Today (September 19, 2012) is Ask a Curator Day! I encourage those of you on Twitter to make good use of the opportunity; the website gives hints on what to ask, and lists participating museums. Since MCHS does not (yet?) have a Twitter account, we’re doing this a little informally, through Facebook and WordPress. So pretend this photo* is me, eagerly awaiting your questions!
Our Facebook page has yielded one question for today’s blog: Was author Upton Sinclair – full name Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr. – related to Upton Beall of Rockville? The answer is a qualified Yes. Jane Sween** and I spent some time in the MCHS Library this morning trying to track down the exact relationship, with no immediate results; but we do believe that he is related to ‘our’ Upton (1770-1827), the first owner of the Beall-Dawson House (now our museum). Though our Upton’s line did not continue past his daughters, he was from a large family, and the name Upton pops up here and there. (Jane suggested I recommend that the questioner come in and help us out by doing some genealogical research; otherwise, I’ll post an update if/when I sort it out.) On a more concrete note, I did learn this morning that Upton Sinclair lived in Bethesda’s Grosvenor Park apartments in 1966, so there’s another local connection for you!
The fourth and fifth grade students who visit us on school tours always ask fantastic questions. My favorite came several years ago: What pets did the Bealls and Dawsons have, and were there any veterinarians in Rockville? The latter part is somewhat long and involved and will probably end up on a future blog, but to answer the first part, we know both families had cats. In 1837, Upton’s daughter Jane wrote to her sister Matilda in Georgetown, reporting on the doings at home: “We are all quite well except [sister] Peggy’s pretty kitten, which she thinks has the whooping cough.” A few generations later, Rockville’s student-run Midget newspaper reported on March 25, 1909 that John Dawson’s 12 year old cat was “killed by the electric cars” (that is, he or she was hit by the streetcar, which ran down West Montgomery Avenue). There were probably many other cats, and perhaps dogs as well, who lived at the Beall-Dawson House over the years; but in the way of these things, their lives were not recorded.
Have these answers brought other questions to your mind? Let me know! (They don’t have to be about the Beall-Dawson House, I promise.) Leave a comment here, or post on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to tweet some questions at other curators around the world today!
* This photo actually shows an unidentified woman participating in a radio interview with Stella Werner and Judge Charles Woodward on WBCC, circa 1955.
** Jane was our Librarian for many years; if Jane thinks Sinclair is related to our Bealls, he probably is.