This ironstone vegetable dish normally resides in the china cupboard in the Beall-Dawson dining room, but occasionally it gets a chance to sit in a more visible spot. The bowl was donated in the early 1960s by Minnie Yearly, who said that it came to her family from the Carrolls and had been used by Maryland Governor Charles Carroll (1737-1832). According to Miss Yearly it dates from about 1760, although the bowl has no maker’s marks or other identifications. The finial on the domed cover is formed into a little rococo pile of fruit; the donor suggested in a letter that the bowl was used “to keep the creamed spinach, hot beef stews or lamb stews.”

When talking about the Historical Society’s collections, I almost always refer to them as “mine.” “I have a clock like that,” “My quilt has a tape binding,” that kind of thing. This is nonsense, of course. Really, our collections are not even “ours;” we hold them in the public trust; they’re yours, dear Reader. But I have a personal affection for most (not quite all; it’s hard for me to get worked up over, say, an unprovenanced clover seeder) of our artifacts, and it comes out in the way I talk about them.

Not everything is “mine;” sometimes an associated name takes precedence – usually a donor. I’m not sure why I identify so many of our artifacts with their donors instead of their owners; maybe it comes from reading all the donation correspondence, making the personality of the woman in the 1960s far more immediate than that of the dead famous guy (no offense, Gov. Carroll) in the 1760s. This slight discrepency was made clear a few weeks ago, when my – sorry, our collections volunteer suggested we put “the Carroll bowl” on the dining room table for the season. I had to think about it for while, then asked, “Do you mean Miss Yearly’s bowl?” Neither one of us was entirely certain what the other person was talking about.*

Miss Yearly’s – a.k.a. the Carroll family – bowl is on display on the dining room table for a few more weeks, although it will have to go back into the china cupboard (still visible, but you have to know where to look) when the holiday decorations go up in December.

* (That’s why artifact numbering systems are so important! Gc0001 is Gc0001, no matter what name we call it.)

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