Today we have two bottle cappers for your enjoyment. They are of similar vintage, but were used in the county at different times.


Bottle cappers are tidy little machines that use leverage to force a metal bottle cap onto the mouth of a glass bottle, thus sealing in the liquid contents. Similar items are made today for use in home beer brewing, and indeed the vintage versions are often associated with the Prohibition era, at least in the popular imagination. A patent search for “bottle capper” shows that these types of tools started popping up in the late 1910s – perhaps in anticipation of the Volstead Act? And while I did not find anything along these lines in 1890s-1900s household catalogs, a bottle capper was available from Montgomery Ward in 1922, and the 1927 Sears catalog (image below) offered several “bottling goods,” including two capper options.  Though hardly definitive, these few sources would seem to indicate that bottle cappers did become more, ah, useful to the average consumer once commercial liquor was unavailable. Keep reading for more on the liquor angle, at the end of this post.

1927 Sears bottling goods


Standard D Since 1923

(Special appearance by non-accessioned mid 20th century soda bottles)

From our collections, first up is this sturdy bottle capper, 17” tall, made of iron, and marked “Standard D Since 1923.” (An internet search has found a few other examples with the same mark, but so far no additional maker info or history.) It was donated in 1962 by Alice, widow of Henry H. Griffith (1862-1951), along with an assortment of farm and household tools; other than noting “used at Crow’s Content,” the Griffith family home in Laytonsville, Mrs. Griffith provided no specifics.



Next we have a lighter, steel bottle capper, 16.5” tall; it’s likely also from the 1920s or 1930s, though it has no manufacturer’s name or other helpful marks. Donated recently by Jane Sween, this capper originally came from her husband’s family in Frostburg, but was later used in 1970s Bethesda for a Girl Scout project: bottling home-made root beer. Along with the capper, Mrs. Sween also donated the box of metal and cork bottle caps – purchased from Community Paint and Hardware in Bethesda – from the same project.

no makers mark

box of bottle caps

One gross of cork-lined metal Kerr Bottle Caps – “The perfect seal for all home bottling uses.”


These two examples are of similar height and size, are based on the same general design (both can be screwed to a table or work surface, for example), and perform the same function, but they operate a little differently. The “Standard D” Laytonsville capper is all-in-one; the bar handle can be turned one way to raise the mechanism, and the other way to lower the capper onto the bottlecap and force it closed.  Our Frostburg/Bethesda capper has a removable ratchet-style handle, which can be slid onto the base at the appropriate height, then levered downward a few inches onto the bottle.  This 1929 patent for a similar mechanism explains some details.


As usual I turned to the internet to find video of the artifact in action, and ladies and gentlemen, I have found a winner: newsreel footage of a bottle-capping race, circa 1920. These “home brewers” are using machines similar to our “Standard D;” the winner capped twelve bottles in nine seconds. You must watch.

As for the original usage of both these machines, let us assume that the Griffiths and our friends in Frostburg were bottling only non-alcoholic beverages – at least until the repeal of Prohibition in 1933. Others, of course, were not so law-abiding. Montgomery County Police records from the 1920s – early 1930s include a number of raids on home stills and arrests for “possession of intoxicating beverages with intent to sell.” For example, here is an entry from the Takoma Park Police station log, dated August 4, 1932:

1932 police log

MCHS Library collections

Aug 4, 32. Report of raiding the home of [redacted], Hollywood Park near Colesville. There we found about 150 bottles of beer and 100 empty bottles, and about five quarts of whiskey. A six gal. crock of beer was in the making which was destroyed, and some coloring. Time 11 PM. [Officers] Snyder & Barnes & Hobbs.

Though this police report does not list all the equipment discovered in the midst of this illegal operation, our anonymous whiskey entrepreneur would have needed a way to seal all those bottles. . . it seems probable that a bottle capper was involved.


The month of June has a lot going on, filled with holidays, traditional events, and newly instituted month-long celebrations. These “National [X] Month” designations cover topics from the pleasant and fun (accordions! audiobooks! roses!) to the serious (men’s health, torture awareness).  So many places to find blog inspiration!  A Fine Collection has already featured artifacts related to Father’s Day, end-of-year recitals, graduation, and Flag Day, and last week I accidentally took care of National Dairy Month, so let’s take a look at some collections items that relate to other exciting June moments.


June is National Candy Month. This is a glass hobnail candy dish, 6″ diameter, probably made by the Fenton Art Glass Company of West Virginia. Milton Allman and Ordella Shingleton were married in 1949; they moved to Bethesda soon afterward. Thanks to Mrs. Allman’s careful record-keeping, we know that the wedding presents included four candy dishes: a silver dish, one with an aluminum lid, a “Fostoria stem” dish, and this “pink curled edge dish” from Mr. and Mrs. Lambert. (On a related note, Berthy Girola Anderson of Rockville’s 1929 list of wedding gifts included eight bonbon dishes, out of 151 items: in other words, the accumulated loot was 5.3% candy dish.) Donated by William Allman.



June is National Safety Month. Here’s a Boy Scouts of America merit badge booklet on that topic, copyright 1971 (1977 printing); it was used by Scoutmasters Stanley Berger and Jim Douglas, Troop 219, which met at Millian Methodist Church in Aspen Hill. The book still has a 55 cent price tag from J.C. Penney – probably the store in Congressional Plaza, Rockville (bonus photo at end of this post). Donated by Stanley L. Berger.



June is Adopt-a-Cat Month (also Adopt-a-Shelter-Cat Month); June 4th was Hug Your Cat Day. We have many photos of historic Montgomery County cats in our collections, but this one can’t be resisted: Lloyd Brewer, Jr., of Rockville hugging one of the family cats, circa 1928. Donated by the Brewer family.

Lloyd Brewer, Jr., with cat


June is National African American Music Appreciation Month. Our collections include 94 jazz and swing records from the 1920s-40s (mostly 78s) amassed by several generations, with their last home in Bethesda before donation to MCHS. (That’s a roundabout way of saying most of these records were probably purchased in Chicago.) The collection includes this eight-side “Ellington Special,” put out by Columbia Records in 1947. The notes inside the cover inform us, “In this, the first post-war album in its Hot Jazz Classics series, Columbia takes special pride in presenting for the first time eight historically significant and musically distinguished recordings by Duke Ellington and his orchestra. None of the sides in this collection has been available until now . . . [This set is] the rarest of treats for connoisseurs, collectors, Ellington admirers, and just plain jazz fans.” Though all four records in the set are present and intact, the cover has not fared as well; the front and back are detached, and the spine is gone completely.  It appears that this was a frequently played and enjoyed album. Donated by David and Joy MacDonald.

2000.03 Ellington


June is National LGBT History Month. We don’t currently have much in our collections to reflect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender experience in Montgomery County – something we’d like to rectify – but we do have a recent artifact: a yard sign showing religious support for the Civil Marriage Protection Act (Question 6), the November 2012 Maryland ballot question that would allow same-sex marriages in the state of Maryland.  Question 6 passed, and the Act went into effect on January 1, 2013. The 18”x27” plastic sign with vinyl lettering reads, on both sides, “AMEN – Advocate for Marriage Equality Now – United Church of Christ.”  Signs and posters are a nice graphic way for museums to tell the stories of local concerns and political questions. Because it’s proclaiming the views of a specific group (in this case, a congregation), this sign helps illustrate some of the nuances of the debate that more generic “Vote Yes” / “Vote No” signs might miss.  (Interested in learning more about community activism topics in Montgomery County’s history? Visit our next exhibit, opening on June 28, 2014!) Donated by Emily Correll.



There are many, many more options for June celebrations, including National Caribbean-American Heritage Month, for which I could find nothing in our collections (help us fill in that gap, if you can!).  You can while away an afternoon looking up “June national month” on the internet, if you choose.  But first, as promised, a photo of the J.C. Penney Co. at Congressional Plaza, Rockville, circa 1960s.  The store has since closed, and the center has been remodeled, but I’m sure long-time residents will remember this version of Congressional. (If anyone can give me a better “no earlier than” date based on the car models or other details, please clue me in.)  Photo donated by Edward A. Abbott.



Today we have a glass milk bottle, used for home delivery of milk from Bethesda Farm Dairy.


This 9.5″ tall, one quart bottle is clear glass, and was made in a semiautomatic press-and-blow machine.  The process was introduced in the 1890s and used for many decades.  Quart-sized bottles for home delivery were fairly common in the early 20th century, especially as home refrigeration improved (households could keep larger quantities of milk for longer periods).  Though a number of different bottle designs were invented over the years – often as a means for separating the cream from the milk – the round, 9.5″ quart bottle like this one was the standard until the 1930s.  (For a nice, thorough explanation of how to date milk bottles, check out this paper from the Society for Historical Archaeology.)

In this case, the name of the dairy was embossed on the bottle thanks to a circular blank inserted into the mold, which allowed bottle manufacturers to easily make bottles for a number of clients. The plate method of labeling remained the norm for milk bottles until pyroglazing (or painting) came into fashion in the late 1930s. Our bottle here is embossed, “Bethesda Farm Dairy / Bethesda, Md. / M.E. Peake.”  Identified bottles were useful for advertising – and to help modern-day curators with their research – but they also allowed bottles to be returned to the correct dairy for reuse.  Though the manufacturer is unknown, we can easily identify the origins of the contents.

Bethesda Farm Dairy, M.E. Peake

Millard Eldridge Peake, Sr. (1885-1959) lived on Arlington Road, Bethesda.  The 1910 census described him as a “farm manager,” and his 1918 draft card noted he was a self-employed dairy manager. By the early 1920s he was running the Bethesda Dairy Company, as this October 2, 1923 ad (published in the Washington Post) shows:

2014-06-04 09_18_25-Display Ad 39 -- No Title - ProQuest Historical Newspapers_ The Washington Post

In 1926, the Bethesda Farm Dairy (as it was then known) was sued by a man who claimed a bottle falling from a truck had injured his son. In 1927 Peake’s first wife, Margaret Tucker Peake, died.  And in 1928 the dairy was sued again, this time by a bicyclist who was hit by a delivery truck driven by Mr. Peake.  (I haven’t yet figured out whether Mr. Peake won or lost either suit.)  Perhaps these distressing incidents helped lead to the 1930 sale of the dairy to a larger outfit, Chevy Chase Dairy. At any rate, whatever the reasons, Bethesda Farm Dairy did not last very long in the grand scheme of things.

However, though his dairy closed, Mr. Peake stayed involved in the industry. He was frequently described as a “prominent dairyman;” the 1940 census noted his occupation as “dairy representative;” and his World War II draft card tells us that he was employed by Chestnut Farms Dairy of DC.   (Dairying wasn’t his whole life, however: he also served as police constable for Bethesda, 1920-22; was active in the local Democratic and Fusion Parties; and was, at least once, the Metropolitan Division champion horseshoe player.  Check out his memorial for a photo of Peake as a young man.)

The dairy industry was a major part of our economy and culture in the early-mid 20th century, when there were more than 300 dairy farms in the county.  We have a number of milk bottles in our collections, most from the ‘big names,’ the prominent and long-lasting dairies; but it’s important to remember that not all county farms produced milk for Thompson’s or Chestnut Farms Dairies.  Our Bethesda Farm bottle, collected by staff in the 1970s, helps us tell the broader story of the county’s smaller dairies.  (And while we’re telling some of that story online here, the King Barn Dairy MOOseum in Germantown is dedicated to the county’s dairying history; you should check it out.)



Today we have a desktop seal press or seal embosser from the 1960s.  Though unassuming at first, it has several stories to tell us – let’s take a look.


The press is made of molded metal, measuring 5” tall (10” when the lever is raised), painted black with gold accents. It’s a desktop model with a professional, expensive look, and is heavy enough that it won’t slide around on the desk while you’re stamping your paperwork. The two halves of the 1.75” die, also metal, are custom pieces that impress the desired image – in this case, WTOP AM-FM-TV – onto a piece of paper when the lever is pressed.


Its purpose is similar to that of our 1810s Orphan’s Court seal: marking paper with an official emblem. Unlike an ink or wax impression tool, the embosser uses pressure to imprint a raised mark. It’s a simple process, and one that has been in use for a long time; a search of the U.S. patent database found this “improved” model from 1864, and earlier examples can be found on this collectors website. Customized presses were (and are) used by courts, notaries public, and other officials, as well as corporations, agencies, and private individuals who want their name embossed on their stationery. Our particular piece has no manufacturer information, and its streamlined look doesn’t get us much further than “mid 20th century.” Conveniently enough the seal itself is intact, and the information there helps give us a narrower time frame – and takes us to its second, more specific story.



The AM radio station now known as WTOP came to the DC area in the late 1920s, was purchased by CBS in 1932, and took the call sign WTOP (then at 1500 AM) in 1943. The Washington Post bought a controlling interest in the station in 1949; the following year, the newspaper acquired WOIC-TV, a local CBS station, and changed the call sign to match its sister radio station. WTOP-TV, Channel 9, was born.  Jim Henson’s first television appearances were on WTOP-TV; several still-on-air local newscasters started here; and you can watch some 1950s-70s promos and newscasts online. The station changed its call sign to WDVM in 1978, and to the current WUSA (still a CBS affiliate, on channel 9) in 1986. (For a nice thorough history of the television station, click here or here.)

As for the “FM” included on the seal, as best I can tell (from sites such as this one) the Post purchased the FM frequency of Rockville’s WINX in the 1960s, changing it to WTOP FM; when the station was given to Howard University in 1971, the call sign changed to WHUR.  WTOP was AM-only until a new FM frequency was added to the lineup in the late 1990s. (Radio history fans and researchers don’t mess around, so I found details to spare about WTOP’s AM and TV history – but I’ve not quite confirmed the early WTOP FM part of this story. If anyone can set us straight, please do!)  Since the tv station existed from 1950 to 1978, and the original FM frequency was used in the 1960s through 1971, I’ve given our artifact an appropriately vaguely-specific date of “the 1960s.”


The third part of this artifact’s story relates to where it was found: under the stage at the Bethesda Theater. (If you were hoping I’d talk about the Art Deco WTOP transmitter building in Wheaton, my apologies… but here’s a website with lots of photos for you!) The Bethesda Theater, designed by John Eberson, opened in 1938 as the Boro. Like many 1930s-era movie houses it included a stage below the movie screen for performances, celebrity appearances, etc. I’ve started looking through newspaper articles for references to non-movie events at the theater; for example, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School 1951 commencement ceremony was held there, and I’m sure there are many more. (Please feel free to add your memories of the theater in the comments section.)

The theater has gone through several incarnations over the years (and is still open, though not currently as a film venue).  In 2001, construction began on an apartment building on top of the theater, necessitating both the closure of the Bethesda Theatre Café and an extreme renovation of the space.  Amidst the several-decades-worth of debris under the stage was, oddly enough, this little WTOP seal, evidently forgotten there after some unidentified radio or tv broadcast/taping many years ago.  Theater owner Pete Carney kindly donated it to MCHS.

Our collections don’t include much in the way of building remnants, other than some smallish pieces of hardware and the occasional decorative element. However, we do have this fine artifact, donated in 1980 by Mr. A.B. Chisholm of Silver Spring: the keystone or date-stone from the Silver Spring County Office Building, constructed in 1927-28.

x1487This is a trapezoidal block of concrete, measuring eleven inches high and eight inches square at the top. The front face is painted white, with metal numbers nailed on. The top, back and sides still have some cement residue. According to the donor – and, to a lesser extent, photographic evidence – this was the keystone used over the main door to the County Office Building at 8528 Georgia Avenue, Silver Spring. I’ve not found any close-up images of the door, but this early 1930s photograph (published in Montgomery County, Maryland: Home Community of the Nation’s Capital) of the Silver Spring Northern Suburban District Montgomery County Building shows the Georgia Avenue facade (at left), with its arched center door; there’s the faintest hint of a diagonal stripe (=our numbers?) visible across the keystone.

SS County Bldg from 1930s bookletAlthough the building was constructed in 1927, and appears to have been operational by late that year, the keystone is marked “1928” – perhaps an official opening was held in 1928, when its companion building in Bethesda was completed.

It’s easy to assume that Montgomery County’s suburban boom is a recent phenomenon, or that it didn’t really start until the 1930s and 1940s. But the government workers who arrived along with the New Deal were joining a suburbanization movement in progress. By 1927, the down-county area had grown so rapidly that the State Legislature created a new Suburban District, to provide a more local form of government to unincorporated areas. For practical purposes the Suburban District was split into east and west sections, with Rock Creek as the dividing line. In other words, rather than giving the population centers of Bethesda and Silver Spring their own municipal governments, we gave them each a county government outpost.

Shortly after the Bethesda building was completed, an article in the January 27, 1928 edition of the Montgomery County Sentinel proclaimed that these new county offices marked the “passage of the metropolitan area of Montgomery County from a rural to an urban community.” The article also helpfully explained the Silver Spring building’s contents:

Sentinel, Jan 27, 1928The building in the Silver Spring district is of attractive appearance, being of brick construction, with stone finish, and is one story in height. It was occupied six weeks ago and at the same time there was established in it a police station, where police are on duty for 24 hours to answer any emergency calls. Offices also have been provided in the structure for the clerk to the county commissioners, the Maryland-National [Capital] Park and Planning Commission, justice of the peace and the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission. There is a hearing room which will accommodate about 100 persons, where the various agencies dealing with the district affairs may hold public hearings. It cost $25,000.

This useful building was in the heart of the burgeoning downtown Silver Spring area, on Georgia Avenue just south of the intersection of Colesville Road. The aerial photo below, taken circa 1940, shows your County Office Building (circled) across Georgia Avenue from the brand-new Silver Spring Shopping Center, opened in 1938. (The shopping center, embracing its parking lot at the corner of Georgia and Colesville, is still there today, but basically everything else shown here is gone. Click the photo to enlarge.)

MCHS Library, donated by the Lee family.

MCHS Library, donated by the Lee family.

By 1931 the Silver Spring building was already too small, as the area continued to grow;  on April 4th of that year the Washington Post noted, “The building is too cramped for efficient work at present, and an enlargement of space must be provided in some manner.” Plans at that time were to either add on a second story, or sell the building and start over somewhere else. However it doesn’t appear that either action was taken for some time, if at all; the building continued to serve its various governmental functions into the 1950s. A new county office/police station was built on Sligo Avenue in 1962, and shortly after that the old building was torn down.

Our unassuming (though weighty) little keystone sent me on a delightful suburbia-research adventure this week. But there’s more to learn!  When, exactly, was the building demolished? (A 1964 aerial photo appears to show another building on that spot.) Who is/was Mr. A.B. Chisholm, and why did he acquire the keystone?  Much as I enjoy reading 1920s-50s surveys of county government and development (and no, that’s not sarcasm), those sources have not yet answered my lingering questions.  Do our readers have any insight to share?

Bonus images!

From our postcard collections, here’s a color view of the Silver Spring building, from B.S. Reynolds’ “Scenic Art Series” of the 1940s:

…And here’s the same early 1930s image as shown earlier, this time with the $30,000 Bethesda building for comparison.  (Like its friend in Silver Spring, the Bethesda building was demolished in the 1960s.)

both county bldgs

Today we have some music – specifically, some late 1960s pop – to brighten your Wednesday morning.  Last year, we received a donation of 24 vinyl singles, enjoyed by the donor and his sister when they were growing up in Bethesda.  The collection includes songs released between 1955 (Sons of the Pioneers, “The Ballad of Davy Crockett”) and 1970 (several, including “Give Me Just a Little More Time” by Chairmen of the Board), and a variety of artists are represented – although there are two versions of “Purple People Eater,” and The Mamas and the Papas win the imaginary competition with five singles.  (Spanky and Our Gang come in second, with two.)

Most are in plain white sleeves, but a few still include the picture cover:

DSC05750Spanky and Our Gang, “Sunday Mornin’/Echoes of My Mind,” 1968

Several are in their studio-specific sleeves, and I particularly liked this psychedelic example:

DSC05753Ohio Express, “Yummy Yummy Yummy/Zig Zag,” 1968, released by Buddah Records

And here’s the impetus for today’s post: I typed “Beatles” into our database to see what it would come up with.  Along with a few misspelled references to insects, the database returned the 1966 double A-side single “Day Tripper/We Can Work It Out.”  (Our collections are indeed vast and all-encompassing.)

DSC05745No picture sleeve, alas – you can admire the original here – but the donor did write his initials on the corner of the studio sleeve, to ensure its safe return.

This is a great little donation (though I wish we had a complementary 45 rpm record player with County provenance . . . hint hint).  Our collections include lots of school-related artifacts to help us relate the lives of Montgomery County teens over the years, but there’s more to life than school.

We base many of our memories on food; not just what we ate (and how it tasted), but also where, and with whom.   Restaurants are often an important part of our memory banks, and when an old favorite closes its doors, it can trigger reminscences both good and bad.  We recently had a call from a woman who just could not remember the name of “the restaurant on Rockville Pike with the giant salad bar,” and it was driving her and her friends crazy.  (Staff memories, rather than our collections, solved that one: it was Phineas.)  Online, there are many forums and blogs dedicated to “do you remember” this restaurant, or that neighborhood cafe.  Next time you need to start a  conversation with a long-time county resident, ask if he or she remembers, say, Farrell’s, or Rickshaw, or the Anchor Inn.

How do museums reflect those memories?  Thankfully, restaurants contain more than just food.  (Although we do have a few once-edible items in our collections.)  Here are some of the material remnants that we use to help preserve, and bring back, memories of restaurants past.


Photographs.  Late 1960s interior and exterior views of Mr. T’s On the Pike, located on N. Washington Street in Rockville.  George W. Johnson (seated) opened his general store in 1918; over the years it evolved into a well-known tavern and restaurant, which he operated until his death in 1971.  The office building at right, in the street view, is still standing, but Mr. T’s was eventually torn down and is now the site of Hickman’s Exxon (another long-time Rockville establishment, but we’re talking about restaurants today, not service stations).  Photo of Mr. T’s donated by Charles Brewer.


Postcards and advertisements.  This circa 1940 postcard advertises Sunnyside View, a roadside all-in-one convenience stop on Route 240 (now Route 355) near Clarksburg.  The illustration includes a helpful sign, “LUNCH,” on the cheerful yellow building, and the text on the back informs us that Sunnyside offered travelers “Rooms – Cabins – Chicken Dinners – Steak – Ham – Lunch – Home Cooking.”  Postcard donated by Tim Parker.

064280aHere’s a more recent postcard, circa 1980, advertising Emperor Ming Cuisine & Cocktails in Rockville.  The images on the front show the interior and exterior of the restaurant; the text on the reverse does not provide details on the menu, but it does tell us that it opened in 1972, and was owned and managed by Irene K.Y. Wong.  Postcard donated by Carol Cummings.

Servingware.  The Cabin John Bridge Hotel, on what’s now MacArthur Boulevard in Cabin John, was Montgomery County’s ‘destination dining’ experience at the turn of the last century.  Started in the late 19th century by German immigrants Joseph and Rosa Bobinger, and eventually taken over by their sons, the Hotel boasted well-appointed dining rooms, and had its own china pattern featuring an image of the namesake Bridge.  (In fact there were two similar patterns; pieces marked simply “Cabin John Bridge Hotel” are earlier, and pieces featuring an entwined “BB” are later.)  Patrons came from far (thanks to the trolley) and near to enjoy fine dining in Cabin John. All things come to an end, however; the Hotel closed in 1926, and burned to the ground in the early 1930s.  Many surviving examples of the Hotel’s china, including the broken serving dish above, have been found in the yards of homes built in the area after the Hotel’s demise.  We have several different pieces – some whole, some not – in our collections, but as an almost-archaeologist I rather enjoy the broken dishes dug up while gardening, and chose this option for today’s post.  Serving dish donated by Carolyn Bryant.


Souvenirs and promotional items.  Here’s a small ceramic coffee mug, given to Boy Scout leaders from the National Capital Area Council who attended the 1974 Round-Up.  The front features the BSA logo and the motto “Prepare for Life ’74;” the back includes the sponsor’s logo: Gino’s, a restaurant chain started in Baltimore in the late 1950s.  This particular mug belonged to Jim Douglas, Cubmaster for Cub Scout Pack 782 in Wheaton Woods.  I’ve seen references to a Gino’s restaurant on Georgia Avenue in Wheaton, near present-day Glenmont Metro Station; can any blog readers confirm or deny that this was the same chain?  Mug donated by Patricia Douglas.


Menus.  All the items above are well and good, but what about the food that was served at these restaurants?  Menus are one of the clearest ways to get at the actual dining experiences of the past, short of cranking up your time machine.  We have a few menus in the artifact and archival collections; for example, here’s the “Junior Dinner” (“for children under 12 years”) on offer at Hot Shoppes* on Sunday, September 26, 1943:

Hot Shoppes childrens menu 1943Chicken Noodle Soup or Chilled Papaya Juice.  ~  Chopped Sirloin Steak, Hot Shoppes Style, 55 cents. Old Fashioned Chicken Pot Pie, Toast Cube Crust, 55 cents. Baked Swordfish Steak, Mushroom Sauce, 55 cents. ~  Yellow Squash; Celery Cabbage with Russian Dressing; Tomato and Eggplant; Garden Salad Bowl; Potatoes Hashed in Cream; Green Snap Beans. Rolls and Butter. ~ DESSERTS: Orange Layer Cake; Fresh Fruit Sherbet; Hot Fudge Cake Square with Whipped Cream; Fresh Apple Sauce with Whipped Cream and Cake Fingers.  ~  A&W Root Beer, Milk or Lemonade.

*Unfortunately the menu does not indicate a specific Hot Shoppes restaurant, but it may have come from the Bethesda restaurant.  Menu donor unknown.

…And now it’s your turn, blog readers.  I’ve no doubt left out your favorite local restaurant (not on purpose, I promise!) and the memories therein. So, help out the Historical Society and fill our comment section with restaurant reminiscences!

P.S. Fans of menus and historic meals – don’t miss the New York Public Library’s crowdsourced menu transcription project.


In honor of today’s date, 12/12/12, here’s an assortment of ‘twelves’ – some deliberate, some accidental – from our collections. (And no, there aren’t twelve of them; that seemed excessive.)


First up: two twelve-candle molds, tin, late 18th or 19th century. The one on the left, in original (if well-used) condition, was donated by Mary Kingdon, and probably used by her family in Rockville. The one on the right – the handle has broken off, and it was painted black sometime in the late 20th century – came from the Tschiffely family of Gaithersburg, donated by Jean Seeback. Both of these make 10½” tapers, twelve at a time (we also have molds for 4 at a time and 6 at a time, but of course, today is 12 day).  In the interest of saving space, I refer you to either your favorite life-in-olden-times novel or YouTube to learn how to make candles with one of these.


These miniature metal soldiers were made by the Barclay Manufacturing Company of New Jersey; they’re “podfoots,” a style created in 1951 by Barclay to conserve metal (instead of standing on a flat base, they simply have flattened “pod” feet). They saw action in Bethesda, and only these twelve comrades survived. Owned, and donated, by Bill Allman.


A box of H.B. Marking & Embroidery Cotton, still containing its original twelve spools, circa 1890. Until the 1880s, red was a notoriously unstable dye; the introduction of “turkey red” floss (developed in Turkey), colorfast and cheaper than silk, started a fad for redwork embroidery on everyday household linens.  These embroidered pictures were generally outline-stitch pictures of flowers, fruit, children, animals, humorous sayings, etc.; designs were published in magazines, pre-printed fabric squares were available for a penny, or you could of course draw your own.  Redwork stayed popular through the 1920s and ‘30s – examples can be found in antique stores everywhere – and is experiencing something of a resurgence in today’s retro-crafty communities. Purchased by MCHS.

x20031201alTwelve hand-wrought iron nails removed from “Pleasant Hills,” a house in Darnestown, during gutter work in 2003. The center block of the house was built in the 1760s for Charles Gassaway; the wings were constructed in the 1870s and 1910s. Someone could probably tell us more precisely when these nails were made and used, but we haven’t yet made that attempt. Donated by Mary Wolfe.


And last but not least, a tin suppository mold, mid 19th century, with twelve holes.  The box is 5.5″ long and 3.5″ deep, with the ‘thimbles’ making suppositories a little less than 2″ long.  Yes, it makes exactly what you think it does; 19th century doctors and pharmacists made their own recipes using  these handy tools.  According to “The Art of Dispensing,” 1915, by Peter MacEwan, “an American style [of suppository mold] consists of a circular metal box pierced with holes into which thimbles fit. The box can be filled with iced water or a freezing-mixture. The thimbles are filled with the suppository-mixture, dropped into the box, and owing to the chill the contents of the mold contract, and are easily tapped out when solid.” This piece was donated to MCHS by John Bentley of Sandy Spring. Mr. Bentley served as the MCHS curator in the late 1940s-early 1950s, and many of the items credited to Bentley were in fact collected by him from other county residents; thus, unfortunately, the specific history of this item is unknown.

I hope you all enjoy your Last Consecutive Date Day (especially if today is your birthday) until 01/01/2101. Go forth, and do something twelve times!

Here’s another peculiar curling iron, designed to achieve a specific style: A Marcel waver from the late 1920s.

In 1987, Alice Harmon donated a set of hairstyling objects used by her mother: an electric curling iron (patented 1927), a large box of metal hair or “bobby” pins, a small paper packet of same, and this Marcel waver, complete with box and instructions. (She also donated a photograph, to illustrate the end result of all these tools, but more on that in a moment.) Mrs. Harmon’s mother, Edith D. Stultz Anderson Smith, was born around 1898, and moved to Bethesda from Frederick County in 1927. She first married a Mr. Anderson, and had two daughters; her second husband (married 1924), L. Emory Smith, was an assistant lineman for the Capitol Traction streetcar company. We don’t know very much else about her – except that she was, at least for a time, interested in fashionable hairstyles.

The Marcel wave, theoretically named for its French inventor, showed up occasionally in the late 19th century but really hit its stride in the 1920s and 1930s, along with short, bobbed hairstyles for women. If you’ve ever glanced through a fashion magazine from the 1925-1935 era – or watched a Busby Berkeley musical – you’ve seen a Marcel wave. It resembles a finger wave, but purists (okay, the Wikipedia page authors) claim that a true Marcel wave is achieved only with a curling iron, not your fingers. Though you could use a plain, straight single-barreled iron, a curved double-barrel like this one was more effective, especially if you wanted multiple waves.

Our waver was sold by Sears, Roebuck & Co. and is probably an electric “Challenge Waver,” now missing its electrical cord (they were detachable). The instructions, shown above, explain how to use different irons and wavers to create variations on the Marcel wave. I should have just gone ahead and dated this post to 1927, since that is the year Mrs. Smith moved to Bethesda, the year her other curling iron was patented, and, conveniently, the year of my Sears catalog which features all these irons and wavers and more. Oh, so many hairstyling tools! Here’s a close-up of the Challenge Waver (only 98 cents); I’ve included the full catalog pages of its friends at the bottom of the post.

As for the photograph of Mrs. Smith: At some point the photo went missing, but I discovered this unidentified image in a box of miscellaneous “style reference” photos collected by previous textile volunteers. This fashionable young woman is certainly rocking the Marcel look, and I want to think it is Edith herself; unfortunately, Mrs. Harmon (the donor and Edith’s daughter) has since died, so I haven’t been able to confirm or deny. Do any of my readers remember Edith D. Smith of Arlington Road, Bethesda?

This cotton robe or yukata, and the history shared by the donor, are examples of how a single artifact can be used to tell multiple stories, including unexpected ones. Taken by itself, it is a simple cotton yukata (summer kimono) or robe, with a small tag reading “Japan” inside the neck. It has a narrow belt made of the same material, and wide, straight sleeves. Without knowing its provenance, it looks like a piece made for American (or otherwise non-Japanese) audiences, as a simple version of a traditional garment. That in itself provides avenues for exploration of fashion history, cultural exchange, and the like.

The piece was donated to MCHS in 1990 by Alice A. Harmon, who informed us that it was a gift received by her sister, Helen Anderson, upon graduating from Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1938. Now we have a place, a time, and an occasion, and a way to talk about the importance of high school graduations in American culture, the kinds of presents people give, and the kinds of presents teenage girls actually want to receive, as well as some insight into the personality of the owner (who, presumably, enjoyed the gift enough to keep both the garment and the story behind it).

The information from the donor goes further, however, to tell us more about the neighbor who gave the yukata. Minnie Robinson Usuda (1888-1974) was the daughter of a British Army officer and his Spanish wife, and grew up in Korea. She moved to the United States, and married Yoshisada Karlo Usuda (1884-1962), who worked at the Japanese Embassy in D.C. During the 1930s, Mrs. Usuda “sent away” to friends in Korea for “house goods and clothing” to sell, and help support her family. This yukata given to Helen Anderson – who was a neighbor, and possibly also a friend of one of the same-age Usuda children – was probably one of the pieces sent from overseas.

According to the donor, Mrs. Usuda became a naturalized U.S. citizen, and her four children were also citizens. Mr. Usuda, a Japanese citizen, spent World War II in an American interment camp. So far, I have found little in our library to corroborate this part of the donor’s story – which, to my mind, makes this artifact all the more interesting. Although it has little to do with the Usuda family’s experience during the war, the yukata was the catalyst that prompted the donor to share her knowledge with us; otherwise, we might have nothing about the family at all. I’ve found a few references to the children at B-CC High School, in newspapers and yearbooks. Mr. and Mrs. Usuda, and their son Charles (1919-1940), are buried at Rockville Cemetery. Mr. Usuda’s brief obituary in the Washington Post makes no reference to his wartime experiences, and his name does not otherwise appear in that paper; perhaps there is something on the family in the more-local Sentinel, but that is a research avenue for the future. For now, our library yields only the 1944 Bethesda phone book, which lists the family under Mrs. Minnie R. Usuda; presumably she was regarded as the ‘head of household,’ in the absence of her husband.