A Cast Iron Stove

By Ciara Bohan

Hi everyone! This week’s object is a late 18th-early 19th century cast iron stove, a tool used to optimize heating during times with no electricity. This later stove structure evolved from the jamb stove. This simply made cast iron stove heated thousands of Europeans homes for hundreds of years, especially in Northern Europe. Once the European immigrants came to the United States, they brought jamb stoves to use as a main source of heating other than the fireplace.



Dating back to the 1600’s, the jamb stove was first seen in Germany and later became popular in the Netherlands, Sweden, and England. Also referred to as 5-plated stoves, wall stoves, and German stoves, these cast iron stoves were specifically used for heating purposes. Throughout most of the 19th century, German houses were designed to be extremely similar. Almost every German house was built with a fireplace for the purpose of cooking food and for warmth. Directly behind the kitchen was a “stove room” which is where the jamb stove was located. The jamb stove had to be placed behind the fireplace so the smoke would rise out of the chimney. It became a key feature of a German household, and made it easy for settlers to identify each other’s ancestry by looking in their homes. Since New Paltz and much of the Hudson Valley was settled by the Dutch, jamb stoves were brought over from the Netherlands and were useful through the cold winters.


The structure and design of the stoves were fairly simple. The stoves were built with five sides and had an open back which attached to the fireplace. The plates would be a square 2 feet by 2 feet, and in total could weight up to 450 pounds. By the mid 1700’s the plates traditionally were elegantly decorated in low relief detail on the outer sides. Popular designs included floral and landscape motifs. These stoves were manufactured up until about 1794. Although jamb stoves changed the domestic lives of many people, they eventually became outdated. New inventions came out such as the “6-plate stove” or the “9-plated stove”, which were more efficient. These appliances included small ovens for cooking. The decorations on the stoves varied as styles in furniture did. Before the Revolution, Rococo, and Chippendale styles were added onto stoves, and after the war, creators of these stoves caught onto Federal motifs. Historic Huguenot Street’s permanent collection holds several examples of later cast iron stoves. This particular stove stands on four feet, and two doors that open in front in order to add hot coals for heating and cooking. The elaborately decorated top swivels off to reveal an opening for venting. The cover has an urn shaped finial on top.

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Visit Our Newest Exhibit: The Stove Plates of Rock Hill Farm.” Conococheague Institute Blog. Mercersburg, PA: The Conococheague Institute, 5 February 2013. Web. 12 August 2016.

Wood, Robert. “The Historian: The Evolution of the Cooke Stove, Part I.” The Berks-Mont News. Pottstown, PA: Berksmont News, 21 March 2013. Web. 12 August 2016.

Harris, Howell. “A Collection of Stoves from American Museums, I: Plate Stoves.” A Stove Less Ordinary. Durham, England: A Stove Less Ordinary, 22 October 2013.  Web. 12 August  2016.

Coded Quilts and the Underground Railroad

By Madison Petrella

quiltThis week we’re taking a look at “Freedom quilts.” Quilts were often created to send a message, each uniquely embroidered to tell a story. Before and during the Civil War, people aiding runaway slaves in the Underground Railroad used quilt patterns to help.

Quilt patterns pointed to the safest route to take to freedom. Runaway slaves were taught the symbolism behind each pattern. Using quilts was a rather ingenious idea as the sight of one hanging out to dry was so common a sight it was easily overlooked.1 It is a general consensus among historians that there were ten different patterns. “Monkey Wrench” told slaves to start preparing the tools they would need for a long journey, whether these be physical, mental, or spiritual ones, and “Wagon Wheel” indicated that their journey was about to begin. If a slave saw the “Bear’s Paw” pattern, then they knew they were supposed to head towards the mountains and follow the tracks of the bears, which would lead them to water and food. “Crossroads” directed slaves towards Cleveland, Ohio. “Log Cabin” let those know there was a safe house nearby. Likewise, “Shoofly” directed a people towards a nearby guide. If a runaway saw the “Bowtie” symbol, they needed to disguise themselves with new clothing. Slaves knew not to take a direct route if they saw the “Drunkard’s Path” and to follow the North Star if they saw the “Star.” The last design is the “Flying Geese” where slaves were directed to follow a goose migration pattern.




The HHS Permanent Collection holds several quilts with these patterns. The quilt pictured was donated in 1990 by Mr. Kenneth E. Hasbrouck as part of the Estate of Ruth Laws Lauder. It is believed to have been hand sewn by Jane Crispell around 1850 and has no provenance associated with the Underground Railroad. However, it is an example of what could be considered a Freedom quilt with the “Flying Geese” design.

The idea of coded quilts became popular due to a 1999 book entitled Hidden in Plain View: A Secret Story of Quilts and the Underground Railroad, published by historian Jacqueline Tobin and scholar Raymond Dobard. The book is the oral testimony of a South Carolina quilt vendor named Ozella McDaniel Williams who recounted a song to Tobin and Dobard over a period of three years. The song works as a mnemonic to aid slaves in remembering the meanings of various symbols. Williams claimed that this song and the accompanying story of quilts used as signals to aid runaways was one passed down within her family for generations, her ancestors having been slaves on a southern plantation.

Since its publication, Hidden in Plain View has met significant controversy among historians, particularly those specializing in quilts and the Underground Railroad. The biggest issues have been the lack of any quilts that have survived to the present and the lack of any mention of the quilts from other sources. Perhaps the most vocal opponent of the theory of coded quilts is Giles R. Wright, who was a historian and director of the Afro-American History Program at the New Jersey Historical Commission. He pointed to the mention of quilt codes being absent in both the 19th century slave narratives and the oral testimonies of former slaves given in the 1930s.2 Tobin later said that her claims were taken out of context. She says she and Dobard made it clear that they were recounting Williams’ story and the oral history of her family and of one planation in the south;3 however, critics point out that they allege that these quilts were used by members of the Underground Railroad, for which no corroborating evidence has been found.

Today, the general consensus among historians is that Freedom quilts are a myth due to the lack of any written evidence of the contrary. So, were quilts sewn with specific patterns to relay delicate messages to runaway slaves? Probably not, as there is more evidence to argue that Freedom quilts are part of an American folklore. The idea of quilts created to relay information hasn’t died out in the American imagination. On the contrary, it has been added to the long list of heroic stories forever associated with the Civil War and the Underground Railroad.

Myths in history are equally important as fact. Some claim that mythologized stories are a detriment because they disrupt the preservation of history, but I maintain that sometimes it’s the heroic myths that are remembered best because they inspire us to do more than we think we’re capable of. We take them to heart and remember them for the future.


1 “Underground Railroad Quilt Code.” Owen Sound. Ontario: Owen Sound City Hall. Web. 9 August 2016.

Ives, Sarah. “Did Quilts Hold Codes to the Underground Railroad?” National Geographic News. New York: National Geography Society, 5 February 2004. Web. 9 August 2016.

3 Cole, Diane. “Were Quilts Used as Underground Railroad Maps?” U.S. News & World Report. U.S. News & World Report, L.P., 24 June 2007. Web. 9 August 2016.

A Child’s Ciphering Book

By Meredith Salton

Hi, it’s Meredith! The object of the week this week is a ciphering book that belonged to Philip Hasbrouck in 1793. Ciphering books held mathematical definitions as well as arithmetic exercises and problems. Recently donated to Huguenot Street, this book gives a clear view into the learning habits of the everyday child in New Paltz in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Philip Hasbrouck was born on October 22, 1783, to Joseph Hasbrouck and Elizabeth Bevier. He probably owned this book when he was 10 years old. The book contains examples of multiplication problems, as well as other simple exercises. HHS holds a number of ciphering books in the permanent collection that were owned by descendants of New Paltz patentees. These books tell us the story of what communities valued and taught their children.


Many ciphering books from New Paltz and the surrounding area that survive today contain religious rhetoric. There are also examples of application problems that revolved around commerce and business within the books. Though many ciphering books survived from the time, this one contains charming and interesting doodles probably drawn by Philip during his lessons. Most of them are of a man with a horse and pipe. Philip ends the book with a poem that indicates how crucial these personal ciphering books were to learning:  “Heal not this Book my Honest friend/ For fear the Gallows will be your end/ Steal not this book for fear of shame/ For in it stands the owners name/ If it loose and you it find/ Return it home for it is mine”.




The New Paltz educational system was a fuse of Dutch and French Huguenots and focused on “three R’s”: reading, writing and some ‘rithmetic. Children would practice their handwriting by copying portions of the bible. They would do this continuously until their handwriting was perfect, as shown in the handwriting of this ciphering book. Education methods did not differ between boys and girls, because it was necessary for everyone to be able to read the bible. Along with the basics, children were taught trades to prepare them to support themselves. For example, young girls were often taught to weave cloth, and ended their schooling by their mid-teens to continue textile working. Ciphering books with doodles as sweet as Philip’s remind us that although methods and values may change, the fun mind of a child remains the same.


Ciphering Books.” Library Muse: Inspiring Ideas from the Dartmouth College Library.  Hanover, New Hampshire: Dartmouth College Library, November 14, 2014. Web. 4 August 2016.

Starr, Linda. “Back in the Day: Lessons from Colonial Classrooms.” Education World. Colchester, CT: Education World, 2010. Web. 4 August 2016.

Shuster, Caitlin. “Huguenot Education in Colonial America.” Web. 4 August 2016.

On Display: “Powder Horns: An Early American Art Form”

Powder Horns:
An Early American Art Form
From the HHS Permanent Collection
DuBois Fort Visitor Center, 81 Huguenot Street
August 9 – September 25, 2016

Throughout the early wars in America, powder horns were a close companion to colonial weapons such as the musket, fowler, flintlock rifle, and pistol. Powder horns were portable containers used primarily for gunpowder and made out of large animal horns, commonly that of cows. If made correctly, the tool was airtight, waterproof, and spark-proof, with caps on both ends removed to funnel powder into the gun. The powder horn was introduced to America from Europe, where they were developed alongside gunpowder. Horns were easily and cheaply obtained.

1985223001-5Although they served a vital utilitarian purpose on the battlefield, powder horns also functioned as unique works of art. European powder horns were unembellished, while American horns were engraved with images, regimental mottos, references to military campaigns, or maps.  The technique became known as scrimshaw; a form of scrollwork, engraving, and carving done in bone or ivory. While some decorated powder horns were inscribed by the owner, some were made by professional engravers for sale. Many times, horns decorated by professionals had delicate lines and featured a cartouche, a carved ornamental table in which the owner would inscribe their name or initials.

Powder Horns: An Early American Art Form features seven powder horns from the HHS Permanent Collection dating to the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Both owner and professionally-made examples of scrimshaw  are featured, as well as horns with provenance to descendants of Huguenot Street patentees.

This exhibit was researched and prepared by HHS Curatorial Department interns Ciara Bohan, Madison Petrella, and Meredith Salton.

Art in the Hudson Valley: Past and Present

By Madison Petrella

In honor of the upcoming 4th annual Artists on the Street event, HHS has decided to take a look at a famous Hudson Valley artist and a member of the Huguenot Street family: D.F. Hasbrouck. Though largely unknown on a national scale, Hasbrouck is a notable figure in Hudson Valley history, famous for his wooded landscapes of the Catskill region, in particular Ulster and Delaware Counties.

Dubois Fenelon Hasbrouck (1860-1934) was born in Pine Hill, NY to Josiah Louis Hasbrouck and Mary Smith. He is also the descendent of two of the twelve original patentees: Jean Hasbrouck and Louis Dubois.1 Raised on a farm, Hasbrouck was first inspired by art when a well-known artist by the name of J.G. Brown stopped in Pine Hill during his sketching tour of the Catskills. Hasbrouck was captivated by what he witnessed Brown creating and was inspired to give it a try. He created his own work of art on a wooden board using simple farm tools and house paint. Even though the tools used were crude, when Hasbrouck showed his accomplishment to Brown the latter could plainly see the young boy’s natural talent and was impressed. Before moving on, Brown gifted to Hasbrouck a few of his art supplies and suggested he make a career out of his talent, a suggestion Hasbrouck took to heart.

Although his father believed that he should focus his attention towards his duties on the farm, Hasbrouck was determined in his passion and found support in close friends, particularly Reverend Howard Crosby who frequently rented a room on the Hasbrouck property.2 The Reverend purchased the first painting Hasbrouck completed after his encounter with J.G. Brown and remained a lifelong supporter, frequently purchasing Hasbrouck’s works and helping him to move to New York City in order to study the art scene there. Impressively, Hasbrouck was mostly self-taught with the exception of a few classes of perspective he took during a winter semester at Cooper Union in 1879.3

One of Hasbrouck’s early paintings was accepted into the 1884 fall exhibit of the National Academy of Design, a prestigious honor. Another painting was accepted again into the 1888 exhibit. This painting was entitled Winter Morning in the Catskills and was also selected to be displayed in the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago where it was purchased by prominent art collector and businessman, James W. Ellsworth.4 Additionally, Hasbrouck’s paintings were accepted to the Brooklyn Art Association, the Boston Art Club, and the Art Institute of Chicago.5 Thus began a prosperous career, but one that resulted in relative obscurity by the time of his death.

The piece I focus on today is a unique watercolor. This piece is a photo of the artist, embellished with watercolor. A brown tree with foliage surrounds a photo of Hasbrouck, sitting with a book. The watercolor dates to 1906, while the photograph was taken in 1895 by E.D. Lewis in Kingston, New York.

D F Hasbrouck

D F Hasbrouck

Today, D.F. Hasbrouck is unknown to the average American and is not one of the American greats that are studied in art history classes; however, his art can be found in a number of museums across the country, including the National Gallery of Art in D.C., the San Diego Museum of Art, and right here at Historic Huguenot Street.6 In particular, the Zadock Pratt Museum curated an exhibition in 2014 in honor of Hasbrouck. Perhaps most impressively, the Zadock Pratt Museum while researching Hasbrouck’s life and works received significant help from a small community of people in Stamford, NY (where Hasbrouck spent most of his life). These residents made it a point to lovingly preserve his memory and his legacy by collecting a small but significant collection of his paintings, proving that you don’t need to be the most prominent artist of your generation for your legacy to live on long after your death and inspire a community of people.

1 Walsh, Suzanne M. The Paintings, Watercolors, and Drawings of D.F. Hasbrouck: American Impressionist (1859-1917). Prattsville, New York: Zadock Pratt Museum, 2014. Print.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 Ibid.

5 “Dubois Fenelon Hasbrouck (1860–1934).” Questroyal Fine Art LLC, New York, n.d. Web. 15 July 2016.

6 Ibid.

Climate Control: Preserving the HHS Permanent Collection

By Executive & Curatorial Assistant, Caitlin Cummings

For over two years now, the Object of the Week blog has allowed us to bring you a closer look at some of the most special pieces within our permanent collection. This week, we take the time to explain a behind the scenes aspect of collections care: climate control and preservation efforts within our historic structures! A key responsibility of any curatorial department is keeping museum artifacts safe, and with a collection as large as ours (with over 10,000 diverse objects), that can sometimes be a challenge. What many may not know is that different types of materials react differently to environmental variables, and as a result it is crucial that they are housed and handled appropriately in order to remain in excellent physical condition. Especially during these summer months, we are constantly battling heat, humidity, sunlight, and pest issues that could easily threaten the condition of historic artifacts.  Low levels of humidity can, for example, cause desiccation and embrittlement of paper, leather, and textiles, as well as the splitting/cracking of wood. High levels of humidity on the other hand can promote the corrosion of metals, and increase the chances of mold and insect activity.

Our main collection storage area on Huguenot Street is located in a 20th century building, and as a result we have little to no problems maintaining proper climate conditions in that space (with a temperature safe range of 61-68°, and a relative humidity range of 35-55%). Unfortunately stone houses, such as those that line Huguenot Street, are not equipped with insulation, HVAC systems, or any of the other structural amenities we are now reliant on to keep us comfortable at home. This means that the Huguenot houses are particularly dry and freezing in the winters, and alternatively moist and hot in the summers.  Because many pieces within the HHS permanent collection are kept on display in the stone houses to accommodate our recently re-vamped tours, we must ensure that the temperature and humidity within those environments are kept as stable as possible. If we failed to do so, our visitors would have less to enjoy as priceless pieces within the collection could begin to fall apart.

Traditional museum spaces and art galleries have long-been accustomed to measuring environmental conditions with tools called hygrothermographs. These devices are comprised of human or synthetic hair (for measuring humidity) and a bi-metallic strip (for measuring temperature), typically resembling small boxes that sit on the floor. Each sensor is attached to a separate pen which in turn moves up or down in response to a change in humidity or temperature. Because of the sensitive nature of the mechanism, the hygrothermograph requires frequent calibration and is simply not a suitable way for us to measure environmental conditions in all eight of our historic buildings. Historic Huguenot Street, like many other house museums, has instead turned to a new type of technology that provides the same exact data as hygrothermographs; digital climate data loggers. For the past decade, HHS has been evolving alongside these digital trackers, and we are pleasantly surprised to find that the technology is continually improving. Produced by a company called Onset, our curatorial department utilizes a brand of data-reading devices aptly called “HOBO loggers.” These loggers are initially hooked up to a software system that allows us to program their settings; here, you can change the intervals at which temperature and humidity readings are being taken and also specify a loggers “home location”. After the loggers have been digitally set-up, they are taken out and placed into each of the eight buildings. Once they are placed in the correct room (based on their “home location” as it was programmed in the computer), the loggers are turned on and they immediately begin to record the climate changes within those spaces. The best part of these new-age digital loggers is that you only need to collect the data once a month, as opposed to once a day (as was necessary with the hygrothermographs). Thus, once a month we visit each of the loggers and simply connect it to a data reader via a USB cord. Then we simply bring the data reader back to a computer, upload all the recorded information from all of the historic houses, and voila! The climate condition data analysis can begin!

A traditional hygrothermograph (left) and the digital HOBO logger (right) used on Historic Huguenot Street.

Now I know that at this point many are wondering, “so what,” and “who CARES about climate data anyway!?” I guess all I can say is that I used to agree with you; this entire process once seemed tedious and unimportant to me as well. That is until I began to see the devastating effects of environmental variables with my own eyes! This past winter it came to our attention that three of our most prized portraits were succumbing to the significant fluctuations in temperature and humidity that they had been subject to since they were painted in the early 19th century. These fluctuations resulted in the chipping of paint, the buckling of canvas, and in some areas, paint discoloration. We were forced to take action quickly in order to preserve these paintings, and thus had to hire the services of a trained conservator who specializes in painting restoration. Another example is the current situation we face with the Jean Hasbrouck House. Erected in the early 18th century, the Jean House has been a longstanding “face” of Huguenot Street and remains one of the most popular stops on our daily tours. Visitors regularly enjoy the newly re-furnished Storeroom, our impressive collection of Dutch kasten, and of course, the large wooden loom that sits in the Garret. What visitors don’t realize is that all of those beautiful collections pieces are in grave danger due to the deteriorating roof that covers the Jean Hasbrouck House. Although we have managed to catch this problem in the nick of time, structural issues such as a leaky roof or a cracked window are always more devastating when there are museum pieces involved.

While digital climate control is an ever-changing field for historic house museums such as HHS, we enjoy protecting our collection and welcome the publics’ help in that regard. As always, please refrain from touching or handling museum objects while on our guided tours and continue to support our mission by donating online.

Campaigning in the 20th Century

By Ciara Bohan

Getting in to the spirit of our oncoming elections and the national conventions, we have examples of American campaign pins. Buttons and pins were used by supporters of a campaign to show enthusiasm and to market a nominee. It is a brilliant way to advertise politicians without spending too much money, since pins were and still are cheaply made, mass producible, and could be worn on people’s shirts for the public to see. This strategy has been a successful and is still used to this day. Now campaigns will not only use pins, but also print their promotions on flags, hats, bumper stickers, and other easily and cheaply made items.

One pin out of our large collection is one the 1964 Presidential Election between Barry Goldwater and Lyndon B. Johnson. The pin is red, white, and blue with a picture of Barry Goldwater (on right) and William Miller (on left). Miller was Goldwater’s Vice Presidential pick. The words “Een Ploeg Voor Vryheid” is written across the top, which means “A Team for Freedom/ Liberty” in Dutch.

Goldwater Miller

Before running for president, Barry Goldwater represented Arizona in Senate for thirty years. Goldwater was known for being a fiscal conservative, which meant he supported fewer government regulations, little government spending, and low taxes. It wasn’t very clear why he chose William Miller to be his vice president, since many people didn’t know who his was or what his political views were. William Miller was a New York politician who served in the House of Representatives as a Republican. He was known for criticizing John F. Kennedy while he was in office in 1961-63. The Democratic Party led one of the most famous campaigns called the “Daisy ad,” which stated electing Barry Goldwater would result in a nuclear war occurring during the Vietnam War. This ad was successful in causing public fear of the Republican Party winning, which secured Democratic victory. Lyndon B. Johnson won the majority of the votes, making the Barry Goldwater campaign one of the most unsuccessful presidential campaigns in American history. It remains a mystery why the caption “Een Ploeg Voor Vryheid” is in Dutch, especially since this pin was made to promote an American election. Dutch was not the only language that The Goldwater/Miller campaign produced buttons in. An online antique dealer shows the same pin with the same translation in languages such as Ukrainian, Latvian, Greek, Chinese, Hungarian, Lebanese, and Estonian.  Although not certain, some of the languages were of countries under a communist regime, something that the Goldwater campaign was avidly against. The goal may have been to promote ideals of democracy.

Buttons and pins are not only used for campaigns, they are often used for commemorations and anniversaries. This next pin we have is a 1962 commemorative pin which celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Union victory in the Battle of Antietam, and the 200th anniversary of the foundation of Antietam, Maryland. The pin has the American flag on one side and the Union flag on the other. Around the perimeter of the pin are the words “Antietam-South Mountain Centennial *Hagerstown 200th Anniversary*.”

Battle of Antietam

The Battle of Antietam took place during the Civil War in 1862 one-hundred years after the town was founded by Jonathan Hager. In this battle, Robert E. Lee led the Confederate Army to Maryland, meaning it was the first battle to be fought on Northern soil. The opposing General George McClellan led the Army of the Potomac against them and stopped the Confederates from advancing farther into the North. This battle was known for being one of the bloodiest in American history. Many conclude that there was no real victory to this battle, as there were thousands of casualties on both ends. In total, historians estimate there were around 22,717 soldiers who died. This battle resulted in the creation of the Emancipation Proclamation, issued by Abraham Lincoln. It was passed on January 1st of 1863 after three years of the Civil War. The Emancipation Proclamation declared “that all persons held as slaves” (with in all states that had rebelled against the Union) “all and henceforward shall be free.” Although the Emancipation Proclamation was not powerful enough to free all slaves, it was one of the first steps in abolishing slavery.

Maryland Commemorative PlateVia Etsy

The Historic Huguenot Street Permanent Collection holds a number of other patriotic campaign buttons along with the aforementioned. Some include the classic and widely known, “I Like Ike” slogan, from the 1952 election for Dwight Eisenhower. We also hold a few buttons promoting liberty bonds, which were bonds sold in World War I to support the allied cause. They were advertised as a patriotic duty to those on the home front in the United States.

19602 Campaign Buttons


History & Culture.” Antietam National Battlefield Maryland. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior: Washington, D.C., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

Antietam.” Civil War Trust. Washington, D.C., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

Emancipation Proclamation, January 1, 1863; Presidential Proclamations, 1791-1991; Record Group 11; General Records of the United States Government; National Archives.

Barry Goldwater and William E. Miller.” The Los Angeles Times: Los Angeles, n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

Biography.com Editors. “Barry Goldwater Biography.” Biography.com. A+E Television Networks, n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.

Land of the Free

By Ciara Bohan

As part of our celebration of Independence Day, this week’s object is a traditional powder horn; an item commonly used during the Revolutionary War.  Selected for our patriotic theme of the week, this elegantly detailed powder horn symbolizes our countries victory and separation from England in 1776.

This powder horn in particular was made in the early 19th century, meaning it was not made until after the Revolutionary War. Carved into the side are the American flag and the British flag, as well as the words “Liberty” and “Land of the Free”. “Land of the Free” came from the National Anthem which was written in 1814 by Francis Scott Key, meaning the horn was probably not carved into until after this year. Along with this are two sailboats, four tulips and a row of ten houses. The houses appear to have been built in the style of European architecture, especially with Dutch influence. Beside the houses is a church, which was likely illustrated to symbolize Christianity. This technique of carving is called scrimshaw, which normally takes the form of illustrated engravings or letters. After this, the artist would rub ink/pigment into the carving to highlight the detail. Interestingly, the bottom of the horn was carved to be in the shape of an acorn. The small opening at the end allows a small amount of gun powder to be loaded, making it an artistic object and a utilitarian tool. Its exterior has remained in a remarkably good condition since it has been well preserved. Powder horns to this day are considered highly valuable as they were all individually designed.






Although it was not used in the war, many powder horns like this carried gun powder used in battles at war. Powder horns have been used for thousands of years, mainly since they were so effective and useful. Soldiers, gunman, hunters, etc. all favored this tool for its highly valuable characteristics.  They were light and portable, waterproof, and most importantly spark proof.  Powder horns also helped soldiers pass time in winter camps. It wasn’t until Colonial times where it became common to carve into powder horns. They would normally use knifes or needles stuck into a stick to get the precise detail they needed, especially in this powder horn. Each powder horn was unique to its owner, commonly illustrated the status of their life.

Typically using the horns of cattle or buffalos, soldiers and other powder horn users favored its unique shape as a resourceful tool. The horns were naturally hollow on the inside, making it easier to use. The function of the powder horns was to have a wider opening on one end, and a smaller end. The wider end acted as the part where the powder could be loaded into the horn. The smaller end was used to pour the powder into the gun, acting as a funnel. This technique of loading powder was handy and could be done quickly, which helped at battle. Powder horns were mainly used for muskets during the Revolution. They could also be used for pistols and rifles which later became more popular in the United States.


Guild, Rich. “A Bit of Horn History.” Investment Grade Decorated Powder Horns. 2002. Web. 30 June 2016.

Powder Horns.” Firearms History, Technology & Development. 21 Jan 2013. Web. 30 June 2016.

Linberry, Cate. “The Story Behind the Star Spangled Banner.” Smithsonian.com. Smithsonian: 1 March 2007. Web. 30 June 2016.

Campaigning in the 19th Century

By Madison Petrella

Because of the popularity of the Broadway production of Hamilton, Historic Huguenot Street thought an artifact belonging to Aaron Burr would be an exciting object to look at this week. Since the next presidential election is coming up soon we thought Aaron Burr’s campaign poster from his run for governor of New York would be the perfect choice.


For those you are not aware, Aaron Burr was the Vice President under Thomas Jefferson. Fans of Hamilton also know him as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in their infamous duel. Fewer people are aware that after his term as Vice President and before the dual that ruined his reputation, he had set his sights on the governorship of New York.

Born in 1756 in Newark, New Jersey, Burr was considered to be brilliant from a young age, graduating from Princeton (then the College of New Jersey) at the age of 17.1 He decided he wanted to direct his focus towards politics with much initial success. He was admitted to the bar in 1782 and began practicing law.2 Over the next few decades he was elected to the New York Assembly, as well as to the Senate, the Office of the District Attorney of New York, and even as Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson. However, Burr had a number of powerful enemies, namely Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton. It was the latter whom he blamed for the misfortunes he endured during his political career, particularly his loss of the presidential race to Jefferson, which he attributed to Hamilton’s influence in Congress.

It was in 1804, just one year until the end of his term as Vice President, when Burr, in an attempt to salvage his honor and his reputation, challenged Hamilton to a dual.1 The dual ended in Hamilton’s death and Burr was indicted for murder but was later acquitted on a technicality. After his term as Vice President ended Burr left Washington. He is known for hatching a scheme to overtake land in the Louisiana Territory, overthrow the authority of the US government there, and rule the land himself. He failed after being betrayed by his co-conspirator and was labeled a traitor. He was indicted on charges of treason but was acquitted. After fleeing to Europe for a time (where he tried for a second time to overthrow the US government with little support) he returned to New York and began to once again practice law. He remained there and in 1836 he died at the age of 80 in near obscurity.1

It was in the middle of his tenure as Vice President when Burr realized that Jefferson intended to prevent him from running again in the next presidential election. It was then that he decided to run for governor of New York in the 1804 election, which he lost to Morgan Lewis in what was at that time the largest margin of loss in New York’s history. Burr attributed his loss to a brutal smear campaign orchestrated by Alexander Hamilton, which only furthered his hatred of Hamilton.

DSCN7549The campaign poster reads more like a newspaper than the quickly read ones we are used to nowadays. However, similar to many modern political commercials, Burr’s campaign poster takes the time to argue, rather backhandedly, why his opponent Morgan Lewis, as well as then-governor Clinton (who wasn’t even running), were unfit to be elected into office. On the poster, Burr lists the Clintons and Livingstons (the family of a prominent lawyer and good friend of Burr) who were in office at the time along with roughly the amount of money they were making while in office. Perhaps this was his way of saying to the American people that 1) there were too many members of these two powerful families in government, some of them probably because of their familial connections, and 2) these families obtained their fortunes from government funds. Burr then goes on to discuss Morgan Lewis. He critiques his judgment on one case and his behavior during another, reminds readers that Lewis was once a Federalist before abandoning them, and then states that those who make laws should not also govern. Overall, not much different than today’s campaigning.


1The Duel.” The American Experience: PBS Online, 2000. Web. 22 June 2016.

2Burr, Aaron.” West’s Encyclopedia of American Law. 2005. Encyclopedia.com. Web. 22 June 2016.

John Brown’s Missing Gun

By Madison Petrella

This mysterious, unassuming artifact was found in the Historic Huguenot Street collections a number of years ago. With it was a note claiming it to be a piece of John Brown’s gun used during his raid on Harpers Ferry.  How did this object end up all the way in New Paltz, NY? No one knows. This object was found in collections without a trace. Is this really a piece of the famous John Brown’s gun? Well, there’s no way to prove it’s not.




John Brown (1800-1859) was an abolitionist whose failed attack on the West Virginia town of Harpers Ferry is credited with being one of the events that provoked the tensions between the North and the South to the breaking point that resulted in the Civil War. Brown grew up in Ohio in the early 1800’s where he tried his hand at a few business ventures without success.1 Having grown up in an anti-slavery family, he attended an abolition meeting in Cleveland in 1837 where he was inspired to such an extent that he publicly dedicated himself to the anti-slavery cause right then.1

Brown spent the rest of his life fighting for the abolitionist cause, taking a more militant approach to combatting slaving. He even incited an episode of guerrilla warfare in Kansas during the summer of 1856 that resulted in the deaths of many, including one of his sons.1 Brown returned to the East in 1857 and began fundraising for his larger goal: inciting a slave insurrection. This series of attacks meant to incite an insurrection was to begin with Harpers Ferry in 1859.

Although many of Brown’s friends, including Frederick Douglas, warned Brown that his plan was doomed to fail he insisted on continuing regardless, his faith undaunted. On October 16, 1859, Brown, along with 20 men, composed of both white and black men and 3 of Brown’s sons, attacked the federal arsenal in Harpers Ferry. They took 60 civilian hostages and found refuge in the arsenal’s engine house where they remained surrounded until the arrival of the US Marines on October 18, 1859.2 Brown and his men were defeated by a group of Marines under the leadership of Colonel Robert E. Lee. During the raid, 10 of Brown’s men were killed, including 2 of his sons, 5 men escaped, and the rest were captured along with Brown and were tried and quickly executed on November 2, 1959.

When Brown was captured, his gun was confiscated from his possession and gifted to the governor of Virginia as a souvenir3. The gun was then passed on to friends of friends and then relatives, disappearing for a long time from any records until it was supposedly found in the 1990’s in the closet of a descendent of one of the last known people to allegedly have possessed the gun after the Virginia governor.3

Now, there’s no way to prove that this is an actual piece of John Brown’s actual gun, and the one (or one of the ones) he wielded during his raid on Harper’s Ferry no less, but regardless, it sure makes for a good story to be passed down through the years.

1 History.com Staff. “John Brown’s Harpers Ferry.” History.com. A+E Networks: New York, 2010. Web. 6 June 2016.

2The Raid on Harpers Ferry.” Africans in America: PBS Online, 1998. Web. 6 June 2016.

Wallauer, Amy. “John Brown’s Rifle Back in Harpers Ferry.” Herald-Mail Media: Hagerstown, MD, 30 May 1998. Web. 6 June 2016.