April is National Poetry Month, so in honor of this occasion, here are two books of poetry from our collections.

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At left is a collection of William Wordsworth‘s poems: The Poetical Works of Wordsworth. With Memoir, Explanatory Notes, Etc., published by Belford, Clarke & Co, circa* 1885. The cover and spine are embossed with red, black, and gold accents, and the pages are edged in gold; it’s a nice volume, designed as much for display/presentation as for reading. On the endpaper, a nice floral pattern, we find this ink inscription: “Jennie Rice from her friend James M. Nourse”.

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Jennie Longstreet Rice (1871-1941) was the daughter of George and Elberta Rice of Darnestown. The Reverend James M. Nourse (1840-1922), a cousin  to the local Nourse family, was the minister of Darnestown Presbyterian Church from November 1883 through May 1885, at which point he was called to the First Presbyterian in Alexandria, Virginia. In November 1885,  Miss Rice, age 15, was “received by examination” as a member of the Darnestown Presbyterian Church. Those facts come from church records; our book here adds another, more personal element to the story. The Darnestown Presbyterian Church, founded in 1855, was an important part of the religious and social life of the community; in the 1870s-90s, the minister was also the principal of the nearby Andrew Small Academy (which Miss Rice probably attended). Thus, Miss Rice likely encountered Rev. Nourse and his family in and around the neighborhood, and it seems probable that he also helped her prepare for her church membership examination. This handsome edition of Wordsworth – his favorite poet? Hers? (Or simply the nicest book available at the shop?) – may have been a parting gift, as Rev. Nourse left the community and moved on to his next assignment.

Next, continuing our Poetry Month theme and throwing in National Library Week for good measure, is the book on the right: a small, somewhat tattered volume of William Cullen Bryant’s works, “collected and arranged by the author,” and printed in 1857. Bryant was an American poet and journalist (and, fun fact, the namesake for NYC’s Bryant Park).  The book appears well-read, or at least frequently handled, and indeed it was a library book. Pasted inside the front cover is a printed label reading, “Dawsonville Library Association. No. 66. No Book shall be kept from the Library more than Two Weeks. Without renewals of the same, the holder failing to return, shall pay Four Cents a day for extra use.”

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I’ve not yet found any reference to a 19th century Library Association in Dawsonville (and perhaps this book originated in, say, Dawsonville, Georgia, rather than Montgomery County’s town), but it’s possible that this Association was an offshoot of the delightfully-named Dawsonville Literary Sociable. The activities of this lively group were recorded in the late 1870s-early 1880s by pseudonymous correspondents** in the local Montgomery Advocate. The Literary Society (as it was later known, though I can’t help but prefer “Sociable”) held officer elections and operated as a formal club, but in essence these meetings were well-organized house parties, designed to enliven the winter months with food, music, dancing, out-of-town guests, and – the ostensible point of the whole thing – readings and orations.

Not to be outdone – and conveniently helping to tie today’s books together – nearby Darnestown also had a Literary Society. In January 1883, Dawsonville correspondent “Johnny Reb” had “the pleasure . . . , accompanied by a fair damsel, to be present at the meeting of the Darnestown Literary Society last Friday evening.” After the “regular programme” of readings and songs, “chatting was renewed with increased vigor” and, essentially, a lot of young people spent a lot of time flirting until it was time to make their way home through the snow. In February 1883, the Dawsonville Literary Society received an invitation from their Darnestown counterparts “to attend, en masse, an entertainment . . . which was accepted by unanimous vote.”

Here's your geographical orientation: Dawsonville and Darnestown both lie along modern-day Route 28, which follows much the same path now as it did in the 19th century.  The Darnestown Presbyterian Church is at the intersection of 28 and Turkey Foot Rd, with the village itself closer to the Seneca Rd intersection; Dawsonville was at the intersection of 28 and 121. From the 1879 Hopkins Atlas of Montgomery County.

Here’s your geographical orientation, using the 1879 Atlas and the modern-day names for the old roads that appear here: Dawsonville and Darnestown both lie along modern-day Route 28. Darnestown is near the intersections of Turkey Foot Rd. and Seneca Rd.; Dawsonville was at the intersection of Rts. 28 and 121. From the 1879 Hopkins Atlas of Montgomery County.

The full text of the extant “society columns” – which also include wedding and death announcements, business updates, and weather news – can be found in our Library, in Jane Sween’s History of Dawsonville and Seneca, Montgomery County, Maryland (1967/1993); some excerpts also appear in the article of the same title and author in The Montgomery County Story, Vol. XI, No. 2, available in our Museum Shop. To whet your appetite for polite 19th century youthful antics (in case your copy of Jo’s Boys is not easily at hand), here’s the description of the December, 1879 meeting, as composed by “Toney”:

Eight months or more have passed since your humble servant occupied a position in your columns, as reporter of the doings of Dawsonville Literary Sociable; so hope you will give space to a brief description of the meeting which occurred Saturday week at the “Hermitage”, the residence of Mr. F. A. Dawson, one of its most prominent members. The wind though cold and boisterous during the day lulled when “Sol” donned the veil of night, leaving, however, Mrs. “Luna” and her dear little bright cherubs to twinkle in his absence to the merry throng that lined the different roads leading to the mansion. The entire building was ablaze with lights, all the rooms on the lower floor having been transformed into a spacious hall with cheerful fires to greet the chilled guests, who were received by the modest and pleasant Miss A.L. Dawson whose cordial welcome dismantled (if any) the slightest feeling of restraint worn by anyone. The agreeable Messrs. Hickerson and Balch aided in dispatching guests to the second floor where dressing rooms had been tastefully filled up with everything necessary to the comfort and vanity of women, or make an old bachelor ashamed of his lot. As early as 7 P.M. guests began to assemble in the South Parlor and up to 7:40 P.M. were continually arriving, filling the entire hall to repletion. Taking a survey of the room I concluded that I had never seen a brighter, handsomer and more tastefully dressed bevy of ladies in my life. The gentlemen also looked remarkably well.

The President, Mr. Cass F. Eastham, called the meeting to order, and the secretary called roll, which showed the society composed of twelve honorary and thirty-one active members all in the enjoyment of good health and liberty. . . . The business before the meeting was soon dispatched, Miss Gertrude Dade was added to the active list as a member and Miss Vallie W. Allnutt’s invitation was gladly accepted unanimously by everyone with thanks to meet at her pleasant home on Saturday January 3rd 1880. The secretary then called Miss M. C. Darby to open the evening’s programme, who read XIX Psalm; Miss Lille Dyson entertained by reading “Pondering”; Mr. B.F. White, declaimed “Charge of the Light Brigade”; Miss Nellie Allnutt read “Quality Hill”; Miss Susie Darby read “Antique Beau”; Mr. W.M. Hickerson read “The Deacon’s Story”; Miss Annie L. Dade recited “Buttercups and Daisies”; Miss Marian Cross read [not transcribed]. Miss Vallie Allnutt by request closed the programme by reading “The Rose.” The entire programme was creditably rendered and pleased the audience judging from the applause each participant received.

The Messrs. Heck, Mullican, Darby, Poole and Galeen of Darnestown then entertained to the great pleasure of all, with choice vocal music. Among the bright faces I noticed Miss Maud Hepburn of Washington; Miss Bessie Dawson of Arlington Heights; Miss Annie White of Loudoun, Va.; Misses Veirs, Scott and Hall of Poolesville; Miss Maggie Beall of Darnestown; Mr. Upton Darby of Seneca; Mr. Smoot of Washington; Milton White of Baltimore; Samuel Veirs of Rockville; and Mr. [?]. Wade of Barnesville. All vying with each other in general parlance when the announcement of supper caused a temporary stop. The pleasant hostess, Miss Gue, assisted by her bright sister Mary soon had served from waiters a luncheon tempting to the most delicate, winding up with a confectionary collation. After many congratulations and expressions of pleasure experienced the company left for their respective homes with hearts both light and gay.

*This edition has no copyright date, but several other collections by Belford, Clarke & Co., with similar covers, were published in 1884-85.

**These columns were collected in a scrapbook by an unknown individual; many are undated now. They are variously signed “Toney,” “Uteuty,” “Wild Bill,” “Johnny Reb,” “Delgrada,” and “Ivanhoe,” who may all be the same person; the authors frequently identify themselves as “an old bachelor,” and there are other literary similarities.

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The concept of a high chair – a tall, small chair that makes it easier to feed, tend, and occasionally restrain a baby – has been around for a long time.  The Metropolitan Museum has a 17th century high chair in its collections, and the Museum of Fine Arts has an early 18th century example. Just like adult-sized furniture, children’s pieces follow fashions and trends: some are expensive and elaborate, others are throwbacks to an earlier era, and some are more about function than looks.  Here are two infant high chairs in our collections, used around the same time but of very different styles.

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On the left is a late 19th century wooden high chair, 37″ tall, owned by the Jacobs family of Browningsville.  It is handmade, and may have been built by Jonathan Jacobs (1845-1919) himself; he was a coach-maker, but an 1867 tax record identifies him as a cabinet-maker as well.  Jonathan and his wife, Mary Manzella Brandenburg Jacobs, had four sons (Willard, Norman, Wriley, and Merle) born between 1875 and 1890.  The chair descended through the family of the youngest son, Merle Jacobs, to Merle’s son Charles, who donated it to MCHS in 1996.

It’s a good old-fashioned Windsor style, often seen in 18th century high chairs, with nicely turned legs, rails, and stretchers, and a shaped seat.  There’s no tray, which is not unusual for early (that is, before the 1950s or so) high chairs, but there is a little footrest, and a small metal eye centered under the seat indicates that there may have been a strap or other restraint to keep any Baby Jacobses from pitching themselves out of the chair headfirst.

DSC07529Though in pretty good shape, it does show evidence of years of use; there are a few old stains on the seat, the finish on the seat and arms is worn down, and several of the peg joints have been repaired and glued.

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DSC07513The 37″ tall walnut high chair on the right (and in the detail shot, above) was used around the same time as the Jacobs family’s, but is an example of a popular commercially-made chair.  (If you do an internet image search for “Victorian high chair,” you’ll see what I mean.)  “Convertible” highchairs were made throughout the 19th and 20th centuries (examples here); some turned into chair-and-table combos, and others into rocking chairs or, like this one, wheeled walkers:

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Ta-da!

A number of manufacturers used this distinctive Eastlake-style chair-back design; ours, unfortunately, does not have a maker or store label.  However, family history tells us that it was used by Nourse family of Washington, DC and Darnestown.  (It was thought to have been used a generation earlier, by the Darbys of Seneca, but the design of the chair is too late for an 1850s date.)  Mary Alice Darby (1845-1942) of Seneca married druggist/physician Charles H. Nourse; the 1880 census shows the family in a well-to-do household on New York Avenue, DC, with their children Upton Darby, four years old, and Mary Helen, five months old.  They moved to Darnestown, near Mary Alice’s family, soon thereafter.

The highchair descended through the family of son Upton Darby Nourse to his daughter Rebecca Nourse Chinn and then to her daughter (the donor), Jane Chinn Sween.  Like the Jacobs’ chair, it shows evidence of hard use – the woven back and stamped-leather seat bottom (below) are both replacements – and was probably used for more than one generation.  The Nourse high chair can be seen, usually, in the dining room of the Beall-Dawson house (as a baby’s dining chair, not as a walker).

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And now a bonus, to thank my readers for being so patient with today’s at-the-end-of-the-day posting! We have no photos of the above chairs in use … in fact, though we have many pictures of infants and children sitting in baby carriages, on ponies, on the laps and shoulders of family members, and even in a wheelbarrow, we have very few high chair photos.  Happily, we do have this fantastic photo of infant James E. Mason (b. 1896) of Sugarland, posed for a photo in his chair.

Donated by Gwen Hebron Reese.

Donated by Gwen Hebron Reese.

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.)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

The quest to include every possible National [something] Week or Month continues! National Bike Month (May) is sponsored by the League of American Bicyclists, a group that traces its founding to 1880 as the League of American Wheelmen (LAW). This national group had local chapters and divisions, and held annual “meets” where members participated in races, training, and occasional lobbying. (The LAW is often credited with helping to get roads paved across the country, before the advent of the automobile.)

These two ribbons (identical except for the extra metal badges or charms on the left) came from the 13th Annual LAW Meet, held in Washington, DC in 1892. Both also include the awesome slogan (catchphrase?) of the Arlington Wheelmen: “Wha! Who! Wha!!” My assumption is that this group was from Arlington, Virginia, though some sources indicate they were based in DC.  The ribbons were donated to MCHS by John Sumner Wood, Sr., who was born too late to have participated in this meet himself; unfortunately, we don’t know if they came from his family, or if he collected cycling-related memorabilia.  As always, click the photos to get a better look.

Cycling history enthusiasts can find a variety of LAW journals and Sporting Life newspapers online; I haven’t found one that details the activities of the Arlington Wheelmen (though they are mentioned in various cycling races during the 1890s), but the Federal Highway Administration’s day-by-day history describes the 1892 meet:

“In addition to holding parades, conducting championship bicycle races, and visiting the White House, participants lobb[ied] for General Roy Stone’s bill calling for a National Highway Commission to make a ‘general inquiry into the condition of highways in the United States, and means for their improvement, and especially the best method of securing a proper exhibit at the World’s Columbian Exposition of approved appliances for road making, and of providing for public instruction in the art during the Exposition.’”

Why the need for a national organization that lobbied for the rights of cyclists? Bicycles were all the rage in the late 1800s – according to the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, one-third of all 1890s patent applications were related to cycling technology – but they were somewhat controversial. Safety was a concern; bikes could be dangerous to riders, especially to those untrained in their use, and the perception was that they were also hazardous to pedestrians and passersby. Also, horror of horrors, women liked to ride them! (A funny modern take on this controversy can be found here; a review of a more scholarly look at the topic, here.) The bicycle brought new freedoms to women daring enough to embrace it, and many did.

Alas, I couldn’t find any photos of Montgomery County women taking their velocipedes, penny-farthings or safety-bicycles out for a spin, though perhaps there are some editorials (for or against) in the Sentinel; I’ll have to start looking. In the meantime, enjoy a few historic photos of young men and their bicycles, from our collections.

A bicycle race at the Rockville fairgrounds, circa 1915.  Photo by Lewis Reed; glass negatives donated by the Reed and Gartner families.

Students and faculty of the Andrew Small Academy, Darnestown, circa 1895; the older boys at each end are holding their bicycles.  Donated by Patricia Griffith Biondi.

My favorite: A group of youths pose with their bicycles – and, oddly enough, some miscellaneous produce – probably at the Rockville fairgrounds, circa 1895.  Left to right: Stephen Lyddane, Worthington Talbott, Steve Quigley, Lee Dorsey, Leonard Nicholson, John Brewer Jr., Henry Dawson.