Take a Look Through the Lens

The object for this week is a camera from the late 1800s to early 1900s. The owner was Harry Terwilliger and it was donated by Mrs. Virgil B. DeWitt. The camera is made of wood, leather, brass, and glass. It is a rectangular box with two buttons on each side to open. The accordion viewer has brass supports with a small area at the front to view. There are two levers—one on top and one at the side. The opening in the back is where the film would be placed. The maker’s markers on the camera reads “Manufactured by ‘Monroe Camera Co. Rochester, NY USA.'”

camera 2

The Monroe Camera Company started in 1897 by Fred A. Sherwood (President), Albert Beir (Vice-President), and Charles V. Case (secretary-treasurer). The company was a success. Fred Sherwood was a leather dealer, Albert Beir worked as a camera manufacturer, and Charles Case was a bookkeeper. Their backgrounds allowed them to produce some of the best cameras of the day. Although the company was only in business for three years before merging with The Ray Camera Company that forming the Rochester Optical and Camera Company, their bestselling camera was the Monroe No. 2 pocket camera line.

The Monroe No. 2 pocket camera was a unique camera design. It was designed by Silas French and co-patented with Albert Beir in 1897. It holds a brass cartridge for two 3.5 x 3.5” plates of a quarter inch thickness.

camera 4

camera 3


Kingslake, Rudolf. “The Rochester Camera and Lens Companies.” 1974. Photographic Historical Society.
Monroe Camera Company History.” Historic Camera History Librarium.
Pocket Monroe No. 2.” Camerapedia.



Take a Shot at History

By Jessica Dow

Jessica here, coming to you from the curatorial department of Historic Huguenot Street Collections! I would like to tell you about this tiny Civil War pistol. It’s a 41 caliber single-shot pistol, used during the Civil War Era, dated to around 1860. It has a 3 inch octagonal barrel in brass with a dark patina and a wooden handle with a lovely dark finish. It came to be in our collections through a donation from Mrs. Myra Wilkins.

pistol 1

This type of pistol is called a pocket pistol, recognizable by the curve of the body, with the handle and barrel integrated into one swooping form. Originating from the 17th century “coat pistol” or “Queen Anne Pistol” (after the reigning English monarch at the time), pocket pistols were ideal for when a weapon needed to be concealed on one’s person, or easily stored. Since this pistol lacks a rotating barrel, it can only shoot once before needing to be reloaded. Not terribly useful in combat, but probably good for emergencies and self-defense. Modern-day pocket pistols are still made: think movie protagonists pulling tiny guns out of their purses.

pistol 2

pistol 3

Stirring the Air

By Safire Santos

This week’s object is a late 18th century women’s fan with an embroidered design of a butterfly and floral motif on both sides. It is egg shaped with silk covered paper on a wooden handle with ribbon and lace edging.  This item will soon be on display in the Deyo House for all to see.


Fans such as these started to become popular in the 15th century and were essential. Long handled fans were used to fan fires in order to ignite larger flames which would be used for cooking purposes. When handheld fans started to become more fashionable towards the end of the 1500’s, Paris became one of the main centers for fan production.

During the 17th century, handheld fans were an essential part of a women’s dress. Hand held fans became not only a status symbol, but a way for women to hold on to the little rights that they had left. One flick of a hand fan from a woman could convey many different messages to suitors or anyone else who would be waiting for an important message.

Fans were tied in with scandals, love, and stories of intrigue. Because of this, a sort of “fan language” developed. During the 18th century, hand fans were primarily given to wealthy brides and widows who were in mourning. Into the late 18th century, fans were much more elaborate. This popularity died down in the 19th century, when fans became a symbol of frailty in the rise of women’s rights movements.



Gay, Barbara. “‘Secret’ Language of Hand Fans.” Epoch Times. 2014 January 21.
History of the Hand Fan is Long and Colorful.” Country Home Magazine. 1987 July 5.
Parr, Louisa. “History of the Fan.” Victoriana Magazine.
The language of the hand fan.” allhandfans.com.