Prohibition Prize Medal: Prohibition Era Anti-Alcohol Campaigns

By: Madison Petrella

Similar to the anti-drug campaigns in schools nowadays, during the Prohibition Era campaigns were organized for school children to discourage the consumption of alcohol. These campaigns took the form of elocution contests where these young children were given the opportunity to recite speeches written by prominent leaders of the temperance movement with the hope that the children would take these leaders’ words to heart and be deterred from drinking when they were older. Winners of these contests were awarded silver medals along with the opportunity to move onto higher competitions where they could win gold or diamond ones.ootw-prohibition-medal

Prohibition came about from the temperance movement, which was a period of renewed religious fervor in America during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Prohibition refers to the period of American history following the ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, which not only forbade the selling of alcoholic beverages but also made its manufacturing and transportation illegal. The amendment was repealed in 1933 with the ratification of the 21st Amendment due in part to the increased rate of crime.

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The silver medal pictured here is a Demorest Prohibition prize medal donated by an unknown donor. This particular prohibition prize medal was created in 1886 by William Jennings Demorest. He was a well-known leader of the temperance movement, having run for mayor representing the Prohibition Party, and even helped to found a Temperance Town in Georgia named after him.

Sources:

History.com Staff. “Prohibition.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 2009.

Schock, Barbara. “The Demorest Medal.” Sandburg’s Hometown, 3 Mar. 2014.

Unknown. “Demorest Prohibition Prize Medal.” Center For the History of Medicine,

The Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine.

On Display: Nicholas Maes’ “A Frugal Repast”

By Carly Benedict

Historic Huguenot Street is currently showing the fascinating exhibit, Marking the Occasion: Dutch Silver Spoons from the Collection of George Way and Jonathan Z. Friedman. The exhibit celebrates the influence of Dutch culture on the Hudson Valley and in particular on the Huguenot settlers by commemorating the art of Dutch silver spoons from the 17th and 18th centuries.

The Huguenots first arrived in the Dutch colony of New Netherland and settled in the town of Wiltwijck (today’s Kingston) before going on to found New Paltz. In this new Dutch environment, Huguenots were influenced by their culture and way of life. They probably came into contact with many forms of Dutch arts and crafts, including silver spoons like the ones displayed in the exhibition.

The importance of these skillfully crafted silver spoons in Dutch culture was great. They were given to commemorate important events like births, marriages, and even deaths. They were highly prized for their artistry but also for their symbol of wealth. For these reasons, the spoons were often used as heirlooms in families and passed down from generation to generation. This is how the silver spoons and their tradition made its way to the New World and to the Hudson Valley. Silver spoons were so important that they made appearances in other art forms, like painting. The exhibit features four contemporary Dutch paintings from the collection of Jonathan Z. Friedman that all feature people taking part in a meal in some way. These works give a glimpse into Dutch life during the 17th century and show the cultural context surrounding the spoons.

Dutch painting has a rich history of its own. During the 17th century, the Netherlands was experiencing a golden age. They had recently won their independence from Spain and were thriving economically and culturally. The Dutch were proud of their prosperity and expressed their feelings of pride in their many artistic traditions. Painting during this time took off and became a refined and highly respected craft. Artists honed their skills and made names for themselves among the social elite that funded and purchased many of their works.

Portraits and genre paintings, or paintings showing scenes of everyday life were particularly popular in the Netherlands. The paintings featured in the exhibit fall perfectly into this category of genre paintings. One of the paintings features an old woman eating a meal. It is called “A Frugal Repast” and was created by the Dutch painter Nicholas Maes. Maes lived from 1693 to 1691 during the Dutch Golden Age. He was a pupil of Rembrandt and began working in the famous artist’s studio in 1648. It is from Rembrandt that he learned to use dark shadows and glowing colors to evoke the feeling of a dramatic light. He mostly did domestic genre scenes, with his favorite subjects being women spinning, reading the Bible, and preparing a meal, like “A Frugal Repast”.

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Much of Dutch painting, like the works of Nicholas Maes, seems ordinary and unassuming at first glance. On the surface they are depictions of things that people could have seen on any given day. It seems, when you look further, and really observe how the artists took such care to render these scenes and infuse them with vibrant colors and glowing light, they are really doing something bigger. They are capturing the extraordinary in the ordinary, the magnificence in the quiet. They serve to remind us that the scenes of everyday life are things of beauty that we should take time to appreciate instead of passing over them and taking them for granted.

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Looking back at this time in history from today’s perspective, it seems the spoons are doing the exact same thing. On one hand, they were modeled after the utilitarian objects that people used to nourish themselves every day, but on the other hand they were crafted to be elaborate mementos of significant events and familial status. Although it may not have been their intended purpose, these spoons, in their very essence, commemorate the extraordinary lives that people lived every day. It is through this commemoration that we today can understand what life was like for these people that lived long ago.

This weekend, collector George Way will be on site for a champagne reception to discuss the history and significance of the collection. During the reception, guests will have the opportunity to handle the spoons that at on display and view them up-close.

Sources:

Nicolaes Maes.” Rijks Museum. Web. 8 December, 2016.

Wheelock, Arthur K. “Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century.” National Gallery of Art. Web. 8 December, 2016.

Historic Huguenot Street Celebrates Dutch Culture with Silver Spoon ExhibitHistoric Huguenot Street. N.p., 23 Sept. 2016. Web. 8 Dec. 2016.

On Display: 19th Century Oil Painting of New Paltz Patentee Descendant Deborah Bloomer DuBois

19th Century Oil Painting of
New Paltz Patentee Descendant 
Deborah Bloomer DuBois
Restored and On View at Historic Huguenot Street

Historic Huguenot Street is pleased to announce the restoration of a 19th-century oil on canvas portrait of Deborah Bloomer DuBois, made possible with funds from the New York State Council on the Arts and Greater Hudson Heritage Network Conservation Treatment Program. The restored painting may be viewed at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center during regular weekend hours now through December 18.

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“Yet to be attributed to a specific artist, this portrait is a charming representation of demure femininity and ably replicates the clothing, hairstyles, hand-made lace, and jewelry common in the 1830s in the Hudson Valley,” said Josephine Bloodgood, HHS Director of Curatorial and Preservation Affairs.

According to Bloodgood, the painting was donated to the HHS Permanent Collection in 2015 by Nathanial DuBois Clark. When the painting was first received, the name of the sitter was unknown; however, based on the paintings provenance and through genealogical research in the HHS Archives, the subject was identified as Deborah Bloomer DuBois (1800-1861), wife of Nathanial DuBois, a third great grandson of Louis DuBois (1626-1696), one of New Paltz’s original patentees. Nathanial was also the grandson of Revolutionary War Major Lewis DuBois who, around 1760, established a farm in Marlboro, New York in the southeast corner of Ulster County. While specific details about Deborah Bloomer DuBois herself are yet to be discovered, the portrait helps tell the story of how descendants of Huguenot Street migrated beyond the original New Paltz patent in search of new opportunities and eventually established homes throughout the Hudson Valley.

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Since its acquisition by HHS, the painting was cleaned, relined, and stabilized by Yost Conservation, LLC. Yost Conservation specializes in fine oil paintings from the 18th through 20th centuries, having provided services for the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, as well as the New Britain Museum of American Art and the Florence Griswold Museum. Over the years, Thomas Yost and his team have conserved over 20,000 paintings from across the United States that represent all major schools of American Art.

The Conservation Treatment Program is a partnership of the New York State Council on the Arts and the Greater Hudson Heritage Network that provides support for treatment procedures by professional conservators to aid in stabilizing and preserving objects in collections of museums, historical and cultural organizations in New York State.

From the Head to the Heart: The Sentimentality of Hair Art

This week’s object is a sculpture of a floral bouquet made almost entirely out of human hair. Although we might see it as bizarre today, hair art was very popular in the 19th century. Nowadays, we view hair that is no longer on our heads with certain distaste. When we find hair of unknown origin lying around we cringe and if we were to happen upon a lock of hair carefully stored away, we would probably be filled with a feeling of creepiness and chills. Surprisingly, hair has not always been viewed in this way. In fact, it once held a very dear and lovely position in cultures around the world.

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For centuries, hair has been used as a sentimental symbol of love and devotion. The practice of exchanging a lock of hair with a loved one or a dear friend has appeared in many cultures around the world in one form or another. Hair has also been used in the mourning process. People would often cut off a piece of hair from a deceased family member and keep it as a memento. You might be wondering why hair was chosen to be used for these purposes. Hair doesn’t decay for a very long while, a few centuries at least, and it often remains looking like it did the day it was taken from its owners head for years after as well. Therefore, hair is the perfect enduring symbol for remembrance.

The practice of using hair in art dates back to as early as the 12th century. During the middle ages, people would take hair that they saved from a deceased relative or friend and weave it into pieces of jewelry such as rings and brooches so that they could always wear the token of remembrance with them. During the 19th century, however, hair art really took off.  People during the Victorian Era were very sentimental. Mourning rituals became a common practice due to the tragic deaths of soldiers during the Civil War and the death of Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, in 1861. Mourning clothing became staples of mainstream fashion and sentimental practices having to do with the commemoration of death, such as hair art, increased in popularity.

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At the same time hair art evolved into a popular pastime among middle and high class women. Women would get ideas and patterns from magazines and books to make their own creations. They created the traditional jewelry, but many also created floral wreaths and bouquets that could then be displayed in their homes. To create these floral arrangements, they would often take hair from different family members, both living and deceased, and weave them together into one art piece. This symbolized family unity and the bond that all of the members shared. They would sometimes leave room to expand the arrangement for when their family grew.

This example of hair art that we have in our collection certainly seems to be an example of a nostalgic homemade creation. It is of an unknown date, but we do know that it was owned by Mrs. John LeFevre Deyo who lived from 1823 to 1911. We do not know for sure if she created it herself, but it was displayed in her parlor, so there is a good chance that she is the artist. We also do not know if the hair used was taken from specific family members, but the care and detail present in the intricate fashioning of each flower and stem shows that this piece was clearly dear to whoever made it.

Sources:
Hudson, Rachel “On Display: A Curious Art” Historic Huguenot Street. www.hhscollections.wordpress.com. 8 October, 2014. Web.
Luke, Walter “The Lost Art of Sentimental Hairwork” www.victoriangothic.org. 4 February, 2012. Web.
Palka, Lindsey  “Victorian Hair Art and Mourning Traditions.” www.thetoast.net. 25 July 2016. Web.
“History of Hair Art.” www.leilashairmuseum.net. Accessed 17 November 2016. Web.

The Power of the Vote!

By Joseph Rochez

Through most of American history, participating in government decision through voting was limited to only a portion of the American population, which in itself is very undemocratic for a nation that prides itself on being a democracy. Before the Civil War, it was mostly property owning white males who enjoyed the privilege of voting. It was not until the end of the Civil War that African Americans were given that right to vote through the passing of the 15th Amendment. Even then, southern Democrats for the next 80 years made it difficult for people of color to vote. Southern states such as Georgia and Tennessee issued literacy tests and poll taxes to hinder basically most of the Black population from voting. These were just a few methods that were used to keep people of color from voting.  It wasn’t until the 1920s that women were given suffrage in what was known to be a progressive era in the United States.

Even with the progressive era closing some inequality among gender, African Americans and other minority groups still suffered some limitations at the voting booths which gave White people the edge when it came to voting. The Civil Rights movement in the 1950s as well as the burden of the Cold War put pressure on the federal government to act on the inequality and injustices towards African American communities that were guaranteed to them as citizens under the court of law and the constitution. The Voting Rights Act of 1965 under Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson eliminated barriers at the state and local level which made it unconstitutional to restrict voting by using literacy tests and poll taxes. At this time in history, the Democratic party has become increasingly liberal and progressive while marginalizing the conservative and racist dixiecrats (Southern Democrats). This legislation came following the violence that occurred in Selma, Alabama during a peaceful voting rights march where state troopers violently beat many of the protesters to near death.

In 2016, we see greater minority participation in local and federal elections. Although this is encouraging, voter turnout is low. Only about 53% of the general population votes in presidential elections. It’s even less for congressional elections. In a nation like Britain, voter turnout is 61%. Voting is essential to democracy. Throughout the 20th century we can see that American society makes an effort to show that it is a true democracy and urges Americans to vote. This pin in the HHS Permanent Collection is from 1952, urging Americans to vote from Chicago and was distributed by the American Legion, a wartime veteran’s organization that was formed in 1919. Promoting the vote is probably what led to an increasing amount of Americans eligible to vote to do just that. It is probably the reason why Dwight Eisenhower won on a landslide over Democrat Adlai E. Stevenson in 1952. There is a saying; ‘when you want something that badly, you go and get it’. The change you want isn’t going to happen unless you act on it.

I pledge to vote

Click here to see more 20th century campaign pins from our historic collections.

Sources:

Desilver, Drew. “U.S. Voter Turnout Trails Most Developed Countries.” Pew Research Center. Washington, DC: The Pew Charitable Trusts. Web. 2 August 2016.

History.com Staff. “Voting Rights Act.” History.com. A+E Networks, 2009. Web. 1 November 2016.

The Importance of Voting.” MassVOTE. Boston: MassVOTE, 2013. Web. 1 November 2016.

Ooicu812baby. Vtg Antique Estate Very Rare 1952 I Voted Flag Pin Back Button LJ Imber Chicago.” eBay Inc. Web. 1 November 2016.

A 19th Century American Girl

By Carly Benedict

This week, our object is a doll that dates from the mid to late 19th century and belonged to Gertrude Van Order DuBois. The doll is an African American woman wearing clothing typical of the period. She is dressed in a pink blouse and floral skirt, a white apron, and a wide-brimmed brown cap. She is made entirely out of cloth and stuffed. Her head is knitted and has beads for eyes and sewn-on facial features.

Dolls have not only been a part of American culture since the country’s founding, but they’ve also been a worldwide staple for thousands of years. Humans have always been fascinated with images and the visual portrayal of their own species, so it makes sense that dolls became common in almost every culture.

The earliest dolls were made out of materials that we would find unusual today.  In ancient Egypt, dolls made out of pottery were common and in ancient Greece, dolls were made out of baked clay and wood. Amazingly, dolls in ancient Greece and Rome often had articulated limbs that could be moved around and posed. More modern dolls didn’t have moveable limbs until the 19th century! Along with clay and wood, bone, fur, and wax were also common materials.

Early dolls were used as playthings but could have other uses as well. They were often used for educational purposes or as elements in religious and magic rituals. It seems like dolls were used mainly by girls in most cultures throughout history. In ancient Greece when girls got married, they would dedicate their dolls to the local goddess as a way of marking their passage into womanhood.

Dolls continued to be made all throughout history around the world up into the 19th century. Dolls were usually made at home, but during the Industrial Revolution, they began to be mass-produced in factories. The mass-produced dolls were quite expensive due in part to being made out of porcelain, so doll making at home was still a common practice up until the early 20th century. Dolls made at home were often made out of whatever scraps of fabric were lying around at the time. They were also often crudely rendered because they were made by ordinary people who didn’t have access to the best materials.

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African American dolls have a particularly rich history in American folk art as well. Originally, cloth rag dolls were made by slaves for their children to play with. These dolls were highly prized and cherished, for slave children didn’t have many other things to play with. African American dolls were not mass-produced until after the Civil War, when their popularity in both America and Europe increased. These factory-made dolls were very far from perfect, however. The dolls were often offensive caricatures of the appearances of African Americans. Often times, porcelain doll makers would take the heads of the white dolls and merely paint them black, resulting in a bizarre looking doll with dark skin and Caucasian features. These offensive dolls promoted racism against African Americans and the appalling blackface iconography that became popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The first mass-produced African American dolls with realistic facial features didn’t come out until the 1960’s. If African American children during the mid to late 19th century wanted a doll that actually looked like them, then they would have to make one at home.

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This doll in our collection is a beautiful example of a homemade cloth doll. It seems that whoever created it was meticulous in their craftsmanship and took time and care while making it. The lovely clothing and delicate rendering of the face gives the doll an appearance of being a normal every day woman which is much nicer than the highly offensive dolls being manufactured at the same time. Any child, but more importantly any African American child, would be proud to call this doll their own.

Sources:

Dolls from the Index of American Design.” National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art: Washington, DC. Web. 20 October 2016.

Interesting History of Dolls.” History of Dolls. Web. 20 October 2016.

Unkenholz, Tim. “If You Think Dolls Are Creepy Now, Just Wait Til You See Their Origins…ViralNova. Web. 20 October 2016.

“Dolls and Dollhouses.” Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press.: New York. Web. 20 October 2016.

U.S. Springfield Model 1863 Type I Rifle Musket

By Joseph Rochez

This gun was primarily used in the United States Civil War by the Union to fight against Confederate armies. This rifle musket was manufactured at the Springfield Armory in Springfield, Massachusetts. The Springfield Armory – now part of the National Park Service – has massive historic value, as it was used to supply firearms to the US military from 1777 until its closing in 1968. Following the American Revolution, there was a decline in military use. Henry Knox, the Secretary of State at the time, established the armory as a weapons development and storage facility due to a surplus of metal, lumber, and oil.

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The Springfield Model 1863 rifle musket was produced to fight the US Civil War. There were two variants. This gun differs from its model II as the barrel bands are sealed by screws rather than springs. The Springfield 1863 Model I was one of the first rifle-muskets to be built. Production of rifle-muskets began in 1855 and continued throughout the Civil War. Because there were more screws on the rifle rather than springs and nuts, it would have had less recoil when shot, which meant a faster shot and more accurate shot than muskets manufactured earlier in the century. Although this gun has a more accurate shot, this was still a close range type of gun, where the shooter would have to get within a 50-100 meters of their target.

The butt of the gun has a hand carving of a clover. The clover implies that the soldier who owned the gun originally was a part of the Union army 2nd Corps, the regiment of the Union army which was in service the longest and sustained the greatest casualties in the war of the 100 regiments.

The 2nd Corps was in service from 1862 to 1865 and fought in famous battles such as Gettysburg, Petersburg, and Farmville. The casualties in this regiment suffered almost 2,000 men lost in action throughout its three years in action. The soldier who owned this gun must have seen unprecedented violence on a daily basis where he might have lost a brother, cousin, or close friend. One can only wonder how personal fighting in the Civil War must have been. The casualties suffered in this war overall was staggering: in all the wars the United States have fought, the civil war was known as the bloodiest war in American history and suffered the greatest percentage of men lost on the field. This is a time in history which cannot be forgotten.

Every soldier has a story to tell such as the soldier who held this gun.

Sources:

Model 1863 Percussion Rifle-Musket Type 1.” Fine Military Americana. Horse Soldier: Gettysburg, PA. Web. September 2016.

Springfield Armory U.S. 1863.” Rock Island Auction Company. Rock Island, IL. Web. September 2016.

U.S. Springfield Model 1863 Type II Rifle Musket.” NRA Museums. The National Rifle Association of America: Fairfax, VA. Web. September 2016.

Hickok45. “1863 Springfield Civil War Rifle (Original).” Online video clip. YouTube: 21 September 2014. Web. September 2016.

Union Army 2nd Corps from Fox’s Regimental Losses Chapter VIII.” Shotgun’s Home of the American Civil War. CivilWarTalk Network. 23 February 2002. Web. September 2016.

 

Meet Andrew McCord

By Carly Benedict

This week’s object is an intriguing little portrait of New York congressman Andrew McCord. Not much is known about this specific piece, but it still tells us a lot about artistic practices and tastes in the early years of America’s history. It’s also extremely interesting too look at and study visually as well!

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What we do know is that this portrait was created using etched gold leaf under glass with a black paper board as the background. We also know who made this piece, as the name A.B. Doolittle is signed on a bottom border. McCord’s name is written under the portrait and next to it is written the year 1778. This is most likely not the year in which the portrait was made, seeing as Doolittle was active in his craft during the early 1800’s. More likely, this year is referencing a time in which McCord was active in his career, or perhaps this portrait is based off of another portrait created that year.

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Andrew McCord is not very well known today, but he was very active in the New York government during the American Revolution and in the years after as well. He was a local man, born in the area that is now Stony Ford in the Wallkill Township of Orange County, New York. In 1775 he was a delegate to a convention in New Paltz that was held to choose men from the area to serve as delegates to the Second Provincial Congress of New York. During the Revolution, many colonies set up their own provincial congresses as a pro-American alternative to the more loyalist assemblies. New York’s first congress was assembled in April of 1775 and the second was assembled in December of the same year. In addition to helping decide who would represent the local area at the second congress, McCord also served as Quarterman, later Captain, of the Ulster County militia. He served many years in the state assembly after the Revolution and even served as speaker in 1807. His greatest achievement, however, was being elected as a Republican representative to the eighth United States congress from 1803 to 1805.

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The portrait was made by A.B. Doolittle, who worked primarily in New Haven, Connecticut. It seems a little odd that a Connecticut artist would want to make a portrait of a New York politician, but not much is known about Doolittle himself, so his true intentions for this piece are unknown. From the little records that are available on Doolittle, we do know that first worked as a maker of profile portraits in Philadelphia in 1804 and later moved his shop to New Haven. He was known for being a miniaturist, profilist, engraver, etcher on glass, and jeweler. He may have been related in some way to Amos Doolittle, a successful engraver and metalsmith who also worked in New Haven, but we don’t know for certain.

A.B. Doolittle’s work in profile portraiture, etching, and engraving was very congruent with the artistic style and tastes at the time. In the early 1800’s, Americans were still feeling the effects of the Age of Enlightenment that occurred in the 1700’s. The Enlightenment was a time of rational thought, logic, structure, and natural science. Many thinkers of the Enlightenment were inspired by the philosophical, political, and artistic ideas of the ancient Greeks and Romans, as they too followed order and logic that the thinkers so desired.

Profile portraiture became popular during this time and continued being used during the early 1800’s because it reflected these principals. The profile emulates a sense of austereness and restraint. It is a visual representation that is certainly rational and easy to understand. It isn’t overshadowed by superfluous artistic decoration. Profile portraits were also often used on the coinage of ancient Greece and Rome, which might be another reason why artists during the Enlightenment favored this form. This profile portrait of Andrew McCord certainly depicts him as being a composed and stoic politician, which was the most favored depiction during this time.

The materials and process that A.B. Doolittle used to create this portrait are an interesting departure from the typical painted portraits of the same time. Gilding and etching in gold leaf on glass is a precarious endeavor, but Doolittle seemed to have done this type of work a lot, becoming quite skilled. First the extremely delicate gold leaf must be carefully adhered to the class using a mixture of gelatin dissolved in water. When dry, the design can be etched into the gold leaf in reverse. Sometimes a background is put behind the gold leaf to protect and make it easier to see on the other side of the glass when it is displayed. Doolittle worked with a small piece of gold leaf-less than 5 inches by 3.5 inches-and expertly etched the extremely fine details of McCord’s hair, face, and clothing to create the portrait. What we’re left with is a tiny yet striking and effective portrait of the politician. The shimmery gold contrasts drastically with the black background, creating an effervescent image that resonates in the eyes of the viewer.

This fascinating portrait is small and enigmatic, yet it allows us to infer a lot of information about the subject, the artist’s possible intentions, and how it fits into the artistic culture of early 1800’s America. It also makes a large visual impact despite its small stature. It is a fitting symbol of McCord’s legacy that also reflects the enlightenment ideals that shaped the governmental and social sphere in which he lived and worked

Sources:

A.B. Doolittle (XIX).” Artprice.com. Groupe serveur. Web. 19 Sep 2016.

Avery, Kevin J. “Late Eighteenth-Century American Drawings.” Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000. Web. 19 Sep 2016.

McCord, Andrew, (ca. 1754-1808).” Biographical Directory of the United States Congress. History, Art & Archives. Web. 19 Sep 2016.

Techniques in Glass Gilding.” Goldreverre. Australia: Goldreverre. Web. 19 Sep 2016.

Woven History

Hello!  My name is Carly and I am one of the curatorial interns at Historic Huguenot Street for the Fall 2016 semester. My first object of the week is about this woven coverlet in our collection. This coverlet was owned by Ida DuBois Brink, a descendant of the DuBois family, one of the founding families of Huguenot Street. The exact date of creation is unknown, but it can be said with certainty that it was made before Ida DuBois Brink married Egbert Brink in 1844. It was graciously donated to us by Audrey Coons Foster, the great, great granddaughter of Ida DuBois Brink.

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Woven coverlets, such as this one were used to decorate and cover the tops of beds, but they were much more than just a mere household adornment. The creation of coverlets was a crafting tradition that began in the earliest days of the American colonies and continued through the 19th century. The woven textiles were not easy to produce. Their patterns were created by weaving fiber (mostly cotton and wool), row by row, on a large loom. Therefore, woven coverlets were a symbol of craftsmanship and skill for the creator, wealth for the owner who could afford to commission one. In addition to these aspects, they also served as a mode of documentation. They often included patterns and motifs that give us clues as to what the values of the patron were, which in turn gives us clues of the historical context. Woven coverlets often included an inscription on the border that included the name of who the coverlet was made for and the place in which it was made.

Mrs. DuBois Brink’s coverlet is a beautiful example of a figured and fancy, or jacquard coverlet. Woven coverlets were originally made into linear geometric patterns that could easily be made using the cumbersome loom. However, with the invention of a new loom attachment that made more complex patterns possible, the fancy and figured style was born. In this style, the patterns are curvilinear and more realistic, and include various different motifs such as floral, animal, and architectural. Although the production of these coverlets was made easier by the new technology, the process was still complicated. Therefore, most figured and fancy coverlets were produced by professional weavers, the majority of whom were male immigrants who trained their craft overseas in countries such as England and Ireland.

This coverlet has many interesting details that tell us a little about who the patroness was and what the time period in which she lived was like. One of the first striking things about the object is its color. It is a deep, rich red contrasted with cream stitching that makes up its patterning. In New York, formal and stately designs using blue and white and red and white were common for this type of coverlet. These colors, our national colors, must have something to do with how people viewed America and their relationship to it. During this this time in American history, the a free country and the revolution were still fresh and present in people’s minds. Americans were proud of their heritage and the bravery of their forefathers. This manifested itself in the production and display of any and all works of art and household decorations that had to do with patriotism and our nation’s history. Perhaps Ida DuBois Brink chose this color for her coverlet to show off her own patriotism.

Following with this idea, the coverlet also includes another similar motif. Repeatedly woven throughout the textile is the federal eagle, the official seal of the United States. Underneath the eagle, one of the nation’s mottos, “E pluribus unum,” is woven. This Latin phrase roughly translates to “Out of many, one” and, along with the eagle, evokes patriotism and harkens back to the Revolutionary days, when the people of the colonies banded together to create one nation.

Another motif found in the coverlet, the strawberry motif, diverts from this nationalistic theme and tells us more about Ida DuBois Brink herself. The strawberry has been used for hundreds of years in many different religions and cultures to symbolize different things. It can symbolize spring and rebirth, righteousness and love, and passion and purity among many other things. We cannot say for sure which of these things she wanted express by having them included in her coverlet, but we can assume with some certainty that she did want to express something about herself and show herself in a positive light to all who viewed this object.

Probably the most telling part of this woven coverlet is the inscription on its border. The inscription reads “ULSTER COUNTY. N-Y. IDA DUBOIS. LIBERTY-VILLE”. Right away, this tells us two things: who the coverlet was made for and where it was made. It was made, of course, for Ida DuBois, but more importantly, since it just includes her maiden name, it was probably made before 1844 when she married Egbert Nelson Brink, allowing us to roughly date it by the inscription as well. The fact that it was made in Ulster County in Libertyville tells us a lot as well.  Libertyville is a small hamlet in the Town of New Paltz, not far from Historic Huguenot Street. It originally was a farming community, and the DuBois family was one of the main farming families. Therefore, Ida DuBois Brink had some familial connection to Libertyville as well. In this hamlet ran the Libertyville Woolen Mill, which specialized in fancy coverlet weaving. Therefore, that was probably the location where this coverlet was made. Also, interestingly, the mill was run by both the Lowe family and the DuBois family, making an even deeper personal connection between the client and her coverlet.

This stunning coverlet is a treasured addition to our collection and an excellent example of the American tradition of woven coverlets. It demonstrates how these pieces were much more than just bed covers. They were examples of the highest level of craftsmanship. They were personal and customized objects that showed off the values and beliefs of the owner and were representative of times as well. They were truly objects of pride and the centerpieces of many American households. So next time you happen upon one of these coverlets, don’t dismiss it as just a nice decoration. Take a closer look and unlock a treasure trove of history!

Sources

“What is a Coverlet.” The National Museum of the American Coverlet. The National Museum of the American Coverlet website. The National Museum of the American Coverlet. Bedford, PA. Web. 8 September 2016.

“What do Strawberries Symbolize.” Reference.com. Web. 8 September 2016.

“Woven Coverlets Tell Story of Past.” The History Center. Tompkins County, NY. Web. 8 September 2016.

“Town of New Paltz Hamlet Histories: Libertyville.” Historic Preservation Commission. New Paltz, NY. Web. 8 September 2016.

On Display: Marking the Occasion

Marking the Occasion:
Dutch Silver Spoons from the Collection of George Way and Jonathan Z. Friedman

DuBois Fort Visitor Center, 81 Huguenot Street
October 1 – December 18, 2016

hhs-dutch-spoon-2Historic Huguenot Street celebrates the abiding influence of the Dutch New Netherland colony in the Hudson Valley with Marking the Occasion, an exhibit centering around 17th- and 18th-century Dutch silver spoons from the collections of Jonathan Z. Friedman and George Way. The catalogue of these ornate and fascinating objects and accompanying remarks were prepared by Kevin Tierney, Silver Consultant for Sotheby’s.

When the French Huguenots who founded New Paltz first arrived in what was then New Netherland, they initially settled in the Dutch town of Wiltwijck (today’s Kingston) in the 1660s and 1670s. The Dutch influence on the Huguenot settlers is apparent in the architecture of the stone houses on Huguenot Street, as well as in its collections of artifacts, recipes, legal documents, and furniture.

Individual spoons became plentiful in Holland in the 17th century and later. They were given as presents to mark births and marriages, but also death and special events. For each occasion, appropriate finials were chosen, with favorites including Plenty or Bounty (a female figure holding a bouquet and frond), Charity (with its family symbolism of mother and children), Hope (a female figure with an anchor), William and Mary (suggesting patriotism), and Apostles (chosen for a new child’s name). The finials were cast from molds which were used for years. Spoons fashioned in the towns of Friesland had a similar range of finials, but often had openwork stems frequently decorated with cherub heads. The shape of the bowls moved from fig shape to egg shape, the latter resembling the bowls of tablespoons.

The exhibit is enhanced by the inclusion of comparative examples of spoons of varying types from England, America, and elsewhere, as well as carved wooden spoon racks and four period Dutch paintings. A selection of Delft pieces from the collections of Mary Etta Schneider and Sanford Levy further enrich the display.

Marking the Occasion: Dutch Silver Spoons from the Collection of George Way and Jonathan Z. Friedman will be on display in the DuBois Fort from October 1 through December 18 during regular open hours. The exhibit is free and open to the public.