April is National Poetry Month, so in honor of this occasion, here are two books of poetry from our collections.

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At left is a collection of William Wordsworth‘s poems: The Poetical Works of Wordsworth. With Memoir, Explanatory Notes, Etc., published by Belford, Clarke & Co, circa* 1885. The cover and spine are embossed with red, black, and gold accents, and the pages are edged in gold; it’s a nice volume, designed as much for display/presentation as for reading. On the endpaper, a nice floral pattern, we find this ink inscription: “Jennie Rice from her friend James M. Nourse”.

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Jennie Longstreet Rice (1871-1941) was the daughter of George and Elberta Rice of Darnestown. The Reverend James M. Nourse (1840-1922), a cousin  to the local Nourse family, was the minister of Darnestown Presbyterian Church from November 1883 through May 1885, at which point he was called to the First Presbyterian in Alexandria, Virginia. In November 1885,  Miss Rice, age 15, was “received by examination” as a member of the Darnestown Presbyterian Church. Those facts come from church records; our book here adds another, more personal element to the story. The Darnestown Presbyterian Church, founded in 1855, was an important part of the religious and social life of the community; in the 1870s-90s, the minister was also the principal of the nearby Andrew Small Academy (which Miss Rice probably attended). Thus, Miss Rice likely encountered Rev. Nourse and his family in and around the neighborhood, and it seems probable that he also helped her prepare for her church membership examination. This handsome edition of Wordsworth – his favorite poet? Hers? (Or simply the nicest book available at the shop?) – may have been a parting gift, as Rev. Nourse left the community and moved on to his next assignment.

Next, continuing our Poetry Month theme and throwing in National Library Week for good measure, is the book on the right: a small, somewhat tattered volume of William Cullen Bryant’s works, “collected and arranged by the author,” and printed in 1857. Bryant was an American poet and journalist (and, fun fact, the namesake for NYC’s Bryant Park).  The book appears well-read, or at least frequently handled, and indeed it was a library book. Pasted inside the front cover is a printed label reading, “Dawsonville Library Association. No. 66. No Book shall be kept from the Library more than Two Weeks. Without renewals of the same, the holder failing to return, shall pay Four Cents a day for extra use.”

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I’ve not yet found any reference to a 19th century Library Association in Dawsonville (and perhaps this book originated in, say, Dawsonville, Georgia, rather than Montgomery County’s town), but it’s possible that this Association was an offshoot of the delightfully-named Dawsonville Literary Sociable. The activities of this lively group were recorded in the late 1870s-early 1880s by pseudonymous correspondents** in the local Montgomery Advocate. The Literary Society (as it was later known, though I can’t help but prefer “Sociable”) held officer elections and operated as a formal club, but in essence these meetings were well-organized house parties, designed to enliven the winter months with food, music, dancing, out-of-town guests, and – the ostensible point of the whole thing – readings and orations.

Not to be outdone – and conveniently helping to tie today’s books together – nearby Darnestown also had a Literary Society. In January 1883, Dawsonville correspondent “Johnny Reb” had “the pleasure . . . , accompanied by a fair damsel, to be present at the meeting of the Darnestown Literary Society last Friday evening.” After the “regular programme” of readings and songs, “chatting was renewed with increased vigor” and, essentially, a lot of young people spent a lot of time flirting until it was time to make their way home through the snow. In February 1883, the Dawsonville Literary Society received an invitation from their Darnestown counterparts “to attend, en masse, an entertainment . . . which was accepted by unanimous vote.”

Here's your geographical orientation: Dawsonville and Darnestown both lie along modern-day Route 28, which follows much the same path now as it did in the 19th century.  The Darnestown Presbyterian Church is at the intersection of 28 and Turkey Foot Rd, with the village itself closer to the Seneca Rd intersection; Dawsonville was at the intersection of 28 and 121. From the 1879 Hopkins Atlas of Montgomery County.

Here’s your geographical orientation, using the 1879 Atlas and the modern-day names for the old roads that appear here: Dawsonville and Darnestown both lie along modern-day Route 28. Darnestown is near the intersections of Turkey Foot Rd. and Seneca Rd.; Dawsonville was at the intersection of Rts. 28 and 121. From the 1879 Hopkins Atlas of Montgomery County.

The full text of the extant “society columns” – which also include wedding and death announcements, business updates, and weather news – can be found in our Library, in Jane Sween’s History of Dawsonville and Seneca, Montgomery County, Maryland (1967/1993); some excerpts also appear in the article of the same title and author in The Montgomery County Story, Vol. XI, No. 2, available in our Museum Shop. To whet your appetite for polite 19th century youthful antics (in case your copy of Jo’s Boys is not easily at hand), here’s the description of the December, 1879 meeting, as composed by “Toney”:

Eight months or more have passed since your humble servant occupied a position in your columns, as reporter of the doings of Dawsonville Literary Sociable; so hope you will give space to a brief description of the meeting which occurred Saturday week at the “Hermitage”, the residence of Mr. F. A. Dawson, one of its most prominent members. The wind though cold and boisterous during the day lulled when “Sol” donned the veil of night, leaving, however, Mrs. “Luna” and her dear little bright cherubs to twinkle in his absence to the merry throng that lined the different roads leading to the mansion. The entire building was ablaze with lights, all the rooms on the lower floor having been transformed into a spacious hall with cheerful fires to greet the chilled guests, who were received by the modest and pleasant Miss A.L. Dawson whose cordial welcome dismantled (if any) the slightest feeling of restraint worn by anyone. The agreeable Messrs. Hickerson and Balch aided in dispatching guests to the second floor where dressing rooms had been tastefully filled up with everything necessary to the comfort and vanity of women, or make an old bachelor ashamed of his lot. As early as 7 P.M. guests began to assemble in the South Parlor and up to 7:40 P.M. were continually arriving, filling the entire hall to repletion. Taking a survey of the room I concluded that I had never seen a brighter, handsomer and more tastefully dressed bevy of ladies in my life. The gentlemen also looked remarkably well.

The President, Mr. Cass F. Eastham, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called roll, which showed the society composed of twelve honorary and thirty-one active members all in the enjoyment of good health and liberty. . . . The business before the meeting was soon dispatched, Miss Gertrude Dade was added to the active list as a member and Miss Vallie W. Allnutt’s invitation was gladly accepted unanimously by everyone with thanks to meet at her pleasant home on Saturday January 3rd 1880. The secretary then called Miss M. C. Darby to open the evening’s programme, who read XIX Psalm; Miss Lille Dyson entertained by reading “Pondering”; Mr. B.F. White, declaimed “Charge of the Light Brigade”; Miss Nellie Allnutt read “Quality Hill”; Miss Susie Darby read “Antique Beau”; Mr. W.M. Hickerson read “The Deacon’s Story”; Miss Annie L. Dade recited “Buttercups and Daisies”; Miss Marian Cross read [not transcribed]. Miss Vallie Allnutt by request closed the programme by reading “The Rose.” The entire programme was creditably rendered and pleased the audience judging from the applause each participant received.

The Messrs. Heck, Mullican, Darby, Poole and Galeen of Darnestown then entertained to the great pleasure of all, with choice vocal music. Among the bright faces I noticed Miss Maud Hepburn of Washington; Miss Bessie Dawson of Arlington Heights; Miss Annie White of Loudoun, Va.; Misses Veirs, Scott and Hall of Poolesville; Miss Maggie Beall of Darnestown; Mr. Upton Darby of Seneca; Mr. Smoot of Washington; Milton White of Baltimore; Samuel Veirs of Rockville; and Mr. [?]. Wade of Barnesville. All vying with each other in general parlance when the announcement of supper caused a temporary stop. The pleasant hostess, Miss Gue, assisted by her bright sister Mary soon had served from waiters a luncheon tempting to the most delicate, winding up with a confectionary collation. After many congratulations and expressions of pleasure experienced the company left for their respective homes with hearts both light and gay.

*This edition has no copyright date, but several other collections by Belford, Clarke & Co., with similar covers, were published in 1884-85.

**These columns were collected in a scrapbook by an unknown individual; many are undated now. They are variously signed “Toney,” “Uteuty,” “Wild Bill,” “Johnny Reb,” “Delgrada,” and “Ivanhoe,” who may all be the same person; the authors frequently identify themselves as “an old bachelor,” and there are other literary similarities.

Today’s artifact is a large name badge, identifying Will Stackhouse, Jr. (Real Estate) as a member of Lions Club International.

The plastic and metal badge measures 3.5″ in diameter, and is made with a clear plastic space in front to allow inserted cards or name tags to show through.  This design was patented in 1929 by William H. Kupfer of Chicago, and as always the patent language is a delight: 

“One of the main objects of this invention is to provide a novel and improved badge with means which forms a window recess or niche for mounting a card therein, also having a transparent window means in front thereof and a door at the rear thereof which is removable to provide for convenient removing and interchanging of said card.” 

Rather than a pin on the back, the badge has a non-pointy metal prong; at first I thought it might be for standing it up on a table (since the badge is certainly large enough to view from a distance) but then I wondered if it wasn’t meant to slip into a man’s shirt or jacket pocket, to avoid putting holes in said garment.  (The patent language is catching!)  Indeed, Mr. Kupfer’s description confirms this theory: “A member or pin 27 [see illustration] is also provided, and may be mounted on the door [of the badge back], as shown, for holding the badge on a coat or the like.”

As for Mr. Stackhouse – or “Stack,” as he apparently preferred, while amidst his fellow clubmembers – he was born in 1901 in South Carolina, and moved to Montgomery County in 1929.  In 1945 he started his own realty firm.  He was active in the Rockville Lions Club (founded in 1938) for over 25 years, serving one term as its president, and was Deputy District Governor of Lions International from 1959-1960.  His wife Louise was a member of the Rockville Dandylion Club (then the women’s auxiliary).  Mr. Stackhouse’s 1972 obituary requests memorial contributions to the Rockville Lions.  Clearly, he was a dedicated member of the service club.   

This item was donated as “local interest,” rather than part of a family story.  Still, through other sources, we can learn a little about the owner’s life.  I think the hand-lettered “STACK” added to the typed card is also telling; it seems cheerful.  Maybe I’m only thinking of my own cheerful realtor a few years ago, or of the peppy folks on home-buying reality shows, but this giant, welcoming name badge has always struck me as a happy artifact.  Hey there!  Call me Stack!  What can I do for you?

As you probably know, this past Monday (March 12, 2012) marked the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts of America.  In modest commemoration of the date, here are a few things from our collections related to local troops.

This handkerchief belonged to Kathleen Sisk of Takoma Park, Md., who was a member of a D.C. troop in the late 1940s.  The colorfully printed fabric measures 11.5″ square.  The symbols around the edges correspond to badges, and appear to include everything from art to boatcraft to skiing.  (Unfortunately, we don’t have any GSA handbooks earlier than the 1970s in our collections; anyone have insight into the official badge names?)  We also have Kathleen’s green beret, which was later handed down to her younger sister Ann (who was not a Girl Scout) and the insignia was removed.  Both items were donated by Kathleen’s daughter, along with a few artifacts from the daughter’s own 1970s troop in Silver Spring.  (I love continuity!)

This snapshot, donated by Jean Case, shows members of Girl Scout Troop 59 (Rockville) participating in the 1953 Rockville Memorial Day Parade (and looking very pleased to do so).

And finally, here’s a Girl Scout pocketknife, donated by an MCHS member who led Troop 47 (Flower Valley) in the 1970s.  The knife was used by both of her daughters on camping trips.  I particularly like the fact that the can opener blade is marked “CAN OPENER” – apparently the uses of the other blades were self-evident. 

Looking for more on the history of the Girl Scouts?  Here’s the official GSA overview.  Want to get involved in local scouting?  Here’s the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital.  Want to really get involved in hyper-local scouting?  Volunteer at the Historical Society!  We have history programs for Brownies and Girl Scouts, and as much fun as it is for us to lead those tours, we can always use volunteers. 

The Arts & Humanities Council of Montgomery County held its second annual “Magical Montgomery” festival in Silver Spring, on September 29, 2001 – only a few weeks after the terrorist attacks of September 11th of that year.  In response to those events, the AHC asked artist Rosana Azar to organize a Healing Mural, to which visitors could contribute their own images and words.  Last year the AHC donated the mural to the Historical Society.

Physically, this is a canvas banner around 6 feet tall and over 50 feet long.  Emotionally, it is a reminder of those days and weeks after the events of 9-11, when Americans and others were still processing – or trying to process – what had happened, and how it would affect us.  Visitors wrote messages of love and support in English, Spanish and other languages; personalized it with hand- and footprints in paint; and drew and painted images of flags, doves, peace symbols, flowers, trees, hearts, and many others.  Today, ten years later, the memories brought back by the words and images on the mural are (to me, anyway) both immediate and far away.  I remember thinking that nothing would be the same… and yet now, reading some of the thoughts expressed here, I have trouble putting myself back in that place where the whole world had changed.  And that, my friends, is why museums collect artifacts.  Time passes, and memories fade and change despite our best intentions; sometimes we need the physical artifacts to anchor those memories and bring them back to the surface.

Well, that’s a little more philosophical than I meant to get today, before I pulled the banner out to take photos.  See?  Even us seasoned curators – professional rememberers – need the artifacts to bring those memories back.  Feel free to comment, share your own memories, argue with me about forgetting things, whatever you like.  In the meantime, here are some more images from the banner.

In honor of National Library Week (April 10-16, 2011), here’s a brief history of the Rockville Library Association, using a few pieces from our own library.

The first Rockville Library Association was formed in 1869 by a small group of local lawyers, educators and businessmen. It was a shareholding group; any “white person” (per the group’s minutes) who owned at least one share had access twice a week to the Library’s books, which were kept in the law offices of Anderson and Bouic in downtown Rockville.  By1876, however, no one was attending the Association’s meetings, and the group dissolved.

Noma Thompson, in her 1949 history of Rockville Western Gateway to the National Capital, concluded of this first Library, “Judging from the various titles of books bought for the library from time to time, the villagers were then extremely sentimentally inclined.” Be that as it may, at least one volume was intended for practical use: The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds of Small Extent (Frank J. Scott, 1873)*. The inside cover (see below) of this educational tome is inscribed “Rockville Library Association,” along with the initials E.B.P., probably for local educator Elijah Barrett Prettyman (1830-1907). Mr. Prettyman was one of the officers of the organization; his initials here might mean that he donated it to the Library Association. The book was eventually donated to MCHS by the Anderson family. What happened to the rest of the books? Who knows?

Inscription inside the cover of "The Art of Beautifying Suburban Home Grounds," 1872.

In 1916, a group of local women founded a new Rockville Library Association, more successful than the first. They started with 150 books; by 1918, they had 1,500; and by 1939 they had 5,000. The Association was a small, mostly-volunteer run local institution until the late 1940s, when the board decided to apply to the city for assistance and open its services to all residents of the Rockville election district. The Rockville Library remained independent of the County’s Department of Public Libraries (formed in 1951) until 1957. 

Article 2 of the RLA's Constitution, written in 1916: "The object of the Association is to place before the public the best available literature."

MCHS has the 1916-1957 minutes of the Association’s meetings, in two volumes (not yet transcribed). Although, sadly, the various Recording Secretaries did not list all the books purchased or donated, there are plenty of other interesting details, from fundraising efforts to facility problems. Here’s a tiny sampling: In 1918, the motion was carried to charge 5 cents per book for the first seven days, then 2 cents a day thereafter; a variety of due and fee schedules follow throughout the years. In 1919, Mrs. Spencer the Librarian announced that she was “much handicapped by the need” of a file case; attempts to secure the necessary $9 through “voluntary donations” met with little success, although happily the case was ordered later that year. Any modern librarian – or anyone working in a similar field – can surely feel Mrs. Spencer’s pain.

Also included in the 1916-1948 volume are a few other documents, including the 1921 Articles of Incorporation; a 1926 postcard to Miss Magruder, asking that she be sure to attend the next meeting; a letter from the DC Public Librarian, 1937, expressing his regrets that he can’t make it to the “house warming” of the “new” library building (they moved into the old Rockville Academy); an application letter from a Mrs. Miller for the position of Librarian, 1945 (she was accepted “at a salary of $100 a month until a trained librarian could be secured”); and a 1948 letter to the membership about changes to the organization’s structure and audience.

The conclusion of the RLA's 1948 letter to its membership. By accepting financial assistance from Rockville, the library was obligated to allow all residents to use its services.

A side note: The Rockville Library has had a variety of homes over the years, before landing in its current, snazzy facility in the town center. One of those homes, coincidentally enough, was our own Dr. Stonestreet’s office. After Dr. Stonestreet’s death in 1903, the little office (still in its original location at Monroe and Montgomery) served a number of functions, including “Laboratory” for the high school, a small museum operated by the Women’s Club of Rockville, headquarters for the local Boy Scout Troop, and, from 1921 until the 1930s, the Rockville Library.

Dr. Stonestreet's office (not yet the Library), ca. 1900. MCHS library collections.

* This is one of my favorite books in our collections; I’ve used it (or images from it) in three exhibits so far, including “Good Neighbors” on display in the Silver Spring Civic Building through April 30.

In addition to Ms. Thompson’s book and the primary sources noted above, Eileen McGuckian’s Rockville: Portrait of a City (2001) provided much of the information presented here.

While inventorying some of our library’s duplicate books yesterday, I came across a few items that I found particularly entertaining, including the promotional book shown at left (I’ll get to that one at the end). Some readers may be familiar with my fondness for/mild obsession with the 1930s, which certainly helped these things catch my eye, but their usefulness is more than just era-specific (or, rather, more than just my-favorite-decade specific). Each presents a highly detailed snapshot of life in Montgomery County at a time when suburban development was just starting to kick in, and our demographics, economics and politics were entering a modern era.

This “Inventory of the County and Town Archives of Maryland” was prepared in 1939 by the Historical Records Survey (Baltimore), Division of Women’s and Professional Projects, Works Progress Administration. Basically, it summarizes the contents and location of county and town records, giving modern readers a glimpse at the scope of our government’s activities at the time. An introduction on our “Governmental Organization and Records System” includes helpful flow charts of various responsibilities, as well as floor plans (with rooms labeled, including bathrooms!) of county offices and courthouses. The rest of the book is wonderfully specific. For example, in the Attendance Officer section the origin, salary and duties of the job are described, followed by detailed record information such as: “Annual Reports (Principals’ and Teachers’), 1912 –. 2 file drawers, 17 file boxes (2 file drawers, 1932 – labeled by district nos.; 17 file boxes, 1912-31, dated by year).” Need to find one of those reports? “The attendance officer’s records, unless otherwise indicated, are kept in his office in the Montgomery County [now Richard Montgomery] High School.” Of course that doesn’t help today, but I love the image of Mr. Attendance Officer in his office at the high school, surrounded by file drawers and boxes.

Next, the “Annual Report of Receipts and Disbursements for Fiscal Period July 1, 1935 to June 30, 1936.” You’ll be happy to know that the County took in $4,446,501.35 and only spent $4,443,355.77. (And doesn’t our government wish it only cost $4.5 million to run the county today!) The list of disbursements is extremely specific – it looks like every check the county wrote that year – some examples:

Under the Board of Health Fund 1935 heading: Dr. V.L. Ellicott, Health Officer, was paid a salary of $2,299.92; one of the County Nurses, Martha Keys, made $1,025.76.

Under the Election Fund 1935: Mrs. Clara C. Holmes, Supervisor of Elections, was paid $600. Mary Somervell, a clerk, was paid $120. F. Byrne Austin received $59 for “hauling and erecting booths, etc.”

The Pension Fund is many pages long, and lists everyone in the county who received payments described variously as Pension, Old Age Relief, Old Age Pension, Ill Health Pension, Blind Pension, Widows Pension, Cripple Pension, Mothers Aid Pension, and Feeble Mind Pension, plus some bills for groceries, supplies, milk, and other items presumably distributed by the Welfare Board.

One of my favorite items can be found under the Police Fund 1935 heading: “Steinbergs Dept Store [a Rockville shop], Uniforms & Equipment – Shoes, Bodmer & Moxley, $10.00.” Earlier in the list the salaries for Roy Bodmer, Sergeant, and Floyd Moxley, Desk Clerk, are given. I’m glad they got shoes!

Well I could go on and on (ask my colleague Beth, she’ll tell you) about this great document, so let’s go back to the promotional pamphlet pictured at the top. There’s no publication date, but the photos and text put it at mid 1930s, the height of Montgomery County’s suburban growth during the New Deal. Washington was filled with new federal employees, and the surrounding counties wanted in on the economy-stimulating action. Hey, federal employees! Move to Montgomery County and spend some money! This book, published by Greater Montgomery County Inc., sings the praises of our fair county as the “Home Community of the Nation’s Capital,” filled with attractive homes, verdant lawns, top-ranked schools, abundant country clubs, etc. etc. (Seriously, there’s a two-page spread devoted to our country clubs.) This was hardly a new song, but the volume had increased, as it were. At any rate, this is one of my favorite things in our library, and I’ve used it in many an exhibit. I just love the cover, with its clear message: Wife and Son are safely and comfortably ensconced in their Maryland home, gazing fondly at the just-close-enough city where Husband works, awaiting the moment he can return home . . . and play a round of golf.

'We're awesome, and you should move here.'

In honor of the last day of March – which is both Women’s History Month and Red Cross Month - we have an American Red Cross cap, dating from World War I.   It is a dark blue cap with a white voile brim, and  a small badge with a red cross and the date 1919 pinned to one side.

This cap was donated by Katherine Riggs Poole, and most likely belonged to her sister, Martha Sprigg Poole. Martha Poole (1890-1972) was descended from the Pooles of Poolesville, and although she and her sister grew up and lived much of their lives in Washington DC, both were active in Montgomery County’s social circles. During WWI, Miss Poole helped to found the Montgomery County Chapter of the American Red Cross, then based in Rockville (I believe it is now part of the National Capital Area chapter).

According to the “History of the Home Service Section of the Montgomery County Chapter of the American Red Cross,” written around 1920, Miss Martha Sprigg Poole was appointed Rockville chairman of the “Civilian Relief Committee” (which evolved into the Home Service Committee) on September 22nd, 1917.  The Committee was responsible for identifying the needs of, and coordinating aid for, the families of servicemen: “The plan is not only to care for the families in a financial way, but to be of friendly service and use in whatever emergency may arise in a soldier’s [or sailor’s] family. . . . Our strong desire is to foster a spirit of cooperation and good-will among our enlisted men, and to make them feel that there is at home a committee of intelligent and interested friends, under Red Cross organization and management, ready all the time to help their families to tide over the trying period of war conditions.” (From a memo titled “Social and Welfare Committee.”) One major project was a “census of men in military services,” which involved going door to door; these census takers probably wore their uniforms in order to reassure the families of their legitimate association with the Red Cross, a concern which is emphasized throughout the written census-taking instructions.

Both Martha and Kitty Poole were active in the early days of the Montgomery County Historical Society – Martha served as the editor of our journal, the Montgomery County Story, for many years – so it is interesting to note that even while she was working to help the families of servicemen, she was concerned with preserving the records of the County’s war workers. Late in the war, she wrote to the heads of various agencies and departments in the county, asking for a summary of their work for posterity (one gentlemen declined, baldly stating that he saw no possible use for such a document. Well, then!). Martha Poole was also on the Montgomery County Committee of the Maryland War Records Commission, which in 1929 presented the “official roster” of county servicemen to the Montgomery County Commissioners.

I’ve not yet found the perfect website (or book) to assist me in dating our various Red Cross uniform pieces with much accuracy; if anyone reading this is an aficionado, please feel free to send me additional information about the style of the cap, the meaning of the badge, or anything else you’d like to share.  As for Miss Poole’s records of her work with the Home Service Committee, those are in our library, preserved for posterity as their author wished.

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