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.)




This month’s laundry-related post is a tad tangential.  Why?  Sunday, September 8th, is our annual “Happy Birthday Montgomery County!” celebration, and to coordinate (tangentially) with our laundry exhibit we’ve invited a jug band to the party.  Members of the Sunshine Skiffle Band will play a set at 3:15, and they’ve promised us a washboard.

Jug band musicians turn everyday household items into musical instruments.  Granted, many of those items are no longer quite so “everyday,” but a traditionally-minded band still relies on the washboards, washtubs, vinegar jugs, and other tools that could be found in many 19th century American homes.  I won’t attempt to parse the long history of jug band music, which began in the American south and was pioneered by African American musicians, both amateur and professional (here’s a nice overview, or check out this history, including audio, of the Memphis Jug Band).  Instead, let’s look at some of the artifacts themselves.

The washboard.  Our early 20th century example is made of wood, with galvanized tin ribs, measuring two feet tall. Any labels or markings have long since washed away through use.  It was donated by John W. Magruder (1902-1979), who grew up on a farm in Gaithersburg, and served as the Montgomery County Agricultural Extension Agent from 1948 until 1963; unfortunately, we don’t know if this washboard’s history is related to his home or work life.
Original use: Before the agitator washing machine, the laundress had to do the agitating herself in order to work the soap through the cloth; a common method was rubbing fabric vigorously against the ridges of a washboard.  (This method is hard on both fabric and hands.).
To play: A percussion instrument. Washboard players achieve a nice rhythmic sound by rubbing their hands, or another tool, up and down the ribs.  Different materials (washboards can be made of metal, glass, or plastic) produce different sounds.  This instrument is popular in Zydeco bands as well as jug bands.


The washtub.  This circa 1910 tub is made of galvanized tin, and stands 11 inches tall.  The manufacturer’s paper label is water damaged – like the washboard above, it’s a well-used piece – and now illegible.  The tub was donated by Katherine Poole, and was likely used at Poole family homes in Washington, DC or Rockville.
Original use: Laundry day required multiple tubs, for soaking, rinsing, and bluing clothes and linens.  A metal tub like this one was an improvement over the old wooden tubs, which didn’t last very long, and could give an unwary laundress splinters.  Even better were tubs that were built with legs, reducing strain on the back.
To play: With a few additions, a tub becomes the string section of a jug band.  You need an upside down metal tub, an upright broomstick, and a taut wire stretched between them that can be plucked like a guitar string.  Moving the broomstick varies the tension on the wire, and thus the note achieved.


The jug.  A mid-late 19th century stoneware jug, with no maker’s marks or other identifications, 11 inches tall.  Donated by Charles T. Jacobs, it was likely used by one the many local branches of the Waters and Jacobs families.
Original use: Stoneware jugs of various sizes and shapes were indispensable in the 19th century kitchen.  Usually locally made, and reused over and over again, jugs held water, vinegar, cider, or any other frequently used liquid.
To play: The jug is essentially the brass section, and is played like a trumpet or tuba – you blow across the top, using changes in the position of lips and mouth to affect the pitch and tone of the resulting notes.  (I say that like I can do it; I cannot.)  There’s no jug band without a jug… because then it’s called a skiffle band instead.

All three of these pieces can be seen (but not played, sorry) in the Beall-Dawson House – the washboard and tub as part of the laundry exhibit, and the jug (along with some friends) in the “Old Kitchen.”  Other common jug or skiffle band instruments can be found in our collections, and probably yours as well: spoons, combs, buckets, bottles… Try your own internet search for “how to make jug band instruments” for instructions ranging from toddler- to adult-appropriate, then take a look around your house with new, instrument-seeking eyes! (But don’t break anything.)

Oh, and be sure to visit us this Sunday from 2-5 at “Happy Birthday Montgomery County!”  As always, the party is free.  In addition to the fabulous music, we’ll have children’s activities and crafts; a presentation on the Monocacy Cemetery at 2:15; birthday cake at 4:30; and, throughout the event, a chance to tour our museums, check out our exhibits, talk to reenactors, and learn about local historical and cultural organizations.   A good time will be had by all.

The month of May is both National Scrapbooking Month and International Storytelling Month.  Those go together quite nicely, I think, and to illustrate that, here is a charming little scrapbook from our archives: Ethel Grove Van Hoesen’s album, titled “Living and Teaching in Maryland from 1917 to 1940.”
cover and title

The album has stamped suede covers and a plastic spiral binding; a label in the back informs us that it was purchased from Edward F. Gruver Co., “Paper Rulers and Book Binders,” in DC.  Inside is a mix of photos, newspaper clippings, and paper ephemera, often accompanied by handwritten notes and explanations.  The first few pages – clearly meant as an introduction to “Life and Teaching in Maryland” – contain poems about gardening, teachers, homes, and retirement, plus a 1934 highway map of the county, and the lyrics to “Maryland My Maryland.”  Though there is some order to the contents, the scrapbook has the appearance of having been created all at once, from a stash of saved bits and pieces; one page, for example, consists of a snapshot dated 1922, a 1930 map of Capitol View, and a newspaper “fun fact” from the Washington Evening Star, November 22, 1939.  Other pages are more traditional photo-album style, with chatty little descriptions.

not a good pictureNot good pictures – but from left to right Anne – Helen Rector – Ethel Van Hoesen. 2d row – Sophie [her daughter-in-law] – Margaret – Elizabeth. 3rd row – Sophie Philip [her granddaughter] – Minnie -.  Brad [her son] taking the picture”

Both Ethel Grove and her husband Fred Van Hoesen were born in Franklinville, NY in 1870.  They married in 1892, and had one son, James Bradley (“Brad”).  Mr. Van Hoesen first trained as a clergyman, but he switched careers at some point, and in 1917 he was appointed as the first Cooperative Extension Agent in Montgomery County.  (More about the Extension Service, and Mr. Van Hoesen’s work, can be found here.)  The family lived in Rockville for several years; after Mr. Van Hoesen’s 1924 death, Mrs. Van Hoesen moved with her son’s family to Forest Glen.

forest glen 1943” The station and Post Office [at Forest Glen] as it looks today (1943).  No longer bevies of young ladies crowd its platform; but in their stead groups of convalescent soldiers dot the spacious N.P.C. grounds.  N.P.C. [National Park College] beloved by many ‘old girls’ has been bought by the Gov’t.  It houses hundreds of soldiers wounded in every battle of this global war.”

Mrs. Van Hoesen was a life-long teacher.  Her obituary states that she began teaching at age 18; an 1892 Franklinville census shows that she was still teaching shortly after her marriage.  The 1910, 1920, and 1930 censuses all give her occupation as “teacher, public school.”  In Montgomery County she taught at Woodside, Bethesda, Slidell, and Cabin John Elementary Schools.  When she was appointed to the one-room Slidell school in 1930, she moved upcounty (Slidell is in the Barnesville/Beallsville/Dickerson vicinity) to a farmhouse called “Sky View.”  The scrapbook includes many photos of the house, school, and neighborhood, and several pages are taken up with handwritten lists of her students for each year.
slidell school 1934“Slidell School April 5, 1934 – with and without the teacher” (Can you spot Mrs. Van Hoesen?)

In 1939 the Slidell school was closed, and Mrs. Van Hoesen moved back downcounty to teach in Cabin John.  She retired in 1940 (though she continued to substitute-teach for a few years), and bought a house in Capitol View; she died in 1949, and was buried next to her husband in Franklinville, NY.  In the 1960s, Brad’s wife Sophie gave the Society a large collection of artifacts and archival material related to her in-laws, including this little book.
Shady Nook‘Shady Nook’ A retired teacher buys a new home No 6 Lee St. Capitol View, Maryland. with summer shade”

Mrs. Van Hoesen saw a variety of life in the county, her adopted home.  She taught in both suburban and rural schools, and kept up with her students’ later lives, as demonstrated by the notations (“married Gladys Smith.”  “Poolesville High class ‘44.”) included in lists of pupils’ names. Her neighbors and friends, former students, colleagues of her husband from the Extension Service, people from her church, notable county residents, even Evalyn Walsh McLean (who evidently was “kind to Jack Thompson”) are represented through photos, wedding announcements, human interest stories, and obituaries.  There’s a magazine article about Sugarloaf Mountain, the program from the 1934 Annual Meeting of the Homemakers’ Clubs of Montgomery County, a drawing of White’s Ferry by her daughter-in-law, a “Barnaby” comic about washing machines, and snapshots of people, buildings, roads, and views that were important to the book’s creator.  Throughout, Mrs. Van Hoesen’s ink notations keep us informed of who did what and when: “The house was painted in 1932.” “This is where I go to church.” “Mr. Knott did not know he was getting in the picture – we are glad to have him – he was one of Slidell’s best friends.”  Though this scrapbook doesn’t necessarily read like a traditional narrative, it is telling us a story all the same.

20130514125920_00012A map, photo, and story about Sugarloaf Mountain.

animal neighbors“A few of my animal neighbors” in Slidell, 1930s.

20130514125920_00004A page of miscellany, including an article about a fellow Woodside teacher’s retirement; the 1936 marriage notice of Mr. Van Hoesen’s counterpart, former Montgomery County Home Demonstration Agent Blanche Corwin; and a 1930 campaign card for a “farmer, teacher, and business woman” running for office in Nebraska.  (I wish there was a handwritten note about Mrs. Himes, but I can see the possible connections to Mrs. VH’s life there.)

When studio photography became affordable and accessible in the mid 19th century, many Americans took the opportunity to have their likenesses captured on glass, metal or paper.  Different formats gained or lost popularity as new photographic processes were invented.  By the 1860s, the carte de visite was one of the cheapest and most popular ways to have your photo taken.

the windsors

The carte de visite (CDV, or “visiting card,” named for its size) is a 2 1/8 x 3 1/2 inch albumen (paper) print mounted on a 2 1/2 x 4 inch card. This format was produced through the end of the 19th century, although by the 1870s the larger cabinet card print – mounted on 4 1/2 x 6 1/2 inch card – had become more common.  Since the albumen print method allowed for multiple copies of the same image, you could ensure that all your friends and family had a picture of your (not usually smiling) face.  Cards featuring celebrity portraits were marketed to their fans, and special photograph albums, with pages sized to hold CDVs and cabinet cards, were developed to cash in on the “cardomania” sweeping the nation. (An example can be seen at the bottom of this post.)

Our couple here, Henry and Mary Ann Windsor of Clarksburg, visited an unknown studio in September of 1865 to have their portraits taken.  (The photos were donated by Jane Sween, a descendant.)  We know the specific date thanks to the revenue stamps affixed to the reverse of each one.  The U.S. Revenue Act of 1864 included a tax on “luxury” items such as photographs; each of the Windsors’ CDVs was taxed 3 cents, meaning the photograph itself cost between 25 and 50 cents.  The photographer hand-canceled the stamps with his initials, A.S., and the date “Sep. 1865.”  (Some CDV cards include the photography studio’s name and address, but these are very simple cards with no information.) 

mary ann windsor tax stamp

Most of the stamp on Mrs. Windsor’s picture (the right side is covered by the white MCHS library label).

The images themselves are also fairly simple.  The couple took turns sitting in the photographer’s chair, in a vaguely ‘homey’ setting complete with a cloth-covered table, but without the elaborate props (curtains! furniture! plants!) or painted backdrops that litter the scene in many other studio portraits of the late 19th century.  (Although a closer look shows that there may be some kind of scenery painted onto the backdrop, after all – is that a tree on a mountain, on the right?) Mr. Windsor has his cane; Mrs. Windsor is holding a small book, perhaps the same book that is on the table in her husband’s portrait.  Neither is really smiling, as the exposure time required was a little long to hold a smile, and anyway this was a serious occasion; getting your portrait taken was not an everyday event. They are probably wearing their best outfits. 

Henry Windsor (1793-1871) married Mary Ann W. Simmons (1795-1868) in Montgomery County on November 17, 1818.  They lived at Henry’s father’s farm, “Homestead,” northeast of Clarksburg, and had eight children, two of whom died in their early teens.  There are two lovely little descriptions of the couple, collected in the genealogy files in our library, which shed some light on the personalities hinted at in these portraits:

By “J.A.W.,” Dec 22, 1896: “My youngest uncle on Father’s side was Uncle Henry, who lived on the old Grandfather [Thomas] Windsor [farm] ‘Homestead’ about 2 miles N.E. of Clarksburgh [sic], Montgomery Co., MD, where we all attended school.  Uncle Henry Windsor was a shorter man than any of his sons, but of a stout build.  His wife was a Miss Simmons of Frederick Co., MD.  We thought much of our Aunt Mary Windsor, and living closer to each other of any of our first cousins, we visited oftener and became more strongly attached to each other, and very many were the pleasant, happy visits we made back and forth with each other.  Sometimes one or more of the children and at other times almost the whole would visit each other, especially on holidays.  Sometimes go afishing, sometimes gathering strawberries, hurtleberries, or cherries, or (in the Autumn) chestnuts, or walnuts, or hickory nuts or persimmons.  Uncle Henry’s farm was very hilly, stony, and of poor soil so that it was a hard struggle with them to make a comfortable living.  ‘Aunt Mary’ took in weaving for to help.  The loom she used was of Uncle Henry’s manufacture.”

By Keturah Ann Windsor Waters, daughter of Henry and Mary Ann, 1902: “I was going to tell of my Papa he was such a good man when we were little when our supper was over we all had to gather around the old fashioned fire Place Papa with his note book all sing Mother in one corner Papa in the other he was one of the best singers I thought I ever did hear I think he is still singing in his heavenly home Mother was a Sweet woman also she died first [i.e., before Henry] the night we thought she would die we wanted Papa to go upstairs he was so afflicted he did not go he sat by her bed [downstairs] weeped oh it was so afflicting”

Our current special exhibit looks at photography, specifically snapshots of local people and places from about 1890 through the 1970s.  There’s also a little side exhibit on studio photography, including examples of mid 19th century formats such as the CDV.  Mrs. Windsor’s picture was on display in our two most recent exhibits; when it came time to choose images for our current photography exhibit, I decided to spread the love and use other CDVs instead.  But I couldn’t resist including her somehow – so she gets her own blog post.


A CDV album from our collections, owned and donated by the Van Hoesen family. The photo cards were inserted into the page/sleeve; the one on the right has been removed so you can see what I’m talking about.

October is American Archives Month, declared by the Society of American Archivists as “an opportunity to raise awareness about the value of archives and archivists.” Before you rush out to celebrate by visiting, and perhaps donating time and money to, the archival repository of your choice, take a moment to read today’s blog highlighting one of the many fabulous items in the Historical Society’s archives.

The Sween Research Library’s archival collections include an incredible variety of resources: diaries, letters, audio recordings, research notes, directories, minute books, theater programs, yearbooks, land deeds, diplomas, insurance records, newspapers both big and small . . . . The list goes on. I originally planned to put several brief examples on today’s blog, but everything I chose seemed so blog-worthy that I decided to stick with one, and save the rest for future posts. So without further ado, here is Hiram Grady’s account ledger for the years 1903-1906.

Mr. Grady (1841-1911) was a coachmaker and wheelwright. He worked in the eastern part of the county until the mid 1880s, when he settled in Rockville. The 1900 census shows Hiram Grady, Wheelwright, living in the town of Rockville with his second wife Harriet (1853-1903), daughter Olive, and granddaughter Mary Gandy.

The account ledger includes an index of names in the front; each customer has his or her own page, listing goods and services by date, as well as notations on payment. (Some account books in our collection are organized alphabetically; this one is not.) Around 200 people and organizations are included, most from the Rockville area; the customer list includes men and women, doctors and dentists, reverends and merchants, farm owners and farm workers, even the Montgomery County Commissioners (precursor to the County Council) and the Rockville Cemetery Association. Just like today, almost everyone had a vehicle that occasionally needed expert attention.

The ledger shows that Mr. Grady’s work encompassed more than making and repairing vehicles. His invoice letterhead (conveniently tucked inside the book) notes that painting and trimming will be “promptly attended to” along with repairs. On July 17th, 1905, the Rockville Mayor and Town Council paid $2.50 for a “frame for grind stone” (well, technically they received said merchandise on the 17th; they paid, in cash, on the 21st); other services include sharpening and repairing blades, such as saws, grain cradles, and even lawn mowers. Grady’s credit system seems lenient; several pages note an “amount carried over” from the previous year, and often months go by before a client settles up his or her bill.

Here are two contrasting customer pages – below, our own John Dawson (who lived in the Beall-Dawson House, our museum), noted in the 1900 census as a farmer; and above, Ed Brown, “Colored,” who may be one of two African-American gentlemen of that name in the Rockville area, both listed in the 1900 census as farm laborers. (Click on the images to enlarge and read!)

Mr. Brown paid $2.00 for a “pair [of] shafts” – that is, the long poles that connect a vehicle to the horse(s). They were ordered or delivered in December 1905, and paid for in cash four months later. Compared to many of the other pages, this is a pretty short list; perhaps Brown usually patronized a different shop, or perhaps he could take care of most of his repairs himself.

Mr. Dawson’s page is more complex, with a variety of wagon and buggy parts plus some saw-sharpening. Payment over the two years occurred in small amounts and, interestingly, was made in both cash and corn – one barrel (bbl.) on January 30, 1905, and two barrels on March 31, 1906. At the bottom of the page is noted “[Remainder] Transferred to other book page 56.” As a farmer (as opposed to Mr. Brown, who worked on someone else’s farm), Dawson was in charge of a variety of equipment as well as his own family’s vehicle(s); like many other customers, he appears to have kept a running tab with this frequently-patronized business.

Other fun things to learn through this ledger: Here’s an “exploded” carriage diagram, showing some of the basic parts refered to throughout Mr. Grady’s notes.  Curious about the price comparisons between 1905 and 2012? Unfortunately the Consumer Price Index calculations don’t work for dates before 1913, but some less formal sources are available, and they can make these ‘old-timey’ account entries more immediate; for example, the Town Council’s super-cheap-sounding $2.50 purchase would be around $60 in today’s money.

Mr. Grady’s ledger is but one example of the goodies to be found in our archives; I’ve featured many before, and there are more to come. So don’t forget about the MCHS Archives when you’re doing your local history research.  We are small but mighty!

This battered, but mostly intact, reaping knife or scythe was donated in 1964 by Marjory Hendricks. Ms. Hendricks described it as an “important relic . . . a sickle which I dug up near the Spring at Normandy Farm” in Potomac, and informed us that the Smithsonian dated it to “1712 or 1716.”  It is made of iron, hand-forged and riveted together; the remains of a wooden handle are attached with two long iron wires (and one modern screw).

In 1931, Marjory Hendricks purchased some land on Falls Road and opened the Normandy Farm Restaurant. (Now known as Normandie Farm, the restaurant is a Potomac landmark.) Ms. Hendricks lived in a cottage on the property and kept a large vegetable garden; presumably the knife was found in the course of cultivation or yardwork, and she took it with her when she sold the restaurant in 1958.

So what was there in 1712-1716? Whose reaping knife was lost or forgotten on the grounds? Some histories of the restaurant say the land was “originally” a country club, which is not technically accurate. In this instance*, we need to go back to at least the beginning of the 18th century. According to the land grant maps in our Library – meticulously researched by volunteers Sheila Cochran, Eleanor Cook, Mary Charlotte Crook, and Florence Howard – Normandie Farm sits on part of a 600 acre land grant called “The Outlett,” surveyed in 1715 for William Offutt (d. 1734). Click the map below to enlarge it (and to read my tiny caption).

William left “The Outlett” to his son Edward, describing it in his will as “All that tract of land called the Outlett beginning at a White Oak on a small branch that runneth into the Branch called the Pyny Branch [apparently now Watt’s Branch, not the modern Piney Branch] the said Branch falling into Potomack against an Island formerly laid out for Walter Evans containing 600 acres.” (Got that? This is why the land grant research by our volunteers is so fantastic; I don’t have to figure out what all this means.) Edward Offutt (ca. 1698-1749) in turn subdivided “The Outlett,” leaving 200 acres to his son William and “all remaining portion” to his wife “during life, then to son Nathaniel and heirs forever, 259 acres of that ‘Outlett’ then the remaining of that ‘Outlett’ to Ruth and Mary, daughters, in equal shares. . . Ruth and her husband to have the piece on which [they] now dwell.”

Okay, so the awesomely complicated legal language doesn’t really have much to do with the knife itself, but it does give us clues as to what was happening on the land. Both William and Edward are described as “planters,” so there was cultivation going on somewhere. William Offutt’s primary residence was in Upper Marlboro, but Edward may have lived on “The Outlett,” as it is the only property referenced in his will. The last bit of Edward’s will quoted above seems to indicate that, even if Edward lived elsewhere, his daughter Ruth and her husband did live here.  “The Outlett” wasn’t just sitting there untouched.

Dr. Adams, the MCHS curator in 1964, hedged his bets and called this a “reaping knife” rather than Ms. Hendricks’s “sickle.” Grass and grain cutting tools have a very long history, and the hand tools used today have not varied too much from the ancient forms; “sickle” generally describes a more curved blade, while scythes and knives have a straighter blade at a right-ish angle to the handle. Our artifact resembles the tobacco and corn knives that can be found in collections of farm implement afficionados (and are still used by the Forest Service).  This piece has no maker’s marks (at least not any that remain visible). Ms. Hendricks did not provide us with any material from the Smithsonian, so the reasoning behind the “1712-1716” date is unknown; not being an expert on early American tools, however, I am happy to let it stand until proven otherwise.

Agriculture in 18th century Maryland centered around tobacco, with a gradual switch to wheat. I haven’t yet found anything to specify what was being grown on “The Outlett” – Edward’s inventory might give some clues – but the presence of a reaping knife of such early vintage would seem to indicate that at least some of the land was cultivated, probably with tobacco.  So our corn/tobacco reaping knife fits into that story. It is important to remember, however, that farm ownership and farm work are not the same. Father and son were not necessarily wielding Ye Olde Reaper themselves. William and Edward were, like many of their peers, slave owners; one or more these enslaved African Americans were the likely users of this knife – but we know much less about them. William’s will, written in 1732, mentions only one specific person (“the Youngest Negro I shall be possessed of at the time of my Decease” was willed to Edward, along with the real estate); perhaps other people were included in “the Rest Residue and Remainder of my Estate both Real & Personal.” Edward’s will, written in 1749, names Charles, Hercules, Pegg, Sue, Jack, James, Gulloby and Butcher.

I would be remiss if I did not include the perspective of a historical archaeologist. We can’t really fault Ms. Hendricks, who found this knife by accident on her own property, for not starting up a full-scale scientific survey. And, yes, through legal records and comparison to other, better-documented tools we can guess at some of its story; it’s an interesting piece. However, had this artifact been uncovered during an archaeological dig, with its context and provenience intact, we would almost certainly know more about its history and use.  Archaeologists don’t simply dig to get the artifacts out of the ground; they also study the surrounding soil, which tells you more than you might think.

To learn more about archaeology in Montgomery County, visit the websites of Montgomery Parks – Archaeology or the Archaeological Society of Maryland Mid-Potomac Chapter.

*Ms. Hendricks also donated to us an “Indian stone ax,” likewise “dug up near the Spring.”  To talk about that piece – perhaps in a future post – we’ll have to go back even further past the “original” country club!

In honor of next week’s Montgomery County Agricultural Fair (theme: “It’s Udderly Terrific!”), here’s an advertising banner used at a variety of fairs, exhibitions and livestock shows in the late 19th century.

The painted canvas banner measures 48″ x 29″, and has a number of nail (or rope) holes in each corner. The banner was folded in half for many years and some of the paint has rubbed off on the opposite side, making it a little hard to read: “Jersey Herd of ‘The Woodlands’ Farm. Clopper’s Post Office, Montgomery Co., Maryland. F. C. Hutton, Proprietor.” In very small letters near the bottom is added, “Economy Sign Co., Trenton N.J.”

Francis Clopper (Frank) Hutton (1863-1929) was the son of William Rich Hutton and Mary Augusta Clopper Hutton, and he lived most of his life at the family home, The Woodlands, in Clopper. The Woodlands has been featured on the blog before; to recap, the house – outside Gaithersburg, on Clopper Road in what is now Seneca Creek State Park – originally belonged to Francis Cassatt Clopper, whose daughter Mary Augusta married William Rich Hutton and inherited the house. The Huttons had five children who lived to adulthood: one daughter married and lived nearby; one daughter joined a convent; and two daughters and one son – Frank – never married, and stayed in their childhood home.

Frank’s obituary in the Montgomery County Sentinel tells us that he was a member of the Maryland State Roads Commission, but “although a civil engineer, he devoted most of his time to farming.” A history of the family, written by Frank’s great-niece Helen Caulfield Madine, summarizes his career: “Frank worked on the State Roads Commission and helped in the re-engineering of Route 240 from Rockville to Gaithersburg, and Rt. 117 from Gaithersburg to Clopper. He had a prize Jersey Herd and represented the state of Maryland at several National Agricultural Conventions. He once won second prize at a National Smoked Ham Competition.”

Among the many boxes of archival material donated by the Madines are several pamphlets on the care and feeding of cattle, evidently collected by Frank Hutton; a ledger book recording the Holstein-Friesian herd belonging to Germantown farmer Daniel W. Baker (which will probably appear on the blog sometime soon – once I figure out why the Huttons had Mr. Baker’s ledger); and this painted banner. Alas, we don’t have any photos of the banner in use (or of the Jersey Herd, for that matter), although similar painted banners can be seen in images of the Rockville (County) Fair from the 1920s. Mr. Hutton started exhibiting his cattle at the local fair in the late 1880s, when his farm was cited by a Washington Post reporter as one of those contributing to “the great advance taken by Montgomery County [in terms of cattle] during the past year or two. The quality of the animals has so improved during that time that a visitor viewing them would recognize but little relation between the breeds now exhibited and those brought to the fairgrounds formerly, and showed the effect of the introduction of imported and other thoroughbred cattle to the farms in this neighborhood” (September 6, 1889). However, a fire in January 1901 destroyed the Woodlands dairy buildings, and killed 27 Jersey cows; I haven’t yet discovered what happened to Hutton’s agricultural efforts after this, but his name no longer appeared amongst the prize winners at subsequent county fairs.

The County Extension Agent's booth at the Montgomery County (aka Rockville) Fair, 1922. Note the painted banner hanging from the tent. MCHS Library.

Here’s another scale, this one for weighing eggs rather than infants.

A thoughtful predecessor left a wooden egg in the storage box for demonstration purposes.

This compact (6″ tall) spring scale, dating from the 1920s or ’30s, was used to weigh individual eggs so that they could be sorted by size. A number of different companies produced these little tools; ours was made by the Oakes Manufacturing Company of Tipton, Ohio. Other brands (and a later version of this particular scale) included color-coded size markers on the dial, from Small to Extra Large, in addition to standard weights. Our scale measures in ounces without assigning a size category, but the top of the dial does calculate for you the weight in ounces of a dozen eggs of like stature, no multiplication required.

The scale was donated in the early 1960s by Henry L. Meyer of Gaithersburg. Unfortunately, we did not get any additional information from the donor, and I have not been able to track him to a particular time or place. Mr. Meyer or his family may have used the scale for years . . . or he may have picked it up at an antique store. For the sake of argument, however, let’s say it came from his family and was used in Gaithersburg. Why would the Meyers need an egg scale in their kitchen? Many parts of Montgomery County – the Gaithersburg area included – were still pretty rural in the 1920s and ’30s. Whether or not your family had a large farm, you were still likely to have a chicken or two in the yard. As modern-day adherents to the suburban poultry movement may have noticed, sometimes you can only eat so many eggs; extras and leftovers have to be given away or sold. Although today (according to the American Egg Board) egg grading has nothing to do with size, eggs are still sorted by size and weight for sale. The same was true in the early 20th century. A woman with an egg scale on hand could more easily sort her eggs for market. Like the family kitchen scales mentioned last week, antique egg scales are relatively plentiful in the internet auction/sale world, possibly indicating that they were equally plentiful in rural and suburban households of the early 20th century.

This is one of those artifacts that could lead to multiple avenues of research: suburban farming in the county, the changing roles and duties of farm wives, home finances and supplemental income in the 1930s, the introduction of technology and standardization into the home… which is great, who doesn’t love additional research avenues?  But since those investigations don’t often make it onto the blog, this endeavor can sometimes seem a little shallow: ‘Look, a neat artifact!  The end!’  I hope that every artifact I put up on the blog sparks at least a little curiosity in my readers, just as it does for me.

A story on NPR yesterday, about whether any old technology or tool ever completely disappears, got me thinking about the many, many ‘obsolete’ items in our agricultural, kitchen and tool collections. So I tested one out, using the reporter’s question: is it still being made today?

Here’s a corn planter, used in Sandy Spring, and donated to the Society in the early 1950s by Cynthia Stabler. It is marked “The Automatic Corn Planter Mnfrd by Wiard Plow Co Batavia NY.” (The name is almost illegible, but once I found possible manufacturers online, I could make it out.) According to my predecessor Dr. Adams, this is “a hand-operated implement used in the period of early automatic corn drills, for replanting [indeed, Dr. Adams called this a ‘corn replanter’] where the kernels failed to germinate.” (Dr. Adams, who grew up on a farm in Kentucky, also says that this tool was called a ka-chuck “because of the characteristic sound of the foot release.”) Unlike grain, corn had to be planted one kernel at a time; devices like this one made the process easier. According to Dun’s International Review (March 1909), “The old laborious system of planting corn and beans is changed to a light task, and it is claimed that over three-fourths of the time formerly required is saved by this simple but ingenious contrivance, which plants with one hand as fast as a man can walk and with the utmost precision.” (To read their explanation of how it works, click here.)

But can you still buy one, that is, a new one? Guided by the helpful NPR journalists, I tried Almaco, an Iowa company that makes both modern and ‘old-fashioned’ (my word, not theirs) agricultural implements. Sure enough, under “hand operated planters,” you can find what is basically the same tool: a hand jab standard-style planter. This one is bright blue, whereas ours has nice (though faded) red decorative stripes, but both have wooden backs and metal sides, a top handle, and a foot pedal, and do the same thing: plant corn.

I know that there are many objects we hang on to and continue to use in the face of newer versions; that hobbyists, reenactors, scholars and scientists recreate the artifacts of the past in authentic ways, whether for use or for study; and that not every culture has access to – or the desire to use – ultra-modern equipment. It never really occurred to me, however, that practically everything in our storage facilities (or in the agricultural pages of the 1895 Montgomery Ward catalog, as the NPR story claims) could still be available for purchase. Think of the possibilities!

From the 1897 Sears catalog: the first thing I thought of when listening to the NPR story. Alas, we do not have one in the collections, but maybe I can buy one new!

Today’s artifact, a pair of leather boots with aluminum soles, could be useful to those of us here in slushy, sleety Montgomery County. According to the donor, William Coleman, they belonged to Edward Horner (1833-1927) of Rockville. The Horners farmed in the area now known as Maryvale (near Horner’s Lane), and these boots were almost certainly used there.

Not good shoes to wear to the airport.

The boots are not in great shape, and clearly had years of hard use. The backs are unstitched and loose; the tongues are crumpled and torn; and the metal heels are worn through. The heavy-duty aluminum soles originally had cleats, which are now almost completely worn down. Each shoe is marked on the bottom “Overland Shoe Co, Racine Wis, Pat Dec 8 1914.” An advertisement (found on an auction website) from 1917 declares that the boots will “save money and prevent sickness,” and describes them as “water proof, rust proof, rot proof. Warm in winter, cool in summer. . . Comfortable to wear.”

One of my predecessors noted down some biographical information, but these boots still required some quick research (so much fun!) (no, seriously!). Other than the usual avenues of census, church and cemetery records, and newspaper accounts, most of what I’ve found so far came from research on Horner’s Mill, off Avery Road in Rockville. (Stand down, mill enthusiasts; I’m really not going to talk much about the mill today, sorry.)

Here’s what I’ve gleaned – William and Mary Horner moved to Montgomery County from New York state in the late 1850s, with their seven children (four boys, three girls). They lived first in Laytonsville, and moved to a farm in the Rockville area around 1865. In the late 1870s the four boys purchased an existing mill site along Rock Creek. (According to the 1880 census, Frank was the one who lived at the mill, although John and Frank are named on the 1879 atlas – see below). Edward, David and Mary never married, and they stayed at the family farm outside Rockville most of their lives; John and Frank married, but both were widowed young, and they moved back home.(As for the other sisters, Theodora died young, and Sarah has, for the moment, vanished). The mill was closed around 1890, and the 1900 census lists the five siblings living and working at the farm. By 1919, only Edward and Frank were left living in “the old Horner homestead” (from David’s 1918 obituary); Edward, the last surviving sibling, died in 1927.

From G.M. Hopkins' 1879 Atlas of the county. The farm ("Mrs. Horner," the mother) and the mill site are highlighted.

There’s still more to learn. How is the donor related to the family? What happened to Sarah? We (the Historical Society, not the world at large) have no photos of any of the family, their home, or the mill in action. Sure, there’s a road named for them, but there are roads named for lots of people; it often needs some other impetus to start the research ball rolling. One slightly off-beat pair of shoes, a little history from the donor, and we’re off and running.