Today we have a lace-edged linen tablecloth, decorated with cutwork and embroidery, made by Mary Louise Parsly of Brookeville.  


Mary Louise Parsly (sometimes spelled Parsley) was born in 1887, the second child of John and Cornelia Search Parsly.  Her father ran a general store in Brookeville.  In 1914 or 1915, Mary Louise married Dr. Ernest Fishbaugh of Indiana, and they moved to California.  The tablecloth was donated to MCHS in 1979 by her daughter, Ernestine Fishbaugh, who wrote, “The embroidery on this cloth is so perfect and so exquisite that I would like very much to give it to your organization in [my mother’s] memory.”



The cloth measures 52 inches in diameter, not counting the 5 inch crochet lace trim which, according to Miss Fishbaugh, her mother “did not make . . . but added it to the cloth.”  Perhaps the lace was purchased from Mr. Parsly’s store?

This is a lovely example of whitework and, while I’m not as qualified a judge as some, I would say Mary Louise’s work is pretty close to “perfect.”  (Although, alas, I cannot find evidence that she tested her mettle by entering this or other work in the county fair.)  The circular patterns are evenly matched, and the embroidery is tidy, even some 100 years later.  Mary Louise added her initials along one side, in padded satin stitch letters that are three inches high: 


If only she’d added the date!  The donor noted it was “made by my mother before she was married,” but could not be more specific.  I suspect that it was part of Mary Louise’s preparations for running her own household after her marriage.  The big, bold initials are fantastic; we have other monogrammed linens in our collections, but few are quite so definitively marked.  You’re not going to miss MLP’s name if you happen to sit down to tea. 


The Parsly family, circa 1905. Mary Louise is standing behind her mother. The other children are George (the youngest), Elmer (in uniform), Lewis, Isabelle, and Alice. Donated by Lewis Parsly.



During the 1900s-10s heyday of the postcard, any holiday was a great  excuse for sending friends and family a quick greeting. I suspect the penny postage was cheaper than a phone call (if telephone service was even available to you). Our collection features cards for all kinds of holidays, large and small, but I think my favorite are the Thanksgiving cards. Why? Turkeys! Almost every Thanksgiving Greeting (in our collections, anyway) features at least one turkey; sometimes they makes sense, sometimes they don’t. We have happy turkeys:

less happy turkeys:

sparkly turkeys:

patriotic turkeys:

turkeys getting their own dinner (some, like these here, are wise to the situation – click to enlarge and read the verse):

turkeys dancing with Spanish maidens:

even – the best card ever? – turkeys driving a car.

There isn’t really a deeper point to today’s post, other than showing off all these fabulous turkeys. (Though for the specific-history-minded among you, a list of each card’s provenance is included below.) I did a spot of research on the history of the Thanksgiving turkey tradition and found some information to share, including this article from the Smithsonian. But really, I just wanted to post the turkeys driving a car.

Happy turkey: Postmarked 1911; sent to Raleigh Chinn, Brookeville. Donated by Jane C. Sween.
Deceased turkey: Postmarked 1909; sent to Mrs. Lynch, Washington, DC. Donated by Joyce Candland.
Sparkly turkeys (featuring copious amounts of silver glitter, though it’s hard to tell from this scan): No postmark; addressed to Mrs. Lynch, Washington, DC. Donated by Joyce Candland.
Patriotic turkey: Postmarked 1910; sent to Mr. McRory, Illinois. Donated by Joyce Candland.
Dubious turkeys: No postmark; addressed to Miss Marian Howard, Brookeville.  Donated by Jane C. Sween.  (Here’s the verse: “You feed me well but I can tell that you’re no friend of mine / Because, my dear, I greatly fear, it’s near Thanksgiving time.”)
Dancing turkey: Postmarked 1909; sent to Master Thomas M. Anderson, Rockville.  Donated by the Anderson family.
Turkeys out for a drive: Postmarked 1908; sent to Mr. Raleigh Chinn, Brookeville.  Donated by Jane C. Sween.

During the postcard’s heyday, 1900s-1910s, an astonishing variety of holiday cards was published and sent. Where we would send greeting cards (or an email) today, friends and family in the 1910s sent a postcard. And not just for Christmas, Valentine’s Day or birthdays; there were cards for Thanksgiving, New Year’s, St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Easter, and even Groundhog Day.

Holiday postcards are not always quite as interesting – in terms of random snippets of history – as more everyday greetings are, because the message is often restricted to something like “thinking of you this holiday season.”  (Although there is entertainment value in those greetings of the past; when’s the last time someone sent you their “Hearty best wishes,” or hopes for “A Joyous Eastertide”?)

Some of the Easter cards in our collection are fairly standard, containing, along with the holiday greetings, complaints about not getting a real letter (or apologies for not sending one); updates on the sender’s family; best wishes for the recipient’s health and happiness. A few were sent to young children, and include cute messages about the Easter Bunny and/or egg hunts. The card below, sent to Billy Hazard of Garrett Park in 1916, assures the almost-three year old that “the bunny will be real good to you.” The Easter bunny tradition is an old one, and it’s fun to see the evidence of that from nearly 100 years ago.

Yesterday, my coworkers Jennie and Taylor had a lucky find at a local antique store: an Easter postcard with a particularly fabulous message. In 1908, an unidentified J.E. of Richmond Va. sent this card to her friend Miss Bertie Higgins of Rockville, with the message,

“Hello, Bert, how are you? I suppose you will come out in a ‘six footer’ Sunday. Mine is a Merry Widow but not six feet from brim to brim, because, you see it would be all hat and no girl. Happy Easter to you all.”

It’s a joke about their Easter “bonnets” (in this case, giant wide-brimmed hats)! How great is that? We’re finishing up a “Year of the Hat” exhibit series, you see, and the recurring popularity of wide-brimmed hats has been featured many times. (On this blog, as well – here’s a “Merry Widow” style being sold by Miss Darby of Gaithersburg.) Another example of how satisfying it is to find a primary source, even a minor one, that shows some truth within your research. Now if only it was a photo postcard (however pretty this angel-themed Easter card, below, may be), showing Roberta Higgins (age 21) and her unknown friend, it would be perfect.

Credits: Billy Hazard’s card donated by the Barth family; Bertie Higgins’ card, MCHS purchase.  Other cards: “Easter Greetings,” with rabbits and a giant “river scene”-featuring egg, sent to Mrs. Charles Waters of Germantown in 1910 “with much love from Cousin P.J. Jones,” donated by Charles T. Jacobs.    “A Joyous Eastertide,” ca. 1915, wishing Mr. Raleigh Chinn in Brookeville “a happy Eastertide” from Cousin Rose, donated by Jane Chinn Sween. 

P.S. Happy Passover, too!

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!

It’s time for some happy photos.

Above: Sallie Cook of Sandy Spring, 1917. MCHS Library, Mary Warner Cook Baily collection.

I considered doing another post about disaster recovery, and what we try to save from the rubble. Much of the news from Joplin, MO is focusing on that topic, including a moving article in the New York Times about one family salvaging what they can from what’s left of their house. But then there were even more photos and stories from Oklahoma, and after looking at so many terrible images, I just can’t do it. Today the Fine Collection is taking a break from reality and going to its happy place.

Above: Fishing in the C&O Canal, 1966. MCHS Library, donated by the Sentinel.

Above: Sisters Kathryn, Eleanor and Clara Beall of Olney on a summer outing, 1894. MCHS Library, donated by Katherine Beall Adams.

Above: Billy and Edith Hazard, with their nursemaid Nettie Kane, Garrett Park, 1917.  MCHS Library, donated by the Barth family.

Above: Lloyd Brewer, Jr. of Rockville settles in with a good book, late 1920s.  MCHS Library, donated by the Brewer family.

Above: The Casanges family’s cat takes a nap, Brookeville, circa 1960.  MCHS Library, donated by the Casanges family.

I hope at least some of my ‘happy photos’ provided you with a brief antidote to anything unpleasant in your day!

Photo disclaimer: These images were donated to our collections. Some may have copyright restrictions.  Please see the “About This Blog” page for more info.

This fabulous object is a framed hair wreath, from the Holland family of Brookeville. The shadowbox frame measures two feet wide and two and a half feet high. It was donated in 1979 by Mrs. S.E.W. Friel, Jr. (née Margery Holland). Intended to celebrate a wedding or anniversary between the 1830s and 1880s, the wreath was probably made by one or more ladies of the Holland family.

Hair work was a Victorian craft, part of that era’s interest in elaborate fancywork. Women with the patience, time and skill made rings, brooches, bracelets, pendants, and pictures out of the hair of friends and relatives both alive and deceased (or bought from a catalog, when personal supplies ran short). Small pieces might combine locks from the maker’s parents or children; large wreaths, like ours, were usually made up of hair from one’s extended network of friends and relations. These formal pictures and wreaths would have been displayed in the parlor or other public room as an expression of pride in the maker’s skill, not just a memento or memorial. It’s often thought that these pieces (large or small) were made only for mourning, but they were also made to celebrate happy events, or simply compiled over time as a record of family and friends.

Detail photo by David Guiney, 2010.

The family story passed down to Mrs. Friel was that the wreath was made for the 1834 marriage of her great-grandparents, Ellen Claggett (1808-1877) and Grafton Holland (1800-1855). In a letter to MCHS, the donor said, “As I remember it – the center part was made of family hair, and the outer horseshoe part of hair of friends of the family.” Without wishing to cast doubt upon the family’s memories, the 1834 date might be a little too early. Most examples of this size with known provenance date to the 1860s-1880s; Grafton and Ellen’s son, James Claggett Holland (1837-1915), was married in 1866, which is a better fit. Or, perhaps even more likely, the wreath was made for the senior Hollands over a period of many years, or to celebrate an anniversary of that 1834 marriage.

By all accounts, hair work is a delicate, persnickety craft that requires deft fingers and a lot of patience; not just anyone could do it. Who made ours? Mrs. Friel did not have any suggestions, but I have a theory. At the 1880 Rockville Fair, a Miss H. Holland was awarded the prize for “Best Hair Work.” I am absolutely ready to believe that this is Grafton and Ellen’s daughter, Hannah Holland (1849-1883). Mrs. Friel also donated to MCHS a collection of quilts made by Grafton’s sisters and/or his daughter Hannah. Research on the quilts suggests that the Holland sisters, Sarah, Ann and Mercy, passed their quilting knowledge (and fabric stash) on to their niece. Perhaps one or more of them also enjoyed the fashionable craft of hair work, and taught that to Hannah as well. Based on the skill shown in their quilts, and on probably-Hannah’s fair prize, I’m willing to ascribe this work of art to one or more of the Holland ladies, until other evidence arises.

The Holland wreath hangs in the Getty Bedroom in the Beall-Dawson House, if you would like to come examine it yourself. When giving a tour, I always point it out – alas, many adults react in the same way most of the fourth grade students do: “Ewwww.” (It’s just hair, people!) This is yet another one of my favorite pieces in the museum, because like Mr. Poole’s piano stool, it has such a definite and specific story. For not-so-different reasons, the Holland family treasured it as part of their history – Mrs. Friel donated it in part because, she said, it was “much valued by [her] father, W. Grafton Holland, when he was alive.”

Grafton and Ellen Holland's tombstone, St. Mark's Episcopal Cemetery, near Brookeville

Want some more hair work? There are plenty of wreaths to be found on the internet, both for sale and in museum collections. Here are various links to museum examples, as well as some proof that though hair work is a Victorian craft, it’s not a vanished one.

Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection

Wisconsin Decorative Arts Database

The Victorian Hair Work Society, including a page on their headquarters, Leila’s Hair Museum in Missouri.

Today’s artifact is a World War I service flag, donated by Gladys Benson. Owned by John William and Elizabeth Settle Benson of Brookeville, Montgomery County, it honored the military service of Lewis Wilson Benson (1896-1968), John’s son with his first wife, and Edwin Haines Chinn (1894-1917), Elizabeth’s nephew who had lived with the Bensons since 1908. The 16″ by 24″ flag is made of treated cotton (a stamp on the back says it’s “insect proof”) with two blue stars appliqued to the front and the back. On the front, the top-most blue star has been pasted over with gold paper.

The service or “blue star” flag was first designed and popularized in 1917, at the start of the US involvement in World War I. Blue stars indicate family members serving in war; gold stars honor those who gave their lives. The service flag – and other versions of the design, including lapel pins, tie tacks, and the like – was widely used during both World Wars; it was (and is) a powerful symbol of both pride in service and the human cost of war, and the imagery has been used in posters, magazines, advertisements, and even sheet music illustrations. Although the flag received official recognition from the government as early as the fall of 1917, it was not a regulated image until the 1960s, when the Department of Defense instituted design and manufacture standards. The flag is traditionally hung in the front window of one’s home or office, although I’ve seen many blue star stickers on cars in the DC area.

But back to the Bensons, and Edwin Chinn. Edwin and his brother Raleigh, born in Virginia, came to live in Brookeville with their aunt Elizabeth and her family in the early 1900s. Edwin was part of the first round of local Army recruits in September of 1917; an article in the Washington Post on September 29th described the “rousing send-off” given by 2,000 county residents to the “60 young men of the county who left for Camp Meade this afternoon.” After serving briefly with 307th Ammunition Train, Company B, Edwin died of pneumonia at Fort McPherson on December 30, 1917; his sister Eliza, a trained nurse, was at his side. It is believed that Edwin was the first Montgomery County resident to give his life for his country in World War I.

Edwin Chinn at age 21, 1915. Photo courtesy his niece, Jane Sween.

His step-cousin Lewis Benson fared somewhat better; he was inducted in May 1918 and honorably discharged in September 1919, having served overseas for eleven months with the 304 Sanitary Train and the 313 Ambulance Company. He was injured in service, and died in 1968 after spending many years at a VA Hospital in Cecil County. Both Edwin and Lewis are buried in Rockville Cemetery; Edwin’s stone contains the epitaph “The first soldier from Montg. Co. Md. to give his life in the Great War,” while Lewis’ stone notes simply “World War I.”

As for the flag itself, John and Elizabeth Benson hung it in their home in Brookeville, with Edwin’s gold star and Lewis’ blue star on display for their neighbors to see. The red cotton on the front is faded from the sun to a dark orange color, and there are two darns at the top corners, as if it had been hung up so long that it ripped the fabric. We don’t have a picture of the Benson home with the flag on display, but this poignant photo from World War II shows a Silver Spring home with six blue star flags in the windows.

For more on the history and use of the service flag visit the American Legion’s page.

A quilting group is coming out this afternoon to take a look at some of our quilts*, so I thought I’d share one with our online audience as well. This is a pieced cotton quilt, circa 1880, in the “Ocean Waves” pattern with a plain strip border. The name H. A. Holland is quilted into the center diamond. It is part of a large collection of quilts from the Holland family of Brookeville, donated by Marjorie Holland Friel.

Family history says that these quilts were made by sisters Sarah (1799-1871), Ann (1808-1873) and Mercy (1810-1867) Holland of Brookeville, but an expert view** shows that a few of them – including this one – were more likely made by their niece, Hannah Ann Holland (1849-1883), who lived next door. Several quilts in this Holland collection combine pre- and post-Civil War fabrics and techniques. In this case many of the fabrics used, and the twill-tape binding technique, are typical of the 1840s or earlier, but the Ocean Waves pattern and overall “scrap” look were popular during the 1880s. Hannah’s name stitched into the quilt itself is another hint that she made this one (although it could also indicate that it was made for her). Records from the Montgomery County Fair show that Hannah A. Holland won at least one prize for her quiltmaking (in 1881, she won a First Premium in Worsted Quilts). Looking at the family stories and the physical evidence, it seems likely that Sarah, Ann and Mercy taught their niece how to quilt; it would appear that she used their techniques – and fabric stashes – to create her own works.

* Hint: Want to see something from our collections in person? Make an appointment to visit!

** Not my own expert view, I confess.  My thanks go to the many knowledgeable quilters who have advised me on our collections.