Today’s post goes out to “the baseball enthusiasts of the community [who] are looking forward to a summer of excellent sport.” That’s how the Washington Post described Rockville’s sports fans in a March 7, 1909 article at the start of the baseball season. On Rockville’s team was second baseman Russell Brewer; here is his glove.

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This is a left-handed fielder’s glove, made by the A.J. Reach Co. of Philadelphia. A one-inch strap, or webbing, connects the thumb and forefinger, likely dating it to around 1910. The well-worn leather looks gray, but it was originally white; this glove clearly saw a lot of game use.  It was donated by Mr. Brewer’s daughter, Virginia Brewer Cobey.

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The use of gloves in the outfield wasn’t original to the first years of the game; needing a padded glove was viewed as pretty wimpy. (According to this article in the Smithsonian Magazine, one of the first players to wear a glove tried – and failed – to find one that would be invisible to fans.) By the 1880s gloves were accepted equipment, however, and soon inventors and manufacturers were coming up with new and improved gloves (more padding, deeper webbing…) In our 1890s-1900s team photos from Rockville, many fielder’s gloves and catcher’s mitts can be seen.

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The owner of this glove, William Russell Brewer (1880-1941), was born in Rockville to John and Virginia Russell Brewer. He attended the Rockville Academy, and by late 1900 had started his career as a bank clerk at the Montgomery County National Bank, a few blocks from his home. In 1910 he married Maude Stalnaker; they stayed in Rockville until 1921, when he resigned his post as cashier at the Montgomery County bank to take a vice-president position with Liberty Trust Company in Cumberland, Md. In the 1930 and 1940 Cumberland censuses, he’s described as a bank president.

But bankers need hobbies just like the rest of us, and “R. Brewer, 2nd base” can be found in newspaper reports of Rockville games from spring 1900 – when, as a Rockville Academy student, he served as “secretary and treasurer” of the school team – through the 1911 season.  In 1901, the Post described the (probably just out of school) team as “considerably elated” over beating the Maryland Agricultural College team; they basically sent out a call for other teams to ‘come and play.’  Throughout the decade they played against other local towns, as well as the U.S. Marine Barracks team, the St. Elizabeth’s Hospital team, a team from Woodward & Lothrop’s department store, and others. This circa 1905 photo, below, shows the Rockville team in uniform; your man Russell Brewer is either the gentleman in front at the far right, or the player behind him.

Circa 1905.  Donated by Virginia Brewer Cobey, who identified her father; other players currently unidentified.

Circa 1905. Donated by Virginia Brewer Cobey, who identified her father; other players currently unidentified… although: your devoted blogger has become so involved in the lives of deceased Montgomery County residents that she recognizes at least one, maybe three people in the photo. Eddie Dawson is in the back row second from left, and I swear his brothers Harry (in the straw boater?) and Somervell (back row second from right?) are here as well.

Mr. Brewer’s teammates remain fairly steady throughout the 1900-1911 era; it reads as if the Academy team stayed pretty tight after graduation, replacing an equally steady 1890s team sometimes known as the Rockville Athletics. On September 5, 1909, the Post reported,

The Rockville Athletics, who so well represented Rockville on the diamond ten or twelve years ago, and the present Rockville team played at the fair grounds this afternoon and the youngsters got the verdict by the score of 7 to 2. . . . The game was a splendid one, and the old fellows showed that there is a whole lot of baseball still in them.

Russell Brewer played 2nd base for the “present team” in this game, along with his brothers Nicholas, George, and John (and, since we’re tracking Dawsons, Eddie and Somervell; Harry was featured on the 1890s teams, but he didn’t play in 1909).

Who doesn’t enjoy an old baseball team photo? So here are a few more for you: two views of the Athletics*, from 1893 (top) and 1896 (bottom), and Rockville’s African American team, circa 1900. (Donors, and player names when known, can be found in the captions.)

1893 team. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson.  Players: Wardlaw Mason, James Kelchner, W. Frank Rabbitt, Eugene Harriss, Upton B. Dawson, Roger Shaw, Sol Rabbitt, Somerville "Weegie" Bean, Carey Kingdon, W. Brooke Edmonston, Leonard Nicholson, Charles "Sibby" Jones, Harry Dawson.  Bat boy, in the center: Mannie (last name unknown). At left in the background is George Meads.

1893 team. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson. Players: Wardlaw Mason, James Kelchner, W. Frank Rabbitt, Eugene Harriss, Upton B. Dawson, Roger Shaw, Sol Rabbitt, Somerville “Weegie” Bean, Carey Kingdon, W. Brooke Edmonston, Leonard Nicholson, Charles “Sibby” Jones, Harry Dawson. Bat boy, in the center: Mannie (last name unknown). At left in the background is George Meads.

"Amateur Champions of the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, 1895-96," taken 1896 at the fair grounds. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson. Players: Eugene Harriss, Charles Jones, [Harry] Dawson, Roger Shaw, Leonard Nicholson, Sol Rabbitt, Mr. Beard, Carey Kingdon, Mr. Hall, Mr. Claggett, Mr. Eagle, James Kelchner, Byron Kingdon.

“Amateur Champions of the state of Maryland and the District of Columbia, 1895-96,” taken 1896 at the fair grounds. Donated by Mrs. W.S. Nicholson. Players: Eugene Harriss, Charles Jones, [Harry] Dawson, Roger Shaw, Leonard Nicholson, Sol Rabbitt, Mr. Beard, Carey Kingdon, Mr. Hall, Mr. Claggett, Mr. Eagle, James Kelchner, Byron Kingdon. (There’s lots of player overlap between 1893 and 1896… but they have new uniforms.)

 

Circa 1900.  Donated by Rosie Wood; players currently unidentified.

Circa 1900. Donated by Rosie Wood; players currently unidentified.

There are even more photos (not only of Rockville!) in our library, along with more information on both white and African American players, playing fields, and game statistics – plus lots of scope for additional research on our local teams. If today’s post whetted your appetite, sports fans, then come on in!

 

*Presuming the “R.A.” on the uniform stands for Rockville Athletics, not Rockville Academy.

 

 

We have a number of 19th and 20th century dolls in the collections; a few, including Kathryn Brown’s bisque and composition baby doll and Billy Hazard’s much-loved composition and fabric “Earl,” have been featured here before.  Today we have a doll of similar vintage to those two, but of different construction: a wood-bodied, metal-jointed Schoenhut doll from the 1920s. R2001.20.09 waving hello

Albert Schoenhut of Pennsylvania patented his “All-Wood Doll” in 1911. The metal joints allowed these dolls to be easily posed in relatively realistic ways. As his patent description explains,

My invention relates to toy figures, manikins, jointed dolls, and the like, and the object of my invention is to provide a structure of this character with means serving to articulate the several members, such means being of a character as to insure the maximum degree of friction whereby the several limbs and portions of the same may be turned and held in various positions assumed by such turning operations without danger of disarrangement except at the desire of the person using the toy, doll, or jointed figure.  In addition, the means which I have provided for articulating the structure are so arranged as to insure movement of the several limbs substantially in accord with the movement of the several limbs of the human body.

In simpler terms, a child could have Dollie stand on one leg and she’d stay that way until it was time for a new pose. A 1921 advertisement in Scribner’s Magazine shows several energetically posed dolls, and touts these features of “the world’s only educational doll”:

Made entirely from wood.  Painted in enamel oil colors which can be cleaned with a damp rag. Fully jointed with the new patented steel spring hinge, with double spring tension and swivel connections. No rubber cord whatever. Full joints at wrists and ankles. A unique foot pedestal by means of which the doll stands by itself. Real mohair wigs – blonde or Tosca or carved hair handpainted. Eyes either fixed or movable. Either conventional or natural child faces.

Our particular doll is a 15” model, with a “natural child face” (also known as a “character” face) and a Tosca (reddish-colored) mohair wig. The maker’s mark is inscribed on her shoulder blades: “Schoenhut & Co., Pat Jan 17 ’11 USA and Foreign Countries.”  Like most survivors of childhood play she’s missing some original features, including her union suit and foot pedestal, but she’s otherwise in pretty good shape.  She’s dressed in a cute purple floral swatch (the fabric is not actually sewn into a dress), topped with a cape and bonnet crocheted from white wool, and has some gold-colored bobby pins in her hair.

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The doll – unfortunately, we did not get its name – belonged to Frances Brown Brosius, born in 1919 to Carroll and Isabelle Brown of Forest Glen.  In the early 1920s, the Browns moved to the Neelsville area (between Clarksburg and Germantown), where Mr. Brown managed several local farms. Frances attended Cedar Grove Elementary School through seventh grade, then went to Gaithersburg High School.  (She may be one of the students in the photo below, showing Cedar Grove students in 1927; anyone recognize her?)

MCHS Library collections, from Denise Wilson

Cedar Grove School, 1927. MCHS Library collections, from Denise Wilson

Mrs. Brosius lived in Silver Spring after her marriage, and in 2001 she donated a large collection of her family’s farm tools, household goods, toys, and other pieces (here’s her father’s fish) to the Historical Society.  This doll came with a trunk, some doll-sized furniture and accessories, and a few other pieces of clothing, saved from Mrs. Brosius’s childhood – and perhaps played with by her own children. The 1921 Schoenhut ad begins, “The child’s greatest tragedy is the breaking of the new doll or of the old favorite. . . . A Schoenhut doll will outlast [cheaper dolls] many times over.” Unlike many of the dolls in our collections, this young lady is still sturdy and unbroken – Mr. Schoenhut’s promise would seem to have held true.

To see a few other examples of Schoenhut dolls, here’s a bit from everyone’s favorite antiques show featuring four dolls from the 1910s. Right now you can also see our unnamed young lady in person, on display in the Beall-Dawson House children’s bedroom.

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Following on from last week’s post, here’s another book where the owner noted her hometown:

x20130103My New Home. By the author of “Win and Wear,” “Tony Starr’s Legacy,” “Faithful and True,” “Ned’s Motto,” “Turning the New Leaf,” Etc., published in New York by Robert Carter & Brothers, 1881.  This novel, written by Sarah Stuart Robbins, was first published in 1865; it’s a gently religious story, written for young ladies, about a woman moving out of her childhood home after the death of her mother. (Many volumes of the “Win and Wear” series, of which this is a part, can be found online.)

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The book is well-read, with a partly-detached cover, rubbed corners, some water damage, and dog-eared pages; there are also a number of inscriptions.  The earlier ones, on the inside cover (above), include the name “Dr. Ayler” and a sticker from the Library of the Poolesville Presbyterian Sabbath School.  (Note that “This Book must either be returned or reported to the Librarian each Week.”)  The Poolesville Presbyterian Church was founded in the late 1840s; though it appears to have had a rather small congregation, it was active enough in the late 19th century to support both a Sabbath School and a Library with at least 104 books in it.  (This book being No. 104.)

Dr. John W. Ayler (1839-1916) was a physician from Virginia who made his home in Poolesville from the 1870s to the 1890s; he was active in the Poolesville Presbyterian congregation, and in fact his wife’s brother was a minister in the Rockville Presbyterian Church. It’s not clear why his name appears in the front of the book, though perhaps he donated it to the Sabbath School.

The Poolesville Presbyterian Church lost its full-time minister in 1902, and while I haven’t found mention of the Sabbath School in any of our records so far, it seems possible that the school closed around the same time, and the library books dispersed.  By 1903, this book was in the hands of young Margaret Lee, who identified herself clearly on the copyright page:

my house where I live Feb. 19, 1903.
Margaret Lee age 17 years
Poolesville, Md is my staying place but Sugarland is my house where I live

Sugarland is an African American community near Poolesville, founded soon after Maryland abolished slavery in 1864.  The Lees were one of the first families to purchase land and set up their households in the new community.  Margaret Lee can be found in the 1900 census, living at home with her parents Wallace and Martha; she’s noted as “at school,” probably attending Sugarland’s one-room schoolhouse. The book inscription indicates that by 1903 she was living, and likely working, in the larger town of Poolesville – but we are not to mistake that for her actual home!  Like many small towns, Sugarland inspires a strong sense of community in its residents and their descendants.  Miss Lee’s inscription – whether or not it was prompted by the theme or title of the novel, and whether it was meant for other readers’ eyes or only her own – emphasizes those ties in a particularly affecting way.

For more information about Margaret Lee’s community, visit the Sugarland Ethno-History Project website. The rest of Miss Lee’s history is currently unknown, though the people at the Project – some of them related to Miss Lee – are looking into her story.  The book itself was donated to the Historical Society’s used book sale fundraiser many years ago; we rescued it from the sale, but were not able to identify its donor by name.  If you have any information about the post-1903 history of Miss Lee or her book, please let us know!

Today we have a large oil portrait of Berthe Girola Anderson of Rockville, painted by C. Law Watkins and donated by Mrs. Anderson’s sons, Thomas and George.

Berthe Girola AndersonBerthe* Girola was born in 1902 in Neuchatel, Switzerland.  In the early 1920s she came to Rockville to work as companion/governess/French tutor for Mary Parrish Bradley (1911-1993), daughter of Joseph and Ann Bradley.  Rockville society agreed with Berthe, and in 1929 she married Thomas Minor Anderson, Sr.; the reception was held at the Bradley home on Rockville Pike (now owned by Woodmont Country Club), and, the Girolas being unable to travel from Switzerland, the Bradleys gave the bride away.  After marriage, the Andersons lived in Rockville; Berthe died in 1980.

Berthe Girola (at right) and Mary Bradley, 1926. Donated by the Anderson family.

Berthe Girola (at right) and Mary Bradley, 1926. Donated by the Anderson family.

Thanks to donations from the two Anderson sons, we have a number of photos, artifacts, and archival odds and ends related to Berthe’s life – she’s often featured in our exhibits, has been mentioned here before, and likely will be represented in both physical and digital displays again in the near future – but let’s change directions somewhat and talk about the portrait painter, rather than the subject.

Mary Parrish Bradley, Berthe’s former pupil, began studying painting at the Phillips Gallery Art School in the late 1930s.  She had a few exhibitions around DC, and an article in 1941 noted that the Phillips Memorial Gallery (now the Phillips Collection) was “very interested in her work.”  In 1942, she married C. Law Watkins, one of her instructors.  Mr. Watkins (1886-1945) was Phillips Collection founder Duncan Phillips’ college roommate. In the late 1920s Watkins left the coal business, and joined the Phillips as Deputy Director and teacher.  (Here’s a nice summary of his career with both the Phillips Gallery and the art school at American University, where the Watkins Gallery is named in his honor.) He and Mary, his second wife, had one son before Mr. Watkins’ unexpected death in 1945.

Though he was perhaps better known for his work as deputy director of the Phillips – including a large exhibition, which later traveled to the 1939-40 New York World’s Fair, on “Emotional Design in Art” – Watkins was himself an artist, like his wife Mary. A review of a memorial exhibition at the Phillips, published in the Washington Post on May 6, 1945, noted, “[Watkins] never advanced his own work, in fact seldom showed it.  Many of his paintings and drawings he regarded as experimental, for use in his teaching rather than finished products in themselves.”

Our portrait of Berthe Anderson is oil on canvas, in an angular, silver-painted wood frame.  The work is unsigned, but according to the donors it was painted by Mr. Watkins around 1944.  (It’s also possible that the painting is by Mary Watkins herself; a number of paintings by both Mary and her husband are owned by the Phillips, so a future comparison to each artist’s work is not out of the question.) At any rate, not having tried my hand at art criticism since Art History 101, I’ll restrict my commentary to: It’s a charming painting – I particularly like the contrast of Berthe’s floral dress and chic hairdo with the old-fashioned chair in which she’s sitting – and it’s certainly a bright spot of color amongst our other, rather gloomy Victorian portraits.

*Her children spelled it Berthy; friends and neighbors in Rockville called her Betty.

The concept of a high chair – a tall, small chair that makes it easier to feed, tend, and occasionally restrain a baby – has been around for a long time.  The Metropolitan Museum has a 17th century high chair in its collections, and the Museum of Fine Arts has an early 18th century example. Just like adult-sized furniture, children’s pieces follow fashions and trends: some are expensive and elaborate, others are throwbacks to an earlier era, and some are more about function than looks.  Here are two infant high chairs in our collections, used around the same time but of very different styles.

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On the left is a late 19th century wooden high chair, 37″ tall, owned by the Jacobs family of Browningsville.  It is handmade, and may have been built by Jonathan Jacobs (1845-1919) himself; he was a coach-maker, but an 1867 tax record identifies him as a cabinet-maker as well.  Jonathan and his wife, Mary Manzella Brandenburg Jacobs, had four sons (Willard, Norman, Wriley, and Merle) born between 1875 and 1890.  The chair descended through the family of the youngest son, Merle Jacobs, to Merle’s son Charles, who donated it to MCHS in 1996.

It’s a good old-fashioned Windsor style, often seen in 18th century high chairs, with nicely turned legs, rails, and stretchers, and a shaped seat.  There’s no tray, which is not unusual for early (that is, before the 1950s or so) high chairs, but there is a little footrest, and a small metal eye centered under the seat indicates that there may have been a strap or other restraint to keep any Baby Jacobses from pitching themselves out of the chair headfirst.

DSC07529Though in pretty good shape, it does show evidence of years of use; there are a few old stains on the seat, the finish on the seat and arms is worn down, and several of the peg joints have been repaired and glued.

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DSC07513The 37″ tall walnut high chair on the right (and in the detail shot, above) was used around the same time as the Jacobs family’s, but is an example of a popular commercially-made chair.  (If you do an internet image search for “Victorian high chair,” you’ll see what I mean.)  “Convertible” highchairs were made throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (examples here); some turned into chair-and-table combos, and others into rocking chairs or, like this one, wheeled walkers:

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Ta-da!

A number of manufacturers used this distinctive Eastlake-style chair-back design; ours, unfortunately, does not have a maker or store label.  However, family history tells us that it was used by Nourse family of Washington, DC and Darnestown.  (It was thought to have been used a generation earlier, by the Darbys of Seneca, but the design of the chair is too late for an 1850s date.)  Mary Alice Darby (1845-1942) of Seneca married druggist/physician Charles H. Nourse; the 1880 census shows the family in a well-to-do household on New York Avenue, DC, with their children Upton Darby, four years old, and Mary Helen, five months old.  They moved to Darnestown, near Mary Alice’s family, soon thereafter.

The highchair descended through the family of son Upton Darby Nourse to his daughter Rebecca Nourse Chinn and then to her daughter (the donor), Jane Chinn Sween.  Like the Jacobs’ chair, it shows evidence of hard use – the woven back and stamped-leather seat bottom (below) are both replacements – and was probably used for more than one generation.  The Nourse high chair can be seen, usually, in the dining room of the Beall-Dawson house (as a baby’s dining chair, not as a walker).

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And now a bonus, to thank my readers for being so patient with today’s at-the-end-of-the-day posting! We have no photos of the above chairs in use … in fact, though we have many pictures of infants and children sitting in baby carriages, on ponies, on the laps and shoulders of family members, and even in a wheelbarrow, we have very few high chair photos.  Happily, we do have this fantastic photo of infant James E. Mason (b. 1896) of Sugarland, posed for a photo in his chair.

Donated by Gwen Hebron Reese.

Donated by Gwen Hebron Reese.

For many people, the first day of a new year is a time for resolutions and fresh starts.  January first has been an official U.S. holiday since 1870, when it was included in a list of holidays for federal workers in the District of Columbia.  But not everyone has the day off, of course, and New Year’s Day celebrations – if any – can be muted, quiet, and personal, whether you’re recovering from a midnight party, enjoying time off with family or friends, getting started on those resolutions, or simply taking care of business as usual.  Interested in some New Year’s activities of Montgomery County’s past? Of course you are!  Let’s take a look.  (Note: spelling and punctuation are all as written by the original authors.)

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January 1, 1891
I have often wanted to keep a diary and as Mother has not written in hers for so long she has given it to me to begin in.
Was at Dr. Brookes, Rainy, so we staid in the house and played Tiddledy Winks.

Carrie Miller Farquhar (1842-1904) of Norbeck kept a diary or journal for much of her life, but rather sporadically.  She took a break between October 22, 1890 and January 7, 1891, and one of her young daughters seized the opportunity (with permission, apparently) to make a start on a diary of her own to start the new year.

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Carrie’s husband Roger Brooke Farquhar, Sr. (1837-1929) likewise kept a faithful record of his daily work.  He was a farmer, and most of his new year’s entries are little different from any other day; for example, here are the first three entries in the first journal volume, begun on January 1st, 1856 (click photo to enlarge; transcription below):
Farquhar 1-1-1856
January 1856
1st  Took Jinny to shop and she kicked so that they could not shoe her. Mended the dam &c.
2nd Went to Lea’s mill with buckwheat shod colt at Perry’s, hauled wood in the evening. very sleety.
3rd  Shelled corn for cow feed, and took to mill.

In 1861, Roger indulged in a bit of timely festivity, noting on January 1st:

Set up last night at Brooke Grove, saw the old year out for the first time I remember, took Mother to Brooke Grove in the sleigh.  Bill cutting wood     had a political meeting at Rockville.

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A new year can be a time for reflection on the year that’s concluded, as well as for looking ahead.  Okay, that’s a little trite, but it’s important to remember that it was as true for our predecessors as it is for us today.  As 1924 turned to 1925, recently widowed Henrietta Clagett (1848-1925) of Potomac noted sorrowfully in her diary,

Dec 31st, 1924.  Last day of old year which brought so much sorrow and loss of loved ones &c.  . . .
January 1st 1925.  New Years day dark and dreary snow on the ground from last night’s fall.  Looks like we would have more.

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The Stang family of Clopper were devout Catholics, who attended nearby St. Rose of Lima Church.  On January 1st, 1912, 18 year old Marie Stang (1894-1970) wrote in her diary,
Stang 1-1-1912
We stayed up until 12:00 to see the old year out and new year in.  We had two masses – 9:00 and 10:00.  Papa went to Holy Communion and so did I.  Mamma & I went to Gaithersburg to get Bess shod, came home and played cards, Papa & I beat Miss Mary and Mamma.

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Davey 1929In 1929, 23 year old W. Cecil Davey was living at home with his parents in Takoma Park, and working with his father in the plastering business.  New Year’s Day was a chance to relax.  In his red-covered “National Diary” for 1929, he noted on January 1st:

The New Year has come in decidedly damp.  It rained all day but was not cold.  fooled around the house all morning doing nothing in particular. Cleared up my room & books some so that it looks a bit tidier. Some time after dinner I went over to Dodge’s and helped Harry on his railway for a while. Stopped there playing with him & Doris till about six.  After tea Doris & Fred came over & we played cards for a while.  I took some photos of Doris over to Mrs. Johnston & she liked them.  Donald came in about 8 o’clock & we played cards with Frank & Dad till past ten.

(In the 1930 census, the Dodge family – including ten year old Harry, Jr. – are the Daveys’ next-door neighbors on Maple Avenue.  1950s records indicate that W. Cecil Davey was a professional photographer in Silver Spring; perhaps Doris’s photos were some early efforts.)

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From 1801 through 1932, there was a public reception held at the White House every New Year’s Day.  In 1892, Roger Brooke Farquhar attended with his daughter Anna and friend Katherine Hall; but, as noted in both Roger’s and wife Carrie’s diaries, it was not everything they’d expected (and, yes, Roger still included some of the day’s farm work):

Carrie:
Roger, Anna & Katherine Hall went to Wash. to Presidents Reception – had not a very successful day.

Roger:
Anna, Catherine Hall & I went to town to see the Presidents reception, shook hands with Mr. Harrison but were disappointed at not seeing foreign ministers
Carrie came home
The men plowing & spreading manure

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And one last entry!  Thirteen year old Catherine Dawson (1910-1974) of Rockville spent January 1st, 1924 visiting family, doing homework and chores, and generally having a nice day.  She ends with a cheerfully misspelled good wish for the coming year – a wish that your blogger also extends to you, dear readers!

Tuesday Jan 1
Had breakfast at Willard with Uncle Wade. There were great times last night. . . . Cleaned up a while & then wrote my synopsis of “David Copperfield.” Fooled around until dinner time. Virginia was here for dinner. Afterwards we read, talked & played with the boys. She left & I read until supper. Had a light supper. Read & fooled around all evening & then went to bed. Hears hopes for a Happy New Year for all my family & friends.

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Farquhar family diaries donated to MCHS by Roger Brooke Farquhar, Jr.; Marie Stang’s diaries donated by Marie Stang; W. Cecil Davey’s diaries donated anonymously; Henrietta Clagett’s diary donated by Molly T. Keith; copy of Catherine Dawson Hill’s diary provided by Beth Dawson Rodgers.

Here’s more on the diaries, and lives, of Marie Stang and Mrs. Clagett, as well as some notes from the diaries of Carrie Miller Farquhar and Catherine Dawson.

A good housekeeper keeps track of the household linens.  When was that tablecloth last used?  Which pillowcase needs mending? Did all the sheets come back from the laundress?  And whose towel is that, anyway? As Sidney Morse, author of Household Discoveries (1908), remarked, “All fabrics will wear better if not used continually, but allowed to rest at intervals . . . linen and other articles are often mislaid or stolen when sent to laundries, and sometimes taken from the line or blown away when spread on the grass to bleach.” Advice books and magazines from the 19th and 20th centuries suggest a variety of methods for inventory management, such as keeping a memorandum book, or tacking a list to the inside of the closet door. However, towels and sheets are not noted for their individuality.  The easiest way to maintain control is to mark them, either in embroidery or ink.

Elizabeth Ellicott Lea (1797-1858) of Sandy Spring wrote a cookbook, Domestic Cookery: Useful Receipts and Hints to Young Housekeepers, and published it herself in 1845.  The book was popular, and eventually went through 19 editions.  Our copy, published in 1856, includes this helpful tidbit on page 208:

House Linen. Have a book in which to set down all the bed and table linen, towels and napkins; every article of which should be marked and numbered, and counted at least once a month.”

I particularly like this piece of advice because it goes so nicely with these two artifacts, donated by Lea’s great-granddaughter Isabel Stabler Moore: a pair of pillowcases, marked respectively “M.L. No. 2″ and “M.L. No. 6.”

both cases
These linen cases are handsewn. Number 6 is larger, 33″ x 18″, with attached twill tapes to close it around the pillow.  Number 2 measures 28″ x 16.5″, is made of a slightly coarser linen, and shows more evidence of use; it is stained and mended.  Both cases are carefully marked in ink (which has created a slight stain around each set of initials).  The donor told us they were made and used by her grandmother – Betsy Lea’s daughter – Mary Lea Stabler (1822-1888) of Sandy Spring.  It’s worth noting, however, that the initials don’t actually match:

ML 2 and 6
Researcher Mary Robare* kindly provided us with a photo of Mary Lea Stabler’s embroidered initials, on the Pidgeon Family Quilt.  The form of the M there matches – or at least is closer to – our pillowcase No. 6 … assuming, of course, that Mary embroidered the quilt signature herself.

"M.L.S." embroidered on the Pidgeon Family Quilt, in the collections of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; photo copyright Mary Robare.

“M.L.S.” embroidered on the Pidgeon Family Quilt, in the collections of The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; photo copyright Mary Robare.

At any rate, the two cases were marked by two different people, whoever they were. Did other family members mark them for Mary, as a gift, or just to give her a hand?  Was one of the cases made, marked, and/or used by Martha Lea, Mary’s sister – or by someone else entirely?  Initials can be deceptive; some women chose their middle name over their maiden name, or put their final initial in the center of the mark, or even added their husband’s first initial before their own.  A third pillowcase in this donation is marked “E.W.S. No. 6″; we haven’t been able to trace E.W.S., thanks in part to these issues.  However, based on the donor’s genealogy, it seems likely that one or both of the M.L. cases belonged to Mary Lea Stabler, following her mother’s published advice.

Household linens were not the only items that required marking.  Anything that was going to be sent out to the laundry would benefit from an identifying laundry mark; our collections include gloves, collars, shirts, aprons, dresses, and underthings that are marked in ink with initials and names, or have pre-made name tapes sewn inside.  For example, we have a pair of black cotton knit stockings, donated by Mrs. Jack Stone; each stocking has an attached strip of twill tape on which is written in ink “M. Clements No. 2.”

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Mary Elizabeth Clements (1865-1962) of Rockville married Lee Offutt in 1888; awesomely, she won a Discretionary Premium for her knit stockings (including these??) at the 1889 Rockville Fair.  She must have had more than one pair of black stockings (since this is pair number two), and she may even have made them herself; I don’t know where she sent her laundry, but she clearly wanted to be sure she got all her belongings back in good order.

Laundry exhibit status: Both Domestic Cookery and Household Discoveries are on display in the exhibit, through January 12, 2014.  Though Mary Lea Stabler’s pillowcases and Mary Clements Offutt’s stockings are not included, there are plenty of other examples of laundry marks to be seen.

*By the way, there’s a new Sandy Spring Quilt installment on Mary’s blog, Quaker Quilts.

No turkeys this year – instead, here’s a photo for your Thanksgiving enjoyment.

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This circa 1910 image is mounted on a card, and has a long message on the back in ink:
“This was taken Thanksgiving afternoon, After the foot ball game.  Just use this [the next two lines have been scratched out with a stylus].  No. 1.  Harrison Englang [sic].  No. 2. Sir. Thomas Dawson.  No. 3. Duke of South Dakota.  Yours Truly, L.A. Dawson.  This is entitled The Bon Ton Socials of Rockville.”

Bon Ton Socials front and back
This is a pretty fantastic photo, all around.  1) The gentlemen are conveniently sporting a variety of hat and collar styles, making it a nice comparative sample for today’s researchers (a.k.a., me).  2) They gave themselves a funny, if perhaps highly temporary, group name.  3) Dawson spelled his friend’s name wrong – on purpose? – and then someone vehemently erased part of the message – why?  And, 4) It’s Thanksgiving, around 100 years ago . . . and there is football involved.

The pictured gentlemen are Harrison England (1891-1973), Thomas Dawson, Jr. (1892-1944), both of Rockville . . . and here’s where my planned Thanksgiving/Native American Heritage Month post went awry yesterday.  I’d thought that perhaps No. 3 was Bill Ross (1903-?), an Oglala Lakota who came to Rockville in the late 1910s to stay with the family of Hal and Fannie Dawson, and whose story I promised you back in Feburary.  The Dawsons and their children lived for many years on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, South Dakota; they moved to Hal’s family farm, Rocky Glen, in 1911. Hal and Fannie welcomed Bill “Chief” Ross into their family for a time, and indeed he appears in the 1920 Rockville census as the Dawsons’ “adopted son.”

However, closer examination of the photo makes me think that the third gentleman here is Lawrence A. Dawson (1893-1953), author of the message on the reverse, and oldest son of Hal and Fannie.  I had initially ruled him out because the photo was donated by Lawrence’s daughter, Mary Dawson Gray, but perhaps she took it for granted that we knew “No. 3″ was her dad, without writing it down.  The relative ages of the three young men, the style of their clothing, and comparison with photos of a thirty year old Lawrence and ten year old Bill all point to the “Duke of South Dakota” being Lawrence himself, who came to Rockville* several years before the rest of his immediate family – putting this photo around 1910-12.

Thanksgiving and football have a long-entwined history – there are records of college games held on the holiday as early as the 1870s, and in the DC area Georgetown University’s Thanksgiving Day games were highlights of the season by the late 19th century.  And since I can’t resist a good turkey postcard, here’s a circa 1900 example showing a turkey playing football.

1908 football gameI wasn’t able to find anything about Rockville Thanksgiving Day football games in particular, but our library does include evidence of a possible precedent: The Midget, a one-sheet newspaper published by Rockville youths, reported on November 12, 1908 that “the ‘Uptowns’ and ‘Downtowns’ had a foot-ball game at the Fair Grounds last Saturday.”  (Click the image at left to see the full line-up.) The Downtowns won, 17 to 5, “although the Uptowns had more weight and what was more they had the time-keeper as coach.”   (Alas, our collection of Midgets – and possibly its print-run altogether – is sporadic; no record of a Thanksgiving game has been found in this source.) If any Rockville historians or residents have info, pictures, or records to share, please do!

* Lawrence came east in order to attend school; he stayed with relatives, including his aunt and uncle at our own Beall-Dawson House, where he can be found in the 1910 census.  And don’t worry, I’ll get to Bill Ross’s full story one of these days.

Following up on last week’s “things left behind” post, here’s another item that contained bonus artifacts.

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This beaded purse belonged to Sarah Austin Walter (1858-1932) of Kensington.  It was saved by her daughter Julia Walter Linthicum (1904-2000), and donated in 2006 by Mrs. Linthicum’s friend Mary Hertel.  Several things were inside the bag upon donation: a handkerchief, a thimble, a rosary, a Sacred Heart badge, and a note that read, “Dated back to 1908, these were Mother’s.”

Sarah “Sally” Deborah Austin grew up in Barnesville, one of the younger children of John and Jerusha Ann Rabbitt Austin.  In 1882 she married Robert Bruce Walter of Frederick, at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Barnesville; by 1900 the Walters had moved to Kensington, where Robert worked as a carpenter.  (Fun fact: Sarah and Robert were the parents of Malcolm Walter, a local photographer who’s responsible for many fabulous 1920s-30s images of Montgomery County people and places; his photograph collection now resides at Peerless Rockville.)

DSC06377Unfortunately, Mrs. Linthicum’s note doesn’t explain the specific date of 1908, though it’s a reasonable one for this style of handbag.  The frame is marked “G. Silver,” or German (nickel) silver, and features both floral and geometric designs; the bag exterior, and the handle, are made of a red knit decorated with dark blue Bohemian beads. Though not necessarily an everyday handbag, it seems to have gotten a fair amount of use; the heavy beading is pulling away from the frame, and the lining, a dark pink silk faille, is a replacement.

DSC06381The silver thimble, and the simple wood-and-metal rosary (marked only “FRANCE”), are difficult to date, though they could also be from the 1908 era.  The two-sided paper-and-felt badge measures 2″ tall and reads in part, “The Apostleship of Prayer in League with the Sacred Heart.”  The printed copyright date is very faint, but looks like 1915. Sacred Heart badges are similar to scapulars – both are sacramentals worn by some members of the Roman Catholic faith. The presence of both the rosary and the badge make me wonder if this was Mrs. Walter’s going-to-Mass handbag.

t2582-2The linen handkerchief is likely much earlier than the other items here. It shows considerable wear from both age and use, and has Mrs. Walter’s maiden name cross-stitched in the corner.  Almost certainly, it was made by or for Sally before her 1882 marriage, but evidently she continued to use it (or at least carry it) for many years afterward.

One of my favorite questions, as a ‘stuff person,’ is “Why was this saved?”  What meanings did these pieces hold for the Walter family?  Are the pieces tied together by an event or a memory? Did Sally deliberately place these pieces in the handbag, or did her daughter Julia select them later as reminders of her mother’s life? It can be easy to overthink a little collection like this one, however; perhaps the purse was a just convenient vehicle for storing a few treasures, or the pieces were simply left inside the last time Sally used the bag.  What do you think?  What stories can you take away from a fancy beaded bag, a youthful handkerchief, a silver thimble, two well-worn religious pieces, and a daughter’s note?

The Beall-Dawson House is an historic house museum, but with a bit of a twist.  The House is furnished to tell the story of the many people – old and young, enslaved and free – who lived and worked there for over 150 years; but we are the County Historical Society, after all, and some of the artifacts on display tell a broader story.

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Take, for example, this fine couple, who can be seen in the Dining Room, above.  Major A. Price* and his wife Mary Ann Harding Price are not related to the House residents** in any appreciable way, but (unlike some of our furnishings) they are not merely period-appropriate decorations.  Mary Ann’s story helps us talk a little bit about Montgomery County in the early 19th century.

Major & Mary Ann

All photos on this post (other than the Dining Room view) by Tom Meeks.

Mary Ann Harding (1805-1825) was born in Montgomery County, Maryland, daughter of Elias and Ellen Harding. (Her parents were distant cousins; both were descended from John Harding, who died in Rockville in 1753.)  In 1810, they and several other branches of the Harding family moved to Logan County, Kentucky.  Mary Ann grew up in Russellville, and married a neighboring gentleman named Major A. Price in September 1823; she died two years later.  It’s thought she died in childbirth, or perhaps due to later complications; in the Hardin-Harding family cemetery in Kentucky, there’s a grave near Mary Ann’s stone inscribed “Mary Ann Price, stillborn dau. of Major & Mary A. Price, Aug. 27, 1824.”

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These two portraits were donated to the Montgomery County Historical Society in 1985 by Mary Hardin Bernard, Mary Ann’s great-great-niece.  (Mary Ann’s sister Margery Harding married a man named Thompson Hardin, hence the missing “g”.) The Hardin family was certain that the young woman was Mary Ann Harding Price; it is believed, though not really proven, that the gentleman was her husband.  Your man Major is something of a conundrum at present; he may or may not have: been born in Virginia in 1800, had three wives, first married Mary Ann’s step-sister . . . several afternoons spent playing “Let’s Find Major’s Wives!” only added to the confusing history, and if I launch into that now this post will devolve into a series of “but wait, then there’s this record. . .” statements, which isn’t really the point.  Suffice it to say that so far as we know, the dapper young man giving our Dining Room windows the side-eye is likely the Major A. Price noted as Mary Ann’s “consort” on her gravestone.  (Marriage records also confirm Major’s name.)

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Anyway, if these portraits were painted in Kentucky, why are they hanging in the Beall-Dawson House in Rockville, Maryland?  At the time of their donation, MCHS touted it as a matter of the portraits “coming home,” though whether that’s how the donor herself would have phrased it, I’m not sure.  We were very excited about this donation, as the portraits were unique (they’re still our earliest examples), in poor condition (thus offering us a chance to do some fundraising outreach, which was highly successful as you can tell from their current attractive state), and mysterious.  Who was Mary Ann?  Who’s the guy?  Why did they have their portraits painted – and by whom?

In the early decades of the 19th century, many Maryland farmers left the state to find a more prosperous life.  Both wheat and tobacco prices dropped significantly in the late 1810s, and over-farming had depleted our local farmland; to put it briefly, times were tough.  (For a more thorough discussion of this economic depression, and how we got out of it, check out Chapter 7 of MacMaster and Hiebert’s A Grateful Remembrance, 1976.) The Harding family’s decision to move west in 1810 predated the major wave of emigration in the 1820s.  Their reasons may have been related to economic hardship, to general restlessness, or even to the fact that Ellen Harding’s father was forced to leave the state (by his son, no less). A 1937 article by Mary Hardin Bernard says only that the various Harding families “traveled the wilderness road together, moving slowly westward, searching for the most beautiful and most fertile part of Kentucky in which to build their homes. . . bringing with them their personal belongings, their slaves, and their high ideals of Christian living.”  And yes, it’s important to remember that Elias Harding was a slave owner; the 1810 Montgomery County census tells us that Mr. Harding’s property included 12 enslaved people, who most likely also made the trip to Kentucky. The 1820 census for Logan County shows 15 enslaved people under Mr. Harding’s name.  (The censuses do not name the enslaved individuals.) The experience of these people is an entirely different story, one which Mary Ann’s portrait doesn’t quite tell.

Whatever the circumstances of their life in Maryland, the Harding family flourished in Kentucky. The portraits show Mary Ann and Major in fashionable, expensive attire and elaborately styled hair.  (Please note that the top level of Mary Ann’s hairdo is in fact a large, rectangular tortoiseshell comb; see below.)  Presuming the gentleman is Major, these portraits were likely painted to celebrate their marriage or engagement, around 1823 or 1824. Clearly, the Hardings and/or the Prices could afford a certain level of fashion, and wanted that status recorded in oils.

mary anns hairdo

It’s a comb, honest.

An aside: MCHS catalog records include the idea that the sitters’ outfits and hair styles were either imaginary or aspirational – that is, the painter gave them fashionable clothing they didn’t actually own – but that is up for debate.  Since our research in the 1980s, new theories about itinerant portraiture and regionalism have been developed; Mary Ann and Major will benefit from a new round of research.  And after all, who doesn’t dress their best to have their portrait taken, whether painted or photographic?   (Disclaimer: I am not an art historian.)

Soon after the portraits arrived, Historical Society staff and volunteers began searching for possible artists.  The paintings are unsigned, and the Hardin family had little information for us other than a tradition that they were painted by an itinerant painter who boarded with Elias Harding for a short time.  Based on several criteria – including dates, location, and artistic style – my predecessors at MCHS concluded that Alexander Bradford (1791-1827) was our man.  Please take that with a grain or two of salt, as it is a possible, but far from an absolute, attribution.  Again, I feel that our portraits would benefit from another close look; perhaps some day soon I can post a follow-up, with new information.

Continuing to emphasize that I am not an art historian, I need to spend a few sentences talking about how great these portraits are.  Though as art the paintings may lack depth, as likenesses they are very expressive.  Mary Ann is looking right at you, with perhaps a tinge of skepticism in her eyes (or maybe she’s just trying to balance her hairdo); Major’s attention seems to be drawn away, like he’s too cool to be bothered with the whole process.  . . . Which is kind of sad, for an engagement or wedding portrait pair; these paired portraits were meant to be hung side by side, as we have them, and he’s looking away from Mary Ann.  Was he a dreamy*** guy, or simply bored? Maybe that’s why Mary Ann looks just a little dubious.

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Back to less speculative history. Much as I love these portraits (after all, Mary Ann is the blog avatar), there’s a different piece of family memorabilia that better speaks to the consequences of the Harding family’s move, and the Montgomery County connections that were maintained and severed. In an 1820 letter to his mother Mary Harding Sprigg, who was still living in Montgomery County near Barnesville, Elias Harding wrote news of his children, including one Mrs. Sprigg had never met: Elias and his second wife Lucy “have a lovely little daughter Margaret Sheppard [Harding],” while “Mary Ann and Margery is [sic] women grown.”  Poignantly, Elias clearly does not expect to see his mother again.  Although he knows he’s lucky to have found “one of the best of women” for his second wife, and considers Kentucky to be “the land of plenty,” he goes on to lament, “to see you once more this side of eternity would be one of the greatest gratifications . . . I often think of you and wish you was [sic] with us.”  To us today, moving from Maryland to Kentucky might not seem like a big deal; two hundred years ago, it was a major separation, and not one that would be undertaken lightly.

Special thanks are due to photographer Tom Meeks, who so kindly took the fabulous photos of Mary Ann and Major. 

* Yes, his first name was Major.

** In one of those “Montgomery County was a very small place in its way” coincidences, Mary Ann’s father, Elias Harding, was the second cousin of Jane Robb Beall’s sister Catherine’s husband Henry Harding.  (Jane Robb Beall was the wife of Upton Beall, first owner of the Beall-Dawson House.) Got that?

*** I mean that as “daydreamer,” but take it the other way if ruffled cravats are your thing.

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