The Powder Horn: An Object that Tells Its Own Story

By Caitlin Cummings

This week HHS is excited to highlight a unique object from its Permanent Collection that resonates with the themes of sacrifice & liberation that are inherent to our country’s celebration of both Memorial Day, and the upcoming Fourth of July. What we have here is an 18th century powder horn, spanning nearly 12 inches in length, 4 in height, and 3 in diameter. Despite some minor surface damage, the powder horn is in remarkably good condition, and preserves an incredible arrangement of detailed carvings that essentially tell us the story of the horn’s original owner and of his participation in the French & Indian War. unnamed-1

This scrimshaw (a type of engraving or carving done in bone or ivory) covers the entirety of the powder horn, and depicts battles of the French & Indian War as well as a map that includes Albany, New York, and Fort Henry at Lake George among other places. A close examination of the powder horn reveals that a red color has been added to particular areas of the makers design, specifically in the mountains, under the horses’ stomach (to add depth to the shading), and within the sails of the ships. At the smaller end of the horn lies its wooden cap that has two holes punched on either side, most likely allowing its owner to string it and wear it across his body. On the opposite end, there are two more holes carved into the horn, and the edge has been delicately engraved to form a scallop-like shape.

This powder horn was found in the home of James Graham by Mr. Alexander Petrie, and was donated to HHS by his grandson, Mr. Arthur Terrell. When the power horn came into our collection a number of years ago, it was believed to have been made by Graham himself circa 1760 (most likely as a commemorative piece). A key part of the scrimshaw that helped track down the story of this horn (and further solidify Graham as its owner) was the engraved text that read, “Honi soit qui malypi”. This phrase is a slightly abbreviated version of the Anglo-Norman maxim that translates to “May he be shamed who thinks badly of it”. The phrase’s most famous use was as the motto of the British chivalric Order of the Garter, and it aimed to inspire fealty and good faith in those who adopted it.

imgresHere, the motto appears on a representation of the garter as it surrounds the shield of the Royal Coat of Arms. Below it reads the French phrase “Dieu et mon Droit” (“God and my Right”) which is also found below the inscription on the powder horn.

This phrase, “Honi soit qui mal y pense,” was also later the motto of the 35th Royal Sussex Regiment of Foot (an infantry regiment of the British army) which was established in 1701. The purpose of raising this particular regiment was to meet the rising threat of war with France, and the unit was sent to America to fight in the French and Indian War in 1756 (two years after it began). The unit served as one of the garrisoned troops at Fort William Henry in Lake George, NY and is remembered most for the events that happened there. In August of 1757 the 35th Foot, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel George Monro, was overwhelmed by French Forces and forced to surrender to General Montcalm. The unit was permitted to evacuate the fort with their weapons, but the Native American allies of the French were sent after them quickly. Native Americans attacked the retreating unit and their once organized march soon dissolved into chaos as many men fled into the woods and remained lost for a number of days. As a result of this fateful day at Fort Henry, 185 soldiers in the 35th Foot were killed and many more were wounded. This somewhat traumatic event was later depicted in James Fenimore Cooper’s book Last of the Mohicans (1826), and recreated on the silver screen in the 1992 film of the same name.

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Luckily, the 35th Foot had its opportunity for revenge against General Montcalm when, in 1759, they fought as part of General Wolfe’s army at the Battle of Quebec. With their steady fire, the 35th was able to break the Régiment Royal Roussillon (a French infantry unit) and run the French out of the same Fort that had been taken from them just two years earlier.

After understanding the story of the 35th Foot and its important role in the events surrounding Fort Henry, James Graham’s powder horn begins to make much more sense. Although we cannot say for certain, it is highly likely that much of the design on the powder horn was inspired by Graham’s own experience with the 35th regiment. It is highly likely that Graham was a soldier in the 35th and could have easily been a part of the unit during the surrender of Fort Henry, the Battle of Quebec, and several other military conquests that were carried out by the British during the French & Indian War. This powder horn, whether it was made during the War or right after, continues to serve as a visual diary of specific places and events that were important to its owner. Regardless of his level of involvement, it is clear that James Graham took the 35th Regiment’s motto to heart; his detailed, delicate, and carefully designed engravings are physical reminders of this soldiers’ journey, and more importantly, his devotion to his brothers in arms.

References:

honi soit qui mal y pense.” Oxford English Dictionary, n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

Sherman, Kevin. 35th Regiment of Foot, 1757. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.

A Floral Fascination

By Caitlin Cummings

This week, Historic Huguenot Street is focusing on a painting that was created by local Hudson Valley artist Julia McEntee Dillon in the late 19th century. The painting, executed in oil on canvas, is 34.5 inches wide and 26 inches tall, and sits within a 2 inch gilded wood frame. This still life depicts a delicate arrangement of fresh flowers in a woven basket; the white buds of Queen Anne’s lace and the pink & purple petals of mountain-laurel emerge as the dominant hues of color among an otherwise dark background. Dillon created dozens of these floral paintings throughout the latter part of her life, and they are now revered as the trademark of her artistic career. This exemplary painting was donated to Historic Huguenot Street by Elizabeth Winne Sutro in 1965 and now hangs in the dining room of the Deyo House.

Julia McEntee Dillon

Julia McEntee Dillon

Julia was the oldest daughter of Charles McEntee and Christina Tremper, and was born in Kingston, NY, in 1834. Throughout her teenage years, Julia studied at the Clinton Liberal Institute where she met art teachers Mary Conkey and Sarah Hutchins who encouraged her drawing talents. Julia returned to her hometown in her early twenties, and married Kingston native John Dillon in 1866. In 1872, at the age of thirty-eight, Julia Dillon was able to study painting in Paris and spend time working alongside her cousin Jervis McEntee in his studio (Jervis was an accomplished Hudson River School painter at the time). Only seven years after their marriage, Julia’s husband died in 1873, and she became compelled to stay in the Rondout area in order to take care of his business (the McEntee and Dillon Rondout Foundry). Dillon’s career blossomed in 1876 when she was featured in a series of exhibitions at the National Academy of Design in New York City. For the next ten years, Dillon situated herself permanently in NYC, setting up a studio on East 10th street. Fellow female painters and young students alike visited the studio often. Around 1885, Dillon returned to Paris where she studied under the English genre painter Harry Thompson, and the French floral painter Georges Jeannin. Throughout the last decade of the nineteenth century, Dillon emerged as a successful painter in her own right, and her work was exhibited in shows at the Columbia Exhibition in Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art, and the Brooklyn Art Association (just to name a few).

In 1893, Dillon returned to Kingston where she continued to exhibit her work and teach locally. She became very involved in community projects, helping to establish the Kingston City Hospital, the Kingston Library, and the Ulster Garden Club. She was also a member of D.A.R. (Daughters of the American Revolution) and the State Aid Charity Association. In addition, Dillon was heavily involved in the local literary group, “The Monday Club,” and even published a book in 1915 entitled Old Gardens of Kingston. Dillon’s sincere attachment to her hometown and her fascination with all things floral allow us to remember her as a key player in the Hudson Valley’s artistic community at the turn of the 20th century. Since her death in 1919, Julia Dillon’s impressive work has been commemorated by organizations including the Newark Museum, the Ulster County Historical Society, the Friends of Historic Kingston, the Ulster Garden Club, and now, Historic Huguenot Street as well.

You can see this painting by Dillon, and many others like it from the HHS Permanent Collection this Saturday, May 23, at Art & Wine of the Hudson River Valley. This art history tour will be led by local artist Kevin Cook and will take you through 3 of our historic houses in order to provide a comprehensive understanding of art in early America and the founders of the Hudson River School movement. To learn more about this upcoming event and others like it, head over to our Calendar of Events (be sure to act fast, spots for this event are limited!).

Sources:

Julia Dillon.” Ask Art. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.

Julia McEntee Dillon.” Jenkinstown Antiques. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2015.

Drink Up!

By Jessica Dow

While a majority of the objects in our collections have been kept because they are relevant to American history, the families and houses associated with Huguenot Street, there are many examples in our collection that stray away from this. An example of this is an ale bowl of Scandinavian design.

This bowl is wooden with two handles carved in the shape of horses, and covered in linear geometric patterns. Though it is simple in manufacture, the distinctly foreign aspects of it make the object stand out against the American artifacts which make up most of our collection.

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The bowl would have been used for the drinking of ale, which may seem commonplace from today’s perspective, but is much more significant when considered in the vast context that is international and historical drinking culture. Tracing back to the Neolithic revolution, the creation of alcoholic drinks has been a major aspect of the agricultural and social development of most cultures all over the planet. The social constructs which arise around communal imbibing of alcohol have had a major impact on moral development, both on an individual and sociocultural level. Furthermore, the act of drinking has become a symbol of maturity over time, and has been an important keystone of “coming of age”. This element of drinking persists to this day, when drinking is restricted from younger populations.

Suddenly this little bowl is a symbol of an underrated but crucial element of the development of today’s cultures, instead of just a cracked wooden bowl that may have helped the descendants of Vikings party well into the morning.

1860s Geneva Fluting Iron

By Safire Santos

This week’s object is a fascinating Victorian fluting iron from the 1860s. The iron is black painted metal with a bar handle and separate bottom piece. The iron and the bottom piece have ridged grooves used to crimp the garment that was wedged in between. During the 1860s, there was a major trend in fashion. Women and men alike wore garments with crimped, ruffled, or fluted hems which were sewn onto the garments after laundering. A fluting iron was used to create these dramatic looks by producing pleats on hemlines, cuffs, and so on. The launderer ironing the garment would heat the iron on a stove top for a couple of minutes, pick up the iron using a rag, insert the fabric to be pleated between the top and bottom of the iron, and then manually roll the top of the iron back and forth over the fabric.

The job of ironing would be taken up by women or a servant who lived in the household. Every household would have had two irons – when one iron was being heated up on the stove, the laundress would be able to use the other in order to save time. Ironing was an all-day process that would start early in the day with laundering the clothes and leaving them out to dry. When the clothes dried, they would be starched and then finally ironed. Although there were many different types of fluting irons that were available at the time, the Geneva fluting iron that we have in our collection was the most commonly used.

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We currently have a fluting iron in our Hands On History room in the DuBois Fort Visitors Center (81 Huguenot Street). Come by and try it for yourself!

Sources:

Fluting machines, ruffles, and the Dudley fluter.” HomeThingsPast.com.

Ironing frills – from Elizabethan ruffs to Victorian ruffles.” OldandInteresting.com.

Katherine C-G. “1866 Geneva Hand Fluter.” April 7, 2011. The Fashionable Past.

MacKerell, Lynn. “What a Great Find!” November 8, 2010. Antiques for Today’s Lifestyle.

Oakes, Leimomi. “Rate the Dress: peaches and daisies in the late 1860s.” January 10, 2012. The Dreamstress.

Podcast 18: Ironing Victorian Frills and Ruffles.” YouTube. The Oshawa Community Museum.