One of your blogger’s personal favorites from the MCHS collections, the Sandy Spring Quilt, has a fascinating – and somewhat puzzling – history.  It is a “friendship quilt,” made and signed by (or on behalf of) 36 women, most from the Sandy Spring area, sometime around 1860. Each block consists of a pieced “Blazing Star” with an ink signature, such as Anna Farquhar’s, below (her signature is in the upper left corner).


Over the past several years, researcher Mary Robare has dedicated time to helping us solve some of the quilt’s mysteries, such as who made each square, when the full quilt was completed, and why it was created in the first place.  (As Mary says, the quilt “offers a dizzying array of seemingly contradictory clues.”  The best kind of artifact!) Thanks to her efforts, the quilt has been featured in scholarly articles, off-site exhibits, and now on the Quaker Quilts blog.  Curious about the quilt’s mysteries? Want to see some more photos? Take a look at Quaker Quilts!  “The Sandy Spring Quilt – Part One” is here, and “Part Two” is here, with more to come.


The MCHS collections storage spaces are filled with wonderful things.  Some are on exhibit; others are featured here on A Fine Collection; and still more are patiently waiting for their day to shine.  It’s important to remember that they can be waiting for YOU, dear readers, as well as my curatorial self!  Our collections are held in the public trust, and (with an appointment) can be made available for research and study.  For example, here’s a fabulous blog post on one of our quilts, written by researchers Mary Holton Robare and Lynda Salter Chenoweth.  Their expertise is in Quaker quilts, and their work has added greatly to our own information.  Take a moment to read about the Fairfield quilt!


Today (September 19, 2012) is Ask a Curator Day!  I encourage those of you on Twitter to make good use of the opportunity; the website gives hints on what to ask, and lists participating museums.  Since MCHS does not (yet?) have a Twitter account, we’re doing this a little informally, through Facebook and WordPress.  So pretend this photo* is me, eagerly awaiting your questions!

Our Facebook page has yielded one question for today’s blog: Was author Upton Sinclair – full name Upton Beall Sinclair, Jr. – related to Upton Beall of Rockville?  The answer is a qualified Yes.  Jane Sween** and I spent some time in the MCHS Library this morning trying to track down the exact relationship, with no immediate results; but we do believe that he is related to ‘our’ Upton (1770-1827), the first owner of the Beall-Dawson House (now our museum).  Though our Upton’s line did not continue past his daughters, he was from a large family, and the name Upton pops up here and there.  (Jane suggested I recommend that the questioner come in and help us out by doing some genealogical research; otherwise, I’ll post an update if/when I sort it out.)  On a more concrete note, I did learn this morning that Upton Sinclair lived in Bethesda’s Grosvenor Park apartments in 1966, so there’s another local connection for you!

The fourth and fifth grade students who visit us on school tours always ask fantastic questions.  My favorite came several years ago: What pets did the Bealls and Dawsons have, and were there any veterinarians in Rockville?  The latter part is somewhat long and involved and will probably end up on a future blog, but to answer the first part, we know both families had cats.  In 1837, Upton’s daughter Jane wrote to her sister Matilda in Georgetown, reporting on the doings at home: “We are all quite well except [sister] Peggy’s pretty kitten, which she thinks has the whooping cough.”  A few generations later, Rockville’s student-run Midget newspaper reported on March 25, 1909 that John Dawson’s 12 year old cat was “killed by the electric cars” (that is, he or she was hit by the streetcar, which ran down West Montgomery Avenue).  There were probably many other cats, and perhaps dogs as well, who lived at the Beall-Dawson House over the years; but in the way of these things, their lives were not recorded.

Have these answers brought other questions to your mind?  Let me know!   (They don’t have to be about the Beall-Dawson House, I promise.)  Leave a comment here, or post on our Facebook page. And don’t forget to tweet some questions at other curators around the world today!

* This photo actually shows an unidentified woman participating in a radio interview with Stella Werner and Judge Charles Woodward on WBCC, circa 1955.

** Jane was our Librarian for many years; if Jane thinks Sinclair is related to our Bealls, he probably is.

Let’s see if WordPress is in a more photo-receptive mood today.

Success!  Or at least a step further than it got on Wednesday!  So here is the photo that wouldn’t work before: the plaster-on-brick trough that runs along the north wall of the Dairy House.  (The foot-powered grindstone, ca. 1900, was donated by Jean Fisher.)  The ladder at left was probably installed by the Davises (though perhaps replacing an older one) and leads up to the second floor. 

The 1952 photo I used on Wednesday is nice, but here’s a modern view.  The elements have been unkind to our windows and doors; guys from the City of Rockville, which owns the property, are working on new ones (don’t worry, sticklers; the wood and hardware being replaced date from the 1940s/1980s, not 1815).  So here’s another shout-out to the City, and to our fantastic interns (below), for helping us keep the Dairy House in top form! 

Yesterday’s post in honor of “Movember,” featuring historic Montgomery County moustaches, included a mystery man who chose not to appear in the blog despite repeated attempts on my part.  Let’s see if Mr. Parsly will show up today:

To recap, here is Mr. John Parsly (1851-1927) of Brookeville, with his wife Cornelia, in 1907.   Mr. Parsly was a storekeeper.

Plus, here’s a little more information on Thomas Carroll, yesterday’s too-good-to-pass-up photo.  Thomas G. Carroll was born in 1858 to Thomas (Sr.) and Mary Catherine Griffith Carroll.  His mother was from Laytonsville and his parents married in Montgomery County, but the family appears to have moved to Baltimore shortly thereafter.  It is possible that Thomas Sr. and/or Jr. are part of the Thomas G. Carroll & Son company, makers of Baltimore Rye from the 1870s to the 1910s.

Happy Tuesday!  Yes, the blog is a day early today, because tomorrow I will have on my Assistant Museum Shop Buyer hat rather than my curator hat.  But at any rate, on to today’s topic. 

As most Americans are aware, October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  Less well known is that November is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.  To help raise the profile, so to speak, of cancers that affect men, an organization called “Movember” encourages men to grow moustaches and raise money for a variety of charities.  Keeping in mind that MCHS has no stake in this group other than a general wish for the well-being of all people, please enjoy a selection of Montgomery County gentlemen – all with fine moustaches – to inspire any of my readers who will be participating in Movember this year!

William Rich Hutton (1826-1901) of Clopper (now part of Gaithersburg), shown here in 1880.  He was a civil engineer and a farmer.  From the Woodlands collection, MCHS Library.

John Holmes Magruder, Jr. (1889-1963)… or, perhaps more likely, his father John Holmes Magruder, Sr. (1850-1925), since the photo appears to date from the 1890s.  The Magruders are a long-time Montgomery County family.  MCHS Library.

Louis W. Hicks (1883-1974) of Lincoln Park, shown here in the 1930s.  Mr. Hicks was a cabinetmaker; here he is posing with the flag stand he made for the White House in the early 1930s.  Donated by Evelyn Hicks Gaunt, MCHS Library.

Thomas Carroll, circa 1880s.  Unfortunately we haven’t researched this gentleman’s specifics yet, but his moustache is too great to be left out.  [See the next post for more info on him.] Donated by Hania Warfield, MCHS Library.

John Jones (1838-1916) of the Poolesville area, circa 1880s.  Mr. Jones was a farmer.  Donated by Ethel Hott, MCHS Library.

The young lady in the middle is Helen Muncaster (later Gassaway) of Rockville; one of the gentlemen is her brother, Dr. Stewart Muncaster, an oculist who practiced in D.C.  The other man’s identity is unknown, and I don’t know which guy is which.  At any rate, both are sporting some fashionable facial hair in this 1887 photo.  Donated by the Anderson family, MCHS Library.

Frank Dorsey (ca. 1861-?) of Jerusalem (upper Montgomery County) with his wife Mollie, shown here circa 1950s.  Mr. Dorsey was born enslaved just prior to the Civil War.  After his 1893 marriage, he built a house in Jerusalem where, according to research done in the 1970s, he lived the rest of his life.  From George McDaniel’s research on African American communities in upper Montgomery County, MCHS Library.

John Henry Parsly (1851-1927) of Brookeville, with his wife Cornelia Search Parsly, 1907.  Mr. Parsly was a storekeeper.  Donated by Lewis Parsly, MCHS Library.  [Mr. Parsly is not showing up in my preview; if he doesn’t appear, I will try to fix that later!] [Solved by giving him his very own post.]

…Well, this could go on for a long time, so I’ll end here.  If you’re local, and want to check out some more inspirational historic moustaches for your Movember challenge, stop by our library in Rockville!

I knew I spoke too soon in this morning’s post, saying the mystery of the little costume was solved!  On a whim, this afternoon I searched the Washington Post‘s historical database (available free to Montgomery County Public Library members, and possibly through other local libraries as well) for “The Moon King.”  Mrs. Clark’s play was also performed in 1907, 1908, 1915, 1916, and 1942, for various local causes (in 1942, proceeds went to the Montgomery County Civilian Defense Corps, and “Mrs. Roosevelt” – presumably Eleanor – was a sponsor). The 1907 article gives that year’s cast of characters,  including “Curly Locks” played by Dorothy Viett (oops, wrong Dorothy!), but in 1916, Dorothy Clark (part unspecified) is listed among the cast.  In 1916 Dorothy would have been 11, the age noted on the donation paperwork… although I still contend that the costume is awfully small for an eleven year old.

Not quite back to the drawing board, then, but as always there is more to learn. The internet is a fabulous resource (as I have often mentioned; I should make a t-shirt) but with so many new sources being added all the time, I can never rest on my laurels (such as they are), thinking I’ve worked everything out. 

** More fun for image seekers: Coincidentally, the MCHS staff photo used by Jennie Cottrell shows Everette Stratmeyer “dressed to appear in a play” (as stated by the photo’s donor) in the 1910s.  Everette is also listed in the cast of the 1916 performance of Mrs. Clark’s “fairy fantasy,” The Moon King. **