Artifact Corner: Episode 24 – Fulton Miniature Portraits

Hi everyone, and welcome to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at two miniature portraits. These portraits are of Frank Hall’s parents, Margaret Bloodgood Hall & Nathaniel Nye Hall. Frank Hall was the husband of Fannie Delord Webb Hall, who was the last family member to live in our house. Both of these portraits are watercolor on ivory in blue velvet frames. Each of these were painted by Robert Fulton. Both of these paintings were inspected by the Frick Museum in NYC, and they made the attribution to the artist Robert Fulton. Fulton is a pretty fascinating character, with a varied career.

Let’s take a look at Robert Fulton. Fulton was born Lancaster Pennsylvania on November 14th, 1765. His family were Irish immigrants who lost their farm due to a mortgage foreclosure. At the age of eight Robert was sent to a Quaker school for his early education. He later went on to apprentice at a Jewelry makers shop in Philadelphia, painting miniature portraits on ivory for lockets. Fulton was eager to progress his portrait painting, and sought sponsorships for a trip to Europe to study abroad. Robert traveled to London in 1787, and continued to paint, but did not make much of an impression on the art scene. By 1794, he had pretty much given up at being a painter, and started expressing an interest in canals and inland waterway travel. In 1796 he wrote the Treatise on the improvement of canal navigation. He designed bridges to accommodate canal boats, and there are a few bridges in the British Isles that are based on his designs. As for his designs for canals, no one in England was interested.

In 1797 Fulton traveled to France, in an attempt to further his civil engineering career, which was going no where in England. When he arrived in France, he tried to pitch the French government on a new vehicle he had conceived of, a submarine. At the time, Britain and France were at war, and Robert thought he could sell them on his idea as a means of destroying British ships. He thought his new machine would be able to creep under British war vessels, leave a explosive charge beneath them, and then detonate them at a later time. The French government turned him down, saying that this type of warfare would be barbaric and disgraceful. Fulton pushed on and funded the building of his submarine anyway, naming it Nautilus. He conducted his trials with his new machine in the Seine River, and finally got a government contract to test his vessel on British ships. The attempt was a total flop, and his submarine was far too slow to keep up with the British ships.

In 1801, Fulton met Robert R Livingston, an American diplomat to France, and one of the drafters of the U.S. Constitution. Livingston had obtained a 20 year monopoly for steamboat navigation in New York State. The two men decided to build a prototype of Fulton’s design for a steamboat. It was a 66 foot long vessel, with an eight horse power engine, and side paddle wheels. The engine ended up breaking the hull of the original vessel, but they put the engine on another hull, and they were encouraged by the results of the new hull. Robert ordered a larger engine, 24 horse power, with a plan to build a steamboat on the Hudson River. By 1806, Fulton was back in New York, and started work on his steamboat immediately. In August of 1807, his vessel was ready for trials. The goal was to create a much faster route from New York City to Albany. Their first run traversed the 150 miles in just 32 hours. This was a huge accomplishment, as sailing vessels took an average of 4 full days to make the trip from NY to Albany. By September, Fulton began commercial trips from Albany to NYC. His vessel, which was renamed, is now referred to as The Clermont.

By 1810, Fulton had three commercial steamboats operating on two different rivers, and his boats had replaced most of the horse powered ferries in Boston, NY, and Philadelphia. As the US entered into the War of 1812 with Britain, Fulton joined a commission for the building of the Erie Canal. Britain was blockading most ports, and the US needed to be able to move goods more effectively through our huge nation, without relying on the sea. Sadly, Fulton would not see the building or completion of the Erie Canal. In February of 1815, while traveling home to NYC from Trenton NJ, Robert caught a chill. He passed away on February 24, 1815, at age 49.

It was during his nine years back in the US that our portraits were painted. Even though Fulton’s most famous for his invention of the steamboat, he never stopped painting completely. This is a miniature portrait of Mrs. Manigault Heyward, and you can see that his portraiture style is very distinct. This portrait is also a watercolor on ivory, just like ours. Both of our miniatures are in good condition, given that they are over two hundred years old. The frames, which would have been completely covered with blue velvet have seen better days. They were likely painted between 1812 to 1815, given the attire that the pair are wearing. Nathaniel served as a Lieutenant in the War of 1812, and you can tell by the epaulets on his jacket that his is serving in the military. Also, Margaret’s hair and gown are distinctive to this period. We are so lucky to have these beautiful portraits in our collection. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Episode 23 – Men’s Regency Fashion

Hi Everyone, and welcome to our second video of 2021! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. Today we are going to be looking at some of the portraits of the Webb Family we have in our collections. We thought it might be interesting to explore men’s high fashion in the Regency Era. This is such an fascinating time for men’s formal attire. Let’s explore the changes to men’s clothes from late 18th Century to the Regency period.

Fashion in the late 1700’s was very colorful and flamboyant. Men’s jackets were made of sumptuous fabrics and were intricately decorated with embroidery. They wore vests, called waistcoats or wescots, which were all generously decorated and colorful. Wearing wigs at the beginning of the 1700’s was a must before leaving the house, but by the end of the 18th Century was typically saved for special occasions. Men wore knee length breeches and stocking of silk or fine wool. Their shoes were leather, with a stacked heel and a decorative buckle.

Following the French Revolution, the elaborate styles that were so popular during the 18th Century, began to be viewed as garish, and fashion started to shift toward more functional and simple garments. The Regency Era (or Empire Era as it was known in France) began in 1795 and ran through about 1825. Mens fashions changed dramatically. Gone were the elaborately decorated colorful garments. The fashion was now muted colors, browns, blues and black for more formal occasions. Cut and construction was far more important than embroidery embellishment. Coats were cut away in the front with long tails, breeches became longer, and tall leather riding boots were very fashionable. Gone were the wigs of the past, and in their place were hats. Just think of Mr. Darcy or any other male character from a Jane Austen novel. And yes, I threw this line in just so we could insert a picture of Collin Firth in Regency clothing.

The Regency period was the era of the Dandy. A Dandy was a man who placed particular importance on his clothing and his appearance. It was basically a cult of self, bordering on narcissism. Beau Brummell is a perfect example of a Dandy. From the mid-1790s, Beau Brummell was the early incarnation of “the celebrity”, a man chiefly famous for being famous. He was never unpowdered or unperfumed, he was immaculately bathed and shaved, and dressed in a plain dark blue coat. He was always perfectly brushed, perfectly fitted, showing much perfectly starched linen, all freshly laundered, and composed with an elaborately knotted cravat. The average person could never be a Dandy. The shear cost of this lifestyle was astronomic. And to illustrate that point, Beau Brummell spent his entire fortune, and ended up dying penniless in an insane asylum.

We are so lucky to have a number of beautiful portraits of Regency and Romantic era men’s formal attire. Each one shows the meticulous detail of high fashion in this time period. The Webb family was well to do enough to have formal clothing, and to have their portraits painted. Thanks to that we have a glimpse of the beautifully crafted garments that men wore more than 200 years ago. We hope you enjoyed this look back at men’s fashion. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Episode 22 – Cantonware

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to our first Artifact Corner of 2021! We hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. We are heading in to 2021 with a whole bunch of new artifacts for you to see. Today we will be looking at some beautiful Chinese porcelain that we have in our collections. This set is called Canton ware. In the 18th Century it was called “China Trade ware.” So, how did the Delord’s end up with a porcelain set from the other side of the world? Let’s explore Canton ware.

Canton ware was fired in the kilns at the Provence of Ching-Te Chen. It was then shipped via the East India Trading Company to Canton. Canton is a seaside port city, perfect for the export of goods. There were many fine painters and enameling shops in Canton. The unfinished porcelain pieces were brought there to be decorated before shipping. This lead to the porcelain pieces being called Canton ware. From this port the ware was shipped to Europe and America in the hulls of ships. Because of this, the porcelain was also called “ballast ware.” Ballast refers to a heavy material that is placed low in the vessel in order to improve it’s stability.

So, how is porcelain like this made 300 years ago? It all starts with the craftspeople. Just like any trade in the 18th and 19th century, you would start your career as an apprentice, and work your way up to becoming a master. In the workshops in China, each person did one job, and became extremely skilled at just that one job. If you were a painter of porcelain, that was your only job in the workshop, and after years of doing it, they could get to the point of painting a small bowl in less than a minute. The bowls started by being thrown on a potters wheel. There was no electricity, so the potter would sit above the wheel, and start it spinning by using a long wooden rod. This is called throwing the pot. Once the pot is formed, it will then be shaped and made uniform by another crafts person. It then has an initial firing. Then it moves on to glazing. Then to decorating, and then to a second firing. Firing the pot gives it it’s strength and durability, and the glossy texture we all recognize today.

In the 18th and 19th Century demand in America for porcelain from the East was extremely high. Members of the merchant class really desired Canton ware, and George Washington was said to be a big fan of it as well. It was very high fashion to have Canton ware, or blue and white porcelain on your dining room table. Since Henry Delord was a merchant, who operated a store, it’s probable that he imported this set for he and his wife. Henry and Betsey entertained a number of high profile people in their home. They served Thomas MacDonough after his victory at the Battle of Plattsburgh, and President James Monroe when he visited Plattsburgh. It’s amazing to think that these two important historic figures probably ate from our Canton ware! We hope you enjoyed this look into a very special assemblage of pieces in our collection. Thanks so much for stopping by!

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot

Artifact Corner: Episode 21 – Fencing Foil

Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we are going to be looking at a very neat object. This is a fencing foil. A fencing foil is a thin, flexible blade that narrows into a blunt tip. This foil is steal with a wooden handle that’s wrapped in twine, and a steal guard. This foil is likely French, and probably early 19th century. In the past a fencing foil was used in place of a sword, to master the art swordsmanship.
So, let’s take a look at fencing. Fencing schools date back to the 11th century. The oldest surviving book of Western swordsmanship dates to around 1300. During the Renaissance, the thriving center for the fencing arts was in Italy. Italian master Fiori de’l Liberi wrote a manual for fencing or swordsmanship in the early 1400’s. This is a passage from his work, as translated by Pisani Dosssi:
“My, friend, if you want to know the practice of the weapons, bring with you all that this book teaches.
Be audacious in the attack and let your soul not be old. Have no fear in your mind; be on guard, you can make it………..
If you don’t have audacity of heart, all else is missing. Audacity, such virtue is what this art is all about.”
In the 18th Century, the Italian school was still the most highly prized in terms of education, but it’s teachings were slowly being modified upon by the French school. The French School of fencing emphasized that all actions are made with minimum force to the fencer, focusing more on the exact positioning of the body and the blade. The larger flourishing movements of the Italian school were considered superfluous, and a waste of energy. Our foil is most likely French, and comes from the time period when the French school of fencing was at its height.
Our foil is intact and in quite good condition given it’s age, and the hard life that most foils have. This piece, like all striking weapons was used, and while it did not receive the same abuse as say a sword would, it still took blows. We thank you so much for spending time with us this year, and hope you’ve enjoyed our videos. This is going to be our last video of 2020. We will be taking a break for the next two weeks for the upcoming holidays. We wish you all a wonderful Holiday season, and we will see you again in 2021! Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Episode 20

Hi everyone, and welcome to a particularly interesting artifact corner. One of the members of our board just so happens to be a drone pilot. He decided to use his talents and take some pictures of the museum on a lovely Fall day. This seems like a perfect time to talk about the home itself, which not only houses our collections but is a part of it as well.

The original home was much smaller than what you see today. The original structure, built in 1797 was a single story timber framed building. In 1810, Henry Delord purchased the home and the 3 acres of property from Mrs. James Kent for the sum of $850. Henry Delord and his wife Betsey wanted to expand the structure. In August of 1811 Henry contracted with a master carpenter named David Hawkins. Henry drew up the plans for the home himself, wanting a grand Federal style building. In his contract with Hawkins it states that Hawkins should build “in a workman like manner.”

As construction was happening on the home, Henry stayed on their farm in Peru while Betsey stayed in Plattsburgh to look after the workman. Betsey writes letters to Henry to keep him informed of the progress. Here is a letter she wrote to Henry.

“Dear Hub,
I have been as busy as a bee. Every day I have been to our house. Our men all appear to be doing very nice. The window blinds are all up nice. Got one room lath’d and most another. They will begin today the floors. Miller came and is preparing to go to work. I exhorted him to be vigilant. I spend some time there every day and Hawkins gets some liquor of me every day. I feel quite the woman of business. Adieu, yours ever, B. Delord”

In the late Fall of 1811 the Delord’s had moved into their new home, despite construction still being underway. At this time, Betsey is directing the packing of their possessions at the farm in Peru. She writes to Henry and says, “The loose things have been well secured in the large chest: books, your papers, tea urns, candlesticks, blankets, and have nailed it. In the small box is cordials, empty bottles, the tallow. Tomorrow I shall send tables and chairs, &c.” In April of 1812 Henry made another contract with David Hawkins to build a barn with room for grain, wood, and a carriage. In total Henry paid Hawkins about $500 for his work on the home and barn.

Work on the home continued throughout the next hundred years. As any home owners knows, there is always something breaking and needing repair. In 1830, Betsey writes to her daughter Francis, while she was away at school about more repairs and work being done on the home. Betsey writes, “I thought I would just write and tell you we are going on bravely with our work. Altho we are all dust and lime, we can only occupy the parlor and kitchen, and then we are all covered with dust. We can’t expect to be any thing like settled until the work is completed and that will be some time.” Having lived through construction, these sentiments are all too familiar even 190 years later. Right now we are working on replacing the siding on the home and repainting it. So, construction and repairs continue on the home even to this day. We hope you have enjoyed this unique birds eye view of the museum.

For more of Betsey’s journals, check out Love and Duty, a collection of letters and diaries from three generations of Delord-Webbb women.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Thanks so much for stopping by.

Artifact Corner: Episode 19

Hi Everyone and welcome back to artifact corner. Today we will be looking at some stereoscopes or stereoscopic photography. This stereoscope was taken in front of our house in 1864, at the time of William Swetland’s funeral. You can see our beautiful fence in the foreground, along with the family gathering for the funeral. The attire really helps to date this card. The women’s full skirts are very indicative of the earlier part of the 1860’s, because by 1868, 1869 skirt silhouettes were starting to slim down.

Stereoscopic photography was invented by Sir Charles Wheatstone in 1832. He developed the binocular device that allowed you to view these images, making them three dimensional. The viewer allows each eye to see the image separately which creates the three dimensional effect. Stereoscopic photography really hit it’s hay day in the mid 1800’s. In 1856, the London Stereoscopic Company began sending photographers around the world to create cards for over 100,000 different places around the world.

Most middle and upper class homes had a stereoscopic viewer and began collecting cards. This is basically the “virtual reality” of the 1800’s. Some people found that the original viewers were causing headaches. In 1861, Oliver Wendell Holmes and Joseph Bates invited a hand held viewer that allowed the user to adjust the focal distance, thereby avoiding headaches. People flocked to buy this less expensive version of the viewer. In 1873 there was a financial crash that caused many companies to go out of business, leading many stereo card makers to shutter their doors as well. Thanks to this, the popularity of the cards and viewers declined.

As with all things, stereoscopic photography is having a bit of a resurgence. In 1922 The London Stereoscopic Company was dissolved. In 2008, Brian May (the guitarist for the band Queen) decided to form a modern day version of The London Stereoscopic Company. They have to this day published nine books of stereoscopic pictures. Some were taken by photographers from the 1850’s and 60’s, while other have been taken by Dr. May himself. He has been a fan of stereoscopic photography from childhood, and has been taking stereoscopic photos for most of his life. They have also created a new viewer that can be stored flat, and with the books, making it easy to store on bookshelves.

We at the museum have hundreds of these cards. Our family clearly appreciated the entertainment and novelty of stereoscopic photography. Imagine how fascinating it would be to see images of far away places in 3D, especially when photography was still so new, and drawings or portraits had previously been the only way to see distant lands. We hope you enjoyed this glimpse into Victorian entertainment. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Music: Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

Artifact Corner: Episode 18

Hi Everyone and welcome back to Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at some Roman oil lamps, and the story behind how they came to be in our museum. These oil lamps were purchased when Frances Henrietta Delord Webb was on her honeymoon following her marriage to Henry Webb.

Frances Henrietta and Henry Webb were married on August 13, 1832, in the Gold Parlor room. Following their marriage, they traveled to Connecticut to visit Henry Webb’s family, and he could introduce Frances to his sisters. After their visit to CT, they set off for a year long honeymoon in Europe. Before they got married, Frances received word that her Aunt Julia, her father’s sister in France, had passed away. Frances was the heir to the family’s estate in France. In order to claim her inheritance, it was required that she go to Nimes to collect it. Another relative of hers was attempting to claim the inheritance, stating that Frances didn’t even exist. So, following their marriage, it was time for Frances to head to Europe and straighten things out.

Sailing to Europe in the early 1800’s was an ordeal. The average trip took four to six weeks to cross the Atlantic, but if the weather was bad, it could take up to 14 weeks! Henry and Francis left New York harbor on September 1st on a ship called the Rhone, and arrived in France on October 1st. Frances writes to her mother about the trip stating, “Sad to relate that until a day past, I have been seasick.” They cleared up the confusion over her inheritance, and traveled south from France to Italy.

It was during their time in Italy that Henry and Frances likely acquired these two lamps. Oil lamps were ubiquitous in ancient Rome. Every household had lamps, regardless of their income level. These are clay oil lamps. You can clearly see that these have been used, thanks to the blackening around the wick hole. Unlike modern oil lamps that use a type of paraffin, the most common oil used was olive oil. Oil lamps were so popular because they threw off more light than a candle and made tasks in dwindling light far easier.

Henry and Frances returned to the United States in August of 1833, after having spent almost a year abroad. Sadly, their happy union was to be short lived. After returning back from their honeymoon, Frances discovered she was pregnant. She gave birth to a healthy baby girl on February 11, 1834. Sadly, it was clear shortly thereafter that she was quite ill following the birth. She passed away from childbed fever on March 15th at the age of just 20 years old. Her daughter, also named Frances, was her sole heir, and inherited all of the pieces from her parents honeymoon. That is how we come to have these roman oil lamps in our small museum in Plattsburgh. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Artifact Corner: Episode 17

Happy Halloween! Hi everyone, and welcome back to our second Halloween edition of artifact corner. Today we are back at Riverside cemetery, and we will be taking a look at how cemeteries and gravestones have evolved over the last 200 plus years. So let’s jump right in. Early Colonial cemeteries grew up around settlement. Early headstones were typically smaller in size and made of softer, more easily harvested stones. Sandstone, slate, and eventually marble were very popular because they are easy to quarry, and to move to a location. This picture is of a stone in the Pine Grove Cemetery in Hampton, NH. This stone belongs to Susanna Smith, who died in 1680. You can see the stone, despite being 340 years old, is still quite legible. The stone is quite small, and lacking decoration. Large “flashy” headstones were not common. This is not to say that they did not have motifs on headstones. A common motif was a winged death head. This symbolized deaths grip on man, and its inevitability. During this time, gravestone carving was not a full time position, simply because there was not enough demand. Across America, most gravestones were carved by regular stone masons. In the 18th Century, headstones become more elaborated and decorative. The winged deaths head of the 1600’s is replaced by a bit friendlier motif of the winged angel. Views on death and the afterlife had softened, and the angel was representative of the eternal life that was awaiting the deceased. In the later 1700’s and early 1800’s we see beautiful willow trees, a symbol of sorrow for the departed, and intricate scroll work along the edges of the stones. The stones also get taller in the period. The shorter more demure stones of the 1600’s are replaced with stones that could be in excess of 5 feet tall. The 1800’s have multiple phases of headstone design. This Century was one of numerous major shifts in technology, attire, and even the design of headstones. In the early 1800’s the style was similar to the late 18th Century. We still see willow trees, we see urns, and scroll details. In all ages, there are some outliers. This is Col. Melancton Smith’s headstone, and he has a lot going on here. He was buried with Masonic rights, he also was buried with military honors by his regiment, and he decided to make sure everyone knew all of that by his headstone. As the century progressed, stone styles changed pretty often. The lettering became more uniform. In the middle to late 19th Century people began to adorn their graves with large statues, often of angels or mourners. These beautifully carved monuments adorn many cemeteries and are truly works of art. Frank and Fannie Hall (Fannie is the granddaughter of Henry Delord) were buried here at the beginning of the 20th Century. Their headstone reflects the style of the times. The lettering is raised, and there is a shield surrounding both of their names. It is a simple, yet very well carved stone. Stones continued to change and adapt to the styles of the day. We have so enjoyed this little peak into Riverside Cemetery, and hope you’ve enjoyed it as well. Have a safe and fun Halloween, and thanks so much for stopping by.



Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,
A Really Dark Alley by Loyalty Freak Music

Artifact Corner: Episode 16

Hi everyone, and welcome to a special Halloween edition of our series Artifact Corner. This week and next week we will be exploring a very special place in Plattsburgh that has a connection to our museum. We will be checking out Riverside cemetery, which is the final resting place of the founding member of our family’s museum, Henry Delord.

Riverside cemetery is the final resting place of many of Plattsburgh’s most prominent founding members, and soldiers involved in the Battle of Plattsburgh. Plattsburgh was founded in 1784 when Zephaniah Platt of Poughkeepsie, NY, and two of his brothers received a state grant for 33,000 acres of land along the Saranac River. The next year, Charles Platt and a group of settlers began construction of homes. Three years later, New York State created Clinton County. In 1815, Plattsburgh was officially made a village, but it wasn’t until 1902 that Plattsburgh became a city.

So, let’s take a closer look at cemeteries. Why do we bury people after they have passed? The practice of burying people dates back as far as the middle Paleolithic period. In the Stone Age, it was common practice to bury the dead and place a large stone over the grave to mark the spot. In the Middle Ages, in Europe, the marker on the burial site was entirely dependent on your wealth. The average person would have a wooden marker, with maybe a few words carved into it. If you were wealthy you would likely have a stone marker in a prominent spot. If you were very wealthy you would have a heavily decorated headstone, or possibly a likeness of yourself atop a stone tomb.

In the 18th and early 19th Centuries most people would have a stone burial marker with their name, birth date, and the date they passed. A wealthy citizen’s stone could also contain decorative carving and sometimes a quote or poem. When we look at Henry Delord’s headstone, you can see that the decoration and lettering has deteriorated over the last 200 years. The stone says “In Memory of Henry Delord, born at Nismes France, July 15th 1764, Died March 29th 1825, Age 61 years.” There is a further inscription at the bottom that has since been obscured by soil. There appears to be some decoration at the top of the stone, and there may have been more fine detailed work when the stone was first placed, that has since been worn away. It’s difficult to tell.

Next week we will be taking a look at the difference between Colonial, Federalist, and Victorian Era decorations for head stones. If you are a fan of cemeteries, like we are, lets us know in the comments below. Thanks so much for stopping by and we’ll see you next week.

Acoustic Breeze by Benjamin Tissot,

A Really Dark Alley by Loyalty Freak Music