually made of metal, worn as ornamental jewelry. A ring can be made of pretty much any hard material such as metal, wood, stone, or bone. The earliest still existing rings are found in the tombs of Ancient Egypt. They were primarily signet rings, and had more of a practice business purpose. A signet ring has a seal engraved on the bezel which can be used to authenticate documents by the wearer. Egyptian seal rings typically had the name and titles of the owner deeply sunk in hieroglyphic characters on an oblong gold bezel. The Ancient Greeks also had rings, but it seems like theirs were more decorative, and less for a specific function. In the Hellenistic period, Greeks started to set stones in the bezels of their rings. Carnelian and garnets were among their favorites, and the combination of gold and red was sure to have been a striking fashion statement. Roman rings held far more significance than merely being about decoration, they were a status symbol, and an indication of the wearers station in life. In the early centuries of the Roman Republic, most rings were of iron, which was a signal that the wearer was a free Roman citizen. Wearing of gold rings was restricted to certain classes, such as patricians who had held high office. The Romans are also thought to have originated the custom of betrothal rings, or engagement rings, symbolizing a promise of marriage.

Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, rings were assigned a great deal of importance, particularly in religion. Signet rings were important for religious, legal, and commercial transactions. From Kings to Popes, signet rings were a way of conferring their signature and authority to any document. In the fourteenth century King Edward II decreed that all official documents must be signed with the King’s signet ring. The majority of rings dating from these periods were destroyed when their owner died. This is because they were unique to the wearer and destroying it avoided any possibility of forged documents appearing after said nobleman’s death. Rings continued in popularity throughout the world and history, but with less of an emphasis on business. Most rings sold today are for decorative or fashionable purposes.

Rings today can be made of just about any material. You could buy a ring made from platinum or one made from silicone. Our ring was almost guaranteed to be strictly for decorative purposes. We wish we knew why the stones were removed, and what the stones were, but we don’t think we ever will. It is still a beautiful example of Victorian jewelry, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Medal of Honor

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very rare piece indeed. This is Frank Hall’s Medal of Honor, issued to him for his service as a chaplain during the American Civil War. During the Civil War, only four chaplains were issued this most prestigious honor, and our Frank Hall was one of them. Only nine chaplains in US history have ever been awarded this medal. Frank served along side the 16th New York Infantry, and was awarded this medal thanks to his gallantry and service during the battle of Salem Heights in Virginia, on May 3rd, 1863. Let’s learn a bit more about the medal of honor, and how Frank came to receive his.

The Medal of Honor was first authorized by Congress and approved by President Abraham Lincoln on December 21, 1861 for enlisted men of the United States Navy. The authorization was later amended to include officers as well as enlisted men of the army and navy, with eligibility for award retroactive to the beginning of the Civil War. The medal was to be awarded only to those who most distinguished themselves by their gallantry in action. The following quote is from the official publication of the Department of the Army, The Medal of Honor. “He who possesses the Medal of Honor is the holder of the highest military award for bravery that can be given to any individual in the United States of America.”

So, what did Frank Hall do to receive this most esteemed award? Frank was 36 years of age when he performed his heroic feat in the Civil War during the Chancellorsville Campaign, and was serving the last few weeks of his brief service as Chaplain of the 16th New York volunteer Regiment. In fact, the Battle of Salem Heights was the Regiment’s last battle. Organized soon after the outbreak of the Civil War, the 16th New York, composed of men from Clinton, Franklin and St. Lawrence Counties, was officially activated in May, 1861 for a two year tour of duty. It became part of General McClellan’s Army of the Potomac. The Regiment saw a great deal of action during the war, including the battles of 1st Bull Run, West Point, Gaines’ Mill, Glendale, Crampton’s Pass, Antietam and Salem Heights. On May 3, 1863 Frank rode back and forth from the front lines to retrieve wounded soldiers and bring them back to the hospital tents and camps. He did this repeatedly throughout the battle. Since Frank was a chaplain and a non-combatant, he was not brandishing a firearm, he was merely riding back and forth through extremely heavy fire trying to save mens lives. One of the commanding officers for the 16th New York is the one who nominated Frank for this medal. The letter informing Frank of his commendation reads as follows:
Sir:
I have the honor to inform you that, by direction of the President and in accordance with the Act of Congress approved March 3, 1863 providing for the presentation of Medals of Honor…the Assistant Secretary of War has awarded you a Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in action at the Battle of Salem Heights, Virginia, May 3, 1863…The Medal has been forwarded to you today by registered mail. Upon the receipt of it, please advise this office thereof.
Very respectfully,
F.G. Ainsworth,
Colonel U.S. Army
Chief, Record and Pension

Frank was a humble, kind, and very thoughtful man, who never expected to receive any kind of fanfare for his actions on that day. Thankfully, he was recognized for his bravery and his heroism during his time as a chaplain for the 16th New York volunteers. This is a very special piece in our collections, and one we will treasure forever. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Knitting Needles

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at these delicate and beautiful knitting needles. These needles are made from bone with little tiny ebony beads at the end of the them. We think these knitting needles are from the mid Victorian period, but they could be older. We are not sure who in the family was a knitter, but we actually have a variety of knitting needles in our collections. Let’s learn a bit more about knitting and it’s origins.

Knitting is defined as making a garment or fabric by interlocking loops of one or more yarn, either by hand with knitting needles, or by machine. The earliest examples of what we would consider modern knitting are from Northern Africa and date to around 1,100 to 1,300 CE. It is a sock made with white and blue yarn. Prior to this period, people had a method of knotting yarn to make garments using a single needle. That process was known as nalbinding, and is incredibly labor intensive, and required quit a bit of dexterity. The more modern form of knitting made the process of creating a textile or garment much easier and more time efficient. Knitting spread throughout Europe in the 14th Century, and quickly became the popular amongst laborers at the time. Having a knit wool jumper (or sweater as we call them in the US), and knit wool socks became the insanely popular with sailors and mariners in the 15th and 16th Centuries. Unsurprising, as when wool gets wet it still retains it’s warmth. In 1589 a machine for knitting was invented by the Englishman William Lee. He created the stocking frame or the knitting machine, the first ever device that imitates the hand movements of a knitter. The machine produced a pretty coarse fabric in it’s first iteration, but he later refined it to the point where it could knit fine silk stockings.

Due to the invention of the knitting machine, hand knitting in Europe began to die out, except in maybe the poorer parts of Europe. The only people who had the time to devote to it were wealthy women who enjoyed the process of what was known as “fancy knitting.” This technique was used to created elaborate textiles with incredible patterns. Knitting was also considered an acceptable way for women to earn a living in the 18th and 19th Centuries. If a woman lost her husband, or did not have the ability to do manual labor, knitting was a way to earn a respectable income. The first recorded knitting schools were established in Lincoln, Leicester, and York in the late 16th century. Hand-knitting for income continued in Yorkshire until well into the 19th century. It was also taught in orphanages and poor houses as a useful skill or potential trade. Today hand knitting is incredibly popular, and in 2016 it was estimated that around 28.8 million Americans were knitting or crocheting their own projects.

Our knitting needles are in quite good condition, despite a bit of warping of one of the needles. This is not uncommon with a natural material that may have been in too moist or too dry a place for some time. We’d love to know if you are knitting anything right now, leave us a comment down below. These needles are beautiful pieces, and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: 1830’s Women’s Shoes

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today is a very special video for us. We will be looking at two artifacts that are almost never seen by the general public. These two pairs of shoes belonged to our Frances Henrietta, and are from the early 1830’s. Both pairs of shoes are made from a silk satin with leather soles, and delicate silk ribbons that would have been laced up around the ankle. These shoes are so delicate and lightweight, they would have felt like wearing almost nothing on your feet. These shoes are so special because they seem to have been worn very little. Both pairs of shoes still has the original makers tag in the soles, and the tags are in incredible condition. Let’s learn a bit more about women’s shoes in the 1830’s.

Shoe styles for women throughout the years have gone in and out of fashion just as frequently as did women’s clothing styles. Shoes for women in the late 18th Century looked very different from the shoes Frances Henrietta wore in the 1830’s. Women’s shoes in the later part of the 18th Century had more pointed toes, and stacked leather heels. They could be made entirely of leather, or be made of sumptuous fabrics and richly embroidered. But, following the French Revolution, fashions across Europe and the United States shifted dramatically, and that included shoe style. Gone were the heeled shoes, and in came very delicate flat soled shoes. They look similar to what we would call a ballet flat today. They have a soft leather sole, with either a leather of fabric upper.

These shoes were made on a straight last. A last is a wooden form shaped like a foot that is used by shoe makers to create or repair shoes. Having a distinct right and left shoe is a relatively modern concept. These shoes were made to be identical, and after some time being worn, would mold to wearers foot. The amazing thing about our shoes is that you can see both pairs are labeled with the words droit and gauche. In 1830 in France it was common to write on the sole of the shoe droit meaning right and gauche meaning left, and since French fashion was all the rage, shoemakers around the world copied that practice. You can clearly see that the shoemaker did that in Frances’ shoes as well. Frances’ father, Henry Delord, was born and raised in France and spoke and wrote fluent French, so it’s not hard to imagine that Frances would have delighted in this little nod to French fashion. 

The makers of the shoes were J.L. Williams from Troy, NY and J.B. Miller from New York, NY. Even though Frances was a young woman, she had traveled to both of those areas in the early 1830’s. Sadly, Frances died from childbed fever when she was only 20 years old in 1834, and so her shoes, and many of her other possessions were packed up, and not worn again. It is likely because of this that these pieces are in such great condition! There is light staining on the silk, but the leather is in great condition, and the soles of the shoes are also in fantastic condition. These shoes are stunning and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. If you would like to see these shoes in person, you are in luck! We are kicking off our open season with a special event running May 6th through May 8th. It’s called Treasures from the Attic, and these shoes, and many of our never before seen or rarely seen artifacts will be on display for this special event. It’s a can’t miss event! For more information, check out the description box of the video for the museum’s contact info. We hope to see you there! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

Questions about the event where you can see these shoes? Email [email protected].
Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Henry’s Shoe Buckles

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we are looking at some very beautiful shoe buckles from the 18th Century. These belonged to Henry Delord, and would have been worn by him for special occasions or for business. The buckles themselves are made of metal, and adorned with what appears to be crystals around the exterior. Shoe buckles like these were all the rage for fashionable men from the 17th through the 18th Centuries. These buckles would certainly get your attention, and that was exactly what they were worn for. Let’s learn a bit more about shoe buckles in Henry Delord’s day.

Shoe buckles have been around for quite some time. They were in vogue in the Middle Ages, but like most fashion trends fell our of favor during the Renaissance. It wasn’t until the mid 17th Century that shoe buckles came back into fashion. Samuel Pepys, in an often-quoted diary entry for 22 January 1660 states that on, “This day I began to put buckles on my shoes.” The fashion trend took a bit of time to filter down to the average person, but by the 1680’s, pretty much everyone was wearing buckled shoes. As the trend continued to grow, more elaborate styles became popular. Demand for shoe buckles made the manufacturing of them a thriving industry. In Chambers’ Encyclopædia: A Dictionary of Universal Knowledge, Volume II, it states that: “In the latter half of the 18th century the manufacture of buckles was carried on most extensively in Birmingham, there being at one time not less than 4000 people directly employed in that town and its vicinity, who turned out 2,500,000 pairs of buckles annually, the prices ranged from one shilling to five guineas, and even ten guineas a pair.” Just to put that in perspective, the average laborer in England in the year 1800 earned only 12 pounds a year. So ten guineas was almost an entire year’s salary if you wanted fancy shoe buckles.

Shoe buckles were made from a variety of metals including silver, brass, iron, steel, copper, or pewter. They could be sold as just bare metal, which were the least expensive, to have some paste jewels adorning them, which were more expensive, to actual jewels on them, which were saved only for the very wealthy. Paste is a heavy high-lead glass. It is more easily cut and shaped than diamonds, and could be close-set without the visual intrusion of metal settings. The “stones” were often set with foil behind them to give them a brilliance and a shimmer, but the settings needed to be air tight so that the foil would not be exposed to air, and therefore corrode. The foil backings could also have color to give the illusion of different gem stones, and not just giving the appearance of diamonds. Shoe buckles increased in size through the 18th century, reaching massive proportions in the 1770s. All of the most fashionable men and women had large, elaborately decorated shoe buckles. By the 1790’s shoes buckles were falling out of use for a couple of reasons. The first being the new style of delicate flat heeled slipper being worn by women was too delicate for the large bulky buckles. The second being the French Revolution, modest fashions were taking over, and they saw the “old style” of buckles as passé and even garish.

The ones we have in our collection are a form of paste jewelry. While our buckles are missing a few stones, they are still in quite good condition, given their age. They are still quite brilliant in the sunlight, and would surely make someone take notice of your footwear. They are absolutely beautiful, and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Colt Revolver

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at one of Frank Hall’s revolvers. We have three revolvers in our collections. Two of them are from the company Smith & Wesson, while this revolver was made by Colt Fire Arms Manufacturing Company. This is a Colt model 1855 side hammer pocket revolver. Frank Hall served as a Chaplain for the New York 16th Volunteer Regiment in the Civil War, but he was a non combatant. As a non combatant, he was never issued a firearm by the army, so we are not sure why he had these weapons. We do know that Frank liked to go camping for long stretches of time in the Adirondacks, so it’s possible that he may have had these for protection? We simply don’t know for sure. Let’s learn a bit more about the Colt fire Arms Manufacturing Company.

In 1836, Samuel Colt founded his first corporation for fire arms manufacture, the Patent Arms Manufacturing Company of Paterson, New Jersey, Colt’s Patent. The first firearm manufactured at the new Paterson plant, however, was the Colt First Model Ring Lever rifle beginning in 1837. This initial version of the Colt company had a number of problems with manufacturing, which led to many of the weapons produced in this factory to either be unreliable, or simply not work at all. The Army reported many problems with the weapons they purchased, and this iteration of the Colt company ended in 1842. By 1848, Samuel Colt made another attempt at gun manufacturing, and now had a better grasp of how to make a quality product. By 1855 Samuel had created his new and improved company, Colt’s Patent Fire Arms Manufacturing Company of Hartford, Connecticut.

And that’s where our revolver comes into existence. As mentioned earlier, our revolver is a Colt Model 1855 Sidehammer. This was also known as the Colt Root Revolver after engineer Elisha K. Root. It is a cap & ball single-action pocket revolver. This means that there is not a modern bullet loaded into each of the six chambers. In order to use this weapon, you would first measure out the black powder that you would need, load that into the chamber, then you would add the lead ball that will be the projectile you will be firing. There is a built in loading lever on this particular model which acts as a ram rod to press the ball and powder firmly in the chamber. Then you can seal the chambers with beeswax, or a combination of beeswax and tallow, which also helps to lubricate the barrel, and hopefully keep moisture away from the powder. Colt made multiple models of this revolver, and the one we have in our collections was made sometime between 1856 to 1860, based on the serial number on the piece. Colt remained one of the leading manufacturer of firearms for the military and civilian use in the United States, although the company is now no longer and American owned entity. Colt is now owned by a company in Prague, in the Czech Republic.

This revolver is in fantastic condition, but even though it is, it’s not something we would ever try to use. Antique firearms can be dangerous, and if you have a piece that you would like to use, we suggest taking it to a professional for inspection before doing so. Anything made from metal can fatigue, which means that the metal may have small hairline fractures that you might not be able to easily see, making that piece dangerous to operate. So, our three revolvers will remain display pieces. This Colt model 1855 is an interesting look back at cap and ball style revolvers, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com

Artifact Corner: Portrait of MacDonough

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at a very small portrait in our collections. This is a portrait of Thomas Macdonough, the commander of the US fleet at the Battle of Plattsburgh. Thomas Macdonough was a frequent guest at the Delord household, and dined with the Henry and Betsey often during his time in Plattsburgh. Following their victory at the Battle of Plattsburgh, the citizens of the city wanted to do something to honor Macdonough and his men. The most prominent town leaders drafted a letter and went to hand deliver it to Macdonough, inviting him and his men to a celebration in honor of his victory. Henry Delord was among the citizens who organized and threw the party for them. It was just before Macdonough left Plattsburgh that he gifted this portrait to his friends, Betsey and Henry Delord. Let’s learn a bit more about the fascinating life of Thomas Macdonough.

Now many of us being native to the Lake Champlain region know the name Thomas Macdonough very well due to his victory over the British during the War of 1812. But let’s explore the rest of his life and illustrious career. Thomas MacDonough was born December 31, 1783 in a rural farm area in Delaware. Thomas was one of 10 children! His father was a Major in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. His parents sadly died when Thomas was quite young, and by the age of 12 he had a job as a store clerk to help support his family. By the age of 16 he had received his first naval commission, and was ordered to the 24 gun corvette Ganges. He earned some level of distinction when he sailed under the cover of night into the harbor at Tripoli, boarded a fully manned pirate vessel and burned it. Macdonough was described as a tall, quiet man, who was very duty driven and much beloved by all who served with him and under him.

Thomas was promoted to lieutenant in 1807, and stationed in Connecticut. It was around this time that he met his wife, Ann Shaler. The two married and ended up having nine children together. While stationed in Connecticut his mission was to prevent the English and the French from stealing cargo from ships coming and going. From 1810 to 1812 Macdonough took a leave from the navy, and we don’t know much about what he did during this time. But on June 18th, 1812 the Senate and House voted to declare war against Great Britain. Thomas was sent to Lake Champlain in October of 1812 and tasked with defending this vital waterway. He began building up the dismal fleet on the lake, and preparing for the British to come south. They did in May of 1814, when they attack Fort Cassin, and were rebuffed by the Americans. The British sailed south again in September of 1814, and were decisively defeated by Macdonough and his men at the Battle of Plattsburgh on September 11. Winston Churchill later called this victory “the most decisive engagement of the war.” Macdonough relieved Isaac Hull of command of the Portsmouth Navy Yard on July 1, 1815, and remained there for three years. By 1818 he was commanding the USS Guerriere a 44 gun frigate in the Mediterranean. By this point it was clear the Macdonough was ill with Tuberculosis, though he continued to work and serve in the Navy. In 1824 he received command of the USS Constitution, also serving in and around the Mediterranean. Within a year it was clear that his health was failing and in October of 1825 he turned command of Constitution over to Captain Daniel T. Patterson. He was transferred to the USS Edwin bound for New York, with the hopes of being able to return home. He sadly passed away on November 10th, 1825 still onboard the Edwin. His body was brought home and laid to rest in Middletown, CT.

This small portrait was given in gratitude for the hospitality that the Delord’s provided to Thomas and his family. This portrait was painted by George Freeman, a self taught miniature artist, and you can see his signature just above the left epaulette. This is a watercolor on paper, and is in lovely condition. We are so lucky to have this thoughtful gift from an incredibly talented Naval commander in our collections. It is truly a treasured piece. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot, www.bensound.com