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 Although jamb stoves changed the domestic lives of many people, they eventually became outdated.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.