Weights and Measures

By Miriam Ehrlich

Hello, it’s Miriam! The object we will be looking at this week is a brass hanging scale. It has two shallow plates that come down from separate chains attached to the same iron pole. The chains are attached to the pole by hooks to support the weight. It is from around the mid 18th century and measures 41.5 inches in height, 23.25 inches in length, and 14.75 inches in diameter.

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This scale was once used in the interpretation of the store in the Jean Hasbrouck house. One fascinating part of the history here is that we can sometimes date the age of a historic house by using dendrochronology, which is a scientific method of dating by looking at tree rings.1 That means that some of the houses here are also hundreds of years old! The original Hasbrouck house is dated to have been built very soon after Hasbrouck first arrived here, in the late 1600s. It only had two rooms at the time.2 After he died, Jean’s son, Jacob, inherited the property and built it up, turning it into the beautiful stone house that remains here today.3

You may recognize the name Hasbrouck from somewhere else in the village, besides this street. That is because you can also find the name Hasbrouck as the name of the main dining hall on the SUNY New Paltz campus.

The house itself is very significant architecturally. After Jacob made changes it was “essentially twice the size of the typical stone house in the village…”4 It also has a large center passage, or hallway. This was unusual for the time and sets the house apart from the others, making it unique. Hallways were often a sign of wealth during this era of history. Additionally, the Hasbrouck house is important because it began to stray away from classical Dutch architecture. This can be seen in the location of the house itself, which runs parallel to the street instead of facing it, which was a popular Dutch practice.5

This house is also important to Huguenot history because of its store, which is how Josiah Hasbrouck (great grandson of patentee Jean) made much of his income. While Hasbrouck was neither the first nor only person to create a storefront out of his own house, it is still an important part of Huguenot Street and New Paltz history. The storefront is significant because it represents an economic shift in the north from an agrarian to more commercial way of making a living. The storefront would have been full of many different items from food and liquor to clothing and textiles.

We have a record of various goods sold out of the Hasbrouck storefront from 1793-1794. These items would have been measured using this scale or one just like it. The archive notes that in November to December of 1793 there were three transactions of tea, measuring ¼, 1, and 6 pounds. The flavors sold were Sushan, Bohea, and green. In those same months, two brass candlesticks were sold. Other popular items that were sold included fish hooks, knives, and buttons. While today stores use electronic scales, sometimes scales such as this one are used to make measurements. In fact, some local stores in New Paltz do this.

This scale originally belonged to the Hasbrouck storefront in the 18th century. An exciting new feature of this year’s tours will be the rebirth of the Jean Hasbrouck store. You will be able to see this object on display in the house starting May 7!

1 Historic Huguenot Street. Guided Tour. New Paltz, 2016.

2 Ibid.

3 Ibid.

4 “Furnishing Plan for the Jean Hasbrouck House.” Neil Larson & Associates: Woodstock, February 2004.

5 Historic Huguenot Street. Guided Tour. New Paltz, 2016.

Tiny Treasures

By Catherine Rubino

The object we will be looking into this week is a miniature book entitled Tiny Books: Casket of Jewels. The American Tract Society in New York, NY, published the book, written by S. Annie Frost in 1881. It is a purple hardcover book with gold detailing centered around an orange and green flower. Casket of Jewels is a fictional chapter book that focuses on morality for children with several illustrations.

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The miniature book is the first volume of a series called The Tiny Library that The American Tract Society published.1 The books all measure 2 ½ inches by 1 ¾ inches and contain 176 pages. The three other volumes include: The Picnic, Country Pets, and The Cousins. The series revolves around a girl named Clementina Holbrooke or “Tiny” who is seven and has been sick. The jewels referenced in the book that Tiny adds to her casket are “truth, love, obedience, and such treasures of the heart.”

The Tiny Library series was designed for a Sunday school atmosphere to teach children morality and religious values. Such books reportedly played a large role in the educational history of America because they made literacy more accessible for those who might not have had access otherwise. The small size of these books especially appealed to children, and they often featured Bible stories to educate children about scripture.2

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The first miniature publications appeared roughly 4,000 years ago in Babylonia and Mesopotamia in the forms of tiny clay tablets.3 When paper eventually replaced clay, tiny scrolls began appearing as well. In the Middle Ages, monks used tiny prayer books that were hand printed and illustrated. When Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press around 1440, he helped to raise the mini book in popularity. In 1468, Guttenberg’s assistant and successor, Peter Schoffer, reportedly published the first traditional miniature book entitled Diurnale Mogantinum.

It is generally agreed upon that miniature books measure 3 inches by 3 inches. However, there are also four different and distinct classifications for miniature books.4 Macro mini books measure between 3 inches and 4 inches tall. Miniature books measure between 2 inches and 3 inches tall. The micro mini books measure between 1 inch and 2 inches tall. Anything smaller than 1 inch in all measurements is considered an ultra micro mini book.

As we can see, miniature books have a long and diverse history whether they have been in the hands of a child learning scripture in Sunday school or in the hands of a monk praying in a monastery. The different stories and purposes behind these miniature books are endless!

1 Edison, Julian I. Miniature Book News # 11: 1968 March. UNT Digital Library. University of North Texas: Denton, TX. Web. 20 Apr 2016.

2Miniature Books: Then and Now.Occidental College: Special Collections & College Archives. Occidental College: Los Angeles, 3 Jun 2013. Web. 15 Apr 2016.

3Bound To Be Small: Collecting Miniature Books.” Studium Magazine. 2008. Web. 15 Apr 2016.

4A Short History of Miniature Books.” Miniature Literature. University of Missouri: Columbia, MO, 25 March 2011. Web. 15 Apr 2016.

Inlay? No way!

By Miriam Ehrlich

Hello everyone, it’s Miriam again! The object we will be looking at this week is a beautiful Federal era table. It is a Pembroke drop leaf table made of wood. There is an intricate design of bellflowers along both the edge of the table and the tapered legs in gold. Pembroke drop leaf tables were designed for occasional use in the home. People were excited about them because they were easily tucked away and had many different possible functions, from dinner to writing. This particular table is 20” in length and 32” in height, and is in good condition. This table is prime example, both in condition and style, of the Federal period of furniture.

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The Federal period spans from around 1790, the time that the government was developing, to 1830. The formation of the United States Constitution pushed new Americans to look to ancient democratic Greece and republican Rome for inspiration. The style of the period is reflective of the development of a new nation. The Federal period is sometimes referred to as Neoclassic, as Americans looked back to the classical ages of Greece and Rome for inspiration to form an identity. The style can be characterized by subtle intricate carvings, tapered legs, and simple styles, as depicted in this table. It has a sturdy, masculine look to it, and was considered very tasteful. Because of their detailed design, today tables in the federal style can cost anywhere between a couple hundred to thousands of dollars.

Inlays were very common for furniture from the Federal era. There were many different types of designs, from birds to family crests and plants. The style was used to catch a person’s eye. They are made by making cuttings into various types of wood. Some of the most popular were mahogany, birch, and pine.

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Some rooms of the White House are in the Federal furniture style. The White House displays this as a symbol of the federal era when this country started. The Green Room parlor is known for this style in particular. It was restored to look like this after the fire of 1814 during the War of 1812 by original architect, James Hoban.

This table has been hiding in the storage section of the 1799 LeFevre House and has not been displayed in years, if ever. This table is not alone. The Historic Huguenot Street permanent collection holds hundreds of pieces from a variety of time periods. This season, we have been working hard at freshening up the Deyo House, opening up the opportunity to showcase the span of our collection. Furnishings from the Federal Period will be highlighted in the new tour, so be sure to mark your calendars for Saturday, May 7, our opening day!

Sources:

Montgomery, Charles F.  American Furniture, The Federal Period. Bonanza Books: New York, 1978. 271.

The Green Room.” The White House Historical Association. The White House Historical Association: Washington D.C., n.d. Web. 5 April 2016.

Want to go for a sleigh ride?

By Deanna Schiavone

This week we will be looking at an Empire style sleigh bed. This bed is also known as a “French” bed because this style originated in France. It has a bead carving on the side rails and equally proportioned scrolled foot and headboards with a shaped flattened foot. It is made out of mahogany and has some existing veneers – decorative covering of fine wood applied to coarse wood.  It was made in the 1830s.

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Empire style originated in France and takes its name from the rule of Napoleon I in the First French Empire.1 This style flourished from 1800-1815 in Europe but lasted until the 1830s in America. The style reflects the military, utilitarian, over-the-top décor of the French Empire. The pieces were created in the hopes that they could be easily disassembled during war campaigns but also show the grandeur of the French Empire. The items reflected a classical influence and especially focused on arts and architecture from Imperial Rome.2

This sleigh bed emulated many of the characteristics of the Empire period.  The headboard and footboard are scrolled to emulate ancient scrolls of ancient Greek ionic columns.3 The head and footboards also had a graceful arch with low side rails that matches beds from Ancient times.  The low side rails are carves to have a flowing effect. These beds were originally styled as daybeds for individual use.4 The foot of the bed is flattened which emulates the American take on Empire style. Other American features are the plain surfaces of the wood and the equal sized head/footboard. The bed is made of mahogany, which was the most commonly used wood for this style.

This bed belonged to Timothy Tillson. Timothy F. Tillson was born in the town of Hurley in 1798. He owned a farm that he lived on for nearly 60 years and was married twice.5 Tillson was a member of the executive committee of the State Agricultural Society representing Ulster County.6 Also, he was the father to Oliver J Tillson, the cartographer and fruit farmer.

This Empire period sleigh bed, along with other HHS Permanent Collection pieces, will be displayed in a newly re-furnished Deyo House in this upcoming season! Visitors will be able to see pieces of furniture that haven’t been displayed in years, if ever. Be sure to keep our opening day on your calendars, May 7th!

1 Gontar, Cybele. “Empire Style: 1800-1815.” Heilbrunn: Timeline of Art History.  The Metropolitan Museum of Art: New York, 2004. Web. 5 April 2016.

2 Erlam, Linda.  “Empire Style in 19th-Century Furniture.”  SFGate. SFGate: San Francisco, n.d. Web. 5 April 2016.

3The Ancient History of the Sleigh Bed.” Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers. Guild of Vermont Furniture Makers: Vermont, 2015. Web. 5 April 2016.

4 LaFon, Michele. “History Lesson: The Sleigh Bed.” Designers Call. Storm Interiors: Los Angeles, 2012. Web. 5 April 2016.

5 Sylvester, Nathaniel Bartlett.  History of Ulster County, New York: With Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of its Prominent Men and Pioneers.  Philadelphia: Everts and Peck, 1880.

6 Transactions of the New-York State Agricultural Society for the Year…, Vol 15. C. Van Benthuysen, Printer to the Legislature: Albany, 1856.

Illuminating

By Miriam Ehrlich

Hello, it’s Miriam again! This week’s object is a set of three candelabras that caught my eye on a top shelf in collection storage. They are all brass and sit atop a marble stand. The larger one has three arms for different candles, including two that protrude from the sides and one that stands straight. The other two holders look the same as the first, except they only have a placeholder for one candle. They all have a very beautiful and intricate design. Each separate arm is decorated with golden grape leaves. All of them have a metal sculpture that has religious implications and sentiments. The scene is of an older man, holding a book speaking to a younger woman sitting below him. All of them required candle wax and fire to produce light. The bigger candlestick is 17” in width from arm to arm and 18” in height. The smaller two are 16” in height. The donor and year we received these is unknown.

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Candles have been around for thousands of years prior to Thomas Edison’s invention of the incandescent electric light bulb in 1878.1 They are used as a source of light, and are also very popular in religious ceremonies, such as Christmas and Hanukkah. During the colonial times most families made their own candles, as they were not mass produced yet. There are many candle molds in collection storage which show this. It was popular to make candles out of the bayberry plant during the colonial era.2 This is because it burned cleanly and smelled good.  Without electric or gas lighting, it was very important that families had enough candles at night to continue evening work or play.

These candelabra are from the Victorian era. This era is dated by Queen Victoria’s reign in England, from 1837-1901. Victorian pieces such as these candelabras are known for their extravagance and excess. Victorian homes were known to display objects that were both practical and decorative, such as these ones3.

The decorative quality of the set leads me to believe that they were used for aesthetic purposes rather than practical. There are many other candlesticks in the permanent collection here at Historic Huguenot Street of all different sizes. Some of them are on display in various historic houses.

Candles are still very popular today, although they are usually used for less practical purposes. They are often for decoration, their artistic qualities, and good fragrances. Companies such as Yankee Candle capitalize on this today. You can even buy a bayberry candle from them.

1History of Candles.” National Candle Association. National Candle Association: Washington, D.C., n.d.  Web. 15 March 2016.; “Edison’s Miracle of Light.” American Experience. PBS, n.d. 15 March 2016.

2The History of Candles and Candle Making.” CandleWic. The Candlewic Company: Doylestown, PA, n.d. Web. 15 March 2016.

3 Logan, Thad. The Victorian Parlour: A Cultural Study. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, 2001: 113.