The Historical Society does a lot with the life and times of Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet (1830-1903) of Rockville. This is natural enough, seeing as how Dr. Stonestreet’s office is one of our museums. But what of his family? They usually end up a side note in our discussions, exhibits and presentations – not an unimportant one, but a side note all the same. Today, let’s pull one of those people off the sidelines and into the spotlight.

Shown here is one of a pair of fancy whitework sleeves, cotton, made with techniques including cutwork, embroidery, and some drawn-thread and darning. These circa 1860 sleeves belonged to Martha Rebecca Barry Stonestreet (1831-1902), who was born in Pennsylvania to the Rev. Basil Barry and Martha Willson Magruder Barry. The family moved to Rockville in the 1830s. Mrs. Barry came from an old Montgomery County family; her father, Dr. Zadock Magruder, was a son of Col. Zadock Magruder of Revolutionary War (and local-high-school-name) fame. Young Martha Barry attended the Jarboe School (which I have not yet tracked down), and at the age of 21 she married Dr. Edward E. Stonestreet, a fellow Rockville resident. The marriage was performed by her father, Rev. Barry, who served at the Rockville Methodist Episcopal Church.

The Stonestreets lived in a three story house in Rockville, which Edward bought from his parents in 1855. They had eight children, seven girls and one boy. Six of their daughters lived to adulthood; the youngest, Elsie, died in 1879 at only one year old. (The eight children were pretty spread out – the oldest, Mary Adelaide, was born in 1853.) Their son, Edward Jr., died in 1876 of typhoid; he was 21. The six surviving daughters all married before their parents’ deaths, and Martha and Edward had several grandchildren, most of them local.  Adelaide was widowed in 1886 and she and her two children lived with Martha and Edward for several years, as did Martha’s elderly father.  The 1870, 1880 and 1900 censuses indicate that a few servants lived in the household; Mrs. Stonestreet’s occupation – and I don’t mean to belittle it, since taking care of a dozen people in a 3 story house is no sinecure – is given as Keeping House. 

Various obituaries (for her) and a biographical note (for her husband) provide a few other details. The Washington Post gave Martha a small paragraph, under the headline Death of Mrs. Stonestreet, saying she “died last evening of valvular affection of the heart.” A death notice in the Nashville Christian Advocate, March 6 1902, said she “was a Methodist through and through,” however you choose to interpret that. A biography of Dr. Stonestreet, published in the 1925 Tercentenary History of Maryland, described her as a “charming, congenial and devoted helpmate.”

So much, then, for the written record (as currently known). What else? We have two photos of Mrs. Stonestreet, both taken relatively late in her life, and this pair of fancy sleeves. The donor, Martha’s great-granddaughter, said that the sleeves came off a brown and white silk dress. The style and shape of the sleeves date to the late 1850s or early 1860s. Perhaps the silk dress was modified over the years to follow the changing modes, or maybe it simply wore out, but the wide lace sleeves – no longer fashionable, but too costly or otherwise valued to discard – were saved after their removal. It’s entirely possible that she made the sleeves herself; a Mrs. Stonestreet won second premium at the 1894 Rockville Fair for “darning in cotton,” and while that may mean best sock-mending, I think it refers to fancywork. At any rate, she seems to have had some skill with the needle.

Dr. and Mrs. Stonestreet (center) with their daughters, ca. 1885. MCHS collections.

Poor Mrs. Stonestreet. I hope she doesn’t know that many people who visit her husband’s museum are, well, kind of mean about her photo. We don’t know what she looked like around 1860 – and, hey, try giving birth to eight children over a span of 25 years and see how chipper and youthful you look! – but we do know that she had at least one fashionable dress. Did she care about clothes? Did she love to read? Was she interested in her husband’s career, or did she prefer not to hear about it? We don’t know. Much as I love artifacts, even I admit that there’s only so much a pair of white lace sleeves can tell us.

Wide lace sleeves? These ladies show off the look in "Godey's Lady's Book," June 1855.

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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.

It’s Fair time again in Montgomery County! If you have plans to go, I encourage you to make your way up to the very top of the Fairgrounds to the Old Timers’ Building, where you’ll see many fabulous objects similar to the fabulous ones I’ve featured on this blog. (An imaginary prize to those of you who spot/recognize a fireless cooker!) These objects do not come from museums; instead they are contributed each year by Montgomery County residents from their own collections. (Yes, I do covet many of these items, but no, I do not lurk at the entrance handing out my card.) The Old Timers’ Building is also the home of: antique cars, tractors, and fire engines; the fruit, vegetable and flower competition; various demonstrations throughout the day; and a small exhibit by the Montgomery County Historical Society. Then your walk back to the parking lot is downhill, and takes you past the cheese place, the ice cream place, Old McDonald’s Barn, the bunny barn… it’s well worth the trek through the Fairgrounds!

Oh, right, I’m supposed to be talking about our own artifacts. Here are two agricultural implements, whose friends and relations you might see at the Old Timers’ display.

This handmade apple picker comes from The Briers, the Jones family’s home outside of Olney. I think it’s fairly easy to envision how it works: pull the apple off with the ‘claws’ at the top, and it falls into the lacrosse-stick-like basket. Made of metal wires twisted into a basket shape and attached to an unfinished stick (still has its bark and all, though well-worn with use), it’s 4 feet long from end to end. It dates from the 19th century, but could have been used up until the day (in 1962) that it was donated by Mrs. Josiah Waters Jones.

This double-pronged iron ice hook (6 inches from point to point) was originally attached to an 8 or 10 foot pole; today it is on a much shorter replacement handle. The donor, William Nicholson, is the one who rescued the iron hook and gave it a new handle; according to his information, this was used in “the late 1910s or early 1920s to haul blocks of ice from ponds to Rockville ice houses” – specifically, ponds located about where today I-270 crosses Falls Road. Those of you familiar with the area, please envision hauling heavy blocks of ice from the Falls Road interchange to, say, the Rockville town center. (Now go thank your freezer’s ice-maker.) The replacement pole is a finished handle, stamped “Wire Hrd & Lbr” for Wire Hardware & Lumber, a Rockville landmark for many years; to learn more about the business and the building, check out Peerless Rockville’s history.

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

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

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

As DC area residents are enjoying – or suffering, depending on one’s temperament – a little early-April heat wave, I imagine some people would appreciate a nice giveaway advertising paper fan about now.  This example was collected at the Rockville Fair around 1920, by a member of the England family of Rockville.

The Rockville Fair – precursor to today’s Montgomery County Agricultural Fair – was held every August on fairgrounds located where Richard Montgomery High School is today.  Just like the modern fair, the earlier version was host to vendors from across the county and neighboring cities, vendors who wanted you to remember them and their wares after the fair was over – and who doesn’t love to pick up a useful freebie or two? 

Our paper fan is one of 25 similar fans collected, most likely, by Mary England Ward.  All but four of them were distributed by Washington, DC piano retailers, although it’s not clear whether this is because Miss England (as she was until her 1928 marriage) had a penchant for piano stores, or because piano stores had the prettiest fans.   The printed images vary; some are cute children and animals, some are patriotic in theme, and a few have pseudo “Oriental” scenes, like this one.  Most of the fans are simply cardboard ovals stapled to a wooden handle, but this fan is a little fancier; perhaps the Percy S. Foster Piano Company had a big advertising budget that year.

Garden Club trophy 1931In honor of the upcoming Montgomery County Agricultural Fair, this week’s artifact is a silver trophy cup awarded to the Community Garden Club of Rockville at the 1931 Rockville Fair.  The prize was awarded by the Washington Evening Star newspaper for the best display at the Flower Show.  Here’s the full text, as inscribed in a nice early-1930s font: “Rockville Fair Flower Show / The Evening Star Gardens Club Cup / Aug 18-21 1931 / Winning Club / Community Garden Club of  Rockville Md.”  The Rockville Garden Club had a good year; we also have their trophy awarded by the Fair Association, again for “winning club” at the flower show in 1931, as well as their winning Evening Star Cup for the previous year, 1930.  The Rockville Garden Club donated these three trophies to us in 1973. 

The Rockville Fair – essentially the County Fair – was held at the fairgrounds in Rockville, where Richard Montgomery High School is today. The Montgomery County Agricultural Society began the annual fair in 1846; it moved to the permanent fairgrounds in 1856, and continued there every year (with a few breaks during the Civil War) until 1932. At that point the Agricultural Society, like much of the country, was having financial difficulties, and the fairgrounds were sold to the Montgomery County School Board; that was the end of the first incarnation of the County Fair. In 1949, after several years of planning, local 4-H leaders held the first revived County Fair in Gaithersburg; today it is the largest County Fair in Maryland.

I do realize that this is the second fair-related item on this blog (and it’s only, what, the seventh post?) but what can I say, I’m in a summer mood and am ready for the Fair.  Bring on the pig races, Bunny Barn, funnel cake, Home Arts show, and random vendors!  (You can have the rides.)

prize ribbon 1914Our weekly artifact is one of a collection of five prize ribbons donated by Mildred Getty in the 1950s.  This particular ribbon is printed, “Colesville Horse and Colt Show, Colesville, Md.  Third Prize, August 12, 1914.”  (The other ribbons in the collection are Fourth Prize at the 1914 show; Second and Third Prize at the 1913 Colesville show; and First Prize at the 1911 Rockville Fair Horse Show.) 

Happily for me, the Colesville Horse and Colt Show was a widely attended affair, and the results were published in the Montgomery County Sentinel. (I do like an artifact with a date printed on it!)   1914 was the third annual show, held “all day” at the farm of Benton G. Ray outside Colesville.   Attendance for 1914 was not specified, but in 1913 the paper reported that over 3,000 people visited the fair, coming from all over the state as well as Washington, D.C.   The winner of the Third Premium in Class No. 16: Champion Ponies was Cocoanut, owned by George G. Getty of Silver Spring (the donor’s father).   Cocoanut also won the Fourth Premium in Class No. 14: Ponies in Harness. 

The 1911 and 1913 ribbons in this collection were won by horses owned by Louise Stratton Burr Getty, the donor’s mother.  Mrs. Getty was a noted horsewoman and activist who grew up in Colesville and lived in Silver Spring after her marriage.  The Historical Society owns a cape worn by Mrs. Getty while riding a horse (naturally) in the National American Woman Suffrage Association parade in Washington, D.C. on March 3rd, 1913.  Unfortunately, Mrs. Getty was killed in October of 1913 in what her obituary described as a “runaway horse accident.”  Perhaps Mr. Getty entered his pony in the 1914 show in his wife’s honor.