For many years, MCHS held a yearly used booksale; our booksorting volunteers found all kinds of interesting things between the pages of donated books, from greeting cards to photographs to money. I’ve been a little disappointed in the ‘finds’ from the books in our permanent museum collections, though I’ll note that the 1909 Reference Bible from Miss Claggett’s trunk contains a 1973 Safeway receipt, and there are a few homework assignments stuck inside various textbooks (which I’ll save for a future post). I’ve had better luck – because, yes, finding something inside another artifact is totally Curator’s Luck – with our textile collections.
Here, for example, is a handkerchief found tucked away in the pocket of a late 19th century cotton print dress. It was discovered during an inventory by one of our interns; she was appropriately excited. (I mean that sincerely.) The dress was donated by a Poolesville family who wished to remain anonymous; as such, I won’t speculate too much on the name behind the embroidered “W.”
On the other hand, this embroidered handkerchief – forgotten in the front pocket of a pair of tuxedo trousers – is quite helpful. The R stands for Riggs, as in George, husband of the donor Eugenie LeMerle Riggs. Mrs. Riggs gave us several tuxedos and formal suits, but with the exception of her father’s Prince Albert coat (“Daddy’s morning suit”), she didn’t specify the original owners. Thanks to the handkerchief, we can assign the 1950s-60s “Formals by Haricon” tuxedo to George H. Riggs, Jr. (1904-1983) of Ashton.
Purses and handbags are another frequent spot for forgotten personal objects. This 1920s leather bag was donated by Barbara Mullinix Grigg, who wasn’t sure if it had belonged to her grandmother Clara May Benson Mullinix (1871-1964) or aunt Connie Mullinix (1905-1993), both of Damascus. Inside the bag are a small leather change purse, empty, and three calling cards: Miss Constance C. Mullinix, J. Collins English, and Lillian E. Whitehead.
Lillian Estelle Whitehead (b. 1907) of Wicomico County, Md. was one of Connie Mullinix’s classmates at the Maryland State Normal School (now Towson University); Connie graduated in 1924, and Lillian in 1923. Mr. English is not as positively identified, but he may be James Collins English (b. 1907) who lived in Gaithersburg in the 1920s. Since Miss Whitehead and Mr. English were likely Miss Mullinix’s friends, I’d hazard a guess that this well-used purse belonged to the daughter, not the mother.
Ruth Ramsdell Stout (1918-2013) donated these two beaded handbags, from her young adulthood in Gaithersburg; both bags still contained her calling cards: Miss Ruth Marie Ramsdell. True, in this case we didn’t need the cards to identify the original owner, but it was still great to discover them tucked inside. These left-behind cards help us make a tangible connection between the 1930s (in this case) and today. Calling cards may be scarce in 2013, but think how many of us have business cards – our own or our friends’ – stashed away in unused handbags and briefcases?
Hat tip to the Forgotten Bookmarks blog for inspiring today’s post.