It is a common misconception that “no one is really from DC” – and, by extension, that no one is from Montgomery County. Yes, the area is home to many newcomers . . . but ask around, and you* might be surprised by the number of people you meet who grew up here, whose parents are from here, and who can claim a few (or many) ancestral generations with ties to the DC area. I admit, even I am sometimes pleasantly surprised when I meet a fellow County native. Recently we had a minor electrical problem in the office; the technician who came out was more than happy to tell us historians about growing up in Glenmont in the 1960s.

This brings us, in a somewhat roundabout way, to today’s artifact: a wooden desk chair, believed to have been used in the Glenmont Elementary School. It was donated in 2006 by Robert Faber, who said it had been purchased by a friend when Glenmont E.S. closed, and later given to him because he’d attended the school himself.

F2006.21.01

The chair is made of wood (pine?), with metal screws and a brass-colored metal brace where the arm of the desk meets the back. The back is 32″ tall; the little attached desk surface is 11.5″ by 12″. There is a stencil on the underside, ending in 17, but it’s not terribly legible; I can’t tell if it represents a manufacturer, or was simply an inventory number (and, sadly, it does not appear to read “Glenmont E.S.”). Based on the number of similar examples to be found online, this was a fairly standard, common school chair design in the early-mid 20th century.

F2006.21.01 underside

Ours has been refinished, sometime between the school’s close-out sale and the Historical Society donation, and it looks great – but, delightfully, the refinisher left the underside of the desk alone. Though there are no helpful names or dates carved in, there’s still evidence of the chair’s original use: scratches, pencil scribbles, and even a few faint vestiges of dried-up gum.  This was definitely a used piece of furniture, not something that sat idly in a supply closet.

F2006.21.01 desk detail

The Glenmont school was located at what is now the intersection of Georgia Avenue and Randolph Road, just north of Wheaton. (On the map below, from 1948, Randolph Road hasn’t yet been extended to Georgia.) It opened in 1926, with 125 students from Aspen Hill, Glenmont, Layhill, and Wheaton in attendance. Enrollment rose over the next few decades, and the school was enlarged several times – including a 1946 addition, designed by local architect V.T.H. Bien in a modern style. By the late 1970s, however, demographic changes meant enrollment was dropping at once-bustling suburban schools. Many Montgomery County public schools closed their doors in the 1970s-80s; Glenmont was one of them, closing in 1977.

The Glenmont area, including the school (in pink, just below the "GlenmontT" name). From the 1948 Klinge Atlas of Montgomery County, MCHS Library collections.

The Glenmont area, including the school (in pink, just below the “Glenmont” name). From the 1948 Klinge Atlas of Montgomery County, MCHS Library collections.

By the 1990s some of the school had been torn down, but pieces remained; Bien’s addition, for example, was used as a commercial fitness center for many years. (Photos of the school’s various buildings, including the Bien addition, can be found in this architectural survey – although, note that the first page includes an inaccurate opening date for the school.) Construction of the Glenmont Metro Station, begun in 1993 and finished in 1998, negatively impacted the site; in the early 2000s, historic designation for the remaining buildings was denied. Today, nothing of the school physically remains – although, in development plans for the area, the corner is still sometimes called the “old Glenmont School site.”

The buildings are gone, but thanks to a devoted PTA, much of Glenmont E.S.’s history can be found here at the Historical Society. In addition to our little chair, the artifact collections include 1960s-70s trophies, awards, and plaques, likely displayed in the lobby until the school’s closure. In our archives we have PTA scrapbooks and albums, from 1926 through 1977, filled with photos, programs, handbooks, meeting minutes, dance tickets, and more – all of it giving us information on faculty, students, facilities, curricula, and student activities. What I have not yet found in this great resource is anything that shows or references our chair and its friends. One 1942 photo (detail below) from the PTA scrapbook shows similar chairs in use, but they have metal legs; perhaps that means the all-wood chairs dated from earlier in the school’s history. Do any Glenmont alumni remember sitting in wooden chair/desk combos in their youth?

Glenmont Elementary School students, 1942. From the G.E.S. PTA scrapbook, MCHS Library collections.

Glenmont Elementary School students, 1942. From the G.E.S. PTA scrapbook, MCHS Library collections.

*Unless “you” are already aware of the high number of natives, of course.

Here we have a set of Textile Classification study cards, created in 1924 by Margaret Ravenolt, a student at Frederick’s Hood College. There are 51 cards, bound with a metal ring, each card providing details on the manufacture and usage of the chosen swatch of fabric.

M. Ravenolt study cards

Cotton cretonne

The 5” x 8” cards have been pre-printed with the desired information, as well as the name of the school; this was clearly a course-wide requirement, not a project created individually for fun. The fabrics are all noted as having been purchased in Frederick in 1924 (alas, the stores are not named), and they are a comprehensive lot. Ever read an historical novel and wondered, ‘what is foulard, or nainsook, or challis?’ Miss Ravenolt had the answer, in both written and physical form.

Percale

Cotton percale

Silk taffeta

Silk taffeta

Wool challis, detail

Wool challis

As much fun as it is to see examples of 1924 calico and cheviot, this is essentially someone’s homework – and from another county, at that. Why is it in our artifact collections? Thankfully, it was part of a donation of archival material, which helps us put our little pre-digital fabric database in context.

Margaret Ravenolt (1906-1990) grew up in Pennsylvania, attended Hood College in the early 1920s, and taught in the Maryland State public school system (probably Frederick County) from 1927-29. In 1928 she married Irvin C. Thomas of Adamstown, Frederick County, Maryland. During the 1930s, the Thomases moved to a home on Brooks Avenue, Gaithersburg, where Irvin worked as a manager at the Thomas & Co. warehouse. Irvin died in March of 1937; later that year Margaret returned to teaching, beginning her thirty year career with the Montgomery County Public School system. She taught at several schools around the county, and by 1963 she was teaching Home Arts at Edwin W. Broome Junior High, in the Twinbrook neighborhood of Rockville. She retired at the end of the 1967-68 school year.

Just a few of the pamphlets and brochures in Mrs. Thomas's collection.

Just a few of the pamphlets and brochures in Mrs. Thomas’s collection.

Most of the materials in this small collection (donated by Mrs. Thomas’s daughter, Barbara Thomas Lima) relate to these years at Broome Jr High, including recipes, knitting patterns, home furnishing books, and other resources for teaching home economics, as well as correspondence related to her pension. Along with these pieces there are also fun tidbits like notes on upcoming quizzes; a hall pass, written on the back of a recipe for ginger snaps; a letter thanking her for mentoring a student teacher from her alma mater, Hood College; and a 1963 report by Mrs. Thomas and her fellow Home Arts teacher Laura Burruss on how they dealt with classroom overcrowding.

Left: notes on "Cookies, Grade 9." Right: "Four Classes, Three Rooms, Four Teachers," a 1963 report on dealing with overcrowding.

Left: notes on “Cookies, Grade 9.” Right: “Four Classes, Three Rooms, Four Teachers,” a 1963 report on dealing with overcrowding.

(A side note on Broome Junior High: Named for Dr. Edwin W. Broome (1885-1956), a long-time County Superintendent, the school opened in 1957 in the rapidly growing suburbs of Rockville. It was a busy, full school for many years – as Mrs. Thomas’s 1963 “Four Classes, Three Rooms, Four Teachers” report attests – but by the late 1970s, the surrounding neighborhoods had aged; Broome closed in 1981, and its remaining students were moved to nearby Wood Junior High. The building, on Twinbrook Parkway, is still standing, used now as offices and storage space for county agencies.)

Saved along with these contemporary resources were three earlier items, dating from Mrs. Thomas’s college courses: A report titled “Textile Notes,” another report on house styles (with lots of red pencil; she seems to have done better with textiles), and our Textile Classification study card set. Perhaps she used these items in her teaching . . . or perhaps she simply kept them on hand to remind herself what it’s like to be student, studying home economics and trying to remember fifty different types of fabric.

A page from Margaret Ravenolt's architectural styles report, circa 1920s.

A page from Margaret Ravenolt’s architectural styles report, circa 1920s.

 

I was already planning to feature Mrs. Thomas’s small collection this week when I learned that, coincidentally, yesterday was Teacher Appreciation Day. So take today’s post as a reminder to appreciate your favorite teachers, past and present, no matter what subject! And please, if any of my readers remember Mrs. Thomas – or anyone else at Broome – or any Home Arts teachers around the county, share those memories with us!

 

… I know you wanted to see the hall pass, and I’ll oblige:

Hall pass

x20080704Today we have an impressively-titled history textbook, used in Barnesville: History of the United States, from Their First Settlement as Colonies to the Peace with Mexico, in 1848, Comprising Every Important Political Event; with a Progressive View of the Aborigines; Population, Agriculture, and Commerce; of the Arts, Sciences, and Literature; and Occasional Biographies of the most Remarkable Colonists, Writers and Philosophers, Warriors and Statesmen.  Accompanied by a Book of Questions and a Key, By William Grimshaw, Author of a History of England, &c., published in Philadelphia by J.B. Lippincott & Co., 1858, and donated to MCHS by Mary Beth Fleming.

x20080704-5 title

Thanks to some pencil notations inside, we know that this book was owned by a Mary Jane Knott of Barnesville. Ms. Knott, or another user, also added some mathmetical equations, doodled faces, and other scribbles, as you do.  The cardboard covers and leather spine show a lot of wear, the page edges are torn, and in fact the pages and the cover are completely separated; this book has seen a lot of wear, and it seems likely that it was read and studied by more than one student over the decades.  However, only Mary Jane identified herself in writing.

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x20080704-6 barnesville

Though this seems like a nice, specific piece of info (I do like people who write their names and hometowns in books), there are at least two possibilities for our original owner:  Mary Jane Knott of Barnesville, born in 1854 to Stanislaus and Bridget Knott, died unmarried in 1935; and Mary Jane Cissell, born in 1845 and married in 1862 to Francis Knott of Barnesville.  I lean a little more toward the former, but who’s to say that Mrs. Knott didn’t take up the study of history after her marriage (or write her name in her stepdaughter Sarah’s book)?

My favorite part is the fact that, out of all the possible images from U.S. history to use on the cover, the author or editors chose an illustration of Mount Vernon.  Our new exhibit on the colonial revival movement (at the Beall-Dawson House through May 15, 2014) includes a small section on representations of George Washington and his home throughout the centuries – so of course I had to add Mary Jane’s textbook to the display.  Come visit; you can see the adorable (if slightly inaccurate) “Mount Vernon” picture in person! If you’d like to read the history yourself, here’s a list of the prolific Mr. Grimshaw’s books, many of which are available online.

x20080704-5 Mt Vernon

During the research and writing of our laundry exhibit, two themes quickly came to the forefront: Laundry can be difficult, unpleasant work, and it’s much better to get someone else to do it for you.  Today’s artifact will be a familiar one to many of you; those who don’t recognize it instantly will soon see its worth, for who among us has not, at least once, attempted to have our parent, child, sibling, spouse, or roommate do our laundry?

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This is an Airway laundry case, from the early 1950s.  It measures 21″ x 12″ by 6.5″, and is made of brown fiberboard, with metal-reinforced corners and a double cotton-twill strap.  A 1950 advertisement for a variety of Airway cases describes this option as a “21-Inch Heavy Fiber Laundry Case. It’s reinforced with riveted metal corners and will withstand a weight of 350 pounds, so it will travel far and often for you. Comes in brown. $3.95.”

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Use wear on the corners; the case “traveled far and often,” but at some cost to its structure.

Laundry cases and boxes such as this one were designed for sending laundry through the mail.  The boxes were reusable, and postage costs were often cheaper than local laundry services or Laundromats – such convenience!  Just send your dirty clothes home to Mother, and she’ll send clean clothes back in the same box! Though not exclusively used by college students, this system was certainly popular on campuses around the country, sometimes making up the bulk of a school’s – or even town’s – postal business.  By the 1970s, home (and college) laundry equipment had improved enough, and was common enough, that the practice faded, although I bet there are still some college kids who mail their laundry home.*

Our example was donated by Pat Herman Douglas, a long-time county resident (and MCHS library volunteer) who grew up in Washington, DC and attended Western Maryland College in Westminster, Md., class of 1954.  The box lid includes a metal mailing label holder; though the last-used postage stamp is too faded to read, another stamp gives us the date “Feb 8 1954,” and the typed address label (which includes this helpful fact, “More people are using Airway Laundry Cases than any other Laundry Case”) shows us that its final journey was from the Herman home in DC back to the college.  As recommended by the July 1953 Official Postal Guide, both the lid and the case are also labeled with Miss Herman’s home address.

DSC06193

Mailing label – “Extra cards may be purchased from U.S. Travelwear Corp, Manchester, NH.”

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A typed and taped-in label on the underside of the lid: “Property of Miss Pat Herman, 4514 Yuma St NW, Washington 16 D.C.”

The box is still sturdy and stable, but it clearly got some use over the years; this wasn’t a novelty item, or one of those things you think you’ll need and then never end up using.  The donor provided us with some great info about laundry during her college career, 1950-54: The school didn’t have student-use laundry facilities, so while you could take your sheets and linens to be washed at the school laundry, you were on your own for everything else.  There was a Laundromat in Westminster, a long walk away; you might take your easy-to-wash whites (e.g., socks and underwear) there, especially if you could get someone to give you a ride, but for other things – Pat cited wool sweaters, specifically – it was easier and cheaper to mail them off to be done at home, where someone had the expertise and time to do the laundry right.

Western Maryland College – now McDaniel College – has a lot of its archival material scanned and available on the internet.  I’ve had an entertaining time today, looking up “laundry” and “laundromat” in the 1950-1954 catalogs, yearbooks, and newspapers; indeed, one of the patrons in the 1954 yearbook is the “Laundromat,” and the student newspapers include several references to the need for improved laundry facilities.  (There’s even an envious piece in the October 3, 1950 edition of The Gold Bug about a new dorm, equipped with Bendix washers, at Gettysburg College.)

Unlike many of our no-longer-common artifacts, laundry cases are fairly well represented on the internet.  The National Postal Museum has a nice blog post about cases from the USPS perspective, and memories of laundry cases are included in student-life stories and transcripts from colleges such as St. Olaf, Wellesley, and the University of Iowa.  Laundry really is everywhere.

*(Instead of simply waiting until the end of the semester, and bringing it all home at once.)

School’s in session once again, so let’s take a look at some early Montgomery County homework.  Our collections include two handwritten exercise books created by a young man attending Damascus area schools, circa 1850.

DSC05806

Both books are bound with marbled-paper cardboard covers, with leather spines and corners, and measure 12.5” x 8”.  They’re the 19th century version of the composition notebook, basically.  The owner carefully inscribed the title pages with the subject, school, and teacher, as well as his name:

LAB title pages Left: “Larkin A. Beall’s Book. Containing Gauging, Mensuration, Geometry, & Surveying.  As taught by E. Thompson preceptor of Mountradnor School.”  Right: “Double Entry Book Keeping By Larkin A. Beall As Taught by E. Thompson Preceptor & Teacher of Mathematics In Mountradnor School Montgomery County, Md.” (Please note the extra flourishes, which are hard to transcribe.) The bookkeeping notebook also contains a section on mensuration and geometry; those pages are noted, “Larkin A. Beall, [various dates] 1854, James Purdum, Preceptor and teacher at Pleasant Plains School, Montgomery County, Md.” (See below.)  In addition, the names F.E. Beall, Horace Beall, and James O. Etchison are noted in different hands, though Larkin seems to have been the original, and primary, creator.  Dated pages range from 1848 to 1854.

DSC05804

These were likely workbooks, in which students took dictation, made notes, and solved problems.  Some sections may have been written by the instructor, including notes referencing a printed textbook, and instructions for exercises.

DSC05795 “Exercises in Journalizing
Transaction   |   Journalizing
[pointing hand] Note Refer to the page 172, 173 fur further perticulars under this head” (errors original)

These workbooks give me a lot to cover: schools, study subjects, and people.  Though geometry – specifically, measuring solids – takes up much of the books, I’m going to focus on the bookkeeping section; after all, it’s not often I can say that something was invented in 14th century Italy.  I’ve spoken to two separate people in the last month who have praised the delights of double-entry bookkeeping.  I suspect the satisfaction a bookkeeper derives from a balanced ledger is akin to my own when I match up a set of mystery artifacts with the appropriate paperwork.  However, I do not personally understand this age-old method, so let’s let E. Thompson explain it (all spelling and grammatical errors are from the original):

part second PART SECOND
Double Entry Book Keeping

Double Entry
This term is derived from the fact that every business transacted recorded in the Day book is entered twice in the Ledger one on the debtor and once on the creditor side

Debtor And Creditor
These terms are correlative, the one implies and involve the other  Wherever there is a debtor there must necessarily be a creditor of an equal amount; and wherever there is a creditor there must be a debtor

Application of Debtor and Creditor
In single entry these terms are (with the exception of cash only applied to persons, but in double entry they are applied alike to persons and property, the persons being made [a] debtor for what you have trusted them, and creditor for wat they have paid or trusted you; and the property account being made debtor for the balance or cost of the property, and credit for what it produced when disposed of

On to the people.  Larkin A. Beall (b. 1836) was one of ten children born to Elisha and Alethea Lewis Beall; he grew up on a farm between Damascus and Browningsville (off present-day Bethesda Church Road).  Several of Larkin’s brothers are referenced in the notebooks; Horace and Franklin added their own names, and Larkin noted the deaths of John in 1852 and Evan in 1860.  (There’s also a side note in one of the books about three feet of snow that fell in 24 hours on February 20th, 1854.)  By the early 1860s, Larkin had moved to Washington, DC to pursue a career in retail, with a shop on 7th Street. City records from the 1860s and 1870s describe him variously as “clothier,” “merchant,” “[in] hats,” and “dealer in gents’ furnishing goods.”  Good thing he studied double-entry bookkeeping!

Larkin referenced two Damascus area schools in his workbooks.  E. Guy Jewell, in his manuscript “Damascus: Small But Lively” (1974), identified Mount Radnor as having “stood on the west side of Ridge Road near the intersection of Gue Road” from as early as 1839 until the site was sold to the county school board in the late 1870s.  The Pleasant Plains School was in Purdum, on the other side of Damascus, off present-day Mountain View Road.  (Note that both of these schools were for white children only; Pleasant Plains should not be confused with Pleasant Grove, Purdum’s African American school, which opened in 1869.)

There are two teachers listed in the 1850 census for this election district, but neither of Larkin’s preceptors are among them.  Jewell noted, “Many of the men teachers had their own small farm and taught school for the little extra cash each year.  Remember, the school law then limited teachers’ salaries to ‘not more than $300 per annum.’” With that in mind, 52 year old Elijah Thompson and 37 year old James Purdum, both “farmers” in the 1850 census, become likely candidates for Larkin Beall’s instructors.

Why did Larkin switch schools between 1849 and 1854? Maybe Pleasant Plains opened around that time, and was easier to reach. However, the Bealls lived about halfway between the schools (as the crow flies / as the teenage boy walks across neighbors’ fields), so distance may not have been a factor.  Perhaps one teacher was more congenial, or had a better reputation for mathematical skills.  Although there are a few side notes in the books (see: deaths of brothers, and depth of snow, above), there are few clues to the reason for the switch.

The books were donated to MCHS in 1978 by Lawrence Walter, who informed us that he received them from Miss Estella Drane (1865-1955), a DC school teacher.  Unfortunately (for me, since I like the whole story) it’s not clear how Miss Drane acquired them.

So, children, as you begin this school year full of enthusiasm and excitement, follow Larkin Beall’s example to keep that enthusiasm from flagging as the year progresses: Either take the time to make your notes pretty, with elaborate fonts (not at the expense of your attention span, of course!) . . . or be glad you don’t have to hand-write a textbook’s worth of notes.

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“Directions for posting.”

The month of May is both National Scrapbooking Month and International Storytelling Month.  Those go together quite nicely, I think, and to illustrate that, here is a charming little scrapbook from our archives: Ethel Grove Van Hoesen’s album, titled “Living and Teaching in Maryland from 1917 to 1940.”
cover and title

The album has stamped suede covers and a plastic spiral binding; a label in the back informs us that it was purchased from Edward F. Gruver Co., “Paper Rulers and Book Binders,” in DC.  Inside is a mix of photos, newspaper clippings, and paper ephemera, often accompanied by handwritten notes and explanations.  The first few pages – clearly meant as an introduction to “Life and Teaching in Maryland” – contain poems about gardening, teachers, homes, and retirement, plus a 1934 highway map of the county, and the lyrics to “Maryland My Maryland.”  Though there is some order to the contents, the scrapbook has the appearance of having been created all at once, from a stash of saved bits and pieces; one page, for example, consists of a snapshot dated 1922, a 1930 map of Capitol View, and a newspaper “fun fact” from the Washington Evening Star, November 22, 1939.  Other pages are more traditional photo-album style, with chatty little descriptions.

not a good pictureNot good pictures – but from left to right Anne – Helen Rector – Ethel Van Hoesen. 2d row – Sophie [her daughter-in-law] – Margaret – Elizabeth. 3rd row – Sophie Philip [her granddaughter] – Minnie -.  Brad [her son] taking the picture”

Both Ethel Grove and her husband Fred Van Hoesen were born in Franklinville, NY in 1870.  They married in 1892, and had one son, James Bradley (“Brad”).  Mr. Van Hoesen first trained as a clergyman, but he switched careers at some point, and in 1917 he was appointed as the first Cooperative Extension Agent in Montgomery County.  (More about the Extension Service, and Mr. Van Hoesen’s work, can be found here.)  The family lived in Rockville for several years; after Mr. Van Hoesen’s 1924 death, Mrs. Van Hoesen moved with her son’s family to Forest Glen.

forest glen 1943” The station and Post Office [at Forest Glen] as it looks today (1943).  No longer bevies of young ladies crowd its platform; but in their stead groups of convalescent soldiers dot the spacious N.P.C. grounds.  N.P.C. [National Park College] beloved by many ‘old girls’ has been bought by the Gov’t.  It houses hundreds of soldiers wounded in every battle of this global war.”

Mrs. Van Hoesen was a life-long teacher.  Her obituary states that she began teaching at age 18; an 1892 Franklinville census shows that she was still teaching shortly after her marriage.  The 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses all give her occupation as “teacher, public school.”  In Montgomery County she taught at Woodside, Bethesda, Slidell, and Cabin John Elementary Schools.  When she was appointed to the one-room Slidell school in 1930, she moved upcounty (Slidell is in the Barnesville/Beallsville/Dickerson vicinity) to a farmhouse called “Sky View.”  The scrapbook includes many photos of the house, school, and neighborhood, and several pages are taken up with handwritten lists of her students for each year.
slidell school 1934“Slidell School April 5, 1934 – with and without the teacher” (Can you spot Mrs. Van Hoesen?)

In 1939 the Slidell school was closed, and Mrs. Van Hoesen moved back downcounty to teach in Cabin John.  She retired in 1940 (though she continued to substitute-teach for a few years), and bought a house in Capitol View; she died in 1949, and was buried next to her husband in Franklinville, NY.  In the 1960s, Brad’s wife Sophie gave the Society a large collection of artifacts and archival material related to her in-laws, including this little book.
Shady Nook‘Shady Nook’ A retired teacher buys a new home No 6 Lee St. Capitol View, Maryland. with summer shade”

Mrs. Van Hoesen saw a variety of life in the county, her adopted home.  She taught in both suburban and rural schools, and kept up with her students’ later lives, as demonstrated by the notations (“married Gladys Smith.”  “Poolesville High class ‘44.”) included in lists of pupils’ names. Her neighbors and friends, former students, colleagues of her husband from the Extension Service, people from her church, notable county residents, even Evalyn Walsh McLean (who evidently was “kind to Jack Thompson”) are represented through photos, wedding announcements, human interest stories, and obituaries.  There’s a magazine article about Sugarloaf Mountain, the program from the 1934 Annual Meeting of the Homemakers’ Clubs of Montgomery County, a drawing of White’s Ferry by her daughter-in-law, a “Barnaby” comic about washing machines, and snapshots of people, buildings, roads, and views that were important to the book’s creator.  Throughout, Mrs. Van Hoesen’s ink notations keep us informed of who did what and when: “The house was painted in 1932.” “This is where I go to church.” “Mr. Knott did not know he was getting in the picture – we are glad to have him – he was one of Slidell’s best friends.”  Though this scrapbook doesn’t necessarily read like a traditional narrative, it is telling us a story all the same.

20130514125920_00012A map, photo, and story about Sugarloaf Mountain.

animal neighbors“A few of my animal neighbors” in Slidell, 1930s.

20130514125920_00004A page of miscellany, including an article about a fellow Woodside teacher’s retirement; the 1936 marriage notice of Mr. Van Hoesen’s counterpart, former Montgomery County Home Demonstration Agent Blanche Corwin; and a 1930 campaign card for a “farmer, teacher, and business woman” running for office in Nebraska.  (I wish there was a handwritten note about Mrs. Himes, but I can see the possible connections to Mrs. VH’s life there.)

I started work on a nice, long blog post this morning, then realized that I should hold onto it until July 2013 when this particular artifact will be 200 years old.  (And you’ll just have to wait a few months to find out what it is!)  Instead, here’s a quick look at some of the cataloging work that’s been going on ‘behind the scenes’ in the curator’s office – specifically, one of the fun things we’ve found.

x146811This winter’s in-depth cataloging project is books: textbooks, novels, picture books, cookbooks, and the like, owned and used by local people.  We have a largeish set of textbooks from Rose K. Dawson of Rockville, including many used in the 1910s-20s at the Rockville Academy by her brothers, Walter and Joe, and by family friend William Ross.  Ross, a Native American from South Dakota, came to live with the Dawsons when that family moved here in 1911; they lived at Rocky Glen, Mr. Dawson’s family home in Rockville.  Ross’s story is a good one, and I’ll include more of it in a future post; for now, let’s just say that he liked to write in his textbooks.  The Dawson boys did too, but Ross’s books are particularly scribbled-in.  (As someone whose class notes, if not necessarily school-property books, were always covered in doodles, I sympathize.)   Flipping through this copy of Higher Lessons in English:  A work on English Grammar and Composition, In which the Science of the Language is Made Tributary to the Art of Expression – A Course of Practical Lessons Carefully Graded, and Adapted to Every-Day Use in the School-Room  (Reed & Kellogg, 1909), one finds repeated iterations of “Bill Ross, Rockville Maryland,” the date 1919, and – fantastically – this page:

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Though it seems unlikely that a teacher would chastise a student by having him write “I must keep my seat” in his textbook, even a book that the Dawsons had purchased (like this one), perhaps Ross was simply continuing his written punishment in a slightly rebellious manner, or out of boredom.  Just from this one little page, I feel like the window of the past is a little clearer – always remember that our ancestors were people, not simply collections of genealogical facts. Of course, our official stance is “Don’t write in books, kids!” . . . but, actually, go ahead and write in your books.  (In moderation.) Future historians may thank you!

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