Artifact Corner: 19th Century Sampler

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a beautiful piece called a sampler. This is a sewing sample done by a young woman in 1821, when she was just 10 years old. This piece was made by Susan Ketchum. She was born in Canada on August 16th, 1811, and lived in Chazy, NY. Betsey Delord was born Elizabeth Ketchum, and so Susan was likely related to our Betsey. Samplers were done by young women as a way to showcase their sewing and embroidery skills. This sampler is made using a linen backer, with silk and wool thread. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of samplers and embroidery.

The English term sampler comes from the Latin “exemplum” or from the old French term “essamplaire,” meaning an example. The sampler is an example of all of the different stitches that a child had learned up to that point. It could also be used again as a reference guide to remind the student of all the different stitches they know. Remember, young people did not have Youtube to reference hundreds of years ago. The first reference book for embroidery was published in Germany in the early 1520’s. Similar books were published throughout Europe following that, and samplers became very popular in Tudor England. Many samplers from this period included lettering and artwork, such as animals, flowers, hearts, and a variety of other motifs.

As Europeans moved across the ocean and settled on a new continent, they brought their customs and traditions with them, including samplers. The earliest known American sampler was made by Loara Standish of the Plymouth Colony about 1645. Children, almost exclusively women, started working on these pieces by as young as five years old. By the 1700s, samplers depicting alphabets and numerals were worked by young ladies to learn the basic needlework skills needed to operate the family household. By the late 1700s and early 1800s, schools or academies for well-to-do young women flourished, and more elaborate pieces with decorative motifs such as verses, flowers, houses, religious, pastoral, and/or mourning scenes were being stitched. The parents of these young women proudly displayed their embroideries as showpieces of their work, talent, and status. Being able to sew was vital for women in the 18th and early 19th centuries. There were no sewing machines yet, and so being able to sew and mend garments was incredibly important, and sewing was considered women’s work.

Our beautiful sampler has the alphabet, both in block and in cursive, upper and lower case. It also has Susan’s name beautifully embroidered, along with the date. In the lower right corner there is a heart embroidered with green and red wool thread. There are some small stains on the fabric, and some of the thread has faded, but bearing in mind that this piece is 200 years old, it’s in pretty fantastic condition. This is a beautiful piece of history, and a unique window into the life of a 10 year old girl from Chazy. Susan Ketchum spent so many hours working on this piece, which was an important part of her education. We are so lucky to have this in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Urns and Potpurri

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this lovely porcelain urn from the late 18th or early 19th Century. This piece is hand painted with reds, greys, and browns and also has some gold leaf applied to the decorations. It is adorned with flowers, leaves and birds. The urn is egg shaped with a solid cap, and a separate lid that fits under the cap. Upon opening the piece, we found that it is filled with dried rose petals, and an assortment of other dried flora, what we today call potpourri. Let’s learn a bit more about potpourri, and why we might have this in our home.

Potpourri is a mixture of dried, naturally fragrant plant materials, used to provide a gentle natural scent, commonly in residential settings. It is often placed in a decorative bowl. The word “potpourri” comes into English from the French word pot-pourri. This often was a mix of dried flower petals, herbs, and spices, that would provide a pleasant fragrance to the room in which it was placed. Potpourri has been used throughout human history, but really comes into common use in the Middle Ages in Europe. Homes were quite cold and drafty in the Middle Ages, and one way of combating that was to lay rushes on the floors. Whether you lived in a castle with stone floors or a small home with beaten earth floors, you would have rushes across them. The rushes provided insulation against the cold that permeated the Northern climates of Europe. These rushes were supposed to be changed seasonally, but sometimes, that simply didn’t happen. We have an account from 15th Century scholar Erasmus in regards to the changing and condition of rush floors in England. He states that;
“The doors are, in general, laid with white clay, and are covered with rushes, occasionally renewed, but so imperfectly that the bottom layer is left undisturbed, sometimes for twenty years, harbouring expectoration, vomiting, the leakage of dogs and men, ale droppings, scraps of fish, and other abominations not fit to be mentioned.”
Clearly, Erasmus was not a fan of rush floors, and who can blame him?

One way to combat the mighty odor that could sometimes emanate from the floor covering was to scatter flower leaves, herbs, and spices throughout the rushes. This would provide a gentle scent that might just make being in these rooms covered in rush mats more bearable. The next big development for potpourri was the invention of potpourri holders in the 18th Century. It became all the rage for people to have pierced ceramic or porcelain jars in their rooms filled with sweet smelling dried plants and herbs. This practice continued through the Victorian period, and was popular even to this day. Modern potpourri is very different from what our predecessors would have used in their homes. Most modern potpourri are dried flower petals and plant matter that is scented now using natural or synthetic fragrances. This means that our potpourri is probably far more heavily scented than what they would have had in the Middle Ages.

Our beautiful Chinese urn was not designed to be a potpourri holder, but someone in our family decided that it would work just fine for that purpose. This piece is one of a matching pair we have in our collections. We are not sure who in the family purchased them, or if they were a gift. Henry Webb was a fine china and porcelain merchant, so it’s possible that these might have come through his store in Albany, but there is no way of determining this for sure. Regardless of how they came to our home, they are really lovely objects, and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Good Housekeeping Magazine

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at this copy of Good Housekeeping magazine from December of 1914. The magazine has your normal articles, some advice columns, and just like today, dozens of advertisements. The cover of the magazine is in color, while the interior is printed in black and white. Because it is the December issue, much of the magazine is about Christmas and New Years. Let’s learn a bit more about the Good Housekeeping Magazine.

Good Housekeeping’s first magazine was published on May 2, 1885. The mission of the magazine was “to produce and perpetuate perfection — or as near unto perfection as may be attained in the household.” This is certainly a lofty mission. The magazine became a monthly publication in 1891, and by 1911 it had a circulation of around 300,000 people. Now, Good Housekeeping is not only a magazine, but also an Institute that was designed to provide consumer protection and wellness. Founded in 1900, the Good Housekeeping Institute was, at first, called the Good Housekeeping Experiment Station. The invention of electricity had introduced many new labor-saving home appliances but few consumers had any real knowledge of their operation and maintenance. With the goal of studying “the problems facing the homemaker and to develop up-to-date firsthand information on solving them,” the staff at the GH Experiment Station tested products and housekeeping methods and published articles about their discoveries and observations. They also reprinted advice from readers who wrote them. One reader offered a cure for callouses (she used olive oil and cotton); another reader advised about how to launder lace drapes; and another gave tips about the best way to clean a meat chopper.

In our edition of the magazine there is a discussion about the act of gift giving around the holidays, and whether or not it is still in vogue. Here is an excerpt from the article; “It would not be advisable to stop all Christmas giving, as many conscientiously try to give gifts of value and utility. But the usual orgy of shopping, when anything, no matter how ill chosen, is purchased and sent to get someone off the list, should by all means be stopped – by each one’s not taking part in it. What is the most acceptable gift? There is none for all people. A box of candy will be just the thing for one to give; a ton of coal for another. Give what you please, but give advisedly – put your heart in it, or don’t give.” To be perfectly honest, this seems like good advice, even 100 plus years on.

Our magazine has seen better days. The cover has a lot of wear, and has come away from the main body of the magazine. This is unsurprising given that the magazine is 107 years old. Other than the cover, the body of the magazine is in quite good condition. This is a fascinating look back at one of the first women’s magazines in the United States, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot

Artifact Corner: 1910 Heinz Sales Pamphlet

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this Heinz sales pamphlet from 1910. The pamphlet is an advertisement for all of the different products that Heinz offered in 1910. Most of us know Heinz as simply a ketchup company, but as you can see in the pamphlet, they had a large variety of not only savory, but sweet condiments. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of the H.J. Heinz Company.

Henry John Heinz started selling his condiments in Pittsburgh in 1869. By the age of 16 Heinz had several employees working to cultivate he had built, and to deliver his produce to local grocers. Heinz was selling horseradish, pickles, vinegar, and other sauces, all in clear bottles so that his customers could see the quality of his goods. The original name of the company was the Anchor Pickle and Vinegar Works. By 1876, Heinz had developed its now world famous ketchup and starts manufacturing and selling it. Also in 1876 they introduce the very first sweet pickles to the market. In 1893, Heinz had a booth at the World’s Fair in Chicago. Their booth was a bit out of the way, and so Henry decided to hand out free pickle pins and samples. By the time the fair had ended, the Heinz company had handed out more than one million pins. In 1896 the company coined the slogan 57 Varieties. This was not because that’s the number of products they sold, but simply because Heinz thought the number sounded lucky.

By 1908 the Heinz company had become the largest tomato manufacturer in the world. They had also become the largest producer of pickles, vinegar, and ketchup in the United States. By 1919 the company had over 6,000 employees and 25 factories. Heinz was also a relatively progressive employer for his time. He was one of the few food manufacturers to support the federal Pure Food Act of 1906. This act prohibited the sale of misbranded or adulterated food and drugs. It also laid the groundwork for the Food and Drug Administration.

Our pamphlet lists 57 of Heinz’s products. The range of condiments that they offer is quite large. They have a number of baked beans for sale, including a vegetarian offering. They also have soups and even canned spaghetti (A L’Italienne). They have fruit preserves, butters, and marmalades. They have a wide variety of pickled goods, ranging from pickled onions, pickled walnuts, and the one that makes us scratch our heads the most, pickled stuffed mangoes. The description for these is as follows; “small melon mangoes cored and filled with finely chopped sweet pickles, deliciously spiced and seasoned, then preserved in Heinz sweet pickling liquor.” They sold for $1.00 a jar. They also sold olives, olive oils, and vinegars. Of course they have a wide variety of Ketchups, they have regular tomato ketchup, but they also have mushroom ketchup, mustard ketchup, and the oddest one of all, walnut ketchup. All of the ketchups sold at the time for 25 cents a bottle. Our pamphlet is in great condition. It has little to no wear on it, and the color is beautiful. This is a fantastic look back at vintage food advertising, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Pressed Leaves

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at some pieces that were discovered discretely pressed between the pages of Henry Webb’s bible. Henry Webb was married to our Frances Delord Webb, and the father of our Fannie Delord Webb Hall. These leaves were found throughout the book, and in one spot there was a note stating that the leaves were gathered in Hartford, CT in 1846. Interestingly, Henry Webb passed away on October 12th, 1846. So are these leaves that Henry gathered and pressed before he passed, or did perhaps his daughter, who inherited his bible collect these leaves and press them in her father’s bible? We simply don’t know for sure, but pressing and or drying leaves and flowers has a long and varied history. Let’s learn a bit more about it.

The oldest preserved flowers were found in a Roman tomb in Egypt, and are around 2,000 years old. Preserving vegetation takes on many forms and has a variety of uses. In some cases, like our leaves it’s to preserve a memory, but there are so many other uses for dried flowers and leaves. The ancient Egyptians dried plants for use in medicines, fragrances, and cosmetics. The Romans are responsible for bringing dried wreaths and garlands into common use. It became a tradition in both Greek and Roman society to bestow wreaths or garlands to politicians, athletes, poets, and even victorious warriors. Crowns of leaves and dried flowers were worn on the heads of state, much like metal and jeweled crowns are worn today. Different plants held different significance, and each had its own meaning. A dried bay laurel was considered the highest honor, and an olive wreath was used to symbolize peace. That’s where we get the phrase, “extending an olive branch” from, it was a literal symbol of peace in antiquity. In Mediaeval Europe, herb gardens were ubiquitous, and dried herbs were very important in everyday life. Church would scatter their floors with dried lavender, which was thought to ward off evil. In reality, dried lavender can ward off pests and therefore was keeping any illnesses they might bring at bay. So, even though people in the Middle Ages didn’t quite understand the science behind this practice, the idea was still sound.

The Victorian’s were very passionate about flowers. They created a whole language around them, and sending flowers was basically a dialogue. A yellow pansy meant that the sender was thinking of you, a poppy meant that the sender was not free (or in today’s parlance, not single), a white rose was a flat out rejection from the sender, while a red rose or red tulip was a declaration of love. A Canterbury Blue Bell meant that your letter had been received, a Yellow Marquerile meant to expect a visit soon, and a Red Fuchsia meant the sender thought you had excellent taste. So, what do you do with an important or special flower that you want to preserve, well, you can dry it or press it in the pages of your favorite book. Pressing a flower is very easy, and you almost guaranteed already have everything you need. If you have a beautiful flower or leaf you’d like to preserve, grab a book, and some wax paper or parchment paper. You don’t need the wax paper for this to work, it’s mostly to protect the pages of your book. Find a good spot in the middle to end of the book, and arrange the flower or leaves the way you’d like them to be preserved. In about two weeks it will be sufficiently dried, and your flower or leaf is preserved. The color will last for anywhere between 5 to 10 years. Many Victorian’s would keep their pressed flowers or leaves next to special passages or chapters in books they adored, kind of like a bookmark.

Our leaves are in good condition, given that they are 175 years old! We have removed them from the Bible because as they age, they can compromise the pages of the book, which is not something we want. These are a lovely reminder of a memory of a Fall season in CT in 1846, and we are so lucky to have them in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Grape Shot

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our artifact corner series. Today we will be looking at a 24 pound grape shot from the naval engagement on September 11th, 1814. Grape shot is a series of smaller metal balls tied around a metal post, held in place with cloth and rope. When it’s fired from a cannon it breaks up and the smaller balls scatter, almost like a shot gun. This type of shot is designed to be antipersonnel, not to sink a vessel. Both the American and British forces used grape shot during the battle, so, it’s hard to say which side these came from.

These pieces have been brought up from the bottom of Lake Champlain, and carefully conserved by the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Let’s learn a bit more about how you conserve metal when it’s been underwater for over a hundred years. When a metal artifact has been under fresh water for hundreds of years, it is likely going to be covered in rust. The first step in conserving the artifact is to remove all of the rust. A very reliable method for removing rust is electrolysis. The iron piece is submerged in a tank of water with a measured amount of sodium carbonate in it. Then a positive electrical current is run through a piece of wire grate, while a negative electrical current is run through the artifact. The charge will then slough the rust off.

Once all of the rust is removed from the artifact, it’s time to remove any other impurities on the piece. It’s time to rinse the artifact in deionized water, and then you will need to put a protective layer over the artifact. Tannic acid is applied to the artifact, and it reacts to the iron oxide converting it to iron tannate, which forms a protective barrier over the piece. The last step is to create a seal over the iron artifact that will prevent moisture from creating more rust, therefore further damaging the piece. One of the best ways to do that is to seal the piece in a microcrystalline wax. Now your artifact is conserved and will last far longer than if the piece had not been treated.

The shot and post are in fantastic condition thanks to the conservation lab at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. They are also able to conserve other types of metals and wood, but the process for each material is different. If you’d like to learn more about the conservation lab, head on over to their website, for more information. We’d like to thank the Marine Research Institute for all of the help in making this special series possible. If you enjoyed this series, check out the rest of our videos commemorating the Battle of Plattsburgh, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Punch Bowl

Hi Everyone, and welcome to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our Artifact Corner series. Today we will be looking at this exquisite punch bowl recovered from the bottom of Lake Champlain. This piece is obviously not completely intact, but a majority of the bowl has been recovered. This bowl is a piece of yellow ware, which is a vessel with a yellow to buff colored body, that is then glazed with lead or alkaline which gives the piece its yellow appearance. The size of this vessel helped us to determine its use as a punch bowl. Let’s learn a bit more about punch bowls, and punch in the early 19th Century.

Punch as a drink dates back to the early 17th Century. In 1638 a German adventurer named Johan Mandelslo wrote punch is a “kind of drink consisting of aqua vitae, rose-water, juice of citrons and sugar.” While recipes may vary most punch recipes are composed of a spirit or alcohol, citrus, water, sugar and spices. Punch drinking became insanely popular in the 18th Century, and spread far and wide throughout Europe and the newly former United States. Punch parties were very fashionable, and special vessels or punch bowls were made. Sometimes these bowls were made to commemorate important events, to celebrate sporting matches, or even to memorialize the passing of a friend. In social settings, a large punch bowl would be filled to the brim, and you would ladle out some punch into a smaller glass. If you were traveling, you might just make a large batch of punch in a bowl, and pass the bowl around, with everyone taking a sip from the bowl itself.

Now that we know a bit more about the history of punch, let’s learn a traditional punch recipe. This punch recipe is from Martha Washington’s own collection of receipts, and variations of it were very popular in the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. What you will need to make this punch are the following ingredients:

  • 1 Pot of hot black tea
  • 1 Cup of raw sugar
  • 2 Cups of water
  • 1 Dash of nutmeg
  • 1 Dash of cinnamon
  • 12 Cloves
  • 2 to 3 Lemons
  • 1 to 2 Oranges
  • 12 oz of Dark Spiced Rum

To prepare the recipe, combine the water, sugar and spices over a medium to high heat to make a simple syrup. Allow the syrup to cool for about 15 minutes before adding it to the punch bowl. If you add it while it’s still boiling, you might crack your serving vessel. While your syrup is cooling, juice your citrus fruit, and remove any seeds. Now, add your syrup, citrus juice, tea, and of course rum to your punch bowl with some ice. Mix it all together, serve and enjoy!

This punch bowl is in good condition given its history, after all, it survived a naval battle! We are so grateful to the Marine Research Institute at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum for all of their help in making this series possible. This punch bowl is one of hundreds of artifacts in their collections from the Battle of Plattsburgh. If you would like to learn more about them, go to their website, We hope you enjoy this Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration series, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Battle of Plattsburgh Edition – Draft Markers

Hi everyone, and welcome to a special Battle of Plattsburgh edition of our Artifact Corner series. We will be doing three videos featuring artifacts that were recovered from the Battle of Plattsburgh. Today we will be looking at these two copper draught markers. One is an eight foot marker and the other is a twenty foot marker. Each are made of copper, and show some signs of aging. This is hardly surprising given amount of time they spent under water. We are not sure if these draught markers are British or American.

What is a draught marker? A draught marker is something affixed to the ship to indicate how deep the hull of a vessel is sitting in the water. As you load heavy things on to a boat, the boat will inevitably sit lower in the water. So if you are loading very heavy things, like cannons, and shot to be fired from said cannons, men, and provisions for the men on to a ship, the ship’s hull will sit deeper in the water. The draught marker is there to let you know how deep your hull is. This is very important because you do not want to strike bottom with your vessel. When you are sailing a vessel out at sea, if you are away from shore, the likelihood that you will hit the bottom with your ship is small, but on an inland body of water, like say Lake Champlain, there are many rocky outcroppings and shoals that may come up out of seemingly nowhere. By 1814 Lake Champlain had been mapped by Europeans for over 200 years, so the lake was fairly well mapped by both the Americans and the British. But, the American’s definitely had a home field advantage, since this was quite literally their neck of the woods. Still, it was very important for both sides to know how deep their boats were sitting in the water.

On September 11, 1814, the two fleets of vessels engaged on Lake Champlain, just past Cumberland Head. The British and American fleets were fairly similarly matched with the exception of the range of their guns. The British had more long range cannons than the Americans, but thanks to the skills of Thomas Macdonough, the commander of the American fleet, the British were out gunned and maneuvered. The American fleet had been well trained, while the British fleet had few trained seaman. The commander of the British fleet, Captain George Downie, had mostly French Canadian militia men, who did not have experience as sailors. The battle also began inauspiciously for the British when their commander Capt. Downie was decapitated by a 20 pound cannon ball fifteen minutes into the engagement. After two hours of fierce battle on the water, the British surrendered to the Americans. It was a hard fought battle. The British lost four of their warships, 168 of their men were killed and 220 were wounded. The Americans lost 104 men, and 116 men were wounded. The Americans lost none of their vessels.

As I mentioned earlier, we don’t know if these draught markers are from and American vessel or from a British ship. One of the conundrums surrounding these pieces is the twenty foot draught marker. Neither the British or American fleets had a ship with a draught that deep, so why was it on a vessel? We may never know the answer. These two pieces have been carefully restored and preserved by the Conservation Lab at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, and are a part of their collections. We are so grateful for the generosity of the Marine Research Institute at LCMM. If you like to learn more, please check out their website, We hope you enjoyed this first video in our commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh series, and thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Pink & White Tyranny by Harriet Beecher Stowe

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a book that was published in 1871, by a very famous author, Harriet Beecher Stowe. The book is called Pink and White Tyranny, and the author expressly says that it is not a novel. Beecher Stowe says, “Now, a novel, in our days, is a three-story affair,- a complicated complex, multiform composition.” She later states that this work is, “..this is a little commonplace history, all about one man and one woman, living straight along in one little prosaic town in New England.” This book is 331 pages long, and follows the marriage of John Seymour and Lillie Ellis. It is meant to be a social commentary on the fact that men of the day wanted “sylph-like,” fashionable, delicate women, but were then disappointed to find they had married sylph-like, fashionable, delicate women. It was also Beecher Stowe’s way of warning women away from so called “easy” divorces. I won’t go too much further into the details of the book and spoil it for anyone who may want to read it, but let’s learn a bit more about the author, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Harriet Beecher Stowe was born on June 14, 1811 in Litchfield CT. She was the 6th of 11 children! Her father was a reverend, and Harriet was raised in a very religious family. Her parents wanted their children to better the world around them, and all seven of her brothers became ministers. Her eldest sister Catherine helped pioneer education for women, and her youngest sister Isabella was one of the founders of the National Women’s Suffrage Movement. In 1824 Harriet began studying at the Hartford female Seminary, which her sister Catherine founded. By 1832 her father had accepted a new position in Cincinnati, OH, and Harriet moved west with the family. It was around this time that she met her husband to be, Calvin Stowe. The pair married and had seven children together. In 1849, the couple lost their then 18 month old son to cholera. The pain was almost unbearable for Harriet, who later said that she channeled that pain to help her write her most famous novel.

In 1851, Harriet Beecher Stowe was contacted by a local abolitionist newspaper to write a piece that would “paint a word picture of slavery.” She started out with the intention of writing three or maybe four chapters that would be published in the newspaper, she wrote more than 40 chapters. The book was published in 1852 under the title “Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly,” and was an instant best seller. The book sold more than 300,000 copies in the first year of publication, and was also very popular in Europe. The book however was banned in the South. Harriet and her husband Calvin moved to Maine, and she continued writing. As they got older, they found the harsh New England winters to be a bit too much for them, and so they began to winter in Florida. All throughout her life Harriet Beecher Stowe was an abolitionist and a firm proponent for education for everyone. Harriet passed away on July 1, 1896.

If you are interested in reading Pink & White Tyranny, or any of Beecher Stowe’s works, you can find them readily available online. My only advice would be to view the works as a time capsule, and bear in mind that views towards marriage and women’s rights have changed dramatically in the last 150 years. It is an interesting book, and definitely transports you back to the Victorian mentality. Our book is in very good condition, there is very little wear to the binding or the pages. It is a neat look back at marriage in the 1870’s, and we are very lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot

Artifact Corner: Victorian Sitz Bath

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a sitz bath, spelled s -i-t-z, or otherwise known as a hip bath. The term sitz comes from the German verb sitzen, which simply means to sit. The sitz bath tub was invented in 1842, and was used as part of the Malvern Water Cure. The tub was designed in conjunction with a number of other activities that “cured” almost anything that could ail a person. Let’s learn a bit more about sitz tubs and the Malvern Water Cure.
Malvern, England is famous for it’s water. The water has been lauded for not only being refreshing, but also for curing afflictions. The first mention of the waters at Malvern goes as far back as 1622, from Bannister’s “Breviary of the Eyes.” In it he states;
“A little more I’ll of their curing tell.
How they helped sore eyes
with a new found well.
Great speech of Malvern Hills
was late reported.
Unto which spring
people in troops resorted.”

Following the discovery of the curative powers of the spring water, it started to be bottled and shipped all over England. Throughout the 17th and 18th Century, people were prescribed the water by their doctors, and either bought bottles of it, or made the trek to Malvern itself. In the 1830’s two doctors, Dr. James Wilson and Dr. James Manby Gully, set up hydrotherapy centers in Malvern. The clinics became known as The Malvern Water cure. It was a regime of plenty of Malvern water, a very strict diet, and plenty of exercise. Most of these things we can recognize today as beneficial, and this hydrotherapy actually was successful. People flocked to Malvern for “the cure,” including some very well known names like Charles Darwin. Charles Dickens wrote of the cure the following;
“It is a most beautiful place. Oh heavenly to meet the cold waters as I did this morning when I went out for a shower bath.”

Even today you can visit the many wells around Malvern and drink the water. It is reported that Queen Elizabeth II has gone to Malvern to drink from the waters, so it truly is fit for royalty.

The sitz bath was invented to be part of the regime for the patients going to the hydrotherapy clinics. It was designed to cure ailments of the lower body, and again, it did ease the discomfort of many of the patients. So, the sitz bath became popular outside of Malvern England. Our Fannie Delord Webb Hall was a self taught pharmacist, who studied medical texts voraciously. She was up to date on all of the best treatments, and ordered all of the latest apparatus of the day, so it is unsurprising that she would have purchased a sitz bath for her practice. The sitz bath was thought to help with things like digestive problems, hemorrhoids, liver obstruction, and constipation, just to name a few. It could be used with hot water or cold water, depending upon your ailment. Our sitz bath is in ok condition. There is some cracking and it will no longer hold water. Despite that, it is a unique look back into Victorian medicine, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot