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

Artifact Corner: 19th Century Couches

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at 3 couches that we have in our collections. The two maroon or burgundy colored sofas are from the Victorian era. They are booth on a wooden frame, with small brass wheels on the feet, and are upholstered with a braided trim. The other couch is an earlier piece, and was probably made some time in the 18-teens to the 1820’s. This couch is also a wooden frame, and covered in upholstery, but this couch does not have wheels on the feet. The two Victorian couches seem to have their original upholstery, but we are not so sure about the cream colored couch, we think that may have been re-covered. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of couches.

A couch, also known as a sofa, settee, futton, or chesterfield, is a piece of furniture for seating multiple people in a home. It is commonly found in the form of a bench, with upholstered armrests, and often fitted with springs and tailored cushion and pillows. The word “sofa” dates back to 2000BC in Egypt, and is derived from the Arabic word “suffah,” spelled s-u-f-f-a-h, which roughly translates to “bench”. The benches of the time were made of wood, and likely not nearly as comfortable as the couch currently gracing your living room. Wealthier people in the Egyptian, Greek, and Roman societies would have strewn pillows about their sofas as a way to add more comfort to their lounging. The average person likely just made due with their wooden benches. Unfortunately for us, fabric does not survive 2,000 years very well, so not many cushions from this era are still around. Wooden benches remained the ultimate in lounge furniture for the next 1,600 years.

All of this changes in the late 16th century. European craftsmen reimagined and revived the sofa as a comfortable addition to the newly weatherproof housing that was beginning to emerge all over Europe. In the half-century from roughly 1670 to 1730 is when virtually every kind of furniture now common in Western homes was invented. Suddenly, having a cushioned and upholstered sofa was all the rage for home decor. But, like most things, initially it was only really affordable for the wealthy. New technology often takes time to become more affordable and accessible to the masses. Throughout the 18th Century, sofas began to slowly work their way into more and more homes. By the time the Delord’s moved into their house on Cumberland Ave in 1811, couches were common in most peoples lives. During the Victorian period, sofas and couches were in pretty much every home, and in every color and textured fabric imaginable. Victorian’s loved color, and their homes were super vibrant, some might even call it garnish today. So it’s not surprise that their furniture was bright and striking, and used bold patterns too.

Our couches are in overall good condition, but if you come to visit us at the museum you will see signs asking that people not sit on them. This is because all of them are either approaching 200 years old, or in the case of the cream couch, over 200 years old. So, the body and the springs are fragile, and therefore, not something we want to test. They are a great example of what would be considered at their time to be the height of fashion and comfort in home decor. 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: Napoleon Bust and Grand Tours

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at an early 19th century porcelain bust of Napoleon Bonaparte. This piece was most likely acquired by Frances Henrietta and her husband Henry Webb on their honeymoon in Europe. The two were married in the summer of 1832, and spent over a year traveling around Europe. They spent a good deal of time in France, and collected numerous items, and had them sent back to the States. So, this piece must have been made in either 1832 or earlier. It is an all white piece, with a clear glaze over the pottery. The piece is unsigned, and may have been made for the newly bustling tourist trade. Frances and Henry actually spent the night in a room that Napoleon stayed in, and they wrote about it in their journals, so this might be a souvenir from their stay. Taking an extended vacation in Europe and “traveling the continent,” was a well established practice by the 1830’s, and was often referred to as “The Grand Tour.” Let’s learn a bit more about the Grand Tour, and what someone going on it could expect.

A Grand Tour was the custom of a trip through Europe, with Italy as one of the key destinations, undertaken by upper-class young European men of sufficient means and rank (typically accompanied by a chaperone, such as a tutor or family member) when they had come of age. The practice became extremely common between the late 17th Century through the mid 19th Century. The idea of traveling for the sake of curiosity and learning was a novel idea in the late 17th century. Following the American Revolutionary War, many young wealthy Americans began partaking in this pilgrimage to the European continent. The value of the Grand Tour lay in its exposure to the cultural legacy of classical antiquity and the Renaissance, and to the aristocratic and fashionably polite society of the European continent. In addition, it provided the only opportunity to view specific works of art, and possibly the only chance to hear certain musical pieces. It was viewed as a sort of finishing to a traditional education for well to do young people.

The itinerary for The Grand Tour varied, but the main stops were almost always Paris and Rome. Most travelers landed in France, either at the ports of Calais or Le Havre. Incidentally, Frances Henrietta and Henry Webb landed at Le Havre, a very busy port city in France in the 19th Century. From there, the traveler would likely head to Paris, where they could visit the art museums, learn French, fencing, riding, and dancing. One of the goals for spending time in Paris was to experience the sophisticated language and manners of French high society, including courtly behavior and fashion. After spending time in Paris it was time to head South, and towards Italy, and ultimately, Rome. The traveler would endure a difficult crossing over the Alps (such as at the Great St Bernard Pass), which required dismantling the carriage and larger luggage. It was a grueling passage, and not for the feint of heart. Many travelers would then spend time in Florence and Milan, exploring the Renaissance art and architecture. Then on to Rome, were the traveler could explore ancient ruins mingled with Medieval structures, and Renaissance and 19th Century architecture. On returning north, they would have to recross the Alps, but then would likely head for Vienna, Berlin, or Dresden, famous for their Universities and houses of learning. The average Grand Tour lasted anywhere from a few months to multiple years!

With this influx of people from England and the United States, a vibrant and thriving trade industry sprung up to meet the demand of travelers wanting reminders of their time on the continent. Many artisans started making slightly less expensive pieces, that were often unsigned, to sell quickly to tourists. And, not much has changed. Highly trafficked destinations are still filled with market stalls and stores loaded with knick knacks for people passing through. This piece is in great condition with minor chipping on the base. Given that it was shipped across the Atlantic in the early 1830’s, it looks pretty good. This is unique reminder of a practice that might seem pretty foreign to us today. We are so lucky to have this piece in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by!

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

Artifact Corner: Commemorative Teapot

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very special piece that has just recently become a part of our collections. This piece is a Blue Staffordshire china teapot, made sometime between 1816 and 1822. It was made to commemorate the Victory of the American Fleet over the British forces during the Battle of Plattsburgh. On both sides of the piece you will see written “Commodore Mac Donnough VICTORY.” Each side is a mirror image of the other, and it depicts two men standing on the shore watching as the battle itself rages on the lake.

This teapot is unsigned and does not contain a makers mark. It does however have a number on it. We are currently looking into try to identify the actual maker of this piece. We know of at least two other museums who have the exact same teapot in their collections. The Riverbrink Art Museum in Ontario Canada has the same teapot, and theirs is numbered with a 22. The other museum with the same teapot is Mystic Seaport in Connecticut. Their teapot is also unsigned and has a number 14 stamped on the bottom. Ours is numbered with a 3 at the bottom. Whether this was meant to indicated the number of pots being created, we simply don’t know for sure. Often times when manufacturing items in limited quantities, the makers would number them, but we don’t know if that’s why all of these pieces have different numbers on them.

Our museum was long seen as a collective memory bank, a place that stores the treasures from our community. In recent years we have stopped accepting pieces that are not directly linked to the Delord family. Now, you might ask yourself, why would we do that? Well, for starters, we have over 10,000 items in our current collections. If you take a tour through our museum, you will see about 1/10th of what we have on hand. The rest of the collections are discreetly stored out of view to the general public. Some things are too fragile to be moved often, and so are not put out on exhibit, while other things are slowly rotated through and currently stored away until they’re back out on display. We also realized that we could no longer accept new donations because we were simply running out of room to store all of these priceless items. Keep in mind we only have the house proper where we can store all of our precious artifacts.

With that being said, this past Fall we made an exception. In November we were contacted by a woman all the way from Whitefish Bay, WI. Kathy Rogers inherited a teapot from her grandmother, who purchased it in an estate sale in Ohio in the 1950’s. When her grandmother bought it, it was already missing its lid, but otherwise is in the same fantastic condition. How it ended up in an estate sale in Ohio is anyone’s guess. Kathy emailed us and asked if this might be something we would be interested in adding to our collections, and we said a resounding yes!

This teapot will be on display this season in the foyer along with a portrait that Macdonough gifted to the Delords before he left Plattsburgh. This is a beautiful and unique piece, and we are so lucky to have it join our collections! A special thanks to Kathy Rogers for generously donating this teapot to us. It will take pride of place in our museum. Please come by and see us this season, and check out this stunning teapot! Thanks so much for stopping by!

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

Artifact Corner: Winchester’s Tuberculosis Cure

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a bottle from Fannie Delord Webb Hall’s apothecary. Fannie treated the sick and poor of Plattsburgh and the surrounding community free of charge from the back room in our museum, and this is one of a myriad of treatments she offered. This particular bottle is made by Winchester’s and was marketed as a cure for consumption. Let’s learn a bit more about Winchester’s and about consumption and Victorian Medicine.

This concoction was made by Winchester and Company Chemists, located at 263 William Street, New York, NY. The company moved around quite a bit through the mid to late Victorian period, but was always stationed somewhere in New York City. Like many medicinal companies in the United States in the 19th Century, they were able to manufacture and sell basically anything in a bottle with little to no regulation by the federal government. Congress passed The Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act in 1938, which requires that new drugs show safety before a company can start selling them. Prior to that, the only regulations put on medicines were on imported drugs. So, if you were an unscrupulous business person, you could put practically anything non lethal in a bottle, slap a label on it, and sell it as a cure all. This particular bottle of Hypophosphites of lime and soda was sold as a treatment for consumption or tuberculosis. It claims that just a few teaspoons a week will prevent you from contracting TB, and that if you already have TB, a few teaspoons a day will treat it for you. Of course this claim was untrue. Taking a few teaspoons of what amounts to a salt mixture is not going to cure consumption, but that didn’t stop thousands of merchants from selling their potions.

Now you might ask yourself, why on earth would someone buy and consume an unproven drug? The answer is a bit complicated. Victorian medicine was improving upon the centuries prior, but to our modern understanding, was still quite antiquated. The people relying on this medicine were ill, and looking for something to ease their suffering and therefore willing to give just about anything a shot. Consumption or Tuberculosis was an ever present part of Victorian life. By the dawn of the 19th Century, consumption as the ancient Greeks called it, had killed one in seven of all the people that have ever lived. It was known as the Great White Plague, due to how pale the victims of TB became. Doctor’s initially thought it was hereditary, due to how often the disease was passed from parents to their children. But, consumption is actually a highly transmissible bacteria infection that attacked the lungs. The symptoms of consumption are quite brutal. The patient will have high fevers, bloody coughs, extreme exhaustion, and severe weight-loss. Consumption was a wasting disease, so often you could tell if someone was ill by their gaunt appearance. It ravaged people of all ages, socio-economic standing, religion, and race. Being diagnosed with TB in the 19th Century was basically a death sentence, as none of the treatments being offered could cure the patient of the disease. It wasn’t until 1904, when Doctor Edward Livingston Trudeau formed the National Association for the Study and Prevention of Tuberculosis, which would later become the American Lung Association, that the American public began working together to eradicate TB. In 1950, Dr. Edith Lincoln observed that isoniazid, the primary medication against TB, prevented the development of serious complications in children. Later Public Health Service trials underscored isoniazid’s important ability to prevent the spread of infection when given to household members of tuberculosis patients. Thankfully, these efforts to prevent and treat TB in the US have worked. In 2019 there were 526 deaths from TB in the United States. In 2020 there were 1.5 million deaths from TB around the world, and is the second leading infectious disease in the world, second only to COVID-19. Consumption or TB is still a very dangerous and deadly disease if not properly treated. So, you can see why people were so afraid of it, and willing to try any means of treatment.

This bottle is in great condition. We still have the original paper label, the original cork stopper, and some of the contents of the medicine, although, I would not recommend partaking of any Victorian medicines! There is some fading and foxing on the label, but that’s a normal condition with age and use. This bottle offers us a unique glimpse into mid-19th 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: Whitman’s Sampler Book

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Since Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, we thought it would be fun to look at this very small book. This diminutive publication was made to be enclosed in a box of Whitman’s chocolates. Whitman’s started including these small books in their chocolate boxes as a gift called the library chocolates. This particular book is William Shakespeares The Merchant of Venice. This book is small, it was designed to fit in your pocket, and be easily carried with you. The cover of the book is a heavy paper, unlike other books of the time that were bound in leather or a sturdy cardboard. This book was likely made the 19-teens, and was an additional treat in a box of Whitman’s Sampler chocolates. Let’s learn a bit more about Whitman’s, and the books that sometimes accompanied their famous candy.

In 1842 Stephen F. Whitman opened his first “confectionery and fruiterer shop” at Third and Market Streets in Philadelphia. His goal was to compete with the finer French candy makers of the time. They were initially very popular with sailors and subsequently their wives. The sailors would bring exotic fruits and nuts from their travels to Stephen, and he would create beautiful confections from them. Whitman’s produced the first pre-packaged candy in 1854—a box of sugar plums adorned with curlicues and rosebuds. In 1866 Stephen’s son Horace joined him in the candy making business, and Stephen changes the name of his company to Stephen F. Whitman & Son, Inc. In 1877, he introduced Instantaneous Chocolates in tin boxes, that became much-admired. The famous Whitman’s sampler was first introduced to the American market in 1912, and quickly became a popular present.

The Whitman’s sampler is probably the most recognizable product that we know from the company. The iconic yellow box has changed over the last 100 years, but is still appreciable today. The stitching design of the package was inspired by grandma’s needlework. The package of the box resembles the folk art sampler needlework, and included a bird on a branch, a Pegasus, a basket of flowers, a rocking horse, a rocking elephant, plants, a rooster, a dog, a sailboat, a tree, a house, and a bear, hence the double entendre name of the product. It was the first box of chocolates to come equipped with an index of all the varieties of the sampler printed under the lid. The Sampler’s contents vary from box to box, but generally contain milk and dark chocolate-covered caramel, coconut, molasses chew, chocolate-covered peanuts, almonds, cashews, clusters, cherry cordial, maple fudge, chocolate-covered toffee, and nougaty chocolate whipped candies. Seasonal flavors like strawberry cream, pumpkin marshmallow, and mint chocolate patties are occasionally included. The idea to include a book in the box with the chocolates happened before the United States entered the first World War. Initially it was marketed as a library and candies, but in 1917, when the US entered the War, they restyled it as “Service Chocolates.” They stated in advertisements that “nothing is too good for the boys at the front, or in the training camps,” and that “the chocolates are packed especially for them.” The advert also states that “the books are such as would be chosen by the most intelligent army the world has ever seen.” To be perfectly honest, as a book worm, this seems like a fantastic gift! Imagine being far from home, and receiving a package of delicious chocolates that remind you go home, and a pocket sized novel that will hopefully alleviate the tedium of sitting in a trench in France. This package was incredibly popular, and the program continued after the War. They offered a wide selection of books in this series, including Rip Van Winkle, Sherlock Holmes, Idylls of King, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and A Christmas Carol.

We don’t know how this book ended up in our museum, but it is in fantastic condition, given the material it’s made of. The cover is again just a heavy paper, and the pages are a very delicate paper that’s quite thin. This book was obviously cared for, and probably not carried around too much in a pocket. It is a lovely piece, and was likely a well received gift. We are so lucky to have it in our collections. Maybe pick up a box of chocolates for that special someone in your life, and as always, thanks so much for stopping by.

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

Artifact Corner: Victorian Cameos

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at these two beautiful cameos. Cameos were a favorite of Fannie Delord Webb Hall, and we have dozens in our collections. The first cameo is not set in anything, meaning it’s not something that can be worn. It may have been set jewelry at some point, but was removed from the setting. The second cameo is one of a set of earrings. It is set in gold, and has leaves and vines surrounding the cameo. The earring is also for pierced ears, which helps us to date it as Mid 1800’s. Both cameos are in great condition. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of cameos.

The cameo is usually a gem, having two different colored layers, with the figures carved in one layer so that they are raised on a background of the other. The first cameos were made about 3,000 BCE. Cameos have been found in Egypt, Summeria, Greece, and Rome. The subject of most of the cameos from this period are mythological and are often referencing their gods and goddesses. This is a roman cameo from around the 1st century BCE, and depicts a nymph riding a centaur. This is carved from sardonyx, a common stone used for carving cameos. Sardonyx is a type of agate whose banding is straight and runs parallel, making it perfect for carving cameos. Other materials that were popular at the time for carving cameos were carnelian shell, which is a lovely peachy color, Mother of pearl, which makes a bluish grey cameo, and a variety of colors of agate. Some cameos were carved of glass, which was considered the cheap version of this popular trend, and therefore made cameos affordable for anyone who wanted them.

Cameos fell out of favor after the fall of the Roman empire, and throughout the Middle Ages, but became incredibly popular again in the Renaissance period. During the Renaissance, Pope Paul II was an avid cameo collector. His passion for cameos may have led to his death, at least that was a rumor that was bandied about at the time. His excessive display of carved gems and stones on his fingers kept his hands so cold that he caught a chill that caused his death. This is in fact not true, he died of a heart attack in July of 1471. But, his affection for cameos must have been a very well known fact for that rumor to survive to this day. Queen Elizabeth I was also a big fan of cameos, and many of the women in her court wore them to curry favor with her and as symbols of wealth. Cameos remained popular in the 17th and 18th Centuries, but the era that is most well known for cameo collection is the Victorian period. Queen Victoria was an avid cameo collector, as was Napoleon Bonaparte. Napoleon actually founded a Parisian apprentice school to foster the talents of young cameo carvers. And, just like today, people wanted to copy the celebrities of their day, and so cameo collecting became very widespread. Cameos are still popular in modern jewelry, and certain celebrities continue to don these stunning works of art. Cate Blanchett often rocks this fashion trend.

Fannie Delord Webb Hall was very much a modern Victorian woman. She was fascinated by medicine, travel, and cameos. After she and her husband were married they spent over a year traveling through Europe on their honeymoon. Many of the cameos we have in our collections are likely from this period. Most of them depict figures, but we do have some that depict scenes and buildings, another common theme of cameos at the time. These two cameos are in beautiful condition, and would still be considered fashionable today. We are so lucky to have these beautiful pieces in our collections. Thanks so much for stopping by.

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

Artifact Corner: Victorian Coffee Grinder

Hi Everyone and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at this beautiful late Victorian coffee grinder. This piece is made of cast iron, and has a substantial weight to it. Perfect for setting on a table top and grinding coffee beans. This piece is also decorated with red black and gold paint. This piece was made by the Swift Mill Lane Brothers based in Poughkeepsie, NY. In 1845, Beriah Swift built a factory in Millbrook, New York to manufacture his own patented coffee mill, partnering with his cousins William and John Lane under the name Swift and Lane in 1855. The firm became the Lane Brothers in 1866. It is a very easy to use machine, simply slide the top to the side, pour in your beans, and turn the wheel. The ground coffee drops into the little tin container below, and viola, you have coffee. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of coffee.

Coffee originated in Ethiopia, and was first exported out to surrounding areas in the 15th Century by Somali merchants. Sufi monasteries in Yemen employed the beverage as an aid to concentration during prayers. By the 16th Century coffee had made it’s way through the Middle East, India, Northern Africa, Europe and South East Asia. The word coffee entered the English language in 1582 via the Dutch word, koffie, spelled k-o-f-f-ie. This comes from the Ottoman Turkish word Kahve, spelled k-a-h-v-e. Coffee’s popularity continued to flourish anywhere it was introduced.

Coffee was first introduced to the Americas in 1720. Gabriel de Clieu brought a few small coffee seedlings to Martinique in the Caribbean. The little seedlings flourished and in just 50 years the handful of coffee plants had grown to around 18,700 healthy plants. On December 16, 1773, a group of American colonists gathered at Griffin’s Wharf in Boston to protest what they saw as “taxation without representation.” The colonist dumped 342 chests of tea, imported by the British East India Company into the harbor. This first act of defiance was widely publicized throughout the colonies, and drinking tea was considered unpatriotic. But, people still wanted a caffeinated beverage in the mornings, and so, coffee became the drink du jour for Americans. Coffee continued to be popular throughout the 1800’s. During the American Civil War, each Union soldiers were allotted 36 pounds of coffee per year in their rations. In 1864, Pittsburgh-born brothers John and Charles Arbuckle began selling pre-roasted coffee by the pound, getting rich by selling it to cowboys in the West. James Folger, who sold coffee to gold miners in California, also saw great success. Several other big name coffee brands, including Maxwell House and Hills Brothers, quickly followed suit. The love of coffee continued into the 20th Century as well. In America we consume about 400 million cups of coffee per day, making us the leading coffee consumer in the world.

This coffee grinder is in fantastic condition. Most of the paint is in tact, and the the gears still move freely. The coffee tin even still has ground coffee in it. The Delord Hall family was heavily involved in the Temperance movement, and therefore, no alcohol was served in their house. But, coffee was plentiful! If you’re a coffee lover, let us know what your favorite coffee is! And as always, thanks so much for stopping by!

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