Artifact Corner: Victorian Ice Skates

Hi everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at these beautiful ice skates from the early Victorian era. These skates are a combination of wood, brass and steel. The base is made of wood, the heel cap and the hardware surrounding the blade is made of brass, and the blade of the skate itself is made of steel. There are also five steel spikes sticking up from the base of the skate. These were meant to be worn with your existing boots, which would have had a heavy leather sole. The small steel spikes would help you keep the skate in place. These also would have had leather straps tied around them, to keep your shoes from slipping. The steel runners are flat, so there have been no edges cut into them. For a modern skater trying these out today, I’m sure they would be very difficult to use. Let’s learn a bit more about ice skating, and winter in the north country.

Ice skating dates back about 4,000 years to Finland as a way to save energy for long winter travels across ice. Ice skating spread in popularity through Northern European countries, mostly as a way to speed up travel and less as a leisure activity. That was not the case in China. During the Song Dynasty, which lasted from 960 to 1279, the royal family enjoyed ice skating as a sport and entertainment. In Europe, in the 13th & 14th Centuries the Dutch added edges to their skates, which allowed them more control on the ice. By the 17th & 18th Centuries in the colder European countries, ice skating was still used as a means of travel, but was also becoming more or a leisure activity for people. In England, when the river Thames froze over, it was very common to see dozens of people out skating and enjoying themselves. In Edinburgh Scotland, they organized their first formal skating club in the early 1740’s. Ice skating spread to America with the influx of northern Europeans, but was mostly a sport enjoyed by men. That is until the women’s fitness movement during the Victorian era, when ladies wanted more outdoor pursuits.

We have a lovely example of this from an article in the Plattsburgh Republican dated, January 21, 1860. It reads as follows:
“Skating is a great institution in these cold regions of the North, which are frozen up nearly half the year. The Lap’lander, the Norwegian, the Swede and the Russian make skating a national business. The Russian ladies all skate and the great Empress Catherine was a first rate skater. The ladies of Boston, and Albany, and New York are great skaters, and by another winter we shall have some first rate skaters here. Let us out upon the ice! Make the skates ring and the ice fly – only be careful and don’t bump our heads!”

Winters in Plattsburgh often meant a couple of months where Lake Champlain was frozen over, and recreational activities could be indulged on the ice. Ice skating became an incredibly popular winter activity for both men and women!

Our ice skates are in fantastic condition. There are a few scrapes on the wood, and there is some light rust on the steel of the skate, but that is to be expected. These skates are between 150 to 200 years old, so small signs of wear and some surface rust are minor to their overall condition. These are beautiful examples of early Victorian sports equipment, and give us a glimpse into winter recreation in the North Country. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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

Artifact Corner: Tuthill Portraits

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at three portraits by the same artist. All of these portraits were painted sometime in 1818, and are of Henry Delord, Betsey Delord, and their daughter Frances Henrietta. All of these paintings were done by the artist Abraham G. D. Tuthill, an early American portrait painter. Let’s learn a bit more about Abraham Tuthill.

Abraham Tuthill was born in 1776 in Oysterponds, NY. Oysterponds has been renamed since the 18th Century, and is today called Orient, NY. It’s the very tip of one of the peninsulas off Long Island. Not much is known about his childhood, except that his family were well connected. It was clear that he showed an aptitude for painting, and that with some instruction, he could become a very good painter. As a young man he came to the attention of Sylvester Dering of Shelter Island who recommended him to a relative, William Broome, of New York. Broome was an artist himself, and a mover and shaker in New York Cities arts scene. He knew that if Abraham was to succeed as an artist he needed formal training in Europe. Broome reached out to some of his wealthier friends, seeking funding to send Abraham to study art abroad. Among the patrons that funded his studies were Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr, and George Clinton. I’m sure Hamilton and Burr’s names are familiar to you, but George Clinton was a huge name in late 18th Century America. He fought in the Revolutionary War, was a delegate to the Continental Congress, Governor of NY, and Vice President of the United States. Thanks to these men and others, Tuthill set sail for England in 1800 to study under the American born painter Benjamin West.

West was a very famous British-American painter who caught the attention of King George III. He was appointed historical painter to the court and surveyor of the King’s pictures. He was also instrumental in the creation of the Royal Academy of the Arts in London, and served as its second president. Many history fans will know this work, one of his most famous, depicting the death of General Wolfe. He also painted the death of General Nelson and the Treaty of Paris. If you have not seen his works, we highly recommend checking them out. Abraham’s talents developed under West’s tutelage, but he never attained the level of artistry that West had achieved. Tuthill remained in England until 1808, and upon his return, he began painting all over New York. He traveled out west to Utica, Northern New York, and Vermont. He also worked in New York City, where he had a small studio. Tuthill ended up settling in Montpelier, VT, and that’s where he passed away in 1843. His works are in many museums and historical societies collections around New York.

After these portraits were painted, Henry Delord sent them to France, so that his sister, Julie could see his family. He had not seen his family in France for almost 20 years, and wanted them to know he had done well for himself in upstate New York. Henry had hoped to return to France himself, but passed away before he was able to. His daughter, Frances Henrietta eventually made it to the ancestral home in Nismes France, and was able to send these three portraits back to Plattsburgh. We are so lucky to have these portraits in our collections. The painting of Henry is the only likeness we have of him, and so is invaluable for our museum! The portraits are all in excellent condition, 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: Waltham Watch

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Happy 2022! We will be starting out the new year with this beautiful pocket watch. This is a swing out case pocket watch, and the case is made of sterling silver. This clock was made by the American Waltham Watch Company, based in Waltham, Massachusetts. When doing the research for this video, I found that in our accession materials, it was labeled that this clock had “no opening in back or front.” This meant that they were not able to see the serial number, or any of the other information on the watch. It seems like this case stumped our previous collections crew, and to be perfectly honest, it did for us as well. Thankfully, there are wonderful videos online to explain how to open all sorts of pocket watches. In order to access the inner workings of this clock you need to carefully unscrew the glass, and then gently pull up on the stem. This should release the movement section of the watch, and it swings out, hence the name. Let’s learn a bit more about the American Waltham Watch Company.

The company was founded by David Davis, Aaron Dennison, and Edward Howard, in 1850 in Roxbury, Massachusetts. Their goal was to make affordable quality pocket watches for the masses. Production began for them in 1851, but the first watches from the company did not hit the market until 1853. In the same year, the company was renamed, “The Boston Watch Company.” Over the next seven years the company went through a number of owners and name changes. In 1860 it became the “American Watch Company”. In 1861, the American Civil War began. The business came to an almost stand still, and the company looked poised for bankruptcy. The company downsized, and operated at bare bones levels, and managed to keep going through the war. According to the biography by Carl Sandburg, Abraham Lincoln owned and carried a Waltham “Wm. Ellery” watch. The company continued to make watches and later clocks until 1957, when they ceased production altogether. It is still possible to purchase modern quartz watches that bear the Waltham name, but these watches are unrelated to the “genuine” American Waltham Watch Company. In fact, a 1961 ruling by the Federal Trade Commission prohibited any inference that a relationship to the original Waltham Watch Company exists.

In doing the research for this video, it highlighted something that museums need to contend with all of the time when evaluating their collections. Not every person can know every thing about every type of object. We here at KDHM have thousands of artifacts in our collections, and we have a few people who work directly with these pieces. For those of you who do not know me, my name is Samantha, and I am the museum director for KDHM. This allows me close access to artifacts, and I am quite good at dealing with metals, jewelry, clothing and textiles, and some fine art pieces. Does that make me an expert on Edwardian watches? Not at all. But, with careful research and using trusted sources, anyone can learn a great deal about an object. We’ll be discussing more about how deal with our collections in upcoming videos this year.

This beautiful, and still functioning watch was made in 1923. We now know this thanks to the serial number on the watch’s movement. The case and the stem have some wear on them, which is very common with item that are worn and handled many times a day. Overall this piece is in very good condition, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. All of us at KDHM wish you a happy and healthy New Year! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by.

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

Artifact Corner: A Christmas Letter

Hi Everyone, and welcome to a special holiday edition of our series artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a letter from Lucy Ann Swetland to her step-sister, Francis Henrietta Delord. She wrote the letter some time in late December of 1829. At the time, Francis Henrietta was at a boarding school in Champlain, NY, and Lucy Ann was at home in Plattsburgh. It looks like Francis did not come home for Christmas that year, so her sister was letting her know what had happened at home. It might seem a bit weird that Francis did not just come home for the holidays, after all, it is only 21.5 miles. Well, in the 1820’s and 1830’s the roads were not as well groomed as they are today. So, using a horse and buggy, the trip probably would have taken about 7 to 8 hours one way.

Here is the letter that Lucy Ann sent to Francis:

“Dear Sister,
I have arrived here safe on Tuesday. I have spent my time very pleasantly since I have been home. I have been up to Aunt Maria’s. I suppose you want to know what I had in my stocking, or outside of it. I had a basket, something like the one Ma sent to Henrietta, only it was a little larger and prettier. Ma and me thought that a work basket would be more useful, so I am going to change it at Uncle Myer’s store for another of the same price, one like Ma’s work basket. I also had a scarlet handkerchief, cost a dollar, very large, and some raisins and a stick of candy. Rebecca sends this little sugar toy to Abram, which she got in her stocking. She also got two yards of check for aprons and raisins. Goodbye, dear sister. Your off sister, Lucy Ann Swetland.”

This letter is a fantastic insight into the lives of teenage sisters. Lucy Ann, while explaining her presents, has to get a dig in about how her basket is “larger and prettier” than her sister’s. It’s pretty clear that familial relations never change. She also mentions that she’s given a scarlet handkerchief, some raisins and a stick of candy. The act of giving children gifts for Christmas was a relatively new concept in the 1820’s. The puritans who settled in this country in the 17th Century were not big fans of celebrating Christmas. According to historian Stephen Nissenbaum, “So harshly did the Puritans think of Christmas that in Massachusetts it was actually illegal for several decades to celebrate the holiday.” Thankfully, attitudes towards the holiday lightened in the 18th Century. Then, in 1823 a poem began circulating through newspapers throughout the country, which helped shift attitudes even more in favor of celebrating the holiday. The poem, “A visit from St. Nicholas,” written by Clement Clark Moore, is more commonly known by it’s opening line. Needless to say, it became an instant classic. Here’s a bit of it:

“’Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her ’kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,”

In the poem it states that the stockings were hung by the chimney with care. A huge Christmas tree with tons of presents under it is a more modern concept. In the 1820’s and 1830’s, children would be left small treats in their stockings, similar to what Lucy Ann received. We are so lucky that transcripts of this letter are still around to remind of us of the evolution of the celebration of Christmas. All of us at KDHM wish you a happy and healthy holiday season! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by.

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

Artifact Corner: 18th Century Syllabub Cups

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at these beautiful 18th Century syllabub cups. These cups are part of a much larger set of Canton ware that the Delord’s owned. If you like to learn more about Canton ware, we’ve done an artifact corner video on them, so please check that out. These lovely little cups are designed to hold the dessert called syllabub. If you are unfamiliar with this dessert, you’re not alone. This sweet treat has fallen out of favor, but let’s learn a bit more about it.

Syllabub as a dessert has its origin in Cornwall England. The term syllabub comes from the word Sille, which is an area in the Champagne region of France that made the eponymously named wine, and the word bub, which is an Elizabethan slang word meaning a bubbling drink, hence Sille bub – wine mixed with a frothy cream. To make a syllabub, you would sweeten cream and whip it with a wine or cider. Syllabubs were very popular from the 16th Century right up through the 19th Century. From the 16th to the 18th Century, the frothier the dessert, the better! One recipe from 1769 actually calls for making it directly under the cow, as the act of milking produces a good froth. Here is the recipe:

“To make a Syllabub under the cow
Put a bottle of strong beer and a pint of cider into a punch bowl, grate in a small nutmeg and sweeten it to your taste. Then milk as much milk from the cow as will make a strong froth and the ale look clear. Let it stand an hour, then strew over it a few currants well washed, picked, and plumped before the fire. Then send it to the table.”

If you’d like to give syllabub a try, and don’t have a cow to milk handy, here is a recipe that might be a bit easier to follow. You will need the following ingredients: 2 1/2 cups of heavy cream, 3/4 of a cup of sugar, Juice and zest of one large lemon, 1 cup sweet white wine, and 1/2 cup of sherry.

  • Combine the cream, sugar, and lemon zest in the bowl of an electric mixer, you can mix this by hand, but it will take some time and will be a serious workout.
  • Combine the lemon juice, white wine, and sherry, blending together well. Mixing on low speed, slowly pour into the cream mixture, whipping for about 10 minutes until the syllabub is light and foamy.
  • Cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set in the refrigerator to chill for about 8 hours, or overnight, to let the flavors blend together. Stir the syllabub at least once while chilling to make sure the ingredients are thoroughly combined.
  • Pour the chilled syllabub into small wine glasses, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  • To serve, place the chilled glasses of syllabub on dessert plates set with long-handled spoons.

This recipe will make 6 one cup servings.

If you give this recipe a try, please let us know! Syllabubs are unique dessert that kind of resembles a frothy pudding, and will be sure to delight any dinner party. Our little syllabub cups and caps are in fantastic condition, and look ready to serve a delicious treat in even though they are well over 200 years old. 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: Child’s Music Box

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this adorable children’s toy. This toy is made from paper mache, with a whimsical scene of kid’s toys along the side of the piece. It is red overall, with a metal crank, topped with a red painted wooden knob. When you crank the handle, the box plays a song. Now, try as we might, none of us could figure out the small tune it plays. It has a paper tag attached to it, which states that this was a gift for a little girl named Ellen. This piece is early 20th Century in date, and was likely a Christmas present. Let’s learn a bit more about music boxes, and mechanical music making pieces.

So, how does a music box work? Musical boxes are mechanical musical instruments that produce sound when tuned prongs are plucked by a revolving cylinder. The deeper the teeth or tuned prongs are cut into the comb, the lower the pitch that is produced. The more shallow the teeth, the higher the pitch. The first mechanical musical instrument was invented by a pair of brothers in what is today Baghdad, Iraq, in the 9th Century. They invented a hydropowered organ which payed interchangeable cylinders. In the 13th Century in Flanders a bell ringer invented a cylinder with cams attached that would then move to ring different bells at different times. In 1665, a clockmaker in London designed a clock that would strike a series bell every quarter hour, again using a cylinder. He also made it so that the cylinders could be changed, so it would play a different tune.

The real heyday of mechanical musical boxes comes in the 18th Century. In the 1760’s watch makers in London began to create watches with a pinned drum playing popular tunes on several small bells arranged in a stack. This meant that you could literally carry a tune in your pocket. This might seem like a small and even rudimentary thing to us today, given that we carry a device in our pockets that allows us to play any song in the world. But, imagine how magical it must have been for someone 260 years ago to hear music coming from their watch?! In 1796 Antoine Favre-Salomon, a clockmaker from Geneva replaces the stack of bells by a comb with multiple pre-tuned metallic notes in order to reduce space. This combined with a horizontally placed pinned barrel produces more varied and complex sounds. Music boxes continue to grow in popularity straight through the 19th Century, until 1877 when Thomas Edison invents the phonograph. This invention allowed people to hear their favorite singers actual voices, or their favorite musicians as if they were in the same room. Edison’s amazing invention spelled doom for the music box. By the 1920’s & 1930’s most music box manufacturers had either gone out of business or scaled down their production dramatically as demand had dwindled.

Our little toy was created at the end of the craze for music boxes. Manufacturers stopped creating high priced items for adults, and decided to make far less complicated items for children. This piece is in lovely condition, with very little wear, which is rare for a children’s toy! Most of the time they were heavily used, and therefore in poor condition, and often discarded. It is a wonderful glimpse into the early 20th Century, 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: Thanksgiving

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Also, Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at the Kent Delord House museum. We took a look through the Delord family letters to see if they specifically mentioned Thanksgiving. We only have one letter that survives from Betsey Delord Swetland to her Granddaughter Fannie, that she wrote in 1855. The letter reads as follows:

My beloved child,
Thanksgiving Day I had all Mr. Coit’s family but Henry Coit and Lucy Ann’s family to dinner, ten besides your grand father and myself. We had a large roast turkey, a boiled turkey with oyster sauce, fricassee chicken with toast and white gravy, a variety of vegetables, apple and pumpkin pie, Snow Ball apples & grapes; to finish off, a strong cup of coffee. I wish you had been here. They seemed to enjoy it. Nichols and Lynde have met with a loss. Their canal boat was swamped in a high wind. A great number of hogs heads of sugar, molasses &c. rolled off in the lake. The boat filled and wet all their other goods with Mrs. Nichol’s furniture. They have insurance upon the whole, but the loss of sale must be great. Mr. Nichols and Mr. Lynde are going to N.Y. for more goods. A day or two since I was walking to the village and Mr. Lynde overtook me. He inquired if I had heard from you and if you got home well. He said he should have called oftener, but that it was very painful to him and he must try and forget [you]. Our little bay is frozen over and fill’d with boys skating. Do cheer my heart by writing more frequently.
Your loving g. mother. E. Swetland

The meal sounds familiar to us, even 170 years later, with only a couple of exceptions. I think I might take a pass on the boiled turkey in oyster sauce, but maybe that’s just me.
I think every American knows the story of the first Thanksgiving when the pilgrims and the local Native Americans, the Wampanoag, gathered together to share a feast of thanks for a good Autumn harvest, and the peace treaty they had agreed upon. Initially the holiday was celebrated mainly in the North East, but slowly began to spread across the country when people began to move West, and brought the tradition with them. Thanksgiving becoming a national holiday is largely due to one woman, Sarah Jospeha Hale. Sarah was the editor of the magazine Godey’s Lady Book, and she campaigned for Thanksgiving to become a formal holiday that would be recognized by the nation. Sarah Hale is a fascinating woman who was not only an influential editor & activist, but also talented author, and guaranteed you know one of her works. Sarah Hale wrote the children’s nursery rhyme Mary Had a Little Lamb, a classic in American literature. In 1863, in the midst of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a national holiday. All of Sarah’s hard work and petitioning had paid off.

From that time on, Thanksgiving has been celebrated on the last Thursday in November. Traditional fare for the meal includes a turkey, vegetables, and of course, some pumpkin pie. No matter what you serve today, we hope you have a beautiful meal surrounded by family and loved ones. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks so much for stopping by.

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

Artifact Corner: Historic Graffiti

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a unique piece in our collections. It’s a piece of stone. Now you might ask, why on earth would a family keep a piece of stone? This one has been carved, and held some special significance to the carver, and subsequently his family. This stone is carved with I.C. BLooDgoo / AD 1807/ MAX. The “d” appears to have been lost from the end of the name Bloodgood. This must be a family piece for Frank Bloodgood Hall, who was married to our Fannie Delord Webb Hall. We do not know the history of this stone, or why Frank had it in his possessions, but clearly it had some importance to him and his family. Carving things into stone was not a new phenomenon, even 200 years ago. Let’s learn a bit about stone carving, or what we might today call historic graffiti.

Since the New Stone Age (between 10,000 BCE to 2,000 BCE) people have been manipulating stone to make tools, sculptures, and other important and useful objects. And just like today, people wanted to leave their mark on their surroundings. One of the ways they did this was by carving images or messages into stone. This style of expression is called a petroglyph, which means a rock carving made by using a chisel on stone. Stone carving messages became insanely popular with the Greeks and Romans, and museums around the globe have tablets covered with Greek and Latin text. But people were also carving messages and art work into stones in their landscape. Roman soldiers posted at Hadrian’s Wall left messages about the fact that they were rebuilding of the wall, who the commanding officer was at the time, and even left behind a caricature of a low-level officer who they apparently didn’t care for. There is also a ton of graffiti in Pompeii that has been beautifully preserved thanks to the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 AD.

The trend of carved graffiti continued through the Middle Ages. Archaeologists working on the excavation of the church of St. Mary’s in Stoke Mandeville in England have been finding lots of stone graffiti. The church was originally built in the 11th Century, and was expanded in the mid-14th Century. Most of the graffiti appears to be made to ward off evil spirits, and protect those inside the church. Not all graffiti in the Middle Ages was religious though. The Tower of London is rife with graffiti from prisoners. This makes a lot of sense, because the people imprisoned had a lot of time on their hands. The sheer volume of stone carving at the tower is astounding and quite varied. Some of it is beautifully wrought with intricate motifs, while others seem hurriedly scrawled. The trend of leaving one’s mark continued throughout the Renaissance, and through the 18th and 19th Centuries. It was a very common practice in the Victorian period to carve your name into stone at historic sites, like you can see here. This is a picture from just down the road from us at His Majesty’s Fort at Crown Point. Victorian tourists flocked to this site, and couldn’t resist the urge to leave their mark behind.

Today it is very much frowned upon to mar historic sites, so if you are visiting one, please leave your stone chisel at home. This piece is in good condition, and thankfully because it is stored indoors and out of the elements, it will be preserved even longer. It’s a lovely example of Regency Era stone graffiti 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: 19th Century Earrings

 

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at some beautiful earrings that we have in our collections. All of these earrings are from the 19th Century. All of the earrings are a dangle style, as opposed to a small stud earring. They are all quite stunning and dramatic. All of these earrings are also for pierced ears, which was incredibly common for the Victorian era. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of earrings.

We can say with certainty that people have been piercing their ears as far back as 5,000 years ago. In September of 1991 a mummy was discovered in the Alps near the border between Austria and Italy. The man, dubbed Otzi, was determined to be around 5,000 years old, and he had pierced ears. The Egyptians also pierced theirs ears. In King Tutankhamen’s tomb they discovered earrings, and his mummy had pierced ears. In ancient Turkey, Africa and even some parts of South America it was believed that evil spirits can infiltrate humans through their ears. Metal was seen as a repellent to evil spirits, and therefore ear piercing was a common practice.  The trend continued, and was brought to Rome by none other than Julius Caesar himself. In Roman society, the custom or trend of piercing ones ears was far more common in men than in women. In the early Middle Ages, earring were quite popular amongst all the classes of society for both men and women. This trend quickly shifted though, and the popularity of pierced ears fell very much out of favor. There are two possible causes for this. The first reason is fashion. Women’s heads were mostly covered during this time period. If you were a married women, you would wear some form of hair cover, and this also obscured your ears. Therefore, why would you wear earrings? The second reason was religious. In the 13th Century, the Catholic Church condemned any kind of body modification, and ear piercing was considered just that.

All of that changed during the Renaissance. As both women’s and men’s fashions became more flamboyant, and women’s head wear no longer obscured the ears. Both men and women fully embraced the trend and the styles of earrings were very elaborate. Of course if you were wealthy, that meant you could afford to adorn yourself with jewels, and that’s just what people during this period did. With the increase in shipping and trade, and the discovery of America, this meant that there was a new class of wealthy people, the nouveau riche merchant class. One of the ways they liked to display their new found prosperity was with their clothing and jewelry. Both fabric and metals were expensive, and to adorn yourself with lots of luxurious materials was not only a fashion statement, but also a status statement. People continued to wear earrings right through the 18th and 19th Centuries with women, but began to fall out of favor with men. The earrings were often dangle earrings, and used a variety of metals, jewels, wood, ivory, and bone. In the late Victorian/early Edwardian period, ear piercing began to fall out of fashion. Whether it was due to the strict morals of the time period, or the outright racism against immigrants with pierced ears, it’s hard to pinpoint just one reason why the popularity dwindled. That’s not to say that women didn’t still want to wear earring, they did. This began the rise in popularity of the clip on or screw back earring. The clip on saw it’s heyday in the early to mid 20th Century, and was an alternative for women who wanted the fashionable look, without having to have their ears pierced. Pierced ears came back into fashion in the swinging 1960’s, and has grown in popularity. It is estimated that between 80 to 90 percent of women in America have their ears pierced, and that the trend is increasing in men as well.

The earrings that we have in our collection are in beautiful condition, and could be worn very easily today, with no one guessing they are well over 100 years old. They are such a lovely reminder of women’s fashions in the early to mid Victorian period and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thank so much for stopping by.

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

Artifact Corner: 1800 Newspaper and the sinking of the LUTINE

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a newspaper from Ulster County, NY, dated January 4, 1800. This is the Ulster County Gazette, published at Kingston, NY by Samuel Freer and Son. We think the reason why this newspaper was saved is because it was the paper that announced the death of George Washington. This was obviously a pivotal moment in American history, and therefore something that people would want to remember. The paper is adorned with black “mourning” boarders throughout. The paper published speeches made in congress and letters written to the press from local politicians and foreign dignitaries, all commemorating Washington’s life. Since the Delord household was patriotic, and had an affinity for holding on to things, it’s unsurprising that this paper was kept. The paper also has the normal advertisements, public announcements, etc. But, the editors of the paper make it clear that the paper is mostly dedicated to the passing of George Washington. In one small section of the paper they give scant details of the other pressing news, and one of the events listed states, ” The frigate Lutine, lost on the 9th of October.” Let’s learn a bit more about the sinking of the frigate LUTINE.

The LUTINE was commissioned to be built by the French government in October of 1778, and was launched on September 11, 1779. She was a 32 gun Frigate, and she was launched in Toulon, one of France’s most important naval ports. The LUTINE was captured by the British after the siege of Toulon on December 18, 1793. In 1795 she was rebuilt as a fifth rate frigate, now carrying 38 guns. She then was put into action in the North Sea, and served at the blockade of Amsterdam. In October of 1799 the LUTINE was set to be a transport vessel for passengers and cargo, bound for Hamburg Germany. The main reason for this mission was to carry 1.2 million pounds sterling to the city of Hamburg as a financial bailout in order to prevent a stock market crash. In the late 18th Century Hamburg had become one of the biggest shipping cities in Europe. They were an important trading port for Europe’s commodities, and by 1799 their warehouses and store fronts were bulging with inventory. The winter of 1799 was particularly harsh, and the harbor at Hamburg froze over bringing the busy port city to a stand still. By the the time shipping activities could resume in the Spring, the market speculation for all of these goods had dwindled, and the city was faced with financial ruin. Great Britain stepped in to help the busy port city, by sending a cash bailout. The LUTINE had gold and silver bars, gold and silver Spanish coins, and gold and silver French coins, all carefully placed in her hold. The LUTINE also had 240 passengers and crew on board the vessel.

The LUTINE was captained by a man named Lancelot Skynner. Skynner had been serving in the British Navy since he was just 13 years old. His Uncle had been a Navy captain, and had died during a particularly vicious battle with the French fleet. Clearly, being in the navy was a family tradition. Skynner was captaining the LUTINE, and was being accompanied by a sloop named the ARROW for this trip across the North Sea. On the evening of October 9th, a very strong gale kicked up, and doomed the LUTINE. Here is a letter from the British commander whose squadron was nearby:

“Sir, It is with extreme pain that I have to state to you the melancholy fate of H.M.S. Lutine, which ship ran on to the outer bank of the ‘Vlie’ Island passage on the night of the 9th inst. in a heavy gale of wind from the NNW, and I am much afraid the crew with the exception of one man, who was saved on a part of the wreck, have perished. This man, when taken up, was almost exhausted. He is at present tolerably recovered, and relates that the Lutine left Yarmouth Roads on the morning of the 9th inst. bound for the Texel, and that she had on board a considerable quantity of money.
The wind blowing strong from the NNW, and the lee tide coming on, rendered it impossible with Schowts [probably schuits, local fishing vessels] or other boats to go out to aid her until daylight in the morning, and at that time nothing was to be seen but parts of the wreck.
I shall use every endeavour to save what I can from the wreck, but from the situation she is lying in, I am afraid little will be recovered”

All 240 souls aboard the LUTINE were lost, except for one passenger who managed to hang on to a piece of floating wreckage. The gold and silver meant to bail out Hamburg was lost at the bottom of the sea. Thankfully the vessel was insured by Lloyd’s of London, and the payout to Hamburg was received.

The ships bell was retrieved from the wreck site in 1856, and sits in the main entrance to Lloyd’s of London’s firm. Many attempt have been made to retrieve the gold and silver from the wreck site. The first attempts began in as early as 1800, and the last attempt was in 1979. The most successful attempt was in 1876 when some Dutch fishermen retrieved almost 83,000 pound sterling worth of the gold and silver. Over the years, a few more gold or silver bars have been found, and some more coins have been recovered, but the bulk of the money remains in the sea. Many of the bodies were recovered, and were buried on Vlie island, including the remains of Captain Lancelot Skynner.

This disaster story is just a quick foot note in our newspaper, as the dominant story was the death of our first president, George Washington. And if you read the paper quickly, you might have missed it. But the sinking of the LUTINE was a huge event in Europe, and a fascinating story, that was overshadowed by Washington’s passing. The newspaper is in great condition given it’s age, and only has a few stains. We are so lucky to have this piece in our collections, as it gives us a glimpse into life in the very beginning of the 19th Century. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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