Tag Archives: Material Culture

Coleman Collectors to Light-Up Lake George


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It’s probably safe to say most everyone who has ventured into Adirondack woods or waters in the last 50 years has at some time used a Coleman product.

The company once sold Skiroule snowmobiles, Hobie Cat sailboats, and even its on pop-up trailers, but most recreationists are familiar with some of the smaller Coleman products: coolers, canoes and other small boats, sleeping bags, tents, backpacks, and the ubiquitous camp stoves and Coleman lanterns.

The company was  founded in 1900 by William Coffin Coleman, known as  “W. C.”, and a  former school school principal working as a typewriter salesman who founded the company while earning money for law school.  Coleman’s obsession with a lantern that burned a bright white light is matched by legions of Coleman collectors, who pour over the company’s American made designs (Coleman was born in Columbia County, NY and moved to the mid-west) and trade stories and knowledge.

The International Coleman Collectors Club will hold it’s 20th Anniversary Convention at the Fort William Henry Convention Center in Lake George on June 28th and 30th [link]. The event, the first convention to be held in the Northeast, will feature collectors from throughout the United States and Canada and as far away as Germany, Denmark, and The Philippines.  Thirty-eight tables filled with Coleman products from the early 1900s onward, some for sale, and a seminars on lantern restoration, how mantles are made, and the Coleman Model 202 Professional lantern, a nickle-plated beauty made from the mid-1950s to the early 1960s. A highlight of the event will be two outdoor Coleman “light-ups”.

Steve and Robin Miller of Queensbury are serving as hosts of the gathering. “I thought this would be a perfect place to hold a camping equipment show, right here in Lake George,” Steve Miller told me.  “We thought that this would be a great place for the collectors from around the world, as it is very beautiful here and there is so much to do,” he said,  “Lake George also has the only Coleman outlet store in the northeast, just a few miles up the road from the convention center.”

The Millers have been collecting Coleman gear for about 25 years and have about 200 Coleman lanterns, stoves, gas irons, and more, but they are quick to point out that there will be even more knowledgeable “Coleman people” at the convention, including several who have worked at the Coleman company in Wichita, KS over the years.

The event will be open to the public on Saturday only, from 9 am to 1 pm, but it’s not too late to register for the convention (pdf).

Two “light-ups” will be held. The first in the Fort William Henry parking lot on Thursday at 8:30 pm, and the second on Friday night at the Georgian Resort’s beach, beginning about 7-8:00 pm (bring your lanterns!).

Photos: Above, Steve and Robin Miller, Coleman Collectors; Below, part of the Millers’ large Coleman lantern collection.

Hyde Lectures Begin with Tiffany Glass Expert


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On Sunday, June 17, 2012, The Hyde Collection in Glens Falls, NY will present Lindsy R. Parrott, director and curator of The Neustadt Collection of Tiffany Glass, New York City. Beginning at 2pm in the Froehlich Auditorium, Parrott will speak about The Hyde’s new exhibition, Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light, which was organized by the Neustadt Collection.  

Tiffany Glass: Painting with Color and Light is part of the Museum’s “Summer of Light” which also includes Stephen Knapp: New Light in the Wood Gallery. Both exhibitions open June 17, 2012 and run through September 16, 2012. Continue reading

NYPL Putting Historical Documents Online


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Thousands of historical documents at The New York Public Library – including material handwritten by George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and papers from authors such as Mark Twain – will soon be accessible to the public online.

The project, which began in January and will continue through 2014, will digitize documents from the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, located within the Manuscripts and Archives Division, and almost all the papers of several major American authors in the Henry W. and Albert A. Berg Collection of English and American Literature at The New York Public Library.

“This exciting project is a key element in our goal of creating greater possibilities for our collections and expanding their accessibility worldwide,” said NYPL President Anthony Marx. “Digitizing collections featuring hand-written documents from Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Mark Twain, among others, provides remarkable new opportunities for scholarly research, and creates new teaching applications for an international audience. The Library is grateful to The Polonsky Foundation and other generous supporters who assist us in this valuable work.”

Technicians at the New York Public Library have already begun digitizing the Thomas Addis Emmet Collection, which documents the founding and early years of the United States – the move towards independence, the Revolutionary War, and the establishment of the federal government. The approximately 11,000 manuscripts in the collection include letters and documents by nearly every patriot and statesman who distinguished himself during this period American history.

Their letters provide insight into important historic milestones, such as the Stamp Act Congress, the First and Second Continental Congress, and the Annapolis Convention; trace the genesis of the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation; and chronicle the successes and struggles of the first Federal Administration. The correspondence and letterbooks of generals and other officers detail their decisions, actions, and relationships during the Revolutionary War.

Highlights of the Emmet Collection include a copy of the Declaration of Independence in Jefferson’s hand, an engrossed copy of the Bill of Rights, and manuscript minutes of the Annapolis Convention. The collection has been a vital and repeatedly consulted resource for American historians since the Library acquired it in 1896.

Following the completion of digitization of the Emmet Collection, nearly all the papers from the Berg Collection’s holdings of Nathaniel Hawthorne, his wife Sophia Peabody Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Mark Twain and Walt Whitman will be digitized. An estimated 35,000 pages will be scheduled for digitization beginning in January 2013 and be made available through the Library’s website. Items slated for digitization will include:

Hawthorne’s correspondence with President James Buchanan, educator Horace Mann, and fellow authors Oliver Wendell Holmes, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Herman Melville, as well as the diaries of his wife, Sophia Peabody Hawthorne that chronicle her own work as a writer and the literary work of her husband;

An original pencil map of Walden Pond, as well as several Thoreau manuscripts, including Faith in a Seed, about which the novelist Annie Proulx wrote in the Library’s Centennial celebration volume, Know the Past, Find the Future: The New York Public library at 100;

Mark Twain’s manuscripts of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court and Following the Equator, and correspondence with such influential American icons as Andrew Carnegie, William Dean Howells, and Theodore Roosevelt;

Numerous poems by Walt Whitman and over 300 of his letters, most of them to his mother and to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

The total cost of the project including both collections is $1 million; a gift of $500,000 from The Polonsky Foundation is expected to be matched by similar donations.

Honors Awarded at Great Lakes Trail Quilt Event


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A regiment of Canadian quilters and a Pennsylvania woman have won Viewer’s Choice honors from the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show. The show featured 1812 period-correct and pictorial quilts from 18 U.S. states and from across Canada.

The favorite quilt of the more than 1,000 visitors to the show hosted by three early 19th century historic sites in Sackets Harbor, a New York State 1812 Heritage Community, was made by nine of the living history interpreters at Upper Canada Village, Morrisburg, Ontario.


Janice Toonders, who demonstrates spinning and weaving at the Village, designed the quilt using an Irish chain pattern. Toonders, Martina Bols, Linda Brown, Mary Casselman, Christine Christie, Ivah Malkin, Marjorie Munroe, Judy Neville, and Sharon Shaver used wool cloth, silk thread and cotton fabrics to fashion symbols from the 1812 time period for the colorful pictorial. Sharon Shaver, the quilting demonstrator at Upper Canada Village, added the binding and quilting.

“British Major Sir Isaac Brock is front and center. Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost is aside as he navigates his horse home in shame for not advancing his troops at Plattsburgh. We have the First Nation’s Confederacy leader Tecumseh and Joseph Brant, the Mohawk Chief who was working with the British to create a nation in the west,” Toonders explains.

The Upper Canada Village quilters also included the sloop “Wolf” that fought in one of the Battles of Sackett’s Harbour. A bear, a moose, a First Nation’s symbol, a British sailor and Laura Secord who notified the British of a U.S. attack are also among the quilt’s storytelling images.

Quilts from four Canadian provinces made up approximately 30 percent of the show’s quilts.

The show’s second Viewer’s Choice winner is the “Underhill Tree of Life Whole-Cloth Quilt” made by Jill C. Meszaros of Cambridge Springs, PA, 25 miles south of Erie and the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Pennsylvania. The all-blue quilt is intricately quilted by hand with a dark blue thread.

Meszaros says, “I chose to create a whole-cloth quilt to honor my family heritage and the history of quilting and our nation. My fourth great-grandfather, Major David Underhill traveled to Huron County, Ohio, in 1810. In 1812 he reacted to the news that the British and Indians were landing only to learn they were really soldiers in Hull’s army. As I quilted, my husband was away and I imagined what it would have been like in 1812 to wait for him to come home.”

Meszaros, a stay-at-home mother of six, fashioned her design after the Clarke Family Quilt in the book “Massachusetts Quilts” and used fruit, floral and foliate motifs inspired by “Quilts-Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum.” The quilt’s batting is wool, typical of the 1812 time. She says, “The last stitch went in the I day I shipped the quilt to the show.”

Show manager Lynette Lundy-Beck notes, “This show inspired people to learn more about the War of 1812, its battles, the soldiers and their loved ones, and about the quilters’ own families. This show is indeed a storytelling event that interprets the travel themes for the Great Lakes Seaway Trail in many interesting and personal ways, and that is what makes this quilt show unique among quilt shows and tourism showcases.”

Much of the war was fought along the Great Lakes Seaway Trail, a National Scenic Byway in the U.S. The 518-mile leisure driving route parallels the St. Lawrence River, Lake Ontario, Niagara River, and Lake Erie. Quilting is just one of many travel themes for the byway.

Watch www.seawaytrail.com/quilting for details on the impact of the 2012 show and for guidelines on the Beauty of the Byways theme for the 2013 show.

Iroquois Indian Museum Prepares Opening, Events


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The Iroquois Indian Museum opens for its 2012 season on May 1 with a new exhibit and special events planned throughout the year. From May 1 until the closing day on November 30, the Museum hosts the exhibition, “Birds and Beasts in Beads: 150 Years of Iroquois Beadwork.” The exhibit features more than 200 beaded objects, largely from the collection of retired archeologist and Museum trustee, Dolores Elliott. Continue reading

Medical Center to Scan Albany Institute Mummies


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In preparation for the 2013 exhibition The Mystery of the Albany Mummies, the Albany Institute of History & Art’s two mummies, each thousands of years old, will be brought to Albany Medical Center for CT scans and x-rays, using modern imaging techniques to learn the mummies’ genders, causes of death, and more. Leading experts in body imaging and Egyptology will direct the procedures and analyze results.

The Albany Institute of History & Art’s two mummies were acquired from Cairo, Egypt in 1909, were brought to the Albany Institute from Cairo in 1909 by Samuel W. Brown, a member of the museum’s Board of Trustees. The mummies and their coffins have been seen by generations of visitors.

Arthur Pielli, Radiology Manager at Albany Medical Center, and two radiologists, Phuong Nguyen Vinh, MD, and Michael Edward Schuster, MD will examine the mummies. The results will then be analyzed with the help of Egyptologist and medical doctor Dr. Robert Brier, a Senior Research Fellow at Long Island University known as “Mr. Mummy,” and Dr. Peter Lacovara, the exhibition’s guest curator and Senior Curator of Egypt, Nubia and Near East at the Carlos Museum at Emory University.

The mummies were last examined by x-rays and CT scans on November 12, 1988. This preliminary analysis helped to determine the mummies’ sex, approximate ages, and various insights into the mummification process. The x-rays and CT scans show a number of bundles inside both of the mummies. Based on the last scan, it was determined that the partially unwrapped mummy is Ankhefenmut, a priest in the temple of Mut at Karnak in Thebes during Dynasty XXI (c.1085-945 BC).

Ankhefenmut is reported to have died in 966 and was probably between 55 and 65 years old at the time of his death. The wrapped mummy is a woman. Her name is not known because the top of the coffin was badly deteriorated and left in Cairo by Samuel Brown in 1909. According to Brown she also came from the cache at Deir el-Bahri. X-rays reveal that she was probably between 35-45 years old when she died.

During Dynasty XXI, a change in the practice of mummification occurred. The internal organs were no longer placed in canopic jars, but were usually wrapped in linen packages. These packages were then placed in the empty body or placed between the legs. Canopic jars, however, continued to be a part of the funerary equipment, but were made smaller.

Perhaps the most interesting discovery was a well-crafted fake toe, possibly made of ceramic, carefully attached to the right foot of the wrapped mummy. It is presumed that the toe was fashioned for the woman during the mummification process because of the belief that one had to be physically intact to enter the afterlife. This discovery was highlighted on The Learning Channel’s program, The Ancient ER, in February 2003.

The initiative is a collaboration between the Albany Institute of History & Art, Albany Medical Center, University at Albany Foundation, and the University at Albany Center for Humanities, Arts, and TechnoSciences.

Photo: Partially unwrapped mummy of Ankhefenmut, a priest in the temple of Mut at Karnak in Thebes during Dynasty XXI (c.1085-945 BC). Courtesy Albany Institute of History and Art.

A Survey of Oral Histories in Local Repositories


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Historical societies, especially small ones, often fall off the radar when librarians compile collection information, even though most of our cultural heritage is collected and kept in these small repositories. Personal accounts in the form of recorded oral histories are one of the most valuable, and also the most vulnerable of these precious local documents.

Librarian and oral historian Nancy MacKay (San Jose State University, School of Library and Information Science), is currently conducting a survey on the state of oral histories in repositories. She is especially interested in reaching historical societies and cultural centers. The results of the survey will be made available as widely as possible.

If your organization contains oral histories, please contribute information about your organization online.
The survey should take 15-20 minutes. More information about the survey can be found on the survey information page. The Survey deadline is March 30. For more information contact Nancy MacKay or Emily Vigor at curatingoralhistories@gmail.com.

NYS Museum Research in Archaeology Lectures


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Research findings on a 200-300-year-old skull found in a wall in Coeymans – the subject of recent news accounts – will be one of the topics discussed during a series of lectures on “Research in Archaeology” at the New York State Museum. The lectures will be held Wednesday through March 28 at 12:10 p.m. in the Huxley Theater. Lecture topics and dates are:

● March 14 – “Learning from Pottery.” Broken pieces of pottery, or sherds, are one of the most common artifacts recovered from archaeological sites younger than 3,000 years old. Dr. John P. Hart, director of the State Museum’s Research & Collections division, will
discuss recently completed research on sherds that provides information on how Native Americans interacted across what is now New York state.

● March 21 – “The Skull in the Wall: The Case of the Coeymans Lady.” The discovery of a human skull during repairs to the stone foundation at the historic Coeymans House in southern Albany County raised many questions about the person’s identity and manner of death.
Lisa Anderson, curator of bioarchaeology, will take a closer look at the skeletal evidence and historical context of the case.

● March 28 – “Cache and Carry: New Insights on Ice Age Technology of New York Paleoindians.” New York’s first people colonized the state at the end of the Ice Age. Ranging widely across New York and beyond, many have wondered how these hunter gatherers
created a portable stone technology compatible with their mobile way of life. Dr. Jonathan Lothrop, curator of archaeology, describes new insights from the study of a Paleoindian stone tool cache discovered in the upper Susquehanna Valley.

Founded in 1836, the State Museum is a program of the New York State Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education. Located on Madison Avenue in Albany, the Museum is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New
Year’s Day. Admission is free. Further information can be obtained by calling (518) 474-5877 or visiting the museum website at www.nysm.nysed.gov.

Photo: Coeymans House from LOC Historic American Building Survey Digital Collection.

Brooklyn Museum Opening Cross-Collection Installation


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An innovative installation approach, featuring some of the most important objects in the Brooklyn Museum collection, has been developed to create new ways of looking at art and exploring the Museum by making connections between cultures as well as objects. Scheduled to open on April 19, 2012, Connecting Cultures: A World in Brooklyn, on long-term view in the newly renovated Great Hall, near the main entrance, provides for the first time a dynamic introduction to the Museum’s extensive collections, which range from ancient Egyptian masterpieces to contemporary art, representing almost every culture around the world, both past and present.

“This remarkable cross-collection presentation, built around some of the most exceptional works in the Museum, better enables the visitor to explore the collection galleries by providing a model of how to make connections between cultures and how to better understand the ways that different peoples have addressed many of the same issues throughout time,” states Museum Director Arnold L. Lehman. “For the very first time, our visitors have the opportunity to sample the breadth and depth of our holdings as they enter the Museum.”

“Over the course of the twentieth century, the Museum collected on a grand scale, making works of art that had previously been reserved primarily for the elite available to the public. As works of art became available to the many rather than the few, their meanings often changed. Deconstructing those meanings on a basic level provides an understanding of the Brooklyn Museum’s collections as a resource for study,” comments Chief Curator Kevin L. Stayton, who has coordinated the presentation, working with the Museum’s curators.

The installation is organized around three main sections: “Connecting Places,” “Connecting People,” and ‘Connecting Things.” In viewing the juxtaposition and combination of works from different cultures around the world, the visitor will be asked to consider the importance of the idea of place to the definition of culture and the self; the ways in which people represent themselves in the works of art that help define them; and the role of objects, or things, in supporting identity, both personal and cultural.

The “Connecting Places” section presents artworks that reflect the human fascination with the physical world around us and how it relates to spirituality. The landscapes in which people live and the elements of nature that surround them deeply affect the way people see the world and how they try to understand the universe. This section includes a four-legged bowl (circa 250-600 C.E.), made in what is now Guatemala, that reveals a Mayan concept of the cosmos; an eighteenth-century cosmic diagram, made in Gujarat or Rajasthan, that presents a unique worldview; the monumental 1765 painting Our Lady of Chocharcas Under the Baldachin showing the celebration of a pilgrimage in which Lake Titicaca is almost as significant as the statue of the Virgin herself; a festival hat, probably made around Potosi in the eighteenth century, depicting a triangular mountain that might be the Cerro de Potosi, the source of the silver that enriched the area; Louis Rémy Mignon’s monumental painting Niagara (1866), which became a powerful symbol of natural resources that made their potential seem almost limitless; the renowned Century Vase made by the Union Porcelain Works of Brooklyn for display at the Centennial Exposition, in 1876, displaying native animals and scenes of progress unique to the American experience; and a contemporary work, Soundsuit by Nick Cave, that explores man’s involvement with nature.

The “Connecting People” section investigates the ways in which human beings have represented themselves in artworks, in various cultures through time. A number of the works address the journey from life to death, such as a stunning and rare Huastec stone statue that features a standing human figure on one side and a skeleton on the other. Other works include a kachina doll, in the Brooklyn Museum collection since 1904, that reflects the ways in which the human form can represent the spiritual and universal; and Gaston Lachaise’s monumental Standing Woman, a modern work that dignifies the human form and raises it to a level that reflects the humanist tradition.

The “Connecting Things” section includes works that carry particular significance to those who make and use them. Among the objects is a group of more than 100 pitchers to illustrate the many permutations of a single form; kero cups used in ritualistic ceremonies that were important to the Andean concept of reciprocity; a coffin in the form of a Nike sneaker, by Ghanaian artist Paa Joe, that reflects the importance of consumer society and global trade in the modern world; and an African staff, a symbol of authority that is the model for an African-American emancipation cane.

The installation was designed by Matthew Yokobosky, Chief Designer at the Brooklyn Museum, working together with Chief Curator Kevin Stayton, Director Arnold Lehman, and all of the Museum’s curators.

Image: Louis Rémy Mignot (American, 1831-1870)’s “Niagara, 1866″, A Gift of Arthur S. Fairchild. Courtesy the Brooklyn Museum.

Rabbit Goody: A Rare American Ingrain Carpet


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Ingrain or Scotch carpeting was a main stay of early 19th century carpeting for households both common and wealthy. Woven as a two layer double cloth with geometric or curvilinear designs, ingrain carpeting became popular through the last half of the 18th century and blossomed in the 19th century.

One of only four known American produced ingrain carpets is in the collection of The Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities (SPLIA). It also has the most supporting information about its manufacture at Jones Mill, located in Cold Spring Harbor, NY. Advertisements from Jones Mill appear in the newspapers during the 1830′s and document the production of figured ingrain carpeting among other fabrics.

Ingrain carpeting woven by American fancy weavers in the first half of the 19th century is distinct from the imported Scotch and Kidderminster carpets. The American versions use locally produced softer grades of wool and have a slightly different structure, more akin to the structure of woven coverlets of the same period.

It has been extremely difficult to document the American carpets because with the use of soft wools, the carpets were less durable and ended up being worn out, cut up and used for smaller rugs, and simply disappeared.

We’ve been working at Thistle Hill Weavers to reproduce the Jones Mill example both in its original color, and in a blue and white version which will be installed in SPLIA’s restored Sherwood Jayne House.

Master Weaver Rabbit Goody write about historic textiles. Her weaving studio, Thistle Hill Weavers, in Cherry Valley, NY, is a small mill modeled after the trade shops of the 19th century.

Call For Papers: Textile History Forum


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The Textile History Forum, to be held June 8th-10th, 2012 at Hyde Hall in Springfield, NY, seeks papers and presentations on all aspects of textile history from the Pre-Columbian period through the twenty-first century, including textile technology, costume, quilts, weaving, dyeing, spinning, technological innovations, and textile availability. Current and unpublished research is especially encouraged.

Those interested in presenting a paper at the Forum should submit a one-page proposal by March 31st, 2012. Proposals chosen for presentation will be announced by May 1, 2012. Final papers are due by May 31st. Authors will retain copyright and are free to publish their work in other venues. Final papers should be no more than 16 pages long, including citations, bibliography, and illustrations. Continue reading

Fort Ti Material Culture Seminar This Weekend


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Fort Ticonderoga will host its Second Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” Seminar the weekend of January 28 & 29, 2012. This weekend event focuses on the material culture of the 18th century and is intended for collectors, re-enactors, and people with a general interest in learning more about objects of the 18th century and what they can tell us about history. “Material Matters” takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga and is open by pre-registration only.

A panel of material culture experts from the United States and Canada come to Fort Ticonderoga for the weekend to share their knowledge of 18th-century material culture in a series of presentations. Designed for those who want a deeper understanding of the everyday objects that help tell the story of life and the contests for control of North America during the 18th century, the weekend’s informal approach enables attendees to interact with presenters and provides an opportunity to examine 18th-century objects up close.

Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections Chris Fox will discuss the archeological remains of clothing and sewing-related artifacts in the Fort’s collection found during the Fort’s restoration in the early 20th century.

Joel Anderson, Artificer Program Supervisor at Fort Ticonderoga, will discuss the challenges of supplying the Northern Department of the Continental Army during the year 1776.

Matthew Keagle, a scholar of 18th-century Atlantic material culture, will talk about grenadier caps used by various 18th-century armies and their cultural significance.

David Ledoyen, a heritage presentation coordinator from Montreal, will explore 18th-century surgeons’ instruments and the evolution of surgeons as a profession in New France.

Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga, will discuss equestrian saddlery and horse furniture. Lilie is a saddler specializing in 18th- and early 19th-century saddlery.

Sarah Woodyard, an apprentice in millinery at Colonial Williamsburg, will talk about 18th-century undergarments.

Registration for “Material Matters” is now open. A brochure with the complete schedule and a registration form is available on Fort Ticonderoga’s website by selecting “Explore and Learn” and choosing “Life Long Learning” on the drop-down menu. A printed copy is also available upon request by contacting Rich Strum, Director of Education, at 518-585-6370. The cost for the weekend is $120 ($100 for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga).

Photo: Speaker Henry Cooke (left) and Curator of Collections Chris Fox (right) examine an original 18th-century coat during a “Material Matters” session last winter.

State Museum Aquires Unique Stoneware


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After hiding away in private collections – and a California coat closet – for nearly 200 years, a unique piece of early American decorative art is returning home to New York, where it will be housed at the New York State Museum thanks to collector Adam Weitsman. Weitsman, President of Upstate Shredding, also donated a monumental jug, two water coolers considered important by the museum and a gallon jug decorated with the image of a ship.

“The addition of these recent pieces of decorated stoneware surely put the New York State Museum on the map as having the premier collection of American stoneware. Not only are the decorations unique and outstanding as works of American folk art, but the documentation and history of these recent acquisitions enable us to learn so much more about the stoneware industry and those artists who left us such remarkable works of art,” said John Scherer, Historian Emeritus of the New York State Museum.

Weitsman has made a number of donations to the museum in the past, and a Herington incised jug will be an important – and valuable – addition to the collection.

A double-handled, profusely decorated stoneware jug is among the latest items Weitsman has donated. Inscribed “BENJAMIN HERINGTON,” it was bought at auction for what was, at the time, a record-breaking $138,000. The jug, considered by some a masterpiece, was made as a memorial to a 22-year-old potter who drowned in the Norwich, Connecticut harbor in 1823.

The double-handled jug joins two other pottery donations from Weitsman, including a 21 1/2 inch tall jug made in Poughkeepsie in the mid- to late-1800s, and a one-gallon stoneware jug decorated with the image of a ship, made in New York State between 1835-1846. The new acquisitions also include two water coolers made by Jonah Boynton of Albany purchased from New York City dealer Leigh Keno.

Stoneware was an integral part of the history of New York State and the expansion of the country in early days of exploration and settlement. In a time before refrigeration, stoneware was used to store and transport foodstuffs and drinking water. Clay deposits ideal for making stoneware were found around New York State, notably in what is now New Jersey, lower Manhattan and eastern Long Island. New York State became a large stoneware producer and artisans in New York developed durable vessels decorated with rich designs using incision techniques and distinctive rich blue coloring.

Weitsman began collecting American stoneware at age 11 and made his first donation of more than 120 pieces to the museum in 1996. In a 2009 article for Antiques and Fine Art Magazine, ‘Art for the People: Decorated Stoneware from the Weitsman Collection,’ Scherer wrote, “Since his initial donation Weitsman has continued to add at an aggressive pace to the museum’s holdings, making it the premier collection of American decorated stoneware in the country.”

The Weitsman Stoneware Collection is available can be viewed by the general public at the New York State Museum in Albany, New York.

Hyde Hall: A New Director and Textile Treasures


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For those of you who are not familiar with Hyde Hall, I had the greatest treat a few weeks ago: the new Executive Director, Dr. Jonathan Maney, and I perused the textile and trim collections that have survived at this Regency mansion.

Hyde Hall, a National Landmark and a New York State Historic Site, located in Springfield, NY, was built by George Clarke between 1817 and 1834.

Its importance to material culture historians is based on the extraordinary survival of furniture, textiles, textile ornaments, and receipts for the period of its building. Everything is fully documented.

Rarely do we have the opportunity to put so many pieces together to understand both the style and color way for window treatments in a high style Regency mansion circa 1830.

More important to those of us who work in rural areas, Hyde Hall is not located in an urban environment. Rather, it is far afield from the population centers that we normally associate with high style culture. Hyde Hall is perched high on a bluff overlooking the northern tip of Otsego Lake, about 60 miles west of Albany, New York.

We know that the draper/upholsterer came from Albany as did much of the furniture, and we know the exact volume of fabrics, trim, and ornaments that were ordered. We have surviving fragments of the original red damask, tassels, trim, and ornaments for the grand dining room and the drawing room. These great rooms are elaborate, handsome, and very well preserved.

Hyde Hall offers us the opportunity to study, educate, and reproduce the window treatments with more documentation than nearly any other historic site could ever hope to find.

Rabbit Goody is a textile historian and owner/weaver at Thistle Hill Weavers. She is also the director of the Textile History Forum.

Fort Ticonderoga Acquires 1759 Powder Horn


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Fort Ticonderoga’s collection is strengthened by a recent donation of an engraved powder horn made in 1759. The horn is inscribed “JOSEPH STAB HIS POWDER HORNE 1759.” Joseph Stab’s identity thus far remains silent. A search of available records for the military campaigns of 1759 has not yet revealed who he was.

Stab’s powder horn is nicely engraved with a variety of scenes and images. Directly above his name is a hunting scene depicting a horseman and three hounds chasing a deer. Another part of the horn is engraved with what appears to be Indians in trees shooting at game. A variety of birds, trees and deer are depicted over much of the remainder of the horn along with depictions of sailing ships one of which is identified as “Sloop Oswego.” The British Navy sloop Oswego was constructed on Lake Ontario in 1755 and captured (burned) by the French on August 14, 1756 at the end of the siege of Fort Oswego. Was the sloop depicted on Stab’s horn as a memory of service in a previous military campaign? Further research may reveal the answer.

Powder horns were regularly issued to American provincial and British regular soldiers in the French & Indian War for carrying bulk gunpowder. Unlike what is commonly seen in the movies, soldiers generally did not load their muskets directly from a horn. The horn was a container in which to carry bulk gunpowder to later be used in making paper cartridges. Many soldiers had their horns engraved perhaps as a way of commemorating their military service. Although there is little direct information that survives regarding the process of engraving a powder horn, it appears from scant evidence that most horns were engraved by a only a handful of men, perhaps individuals with known artistic or engraving skills, serving as fellow soldiers in the army. Some powder horns have poetic phrases reflecting upon specific events and military campaigns; others are inscribed with only the owner’s name and date. Many powder horns have maps or floral or naturalistic scenes engraved on their surfaces. Each horn, however it is decorated is a unique record of a person’s military experience.

Fort Ticonderoga’s collection of 18th-century military objects is celebrated as one of the best of its type in the world. The collection of engraved powder horns numbers about seventy-five pieces spanning the French & Indian War and American Revolution. According to Chris Fox, Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections, “Each powder horn is unique and has a story to tell.”

Dozens of engraved powder horns are exhibited in the museum each season and many will be featured in the museum’s newest exhibit Bullets & Blades: The Weapons of America’s Colonial Wars and Revolution opening May 2012.

Fort Ticonderoga Offers 2nd Material Culture Seminar


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Fort Ticonderoga will host its Second Annual “Material Matters: It’s in the Details” seminar the weekend of January 28 & 29, 2012. This weekend program focuses on the material culture of the 18th century and is intended for collectors, re-enactors, and people with a general interest in learning more about objects of the 18th century and what they can tell us about history. “Material Matters” takes place in the Deborah Clarke Mars Education Center at Fort Ticonderoga and is open by pre-registration only.

A panel of material culture experts from the United States and Canada come to Fort Ticonderoga for the weekend to share their knowledge of 18th-century material culture in a series of presentations. Designed for those who want a deeper understanding of the everyday objects that help tell the story of life and the contests for control of North America during the 18th century, the weekend’s informal approach enables attendees to interact with presenters and provides an opportunity to examine 18th-century objects up close.

o Fort Ticonderoga’s Curator of Collections Chris Fox will discuss the archeological remains of clothing and sewing-related artifacts in the Fort’s collection found during the Fort’s restoration in the early 20th century.

o Matthew Keagle, a scholar of 18th-century Atlantic material culture, will talk about grenadier caps used by various 18th-century armies and their cultural significance.

o David Ledoyen, a heritage presentation coordinator from Montreal, will explore 18th-century surgeons’ instruments and the evolution of surgeons as a profession in New France.

o Stuart Lilie, Director of Interpretation at Fort Ticonderoga, will discuss equestrian saddlery and horse furniture. Lilie is a saddler specializing in 18th- and early 19th-century saddlery.

o Sarah Woodyard, an apprentice in millinery at Colonial Williamsburg, will talks about 18th-century undergarments.

Registration for “Material Matters” is now open. A brochure with the complete schedule and a registration form is available on Fort Ticonderoga’s website at www.fort-ticonderoga.org by selecting “Explore and Learn” and choosing “Life Long Learning” on the drop-down menu. A printed copy is also available upon request by contacting Rich Strum, Director of Education, at 518-585-6370. The cost for the weekend is $120 ($100 for members of the Friends of Fort Ticonderoga).

Photo: Speaker Henry Cooke (left) and Curator of Collections Chris Fox (right) examine an original 18th-century coat during a “Material Matters” session last winter.

Wanda Burch: 18th Century Bed Rugs


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The question was raised on “what are bed rugs?” in a recent living history association [ALHFAM] on-line thread. Bed rugs, often spelled “bed ruggs,” were common bed coverings that appear in both 18th and 19th century house inventories. Bed rugs were inventoried in Johnson Hall in Johnstown, NY, in a 1774 inventory of household goods by Daniel Claus. Johnson Hall was built in 1763; but the inventory was completed in 1774, a common recording for wills and cataloguing household goods. Continue reading

Museum of the City of NY Reopens Research Access


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The Museum of the City of New York has reopened access to it’s collections to onsite researchers. On November 1, the Museum resumes accepting appointments from outside researchers and began offering a dedicated space for research as part of their newly renovated collection storage facilities.

To learn how to submit an application for conducting onsite research, send a request to research@mcny.org. In your request indicate the collections of interest and describe your research need. Before contacting the Museum to inquire about a research appointment, visit the Museum’s Collections Portal (collections.mcny.org) which has over 100,000 digital images of photographs, negative, prints, drawings, postcards, and maps from the Museum’s collections.

The following onsite collections will be open to research appointments:

Manuscripts & Ephemera
Manuscript and ephemera holdings augment and complement other elements of the collections and are particularly strong in late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century materials. The Manuscripts include papers related to notable New Yorkers, organizations, and events from the 17th century to the present. The ephemera collections include objects such as society dinner menus, trade cards, maps, Valentines, badges, Christmas cards, and material related to public ceremonies, special events, schools, sports, the shipping trade, transportation, statues and monuments, retail trade, and the police and fire departments.

Prints, Drawings, and Photographs
The Prints, Drawings, and Photographs Collection documents the built environment of the city and its changing cultural, political, and social landscape from its earliest days to the present. Photographic holdings include collections on Berenice Abbott, Jacob Riis, and the photographic archives of Gottscho-Scheleisner, LOOK Magazine, Byron Co., and the Wurts Brothers. Drawings range from18th-century pastel portraits and mural studies to political cartoons and architectural renderings. Specific collections include the archives of the Planning Board of the 1939 New York World’s Fair, the Harry T. Peters Collection of hand-colored Currier & Ives prints, and the Martin Wong Graffiti Collection.

Theater
The Theater Collection documents theatrical activity in New York City from the late 18th century to the present day. The heart of the Theater holdings is the John Golden Archive, which consists of approximately 40,000 folders, organized into files on productions, personalities, and performance spaces. The Theater Collection also holds collections on Burlesque, Circus, Minstrelsy, and Vaudeville. Files contain a wide range of material including photographs, contracts, correspondence, playbills, manuscripts, advertising materials, reviews, obituaries, clippings, sheet music, autographs, account records, prompt books, and ephemera.

The Museum also holds collections of Costumes and Textiles, Decorative Arts and Furniture, and Paintings and Sculpture; however, due to the special preparation necessary for handling these objects, access is extremely limited. For specific inquiries into these collections, email research@mcny.org

AIHA’s Annual Antiquarian Book, Ephemra Sale


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The 37th annual Antiquarian Book and Ephemera Fair will be held this Sunday, October 23, 2011 from 10 AM to 4 PM at the Washington Avenue Armory Sports and Convention Arena, 195 Washington Avenue, Albany. The fair is presented by the Albany Institute of History & Art and managed by Austin’s Antiquarian Books.

Individuals can bring their books, posters, ephemera, and collectibles and have them appraised at the fair. In addition to professional appraisals, the book fair will feature 60 dealers of rare, antiquarian, and out-of–print books, manuscripts, autographs, postcards, maps, posters, photographs, ephemera, and more. There will also be a silent auction of donated collectible items, many of local interest. All proceeds of the auction will benefit the research library of the Albany Institute of History & Art.

For vendor/appraisal information, contact Gary Austin of Austin’s Antiquarian Books by phone at (800) 556-3727. For more information, please visit www.albanybookfair.com. Admission to the book fair is $6.

Childhood Toys Highlight of New Albany Exhibit


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The Albany Institute of History & Art has opened a new exhibit, Kid Stuff: Great Toys from Our Childhood. This exhibition, based on the book by David Hoffman, was created by the Berkshire Museum and is on the last stop of its national tour.

From Slinky’s and Wooly Willy’s to Lionel Trains and Barbie Dolls, Kid Stuff takes visitors back to the age of tailfins and vinyl records with more than 40 toys from decades ago to see vintage toys with original packaging and promotional materials and have the opportunity to play and interact with contemporary versions. Additional displays such as photos of toy factory interiors, images of children at play, video presentations, and interpretive texts depict how toys work and their significance in American culture.

Enhancing the exhibition are ten interactive components that invite visitors to play with many of the classic toys they see on display. The hands-on stations include a LEGO construction site, Twister, a magnetic Mr. Potato Head (and friends) game, and more. The museum will host “Play for All” Saturdays throughout the run of the exhibition, which include additional interactive art stations as well as museum educators in the galleries to guide visitors through the hands-on components of the exhibition.

The exhibit will be on display through March 4, 2012.