We have a number of mid 19th-early 20th century electrotherapy machines in our medical collections. For example, here’s a violet ray machine, designed for basic home use: a Master Outfit Number 1, manufactured by the Master Electric Company of Chicago, circa 1920. This machine came from the estate of Arlene McFarland Allnutt of Rockville.

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The term “electrotherapy” – not to be confused with the more severe electroshock or electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) – covers a range of techniques, which use the power of electricity to deliver mild sparks, vibrations, or light to the skin or orifices. Unlike our electric curler, which claimed the new and trendy “electric” label but involved no actual electrical power, these machines did use electricity to power their magnets, vibrators, and vacuum tubes. We often take electricity for granted today, but in the early days of its discovery* it was exotic and exciting, and scientists searched for new ways to harness its power.

Our violet ray machine uses a small Tesla coil to power glass vacuum tubes  which, when inserted into the hand-held wand and powered up, will glow with a purple light and emit faint sparks. (I know you want to see one in action: here you go.) This example, Outfit No. 1, came equipped with a generator, electrical cord and plug, hand-held wand, and “General Electrode No. 1″ – all in a convenient, leather-covered and satin-lined carrying case.

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The instruction booklet (viewable in full here) informs us that Outfit No. 1 cost $12.50, and explains,

The Violet Ray is a pleasant, effective means of applying the wonderful power of electricity to the human body with pain, sensation or shock, and is without an equal in relieving pain and congestion, stimulating the circulation and restoring good health, vigor and youth.
The Violet Ray is the ordinary electric current obtained from any [electrical] socket, nebulized and split up into infinite parts and produced through glass applicators called electrodes, in a violet colored stream, hence its name, VIOLET RAY. A huge voltage of electricity is obtained and applied to the body or hair but without any shock, whatever, the only sensation being a pleasant warmth.

There is no quackery or uncertainty about the Violet-Ray High Frequency Current. It is a thorough cell massage, and a wonderful stimulant, and while it is by no means put forward as a cure-all, yet it is of the utmost aid in restoring to normal the physical condition impaired from almost any cause.

(There’s plenty more along those lines, including illustrations; I encourage you to peruse the rest of the book, or this similar booklet for the Branston Violet Ray High Frequency Generator.)

In the 19th century, electrotherapy was used to treat a wide variety of physical and mental ailments. Along with aches, pains, and other somatic symptoms, machines such as these were used to treat those convenient, you’re-upset-and-we-don’t-really-know-why** diagnoses of hysteria, neurasthenia, and “nervous prostration.” By the early 20th century,  electrotherapy was starting to fall out of favor with the medical profession. However, that did not mean that machines of this variety were no longer sold or used; alternative medicines, then as now, were quite popular, especially for home use. Consumers of the 1910s-30s could choose from a number of options, depending on their particular hopes and needs.

It seems there was an electrode or applicator for any problem. Our collections include this circa 1920 instructional pamphlet for a Halliwell Electrical Company violet ray machine, which explains the different functions; for example, here’s one page (click to enlarge the image, or you can first try to guess the uses of each one):

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You will be interested to know that, according to this Halliwell booklet, “Violet Rays or High Frequency Currents benefit all living matter,” and will cure or aid in alleviating the following: Abcesses, Acne, Alopecia, Alcoholism and Drug Additions, Anemia and Chlorosis, Arteriosclerosis and High Blood Pressure, Asthma, Ataxia, Backache, Barber’s Itch (Sycosis), Bladder Disease (Cystitis), Bronchitis, Brain Fag [use "a spark just strong enough to have a good tonic effect”], Breast Development, Bright’s Disease, Bruises, Bunions, Callouses, Cancer [for "mild forms,” and please “consult authority" as well], Canker, Carbuncles, Catarrhal Conditions, Cataract, Chafe, Chapped Hands or Face, Chilblains, Cold Hands or Feet, Colds, Colds in Lungs, Constipation, Corns, Dandruff, Deafness, Diabetes, Diptheria, Dyspepsia, Earache, Eczema, Eye Diseases, Felons, Female Troubles, Fistulas, Flabby Breast, Freckles, Frost Bites, Furunculosis, Goitre, Gout, Gray Hair, Grippe (Influenza), Hay Fever, Headaches, Hives and Rash, Hemorrhoids, Insomnia, Leucorrhea, Lumbago, Massage [i.e, use in massage, not treating it], Mumps, Nervousness, Neuralgia, Neuritis, Obesity, Pains, Paralysis, Poison Ivy, Prostatic Diseases, Pyorrhea, Red Nose, Rheumatism, Ringworm, Scars, Sciatica, Skin Diseases, Sore Feet and Stone Bruises, Sore Throat, Sprains, Stiffness of Joints and Muscles, Tonsilitis, Ulcers, Warts and Moles, Whooping Cough, Writer’s Cramp, and Wrinkles.

***

 

The owner of our machine, Arlene Elizabeth McFarland (1896-1985), married George Battaille Allnutt (1887-1956) in 1919; they had no children. The 1920 census for Rockville shows them living at George’s parents’ home; by 1930 they’d moved to a house on Van Buren Street, where they lived out the rest of their lives. The 1930 and 1940 censuses tell us that both Allnutts were employed outside the home, doing clerical work for various local companies. Unfortunately, that’s about all I’ve been able to find about their lives, so far.

We don’t know why Mrs. Allnutt owned this instrument. Was it something she wanted, or something that a spouse, friend, or doctor gave her? (The 1920 census has George working as a clerk for the National Electrical Supply Company in DC; I kind of want this to have been a giveaway from his employer, but there’s no actual evidence for that.) Did she use it often, or think it was useless? Though the machine came from Arlene’s estate,  it’s certainly possible that it originally belonged to her husband George.  Though the end result (in this case, donation to a museum) might be the same, there is a substantial difference between an artifact that was deliberately saved, and one that was simply forgotten in a closet. Since it came to us as Mrs. Allnutt’s Rockville home was emptied after her death, we were not able to get the particulars of the machine’s story.

We can’t talk about this artifact in the specific, then, without the risk of misrepresenting Mrs. (or Mr.) Allnutt’s history. In the general sense, however, this instrument connects the lives of Rockville residents with those of women and men elsewhere in the country at the time – and with our lives today.  Whatever their reasons, the Allnutts participated in a national health fad.  In another hundred years, what early 21st century gadgets and tools will museums be collecting to show our own peculiar ideas on home health care?

 

*Some sources note that the ancient Greeks and Romans used mild electrical shocks – acquired via static electricity and electric eels – to treat various health problems.  However, it was the more modern discovery of electricity that led to the ‘everything’s better with electricity!’ fashion of the mid 19th century.

**I don’t mean to mock the sufferers of these ailments, then or now. Today, the symptoms and underlying causes of these problems are better understood; we’re also less likely, I hope, to treat as “hysterical” the women and men to whom we don’t want to listen. For an academic view of the use of electrotherapy in treating mental illness, try searching through medical journals available online, such as this article from History of Psychiatry (19)3, 2008.

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.

 

 

Today’s post was going to be on one item, but then it turned into two.  Here’s the later one first: A Silver Badge from the Playground Athletic League of Maryland, awarded circa 1940 to Miss Barbara Walker of Gaithersburg.

3/4 inch diameter

3/4 inch diameter

Barbara Walker (later Barbara Kettler Mills, 1924-2007) attended the local public schools, graduating from Gaithersburg High School in 1942. Sadly (for me) we don’t have any yearbooks from her time at GHS, but her daughter noted, “in high school, [my mother] was athletic, especially enjoying basketball.  She played basketball, field hockey, softball and tennis while [in college] at Penn Hall.”

The pin above (donated by Mrs. Kettler Mills’ estate) is undated, but was most likely awarded to Miss Walker sometime in the late 1930s or early 1940s. The Playground Athletic League of Maryland, though focused primarily on the Baltimore area, sponsored “state-wide activities” such as annual soccer, track and field, basketball, and dodgeball championships.  In addition to recreation, the P.A.L. was also concerned with tracking and improving the health of Maryland’s youth; they held state-wide, school-level “badge contests” to evaluate students’ basic physical fitness.  The 1922-23 Report of the P.A.L. can be read online; here are the standards for the Girls’ Badge Contest, likely very similar to what Miss Walker achieved to earn her silver badge:

The Athletic Badge Test for Girls.
The Playground Athletic League of Baltimore has adopted the following standards which girls out to be able to attain:
First Test for Bronze Badge-
Balancing [on a balance beam] – once in 2 trials.
Leg raising – 10 times.
Far-thrown basket ball – 25 feet.
Second Test for Silver Badge-
Balancing – once in 2 trials.
Leg abduction – 2 times.
Far-thrown basket ball – 35 feet.
Third Test for Gold Badge -
Trunk raising – 12 times.
Volley ball service – 8 times in 10 trials.
Round-arm basket ball throw – 55 feet.

As for the badge itself, it is marked “sterling,” has a sturdy pin-back, and measures .75″ in diameter. The design, by sculptor Hans Schuler, is described in the 1922-23 P.A.L. Report: “The spirit of the League is symbolized in Schuler’s beautiful design for the League’s medal.  Here we have David in the act of slinging the stone at Goliath.  David was the prototype of the Man of Galilee and typified all that rugged honesty, virile character and physical beauty and strength which we all desire for our boys to-day.”  And yes, though a large part of the Report is dedicated to girls’ sports and activities, and a large number of women (including physicians) are included as Board members, staff, and volunteers, the description of the “spirit of the League” only mentions boys.

…That was going to be today’s object. But as I was looking through the 1922-23 report, I noticed a posed photograph similar to the postcard below from our collections, an image which has always puzzled me: A young woman about to throw a large ball, between two lines of spectators, captioned simply “Rockville Md., Badge Contest, May 15 ’17.”

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Aha! The young woman in question is doing the “far-throw basket ball” test for an Athletic League badge!  Indeed, the 1917 Report for the Public Athletic League – a direct forerunner to the Playground Athletic League, with many of the same contests, and the same medal design – notes that Montgomery County’s Third Annual Track and Field Championship was “held at Rockville on May 14, 1917.”  Unfortunately the report does not name badge contestants for that year, but it does give the following rules for the “far-throw basket ball” challenge:

-The ball shall be from 14 to 17 ounces in weight. It is thrown from a stand with feet apart, with the toes at the line. The throw is from both hands over the head. Swinging the arms with bending of the trunk is an advantage. The toes or heels may be raised, but a jump is not permitted.  Touching the ground in front of the line or stepping over the line before the throw is measured constitutes a foul. (A foul counts as one trial.) Three trials are given each contestant, of which the best one counts.  Spalding “O” soccer will be the official ball.
-The ball must land within a lane 10 feet wide and must strike the ground at least 25 feet from the throwing line for bronze pin, 35 feet for silver pin.
-This test will be made the day of the county athletic meet.

If you’d like to while away some time, I encourage you to peruse the 1922-23 Playground Athletic League report, and the 1916 and 1917 Public Athletic League reports.  Each one contains lots of information on the history of the two Leagues, the health of Maryland’s children, and the various championship winners, as well as insight on attitudes toward public health issues, African American schools and neighborhoods (by 1922, the P.A.L. included a “colored section”), and the relative strengths and abilities of girls vs. boys.  If that’s not enough, you can also learn how to play End Ball.

S0022 topThis small, innocuous-looking brass box has a special surprise inside: twelve spring-loaded blades, released by the lever on the top. Street-fighting weapon? No, it’s a medical device used in bloodletting, called a scarificator. WARNING: if the word “bloodletting” has caused you to wince, recoil, or cross your arms defensively, you might want to stop reading now.

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The small, curved blades pop out of the slots. Surprise!

Before the discovery and acceptance of germ theory and other modern medical theories, illnesses were frequently blamed on an imbalance of the body’s “humors.” Bleeding (venesection), an ancient and very common practice, was believed to be a way to help restore that balance. Modern-day reflections on the technique of bloodletting might make it seem haphazard at best and fatal at worst, but in fact physicians put care and thought into how much blood to let, and there were a variety of tools used, more than just the trusty leech and handy lancet. (This short video created by the Rose Melnick Medical Museum details the 19th century methodology of bloodletting, including some of the other tools.) The scarificator, invented in the late 17th century, allowed the doctor to create a series of shallow cuts – the depth could be changed by altering the spring mechanism inside the device – and thus control the amount of blood released. Ours is not operable, but this site details the spring mechanism inside, and this video from the Canada Science and Technology Museum demonstrates the mechanism.

 The scarificator was a common tool for 18th and 19th century physicians, until venesection began to lose favor in the late 19th century.  (Here’s an article about venesection during the American Civil War.) Many examples, some quite attractively designed and engraved, can be found in museums and antique shops in the U.S. and Europe. Our particular piece is fairly plain, with only a simple “V” on one side – perhaps indicating the maker? – and in the standard cube-like form, executed in brass and measuring 1.75″ tall. Based on the style and material, it likely dates from the mid 19th century.

Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet, 1873. Courtesy Elizabeth Barrett Prettyman Guay.

Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet, 1873. Courtesy Elizabeth Barrett Prettyman Guay.

In this instance, it’s the scarificator’s provenance that is of interest rather than its design: it is one of only a few items in our collection used by Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet (1830-1903), a Rockville physician whose one-room office is now our Stonestreet Museum of 19th Century Medicine. Dr. Stonestreet graduated from the University of Maryland medical school in 1852, after several years apprenticeship with Dr. William B. Magruder of Brookeville, and he practiced in the Rockville area until his death (while on his way to a housecall) in 1903; he never retired. Though his office survived the test of time, most of Dr. Stonestreet’s medical tools did not.  A few pieces, including this one, were inherited by his grandson Dr. William A. Linthicum (another Rockville physician), who donated them to us after his grandfather’s namesake museum was created in the 1970s. The scarificator is often on exhibit in the Stonestreet Museum.

If you’d like to learn more, visit Dr. Stonestreet’s “office hours,” held on the second Sunday of each month at the museum. This month, February 9, 2014, interpretive docent Clarence Hickey will present a special program on Civil War medicine. 12-4 p.m., included with museum admission.

Today we have a celebratory pennant, welcoming four new Metro Red Line stations to Montgomery County:

DSC07850This 30″ red felt pennant, donated by Trish Graboske, is printed in white with the Metro logo and text: “Montgomery County Welcomes Metro Red Line   December 15, 1984   White Flint   Rockville   Twinbrook   Shady Grove”

Montgomery County is on the Washington Metro’s roughly-U-shaped Red Line, with its upper reaches in the county and the base in D.C.  (Current map here; a history of the system, and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, here.) The first station in Montgomery County – Silver Spring, on the eastern arm of the line – opened in 1978.  In 1984, the western arm was extended into the county in two increments, with stations from Tenleytown (in D.C.) to Grosvenor opening on August 25th, and the final four stations from White Flint to Shady Grove opening on December 15th.  (The eastern arm was eventually extended as well, with Forest Glen and Wheaton opening in 1990, and Glenmont in 1998.) 

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Metro’s 1984 arrival was seen as a boon for Montgomery County’s commuters and shoppers, particularly as it would relieve heavy traffic on Route 355.  County and municipal governments took the opportunity to revitalize development, entice new suburban residents to the area, and improve roads and infrastructure.  The Red Line caused a few problems just as it alleviated others, however.  Metro construction threatened some historic buildings; residents of Lincoln Park, a predominately African-American neighborhood in Rockville, fought (unsuccessfully) against the closure of a main vehicular access road, which the Red Line crosses.  New traffic woes appeared – a December 16, 1984 Washington Post article suggested alternate routes to “avoid traffic congestion near the Shady Grove Metro station,” on only the second day of operations – and parking lots were quickly overcrowded.  As many current riders know, sometimes Metro travel can be a love-hate situation.

. . . But opening day, December 15, 1984, was a time for celebration, not grievances.  Fares were waived for part of the day; there was free coffee at Shady Grove, a live radio broadcast from White Flint Mall, and musical performances at Shady Grove and Rockville.  A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Rockville station was attended by “about 300 officials, development representatives and Chamber of Commerce types,” according to an article in the Post (“A Rainbow Coalition Flocks to Red Line,” December 16, 1984).  And of course there was giveaway swag, including balloons, cardboard train conductor hats, and red felt pennants like our friend here -  which, judging from photos in the Post, were particularly popular among the children on hand.  WMATA estimated that 26,500 people tested out the four new stations on opening day.

As I read newspaper articles from 1984, looking for mention of our artifact, I found myself wondering, Why a pennant?  True, it’s always fun to wave flags around at events – these pennants were originally on sticks, inserted into the strip of white felt on the end – but why not a rectangular flag?  Perhaps because pennants, so often associated with sports, convey a sense of victory, achievement, and team spirit – all good things at the opening of a major, long-in-coming development.  Those red pennants waving on opening day proclaimed, “Hooray, Metro!”

Bonus photo: Following on the sports/team spirit pennant theme, here’s a 1913 student’s room at the Briarly Hall Military Academy, Poolesville, totally done up with school pennants:

From the 1913 school catalog, courtesy Byron Thompson.

From the 1913 school catalog, courtesy Byron Thompson.

Bonus question, first posed to me by Eileen McGuckian: There’s something slightly off about the wording on the pennant – can you spot it?

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.

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.)

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.

***

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.)

***

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

***

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.

***

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.

Today we have a fur coat, owned and worn by Rebecca Darby Nourse Chinn (1904-1982) of Dawsonville and Rockville.

t2742

The coat was donated by Mrs. Chinn’s daughter, who described it as “Mother’s raccoon coat,” worn while attending Swarthmore College in the 1920s.  Rebecca Nourse (pronounced “nurse”) grew up in Dawsonville; she attended the Dawsonville School, the Andrew Small Academy in Darnestown, the Fort Loudoun Seminary in Winchester, Virginia, and then Swarthmore College, Pennsylvania, where she graduated in 1927 with a degree in biology.  After college, she taught at Gaithersburg High School until her 1929 marriage to Raleigh Chinn; later in life she worked as a librarian at the Twinbrook Library.

Her entry in her senior yearbook at Swarthmore.

Her entry in her senior yearbook at Swarthmore.

The raccoon coat – a large, enveloping affair – was a fashion fad of the 1920s, particularly among college students. Along with ukeleles, galoshes, jalopies, and Rudy Vallee’s megaphone, such coats became a symbol of 1920s youth, both at the time (see: Rudy Vallee singing “Do the Raccoon” (1928), or the contract-signing scene in “Horse Feathers” (1932)) and in later decades.  Raccoon coats are often thought of today as a strictly male style, but women also adopted the look, and why not?  A nice big fur coat was fashionable, looked expensive, and kept you warm in that open-topped car.

1924 photo of a Mary LaFollette of D.C., from the Library of Congress collections.

1924 photo of a Mary LaFollette of D.C., from the Library of Congress collections.

Mrs. Chinn’s coat is in good condition, though slightly bald in spots (it was worn by the donor’s daughter and grandchildren as a costume for many years) and missing a few of the large brown leather buttons.  It has a high shawl collar, deep cuffs, and two slash pockets edged with raccoon tails; the lining is brown satin on the top, and tan plaid wool on the bottom.  There is no store label.

Buttons (and tail-edged pocket)

Buttons (and tail-edged pocket)

The lining

The lining

The basic design of this coat, from collar to pockets to lining to buttons, seems to have been something of a standard style; a little poking around on the internet revealed examples of very similar coats for men and women, some without labels and some from a variety of shops and furriers. Here’s a man’s raccoon coat – same buttons, though without the tails on the pockets – by Saks Fifth Avenue, in the collections of the Met, and here’s one worn by Peter Lawford in “Easter Parade.”  A ladies’ version of the coat can be found in the 1927 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog as the “Swagger ‘Tomboy’ Model” (“collegiate style”). The only difference between this one and ours is that the Sears model is made of “natural gray opossum fur,” while our coat appears to indeed be raccoon.  Here’s the Sears description:

1927 Opossum Fur Coat SearsFor misses and small women, we offer here a fur coat of luxurious warmth and appealing smartness.  Made of genuine, Natural Gray Opossum Fur – only large pelts used and those of a selected grade – dense, long haired and very sturdy; of a pleasing silvery gray color with rich darker gray markings.  The pockets show attractive trimming of Striped Raccoon Tails.

The coat is called the “Tomboy” model, having been especially made for hard, strenuous service and cut on loose, comfortable lines in mannish double breasted style.  Fastens with large, novelty leather buttons.  The sleeves and yoke are lined with guaranteed, genuine Skinner’s Satin and for additional warmth and practical wear the lower part has All Wool Plaid lining.  Priced far below what you would have to pay elsewhere for a coat of this quality, and a value typical of those offered by our Fur Department.  Average length, about 44 inches. . . . Shipping weight 9 lbs.  $129.00.  (Nice cheap coat, right?  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calendar, $129 in 1927 would be $1,731 in 2013.)

Even better is this photo of Rebecca Nourse’s class at Swarthmore; several girls are sporting fur coats and collars, and the young lady holding up the left side of the banner, R. Esther Howard (Class Secretary), is wearing this coat.  (Well, presumably not the exact same coat.)  It’s a smallish photo; for a better version, check the 1928 Halcyon yearbook here.

1928 Swarthmore yearbook class photo
I don’t know if this coat was a college girl’s birthday present, something she purchased for herself, or what; regardless, Rebecca Nourse, like so many of us, wanted to keep in style (and keep warm) while she was at school.  But she wasn’t so faddish that she ditched the coat later; a good coat should last a long time.  To finish off today’s post, here’s a 1932 photo of Rebecca Nourse Chinn, in the front yard of her Rockville home; she’s wearing the coat.

RDNC in coat 1932

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.”

t0663ab-4
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.

086dawson007
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.

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