We wanted to share a sense of what our Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration event was like for all those who were not able to make it by to see us this year. Thank you so much to the reenactors and demonstrators who made this event shine!
Music: United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps
Found on Free Music Archive and licensed under Public Domain Mark 1.0
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, LCMM.org 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.
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
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, lcmm.org. We hope you enjoy this Battle of Plattsburgh commemoration series, and thanks so much for stopping by!
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, lcmm.org. We hope you enjoyed this first video in our commemoration of the Battle of Plattsburgh series, and thanks so much for stopping by!
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!
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.
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at an early sewing machine that we have in our collections. Our model of sewing machine was made in the mid 1850’s. It is set on a wooden table, and the means of propulsion is by a foot treadle. The machine itself has beautifully hand painted flowers and vines adorning it. The table has one small drawer for storing supplies. Let’s learn a bit more about the history of the sewing machine.
Prior to the invention of the sewing machine, all garments were made by hand. The oldest sewing needle ever discovered comes from Serbia and dates to about 60,000 BCE. It was made of a bird bone, which is ideal due to how small and light weight bird bones are. The down side to using bird bones is that they are fragile. Other needles that have been found dating to 45,000 BCE have been made from ivory, camel bone, deer bone, and whale bone. Humans started using metal sewing needles around 7,000 BCE, and used copper, iron, and bronze needles. Metal needles are far stronger than bone needles, and therefore can last longer. Metal needles are also great for working with more dense and heartier materials, like animal hides and leathers.
For almost all of human history, if you wanted a garment, you either had to sew it yourself, or have another person hand sew it. In the late 18th Century a British cabinet maker named Thomas Saint created the first sewing machine to create a chain stitch. He designed it to be used on leather, and mostly in the manufacturing of shoes. It is not known if he ever actually made the machine, he had his invention drawn up and patented, but nothing survives in the record about whether or not the machine ever actually existed. In 1830 a French tailor named Barthélemy Thimonnier patented and made the first mechanical sewing machine. This machine also used a hooked needle to create a chain stitch. Unlike Thomas Saint, he not only made his first mechanical sewing machine, but he also put it into production. Thimonnier invented his machines to produce uniforms for the French army. Tailors in France were afraid that the machines would put them out of business, and around 200 of them rioted and destroyed all of Thimonnier’s machines. But, the genie was out of the bottle, and the sewing machine would soon be all of the world. In the United States by 1860, over 110,000 sewing machines were manufactured and sold. Soon sewing machine would be affordable enough that the average person could own one. This was a huge time saver, primarily for women. Darning and mending a families clothing was time consuming when doing it by hand. A sewing machine would dramatically cut down on that task, allowing women more time to pursue other interests.
Our sewing machine was made by D. Corkins from Troy, NY, again in the mid 1850’s. We’ve had some trouble locating information about this manufacturer, but according to the Smithsonian Institution, that’s not surprising. In the mid 1800’s, there were so many sewing machine makers, and so few of them lasted for any length of time, that there are many “one off” makers out there. Our machine is in good condition, but not currently in working order. It is missing it’s belts, and would likely need to be professionally restored before we would try to use it. It is a beautiful example of early Victorian sewing machines, and we are so lucky to have it in our collections. If you’d like to see it in person, we have it on display this season, and we are open for tours on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 to 3. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a comb and brush set from the Victorian period. Both pieces have silver repousse, which is a design that is hammered into the silver from the underside of the piece. The comb is made from tortoise shell, which was very commonly used in the 18th, 19th, and early 20th Centuries. Tortoise shell was only banned from use in 1977 by the International Trade in Endangered Species. The brush is made with a wood backing, and natural or boar bristles. You can still purchase a boar bristle brush today, and are considered to be quite good for your hair. Boar bristle brushes help to better distribute your hairs natural oils, and can leave your hair feeling less frizzy. This comb and brush set were part of every ladies morning and evening routine, so let’s learn a bit more about the history of the comb and the brush.
The comb has been in use in various cultures from anywhere between 5,500 and 5,000 BCE. Archaeologists have found combs in Egypt and China from this time. Combs were originally carved from various different materials including, wood, bone, tortoise shell, and even ivory. Metal combs were and are still less common, but we have found gold, silver, copper, and steel combs. Today, most of the combs we use are made of plastic, because it can be easily sanitized, but wooden combs are still very common. All combs have teeth, which are called combdrums, and come in many different shapes and sizes, depending on what type of hair a person has, and what you want the comb to do. If you have long straight hair, you can use a finer toothed comb. If you have very curly hair, you want a wide toothed comb, so you don’t damage your hair when combing it.
Let’s move on to brushes. The history of the hair brush is a bit more complicated. Hair brushes were very labor intensive to make and therefore, were originally only used by very wealthy people. Imagine trying to set each individual boar bristle into a brush?! The hair brush as we know it was invented in the 1770’s by a man named William Kent. He founded Kent Brushes in Hertfordshire England, which is today credited with being the first known hair brush manufacturer. The company made it’s brushes using a wooden back with applied animal hair, and each brush took up to twelve people to craft it. Kent Brushes is still making their fine quality wooden brushes today, more than 240 years later. In the United States, the first patent for the modern hair brush was filed by Hugh Rock in 1854. Today, hair brushes, similar to combs, are mostly made of plastic. This is again because they are easier to sanitize.
This comb and brush set are rumored to have belonged to Catherine Dowling, the long time domestic and companion of Fannie Delord Hall. There is nothing to prove that she owned them, but it’s the only attribution we have for them. The comb is in good condition, but the silver handle is cracked, but still firmly in place on the comb. The brush on the other hand has seen better days. The handle has been broken off a couple of times, and repaired. Sadly, it has been broken again, and there is a small piece missing. We are so lucky to have these pieces in our collection. They are beautiful examples of Victorian women’s toiletries. Thanks so much for stopping by!
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another Artifact Corner. Today we will be looking at three lovely portraits taken in the 1860’s. The first is of Betsey Delord. This picture was taken in 1864, following the death of her second husband, William Swetland. This was not uncommon to hire a photographer to document important events in people’s lives, including funerals. Betsey is pictured in front of our gate, leading up to the front door of the home. The second portrait is of an unknown woman, probably again taken around the mid 1860’s. She is seated and holding a purse and a handkerchief. In this portrait we can see the intricate detail on her skirt, which is adorned with lace and silk or satin ribbon. The third and final portrait is of a young man and woman, again probably taken in the mid 1860’s. The man is standing, while the woman is seated. All three of these portraits show women in clothing that would have been considered some of their finer clothing, since they were having their portraits taken. Let’s explore women’s fashions in the American Civil War period.
Every woman in the American Civil War period would have gotten dressed in the morning in pretty much the same way. You would start with a chemise. A chemise is a cotton or linen undergarment that was worn to protect your body, and your outer clothes from sweat. The next garment that you would don would be a pair of drawers. Drawers were just coming into fashion in the early to mid 1860’s, and so some women would have chosen not to wear them, but that was a personal preference. These would be worn for warmth, and also comfort under crinoline skirts. Then you would put on your stockings. No self respecting woman would leave the house without her stockings, which would come above the knee, and be held in place with garters made from a variety of different materials. The next step is to put on your corset. There are so many misconceptions in regards to corsets, that we simply do not have time to go over all of them in this video. Maybe we will have another artifact corner dedicated to dispelling some myths about them? A corset in the 1860’s was not designed to make your waist smaller, it was designed to support your body, and all of the layers of clothing you were wearing. If your corset was made to measure, it should fit quite comfortably. Following your corset, it was time for a petticoat, or an underskirt. This was the layer that would protect your skin from our next garment, the cage crinoline or hoops. If you were an upper to middle class woman, you would most definitely be wearing these hoops. If you were lower or working class, you may not have these in your wardrobe. That did not mean working class women did not still try to achieve the fashionable silhouette of the time. Many women without the means would simply wear multiple petticoats to fill out the shape of their skirts. And that completes our undergarments.
The next step was to cover the foundation garments a bit further. Women would wear a corset cover, or a camisole. This was to protect your outer garment from anything on the corset that might snag it. Next you would put your skirt on. This would be held up, often times with suspenders. The average outer skirt required up to five yards of fabric to make! Next you would put your bodice on. Then you would put your shoes on. Once you were done, it was time to add decorative items like jewelry, or hair pins. You would also want your gloves and bonnet. If it was hot outside, you would carry a folding fan made of sandalwood. If it was raining or bright and sunny, you may want to add a parasol to your ensemble. And if it was cold, you would bring a shawl or a mantle to ward off the cold. A woman would also not want to leave the house without her purse or bag. In this period, it was considered gauche for a lady to wear make up. That’s not to say that women didn’t add a little color here and there to their cheeks and lips using beet juice or alkanet, a common weed that provides a lovely red dye. They would also extenuate their pale skin by powdering their faces with rice powder, zinc oxide, or pearl powder (which was a mixture of chloride of bismuth and French chalk). Chloride of bismuth is not a safe thing to put on your face, it can cause headaches, loss of appetite, and serious skin irritation, so please do not try any of these concoctions on yourself.
Our portraits are of younger and older women, dressed in their best clothes to have their picture taken. Their garments are very typical of the time period, and the details are really beautiful. We are so lucky to have these lovely portraits in our collections. If you are interested in seeing a replica Civil War ladies garment up close, come visit us at the museum. We have one on display for the season, and we are open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 to 3. Thanks so much for stopping by.
Hi Everyone, and welcome back to another artifact corner. Today we will be looking at a very early Victorian Match box. The box is made from cardboard, with a paper label on the top of the box. The paper label says “L. Miller’s Never failing damp proof Improved American Friction Matches, 7th Avenue, between 17th & 18th Streets, NY.” On the back of the box there is sand glued to the cardboard for striking the matches on. Matches are a relatively new invention, let’s learn a bit more about them.
Prior to the invention of the friction match, getting a fire started was hard work. There were a number of different ways to start a fire. One way was to use a glass lens to focus the suns rays on some dry tinder. The obvious problem with this method is that you need the sun to start a fire. The other and most prevalent way was to use flint and steel. By hitting a steel striker against a piece of flint, sparks will be created. You can catch those sparks on a piece of char cloth, which is 100% plant based cloth that has been cooked in an oxygen starved environment. The char cloth will hold the spark while you transfer it to your tinder pile, allowing you to start a fire. With practice, this method of starting fire can be fairly fast, but it requires a number of pieces that you’d have to carry on you at all times. Another method was to start a friction fires, by rubbing two pieces of wood together. This method is very labor intense, and requires a lot of patience. If the weather was bad none of these methods was very reliable, and starting a fire could be very difficult. A more reliable and portable method was being sought out across the world.
The friction match was invented in 1826 by John Walker, a chemist in England. He had been trying to solve the problem of portable fire for some time, developing different chemical concoctions for making a quick and easy fire starter. Walker stumbled upon the invention when he scraped a stick coated in some of these chemicals against the hearth of his fireplace. The match head was a mixture of sulfide of antimony, chlorate of potash, and gum. He used camphor to help improve the smell. He sold them at his store in boxes of fifty for one shilling. Each box with a piece of sandpaper for striking the match head on. Walker’s invention was a huge leap forward, but still dangerous. Bits of the match head would fall off while lit, and caught carpets, drapes and even dress hems on fire. For some reason, Walker did not patent his new invention, and in 1829 Scottish inventor Sir Issac Holden had duplicated and improved on Walker’s recipe. Holden also did not patent this invention, and a London based entrepreneur named Samuel Jones got a hold of the recipe, and patented them. He began selling them as “Lucifer” matches, and the name stuck, so much so that matches are still called Lucifers in Dutch to this day.
Match boxes from the early Victorian period are fairly rare, because they are made of paper, and were often thrown out after the matches were all used. Our match box no longer contains any of the original matches, and is in slightly rough shape. The corners are starting to come unglued. Hardly surprising given the rough life it must have had, and it’s age. We hope you enjoyed this look back at fire starting and match making. Thanks so much for stopping by!