Here we have a silk scarf, a souvenir of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition held in Chicago. Closer examination (yes, I know that I take terrible photographs, but if you click on the image it’ll give you a larger version) shows the image of the Machinery Hall in the silk, with the words “Souvenir Woven at the World’s Columbian Exposition, Chicago, 1893” (plus “Machinery Hall” in case you were in doubt) waving in a banner overhead. In the lower corner the name Miss Florence Warters was machine-embroidered in red thread, probably on the spot in the Machinery Hall.

I suspect that the machine operator made an error, and that Miss Florence Waters (not Warters) of Montgomery County was somewhat disappointed in her personalized souvenir. Florence Waters was born in Darnestown in 1873, and married Oliver Baker in 1896; at the time of her death, in 1951, she lived in Rockville, about a block away from the home of the scarf’s donors, the Hancock family. Unfortunately we can only speculate on what Florence thought of her misspelled scarf: was it a funny joke, or did she pack it away and forget about it? Did she get another one, this time spelled correctly? All we know is that she kept it, and over 100 years later it is still here to remind us of her trip to Chicago to see the sights.

Today’s artifact choice was inspired by my visit this past weekend to the Missouri History Museum’s fabulous exhibit on the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition. I love World’s Fairs – not that I’ve ever been to one – and if I had a time machine, well first I would go and rescue the 1890 census but then I would spend some time at as many Fairs as I can find before the time machine inevitably goes wrong and I have to fight off giant dinosaurs or something…. uh, but enough about me. Our collections contain artifacts from a variety of Fairs, ranging from a pair of salt & pepper shakers from the 1962 Seattle Fair to an extremely elaborate embalming pump exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Souvenirs remind us of places we’ve been, and the people we were at the time; the souvenirs of those who came before us, however trivial they may be in terms of materials or value, remind us that the human urge to remember and commemorate (and spend money) is much older than we are.

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